NEW YEAR BELLS

Dr. Samuel Jones of Second Church is eagerly anticipating the first stroke of the New Year. Over the traditional din of horns, whistles, shots and sirens will float the inaugural notes of the new Van Dyke Memorial Carillon in the church tower. The system is completely electronic, which in a way is a pity, but then bell ringing is an extinct art in exurbia. Jones himself has a romantic attachment to bells. He has replaced the manse doorbell with imported chimes so that each visitor is greeted with the conclusion of the 1812 Overture.

I imagine his dedicatory address on New Year’s Eve will ring the changes on bells. No doubt he will recite Poe’s poem in passing, allude to the bell ringing theme of his favorite mystery story (The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers), and recrack the Liberty Bell with resounding oratorical strokes. I just hope he doesn’t lapse into Tennyson’s “Ring out, wild bells” in conclusion.

We will all share his thrill when the midnight noise-making is overwhelmed by the majesty of the carillon. Bells are the voice of a former age, when the church spire marked the village, and there was solemn harmony even in the signal of alarm. This is the time of the siren, the shrieking howl of a maddened mechanical beast. Sirens on New Year’s Eve chill us with prospect of atomic war, but bells speak of peace.

Yet even before the bells were the trumpets. The trump of God heralded the Lord’s presence on Sinai, and the priests were to blow the trumpet of jubilee after the atonement in the fiftieth year. Our Lord declared the realization of the gospel jubilee in his own presence at the synagogue of Nazareth. The church needs trumpets and bells in the pulpit: the warning blast of impending judgment, when the trump ...

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