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Title: The Hymn-Book of the Modern Church: Brief studies of hymns and hymn-writers

Author: Arthur E. Gregory

Release date: January 5, 2019 [eBook #58619]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


The Hymn-Book of the Modern Church







My Children

‘Better than all the ballads

That ever were sung or said.’



This lecture consists of a series of essays introductory to the study of English hymns, in which I have tried to give some account of the sources from which the Church gathers its sacred songs, and to sketch briefly the growth of the modern hymn-book. It has been necessary to omit several sections which I had intended to include, and this volume covers a portion only of the ground indicated by the title. I may, perhaps, some day be able to carry the work a stage nearer completeness.

It may be thought that I have given disproportionate space to certain periods and to certain hymn-writers. If so, I can only say that they seemed to me specially interesting or important. In quotations, especially from less-known writers, I have taken as much liberty as possible, and I think this is the redeeming feature of the lecture. In extended quotations I have usually given the preference to hymns not readily accessible to the general reader, and have only occasionally quoted hymns to be found in the Methodist Hymn-book.


To the hymns of the Wesleys I have given considerable space. The subject was chosen for me in view of the publication of the new Methodist Hymn-book, and the occasion seemed to require a somewhat detailed survey of the early Methodist hymns. Nor do I think that many will consider the attention given to them more than their intrinsic value justifies. ‘After the Scriptures,’ wrote Dr. James Martineau, ‘the Wesley Hymn-book appears to me the grandest instrument of popular religious culture that Christendom has ever produced.’[1]

Delightful as this work has been to me, the book has been written under great pressure and amid countless interruptions. I have had to redeem odd minutes and the evening hours when a long day’s work had already been done.

I have to acknowledge constant obligation—much more extensive than is indicated by frequent reference—to Dr. Julian’s monumental Dictionary of Hymnology, which has lightened the labour of research for all students of hymns.

To my friend, Dr. J. T. L. Maggs, I am under manifold obligations which I most gratefully record. Dr. Maggs read a great part of the book in MS, and the whole in proof; and I am also indebted to him for calling my attention to, or procuring for me, some important books of reference. Mr. W. Garrett Horder has also given me the benefit of his advice and ix criticism—all the more valuable because his judgement has often differed from my own.

It is a pleasure to mention the valuable help rendered me by some of my friends connected with The Children’s Home, and especially by Miss F. L. Moon (now Mrs. Carey), who most kindly relieved me of the greater part of the burden of the actual preparation of the MS. for the press. My son, Benjamin A. Gregory, has prepared the Index, verified quotations, and helped me in many other ways.

No Fernley Lecturer has had a more attractive theme. I wish its treatment had been more worthy. But with all its imperfections I trust that He who inhabiteth the praises of Israel may deign to bless my little book to the edification and comfort of some who read it.



Introduction 1
I. A True Hymn 6
II. Hymns of the Bible and the Early Church 29
III. Early Modern Hymns 62
I.—Sixteenth Century 62
II.—Seventeenth Century 80
IV. Eighteenth-century Hymns 122
I.—The School of Watts 122
II.—Hymns of the Methodist Revival 155
III.—The Olney Hymns 224
IV.—Addison, Toplady, and Others 243
V. Nineteenth-century Hymns 254
I.—Anglican Hymns 254
II.—Free Church Hymns 285
III.—Roman Catholic Hymns 315
 Conclusion 323
 Appendix 333
 General Index 339
 Index of Hymns and Verses 343



The source and inspiration of Christian song is the word of Christ. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.’ The common phrases of common life cannot satisfy the soul filled with the Spirit and rich with the wealth of Christ’s indwelling word. Religious emotion finds truer and more fitting expression in poetry than in prose. If God had not given to His Church poets, as well as apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, the best that is in us could never have been uttered. Words and phrases that are large enough for intercourse with our fellows become cramped and inexpressive when we speak to God. Praise and penitence alike would often be silent in the congregation of the saints if they could not at once veil and reveal their profoundest feelings in psalms and hymns. Poetry gives to devotion those robes of glory and beauty without which it would, at times, be almost unseemly 2 to join in the public worship of God or to disclose the heart’s secrets in the presence of fellow-worshippers.

Our theme, then, is peculiarly sacred, since it deals with the spiritual songs in which earnest and sincere men have uttered, in the very presence of God, their most secret thoughts, confessions, and aspirations. Every true hymn was first spoken by one man to God alone, was prayed before it was sung, though now it may be heard daily from ten thousand voices. Harsh or flippant criticism is out of place here, an irreverent impertinence, like the interruption of private prayer. In the study of hymns

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet;

The place where man his God shall meet

Be sure is holy ground.[2]

Yet St. Paul himself reminds us that the word of Christ is to dwell wisely as well as richly in our hearts. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.’ ‘Next to a sound rule of faith, there is nothing of so much consequence as a sober standard of feeling in matters of religion.’[3] Morbid, insincere, fanatical, or exaggerated emotion is as much to be deprecated as doctrinal error, and its evils are at least as disastrous. The diffusion of false or superficial sentiment in the household of the faith is like the spreading of a subtle disease which saps the strength and mars the beauty of devotion, while error bears a charmed life if it comes in the words of a familiar 3 and attractive hymn. Moreover, it is in the hymns of the Church rather than in its formal declarations of faith and doctrine that we find the truest and generally the most favourable revelation of its character. Hymnology is a more important element in the history of religion than most Church historians and theological writers have recognized.[4]

The present time is in many respects peculiarly appropriate for a consideration of the growth and development of the hymns of the modern Church. We are in a state of rest or pause after tumult. The great religious ‘movements’ of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are matters of history, and we can regard even the most recent of them calmly and without the prejudice which while conflict rages may, not altogether unfairly, be regarded as patriotism. The Methodist Revival, the Evangelical Awakening, the Oxford Movement, the Salvation Army Campaign, the Undenominational Evangelism of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, may all be taken into account in considering the material and character of the hymn-book of the modern Church.

Again, it is interesting to remember that of the hymn-writers of the nineteenth century few survive. For the moment there is neither evangelist nor poet to give us new songs. Our fathers made hymn-books; we 4 re-edit them. Within the last few years the standard Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican,[5] and Methodist hymn-books have appeared in new and revised editions, whilst in the Arundel Hymns we have the most recent Roman Catholic hymnal. Dr. Barrett’s Congregational Church Hymnal, issued in 1887, is of the modern type, though it preserves many of the features of the older Nonconformist books. Mr. Garrett Horder’s Worship-Song represents the taste of an individual, not of a committee or community; but it is in many respects the best and most complete collection of the hymns of the modern Church. These books enable us to discover current opinion and taste in regard to hymns which are worthy to take their place in the service of the Christian sanctuary, and both in their unity and diversity are of great value as indicating the life and thought of the Churches they represent.

