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In the Happy Revival of Religion, which has taken place of late years among us, and in which our own Church has so largely participated, Congregational Singing has been attracting a considerable share of attention.
Few Congregations are now content to devolve upon three or four Individuals the high privilege and duty, which belong to every member, of celebrating with his own heart and lips the praises of the blessed God. We cannot be too thankful for this, because it is an indication of more spiritual life in our Churches. I believe it will be found generally true, that as vital religion has flourished, the singing of Psalms and Hymns has been esteemed a privilege, and improved, as such, by all the servants of Christ. Singing a Hymn was the last act of worship in which our Lord engaged with his Apostles, immediately before his crucifixion. (Matt.
xxvi. 30.) Paul and Silas, too, were in like manner cheered and refreshed in their sufferings by singing praises unto God in the prison at Philippi. (Acts xvi. 25.) And the exhortation of the Apostle James is express ;—“ Is any merry ? let him sing psalms.” (Jas. v. 13.)
– Teaching us that our most cheerful moments ought to be consecrated to our God, and that then his praise is peculiarly appropriate, from whom come all our joys. Besides, singing to the Lord at such a season affords a safe vehicle for conducting that exuberance of spirits, which might otherwise betray its possessor (how often has it done so ?) into foolish and sinful excesses.
That this exhortation of the Apostle was remembered, and acted upon by Congregations as well as Individuals, in the first ages of the Church, we have the authority of its early writers. But when primitive zeal and love began to decay, and things were hastening on to that lamentable condition, which ended at last in the Great Apostacy, among the worst symptoms of decline we may notice, that religion in the Congregation, gradually ceased to be personal, and at length every thing was done
by proxy. They sang by proxy; they prayed by proxy; and, strangest of all, they ate and drank the Lord's Supper by proxy. Instead of meeting together to eat the bread and drink the cup at the Lord's table, where the people were wont to feed in their hearts on Christ Crucified, as their All in All, a Private Mass, by a Priest, was substituted for the Supper of the Lord. Instead of regarding the Minister as the appointed Leader in the Church, through whom they were to give expression to the devotional desires of their own hearts, as in the primitive times, (1 Cor. xiv. 16.)—they considered him as their Substitute, and slothfully and sinfully bore no part themselves in the Public Supplications of the Church. Instead of viewing the Singers in the Congregation simply as the Leaders, whom all ought to follow,the Conductors, to give the key-note to the rest,--they were looked upon as Deputies, and Congregational Singing disappeared. Thus, when
every heart and tongue ought to be ascending upward to the Throne of Grace, in that path of praise in which the Choir led the way, all were mute and unmoved, and the Lord
on high no longer received the incense of adoring praise from his professed worshippers, assembled at his footstool.
It is a cause of thankfulness that this Romish system of proxy worship is fast passing away from our Protestant people ; and it is to be hoped that the day is not far distant, when every lingering vestige of it will be effaced, and this reproach of Christianity be wiped away from every Congregation which protests against the corruptions of that System in which it was matured.
In the Congregation with which I am myself more immediately connected, I have the happiness to observe among many a growing sense of the privilege and duty of Congregational Singing; and it is the united desire and hope of my respected Colleague and myself, that this may continue to increase till not a voice, old or young, shall be silent when the Responses of our impressive Liturgy are repeated, and the High Praises of our Lord and Saviour are sung. This will be found no little aid to devotion, and contribute, under the Divine blessing, to spread the flame of holy desire among our people. And it is
when devotion is kindled in our Congregations, -when all our hearts burn within us--when every voice is lifted up in Praise,- it is then they, each of them, present some faint Type of the Great Congregation above.
To facilitate and encourage Congregational Singing in my own Church, this Selection was undertaken,—the want of some such book being felt by many. The Psalms, thirty-four in number, are taken from the version of Tate and Brady, which is commonly bound up with our Prayer Books. Of the Hymns, which amount to one hundred and twenty-eight, most of them will be familiar to all acquainted with Hymns. Their praise has been long in the Church of Christ. Many a saint have they cheered on his way to glory, in life, and in death ; and to their Brethren who survive, they are affording refreshment every day, as they travel in the same path to everlasting life. In this way they are endeared to us by a thousand interesting recollections; and while the Eternal Truths they embody come to our hearts with unabated freshness, the associations with which they are linked will often serve to