Page images
[ocr errors]

also; nor ceasing from her loyal labours until“ Holiness to the Lord” is stamped on the whole mechanism of existence, and man is serving God with the best gifts that he possesses, the best conquests he has achieved, and the best member that he has.

If this be so, Art is no longer a thing essentially secular and profane; nor is the painter, or the sculptor, or the architect, or the musician exempted from the lien which God holds on man and all that appertains to him. Nay, but rather there is both room and work for each and all of them amidst the manifold services of His household. Let them but sanctify themselves before the Lord, and He will both smile upon their labours, and perhaps even expand their powers. Is He not the same who“ filled" of old Bezaleel and Aholiab with “His Spirit, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship," to carry out His designs and specifications,—to execute, so to speak, His own working-drawings of the Tabernacle? And although the works of these God-taught artists were not destined to endure, yet they “served” in their day “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," such as are for us and our children. And among the rest I seem to learn from their striking history, that Art itself also may be birthed in heavenly inspirations, and haply bear its ballowed gifts, a rich and accepted offering, even into that “true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man.”

In defending Art from the aspersions which have been cast upon it, I would venture upon a further observation. The whole plausibility of the objection, such as it is, to the employment of Art in the service of Religion, lies in its assumed materialism. Now I have been arguing hitherto that, even admitting this assumption, the separation of Religion and Art would not necessarily follow, since God has His own claim upon matter, not less than upon spirit

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and mind. But still, I might have taken stronger ground again. There is no other position, perhaps, more untenable than this, that Art is material only. Who has not rather felt that all Art which deserves the name has in truth what in a sense may be even called a soul? And that soul has many a time seemed to commune directly with our own, as it looked out upon us from the silent canvas, or moved before us in the rigid marble, or discoursed with us in the gushing melody. We have seemed, spirit as it was, to detect its characteristic attributes, whether social, political, or ecclesiastical, as we have trodder the courts of palaces, or stood in the naves of Churches, or visited in turn the frowning fortress, or the stately forum, or the lightsome mansion. In vaulted roof and pointed arch, in fluted pillar and sculptured capital, in every minutest detail the soul of Architecture has found for us a voice and utterance, the very “stone crying out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answering it." And shall not this, too, be regarded as abundant evidence that to cast out Art as an anathema were to sin against the providential purposes of Him who has ordained all things for His glory? Where He has bestowed such full-fraught influences as Art can surely sway, whether for good or evil, over us, is it not fitting that those influences be employed for Him, and not against Him? He Himself has set us an example, making Nature all around us to bear witness to Him. And Art, which after all is but Nature's humble copyist, will then, and then only, as we understand it, have perfectly fulfilled her mission, when she too is pleading for His honour, and has become vocal with His praise !

And a great deal of all this has been happily conceded in the day we live in. Many of the old prejudices against Art in connexion with our holy things, many indeed which once were wont to issue in bitter and angry heart-burnings,

[ocr errors]

have now been practically abandoned. No man seems nowadays any longer to imagine that we are bound to make the house of prayer as like a barn as possible; or to leave, as good John Wesley put it, all the good music to the Devil. The Church, architecturally considered, promises to become once more, not the reproach, but the ornament of the parish; and the Chapel, with advances yet more startling toward artistic style and decoration, seems resolved to rival, if not to outshine our Churches. The organ in each alike peals forth its sounding diapason, such as you might almost think would waken up from his slumber near some stern old father of Nonconformity, and make him sure that, by some fatal turn, things had lapsed again to Babylon! And Churchmen and Dissenters are meeting every day, not alone in the Young Men's Christian Association and on the Bible platform, but also in the Hullah class or the Choral Society, to find that, after all their differences, both heart and voice can blend harmoniously together in the praises of their common Saviour! Meanwhile, a glance at the catalogue of any of our exhibitions will show that sacred subjects are once more attracting largely the attention of the painter. Nor, indeed, could it be otherwise ; for the cultivation of Art generally has of late years received so marked an impetus among us, that it must needs, more or less, have come in contact with sacred things; Religion, blessed be God! having at the same moment marvellously revived in our midst. And this itself is another proof, if it were yet wanting, that Art and Religion are not necessarily antagonistic powers, but rather that legitimate relations undoubtedly subsist between them.

But now comes the real difficulty of the question with which I am dealing. What are those legitimate relations ? and how shall they be defined ? And here I answer frankly that, as far as I know, it is not, perhaps, possible very accu



rately to define them. In the solution of inquiries such as this, Revelation has not indeed been silent; but still it has done no more than to lay down some broad and general principles of action, leaving their application in detail partly to the individual conscience, and partly to the wisdom gathered from observation and experience. What my conscience, carefully informed, condemns, or even disallows, that I should avoid, on the one hand; what I have plainly seen to be mischievous in its tendency, even though my conscience is silent, that I must at any rate refrain from advocating, on the other. As regards the matter in hand, we can go, perhaps, no farther than this—The Holy Ghost saith, “Let all things be done unto edifying." And again,

Whatsoever ye do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him.” Such are the commandments given. It seems to me that the relations after which we seek may be discovered in their light. Let Art be subservient only to the edification of God's elect, not to their perversion from the faith ; let her oblations be a grateful tribute rendered as to a loving Father, and not a vainglorious effort of self-exalting arrogance ; let her movements have regard not to human follies or falsehoods, but let them have a single eye to the supremacy of Christ, to His honour, to His truth, to His salvation—then will the relations between Religion and Art be at once lawful and sanctified, just as under the alternatives imagined they will be forbidden and illegitimate relations. I must now say something, but it must be very cursorily-the subject is one for folios, not for a single lecture-on the application of these principles to the four great Arts, Music, Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting: reserving myself, however, chiefly for the latter.

I. First, then, as to Music. Of its intimate connexion with religion none have ever doubted. In its ravished utter

[ocr errors]


ances the soul has still sought vent instinctively for all its deeper fervours. Whether the exulting Song of Moses rose higher than the surge's roar, where the royal people had passed unscathed, and the chivalry of Egypt perished; or whether David waked his harp to many a tuneful strain—that sweet Psalmist of Israel; or whether the yoices of Paul and Silas broke upon the stilly midnight,-it was the Lord's song they sung, though in a strange land; what wonder if the doors were opened and the foundations of the prison shaken? or whether there still lies before us that unrepealed statute of the Kingdom, “Is any merry ? let him sing Psalms ;” the practice of the Church of God has been the same in

every age. The voice of melody has been still in the midst of her a frequent voice of prayer, and the chosen voice of praise. The only points of discussion here concern not the introduction of music into the service of religion, but only the style of the music to be introduced, and the limits within which it is to be confined.

And not venturing upon the details of so large a subject; not daring to decide absolutely between the Ambrosian type and the Gregorian, the more popular and harmonious, or the more classic and severe, I would simply say, that in order to be edifying, all such sacred music as is meant for public worship-and with this only I am dealing nowmust, at any rate, be strictly solemn, strictly simple, and strictly congregational. It must be what the heart can immediately adopt as a true channel of devotion, and what the ear, if one has an ear, can immediately take in and appreciate. It must help the sense of the words employed, not hinder it. It must kindle and elicit united worship, not chill and veto it. The great fault to be found with the music of our Churches is, in nine cases out of ten, that the choir is too small. It should include the whole congregation. In very many instances, again, we could well afford

« PreviousContinue »