In this lecture I shall attempt—

1. A brief preliminary inquiry into what constitutes a true hymn, suited for use in Christian worship.

2. A very brief review of the relation of the Hebrew Psalter to the Christian Hymnal, and a passing glance at the hymns of the New Testament and of the early Church.

3. A more detailed survey of the rise and development of modern English hymns and their use in the Church since the Reformation.


Such a study, however unskilfully guided, cannot, I hope, be altogether without interest or edification, since it brings the student into fellowship with the sweetest and the saintliest souls, and bids him join in spirit the choir invisible who praise God day and night in His temple.

I regret that the limits assigned to my lecture make it impossible to refer to translations from the Greek, Latin, German, and other languages. These form a most valuable and an increasing portion of all modern hymnals. They furnish abundant material for a separate volume.


A True Hymn

When my revered father, more than thirty years ago, delivered the fourth Fernley Lecture, he laid this down as the first scriptural Church principle—‘The Church is not a thing of rigid definition.’ I may adapt that phrase to my own subject, and say, A hymn is not a thing of rigid definition.

Commenting on the note which closes the second book of Psalms, ‘The prayers [LXX. hymns] of David the son of Jesse are ended,’ St. Augustine gives this definition:

Hymns are praises of God with singing, hymns are songs containing praises of God. If there be praise, and not praise of God, it is not a hymn. If there be praise, and praise of God, and it is not sung, it is not a hymn. It is necessary, therefore, if it be a hymn, that it have these three things: both praise, and praise of God, and that it be sung.

In commenting on Ps. cxlviii. he repeats this rule in almost the same words. The definition commends itself at once as excellent, and in regard to a large 7 number of hymns adequate; but even when the widest sense is given to the words it is much too narrow and would exclude many of the truest hymns. Indeed, it is impossible to deny the title to innumerable compositions which do not fulfil these conditions. Many a verse of which it may be said, This is not a hymn, demonstrates its right by the fact that it is hymned by the Church from age to age.

St. Augustine’s third canon may be accepted without hesitation. A poem that cannot be sung may speak in the sublimest accents of devotion, yet it is of necessity unsuited to the service of the Christian choir. Spenser’s ‘Hymn of Heavenly Love’ is a glorious example of this form of praise. Indeed, there are some stanzas which a skilful hand might make available for use in the congregation.

O blessèd Well of Love, O Flower of Grace,

O glorious Morning Star, O Lamp of Light!

Most lively image of Thy Father’s face,

Eternal King of Glory, Lord of Might,

Meek Lamb of God, before all worlds behight,[6]

How can we Thee requite for all this good?

Or what can prize that Thy most precious blood?

Yet nought Thou ask’st in lieu of all this love,

But love of us for guerdon of Thy pain:

Ay me! What can us less than that behove?

Had He requirèd life of us again,

Had it been wrong to ask His own with gain?

He gave us life, He it restorèd lost;

Then life were least, that us so little cost.


But He our life hath left unto us free,

Free that was thrall, and blessèd that was banned;

Nor ought demands but that we loving be,

As He Himself hath loved us afore-hand;

And bound thereto with an eternal band,

Him first to love that us so dearly bought,

And next our brethren to His image wrought.

Many of Herbert’s and of Miss Rossetti’s poems are of the same type. We would give much to add them to our hymnals, but they would be out of place there. They belong to the manual of devotion.

That the primary idea of a hymn is praise may also be granted, but even so ‘praise’ must be given an extensive connotation, that it may include whatever directly or indirectly glorifies God. St. Paul’s exhortations show how much more than the offering of adoration is included in the province of Christian song. Our hymn-book, like the Hebrew Psalter, must have not only its songs of high thanksgiving, its sacrifice of praise, but also its prayer of the penitent as he poureth out his soul unto God, its sin-offering as well as its thank-offering, its intercessions and meditations, its instructions and exhortations, its lighter songs and melodies. ‘Every feeling which enters into any act of true worship may fitly find expression in a hymn.’[7]

Dr. Johnson declared that sacred poetry must always be poor because ‘the topics of devotion are few, and being few are universally known; but few 9 as they are can be made no more.’ To this criticism Keble replied in his essay on Sacred Poetry—

How can the topics of devotion be few, when we are taught to make every part of life, every scene in nature, an occasion—in other words, a topic—of devotion? It might as well be said that connubial love is an unfit subject for poetry, as being incapable of novelty, because, after all, it is only ringing the changes upon one simple affection, which every one understands. The novelty there consists, not in the original topic, but in continually bringing ordinary things, by happy strokes of natural ingenuity, into new associations with the ruling passion.

There’s not a bonnie flower that springs

By fountain, shaw, or green;

There’s not a bonnie bird that sings

But minds me of my Jean.

Why need we fear to extend this most beautiful and natural sentiment to ‘the intercourse between the human soul and its Maker’?[8]

If, on its subjective side, sacred poetry has a wide range of topics, how manifold and how magnificent are the themes presented by the historic facts upon which faith rests, and by the great truths of the gospel! In Johnson’s day no one understood how 10 large a realm belonged to the Christian singer, but we have no cause to complain of sameness or dullness in the songs of the Christian choir.

St. Augustine’s second canon need not be regarded as implying that every hymn must be formally addressed to God. The very hymns (the psalms) upon which he was commenting abundantly justify our use of hymns which are rather uttered in the divine presence than actually spoken to God. The 103rd Psalm is as truly a hymn of praise, and that of God, as the 104th. After the same self-exhortation, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul,’ the one continues in the form of a devout meditation, in which the consciousness that God hears is never for a moment absent; while the other at once addresses ‘the Majesty on high.’

O Lord my God, Thou art very great;

Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

Both might have ended with

Let my meditation[9] be sweet unto Him;

civ. 34.

or, in the words of another psalm—

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation[9] of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight,

O Lord, my Strength, and my Redeemer.

xix. 14.

Devout meditations which do not actually speak 11 to God are amongst the best and most truly devotional hymns. Watts’s spiritual song,

There is a land of pure delight,

is an example of the hymn which is only indirectly a prayer; whilst

When I survey the wondrous Cross

illustrates the meditation which is partly the communing of the soul with itself, and partly (perhaps in this case only in the second verse) a direct address to God. Yet each is a true hymn. The ideal exercise of the Christian hymn-writer is the practice of the presence of God.

Not only, then, are the subjects of sacred song infinitely varied, but the forms it may assume are many. In the poet, as well as in the prophet, God speaks ‘in divers manners.’ This is seen in St. Paul’s twice repeated classification, ‘psalms, hymns, spiritual songs,’ and by the directions he gives for the use of song in the Church.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians he writes:

And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

In the Epistle to the Colossians:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another with 12 psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God. And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Psalms are, no doubt, primarily, if not exclusively, those of the Old Testament, which would naturally form the basis of the hymn-book of the Christian Church. It would have been the worst ingratitude, the most crass stupidity, if such a treasure actually in their hands and in their hearts had not been adopted in the services of the first Christian worshippers, even though it must soon have been felt that some psalms were as little in harmony with the spirit of the new dispensation as the law which Christ Himself enlarged and enlightened.

