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time affectionate, at another eloquent, philosophical anon, and by-and-by pot-valiant. There seems to have been a stage in this
process as experienced by this distinguished author, in which he might be said to be pious-drunk; when all the pretty sentiments, the delicate epithets, the ear-tickling rhymes, the fanciful conceits, the amatory expressions of which he was master, were devoted to religious subjects; and we may suppose that it was in this condition that he wrote hymns. Some one or two of the less exceptionable of these, divorced more or less from the name of the author, have come into common Christian use. But who believes that any of them were written as the expression of religious feeling? The whole style of them indicates that the religion they contain was merely infused to give dignity and coherence to the paltry prettinesses of which they are composed. The very profusion of conceits which gives them merit as sentimental songs for the piano and guitar, makes them miserably unworthy of being a medium of the worship of the Church of Christ. Take, for instance, the famous comparison in Hymn 84:
night, with wings of starry gloom,
Is sparkling with unnumbered eyes.'
“The turf shall be my fragrant shrine.” To most minds it will convey the idea of a profession of natural religion in opposition to that of the gospel and the church. Why it was inserted thus under the head of " Christian Experience—Trials and Temptations,” we cannot guess, unless because it expresses the temptation to unbelief.
In Hymn 737, we have the favorite stanzas of Wordsworth, beginning
“ Not seldom, clad in radiant vest,
Deceitfully goes forth the morn,”in which the congregation sing through three stanzas of descriptions of natural scenery, for the sake of a moral at the end; and Hymn 738 is of the same sort. Hymn 872 is Longfellow's Psalm of Life, or, “What the heart of the young
“ man said to the psalmist.' Hymn 1133 opens with the following stanza :
“Yon spot in the church-yard,
How sad is the bloom
That summers flings round it,
In flowers and perfume :
Gives life to each rose;
The violet blows."
This is a fair specimen of the whole five stanzas, except that the last has a flavor of Christianity in it. A very passable ballad if arranged with music for the pianoforte, but " for Christian congregations!" Will it ever be sung by the four thousand worshipers in Plymouth Church, Brooklyn?
The hymn adapted to Thomas Haynes Bailey's song of “Shades of evening close not o'er me," on page 430, is perhaps as suitable for a "spiritual intercourse" circle, as for a church.
We have before alluded to the ingenious adaptation of Moore's song
"As down in the sunless retreats of the ocean,
Sweet flowers are springing no mortal can know," to the tune of “Am I not fondly thine own,” on p. 206.
As specimens of hymns eminently suitable for choir use, and yet out of place in a book designed exclusively for congregational singing, we may mention Campbell's descriptive ode on the Nativity, beginning,
" When Jordan hushed his waters still,
And silence slept on Zion's hill." Hymn 219, on the same subject, is of a similar character:
“Calm on the listening ear of night
Come heaven's melodious strains."
These are among the most effective of descriptive hymns, and have both been felicitously adapted by American composers to descriptive music. But as a vehicle for the devotion of the congregation they certainly do not possess the highest value.
Iere, too, (Hymn 254,) is a hymn, which, if it is good for anything in the church, is good only to be sung by the choir, or to be recited by the preacher :
“Why is thy face so lit with smiles,
Mother of Jesus! why?
So fixed upon the sky!
A summer's shadow cast!
Drooped as the shadow passed.
"! And as he rose with all his train
Of righteous souls around,
Like dew into the ground.
Th' eternal Spirit's car;
Like some receding star.
The skies are blue and free;
Sunshine and vacancy.”
We have no time to speak at length of that department of the book which is entitled “Conflicts of the Gospel-Missions and Reform," although we could say much in its praise. The statement of the Introduction is well fulfilled; the hymns of Temperance, of Human Rights and Freedom, of Peace, and of Benevolence, will be found both numerous, energetic, and eminently Christian.” These hymns, considering from what various sources they are drawn, are not only full of power, but singularly unexceptionable. And yet there is just cause for complaint, that good as they are in themselves,
they have been derived, in many instances, from bad authors. We acknowledge no excessive delicacy on this subject. The most fastidious compilers have fully justified the practice of drawing in some measure from sources that in a sense are foreign to the church. But they have used that liberty sparingly, and have not been wont in such cases to thrust the names of the authors before the face of the worshiper in capital letters. This part of the plan of Plymouth Collection should have prevented its compiler from so flooding its pages, in this department, with the productions of every sort of heretical pen. The fact is the more offensive, inasmuch as it casts undeserved reproach upon evangelical hymn-writers. It suggests the insinuation that the psalmists of Christ's church have been unfaithful to “the great humanities of the Gospel.” This is not true.
