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The Service at the Temple Church begins at three o'clock; and, as the hour struck, I entered the portals of the Temple, and descended the narrow lane which leads to the church. I was at first admitted no further than the porch, or the western part of the building, railed off from the body of the church. Here my eye was instantly arrested by several sleeping heroes sculptured in black marble, stretched upon the floor. They were knights-templars clad in mail, with their hands in the attitude of devotion, and the one leg crossed over the other. Beneath my feet I found the finest specimens of encaustic tiles to be found in recent ecclesiastical decoration. It was plain that very few of the numbers that flocked to the Service belonged to the congregation. They were admitted by batches of ten or twelve, through the railing, into the nave, and when these were seated, the bar was driven back and another party admitted. This mechanical arrangement was no doubt necessary; but it contributed, along with the sight-seeing aspect of the congregation, to take away from the solemnity of the occasion. It gave me the impression of coming to a concert or oratorio, instead of the house of God.
I had heard much of the splendour of the building and the Service. I was told that it gave the best idea of the English Service, enhanced in effect by the most imposing attractions of the fine arts. I was anxious, therefore, to compare with our homely Presbytery the splendour of Episcopal worship. I must say that I was considerably disappointed with the edifice itself, and especially with the painted windows. There are some of our own Scottish churches more imposing. Indeed, as to pure mediæval art, it is far surpassed by the Parish Church of South Leith. The windows are far inferior in colour and design. Among all the churches I visited in London, there was none, when compared with the Church of South Leith, that seemed so completely bathed in the atmosphere of Ecclesiastical solemnity, and, by its dim religious light, so admirably adapted to cherish devotion, as far as this can be done by the aesthetics of religion. Indeed, I would warn all whose faith is not fully established, and who have an itching after the pomps and splendour of an imposing ritual, against visiting this exquisite specimen of Ecclesiastical architecture and decoration. Rigid as my own views are on this subject, I felt the temptation almost too great when I first viewed the imposing spectacle. A spirit of awe and admiration crept over me which I could not but afterwards regard as a kind of treachery to the stern simplicity of Presbytery, and which made me feel as if I had been bowing in the house of Rimmon.
The restoration of South Leith Church was, I believe, dictated by anything but a desire to restore the religious symbolism of by-past ages. It is the product of a refined antiquarian and artistic taste, which would be the first to condemn the restoration, if the matter was to be decided on the broad basis of ritualism. Nothing could more strongly shew how effete and dead this religious symbolism is in our Presbyterian Church, than the fact that the great window is decorated with the Virgin and Child— this being a part of the armorial bearings of the town. This decoration, in the circumstances of the case, no more indicates a Romanising tendency, than the fact of a man's eating a cutlet off a willow-pattern plate decorated with a pagoda, would create a suspicion that he had a love of
Buddhism as well as of the viand before him. While according all indulgence to such sporadic manifestations of antiquarian lore and religious æsthetics, I would unhesitatingly deprecate all attempts to effect a general change in the character of Presbytery, and conform to the carnal splendour of other Christian Churches. Holding, as I do, that the character of Presbytery is simplicity, and that the strength of the Church lies in its being true to this historical characteristic, I cannot but regard any ritualistic tendency as lamentable infatuation, and as shewing a sad ignorance of the warnings of history.
The Temple Church is chiefly distinguished for its choral singing; and it is evidently the music that attracts such crowds. There were two bands of singers, one on each side of the church, facing one another; and behind one of these was a powerful organ. Few of the large congregation seemed disposed to join in the singing. It was all left to the choristers, who were evidently looked upon in the light of artistic performers; and I have no doubt that as a piece of art the music was unexceptionable. Several long anthems were sung; and one of the performers, a very stout man, had very much of the singing to himself. His vocal feats were physiologically very wonderful. He lingered upon notes an incredible length of time without drawing breath. It was to me a marvel how the human voice could be tutored to such wonderful tricks. The congregation seemed to be much entertained by the performance; but I saw little of that devotion to which the music of the sanctuary ought to be altogether subservient. Indeed I had sad work to keep up that devotional feeling suitable for the Lord's day and the Lord's house. My only refuge was occasionally to, waft myself in thought to my own far-distant flock, and to join in the staid solemn strains of Coleshill or Old Hundred.