Hymns ‘would more appropriately designate those hymns of praise which were composed by the Christians themselves.’[10] Of these, as we shall note in the next chapter, some fragments remain, and they are specially characteristic of Christian worship. ‘It was of the essence of the Greek ὕμνος (hymn) that it should be ... addressed to a god or hero, that is, a deified man.’[11] Christianity inherited the Hebrew psalm, it adopted and consecrated the Greek hymn.

Ode, or song, is a more general term, qualified and limited by the epithet ‘spiritual,’ and may be regarded as justifying our use of many modern hymns which a severe or narrow taste would reject. Bishop Beveridge 13 understood it to include ‘all sorts of songs upon any spiritual subject.’

Probably the three terms were not very rigidly distinguished, though they are convenient for describing various classes of devotional poetry. In the title of Ps. lxxv. the LXX. gives the three words: ‘among hymns, a psalm for Asaph, an ode concerning the Assyrian.’[12]

The variety of form which the songs of the Christian temple may assume is seen to be of the utmost value when we consider how large a part the ministry of song has in Christian life and worship. Although Jehovah is ‘exalted above all blessing and praise,’[13] yet does He sit ‘enthroned upon the praises of Israel.’[14] ‘Praise waiteth for God in Zion.’ The ancient summons to worship is—

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

c. 4.

The walls of the city of God are called Salvation, and her gates Praise.[15] The mystic Jerusalem is the true ‘city of praise.’[16] The one offering of the Christian temple is its perpetual eucharist,[17] ‘the sacrifice of praise.’[18] The high praises of God are in the mouth of His saints because His love is shed abroad in their hearts, and they ‘cannot from His praise forbear.’


Jerusalem makes melody

For simple joy of heart,

An organ of full compass she,

One tuned through every part;

While not to day or night belong

Her matins and her evensong,

The one thanksgiving of her song.[19]

Whatever the form of the song, its music is for the ear of God, its melody is that of the heart.

In the Christian Church, as in the Jewish Temple, we may call instrumental music to our aid, and count its offering not unacceptable to God.

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet:

Praise Him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance:

Praise Him with stringed instruments and the pipe.

Praise Him upon the loud cymbals:

Praise Him upon the high-sounding cymbals.

Yet all this pomp and circumstance of worship are but sounding brass and clanging cymbal unless there be the accompaniment of ‘grace in the heart.’

Praise Him every tuneful string;

All the reach of heavenly art,

All the powers of music bring,

The music of the heart.[20]

Praise needs ‘a thousand tongues,’ and even so would find ‘eternity too short’ for its service.

Though St. Paul associates praise—thanksgiving—with singing in both the passages referred to, it is 15 instructive to note how clearly he asserts the teaching function of the songs of the Church: ‘Speaking one to another,’ ‘teaching and admonishing one another.’ Bishop Christopher Wordsworth said, as I think, truly:

Christian poetry ought to be a medium for the conveyance of Christian doctrine.... A Church which forgoes the use of hymns in her office of teaching neglects one of the most efficacious instruments for correcting error, and for disseminating truth, as well as for ministering comfort and edification.[21]

An entirely opposite view is often taken, especially by Dissenting writers. Mr. Horder even regards the definite assertion of the doctrine of the Trinity in Heber’s greatest hymn as ‘its only fault.’[22] Dr. Martineau argued that to eliminate from a hymn its distinctive doctrinal teaching, and to ‘translate’ it into broader theological language, was ‘simply to remove an obstruction,’ and to introduce the author ‘to the veneration of thousands, to whom otherwise he must appear as a repulsive stranger.’[23] The general question of alterations in the text of hymns may be considered later. At the moment I need only point out that the apostolic ideal of a hymn includes both ethical and doctrinal teaching. John Wesley prided himself upon having given in his hymn-book ‘a little body of experimental and practical divinity.’


The same principle may be applied to hymns of invitation, of which there are so many in the Methodist collection, and of which Faber’s ‘Souls of men, why will ye scatter?’ is the best modern example. An off-hand criticism may condemn hymns addressed to our own souls, to ‘souls of men,’ to ‘neighbours and friends,’ to ‘sinners poor and wretched;’ but they have ample warrant both in precept and precedent.

God sent His singers upon earth

With songs of sadness and of mirth,

That they might touch the hearts of men,

And bring them back to heaven again.[24]

The Christian poet is a teacher and an evangelist.

Passing from the form to the character of the hymn, there are certain great principles concerning which there will, I imagine, be little difference of opinion. The first essential in every hymn is surely that it be not unworthy of use in the service of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and is to be worshipped in the beauty of holiness. There must be—

1. Sincerity.—Fitness for divine service depends not upon beauty of form or expression, but upon sincerity of thought.

The fineness which a hymn or psalm affords,

Is when the soul unto the lines accords.[25]

‘The garment of praise’ is the white robe of the pure in heart, and, lacking this, the stately anthem has less 17 of heaven’s music than the discordant voices of the village choir.

So Cowper prays—

Forgive the praise that falls so low

Beneath the gratitude I owe:

It means Thy praise, however poor;

An angel’s song could do no more.

So Keble sings—

Childlike though the voices be,

And untunable the parts,

Thou wilt own the minstrelsy

If it flows from childlike hearts.

Sincerity requires that the thoughts expressed should be real to the singer as well as to the poet. They may not be such as would have occurred to him, and the expression may be altogether beyond his powers of origination, but they must be such as he can think in his best moments or may be helped to enter into at the hour of prayer. Sincerity does not require that all our hymns should be on the lowest level common to a general congregation, but that the sentiment expressed, the emotion presupposed or to be excited, be suited to the heart of man in the presence of his Father in heaven. In the compilation of a hymn-book something must be left to the good sense and judgement of those who are to use it; and there is no part of public worship which calls for more serious and intelligent consideration than the selection of hymns suited to the occasion and to the congregation.


It is perhaps too much to say that sincerity also requires that the writer of a hymn should be not unworthy of a place in the Christian choir. Happily this question rarely arises. The author’s name is often an aid to devotion, and in most hymn-books there is hardly a name—except Dryden’s—that seems wholly unfitted to this sacred service.

2. Reverence.—‘God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few,’ restrained, seemly. The profoundest reverence, the lowliest adoration, shrinks from utterance when it hears and sees unspeakable things. This is sublimely taught in those great lines of Dante:

Here memory mocks the toil of genius. Christ

Beamed on that cross; and pattern fails me now.

But whoso takes his cross, and follows Christ,

Will pardon me for that I leave untold,

When in the fleckered dawning he shall spy

The glitterance of Christ.[26]

Even so profuse a hymn-writer as Watts feels that there are times when it is best to ‘leave untold’ what the heart most desires to tell:

A solemn reverence checks our songs,

And praise sits silent on our tongues.

