THERE are two times or seasons with which Christians have to do. The time that now is, and the time to come; this world and the next; and very different are these two to the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one, even the time that now is, a time of trial and tribulation; without are fightings, within are fears: the other, even the time to come, a time of triumph, and of fulness of joy. Then the wicked shall cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest; now the faithful Christian, even in his best estate, is walking through a vale of misery; then, having gone from strength to strength, when he shall have entered through the gates into the city, it will be to appear before the God of gods in Zion; it will be to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, safe under the wings of the Most High, shielded from all evil by His faithfulness and truth. This, then, is especially a time of mourning and of prayer; that shall be a time of endless thanksgiving and hallelujahs. Now, we fall down low on our knees before His footstool, with our fellow-sinners, to confess our manifold sins and wickedness; then, if we be found faithful, "with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we shall laud and magnify God's holy name," saying, with lips purified from all guile, and hearts cleansed from every stain of sin, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts: heaven and earth, even that new heaven and that new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, is full of Thy glory; glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High," This, then, is the day of battle, and so especially the time of prayer and watchfulness; that shall be the day of victory, and so especially the time of praise and thanksgiving.
These, my brethren, are the two times with which we Christians have to do; and that we may never forget these two, the Church makes ample provision. These two times are forcibly set before us in her holy services and in her holy seasons. With regard to holy seasons, there is one part of the year in which our two states of existence are remarkably brought to our minds. I refer to the season before and the season after Easter, each of which is figurative. Lent, the season before Easter, denotes the life of trial and of conflict in which we now are; while all our celebrations during the Paschal season, prefigure the blessedness in which we shall be hereafter. The one shows forth what we are now doing in this present world; the other signifies what we do not as yet possess, but what we hope for. The same is the case with Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Advent is the time of preparation. At Christmas and Epiphany our eyes see the King in His beauty: we not only behold, but we as it were enter into that land which before was afar off. The one is the time before, the other the time after, the Resurrection.
And as it is with these holy seasons, so also it is with the holy services of the Church. The same division is set before us--the life that now is, and the life that is to come; the life of prayer, and the life of praise. This appears both in the arrangement of the Prayer-book, and also in the way in which the Church from the earliest ages has appointed her holy offices to be rehearsed. The tones which from the earliest days she has used in different parts of the service--these tones, more solemn or more joyful according to the nature of the office in which we are engaged--are full of meaning and of beauty. Thus, after the introductory exhortation, the first office is an office of penitence and prayer, beginning with the general confession, and ending with tlie Lord's Prayer. To this succeeds the office of thanksgiving, beginning with the Gloria Patri, continued in the-song of invitation, in the Psalms for the day, in the Hymns, and in the Creed. The office of confession and prayer, as I have said, represents the life of trial and sorrow that now is; the office of thanksgiving which follows, prefigures the life of triumphant joy to which we are looking forward. And still more forcibly is this distinction set before us, when we reflect upon the way in which, from the earliest times, it has been the custom of the Church to offer these different services. An humble tone befits those who confess their sins; a joyful tone those who take the praises of God into their mouths. And so it is ordered by the Church, even when there is no musical intonation, that the confession should be said by the whole congregation with an humble voice, expressing the feelings of a penitent and pure heart. Then, when the penitent have been absolved, they draw near with greater boldness, and with a loud voice call upon their Father which is in heaven. After this, having given glory to God, they are exhorted one and all to break forth into singing, "O come let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation."
Now let us for a moment consider what was the ancient practice of the Church, with regard to those musical tones which from the earliest ages have been used in the service of the sanctuary, and the distinction of which I speak will appear still more plainly. We may fairly look upon Tallis as expressing the mind of the Church, in his noble service; a treasure in her possession, for which we cannot he too thankful. Now what is the method there observed by that great composer? It is a method which no one could have devised, who did not enter with his whole heart and mind into the services of the Church. It is simple, easily understood, and full of meaning. Indeed, it is not too much to say, that the full meaning of our ritual can hardly be understood without it. Even those whom God hath not enriched with the great gift of an ear to appreciate harmony, or of a voice to give utterance to the deep feelings of their hearts, even they, if they will but consider, may see hidden beauties in the method here pursued. What then is this method? It is this: the whole of the office of penitence and prayer is offered in humble monotone. It is not till we prepare for the office of praise, that any harmony is introduced; and it is in the response in the Gloria Patri, that the whole congregation breaks forth in one joyful ascription of praise. Then it is that all the people say Amen, one harmonized Amen.