I do not mean by these remarks to disparage the cultivation of music as an important aid to devotion. How often were the hearts of the primitive Christians sustained amidst all their persecutions by Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs! The Lord Jesus sung a Hymn with his Disciples before going out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The hour and the power of darkness had arrived-that mysterious agony was at hand-and he sung a Hymn. And how often did a Hymn in after days nerve the followers of the Lamb for the block or the stake! How wonderfully supported were the persecuted Covenanters by their familiarity with the sweet strains of the Psalmist ! They never wanted an appropriate Psalm for the specialities of God's dealing with them. We can well conceive the fervour with which the Twenty-seventh Psalm was sung on that misty and fatal morning in the humble cottage of John Brown, when the bloody Claverhouse laid his scattered brains in the lap of his devoted wife. How was that heroic woman enabled to give the memorable answer to the ruthless murderer,
"I have ever thought much of him, and now more than ever." No doubt the ennobling strains of the Psalmist which she was a little before singing at the family altar, were still echoing in her heart,—
"The Lord's my light and saving health,
Who shall make me dismay'd?
My life's strength is the Lord, of whom
We can well conceive how that godly and gentle youth, Hugh M'Kail, was enabled to mount the ladder with firm step, after singing the Thirty-first Psalm. And ought we to undervalue a source of strength which enabled him, while only in his twenty-sixth year, and when life is most attractive, to exclaim,-" Oh, how good news, to be within four days' journey of enjoying a sight of Jesus Christ!" How often were songs of deliverance on the lips of worthy Alexander Peden! When a trooper disappeared in a moss while riding after him, or when a mist suddenly intercepted the pursuit of the enemy, "Auld Sandy," as he used familiarly to call himself in prayer, had always an appropriate Psalm for the occasion.
Luther furnishes one of the most remarkable illustrations of the power of music. Amidst all his dangers and perplexities, his flute was a neverfailing source of consolation. His inmost soul vibrated responsively to the sweet strains of music. How wonderful must have been the power which it exercised over him, when the singing of the boys in the convent choir awakened him from a state of insensibility when every other method failed. By long fasting and vigils his frame was quite exhausted, and he fell down in a faint, in which he continued for many hours, so that he was almost given up for dead; but the sweet notes from youthful lips quickened the languid stream of life, and he again revived. It has often been remarked, too, that in religious revivals, the divine tenderness of heart produced by refreshing from on high, is usually manifested by a greater heartiness in singing. The fulness of the heart is glad to get utterance in the songs of the lips. But why need we take extraordinary junctures or remarkable cases, as illustrations of the power of music in sustaining devotion? Does not the heart of every Christian respond to the sentiment? The battle of life is still to be fought as of old, though in a different way; and does not sacred music wonderfully nerve the arm for this battle? The church militant needs its war-songs; and where can such stirring strains be found as in the book of the royal minstrel," Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight."
All reformers of the Church have felt the importance of music, and have endeavoured to give it its proper place in the devotions of the sanctuary. Gregory the Great, who, amidst the darkness of the times in which he lived, shewed by his " Regula Pastoralis" that he had the interests of spiritual religion at heart, used to superintend singing classes at Rome himself. Amidst the many cares of the Church, he did not think it beneath him to teach the lips of children to sing the praises of redeeming love. And, were it needful, illustrations of a similar character might be drawn from succeeding periods of the Church's history. I would, then, be disposed to acknowledge in the most ample manner the importance of music in the Service of the Church; but then the danger ought to be constantly kept in view, of devotional being merged in mere artistic feeling, instead of the music being made subservient to devotion. The history of the Christian Church clearly shews the danger arising from this source. The Church of Rome, though she regards the choristers as sacred persons, does not hesitate to enlist the services of
men who have gained distinction at the opera. Nay, in some Churches on the Continent, there is no scruple about advertising the names of the distinguished performers, in order to draw a crowded house. In this way the church is changed into a theatre; and religion is regarded only as it enhances the effect of the music. We cannot too much admire the wisdom of our Reformers in excluding the use of musical instruments from the Service of the sanctuary. And this wisdom ought not to be forgotten at the present day, when Christian bodies are but too ready to accommodate themselves to worldly tastes. I believe that some dissenting Churches even in Scotland have introduced the organ; and that, as a source of attraction, it is not looked upon by some others with disfavour. Alas for Scotland's sects, if their decaying piety can find no better remedy than a theatrical appeal to wind instruments. If this is the quarter from whence their aid is to come, their case is pitiable indeed. On general principles the use of instrumental