It is a less sublime, but not less acceptable, form of worship which attempts that which yet it knows to be impossible. Praise must be heard in Zion lest if men hold their peace the very stones should cry out. Nor 19 is it right that awe should silence love. We worship the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, yet even so we praise Him who ‘like as a Father pitieth His children’; and when we sing praise to Christ as God, we remember that He called His disciples not servants, but friends.

Dr. Watts utters the thought of many hearts in one of his finest hymns—

Join all the glorious names

Of wisdom, love, and power,

That ever mortals knew,

That angels ever bore;

All are too mean to speak His worth,

Too mean to set my Saviour forth.

But O what gentle terms,

What condescending ways,

Doth our Redeemer use,

To teach His heavenly grace;

Mine eyes with joy and wonder see

What forms of love He bears for me!

It would be easy to give illustrations of offences against the spirit of reverence, especially in hymns of the eighteenth century and the earlier part of the nineteenth. The Moravian hymns in particular were often disfigured by the most revolting phrases, so had indeed that one does not care to give them even the notoriety of emphatic condemnation.[27] But such gross 20 offences are rare in our time, and are practically unknown to Protestant hymnals. Some of the Romish hymns, and a few in Anglican books, refer to the details of our Lord’s Incarnation and Passion with irreverent and even indecent realism, and those addressed to the Virgin Mary are often as bad as any found in the older Moravian books.

We are, on the other hand, in some danger of carrying our sense of what is reverent too far, and of altering without reason the glowing words of devout Christian affection. John Wesley shrank from including

Jesu, Lover of my soul

in his Collection. The expression is quoted from Wisd. xi. 26: ‘But Thou sparest all; for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou Lover of souls’; and he saw no objection to its general application as in the lines—

Lover of souls, to rescue mine

Reveal the charity divine

That suffered in my stead.

Canon Ellerton hesitated as to the propriety of the inclusion of this great hymn in a Church hymnal, and spoke of it as standing ‘absolutely upon the line’ which separates hymns for public worship from those of private devotion. But the Church in all its borders has decided the question, and our heart tells us that the decision is right. Nor is it, indeed, a hymn solely 21 for the sanctuary and the saint; it is a hymn for the street and for the sinner.[28]

The epithet ‘dear’ is not one to be scattered thoughtlessly through hymns and prayers. Yet there are lines from which it is almost an impiety to remove it. There is a language of reverent affection which has in it nothing of the earth.

Come then, and to my soul reveal

The heights and depths of grace,

The wounds which all my sorrows heal,

That dear disfigured face.

Personally I should not touch even Faber’s

Sweet Saviour, bless us e’er we go,

though I wish he had used another epithet; and I certainly could not draw a rough pen through Cowper’s tender line

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood

Shall never lose its power.

There is something due to the men who wrote thus. If they loved much, we should let them speak their love to all the ages in terms of strong affection, and our colder hearts may learn to burn within us as we draw near with them to Him who ‘sought us Himself with such longing and love.’

Bad taste is an error of judgement, not irreverence, 22 but it has very much the same effect upon the worshipper, and it is to be regretted that some very great hymns, consecrated by ten thousand sacred memories, are marred by phrases which will not bear comment or meditation. If the hymn were new, not many modern books would include Cowper’s lines

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

but nothing could long preserve in common use Watts’s verse—

His dying crimson like a robe

Spreads o’er His body on the tree;

Then am I dead to all the globe,

And all the globe is dead to me.

3. Closely allied to reverence is Dignity, the elevation and refinement of thought and language which beseem the worship of God. Nor is it any disadvantage to the less enlightened or less educated in the Christian assembly that they should learn to speak the language of the family of God. Dignity is not necessarily obscure or pompous. It represents what is worthy of man’s thought when it is engaged on the highest of all themes. The intrusion into the most sacred moments of what is mean or vulgar in sound or association is a grievous offence. Hymns belong to the belles lettres of the literature of devotion; to be familiar with them should be in itself a liberal education.

4. Beauty.—‘Intercourse between God and the 23 human soul,’ said Dr. Johnson, ‘cannot be poetical’—a characteristically dogmatic assertion for which there might be some excuse in his day, but which succeeding years have overwhelmingly disproved. A hundred years ago it was necessary to include in a hymn-book compositions that compensated for their lack of poetry by their undoubted piety, but we have such a wealth of song at our disposal that there need be nothing poor, prosaic, commonplace in our hymnals. Watts’s greatest error was his excessive tenderness for ‘vulgar capacities.’

5. Simplicity.—We may say of great hymns what Tennyson said of great men—they are

In their simplicity sublime.

Heavy words are rightly to be regarded as fatal to a good hymn. Charles Wesley was peculiarly prone to use words which make hymns impossible in public worship. Who desires in prayer or praise to use such words as ‘consentaneous,’ ‘implunged,’ ‘choral symphonies’?

The best hymns are made up of short words, and have a large preponderance of monosyllables. The words, too, should be such as men use in the more serious intercourse of daily life. It goes without saying that colloquialisms and words with mean associations are not fit for the sanctuary, but the finest hymns are often those which the plain man recognizes as written in his own tongue.


Bishop Ken’s great hymns are models of simple directness of thought and expression, and so are some verses of Pope’s Universal Prayer.

What conscience dictates to be done,

Or warns me not to do;

This, teach me more than hell to shun,

That, more than heaven pursue.

If I am right, Thy grace impart,

Still in the right to stay;

If I am wrong, oh teach my heart

To find that better way!

Teach me to feel another’s woe,

To hide the fault I see;

That mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me.

6. Fervour.—If there is no fire or glow in a hymn, it might as well be prose as poetry. Indeed, many hymns are so prosaic, so wooden, that it is difficult to see how they can ever

Teach our faint desires to rise

above the dullest levels of devotion. There should be in a hymn a restrained fervour, a reverent rapture of poetic inspiration free from all admixture of the sensuous and morbidly emotional. ‘Be not drunken with wine ... but be filled with the Spirit.’

Quench then the altar-fires of your old gods,

Quench not the fire within.[29]


Nay, rather, if we find no ‘minstrel rapture’ for the praise of the Most High, may we not ask with Charles Wesley—

Why breaks not out the fire within,

In flames of joy, and praise, and love?

As might be expected, it is among the Anglican and the rationalistic communities that there is the greatest dread of the emotional in worship. Yet Dr. Martineau is the ablest apologist for fervour in religious poetry.

