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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

For vocal music consists of songs


again, does not appear to them to be productive of elevated thoughts, that is, of such thoughts as raise the mind to sublime and spiritual things, abstracted from the inclinations, the temper, and the prejudices of the world. The most melodious sounds that human instruments can make, are from the earth earthly. But nothing can rise higher than its own origin. All true elevation therefore can only come, in the opinion of the Quakers, from the divine source.

The Quakers therefore, seeing no moral utility in music, cannot make it a part of their education. But there are other considerations, of a different nature, which influence them in the same way.

Music, in the first place, is a sensual gratification. Even those who run after sacred music, never consider themselves as going to a place of devotion, but where, in full concert, they may hear the performance of the master pieces of the art. This attention to religious compositions, for the sake of the music, has been noticed by one of our best poets.

"and ten thousand sit, Patiently present at a sacred song, Commemoration-mad, content to hear, O wonderful effect of music's power, Messiah's eulogy for Handal's sake!" COWPER.

But the Quakers believe, that all sensual desires should be held in due subordination to the pure principle, or that sensual pleasures should be discouraged,

to much as possible, as being opposed to those spiritual feeling, which constitute the only perfect enjoyment of a christian.

Music, again, if it were encouraged in the society, would be considered as depriving those of maturer years of hours of comfort, which they now frequently enjoy, in the service of religion. Retirement is considered by the Quakers as a christian duty. The members therefore of this society are expected to wait in silence, not only in their places of worship, but occasionally in their families, or in their private chambers, in the intervals of their daily occupations, that, in stillness of heart, and in freedom from the active contrivance of their own wills, they may acquire both directions and strength for the performance of the duties of life. The Quakers therefore are of opinion, that, if instrumental music were admitted as a gratification in leisure hours, it would take the place of many of these serious retirements, and become very injurious to their interests and their character as christians.


_Vocal music forbidden--singing in itself no more immoral than reading --but as vocal music articulates ideas, it may convey poison to the mind --some ideas in songs contrary to Quaker notions of morality--as in hunting songs--or in baccanalian--or in martial--youth make no selection --but learn off that fall in their way._

It is an observation of Lactantius, that the "pleasures we receive through the organ of the ears, may be as injurious as those we receive, through the organ of the eyes." He does not, however, consider the effect of instrumental music as much to be regarded, "because sounds, which proceed from air, are soon gone, and they give birth to no sentiments that can be recorded. Songs, on the other hand, or sounds from the voice, may have an injurious influence on the mind."

The Quakers, in their view of this subject, make the same distinction as this ancient father of the church. They have a stronger objection, if it be possible, to vocal, than to instrumental music. Instrumental music, though it is considered to be productive of sensual delight, is yet considered as incapable, on account of its inability to articulate, or its inability to express complex ideas, of conveying either unjust or impure sentiments to the mind. Vocal, on the other hand, is capable of conveying to it poison of this sort. For vocal music consists of songs, or of words musically expressed by the human voice. But words are the representatives of ideas, and, as for as these ideas are pure or otherwise, so far may vocal music be rendered innocent or immoral.

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