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garded as by no means essential. We have no need of perfect uniformity of forms, except in as far as it is needful to maintain the essence of all divine service, as it is set forth in our text, when it says, “ Build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying with the Holy Ghost." But with this we must ever unite that essential point in the worship of God,“ that he is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. In the form the greatest liberty may be allowed. Thus, we need not consider it as of any importance, that in one place the liturgy is accompanied by a choir, in another not. But where choral music is introduced, it would be very much to be desired that the whole congregation, which generally is quite inactive, would itself form the chorus, and, as in the primitive church, would itself pronounce the Amen, after the reading of the prayer, or at least would join in singing with the choir. The choir now takes the place of the congregation ; but I think it would be far more solemn and exalting, if the whole congregation, as with one mouth, were to answer Amen to the prayer
of the minister of God. Thus, when we step to the altar, and commence the service with the prayer, “ The Lord be with you,” you should all join with the choir in singing, “ And with thy spirit;" and when again we call on you,
“ Lift up your hearts,” then should the whole congregation of believers answer with the choir, “ We lift them up unto the Lord.” That which, in most places, stands in the way of an arrangement so decidedly edifying, is the neglect of church singing, and this remark leads us to the conclusion of our subject.
IV. You will recollect, that, at the commencement, we named singing as one part of the ordinances of divine service among the early Christians. In this respect, also, the believers in the gospel
adopted a practice that prevailed among the Jews. Paul frequently exhorts the first Christian churches to spiritual songs, as when he writes to the Ephesians, “ Be filled with the spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord :" and when he exhorts the Colossians, “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Church singing is especially fitted to produce a deep and overpowering impression on the mind, and edify the heart. This the Christians knew, and therefore it was never wanting at their divine service. They originally sung partly the psalms of the Old Testament, and partly songs of thanksgiving and praise to God and Christ, composed for this purpose, and thereby they sought to exalt the simple church solemnities.
We need scarcely mention, that church singing occupies now a chief place in our form of worship, and, on account of its importance, deservedly does so. And what great cause have we to thank God for the rich and glorious collection of church songs which our German nation possesses ! The Reformation of the sixteenth century exercised a decisive influence on the formation of such songs, and we still sing with rapture, and to our real edification, the powerful hymns of faith of our Luther, and the pithy hymns of other pious writers of earlier or later times. Would that we had not also to lament the sad neglect into which church singing has fallen amongst us, and which is so mournfully evinced by the prevailing ignorance of many melodies and tunes! Whence does this arise, you will ask ? Partly from the neglect of church worship of so many Christians, who never attend our services. How shall they learn the tunes when they never hear them ? This partly arises from the neglect of family religious exercises.. Some years back, and probably you remember it still, in the times of your childhood and youth, some years back there was singing in houses and families; children learned from their parents, and became familiar with the tunes, before they went to church. In the schools, too, formerly nothing but hymns were sung, and, however imperfect and unmelodious the sing
ing was, yet they became initiated in the tunes. Then there were many beautiful institutions, such as the public schools for choral singing, which many, I doubt not, remember with delight from the times when they were not out of fashion. The spirit of the times has done away with all this. Spiritual music and spiritual songs have had to yield to worldly and common ones. Family religious exercises have, to a great extent ceased, and little is now done in the schools to advance church singing, although this within the last few years has been again improving. Whence, then, shall proceed the
practice in singing our spiritual songs? We are obliged to keep to the most common tunes, and many a glorious and beautiful hymn remains unsung, because the melody to which it was composed is unknown, and the united worship is interrupted, if we choose it. O, let therefore, next to your bibles and catechisms, your hymn-books be your household book for edification, and introduce these family exercises among yourselves once more! Let
children learn our beautiful hymns by heart, and sing them together with them, that they may become acquainted with the melodies at home! In particular, do you who take great pains to have your sons and daughters instructed in music, take care not to exclude spiritual music, which contributes so essentially to edification, fits the soul for devotion, raises the heart to God, comforts and makes glad the soul. But singing alone is indeed not enough, it must, as Luther says, “ be not only with the mouth, without all understanding, but with devotion, spiritual, and out of the ground of the heart.” We must be full of the spirit, my brethren, and if we are full of the spirit, the holy spirit, then shall we have our pleasure in the word of God, in the preaching of the gospel, in prayer and singing, then we shall not call to
66 build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.
Therefore, we pray thee, our kind and heavenly Father, that thou wouldst fill us all with thy holy spirit, that our reading, hearing, praying, and singing, may be pleasing and acceptable
to thee, through Jesus Christ.
OF THE DIVINE SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
BLESSED be the Lord our God, who, according to his great mercy, hath saved us through the path of regeneration and renovation by the holy spirit, which He has poured out upon us abundantly by Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, by His grace we may become heirs of eternal life, by the hope that He is faithful who has promised. Amen.
The hymn which we have this day sung together, my brethren, will have suggested to you what will be the subject of my discourse. The sacrament of holy baptism will form the subject of my observations to-day. We have been for some weeks depicting the ecclesiastical life of Christians in the first centuries, and we have, on the last occasion, reminded you of the sacred ordinances which formed the chief component parts of their public worship. In their exercises of religious worship they particularly provided for edification and instruction, and therefore they attributed a peculiar importance to the study of the divine word, as the surest and most efficacious
means towards a growth in knowledge and holiness. The reading of the holy Scriptures, the preaching of the word, singing and prayer, were therefore the most prominent objects of their congregational services, as is the case also at the present time among us, so that we may with truth venture to affirm, that our divine service, in its principal features, does not differ from that of the first Christians.
Next, however, to the study of the divine word, the celebration of the holy sacraments occupied a high sta tion in the ecclesiastical life of the first Christians. You know, my brethren, that there are two ordinances which we are accustomed to call sacraments, viz. holy baptism and the holy communion. The divine founder of Christianity himself appointed and ordained both, as blessed pledges of our communion with Him, and our participation of the eternal goods and joys of His kingdom. By holy baptism we are admitted into His covenant of grace
peace. It is the solemn consecration in order to fellowship with Him, and with all God's children, and, as such, the highest blessing which we can obtain, because it is a pledge of our participation in the redemption which He has made for us, and, at the same time, makes the duty of following Him most urgent, wherefore St Peter calls it, “ The answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” He, therefore, who is consecrated to God by baptism, must consider himself to be a member of a community which has received grace and redemption, and is sanctified by the Holy Ghost. The celebration of the holy Lord's Supper, by which we proclaim the Lord's death, is intended to express our continual abiding in this blessed and sanctifying fellowship with our Redeemer, and the continual appropriation in faith of the eternal goods and blessings of His kingdom. This sacrament is to us a precious pledge of His grace, and of the perfect salvation which he has won for sinful men; and as he gives us himself to feed upon in that glorious feast, so are we bound to take on ourselves His spirit and His life really and in truth, that we may be entirely one with Him, and exclaim with St Paul, “ I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
We will now consider how the Christians of the first ages regarded with the greatest awe these two precious bequests, which the Lord, when He departed, left behind to His church; how they recognised the significance and importance of them ; how their influence on the whole life, and the connection of the divine with the external ordinance was deeply and livingly felt by them; and, lastly, how these holy ordinances were ad