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No 630. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 8, 1714.
HOR. 3. Od, i. 2.
With mute attention wait.
ILAVING no spare time to write any thing of my own, or to correct what is sent me by others, I have thought fit to publish the following letters: SIR,
Oxford, Nov. 22. If you would be so kind to me, as to suspend that satisfaction, which the learned world must receive in reading one of your speculations, by publishing this endeavour, you will very much oblige and improve one, who has the boldness to hope that he may be admitted into the number of your correspondents.
"I have often wondered to hear men of good sense and good-nature profess a dislike to music, when at the same time they do not scruple to own that it has the most agreeable and improving in. fueuces over their minds: it seems to me an un. happy contradiction, that those persons should have an indifference for an art which raises in them such a variety of sublime pleasures.
" However, though some few, by their own or the unreasonable prejudices of others, may be led iuto a distaste for those musical societies which are erected merely for entertainment, yet sure I may venture to say that no one can bave the least reason for disaffection to that solemn kind of melody which consists of the praises of our Creator.
You have, I presume, already prevented me in an argument upon this occasion, which some divines have successfully advanced upon a much greater, that musical sacrifice and adoration has claimed a place in the laws and customs of the most different nations, as the Grecians and Romans of the profane, the Jews and Christians of the sacred world, did as unanimously agree in this as they disagreed in all other parts of their economy.
"I know there are not wanting some who are of opinion that the pompous kind of music which is in use in foreign churches, is the most excellent, as it most affects the senses. But I am swayed by my judgment to the modesty which is observed in the musical part of our devotions. Methinks there is something very laudable in the custom of a volun. tary before the first lesson; hy this we are supposed to be prepared for the admission of those divine truths which we are shortly to receive. We are then to cast all worldly regards from off our hearts, all tumults within are then becalmed, and there should be nothing near the soul but peace and tranquillity. So that in this short office of praise the man is raised above himself, and is almost lost already amidst the joys of futurity.
I have heard some nice observers frequently commend the policy of our church in this particular, that it leads us on by such easy and regular methods that we are perfectly deceived into piety. When the spirits begin to languish (as they too often do with a constant series of petitions) she takes care to allow them a pious respite, and relieves them with the raptures of an anthem. Nor can we doubt that the sublimest poetry, softened in the most moving
strains of music, can never fail of humbling or ex. alting the soul to any pitch of devotion. hear the terrors of the Lord of Hosts described in the most expressive melody without being awed into a veneration? Or who can hear the kind and en. dcaring attributes of a merciful father, and not be softened into love towards him?
And as the rising and sinking of the passions, the casting soft or noble hints into the soul, is the natural privilege of music in general, so more particularly of that kind which is employed at the altar. Those impressions which it leaves upon the spirits are more deep and lasting, as the grounds from which it receives its authority are founded more upon reason. It diffuses a calmness all around us, it makes us drop all those vain or immodest thoughts which would be an hinderance to us in the perform, ance of that great duty of thanksgiving *, which, as we are informed by our Almighty Benefactor, is the most acceptable return which can be made for those infinite stores of blessings which he daily con. descends to pour down upon his creatures. When we make use of this pathetical method of addressing ourselves to him we can scarce contain from raptures! The heart is warmed with a sublimity of goodness! We are all piety and all love!
• How do the blessed spirits rejoice and wonder to behold unthinking man prostrating his soul to his dread Sovereign in such a warmth of piety as they themselves might not be ashamed of!
6 I shall close these reflections with a passage taken out of the third book of Milton's Paradise Lost, where those harmonious beings are thus no. bly described :
* A proclamation issued the day before this paper was pubJished for a thanksgiving for king George's accession, to be observed January 20th.
" Then crown'd again, their golden harps they took,
6 MR. SPECTATOR,
• The town cannot be unacquainted that in divers parts of it there are vociferous sets of men who are called rattling clubs; but what shocks me most is, they have now the front to invade the church and institute these societies there, as a clan of them have in late times done, to such a degree of insolence as has given the partition where they reside, in a church near one of the city gates, the denomination of the rattling pew. These gay fel. lows, from humble lay professions set up for critics, without any tincture of letters or reading, and have the vanity to think they can lay hold of something from the parson which may be formed into ridicule.
• It is needless to observe that the gentlemen, who every Sunday have the hard province of instructing these wretches in a way they are in no present disposition to take, have a fixed character for learning and eloquence, not to be tainted by the weak efforts of this contemptible part of their alldiences. Whether the pulpit is taken by these gentlemen, or any strangers their friends, the way of the club is this : if any sentiments are delivered too sublime for their conception; if any uncommon topic is entered on, or one in use new modified with the finest judgment and dexterity; or any contro. verted point be never so elegantly handled ; in short, whatever surpasses the narrow limits of their theo. logy, or is not suited to their taste, they are all immediately upon the watch, fixing their eyes upon each other with as much warmth as our gladiators of Hockley-in-the-Hole, and waiting like them for a hit: if one touches, all take fire, and their noddles instantly meet in the centre of the pew : then, as by beat of drum, with exact discipline, they rear up in a full length of stature, and with odd looks and gesti. culations confer together in so loud and clamorous a manner, continued to the close of the discourse, and during the after-psalm, as is not to be silenced but by the bells. Nor does this suffice them, without aim. ing to propagate their noise through all the church, by signals given to the adjoining seats, where others designed for this fraternity are sometimes placed upon trial to receive them.
The folly as well as rudeness of this practice is in nothing more conspicuous than this, that all that follows in the sermon is lost; for, whenever our sparks take alarm, they blaze out and grow so tu. multuous that no after-explanation can avail, it being impossible for themselves or any near them to give an account thereof. If any thing really novel is advanced, how averse soever it may be to their way of thinking, to say nothing of duty, men of less levity, than these would be led by a natural curiosity to hear the whole.
Laughter, where things sacred are transacted, is far less pardonable than whiving at a conventicle ; the last has at least a semblance of grace, and where the affectation is unseen may possibly imprint wholesome lessons on the sincere ; but the first has no excuse breaking through all the rules of order and decency, and manifesting a remissness of mind in those important matters which require the strictest composure and steadiness of thought : a proof of the greatest folly in the world.