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poetry as a whole is pervaded by a certain air of languor. There are striking exceptions, as in the case of the contributions from Whittier. But the selection as a whole has been made from hymns characterized by a delicate, gentle, refined beauty, rather than by a masculine and vigorous tone of thought or expression. We would have the former retained, and the latter not omitted. It accords with this peculiarity, that in an unusually large number of hymns, in one out of every ten or twelve, we think -- each successive stanza begins or ends with a sort of refrain.. The same line or phrase is repeated, to introduce or close each verse. For example, in hymn 122 each stanza ends with the following lines,
"And thus with love to raise up those
That once were bowed low." Undoubtedly strange motions will sometimes cause one to pause and dwell upon and repeat again and again the same word or phrase, and when it is the result of strong emotion, it is well — nothing can be better. But it is far more often a mere trick of verse, used to hide or to eke out the efforts of a languid imagination, instead of being the utterance of an intense action of mind and feeling. These, , however, are matters of comparatively little moment.
Viewed as a hymn book to be used by our congregations, the present work contains altogether too large a proportion of pieces which are religious poems, but not hymns; excellent in themselves, admirably suited for a volume of religious poetry, but not so well adapted for use in the public worship of Almighty God.
Its most serious deficiency as a hymn book, however, is the limited circle of Christian emotion and experience, to which it is principally, though not exclusively, confined. Whatever the cause, there are many hearts which would find here an expression of only a part of their profoundest religious feelings. Hymns abound which give utterance to the religious aspirations, the sense of imperfection, the modified self-reproach, which may belong to pure and innocent minds. But the dark fact of sin as it really exists in multitudes, the consciousness of personal guilt or unworthiness, the overwhelming feeling of self-reproach and remorse, the depression of soul which from the depths cries up to
God, the imploring prayer for forgiveness, — these states of mind find slight recognition here. We should suppose that the prayer, which many souls, at some period of life, have felt to be the only one they could utter, “God be. merciful to me a sinner,” seemed almost out of place to the compilers of this volume. The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins and the emotions that give meaning to it, occupy so subordinate a place in this collection, that it would seem as if hymns that express them had been intentionally omitted. As a slight illustration of what we mean, though unimportant in itself
, in hymn 201, with the title, “A penitential hymn,” and beginning “God of mercy, God of love,” the last line of the fourth stanza is changed from “Seeking pardon from thy throne” to “Seeking strength from thee alone.” The change in this particular case may or may not be an improvement; we refer to it only to illustrate an important characteristic of the volume. And we must consider it a most serious deficiency in a book prepared to be used in public worship by men, most of whom are conscious of their guilt, some of whom are penitent, and all of whom stand in perpetual need of the Divine forgiveness.
There is another great truth of our religion, which holds a less prominent place than we should expect in a book prepared for Christian worship, - we refer to the resurrection of Christ. It is the central fact of our religion. Our Christian hopes are all indissolubly connected with it. It stood ever before the minds of the Apostles, like a light shining in the heavens. In this volume there are many hymns which refer to Christ's death, very few which are prompted by his resurrection. It is impossible that the compilers should regard this as an unimportant event in Christian history. The defect may have originated in not meeting with hymns on this subject which commended themselves to their taste. But even at the expense of the poetical excellence of the volume, if that were necessary, greater prominence should have been given to this truth in a work prepared for Christian worship on the Christian Sabbath. On the score of taste, if for no other reason, we are sorry that the fourth stanza, recognising the resurrection of Christ, of the hymn beginning, “Go to dark Gethsemane,” should have been omitted.
We have been thus particular in our remarks, because we think highly of the volume. It is a valuable addition to our hymn books, and might easily furnish a foundation for , a better one than any we have. The deficiencies to which we have referred, affect its value chiefly as a hymn book to be used in churches. In the other part of its object to provide a collection of sacred poetry for “ private devotion," and especially in bringing together those hymns which express the trusting, submissive and devout affections, we think the compilers have been peculiarly successful.
Among the hymns now first published, are several from Mrs. Miles, which are so good that we regret that there are not more from the same source. We transfer one of them to our pages.
Thou, infinite in love,
No resting-place can find
Bid the fierce conflict cease,
As in the days gone by:
Fain would earth's true and dear
Art thou not love and power ?
Though through the future's shade
But ever feel thee nigh:
The following hymn, apparently by one of the compilers, has much merit.
IN TIME OF WAR.
Now save it from despair;
Father, thou hearest prayer.
Thy blessed word sound clear :
The reign of heaven draws near.'
In men the heavenly birth;
*Peace to the weary earth!'
Heaven is not found, but won;
peace he hath undone.
Must work our world's new birth;
• Peace to the weary earth!'
Peace to the heart of man !
All we must bear, or can." The volume contains excellent hymns, which we now meet with for the first time in such a collection, by Furness, Bulfinch, Whittier, Jones Very, and indeed quite a number of other American authors, who here appear worthily in a worthy company. The list of new hymns from English authors is also large. There is no department of literature in which there has been greater improvement than in that of devotional poetry. Formerly our hymn-books were crowded with the productions of men, who, though eminent as Christians, with few exceptions, were altogether undistinguished as poets. Now, the names of the first poets are familiar in our manuals of devotion. It is to be hoped that the change indicates improvement in the general spirit of literature, and gives omens of the coming of the time when the highest action of mind shall be hallowed by a religious consecration.
ART. VIII. - CHARACTER AND POSITION OF CONGREGA.
LUTHER, summoned before the Diet at Worms and strongly urged to recant his errors, exclaimed, “Convince me out of the sacred Scriptures that I am wrong, and I will recant everything. I yield to no authority but the word of God." This declaration of Luther soon became an established principle, — the right of private judgment in interpreting the “sacred Scriptures” as the sufficient source and authoritative rule of Christian faith. This principle, upon which all Protestant sects claim to stand, and which alone justifies dissent from the doctrines and authority of the Roman Papacy, lies at the bottom of Congregationalism. It is the broad platform upon which its members come together, separating themselves subsequently, according to their religious affinities, into different congregations or churches.
The importance, the influence and tendency of this principle, as opposed to the Rationalistic on the one hand, and the Hierarchical on the other, we endeavored to illustrate in a former article, and at its close intimated a purpose, which we now proceed to execute, of continuing the subject, by some observations on the second great principle of Congregationalism, - the independence of each particular church or congregation of worshippers, — and the present position and duties of Congregationalists.
The second great principle of Congregationalism is involved in the first, follows as a necessary consequence from it. If each individual has a right to study and interpret the Scriptures for himself, then any number of individuals having a broad general agreement in their interpretation of these Scriptures, and in the religious opinions gathered from them, have a right to associate, to form themselves into a religious society, or church, and conduct, or have conducted, the services of religious instruction and worship in such way as shall seem to them good, Scriptural and efficacious.
Report on Congregationalism, including a Manual of Church Disci. pline, together with the Cambridge Platform, adopted in 1648, and the Confession of Faith, adopted in 1680. Boston: B. Perkins & Co. 1846. 12mo. pp. 128.