The editor of a hymn-book will not think it necessary to graduate the fervour, the imaginativeness, the grandeur of the compositions admitted into his volume, by the cold, level, and prosaic condition of mind which may possibly prevail among some who use it. Thus, to damp the fire down to the temperature of the fuel, seems to offer but a small prospect of kindling anything. We must not thus forgo the glorious power which art exercises in worship. Its peculiar function in connexion with religion is to substitute for the poor and low thoughts of ordinary men, the solemn and vivid images of things invisible that have revealed themselves to loftier souls, and to present the objects of faith before the general mind in something of that aspect under which they rise up before the great artists of poetry and of sound. These gifted men are to lift us; we are not to depress them. In sacred music we acknowledge this principle at once; we confess that it is a noble thing, when we think of the origin of things, and call God the Creator, to have within us the mighty transitions of Haydn’s genius instead of our own puny dreams; to have the incidents of sacred story glow and live before us at the touch of a power like that of Handel or of Spohr; 26 to find ourselves, at such bidding, with the ‘Shepherds abiding in the field,’ not far from the holy chant falling on the midnight air; or to hear in a voice, melting as Christ’s, ‘Come unto Me, ye weary’; or, as we pass from bereavement to bereavement of this world, to be haunted, as with a sudden peace, by the echo of that unearthly strain, ‘Blest are the departed.’ Not less elevating is the poetry than the melody of faith, when it is equally left alone with its first fresh power, and not reduced halfway to prose as a condition of its entrance into worship.[30]

We should, perhaps, hesitate to say that a Christian hymn may have the ‘fine, careless rapture’ which is the glory of Browning’s thrush, but we must not deny to it the ‘inward glee’ as well as the ‘serious faith’ of Wordsworth’s stock-dove. The fervour of Christian song is the bright expression of our glorying in the Lord.

Sing we merrily unto God our Strength.[31]

7. Truth of doctrine.—If it be allowed that hymns play an important part in the teaching of the Church, it is hardly necessary to press this point. Indeed, there is often more to be feared from theological pedantry than from doctrinal sensitiveness. The essential unity of the faith of Christendom is nowhere better illustrated than in the number of hymns which belong to the common treasure of the Church. There is already a union of hearts in the language of devotion which is the surest promise of 27 the reunion of Christendom. At the same time, there are not a few hymns which must either be excluded from denominational hymn-books, or be revised into accord with the faith of the congregations that are to use them.

I well remember the distress of a distinguished Independent minister when I quoted to him Wesley’s verse—

Ah! Lord, with trembling I confess,

A gracious soul may fall from grace;

The salt may lose its seasoning power,

And never, never find it more—

and the pained incredulity with which he deprecated my assurance that the hymn was still in use in our congregations. I remember, too, how abruptly an eminent Methodist minister closed his hymn-book and directed the congregation to cease singing when he found them approaching the last verse of one of Toplady’s hymns—

Yes, I to the end shall endure,

As sure as the earnest is given,

More happy but not more secure

The glorified spirits in heaven.

The verses set forth accurately and appropriately the teaching of the Churches to which the hymns respectively belong, but they are impossible in other theological regions. A very wide range should be allowed to religious thought as expressed in hymns, but those which contradict the things most surely 28 believed in a Church are rightly excluded from its hymnal.

8. We should add, I think, if not to the essentials, yet certainly to the virtues of a good hymn, Scriptural language. Our greatest prose writers have found in the English Bible the most effective, forceful, impressive words; and the hymn-writer has the advantage not only of its pure, strong diction, but also of the hallowed associations which the words of Holy Scripture preserve for all Englishmen.


Hymns of the Bible and the Early Church

The hymn-book of the modern Church is the direct descendant of the Hebrew Psalter. Had David and Asaph never sung, the hymns of Watts and Wesley, of Keble and Montgomery, could hardly have been written. If the praises of Israel had not rung through the courts of the Temple, the choir of the Christian Church would have been silent. Primitive Christianity struggled hard to free itself from the swathing-bands of Jewish ritual; but it recognized from the first the riches of its inheritance in the Book of Psalms. There, more than in any other Scripture, the first Christians heard ‘the voice of Christ and His Church.’[32] Our Lord Himself joined in singing these ancient hymns, and bade His disciples understand that all things must needs be fulfilled which ‘were written in the ... psalms’ concerning Him. St. Paul and St. James alike commend the singing of psalms, and thus, without controversy, the Psalter was claimed by the Church as her own. The determination to hear the voice of Christ everywhere, led to extravagances of 30 exposition which a more critical age cannot tolerate, but it gave the psalms a firm hold upon the heart of Christendom. The ancient Scriptures would have passed away with the ‘worldly sanctuary’ had it not been for the witness of the priest, the prophet, and the psalmist to Christ.

Religious poetry and song must long have preceded any collection of psalms or hymns. One would like to know who first, in the far-off days, said to his brother, ‘O come, let us sing unto the Lord’; but that unknown poet or musician had been famous and forgotten before history was born. The first Hebrew psalm is the Song of Moses at the Red Sea, the earliest of the triumph songs of the people of God, the hymns which celebrate Jehovah, who ever showeth Himself ‘a God of deliverances.’[33] Sung first to ‘the loud timbrel by Egypt’s dark sea,’ it becomes in the Apocalypse the Song of Moses and of the Lamb, chanted to the harps of God by the glassy sea mingled with fire. At the first the singers are the congregation, not yet a people, whom Moses brought out of Egypt in haste; at the last they are the white-robed army of them that have gotten the victory through the blood of the Lamb.

I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously:

The horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and song,

And He is become my salvation:

This is my God, and I will praise Him;

My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.


Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness,

Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance,

The place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in,

The sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.

The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.[34]

Moses, then, is the first singer in the Christian choir; and if to this song of triumph we can add the 90th Psalm, we may well place Moses amongst the sweetest and the sublimest of hymn-writers.

Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead’s most benignant grace.[35]

But Moses is not the founder of Hebrew psalmody. The fact that he and others may have written psalms does not detract from the fame of David, ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ It was he who won for the psalm a permanent place in the worship of God. It is not for me to discuss here critical questions in regard to the Davidic authorship of particular psalms; but I venture to deprecate a too ready or complete acceptance of Wellhausen’s phrase that the Psalter was ‘the 32 hymn-book of the second temple,’ as though it settled the question of the existence of previous Psalters used in the days before the Exile. Unless we are prepared to reject history and tradition alike, David must still hold his place amongst the singers of the Church of God.

There David stands, with harp in hand,

As master of the choir.

The builders of the great vanished cities of the olden time, of its palaces and pyramids; the founders of its monarchies, empires, and republics, pass into oblivion or preserve at best the dull memorial of a name in history; but ‘he who sang the Holy Spirit’s song’ has an audience that never wearies, though the individual listeners pass in solemn and ceaseless order to the silent land. For man is one everywhere and in all ages. The accidents of life vary, but its essence abides. ‘The universal Church of Christ hath given its witness that these psalms are not made for one age, but for all ages; not for one place, but for all places; not for one soul, but for all souls.’[36]

The contention that David’s history is not consistent with the high religious tone of the poems ascribed to him need not disturb us. The man who wrote the Lament for Saul and Jonathan was no mere brigand chief, but one who wore ‘the graces that adorn a king,’ and as a poet and a friend deserves to rank with Milton and with Tennyson.


How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan is slain upon thy high places.

