Having no spare Time to write any thing of my own, or to correct what is sent me by others, I have thought fit to publish the following Letters.
Oxford, November 22.
'If you would be so kind to me, as to suspend that Satisfaction, which the Learned World must receive in reading one of your Speculations, by publishing this Endeavour, you will very much oblige and improve one, who has the Boldness to hope, that he may be admitted into the number of your Correspondents.
'I have often wondered to hear Men of good Sense and good Nature profess a Dislike to Musick, when, at the same time, they do not scruple to own, that it has the most agreeable and improving Influences over their Minds: It seems to me an unhappy Contradiction, that those Persons should have an Indifference for an Art, which raises in them such a Variety of sublime Pleasures.
'However, though some few, by their own or the unreasonable Prejudices of others, may be led into a Distaste for those Musical Societies which are erected merely for Entertainment, yet sure I may venture to say, that no one can have the least Reason for Disaffection to that solemn kind of Melody which consists of the Praises of our Creator.
'You have, I presume, already prevented me in an Argument upon this Occasion (which some Divines have successfully advanced upon a much greater) that Musical Sacrifice and Adoration has claimed a Place in the Laws and Customs of the most different Nations; As the Grecians and Romans of the Prophane, the Jews and Christians of the Sacred World did as unanimously agree in this, as they disagreed in all other Parts of their OEconomy.
'I know there are not wanting some who are of Opinion that the pompous kind of Musick which is in Use in foreign Churches is the most excellent, as it most affects our Senses. But I am swayed by my Judgment to the Modesty which is observed in the musical Part of our Devotions. Methinks there is something very laudable in the Custom of a Voluntary before the first Lesson; by this we are supposed to be prepared for the Admission of those Divine Truths, which we are shortly to receive. We are then to cast all worldly Regards from off our Hearts, all Tumults within are then becalmed, and there should be nothing near the Soul but Peace and Tranquility. So that in this short Office of Praise, the Man is raised above himself, and is almost lost already amidst the Joys of Futurity.
'I have heard some nice Observers frequently commend the Policy of our Church in this Particular, that it leads us on by such easie and regular Methods, that we are perfectly deceived into Piety. When the Spirits begin to languish (as they too often do) with a constant Series of Petitions, she takes care to allow them a pious Respite, and relieves them with the Raptures of an Anthem. Nor can we doubt that the sublimest Poetry, softened in the most moving Strains of Musick, can ever fail of humbling or exalting the Soul to any Pitch of Devotion. Who can hear the Terrors of the Lord of Hosts described in the most expressive Melody, without being awed into a Veneration? or who can hear the kind and endearing Attributes of a merciful Father, and not be softened into Love towards him!
'As the rising and sinking of the Passions, the casting soft or noble Hints into the Soul, is the natural Privilege of Musick in general, so more particularly of that kind which is employed at the Altar. Those Impressions which it leaves upon the Spirits are more deep and lasting, as the Grounds from which it receives its Authority are founded more upon Reason. It diffuses a Calmness all around us, it makes us drop all those vain or immodest Thoughts which would be an hindrance to us in the Performance of that great Duty of Thanksgiving,  which, as we are informed by our Almighty Benefactor, is the most acceptable Return which can be made for those infinite Stores of Blessings which he daily condescends to pour down upon his Creatures. When we make Use of this pathetical Method of addressing our selves to him, we can scarce contain from Raptures! The Heart is warmed with a Sublimity of Goodness. We are all Piety and all Love!
'How do the Blessed Spirits rejoice and wonder to behold unthinking Man prostrating his Soul to his dread Sovereign in such a Warmth of Piety as they themselves might not be ashamed of!
'I shall close these Reflections with a Passage taken out of the Third Book of Milton's Paradise Lost, where those harmonious Beings are thus nobly described.
'Then Crown'd again, their Gold'n Harps they took,
Harps ever tun'd, that glittering by their side
Like Quivers hung, and with Preamble sweet
Of Charming Symphony they introduce
The Sacred Song, and waken Raptures high;
No one exempt, no Voice but well could join
Melodious part, such Concord is in Heav'n'
'The Town cannot be unacquainted, that in divers Parts of it there are vociferous Setts of Men who are called Rattling Clubs; but what shocks me most is, they have now the Front to invade the Church and institute these Societies there, as a Clan of them have in late times done, to such a degree of Insolence, as has given the Partition where they reside in a Church near one of the City Gates, the Denomination of the Rattling Pew. These gay Fellows, from humble Lay Professions, set up for Criticks without any Tincture of Letters or Reading, and have the Vanity to think they can lay hold of something from the Parson, which may be formed into Ridicule.
'It is needless to observe, that the Gentlemen who every Sunday have the hard Province of Instructing these Wretches in a way they are in no present Disposition to take, have a fixt Character for Learning and Eloquence, not to be tainted by the weak Efforts of this Contemptible Part of their Audiences. Whether the Pulpit is taken by these Gentlemen, or any Strangers their Friends, the way of the Club is this: If any Sentiments are delivered too Sublime for their Conception; if any uncommon Topick is entered on, or one in use new modified with the finest Judgment and Dexterity; or any controverted Point be never so elegantly handled; In short whatever surpasses the narrow Limits of their Theology, or is not suited to their Taste, they are all immediately upon their Watch, fixing their Eyes upon each other, with as much Warmth as our Gladiators of Hockley in the Hole, and waiting like them for a Hit; if one touches, all take Fire, and their Noddles instantly meet in the Centre of the Pew; then, as by beat of Drum, with exact Discipline, they rear up into a full length of Stature, and with odd Looks and Gesticulations confer together in so loud and clamorous a manner, continued to the close of the Discourse, and during the After-Psalm, as is not to be silenced but by the Bells. Nor does this suffice them, without aiming to propagate their Noise through all the Church, by Signals given to the adjoyning Seats, where others designed for this Fraternity are sometimes placed upon Tryal to receive them.
'The Folly as well as Rudeness of this Practice is in nothing more conspicuous than this, that all that follows in the Sermon is lost; for whenever our Sparks take alarm, they blaze out and grow so Tumultuous that no After-Explanation can avail, it being impossible for themselves or any near them to give an Account thereof. If any thing really Novel is advanced, how averse soever it may be to their way of thinking, to say nothing of Duty, Men of less Levity than these would be led by a natural Curiosity to hear the whole.
'Laughter, where things Sacred are transacted, is far less pardonable than Whining at a Conventicle; the last has at least a Semblance of Grace, and where the Affectation is unseen may possibly imprint wholesome Lessons on the Sincere; but the first has no Excuse, breaking through all the Rules of Order and Decency, and manifesting a Remissness of Mind in those important Matters, which require the strictest Composure and Steadiness of Thought; A Proof of the greatest Folly in the World.
'I shall not here enter upon the Veneration due to the Sanctity of the Place, the Reverence owing to the Minister, or the Respect that so great an Assembly as a whole Parish may justly claim. I shall only tell them, that as the Spanish Cobler, to reclaim a profligate Son, bid him have some regard to the Dignity of his Family, so they as Gentlemen (for we Citizens assume to be such one Day in a Week) are bound for the future to Repent of, and Abstain from, the gross Abuses here mentioned, whereof they have been Guilty in Contempt of Heaven and Earth, and contrary to the Laws in this Case made and provided.
I am, SIR, Your very humble Servant, R. M.
[Footnote 1: A Proclamation appeared the day before this Paper, ordaining a Thanksgiving for King George's Accession to be observed on the 20th of January.]Translation of motto: