« PreviousContinue »
be understood to mean this thing or that thing. Should the event require it, it might be construed to mean, thou shalt be with me among the dead, or in the other world. But here again we might question the correctness of the apparition's religious views, in supposing that such a man as Saul would be admitted to the same society with the holy Samuel in the other world. Or if Saul had not happened to be slain in battle, but had lived for years afterwards, the woman might have claimed that the expression was intended to mean thou shalt be with me among the living; for if she pretended that Samuel, though dead, was now among the living, she might pretend the same thing again, employing the second lie to save the credit of the first, as is very common. Putting the whole expression together, therefore, it was capable of being twisted into almost any shape that a witch might desire; as, To-morrow thou shalt be with me among the dead,'—or, 'In time to come thou shalt be with me among the dead, or, Tomorrow, or in time to come, thou shalt be with me among the living. The prediction, it must be acknowledged, was pretty ingeniously framed; but when we try to pin it down to some definite point, it proves, after all, to be a very slippery affair.
On the whole, then, do we need any further evidence that the woman's pretended Samuel, whom the king from beginning to end was not privileged to see with his eyes, was all a cheat; and that the sacred writer expected it to be so understood, purposely adopting the style he has in relating the story, to make the whole thing appear the more ridiculous and contemptible? And what is this but a fair specimen of the real character of all manner of pretended divination, or communicating with departed spirits, whether in ancient or modern times? There may be, and probably are at times, some phenomena connected with such arts that cannot easily be explained; and phenomena of this kind are purposely caught up and mingled with the trickery, because they help to give it an air of marvelousness. But it is too much to believe that there is anything supernatural or miraculous in these things.
We need not, however, stay to make that application of this narrative to the pretensions of modern spiritualists of which it is capable. The thing speaks for itself. It is one example illustrating the deceivableness of all arts of the kind, and showing that they alike deserve to be treated with the same incredulous ridicule and contempt. They are lying, mischievous cheats throughout; and as wicked as they are false and demoralizing. We say to our friends, let them alone ; let them perish in disgrace for want of attention. God's holy religion makes known to us all that we need to know, ought to know, or can know, of spirits and the unseen world; and affords us the only safe guide to wisdom, happiness, and heaven.
The melancholy example of Saul shows that an unsettled state of religious faith and character; a fickle, unscrupulous heart; an accusing sense of being treacherous in spirit, and recreant in duty; a restless, unhappy, foreboding conscience, is precisely adapted to render a person superstitious, and to lay him open to the arts of the impostor. It is a fearful thing to get into such a state ; to have no settled confidence in God and his word; no well grounded principles and habits of religion; no freedom of access to the throne of divine grace in heaven's appointed way; no fruitful and abiding source of happiness within,– let a person get into such a state, and he is ready to believe almost anything but the truth; to be duped by almost anything that appeals to his wild and sceptical religiousness of feeling and credulity. If we would escape the power of deceivers and be wise, we must have faith in God and his testimony; be satisfied to know his revealed will, and to walk in his ways; keeping the heart pure and honest in its convictions, and the time and thoughts occupied with the performance of plain, unquestionable duty.
Art. 7.-PLYMOUTH COLLECTION.
Plymouth Collection of Hymns and Tunes; for the use of
Christian Congregations. New York : A. S. Barnes & Co. 1855.
This capacious volume, of nearly five hundred octavo pages, comprises, in fact, two books in one. It “numbers” (as we are told in the Introduction)“ more than thirteen hundred hymns, and three hundred and sixty-seven tunes.” It is “ the result of a conviction that Congregational singing best answers the end of worship by means of song.” We propose to make it the subject of brief criticism with reference to its fitness to fulfill the design of its authors.
We will speak first of the music.
It is obvious that the tunes in a book like this, intended for permanent and exclusive use in the church, must be judged by a much stricter criticism, than those of an ordinary tune-book, from which, in common with a dozen others, the conductor of the music may select at his discretion, and which may be cast aside at any time, without disturbance to the congregation. A “ Collection of Hymns and Tunes for the use of Christian Congregations" must be not "the great music-book of the season, as the advertisements say, but a music-book for generations, Tea! for all time. The “ lean and flashy songs” with which the multitudes of ephemeral tune-books are filled, may be performed once or twice, and then forgotten, or may even lie, "unhonored and unsung,” in the green “long octavo” that contains them, until this is in turn superseded by another “great book of the season. But if incorporated into the permanent liturgy of the church, and especially if printed inseparably with favorite hymns, they become a standing nuisance; speedily they lose the little interest of novelty; they stand in the way of better compositions ; they disappoint old associations, and the advancing taste of the people ; and when the disgusted and disaffected choir endeavor to perform them,
" The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” To select from the huge and heterogeneous mass of psalmody which is accessible to the compiler those pieces which shall prove permanently useful to the churclı, is no easy task. But there is one test which is both easy and sure. It is the test of experience. Tunes which have been maintained in wide and general favor, not merely for a few months or years, but for generations and ages past, are pretty sure of immortality. * Quod semper, ubique, ab omnibus," is a test of solid music, as well as of sound doctrine.
