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of the modern practice of introducing into the Church, selections of Psalms and Hymns, accommodated to the popular taste and feeling." Gray, p. 52.
We cannot congratulate the Church of England upon this termination of the dispute. In refusing to give costs in an intricate case against an individual who might believe himself to be in the right, and who had shewn no symptoms of contumacy, Mr. Vernon acted the part of a kind and considerate Magistrate, anxious to allay local irritation, and to administer justice in mercy. But what followed, although equally kind, and equally well-intentioned, we are not prepared to consider as equally judicious. Taking it for granted, as we readily do, that the Archbishop's selection is unexceptionable (Mr. Gray assures us that it is absolutely the very best of all selections)" the accommodation of popular taste and feeling," at the expence of uniformity and law, is a step which we must deplore and condemn. Mr. Vernon imagines that it can lead to no evil, because a Diocesan may prohibit the use of any improper hymns. But in what a situation will this place congregations, incumbents and Bishops? When an individual among the former is offended at seeing the Church indebted for its psalmody to the conventicle, he is to appeal immediately to the Ordinary, and require him to exercise the very agreeable privilege of giving the people a triumph over their minister, or the minister a triumph over his people. As long as there exists the least tendency to abuse in the choice of hymns, to call upon individual Prelates to pronounce individual judgments upon the propriety and orthodoxy of each new modelled stave, is to confer upon them a most invidious and unappropriate duty. Every word that has been urged against the Bishop of Peterborough's Examination Questions may with equal wit and more truth, be urged against the system of diocesan singing books. One Bishop may reject what another has approved and recommended. A collection of godlye hymnes and songes may be " admitted at Barnet, rejected at Stevenage, re-admiited at Buckden, kicked out as a Calvinist at Witham Common, and hailed as an ardent Arminian on its arrival at York.” And the harmony of the Church will be most woefully interrupted by the jarrings and discords with which such music will abound.
John Wesley (Southey's Life, Vol II. p. 223.) strictly forbad his preachers to introduce any hymns of their own composing. In other respects they had great latitude allowed them: they might use the Liturgy or parts of it, or might substitute an extemporaneous Service of their own, But the Hymns were of greater importance; they served at once for creed and catechism, and their purity was at all events to be preserved. It was a wise provision,-and Clergymen who imitate John Wesley in his due estimation of the effects of congregational singing, should like him, be alive to the danger of its abuse. Mr. Gray and Mr. Vernon may or may not be right in their utter condemnation of Sternhold and Hopkins. We have no desire to disturb or to share their insensibility to the charms of that pure English, undefiled,' with which the Old Version abounds. But whether these gentlemen who loathe, or Bishop Horsley and Mr. Todd who admire the version, be the better judges of poetical merit, the proper and the only proper issue of such a dispute should be to encourage or to discourage another translation. The Hymn-books now abroad are with one consent methodistical. • Venn's, Kempthorne's, Noel's, Cotterill's”, (it is thus that the most popular selections are classed by the Reviewer of Mr. Gray) bear their character in their names. It is admitted, although these select volumes be pure and spotless, that many such works contain 'revolting specimens of bad taste,' and some slight approaches to heretical doctrine. It is from these that each Clergyman is to make his selection; and the plough-boys and dairy-maids whom he turns into Antinomians, are to denounce his aberrations to the Bishop of the Diocese. Would it not be safer to confine ourselves to authorised Psalm-books, even though in the modern phraseology which Mr. Vernon has condescended to adopt, they may happen to be less edifying and acceptable? The Hymns affixed to the original and authorised editions of the Old and New Versions are the only Hymns which can be properly used or really wanted. For every other purpose of congregational singing the Psalms of David (even in their present unsatisfactory dress) are amply sufficient. And we conceive that among the * mistakes which have crept into Mr. Vernon's judgment, there is none greater than the declaration that a practice which he condemns, but encourages, which he pronounces in the same breath to be both proper and wrong, is “ a practice adopted by a majority of the Established Clergy.” We hope and believe better things of a very great majority of the Clergy. They know the danger of making improvements, real or imaginary, in the authorised Church Service. They know that it is impossible to say where such improvements will end.- , The Prayer-book, as well as the singing Psalms might be rendered more “ edifying and acceptable" if they were reformed after the example of Wesley. Such reformations are partially adopted by a minority of the Clergy; and as these persons happen to be the very same individuals to whom the collection of Ven and Noel, are so naturally and excusably dear, the fact furnishes another and an unanswerable argument against encouraging a system which is found in such suspicious company, and leads to such mischievous results.
* We have already noticed the errors respecting Edward's Statutes and Elizabeth's Injunction. Mr. Todd calls our attention to another trilling mistake. The Parliament is represented (upon what authority we do not know) as discussing and negativing the admissibility of Sternhold's Psalms, several years before they were written. Todd, p. 14.