This is not true. There are no "hymns of human rights and freedom” more noble than some of those rejected Psalms of David: neither have men ever heard, from the voices of the unbelieving,-nor from any other, save once from a multitude of angels,-such songs of peace on a
. earth and good will to men, as have been sung from the beginning by the disciples of the Saviour. Surely the flame kindled by altar-coals upon the lips of David and Asaph, and the sweet singers of the modern church, may better bear to heaven the prayers of saints, than the strange fire which is swung in the VOL. XIV.
censers of E. H. Chapin, of Miss Bremer, and of Miss Harriet Martineau.
It would hardly seem necessary to refute the apology for these various deformities, which is contained in the Introduction to Plymouth Collection, except in view of the source from which it comes :
* Neither should one complain of the multitude of hymns useless to him. They are not useless to others. A generously spread table is not at fault be. cause in the profusion each guest cannot use everything. Every one should have all the liberty and the means of following his own taste.'
This would be a better apology, if Plymouth Collection had been published as a volume for private reading, so that each " guest” might have the liberty of selecting for himself
, from the extensive bill of fare, that which was according to his taste. But it does not prove it to be a wise thing for “ Christian con. gregations” to adopt for use in public worship a book containing a large proportion of pieces offensive to good taste, and even to proper decorum. This leaves to the indiscretion or the carelessness of the officiating minister too free an opportunity for bad selections; and instead of sacrificing the fastidiousness of the individual to the preferences of the congregation, more frequently offends the sensibilities of the multitude to satisfy the barbarous whims of individuals.
We pause here, leaving still unnoticed several points which we had marked for criticism. It has not been our intention unduly to magnify the faults of Plymouth Collection, in comparison with its great merits; but we have thought it necessary to sustain by quotations what we have had to say in the way of censure, judging that there is every disposition on the part of the public to accept all that we have said in praise. We have given to the book that careful attention which its importance to the interests of the churches demands. There will be dissent from our opinion in matters of taste; but we have aimed that there should be little ground for dispute upon our assertions in matters of fact. We are willing to acknowledge that the Indexes, upon which we have been compelled to some extent to rely, are deficient and imperfect; and where it has been possible we have corrected them: but we cannot be held to account for their blunders. We have simply songht to treat the book with rigid justice: any other course would be inexcusably unjust to the Christian public.
AKT. VI.-IMMORTALITY: THE ARGUMENT FROM NATURE.
Tue argument for the immortality of the soul begins from God. “God only hath” essential “immortality.” The necessary immortality of a created being is an absurdity. Who creates, can destroy. All life is God's gift; Immortal life, the boon of God immortally given. Arguments from the essence of the soul we dismiss as impracticable and irrelevant: impracticable, because the question of the essence or substance of the soul is a question by no means settled, or likely to afford us any precise, absolute and intelligible results ; irrelevant to the issue, because an answer to that question, could it be clearly and indisputably ascertained, by no means carries with it the main question. That must still rest in the mind of the Creator. Material or immaterial, divisible or indivisible, the soul must still subsist, if at all, in God and by God. Assuming that it is of an essence not to be affected by forces and agents which slay the body, we might infer it might pass in safety through the crisis of physical dissolution. By its being indestructible by influences and elements around it, you might argue for it a long continuance; as you would reason of a mountain from its structure and from its relation to nature's agencies for destruction. But the mountain, however superior to present forces assailing it, and however long the date prophesied by its steadfast structure, must still at last yield in the catastrophe of the earth itself. So for the soul, however invulnerable to agencies it must at present encounter, there may await it somewhere in the endless future, new and terrible powers of death, of which we at present have no conception, and before which it may at last fall. We therefore dismiss all inquiries into the substance or esssence of the soul; as also all arguments from the phenomena of the soul at or near the death of the body. Those phenomena are too various and too much associated with doubtful or occult causes, to anthorize any sure inferences from them, and they of necessity cease when the organ of their manifestation--the body--perishes. The battle between the soul and the terrible foe that has conquered its material companion, now withdraws into an awful mystery, where mortal vision cannot follow it. Our argument then turns to God, as alone possessing the key to the mighty secret. To Him humanity brings the appeal, “0 Thou