The number of tunes which will bear this test is not small. We are disposed to think that a body of psalmody amply sutticient for the use of our congregations, might be prepared almost from this source alone. Certainly a volume intended for permanent use in public worship, should consist in very large proportion of such standard tunes.
The Plymouth Collection is by no means deficient in standard tunes; but these are very far from constituting the mass of the book.' Out of its three hundred and sixty-seven tunes, on the most liberal count, there are less than one hundred and fifty that can be included in the class of approved and favorite
The new music in the book must be judged of by every one
according to his own taste; although we think that most persons would acknowledge it to include the most various degrees of merit. It is derived from various sources. There are large selections from recent books of choir music; there are adaptations from foreign authors; there are original contributions by the editors; and there are arrangements of camp-meeting tunes, and of secular melodies.
The contributions of Mr. John Zundel possess very high intrinsic excellence. Their author is well known to musical people as one of the most accomplished musicians that the schools of Europe have yet furnished to America. The twenty-five tunes bearing his signature are among the best American church tunes extant.
About the same number of pieces has been furnished by the pen
of the Rev. Charles Beecher. What claim this gentleman has upon so much space in a volume intended to present to the churches for exclusive use a permanent collection of standard tunes, it is difficult to say. Probably Mr. Beecher has been writing tunes, more or less, all his life; and yet we are not aware that any single composition of his has ever become a public favorite. Now it is at the very best a hazardous thing, to incorporate into the permanent liturgy of a church so large a number of the untried productions of an unapproved author. And we do not detect in the tunes themselves any good reason for making an exception in their favor, to so obvious a general principle. We are almost tempted in speaking of them to quote the severe language of the Introduction to this book, in comparing them to the tunes which burden our modern books in hundreds and thousands." But we will not deny that they possess some degree of musical merit. If we had found them in any ordinary church music-book, they would have added greatly to the interest of it in our friendly eyes. But considering for what the present book was intended, we cannot help thinking it an ill-advised thing to insert them so numerously, to the exclusion of tunes well known and universally loved.
To a very considerable part of the music there are other than mere negative objections. There are tunes here disgraceful to the volume as a book of worship. Some of those to which we refer are camp-meeting melodies. We have no objection to those on account of their origin. Some Western melodies, as for instance “Golden Hill," and "Iowa," in the arrangement of Mr. Mason, are among the most valuable recent contributions to popular psalmody. Some of those which we meet for the first time in the Plymouth Collection, are characterized by a beautiful pathos, and a striking melody which fits them for high usefulness in the church. Take, for example, "Cross and Crown,” (p. 244,) and “Dunlapscreek,” (p. 106.) But the same principle which will admit from a similar source such hymns as “I'm a pilgrim and a stranger," and “Saw ye my Saviour,” and exclude such as
"Shout, shout, we're gaining ground,
“ Die on the field of battle,
Glory in my soul,"should be applied in the selection of tunes. This principle would have excluded such gross, vulgar melodies, as “I'm bound for the land of Canaan,”. (Whitfield, p: 334,) such jolly, rollicking ditties as, “O that will be joyful," (Amazing Grace, ,
” p. 189,) or a comic dance, apparently of Irish origin, like that on p. 99,
“Come, children, drink the balmy dew,
O glory, hallelujah !" These tunes, adapted in a manner almost sacrilegious to some of the most cherished of Christian hymns, constitute a feature in the book which is sufficiently repulsive. But we are about to indicate another, which is still more objectionable.
We allude now to the adaptation of secular melodies. We are not disposed with regard to this, to insist upon any very rigid application of principles. The exclusion of all melodies once secular, would deprive the church of many of the most useful tunes. We are not aware that “Greenville” is of any less value to American Christians of this century, because Frenchmen in the last century knew it under the name of Rousseau's Dream; nor that the tune called “ Anvern” is greatly the worse for our use, from the mere fact that it is commonly sung by German students as a serenade; nor that the very grave and sober tune of “Ganges” is in the least hurt for a modern congregation, from the fact that our grandfathers and grandmothers could remember hearing it called “The Indian Philosopher," or, “Few Happy Matches.” This point seems to be conceded by Mr. Lowell Mason himself, who for a few years past has been directing his immense energy with characteristic zeal, to the purification of congregational psalmody. The most recent book, published under his auspices, (a very small selection of “Chants and Tunes for the Book of Common Prayer, adapted to Congregational Use,"") contains both “ Rousseau's Dream,” and “The Indian Philosopher.”
But the case becomes very different, when popular songs as