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of style and character. It is evident that such a process of correction involves all the labour and responsibility of original composition, and that the most classical taste will fail, unless combined with the power to improve.
He will require this power for another object essential to a church hymn book. There are no hymns which illustrate with due force and clearness those points of doctrine and discipline, which mark the difference between an Apostolic Church, and a voluntary sect. Upon baptism, he will find that our Lord received and blessed little children ; but nothing on the sacrament as an efficacious means of grace, “ generally necessary to salvation.” For hymns on the dignity and authority of the ministerial office he will search in vain. The following, by Montgomery, is in many church collections:
We bid thee welcome, in the name
And we receive thee in his stead. In five following stanzas, the minister is welcomed as a shepherd, a watchman, an angel, a teacher, and a messenger; but his authority as & RULER is nowhere recognised. Upon these and similar important subjects, unity, obedience, &c., if the editor would have hymns he must trust to his own resources.
Despairing to reach the standard which the lowest requirements of the Church would fix, he may content himself with illustrating the great festivals of the christian year, and completing his limited plan with a few miscellaneous hymns. Even here he will meet with great difficulties in the execution. Taste proverbially differs, even upon productions of acknowledged excellence : how much more in hymns, which are for the most part approved, not for any merits of their own, but on’account of some personal associations. His favourites will be received with contempt by readers who will condemn his book because it does not include their own.
Equal, perhaps greater, difficulties apply to a public body. Such a work, including the extensive corrections and adaptations required, can be accomplished only by that patient, determined labour, which is little likely to be incurred where personal responsibility does not exist. To assign to every member of a committee his own portion of the work, would be to obtain a patchwork production. If they act together, under the influence of different tastes, there is scarcely a hymn so excellent but some one'would be found to object to it, and scarcely one so bad but it may find a patron ; and to proceed upon the principle of mutual and equal concession would end, as such compromises usually do, in giving perfect satisfaction to none. The control of a principal to decide in the last instance would prevent many of these evils ; but this would be making the work, in fact, that of an individual, whose power would probably be derived rather from the commanding influence of his station than from superior competency.
But what if the society should secure the services of a christian poet willing to devote himself to the task, and whose established reputation would seem to afford a pledge of successful accomplishment? It would then be better that this individual should begin and complete it as bis own work ; and that the society should withhold their official sanction until they were enabled to decide on its actual merit ; otherwise, they might incur the necessity of inflicting undeserved pain and discredit, by rejecting as a failure what had been undertaken at their own request. A superior poet may not succeed as a writer of hymns : their style is peculiar. They must not only approve themselves to the taste of the educated by the correct and forcible application of truth, but also, and especially, to the understanding of the illiterate, by their perfect simplicity of diction. The poetic ornaments, which so many confound with poetry itself,-mistakenly, for simplicity belongs not less to the higher order of poetry than to excellence in every other art,—are out of place in a hymn. The words must be the plainest; the order of them the most natural ; the imagery, such as all may be familiar with. There must be no classical allusions, of which only a cultivated taste can appreciate the beauty ; and no complex ideas, of which only a mind disciplined by education can perceive the force. He who astonishes his readers by gorgeous imagery, clothed in splendid language, would fail in writing to the comprehension of a child; and he who delights them with the rich and softened feeling with which he leads them through a long train of reflections, would find himself hopelessly cramped in the attempt to compress his subject within three or four stanzas.
Take, as an illustration, a hymn by a very elegant poet and most estimable man, which is found in almost every collection of sacred poetry, and which, indeed, is so generally admired, that it may seem almost heresy to object to it. Consider it as written for the million of National School children, and their still less educated friends.
I praised the earth, in beauty seen
O God ! O Good beyond compare!
Where thy redeem'd shall dwell with thee!
Has the comparison any object or meaning beyond that of
This is not hypercriticism. The most definite ideas, and the most strict precision of thought and language, are quite compatible with the utmost freedom of poetry, and are essential to its force. The mind may be made to slumber, as through a pleasing dream, over a succession of images remotely connected, and clothed in words which drop softly on the ear; but this lullaby style of verse will neither improve the understanding nor refine the taste.
Considering, then, all the difficulties of the attempt---difficulties which taste and talent are by no means certain to overcome, and which are greatly underrated here, indeed, none can appreciate them but those who have actually travelled the road,) every thing will strengthen the opinion which our present most estimable Primate expressed sixteen years ago, that in a work of this kind the approval of the public ought to precede any authoritative official sanction.
No collection would be entitled to countenance which is not most emphatically, and in every sense of the word, a church BOOK.
