I’ve stumbled across a gem of a website called Grace Gems! The following letter written by John Newton comes from that site.
Concerning ‘Handel’s Messiah’ John Newton wrote:
How shall we view the people of our times? I see the great mass of people involved in one common charge of high treason against the omnipotent God! They are already in a state of imprisonment, but have not yet been brought to their trial. The evidence against them is so plain, strong and pointed, that there is not the least doubt of their guilt being fully proved—and that nothing but a free pardon from God can preserve them from their deserved eternal punishment!
In this situation, it would seem in their best interest—to avail themselves of every expedient in their power for obtaining God’s mercy. But they are entirely heedless of their imminent danger, and are wholly taken up with contriving methods of amusing themselves, that they may pass away the term of their imprisonment with as much cheerfulness as possible!
Among other resources, they call in the assistance of music—and they are particularly pleased with ‘Handel’s Messiah’. They choose to make . . .
the solemnities of their impending judgment,
the character of their Judge,
the methods of His procedure, and
the dreadful punishment to which they are exposed
—the themes of their musical entertainment!
And, as if they were quite unconcerned in the outcome—their attention is chiefly fixed upon the skill of the composer, in adapting the style of his music—to the very solemn subjects with which they are trifling!
The offended King, however, unasked by them, and out of His great mercy and compassion towards those who have no pity for themselves, sends them a gracious message. He assures them that He is unwilling that they should eternally perish; and that He requires, yes, He entreats them to submit to Him! He points out a way in which He offers them a free and a full pardon!
But, instead of taking a single step towards a compliance with His undeserved and gracious offer—they set His message to music! And this, together with a description of their present hopeless state, and of the fearful doom awaiting them if they continue obstinate, is sung for their entertainment, and accompanied with every kind of music!
Surely, if such a case as I have supposed, could be found in real life, though I might admire the musical taste of these people—I would certainly commiserate their stupidity and hardness of heart!