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan:

Very pleasant hast thou been unto me:

Thy love to me was wonderful,

Passing the love of women.

How are the mighty fallen,

And the weapons of war perished!

2 Sam. i. 25-27.

Is there not the same note in David as in Milton, the same lingering on the loved name, the same reiteration of the words of sorrow?

For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,

Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:

Who would not sing for Lycidas?

But, O the heavy change, now thou art gone,

Now thou art gone, and never must return!

Jonathan is shrined as richly and as unfadingly as Edward King or Arthur Hallam, and we may well believe that the man whom Jonathan loved as his own soul loved God from his inmost heart—that the author of the Lament was the singer of the 18th Psalm. And if it be allowed that David wrote that song—‘the Psalm of Clovis and John Wesley’[37]—it is difficult, merely on the ground of personal character, to deny him any psalm in the whole book.

I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

My God, my strong rock, in Him will I trust;

My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised:


So shall I be saved from mine enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,

And cried unto my God:

He heard my voice out of His temple,

And my cry before Him came into His ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled,

The foundations also of the mountains moved

And were shaken, because He was wroth.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down;

And thick darkness was under His feet.

And He rode upon a cherub, and did fly:

Yea, He flew swiftly upon the wings of the wind.

He sent from on high, He took me;

He drew me out of many waters.

He delivered me from my strong enemy,

And from them that hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

They came upon me in the day of my calamity:

But the Lord was my stay.

He brought me forth also into a large place;

He delivered me, because He delighted in me.

It may be true that the value of the psalms to the Church does not depend upon the settlement, one way or another, of the rival claims of singers before and after the Exile, yet the question is of vastly more than mere literary or historic interest. We lose much if we lose David and the psalmists of the kingdom from ‘the glorious choir’ which sings for ever the praises of Israel’s God and David’s Son. And we are all the poorer if the sources of Christian song are to be sought, not by

Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracles of God,

but by the dull canals of Babylon, where the exiled 35 people wept when they remembered Zion. Even the most extreme of modern English critics tells us that, ‘As mere academical exercises, by not merely unnamed but unknown individuals, the psalms will neither edify the Church nor charm the literary student.’[38] But, after all, we have not yet lost our fellowship with the men of David’s time. The psalms are to us a memorial of the golden days of Israel’s history. They are still to us, as to Francis Davison,

Hymns which in the Hebrew tongue

First were sung

By Israel’s sweet and royal singer.

Or, to put the case in prose:

Both poetry and music existed before David’s time, and poetry had been carried to a high development in such compositions as Exod. xv. and Judges v. But with David a new era of religious poetry commenced. The personal element entered into it. It became the instrument of the soul’s communion with God.[39]

It is this ‘personal element’ which makes the Psalter a living book in every age.

The earlier Hebrew psalmists, even when they wrote in view of the imposing ritual of the temple service with its crowded choir, its thousand white-robed priests sounding their silver trumpets, were never bound by a narrow conventional opinion as to what beseemed the order of public worship. Fettered 36 by rule and rubric as the later Jewish Church was, the psalmist as well as the prophet stands for the right of the individual soul to enter alone into the presence of God.

Speak to Him, thou, for He hears,

And spirit with Spirit can meet.

The personal element is, in some respects, the most precious gift of the Psalter to Christianity. Had the hymns of the mediaeval Church, instead of the Hebrew Psalter, been the pattern for modern hymn-writers, we should have lost the best, the grandest, the most abiding of modern hymns. But the revival of hymn-writing, alike in Germany and in England, was a result of the Protestant Reformation, which set aside ecclesiastical in favour of Biblical precedents; so our hymn-books are inspired by the Psalter, not the Breviary. And this vindication of the rights of the individual soul we owe in the first instance to David, or to the men who wrote the psalms ascribed to him. As Edward Irving has said, with his majestic and unrestrained eloquence:

The force of his character was vast, and the scope of his life was immense. His harp was full-stringed, and every angel of joy and of sorrow swept over the chords as he passed. Such oceans of affection lay within his breast as could not always slumber in their calmness. For the hearts of a hundred men strove and struggled together within the narrow continent of his single heart.[40]


Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, in the elaborate preface to his Holy Year, says:

The pronouns I and my are rarely found in any ancient Church hymn. But in modern hymns the individual often detaches and isolates himself from the body of the faithful, and in a spirit of sentimental selfishness obtrudes his own feelings concerning himself.[41]

This is an entirely superficial criticism, though, in greater or less degree, it has been accepted in many modern hymn-books. It is unsound in principle, and contrary to the highest precedents, ancient and modern. It is the personal element that makes a hymn dear to the congregation of Christ’s flock. It is the fit expression of profound individual experience that gives a hymn its charm for the multitude, who can think poetry, but cannot write it. Perhaps no hymn of the last century has touched more hearts than Newman’s ‘Lead, kindly Light’; yet it was written as a personal prayer, giving expression to a special and temporary experience. Few hymns better illustrate the appropriateness to others of the experience of one. In his later years, Newman declined, almost querulously, to be ‘examined’ as to what he meant exactly by the closing lines of his famous hymn, written in 38 a ‘transient’ state of mind, ‘when home-sick or sea-sick’; but to Mrs. Tait, who inscribed the lines

And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since and lost awhile

beneath the portrait of the children taken so suddenly from the desolated Deanery at Carlisle, no lapse of years could ever dull their meaning. The poet often speaks ‘not of himself,’ and his words may be truer as well as richer to the man who repeats than to the man who wrote them. A formal service, performed by professionals or by the technically ‘religious,’ may find suitable expression in general terms; but the Christian congregation

Learns the use of I and me.

The grandest of all hymns, ancient and modern, throb with individual life, whether they soar to heaven on the wings of ecstasy, or bow to earth beneath an overwhelming sense of sinfulness.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And all that is within me bless His holy name.

Have mercy upon me, O God ...

Blot out my transgression.

Create in me a clean heart, O God;

And renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Thy presence,

And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.

The Lord is my Shepherd,

I shall not want.


O happy day that fixed my choice

On Thee, my Saviour and my God!

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,

It is not night if Thou be near.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,

More than all in Thee I find.

Some of the most sublime passages in ancient chant and modern hymn are those in which the singer turns from the confession of a common sin or the expression of a common gratitude to claim a personal share in it. Even that greatest hymn of the Church’s public worship, the ‘Te Deum Laudamus,’ voices at last the cry of the individual believer—

In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me not be ashamed for ever.

So Charles Wesley, celebrating the first anniversary of his conversion, sings—

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

So Thomas Olivers at the end of his great anthem to the God of Abraham adds his own voice to the voices of the celestial choir—

The whole triumphant host

Give thanks to God most high:

‘Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’

They ever cry:

Hail, Abraham’s God and mine!

I join the heavenly lays.


The contrast between the liturgical hymn written for others to sing and the hymn of personal experience, the pouring out of the soul before God, is well illustrated in the Psalter; e.g. compare Ps. cxv.—

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory,

For Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake.

with Ps. cxvi.—

I love the Lord, because He hath heard

My voice and my supplications.

