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And in their hymn 644 we read,
But thou, O God, my wisdom art, instead of, as the poet wrote,
But thou, O Christ, my wisdom art. And the lines of the same beautiful hymn,
Whither, O whither, should I fly
But to my loving Saviour's breast! are barbarously, we were going to say sacrilegiously, altered to
Whither, O whither, should I fly
But to my loving Father's breast ! Perhaps no single doctrine have our compilers labored so assiduously to exclude from their book as that of the fullness of the atonement made by Christ Jesus. That beautiful lyric, beginning
Light of those whose dreary dwelling, has, in the last stanza, this line:
By thine all-atoning merit, etc., Our compilers alter it to
By thine all-sufficient merit, they being willing to admit that the Saviour's merit is allsufficient, but not that it is all-atoning. On this point, of course, no one would have any right to complain if the Sabbath Hymn Book were avowedly and openly what it is really and secretly, Calvinistic in its teachings.
On the score of good taste many of our compilers' alterations are objectionable. The first stanza of their hymn 158 (107 of the Methodist collection) reads :
Eternal Power! Almighty God!
Who can approach thy throne!
Accessless light is thine abode, etc. What kind of light that may be of course everybody knows; but the word is composed of harsh syllables, and is, we are thankful to know, not English.
This leads to the remark that our compilers seem to have a great fondness for long words, a peculiarity found in very few similar compilations. Indeed, all other hymn-book makers, so far as we know, go to the other extreme in their alterations, and, as some of them tell us, for the sake of those who sing, prefer short words. Here we have,
This acknowledgment I'll make.-H. 695.
As to the number and variety of the hymns which make up the collection, we have of course all the favorite productions of Watts, Mrs. Steele, Cowper, Newton, Doddridge, quite a number from the pen of Montgomery, and but a few, comparatively, from the Wesleys. Determined, however, that their collection should not be lacking in quantity, the compilers have pressed into “the service of song in the house of the Lord” a great many stanzas, and not a few entire hymns, that are utterly unworthy of the honor. A large number have no other merit than that they are new, and have never found a place in any former collection. “The Sabbath Hymn Book," the compilers tell us,“ has been enriched by several contributions prepared expressly for it by the Rev. Horatius Bonar, of Scotland, and by many of his poems, abridged and accommodated to the use of our psalmody, after a full consultation with him and with his very kind permission. It has been also enriched by several hymns, some of them written immediately for us by Rev. Ray Palmer, D. D., of Albany, and others translated expressly for it by him from the original Latin.” We have a word or two to say about these novelties presently. Just now we notice the hymns that have been inserted for the very opposite reason, namely, that they are “old;" and although the compilers fear that some of them may be thought “ too quaint for modern psalmody," they nevertheless insert them, and thus swell the size of their book. They give us, for instance, no less than four very good versions of the one hundredth psalm, including that of Watts's, for which John Wesley wrote the majestic first line:
Before Jehovah's awful throne.
But four versions of the same psalm were not thought enough, and so, from the almost forgotten and deservedly neglected doggerel of Sternhold & Hopkins, they give us such stanzas as these :
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Come ye before him and rejoice.
Without our aid he did us make;
And for his sheep he doth us take.
Approach with joy his courts into;
For it is comely so to do.
Hymn No. 646, entitled Blessedness of Love to God, is a translation from the German, “done into English " by one who had no knowledge of the niceties of either language. Notice in the first stanza with what resolute determination the translator “compiles” the rhyme:
Ah, happy hours! whene'er upsprings
My soul to yon eternal source,
Watering with goodnoss all my course.
The second and third verses are in a similar strain, and the fourth—0 yes, do read the fourth!
Nor here alone; hope pierces far
Through all the shades of earth and time;
Yon shining heights she fain would climb.
On these lines comment is needless; but a hard question suggests itself: If when faith has mounted away beyond the farthest star, how immensely far off must be those shining heights which she fain would climb ?
We know not whence our compilers obtained their hymn 661. It is certain we never saw anything like it elsewhere. We copy the first two verses :
Along my earthly way
How many clouds are spread!
Seems gathering on my head.
Yet, Father, thou art true;
O hide not from my view !
Appear in mercy through!
The rhyme you perceive is perfect, but the sense, the meaning, the idea—well, we can't find it. What kind of mercy that is in which the poet entreats his Father to appear when he looks in prayer above is beyond our comprehension :
Appear in mercy through!
Hymn 83 is a part of Tate & Brady's version of the ninetyfifth psalm. It is perfect doggerel, apparently not objectionable to the compilers on that account; but we should have thought the invitation to “fall on our knees” would have been erased, or altered, in a collection of hymns intended for that denomination which prefer to stand erect in prayer. Possibly they overlooked the stanza:
O let us to thy courts repair,
Before the Lord our maker fall. To our ear (perhaps we may be fastidious) there is something offensive, almost like blasphemy, in the pertness of the manufactured rhyme in hymn 243:
To thee all angels cry aloud,
Through heaven's extended coasts,
Of glory and of-hosts.
Something like irreverence too, it seems to us, is found in the first stanza of hymn 156. Perhaps it may be owing to unfamiliarity with the use of the word as applied to the Supreme Being; but that, so far as we are concerned, does not alter the fact. We submit it to the reader:
Jehovah reigns; let all the earth
In his just government rejoice;
In his applause unite their voice.
A stanza from one of Dr. Watts's hymns, omitted by other compilers for the sake of their own reputation, as well as out of regard to that of the poet, has been dragged from the oblivion to which it had been consigned, and spread out in hymn 179:
Praise to the God whose strong decrees
Sway the creation as he please? The good doctor very seldom fell into bad grammar, and it was unkind to restereotype this unfortunate line.
There is another stanza by the same poet, which, although grammatically not so bad as the one just quoted, adds no beauty to the collection, does no credit to the author, and, if we may be pardoned for expressing the opinion, does no honor to the Supreme Being : '
To thee ten thousand thanks we bring,
Great Advocate on high;
Who lays his anger by. In the stanza just quoted, as the reader will observe, the poet has carefully attended to the rhyme, which is faultless, however ungrammatical the language or unscriptural the sentiment. But Watts perpetrated occasionally (even Homer, it is said, sometimes nods) the most bungling rhymes. Most compilers pass them by, but the ambitious brethren who prepared “The Sabbath Hymn Book” uncover to the world's gaze the old man's nakedness, and affix his name to such trash as this:
From the provisions of thy house
We shall be fed with sweet repast;
And brings salvation to our taste.-H. 157. The incongruity of the imagery, "fed with sweet repast from a river which brings salvation to our taste,” is not in the usual