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of things when he went into the pulpit, and beckoning to one of the elders who was a good singer, and always led on communion occasions, to come up to him, he made the necessary arrangements, and as soon as the morning Psalm was announced, the worthy elder rose in his place, and “ pitching the tune,” led off Old Hundred, to the edification of the congregation and the discomfiture Deacon Small, who thought there could be no singing unless he took the lead
By a vote of the congregation a committee was appointed to obtain a singing master to teach one quarter, for which he was to receive a hundred dollars, and all were at liberty to attend The committee heard of a teacher and hired him.
His name was Bridge; and he very soon afforded fresh proof of the saying of the knowing old ladies of the place, “ that a good singing master is good for nothing else.” He was a good singer but a great fop, and a low, ill-bred, but cunning fellow, who soon ingratiated himself into the favor of one part of the congregation and disgusted the rest. The school, however, was vastly popular, especially among the young people, who were fond of coming together twice a week and spending the evening sociably. Bridge always gave a long intermission, which was the occasion for all manner of fun
among the young people; and then by coming early, and staying after school was out, they managed to make the entertainment quite as diverting as a dance, which latter amusement was rarely allowed among the sons and daughters of that church. But before the quarter was out, the singing master was detected in some peccadilloes that rendered his dismission necessary in the estimation of the more discreet of the congregation. The communication of this decision to the school was the signal for an explosion. A part, perhaps a majority, acquiesced in the decision and sustained the committee, but others resented it and resisted, declaring that he should stay, and they would hire him for another quarter. The parties were now pitted against each other, and for a long time the contention raged with a fierceness that threatened the unity of the church. The pastor, of course, took ground against the teacher, for his moral unfitness to lead the worship of religious people was apparent, and this decided stand of the pastor brought down upon his head the wrath of all the Bridge men, who did not scruple to say that they would keep Bridge even if they lost their minister.
The Bridge party circulated a subscription
paper, and had no difficulty in raising the money to hire the teacher for another quarter, for when men get mad they are always willing to pay to have their own way. The elders refused to have him in the choir on the Sabbath day, and so the strange and disgraceful spectacle was presented of part of a Christian congregation employing a man to instruct them in the worship of God, while the officers of the church very properly refused him a place in the service. And this wicked war was prolonged until the second quarter of the teacher expired, when he and his friends resolved to have a great musical festival, to wind off with due honor the controversy in which they flattered themselves they had been victorious. They wished to have an address on the occasion, and applied to the pastor to deliver it. He answered that he would not speak if Bridge was to lead the singing, but would cheerfully give them an address if some one else were selected to take the place of a man whom he regarded as utterly unfit to conduct the devotions of God's people. The answer was far from being satisfactory. Bridge must sing, as the festival was designed for his glory. So the party cast about to find a speak. er for the great occasion, and were at length successful in obtaining one in the person of a noted pulpit orator in a distant city, deposed from the ministry, who was glad to make his way into another congregation where he knew he could never speak on the invitation of the pastor. This irregular and disgraceful act of the Bridge party closed the campaign. The last performance was condemned by the people, and the second engagement having run out, Bridge departed, to find employment elsewhere, the party that had supported him became ashamed of their own conduct, gradually returned to their respective duties, said as little as possible about their late rebellion, and submitted themselves in silence to the constituted authorities.
But it was not until after many years that the wounds which this affair had made, were healed. The feelings of one part of the people were alienated from the other; the more serious and substantial of the congregation had opposed the Bridge party, which was composed of the younger and lighter portion; the pastor had been so deeply involved in the struggle that his preaching was not received with so much affection and tenderness by those from whom he had differed; and it may be that the Word of God was not accompanied with that spirit of prayer, without which it can never be effectual, and the day of final account can alone disclose the extent of the mischief wrought by those men who determined to put in peril the peace of the church for the sake of carrying their own points. I have been so particular in stating the facts in this transaction that it may serve as a warning to other churches ; for great is the responsibility incurred by that man who puts himself in the way of the peaceful progress of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit never lingers among a people aster strife has begun, and who will answer for the guilt of grieving away the Messenger of Heaven's saving grace ?