It should be a church book in the absence, as far as possible, of any thing like innovation ; in its perfect harmony with all the other services of the Church ; in the fulness with which it provides for all future and possible, as well as for present circumstances; and in the prominence with which every thing connected with the principles and discipline of the Church is brought forth, and practically maintained. It should look carefully to the good old ways, and walk only in them.
The Psalms should certainly form the basis of the work, and the full number ought to be given ; if for no other reason, because it would be presumption to condemn what has always been used in the Church, and is still generally received. Besides, a work would be manifestly incona
plete if the numbers are often broken by the omission of Psalms. True, there may be several not generally suited to congregational worship; but there are none which may not be profitably read, and very few which may not sometimes be sung. Difference of opinion will also exist respecting the Psalms to be omitted ; and it is better that one individual should pass by those which he undervalues, which yet ought not to offend him by their presence, than that another should find his favourites excluded. A book designed for the instruction and comfort of all, should afford lessons for every one, as well as strains of general application. The Psalms omitted from collections have generally been excluded, not because their subjects unfitted them for use, which, indeed, it would be impiety to assert, but because they were badly versified : but this objection admits of being obviated by seeking among other than the authorized versions; or at all events by versifying them anew. Besides, were the Psalms valuable only as affording a standard to fix the character and restrain the vagaries of hymnology, this alone would be a sufficient reason for preserving their full number, and for giving to them the utmost prominence.
The Psalms which appear the least congregational are very often highly important by enforcing truths and duties, upon which a hymn could scarcely be written. Such are those which set forth the duty and responsibility of magistrates and rulers ; God's judgments on the enemies of his people; the punishment of particular heinous sins, &c. ; upon which it would not be easy to speak with due authority and force, except under the express sanction of the words of inspiration. Wbo, for example, would write a hymn on the subject of the 109th Psalm, which, with prophetic reference to Judas, so awfully expresses the guilt and punishment of treachery? And when the crime and fate of the traitor are referred to in the services for the day, why may not the lesson be enforced and applied by stanzas like the following ?
When man for guilty gain betrays
His brother or his friend,
How terrible his end !
Which filld his guilty breast :
May we the sin detest!
Thine may we ever be ;
To make us false to thee! The extent to which Hymns should be used is entirely a question of expediency, to be decided by considerations of usefulness, and in subordination to church principles. The usual plan has been, to make them illustrate the great festivals, adding a few for occasional subjects, such as school sermons, with a more or less copious selection of miscellaneous hymns. The objection to this plan is, that it is entirely loose, and offers nothing either to guide the taste of the editor or the reader, in the choice, arrangement, or subjects of the hymns, or to give permanency to the volume. The considerations, whether the selection should be limited or copious, what hymns should be chosen, to what extent they should be revised, and in what order arranged, depend entirely on the taste of an individual--of all reasons the weakest and most unsatisfactory. No valid reason could be given why the book should not be farger or smaller ; for the plan has no regular outline, to show that it is imperfect or complete. The subsequent publication of a few good original hymns would lead to a revision of the book, or to a new selection which would supersede it. No security is afforded that it may not be made a vehicle for party spirit, or false doctrine : it refers to no standard by which it may be fairly and easily tried : and thus it may be, as some of the collections really are, much more suited to the conventicle than to the church. Every thing connected with the Church and her services should present a marked character in the strictest accordance with her own, and take high, nay, the highest ground in public confidence and respect. This never could be claimed for such collections,
The late estimable Bishop Heber, whose volume of hymns has mainly contributed to fix public attention upon this subject, assigned one or more hymns to each Sunday, and applied them to the Gospel for the day. This plan secured many important advantages. It connected the hymns with the Liturgy; it fixed their subjects; it gave them a value in their application to the day, independent of all differences and caprices of taste; and it marked the proper extent of the book itself. In short, the general principle was one which every true Churchman would approve.
The objection to his plan is, that it is too contracted. It omits all reference to the subjects of the Lessons and Epistles, which have an equal claim to notice ; and thus it not only fails to mark the beautiful and close connexion which unites all the appointed parts of the service, but often rests upon the mere fact related in the Gospel, overlooking its application. Thus the subject for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany is the implicit obedience we owe to God as the universal and almighty Ruler; his goodness and condescension in blessing those who trust in him; and his judgment on the disobedient and impenitent. This is set forth in the appointed Morning and Evening Lessons. The Gospel displays the power and authority of Christ over the spiritual and material worlds, in his casting out the devils, and stilling the tempest. The Epistle enforces a most important application of the general trutli, in the obedience for conscience' sake which we owe to rulers, as appointed by God, and acting by his authority. In Heber's collection,