Then the office of praise continues with increased vigour and joy. We on earth, even as the angels in heaven, provoke one another, first one side then the other, stirring each other up to a holy emulation in praising the most High God. This was the way of praising God in the Jewish Church, and continued by Christians. "At the building of the second Temple, the Priests and Levites sang together by course, in praising and giving thanks to the Lord." They sang with alternate harmonies, "answering one to another." [Philo, quoted by Bp. Beveridge.] This plan, begun under the law, we learn from various sources, was continued under the Gospel. The Christians of the first age, we learn from Pliny, sang a hymn to Christ as God among themselves by course, "answering one to another."
To this way of singing, Bishop Beveridge says that St. Paul seems to refer, when he writes to the Ephesians. [See sermon on the Duty of Public Thanksgiving.] "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs;" and when he says to the Colossians, "Teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Where by the psalms, Bishop Beveridge understands the Psalms of David; "by hymns, such anthems as were made up chiefly of praise and thanksgiving, by whomsoever composed; by spiritual songs, all sorts of songs upon any spiritual subject." These psalms and hymns and spiritual song's, the Apostle would have them sing one to another in their assemblies by course. Thus the service of the early Christians was the same in this particular as the service of the Temple. Now on what model was the service of the Temple composed? Can we doubt, but that the same principle was observed in this particular, as in the arrangement and furniture of the Tabernacle and the Temple? As the Tabernacle was erected and furnished in every particular according to the pattern which Moses saw in the mount, so we may well believe that all the services of the Temple had the same heavenly model.
We have seen what the arrangement was on earth, nor are we left in any doubt as to the practice of the heavenly Host. This has been revealed to us by the prophet Isaiah, and by St. John, the beloved disciple. Isaiah saw "the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the Temple. Above it stood the Seraphims...... And one cried unto another, and said," or this cried to this, and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory." And St. John in the Revelation tells us, that when the four beasts had sung this same hymn, the four and twenty elders answered as it were by course, and said, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power." So too at the birth of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, first, one angel declared the glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night; then suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host took up the joyful hallelujah, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." The Church then, in pointing the Psalter or Psalms of David, as they are to be sung or said in her daily services,--to be sung whenever they can be sung, and to be said only when persons sufficiently skilled in singing cannot be found,--the Church, I say, in pointing the Psalter thus to be sung in her daily services, and her festivals, is following closely the pattern set in heaven. She is in her tender love preparing us to take part in that new song, in the song of Moses and the Lamb, which is sung before the throne; and if we will not take any pains to qualify ourselves here, how shall we be admitted into the heavenly choir?
In no part of the service is the life to come more forcibly set forth than in the Church's method of chanting the Psalms. I have said the penitential office of confession and prayer may represent to us the life of trial and sorrow that now is; the office of praise represents the life of joy and triumph which is to come. Every office of praise sets this before us; but none so vividly as the Church's method of chanting the Psalms. Yes, my brethren, when the white-robed choir is sot in order in the temple of the Lord, when ranged on either side, they stand up in God's own house, and cry aloud one to another,--this side to that, proclaiming the high praises of God,--then we may fancy that we are already in heaven; then we as it were see the Lord upon His throne: then we see, on either side, the seraphims, the four beasts, the four and twenty elders at one time answering to one another, at another all joining together in one loud continuous cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!"
And although, my brethren, certain persons are set apart more especially for this service, and so may be numbered more especially among the ministers or servants of the Church, and as such in many places are distinguished by peculiarity of dress--a dress which while it tends to render the service of the Church more solemn, serves also as a token to them of the purity which becomes those who take the high praises of God into their mouths, a token, that if they would honour God, by offering Him praise and thanksgiving, they must take heed to themselves that they be of a right conversation, for to such, and only such, shall be shown the salvation of God,--I say although certain persons are set apart more especially for this service, the great body of the people is not thereby precluded from offering to God this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; nay, they are expressly required to offer it. God demands this of you, my brethren; see that you defraud Him not. He hath said in the text, "Whoso offereth Me thanks and praise he honoureth Me." What does this imply, but that whoso refuseth this offering of thanks and praise, he despiseth Me; and shall such an one see the salvation of God? No verily. For now the Lord saith, "Them that honour Me, I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." Yes, my brethren, if you do not sing and give praise with the best member that you have, you do not give unto the Lord the honour due unto His name. Having received gifts of God, for now I am speaking to those who have the gift of song,--having received gifts, you do not consecrate them by giving them back to the giver. All God's gifts are consecrated by being given back to Him. If used without any reference to Him, they are abused. This indeed is the great difference between the Church, and the world. The world uses the gifts of God without any reference to Him, and so abuses them: the Church uses all to the honour and glory of the most High, and so sanctifies all by employing them for Him. Thus, while the noblest arts and sciences are abused by the world, in that they are made to minister only to the senses; by the Church they are consecrated, they are brought into the sanctuary, they have their place in the solemn and public worship of the Most High; they minister to the spirit, they edify the soul. And for this reason, if for no other, has music, from the earliest ages, been used in the holy services of the sanctuary; namely, that by variety and change a safeguard should be provided against listlessness and inattention. Thus praise relieves prayer, and prayer again succeeds to praise. It was for this if reason that the Psalms were given; even to stir us up.
