FRAGMENTS OF AN ADDRESS ON MUSIC

By Edward Payson

Without resorting to the hyperbolical expressions of poetry, or to the dreams and fables of pagan mythology, to the wonders said to be performed by the lyre of Amphion and the harp of Orpheus,—I might place before you the prophet of Jehovah, composing his ruffled spirits by the soothing influence of music, that he might be suitably prepared to receive a message from the Lord of Hosts. I might present to your view the evil spirit, by which jealous and melancholy Saul was afflicted, flying, baffled and defeated, from the animating and harmonious tones of David's harp. I might show you the same David, the defender and avenger of his flock, the champion and bulwark of his country, the conqueror of Goliah, the greatest warrior and monarch of his age, laying down the sword and the sceptre to take up his harp, and exchanging the titles of victor and king for the more honorable title of the sweet Psalmist of Israel.—But I appear not before you as her advocate; for in that character my exertions would be superfluous. She is present to speak for herself, and assert her own claims to our notice and approbation. You have heard her voice in the performances of this evening; and those of you, whom the God of nature has favored with a capacity of feeling and understanding her eloquent language, will, I trust, acknowledge that she has pleaded her own cause with triumphant success; has given sensible demonstration, that she can speak, not only to the ear, but to the heart; and that she possesses irresistible power to soothe, delight, and fascinate the soul. Nor was it to the senses alone that she spake; but while, in harmonious sounds, she maintained her claims, and asserted her powers; in a still and small but convincing voice, she addressed herself directly to reason and conscience, proclaiming the most solemn and important truths; truths which perhaps some of you did not hear or regard, but which deserve and demand our most serious attention.—With the same irresistible evidence as if an angel had spoken from heaven, she said, There is a God—and that God is good and benevolent. For, my friends, who but God could have tuned the human voice, and given harmony to sounds? Who, but a good and benevolent God, would have given us senses capable of perceiving and enjoying this harmony? Who, but such a being, would have opened a way through the ear, for its passage to the soul? Could blind chance have produced these wonders of wisdom? or a malignant being these miracles of goodness? Could they have caused this admirable fitness between harmony of sounds, and the organs of sense by which it is perceived? No. They would have either given us no senses, or left them imperfect, or rendered every sound discordant and harsh. With the utmost propriety, therefore may Jehovah ask, Who hath made man's mouth, and planted the ear? Have not I, the Lord? With the utmost justice, also, may he demand of us, that all our musical powers and faculties should be consecrated to his service, and employed in celebrating his praises. To urge you diligently and cheerfully to perform this pleasing, reasonable, and indispensable duty, is the principal object of the speaker. Not, then, as the advocate of music, but as the ambassador of that God, whose being and benevolence, music proclaims, do I now address this assembly, entreating every individual, without delay, to adopt and practise the resolution of the royal Psalmist—I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Psa. civ. 33.

In your imagination go back to the origin of the world, when, every thing was very good, and all creation harmonized together. All its parts, animate and inanimate, like the voices and instruments of a well regulated concert, helped to compose a perfect and beautiful whole; and so exquisite was the harmony thus produced, that in the whole compass of creation, not one jarring or discordant note was heard, even by the perfect ear of God himself.—The blessed angels of light began the universal chorus, "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."


Of this universal concert, man was appointed the terrestrial leader, and was furnished with natural and moral powers, admirably fitted for this blessed and glorious employment. His body, exempt from dissolution, disease, and decay, was like a perfect and well-strung instrument, which never gave forth a false or uncertain sound, but always answered, with exact precision, the wishes of his nobler part, the soul. His heart did not then belie his tongue, when he sung the praises of his Creator; but all the emotions felt by the one were expressed by the other, from the high notes of ecstatic admiration, thankfulness, and joy, down to the deep tones of the most profound veneration and humility. In a word, his heart was the throne of celestial love and harmony, and his tongue at once the organ of their will, and the sceptre of their power.

We are told, in ancient story, of a statue, formed with such wonderful art, that, whenever it was visited by the rays of the rising sun, it gave forth, in honor of that luminary, the most melodious and ravishing sounds. In like manner, man was originally so constituted, by skill divine, that, whenever he contemplated the rays of wisdom, power, and goodness, emanating from the great Sun of the moral system, the ardent emotions of his soul spontaneously burst forth in the most pure and exalted strains of adoration and praise. Such was the world, such was man, at the creation. Even in the eye of the Creator, all was good; for, wherever he turned, he saw only his own image, and heard nothing but his own praises. Love beamed from every countenance; harmony reigned in every breast, and flowed mellifluous from every tongue; and the grand chorus of praise, begun by raptured seraphs round the throne, and heard from heaven to earth, was reechoed back from earth to heaven; and this blissful sound, loud as the archangel's trump, and sweet as the melody of his golden harp, rapidly spread, and was received from world to world, and floated, in gently-undulating waves, even to the farthest bounds of creation.

To this primeval harmony, a lamentable contrast followed, when sin untuned the tongues of angels, and changed their blissful songs of praise into the groans of wretchedness, the execrations of malignity, the blasphemies of impiety, and the ravings of despair. Storms and tempests, earthquakes and convulsions, fire from above, and deluges from beneath, which destroyed the order of the natural world, proved that its baleful influence had reached our earth, and afforded a faint emblem of the jars and disorders which sin had introduced into the moral system. Man's corporeal part, that lyre of a thousand strings, tuned by the finger of God himself, destined to last as long as the soul, and to be her instrument in offering up eternal praise, was, at one blow, shattered, unstrung, and almost irreparably ruined. His soul, all whose powers and faculties, like the chords of an Ćolian harp, once harmoniously vibrated to every breath of the divine Spirit, and ever returned a sympathizing sound to the tones of kindness and love from a fellow-being, now became silent, and insensible to melody, or produced only the jarring and discordant notes of envy, malice, hatred, and revenge. The mouth, filled with cursing and bitterness, was set against the heavens; the tongue was inflamed with the fire of hell. Every voice, instead of uniting in the song of "Glory to God in the highest," was now at variance with the voices around it, and, in barbarous and dissonant strains, sung praise to itself, or was employed in muttering sullen murmurs against the Most High—in venting slanders against fellow-creatures—in celebrating and deifying some worthless idol, or in singing the triumphs of intemperance, dissipation, and excess. The noise of violence and cruelty was heard mingled with the boasting of the oppressor, and the cry of the oppressed, and the complaints of the wretched; while the shouts of embattled hosts, the crash of arms, the brazen clangor of trumpets, the shrieks of the wounded, the groans of the dying, and all the horrid din of war, together with the wailings of those whom it had rendered widows and orphans, overwhelmed and drowned every sound of benevolence, praise and love. Such is the jargon which sin has introduced—such the discord which, from every quarter of our globe, has long ascended up into the ears of the Lord of hosts.