It is in the earlier psalms, though not in them exclusively, that we find the personal element conspicuous, and it is those psalms which have inspired the highest forms of Christian song.

Even in psalms written for the congregation and with direct liturgical intent there is often the introduction of the personal element, as in Ps. cvi.

In the Book of Psalms we have not only the cry of the seeker after God, but the voice of the Church in its common prayer and praise. We find here, too, hymns for the Sabbath day and other festivals, hymns in commemoration of the older saints, national prayers and anthems, which confess the sin of the people or record the mighty works of God, setting the nation’s history to music. Indeed, it is difficult to discover in modern hymn-books any hymn which has not its prototype in the Psalter, though the Incarnation and its manifold revelation brought into Christian life and thought 41 a light that far outshines the brightest stars of the earlier dispensation.

Like other great hymn-books, the Hebrew Psalter grew by stages and gathered into its treasury things new and old. In its final form it is a collection of hymns ancient and modern—a fusion of various hymn-books, in which, as in other collections, there is occasional repetition, free quotation of one writer from another, reminiscences of familiar psalms of earlier psalmists, and evidences of the exercise of a wide editorial discretion in revision and emendation.

We should like to know something of the man who edited the final Collection of Hymns for the use of the people called Jews. If he had written a preface, or even a title-page, he would have solved for us many interesting literary questions—though he would have added little to the spiritual or liturgical value of the Psalter. It is enough for us to know that the psalms as we sing them to-day are the Psalms of which our Lord spoke, when He appealed to them as witnesses with Moses and the prophets to His mission. It was a hymn-book ready for use in the Church of Pentecost, and was adopted in its worship from the beginning.

The influence of the Psalter upon Christian hymnody extends far beyond the use of the rhythmic psalms. The metrical versions, which long supplied the place of hymn-books, gave to the Psalms a double share in Christian worship. Even to-day, when the 42 metrical Psalter has lost its hold upon the Christian congregation, many of our greatest hymns are versions of Hebrew psalms. Nor is the rhythmic version outworn. No complete order of Christian worship is possible which does not include at least some portion of the Psalter in one or other of our three grand English renderings.[42]

The birth of the Lord Jesus was marked, as so many critical periods have been, by a ‘sudden blaze of song.’ The choir of heaven itself sang the ‘Gloria in Excelsis’; Mary chanted the ‘Magnificat’; Zacharias, the ‘Benedictus’; whilst Simeon’s swan-song, the ‘Nunc Dimittis,’ closed the rich though scanty hymnody of that great transition time.

The apostolic Church had no David. The Epistles preserve for us some few lines of early Christian hymns; but it was left to later times to give its sublimest songs to the Christian choir. Yet, if for a moment we think of what might have been, surely St. Paul could have written battle-songs grand as Luther’s; St. Luke, an earlier Christian Year; and St. Peter might have sung with the simple pathos of John Newton. But though other gifts were theirs in abundance, the gift of song was not bestowed upon them; and since the apostolic Church had no poet, the New Testament has no Psalter. Nor, indeed, does it 43 need one; for God’s great poem, His sublimest work, is the Man Christ Jesus.

And so the Word had breath, and wrought

With human hands the creed of creeds

In loveliness of perfect deeds

More strong than all poetic thought.

But though the primitive Church had no great hymn-book, it had its ephemeral ‘songs and solos,’ its minor poets who helped many an earnest worshipper to draw nigh to God with the voice of a psalm. Indeed, there is some reason to think that the Corinthian Church suffered from too great a number of would-be poets, for there ‘every one’ had ‘a psalm,’ and St. Paul would obviously have liked to issue, as John Wesley actually did, a rule against the giving out of hymns of the preacher’s own composing.

The fragments that remain of the hymns of the apostolic age are few and uncertain. The most distinctly rhythmic is the short creed, which may have been said or sung, found in 1 Tim. iii. 16—

Ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί,

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι,

ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις,

ἐκηρυχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν,

ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ,

ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

Manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the spirit,

Seen of angels,

Preached among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory.


In Eph. v. 14 there are three lines which may have been taken from an ancient baptismal hymn.

Ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων,

καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν

καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός.

Up! O sleeper,

And arise from the dead,

And Christ shall shine on thee!

Westcott and Hort print in metrical form not only these passages, but St. Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, which thus takes its place among the earliest Christian hymns.

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·

Ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου,

ἐλθάτω ἡ βασιλεία σου,

γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,

ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·

Τὸν ἄρτὸν ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον

δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,

ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,

ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.[43]

Our Father which art in heaven;

Hallowed Thy name,

Come Thy kingdom,

Be done Thy will

Alike in heaven and on earth;


The bread we need

Give us to-day;

And forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

It is very possible that the metrical structure of St. Matthew’s version may to some extent explain its variations from St. Luke.

‘The hymns of the Apocalypse show, strange to say, no metrical arrangement of diction,’[44] but their influence upon Christian song has been great. Thus the New Testament makes a most important, though chiefly indirect, contribution to the hymnal of the Church.

St. Paul’s division of religious poetry into ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’ indicates the character and variety of the songs of the apostolic Church, but gives little information concerning its hymnals. We may assume, however, that whilst the Hebrew Psalter formed the first and greatest section of the songs of the Church, there were also a number of recognized ‘hymns’ and ‘odes,’ to which additions might at any time be made. By the law of spiritual selection these ancient hymns have passed out of the literature of the Church; they perished in the using, and having served their own generation according to the will of God fell on sleep.

The Church universal is indebted to the liturgical 46 Churches for the inclusion in their Books of Common Prayer of the psalms which heralded the dawn of the day of the Son of Man. It is surely a narrow and superficial notion of divine worship which would exclude such canticles from our services as archaic or artificial.

How beautiful, for example, is the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ whether sung daily at eventide, or when the day of life is ended and the Lord now letteth His servant depart in peace! It is in Christian usage what the sounding of ‘The Last Post’ is to the British soldier, marking the close of the common day or sounding the last farewell to a comrade whose warfare is accomplished. A petty and prosaic criticism may regard as unreal such adaptations of ancient hymns, though consecrated by many centuries’ use, but there is as legitimate a poet’s licence in devotion as in literature.

The Old and New Testament alike, though the former more directly than the latter, gave to hymns a place in the worship of God. But the new wine of the gospel, which burst the wine-skins of out-worn ritual, could not be contained even in the golden chalice of the Psalter or the canticles written on its models.