REMINISCENCES OF A COUNTRY CONGREGATION. 355
And now that the root of bitterness was cast out, the good pastor addressed himself with all diligence to repair the breaches that had been made He brought the mighty power of Divine truth to bear upon the consciences of the congregation, and with his characteristic fidelity, tenderness and skill, he plied them with those considerations which, in the course of time and under the blessing of God, resulted in the restoration of peace. Some of the most reasonable and pious of the Bridge party were frank enough to go to him and confess their error, and to express their strong sense of admiration of his firm and Christian deportment during the whole affair; but others quieted their consciences by treating their minister with a little extra attention, while they saved their pride from the manliness of an apology, when they knew they were wrong. But the singing. That was no better, but worse rather. Those on whom reliance had long been placed as permanent singers, were disgusted and driven from the gallery; a set of tunes unknown to the people was introduced ; the new choir were unable to sing without their leader, they soon scattered ; Deacon Small returned to his post and rallied a few of the old singers, and for a time “ Dundee,” and “Mear,” and “ Wells,” with one or two other tunes of equal claim to antiquity, were performed upon the return of each Sabbath, with a regularity and uniformity worthy of striking commendation.
This state of things lasted until it could be borne no longer. And I make this remark seriously. It is intolerable that God should be mocked with such praise as is offered to him in some of our churches. Not to say anything of it as a matter of taste, to gratify the ear of man, and exalt the affections of the worshipper; there is another light in which it should be viewed, and a light in which it is very seldom viewed by our churches. I refer to the great truth, that God deserves better praise than he gets in those temples where little or no attention is paid to the culture of sacred music. If that considera
tion were imprinted on the hearts of Christians, they would from principle spend time and mo. ney in qualifying themselves and others to suslain this part of public worship with “ spirit and understanding also.”
A short time since I was in Boston, and on Sabbath morning went to the church where Lowell Mason leads the singing, with a choir that has long enjoyed the instructions of that eminent and able master. I did not know that he was the leader, and was not prepared to expect anything more than the ordinary singing of a church in that refined city. But those words,
“ Welcome, sweet day of rest
That saw the Lord arise,” came over my soul as if the morning stars were singing their Maker's praise with the opening of another Sabbath ; and as the hymn, sweet in its own melody, but sweeter in the melody which rich music lent it, swelled on my ear, I was carried away by the power of the praise, now wrapt into a glow of ecstatic feeling, now subdued by the melting tones that fell softly and sweetly on my responding heart. Yet I did not think of the singers, or the leader, or the great organ whose deep bass rolled through the temple. I forgot all these, and felt only that we were praising God, in the beauty of his Sabbath and sanctuary, and that He who delights in a pure sacrifice, was receiving a warm tribute of praise from that worshipping people.
“My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
To everlasting bliss.” Now it is very true that all congregations cannot have Lowell Mason or Thomas Hastings to teach them to sing, nor is it needsul in order that the music may be such as shall be pleasing to God and edifying to the people. It requires no sacrifice. The practice essential to success in this delightful art, is itself a source of elevated and rational pleasure to those engaged in it, especially to the young, and when the science has been cultivated until skill is attained, there is scarcely anything that contributes more to the harmony and happiness of the social circle than this. And if our country churches would regard this department of public worship, as an offering to God, who is not willing to be served with that which costs nothing, but who loves to lend his ear to the music of his children when they sing as they ought, it seems to me that there would be a wonderful change in the style of music. In every church there would be an association of those who have musical taste and talent, and they would labor diligently to elevate the standard of public sentiment on this subject, and of their success there could be no doubt. Pastors have failed of their duty in this matter; for if the pulpit had been faithful in exhibiting the claims of this part of Divine worship upon the conscience of the people, there can be no reason to suppose that it would be looked upon with that indifference with which most of our churches regard it. But I must come back from this digression.