music may be ingeniously defended; and were the matter to be decided on abstract grounds, it would be exceedingly difficult to shew why it should not be used. But the most momentous questions effecting the welfare of the Church cannot be decided theoretically; the light of history and the testimony of experience afford far surer data for a right decision, and the Past most unequivocally declares that the introduction of instrumental music affords a sad facility for the corruption of Christian worship. It will be said, Can you ignore the testimony of the many pious hearts that have had their devotion aided by instrumental music in public worship? I answer, No. I would give all due weight to such testimony. I have heard members of the Church of England, whose piety could not be questioned, speak of the great aid their devotion received from the organ. I did not doubt their word, when they declared that their spirits were often wafted heavenwards on the pealing notes of the organ. And far would it be from me to quarrel with the genuineness of the devotional feelings thus excited in their hearts. Still I hold, and quite consistently too, that instrumental music, much more than vocal, affords facilities for the merging of devotion into mere æsthetics. The organ is to be objected to, not on account of anything sinful in its aërial vibrations, but from its forming so apt an element in that system of carnal ritualism, which has ever been a sad incubus on the devotional energies of the Church of God. The organ is a venerable instrument-being the first employed by the Christian Church in its public Service. But it is after all only an innovation: It was only after several centuries from the Christian era that it was introduced. The first use of the organ was in the Church of France. The instrument was the gift of the Byzantine Emperor, Constantinus Copronymus, to Pepin; so that the first introduction of instrumental music cannot claim even primitive, and far less Scripture authority.
While any attempt to introduce instrumental music into the simple Service of Presbytery should be deprecated, greater encouragement should be given to the cultivation of vocal music. The singing is the only part of the Service in which our people join audibly; and it is therefore the more desirable that this should be done heartily. When the use of
bands leads the congregation to give up singing, it is plain that music has ceased to be an aid to devotion. When the congregation merely listen to the performances of the band, the admiration of human skill is substituted for the adoration of the Creator. Nothing ever jars more painfully upon our feelings than, in the public Service of the sanctuary, to hear a band of young men and women singing fantastic tunes at the top of their voice, while the congregation look on in dumb blank stupor many a heart no doubt yearning for utterance in the sweet Songs of David, but finding it impossible.
But I am forgetting, in my long digression, the Service in the Temple Church. I must now proceed to the Sermon. It was delivered by a comely young man, who could not have been long in Priests' Orders. It was very short-not more than a quarter of an hour in length; but it touched on the most momentous questions in reference to the present state of the Church of England. The young man was an out-and-out Tractarian. I had heard and read much about Tractarianism, but it was never my good fortune to come in contact with a live Tractarian. The Episcopal dissenters of Scotland, indeed, hold Anglo-Catholic notions; but their Church principles are of a fossil character. They are held as a piece of antiquarianism, and not as a vital power in the Church. They merely furnish a good field for grown-up men playing at Bishops, Archdeacons, Deans, and other dignities. In England the matter is very different. Tractarianism there is a living power. It is a faith developing itself in the most intense activity. The line of action which it has taken is indeed novel; but there is no dispute that, of all elements in the Church, it is the most decidedly energetic. The state of the Church of England must be a matter of deep interest, not only to its members, but to all who are interested in the welfare of our common Christianity. Of all the daughters of the Reformation, she has been perhaps most eminently blessed in advancing the interests of Christ's kingdom. She has had temporal advantages which belonged to no other Church; and these she has nobly turned to the advancement of pure Christianity. Who can think of her learning and piety, without feeling the deep obligation under which we lie as Christians? Who can contemplate her as the great bulwark against Popery, without feeling the deep obligations under which we lie as Protestants? Though the Church of Scotland rests on a purer and more Scriptural basis, yet our national disadvantages have limited the sphere of her influence in Christendom at large; and we ought to have no difficulty in acknowledging that wider influence which God has graciously vouchsafed to the Church of England. It has been, then, with no common interest I have all along watched the movements in the Church of England. I felt that the prosperity of Christ's kingdom in this Empire depended very greatly upon the progress of vital religion in the bosom of the Church of England. No doubt dissent has done much to meet the spiritual wants of the country; but without the Established Church, it would present but a feeble barrier to the progress of ungodliness. And I am persuaded that dissent is strong for good, chiefly in virtue of the strength of godliness in the Church of England. I believe it would be the most fatal policy in the world for the dissenters