ART. III. Poems Divine and Moral. Many of them now first published. Selected by J. Bowdler, Esq. In Two Volumes. 12mo. 10s. 6d. Cadell. 1821.
The object of this publication, and the name of the Editor, could not fail to secure a favourable reception at our hands, even if the selection had been made with less taste and judgment. A work indeed, whose professed design is
to do good," appeals to a higher tribunal than that of criticism, and deserves (if the endeavour be properly directed) a nobler reward than the praise of men. But this very circumstance, which at first sight seems to take it out of our jurisdiction, makes us more desirous to bestow upon it a portion of our attention. It is our delight as it is our duty, to bring forward those works which, without making lofty pretensions, convey wholesome instruction in a pleasing form; and the Reviewer will feel his office hal. lowed and ennobled when he contributes his small offering towards the glory of God and the good of his fellow-creatures.
Of all the various publications, wbich aim at combining the useful with the agreeable, there is none more successful than sacred and moral poetry. It possesses a charm wbich fixes the attention and engages the affections. The solemn character of the subjects are softened, and rendered engaging by the dress in which they appear; and while they captivate the artless innocence of the youthful mind, they afford to the sober piety of advanced years a cheering relief in sickness and sorrow, and a retreat from the cares and bustle of life. If the attributes of the Deity can ever be familiarized
to the human understanding, it will perhaps be when they are described in the suitable language of poetry; his power and greatness, the terror of bis judgments, and the wisdom of his counsels appear before us in a manner not wholly unworthy of them, when they are heightened and adorned by all the magnificence of poetic figure; and how beautiful are the love, and tender compassion, and universal benevolence of the Most High, when the sweetness of the verse recommends them to the ear, and the beauty of the images, under which they are delineated, charms and captivates the mind. The inspired writers well knew the excellence of this art when they employed it in all the varieties of Sacred Song ; and perhaps there is no loss so great in respect of language, as that by which we unhappily are deprived of nearly all notion of the rules and barmony of Hebrew poetry.
It is not surprising that the thoughts of many a devout heart have vented themselves in sacred verse. The wonder rather is that many from whom we might confidently have anticipated succes have disappointed expectation. We have chiefly in our view the simpler and humbler kinds of poetry. The case is much the same with the composition of sacred music. Some years ago several of the most eminent masters of the art in this country were engaged in the composition of Psalm tunes; and (as we have been informed) with so little success, that the only good tune was produced by one, who had been in the babit of composing for the stage. This was probably owing to the simplicity which he had acquired; and the difficulty of uniting digoity with simplicity! will account for the failure in each art. It is not that the sacred fountains are exhausted, or any of the smaller streams dried
it is not that invention has lost its power, or piety any of its charms: but some are apt to aim too high, and attempt too niuch; and others, by wishing to be simple, become low and insipid, and even vulgar. In these respects we yield greatly to those who have gone before us. Luther's Hymn and the 100th Psalm are unrivalled : and though we must not venture to bestow high praise on the first who tried their skill in poetical composition (for the name of Sternhold is unhappily and unjustly united with the idea of all that is homely and unconth) yet we are very much disposed to think, that those who would give us a good poetical translation of the Psalms must take the course, and follow (under happier auspices) the steps of that writer in his uncommon fidelity, and in the dignified simplicity of his best passages.
But let us not be supposed to fix unmerited blame on the
various attempts that have been made by good and pious persons without number in sacred poetry. Many of them are highly excellent, and we feel much indebted to Mr. Bowdler for the selection which he has made in the volumes before us, which we could wish to see in the hands of every young person, as they are very frequently in our own. In these volumes there are many poems and extracts from poems, which have been frequently published, some which are universally known, some which, though never printed, have been shewn in manuscript among the friends of the authors, and some of considerable merit, which are entirely new to us. The contents are divided under several heads, and comprise a very wide range, from the simple Hymn and lowly Elegy, to the towering Ode. It may, perhaps, admit of doubt, whether it was wise to unite so many degrees in one publication. Mr. Bowdler intends his work chiefly for the young, and these soon advance from step to step. He who has heard one of his little ones repeat the " Hymn for a Child,” will never wish to see it erased; and every parent and teacher knows how rapidly, and with how much delight, the pupil goes forward, and climbs the hill, whose sides are adorned with poetic flowers. Mr. Bowdler has, moreover, brought into one volume, in a separate edition those poems, which are most adapted for the young, omitting those in foreign languages, and some pieces less calculated for general use.
Our readers will expect to see some extracts from these volumes, and we shall lay a few before them, making choice of such as have not been before published. Several of these will be found under the most of the heads into which the work is divided. The Hymns, which occupy the first division are for the most part such as are well known, There are some, however, which have never appeared in print, The following is probably new to our readers.
Low we bend the adoring knee;
Hear our solemn Litany!
By Thy life of want and tears,