Our old congregation having become thoroughly satisfied that the singing must be improved, and placed on a basis of progressive advancement, sought and found another teacher, who, at the general desire of the people, came to establish a school and lead the singing on the Sabbath day. This time, Deacon Small and all agreed to the proposition. The young people, and some of the older ones, attended a school one evening every week for several months; the old standard tunes, as Old Hundred, St. Thomas, Tamworth, Silver Street, &c., were practised over and over again, till the whole “ rising generation ” could sing them with propriety; a few new tunes were learned, and learned well, and when the teacher went away there were several in the school who were well qualified to take the lead. The selection was made by the school, who voted by ballot; the elders contirmed the nomination, and, after that, everything went on smoothly. Deacon Small was considerably mortified that nobody voted for hiin as chorister, but he kept his mortification to himself, and each succeeding winter a school was opened for the instruction of the young in sacred music, and no difficulty was afterwards heard of on that head. But there is reason for the question propounded at the opening of' this record, “Why is the choir so often the source of discord in the church?” I have heard it said that singers are naturally nervous, sensitive people, or (to go a little farther into the philosophy of the thing), that the mental and physical organization of those who have the faculties essential to a good singer is so delicate that this class of the human race is more easily discomposed by trifles than any other. But without speculating upon the hidden cause, the fact is well known that trouble from this quarter often comes--trouble that the influence of the pastor and the wisdom of the officers is sometimes powerless to remove or relieve. Frequently have I seen old, established congregations shak
en to their very centre by these musical feuds, when the matter in controversy was so unimportant, the ground of offence so puerile, that it can be reconciled neither with religion nor common sense. Perhaps some one of the singers has heard somebody say that some one else said that the singing was not as good as it used to be. This remark, perhaps made inadvertently, is repeated and magnified; the choir hear of it and refuse to sing. Sometimes an unpopular individual takes a seat in the choir, and the rest resolve to quit the seats unless the unwelcome guest withdraws, and he determines to stay if he stays alone, and so they leave bim in full possession. But the most of these troubles grow out of the employment of unsuitable men as leaders of singing in our churches. I have known men of notoriously immoral lives to be appointed to this responsible office, and then most righteously would the sober and discreet members of the church rise in opposition and refuse to be led in their hymns of praise by a man of profane lips. Here is no place to argue the question whether an unconverted person should ever be allowed to lead the singing in the house of God, though I cannot avoid entering a dissent to that doctrine sometimes advocated, that because you would not call on a man of the world to pray in public, so you should not in. vite or allow him to sing God's praise in public. There is a natural distinction in the two cases which can scarcely be made plainer by illustration. But it ought to be borne in mind by all parties, in every congregation, that the singing is a part of Divine worship, the regulation of which belongs exclusively to the church, or the spiritual officers of the church, and while the authority to order it is in their hands, it is not to be expected that any man of corrupt life will be allowed to take the lead.
And if on them rests the responsibility of excluding from the orchestra those whom they regard as unfit to be there, most emphatically does it devolve on them to take measures so to train the voices of the people that with every Sabbath's services there may go up to God acceptable praise in the courts of his house.
I perceive that this chapter has taken the form of an essay on church music, rather than of ancient history, as I proposed. But the subject suddenly took this turn, and has run to this point, where I must leave it. And I would not leave the reader with the impression that such troubles as I have described were common in our old congregation. The farthest from it possible. Years would roll by and not an event of a troublous kind would occur to make one year memorable rather than another, and to show how rare were such occurrences as those which laid the foundations of this chapter, I may say that these events transpired when I was so young as to know nothing of what was going on, but they were talked about for many years after, and I have written the history according to tradition and not from memory. People would often speak of the Bridge excitement very much as we speak of the Shay's rebellion, or the Revolution—something that happened once, but never to be expected again. Probably few churches could be found in the length and breadth of the land where there was more peace and less contention than in ours, during the ministry of Mr. Rogers.
ment they succeeded in getting enough to agree to attend. The school was kept up through the winter, and toward spring they were to have a
public,” or a grand finale to their winter performances. Invitations were sent to all the vil. lages within twenty miles, for the fashionables to attend, and every arrangement was made for one of the most splendid displays which that old quiet town had ever witnessed. No expense was spared to adorn the room, and many of our young ladies, by dint of coaxing and crying, had obtained, for the first time in their lives, permission to attend a ball. Close by the tavern and in full view of the ball-room window, lived one of the young ladies who had in the early part of the winter been a member of the dancing school, but who had been taken sick, and as the time for the ball drew nigh she was evident. ly drawing nigh to death. She died on the morning of the very day on which the ball was to come off in the evening. The news of her death fled rapidly over the town, and the most active of the getters up of the performance were in doubt as to what course it would be necessary to take. One of the managers was said to be betrothed to the young lady, a member of the school, now a corpse in sight of the windows. What should they do? The managers met in the afternoon and held a consultation. The betrothed was not there, but he sent word that there would be a manifest propriety in postponing the amusements of the evening. But the rest demurred. Everything is now ready, all the expense is incurred and will be doubled if they defer; the company will assemble; it was decided to go on. They did. The young ladies came together, but before the dancing began, one of them was looking out of the window and saw a dim light over in the chamber of death, where watchers were sitting by the corpse of one who had hoped to be on the floor with them. A chill came over the young lady as she was looking out; she mentioned to one near her what she had seen, and how it made her feel ; the sadness spread over the group in that corner, and one began to complain of sickness and to make an excuse for going home, and then another, till all whose coneciences were any way tender, had fled from the hall of mirth. But there were many left. “On went the dance.” And though death was at hand, and one of their number was in his arms, they danced till morning. This was the last dancing school, and the last ball for many, many years, in that place.