Nature itself teaches us that music and song has this power over the minds of men. By this the nurse lulls to sleep the restless infant. By this the travelling pilgrim is led to forget the weariness of his way. By this the seaman bends upon his oars, and cleaves the waves of the great deep with increased alacrity. The woman at her work, the labourer in the field, each of these is wont to cheer himself by song. By making melody they forget the cares and trials of life. And as in our daily work, so also in our hours of amusement, the charms of music are called in to increase our pleasure. We are so formed by nature, that is, most of us are so formed, that we must have music. This is a natural instinct: lest, therefore, the enemy of our souls should turn this instinct to our ruin, j God hath provided a way of turning it to our salvation.
It is for this that David wrote his Psalms; it is for this that from the earliest days the Psalms of David, with other hymns and spiritual songs, have ever been sung in the Churches of God. It is for this that even in our Prayer Book, the Psalms of David occupy so large a place; that besides these we have heart-stirring hymns, which, with the exception of the Te Deum and Benedicite, are also the words of inspiration, namely, the song of Zacharias, the song of the aged and devout Simeon, and the song of the Blessed Virgin. And let us not on this day, of all days in the year, forget to whom under God we owe these treasures. Rather let us bless God for His holy servant St. Luke, whom the Church to-day holds in honour. Lot us bless God the Holy Ghost, by whom the Evangelist was moved to record these spiritual songs, for the comfort of His Church in all ages.
How then shall we show forth our gratitude for these treasures, of the Psalms of David, and the evangelical hymns? How but by using them as the Church has appointed them to be used? How but by singing and giving thanks with the best member that we have? If we sing not, is it not because we love not? St. Paul and Silas, in the middle of the night, made the walls of their prison to resound with the praises of God. Though weary and wounded, they sought not sleep for their eyes, nor slumber for their eyelids; but rather in the midst of suffering confessed the goodness and the mercy of the Lord. And will you, my brethren, who live at ease,--will you who have been permitted to contribute towards the building of this house of praise, will you keep silence when the Church lifts up her voice to you, and says, "Praise ye the Lord?" God forbid. You have helped to build this house: may Almighty God remember you in His mercy for this. But, my brethren, beware lest ye yourselves be in the way of your gifts ascending up to heaven. To ascend as a memorial before God, your alms must be joined with holy prayers and grateful thanksgiviiigs. So it was with Cornelius. They were not his alms by themselves which ascended before God; they were his alms and his prayers. And so it must be, with you. You have contributed to the building and the adorning this holy house: you are now called upon to contribute your share to the holy services which shall here be offered up. In your gifts to the building, you may have been straitened by lack of means; your offerings may not have been so large in themselves as the offerings of your richer brethren: but in the offerings you are now called upon here to make day by day, why should you fall short of any one among your fellow-worshippers? In most cases, if you do fall short, it is your own fault. I say, in most cases: all have the power of contributing largely to the beauty and solemnity of public worship; some perhaps more than the officiating minister himself. Here none are excluded; here there is a ministry for all; all worldly distinctions here are done away. Here all are gathered together in one choir; all have liberty to sing; here there is no respect of persons, and earth is transformed into heaven. For here it cannot be said, that the master is privileged to take into his mouth the high praises of his God, but the servant must keep silence,--the rich man may open his lips, but the poor man's mouth must not show forth the praise of the Lord,--men may sing with holy confidence, but the voice of women must not be heard. No: there are no such distinctions as this. Nay, rather, the invitation here is to all people. Here high and low, rich and poor, are summoned to sing one with another. Young men and maidens, old men and children, are bid to praise the name of the Lord. In this respect all may minister before the Lord. Yea, children, like Samuel, may minister before the Lord. Here there is the occupation of angels for men, women, and children. Here we all offer a common sacrifice and common oblation; with one voice we magnify the Lord. The distinction is not between high and low, rich and poor, men and women. The only distinction recognized is the disposition of the heart: the difference is between the reverent and the irreverent, the devout and the careless, the holy and the unholy. To all is this great privilege open of honouring God by "offering Him thanks and praise; and to him who ordereth his conversation aright will be shown the salvation of God."
Surely, then, my brethren, you will avail yourselves of this privilege. You will confess Christ before men; you will not deny Him. For to be silent when you are required to open your mouths to show forth God's praise, this, my brethren, is to deny Him. And hear what Christ saith, "Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven." Hear also what St. Paul saith, "If we deny Him, He will also deny us." Recollect, you do not come to Church to hear singing, or merely to listen to an anthem. You come here to worship God. One of the purposes for which you have helped to build this holy house is, "to set forth God's most worthy praise, to render thanks for the great benefits you have received at His hands." You do not give unto God the honour due unto His name, unless you open your lips, and, to the best of your power, audibly show forth the praise of the Most High God. There are few who cannot do this if they will. All, at least, can take part in the Confession, Lord's Prayer, Versicles and Suffrages, Litany and Creed. Except on festivals, as to-day, all these parts of the service are said in one tone; nor have I any wish to depart from this rule. Persons most deficient in musical skill can join in these. From this not one need be shut out. But very many of you can do more, far more than this; very many of you can chant the Psalms if you will. The chants which we sing are so simple in themselves, and so often repeated, that in a few minutes you may learn them; and the rules to be observed are equally plain. At one time you chant in divisions, at another all together. You are already, by the arrangement of the church, divided into two bands; all then that you have to do is to observe which side of the choir is singing, and which is silent, and to sing when those that are on the same side with you are singing, and to be still when they are silent. Recollect, the members of the choir are not set apart to sing in your stead: no, their office is to lead you. As one office of the Priest is to conduct the devotions of the people, so the office of the choir is to conduct their praises. They are your guides, not your substitutes; you must praise God yourselves; you cannot praise him by proxy.
What is wanting, my brethren, on your part, is a ready and willing mind. What is wanting is, that the love of Christ should be shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost. Once be under the constraining influence of the love of God; then, when you are called upon to praise the Lord, it will be impossible to keep still silence: once let your hearts be ready, you will then of necessity sing and give praise. Love is a fire: and as a fire cannot be hid, but is both seen and felt, so the soul cannot conceal its love---cannot bury it in silence; it will break forth. St. Paul, into whose heart the most excellent gift of charity had been largely poured, says to the Corinthians, O, ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you: and why? Because his heart was enlarged: "O, ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged." How much more, my brethren, should our mouths be open unto God!--to God the Father, who hath made us and all the world,--to God the Son, who hath redeemed us and all mankind,--to God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth us and all the elect people of God. How much more should our mouths be open to the Holy, Blessed, and Glorious Trinity, to show forth God's most worthy praise. If your mouths are not open, is it not a sign that your hearts are not enlarged--that the love of God is not in you? Oh, my brethren, take this as one sign, among many others, whereby you may judge of your spiritual state; a sign whereby you may judge whether you have the love of God shed in your hearts or not. If the fire of love be kindled, then you will speak with your tongue. To keep silence from the good praises of the Most High will be pain and grief to you. To persevere in silence, when you might praise God, (and is not this the manner of some of you?) is a symptom of fearful indifference. Indifference will be your ruin, if you continue indifferent to the end. Your salvation depends upon your love. Will you, then, do nothing to kindle this love in your hearts? Deal not so madly; but consider what things God hath done for you. For us He created the heavens and the earth, the sea and the air, with all that in them is: for us He created all things that are in the earth,--trees, flowers and fruits, beasts and creeping things: to us He hath given the fishes of the sea, and the treasures that lie concealed in the great deep; to us He hath given the fowls of the air. The stars in the heavens, the sun and the moon in the firmament, the changes of day and night, and the succession of seasons," all these have been created and ordained for us. He hath breathed into us a living soul; He hath endued us with understanding; He hath given us dominion over the works of His hands; He hath given His angels charge concerning us; He hath sent His Prophets, His Apostles, His Evangelists to teach us; yea, He hath sent His only-begotten Son to die for our salvation. Oh, consider all the benefits you have received at His hands during your life! What did I say? during all your life? Nay, if God were to set before you all the blessings He has