The next Sabbath Mr. Rogers gave them a
DanciNG SCHOOLS. Do you suppose, indulgent reader, that they had dancing schools within the limits of that congregation ? I am at a loss for an answer to my own question, for if I have not mentioned before I should now remark that there were other congregations intermingled with ours, so that a large part of the population was under other influences, and there were families also that belonged to no church, for whose views and practices no one could ariswer, and when these facts are remembered it will not seem so strange that now and then the young folks were foolish enough to get up a dancing school in the winter. Mr. Rogers was not in the habit of denouncing the amusement of dancing as sinful in itself, or of threatening church discipline if any of the members indulged in it. But he frequently alluded to it among other follies of youth, as an amusement unsuited to persons of sense, an idle waste of time, and leading to evils many and serious. In this way he was able to repress the desire for a dancing school among the most of the young, and the more intelligent and pious of the church discountenanced and forbade it in their families. Once in a great while when the young folks went off for a sleigh-ride, or assembled for an evening tea-party, they would wind up with a dance, and sometimes a " ball” would be had at the tavern in front of the Old White Meeting House, but in these cases the leaders were usually young men from the neighboring villages, who had a sort of acknowledged right to set the fashions, and our boys and girls were not slow to follow.
One winter some of the youngsters determined to have a regular dancing school at the tavern just named, and after a great deal of manage
discourse on the subject with special reference to the events of the past week. It was the funeral sermon of Mary Leland ; and did not the hearts of those youth thrill when he drew the contrast between the chamber of death and the ball-room, the grave-clothes and the ball-dress, the mourners and the revellers? And when he drew from that striking Providence a lesson on the vanity of earthly pleasures, and besought the young of his flock to turn away from the
follies of time and become wise for everlasting life, you might have seen the young men hang. ing their heads in shame, while the young ladies, all over the house, were weeping with grief that asked no concealment.
Shall we continue these sketches or end them here? I bave two or three chapters more, and if the reader will bear them, they shall be forthcoming
EASTER SUNDAY IN
BY REV. J. T. HEADLEY.
Easter Sunday closes up the pompons ceremonies of Holy Week. It is the last great day of the Popish feast, and the Pope celebrates high mass in St. Peter's. This is done but three times a year-Easter Sunday, the festival of St. Peter and Paul, and Christmas. This day also the Pope wears the Tiara or Triple Crown. It was first worn by Pope Sylvester, with a single coronet. Boniface VIII., about the year 1300, added a second; and John II. or Urban V., it is not certain which, added a third, making it a triple crown, representing the pontifical, imperial and royal authority combined. But, to the day. It was a bright balmy morning, and Rome at an early hour seemed waking up to some stirring event, and its inhabitants, turned out of doors, were pouring towards St. Peter's. It is a mile or more from the main part of the city to the church ; and the principal street leading to it presented two unbroken lines of carriages, one going and the other returning. If for a moment you got a view of the street for any distance, it appeared like two currents of water-one bearing the multitude on, and the other returning without them, while between thronged the crowd of those on foot. At length the Cardinals began to arrive. Carriage after carriage, to the number of forty or fifty, came dashing along, with black horses, and crimson plumes, and gilded trappings, looking like anything but a cortège of priests. Each had its three gaily attired footmen, and fairly flashed with the gold upon them. One carriage, that of the Governor of the city, had all the metal about it, even to the hubs of the wheel, covered with
gold, and sent back the sunbeams like a mirror. One after another they dashed up to the glorious semi-circular colonnade that comes sweeping down from either end of St. Peter's, ard disappeared one after another, carriage, horses, plumes and all, amid the massive columns that formed their triumphant entry. You would never take them to be humble servants of God, but rather the grandees of a court, as they indeed were, and crowding, not to a sanctuary, but a magnificent temple of art, and thought not of God, whom they professed tu worship, but of the pageant of which they were to form a part. To get an idea of the ceremony, you must not imagine St. Peter's crowded, for that were well nigh impossible—it was never known to be filled, not even when the German army was quartered in it. But imagine, if you can, an area six hundred and thirty feet long, and nearly two hundred feet wide, with two magnificent rows of columns stretching along on each side of the centre, loaded with the choicest statuary. The bottom of this is a tesselated marble pavement, and the arches above richly wrought frescoes, bending a hundred and fifty feet over your head, wbile the dome circles away on your astonished vision four hundred feet in the air, covered with mosaics. Imagine, I
say, this area, so vast that three such build. ings as Trinity Church could be placed under the dome alone, without encroaching at all on the body of the church, lined and covered over with gems of art, and holding on its ample floor more than thirty thousand human beings, and you will have some conception of the scene that