showered down upon you this one day,--blessings that you know not, that you think not of,--if He were to make these stand before you, to number them would be beyond your power. How many evil spirits may there be around you, whom He not only suffers not to hurt you; but your eyes are holden that you should not sec them, lest the sight should fill you with dismay, and there should be no more strength left in you? Of how many sins, negligences, and ignorances have you been guilty, and He still spares? If God were to call you to account for every sin as soon as it is committed, if for that sin at the very moment of commission sentence were passed upon you, where would you be now? Are not these, then, mercies to be acknowledged? Does not this loving-kindness demand love again from you? And will you not show your love by offering unto God thanks and praise? Surely, if you think of these things, you cannot refuse to give unto God the honour due unto Him; you cannot keep still silence, when called upon to praise His holy name. But, my brethren, be not deceived; think not that you set forth God's most worthy praise, if you only sing the words, without ever thinking what, they mean. Merely to offer God thanks and praise with your lips, this is not to honour Him. No; you must meditate upon what you sing, you must live according to your praises; in other words, you must order your conversation aright, if you would see the salvation of God.
Ye, my brethren, who are more especially set apart to take a lead in this sacrifice of praise, never forget this. You must pray to be what you sing. You must not rest in any thing outward; nothing must be done from vain glory. St. Paul exhorts Christians to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; they are to take the high praises of God into their mouths: but all this will be worth nothing, unless they make melody, and sing with grace in their hearts to the Lord. Remember this, that whenever you sing a Psalm you make a fresh covenant with God. For example, this morning you have sung such words as these: "I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope and my stronghold, my God: in Him will I trust'." Be not content with the mere words, for you have bound yourselves to act upon this truth; bound yourselves not to make flesh your arm, nor to put your trust in man. Again this evening you have sung, "Holiness becometh Thine house for ever." And thus you have confessed that you purpose, henceforth, to regard this place as a holy place, dedicated to Almighty God; you have declared that now you will behave yourselves devoutly, that you will join in all the holy offices which are here celebrated, that you will not willingly be excluded from any. Oh then take heed to yourselves! Take heed to the way in which you come up to this holy Temple. Take heed, lest ye be found liars before God. Why is it, that any of you, who are more especially set apart to offer unto God this sacrifice of praise,--why is it that some of you should never advance to that office of praise which is the highest of all on earth? You do not think yourselves unworthy to sing the Psalms of David. Why is it that you do not qualify yourselves to sing the song of "angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven?" Why are ye content to be shut out from taking part in the noblest hymn of all? Why are your voices not heard, singing "glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men?" In plain words, why are you not communicants? Why is it that some of you, who have been leading the praises of the congregation, turn away from this highest offering of praise, the Eucharistic sacrifice? Is it that even while you are offering God thanks and praise, your hearts are fixed in the world that now is, you mind earthly things; you do not order your conversation aright? God forbid! Oh, my brethren, when we are singing Psalms with our mouths, our hearts should be ashamed to be thinking of and desiring things of earth. This is not to sing to the Lord; this is not to cry unto God. The true cry unto God is the cry of the heart; the cry which God requires, is the cry of the converted, not of the wandering soul. Many there are that stand in the great congregation, and whose voices are heard; yet they sing not unto the Lord; their lips move; their hearts are not stirred within them; their lives are not amended. By them God is not honoured. Be not ye, my brethren, like unto them. Lift not up your voices merely, "lift up your hearts;" yea, "lift them up unto the Lord." Offer unto Him thanks and praise. If by His grace you are daily studying to advance in virtue and godliness of living, ye yourselves are His praise. His praise is not in the synagogue of the Jews; His praise is not in the darkness of the heathen; His praise is not in the errors of heresy. His praise is not in the festivals of worldly men. Do you ask where it is? His praise is in His Holy Temple; "in His temple doth every man speak of His honour;" and that temple are ye. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of the living God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Holiness becometh His house for ever. That house are ye. Be ye then His praise: be the whole of your lives a Eucharistic sacrifice unto Him, who offered up Himself an Atoning Sacrifice for you.