Distinctively Christian hymns which, as we have seen, are occasionally quoted in the Epistles, and are referred to as a recognized part of public and social worship, date from the earliest times. The famous letter of the younger Pliny to Trajan tells how those who were terrified into the denial of their Lord, 47 confessed no worse crime than that of meeting on an appointed day before the dawn to sing antiphonal hymns to Christ as to a god.[45] Judaism had its Messianic psalms, but the hymns which give praise to Christ as

God made Man for man to die

are the glory of the new dispensation. The early defenders of catholic doctrine appealed without hesitation to the fact that ‘whatever psalms and hymns were written by the brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ the Word of God by asserting His divinity.’[46]

Orthodox and heretic alike—perhaps the heretic especially—sought to win acceptance for his teaching, to fix it in the memory of the congregation by setting it to music. The famous heretic Arius (d. 336) disseminated his doctrine in hymns which are said to have been written in metres associated with the most licentious songs. They were answered by the orthodox hymns of Ambrose. Later heretics, like Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea (d. 390), followed his example; whilst St. Augustine himself wrote an acrostic hymn or psalm against Donatist error. But it was in the beginning as it is in our own day, a man’s doctrinal aberrations were forgotten, at least for the moment, if he could write good hymns. So Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, writing against Nepos, ‘a bishop in Egypt,’ 48 protests that he ‘greatly loves’ Nepos for his skill in psalmody, ‘by which many are still delighted.’[47]

In an often quoted passage in the Confessions, St. Augustine tells how he was affected to tears by the singing of ‘hymns and canticles,’ and records the introduction at Milan of antiphonal singing ‘according to the custom of the Eastern regions,’[48] whilst the people watched in the church ready, if need were, to die with their beloved bishop, St. Ambrose.

Ambrose of Milan and Hilary of Poictiers divide the glory of introducing the singing of hymns into the Church of the West. Hilary compiled a hymn-book—Liber Hymnorum—which is only known to us by a few hymns more or less doubtfully ascribed to him. Ambrose is the first great Latin hymn-writer who still lives in the songs of the sanctuary. His hymns are unrhymed, and, as Trench says, of ‘almost austere simplicity.’

It is as though, building an altar to the living God, he would observe the Levitical precept, and rear it of unhewn stones, upon which no tool had been lifted. The great objects of faith in their simplest expression are felt by him so sufficient to stir all the deepest affections of the heart, that any attempt to dress them up, to array them in moving language, were merely superfluous. The passion is there, but it is latent and represt, a fire burning inwardly, the glow of an austere enthusiasm, which reveals itself indeed, but not to every careless beholder. Nor do we presently fail to observe how truly these poems belonged to their time 49 and to the circumstances under which they were produced—how suitably the faith which was in actual conflict with and was just triumphing over, the powers of this world, found its utterance in hymns such as these, wherein is no softness, perhaps little tenderness; but a rock-like firmness, the old Roman stoicism transmuted and glorified into that nobler Christian courage, which encountered and at length overcame the world.[49]

To St. Ambrose many of the earlier Latin hymns are attributed, and the ‘Te Deum’ is known in the Breviaries as ‘The Song of St. Ambrose and St. Austin,’ according to the tradition that it was composed and sung by them in alternate verses when the latter was baptized at Milan.

The familiar English translation is by an unknown hand. Grand as it is, there are some verses in which a more literal rendering would have been still grander. As the Latin text may not be known by some readers, I give what may be called the received text—

Te Deum laudamus Te Dominum confitemur

Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur

Tibi omnes Angeli Tibi coeli et universae potestates

Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth

Pleni sunt coeli et terra majestatis gloriae Tuae

Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus

Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus

Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus

Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia

Patrem immensae majestatis

Venerandum Tuum verum et unicum Filium


Sanctum quoque Paracletum Spiritum

Tu Rex gloriae Christe

Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius

Tu ad liberandum suscepisti hominem non horruisti Virginis uterum

Tu devicto mortis aculeo aperuisti credentibus regna coelorum

Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes in gloria Patris

Judex crederis esse venturus

Te ergo quaesumus Tuis famulis subveni quos pretioso sanguine redemisti

Aeterna fac cum Sanctis Tuis gloria numerari[50]

Salvum fac populum Tuum Domine et benedic haereditati Tuae

Et rege eos et extolle illos usque in aeternum

Per singulos dies benedicimus Te

Et laudamus nomen Tuum in saeculum et in saeculum saeculi

Dignare Domine die isto sine peccato nos custodire

Miserere nostri Domine miserere nostri

Fiat misericordia Tua Domine super nos quemadmodum speravimus in Te

In Te Domine speravi non confundar in aeternum.

In the Prayer-book version we miss the apostles’ ‘glorious choir,’ the martyrs’ ‘white-robed’ army; and the close would, I think, have been even more impressive as well as more literal had the last lines read—

O Lord, let Thy mercy be showed upon us, even as we have hoped in Thee.

O Lord, in Thee have I hoped; let me not be ashamed for ever.[51]


In the primitive days, before the rise of the mediæval Papacy, before the time of Breviary and Mass-book, the singing of hymns was well established alike in the East and West. In almost every language in which the gospel was preached, hymns were written, and were used not only to aid the devotion of the devout worshipper in the services of the Church, but to arrest and teach the careless wayfarer. Thus Bishop Aldhelm of Sherborne ‘would sit on the bridge, as the people came out from Mass to loiter gossiping on their way home, and sing them sacred lays, teaching them their faith, as it were, in chance verses, and enlisting in God’s service the national love of music and song. It was Alfred, himself a singer, who preserved this tale.’[52]

In later days, when the Romish worship had become more elaborate and formal, it is chiefly in the Breviaries that we find the hymns of the Church, in Latin, of course, and as little understanded of the people as the rest of the service. A large number of these hymns are in existence, and whilst many are disfigured by the idolatrous and often coarse adoration offered to the Virgin Mary and the saints, and others dwell with dreadful particularity upon the details of the Passion, many give worthy and sincere expression to the profoundest experiences of the devout soul. Some of the best and sweetest of these songs, which are often reckoned amongst ‘ancient’ hymns, belong to the 52 degenerate days of the Papacy. They are not only intrinsically precious, but are gracious evidence that the genuine spirit of devotion was found, and the voice of praise and prayer and penitence heard, in quiet places and pure hearts, even in a time of general apostasy. Any detailed reference to pre-Reformation hymns would be outside the limits of this lecture, but the translations of Greek and Latin hymns which are to be found in our modern hymnals will naturally claim attention at a later stage.

In concluding this brief and necessarily superficial preliminary sketch, I may refer to a few of the ancient hymns which are probably little known to the ordinary worshipper.

1. Syriac.—These are chiefly known to us through the great teacher and writer, Ephraem Syrus, who died at Edessa in 373. His hymns were written to counteract the influence of the popular songs of the heretic Bardesanes, and his son Harmonius. Dr. Bonar, Mrs. Charles, Mr. Moorsom, and others have translated several of these Syriac hymns; but they are not likely ever to win such wide acceptance as the Latin or the Greek hymns, though a few are to be found in modern collections. Several of the most touching of St. Ephraem’s hymns are on the death of children, whilst others celebrate the hosannas of the children at the Triumphal Entry. I give a translation, or ‘imitation,’ by Dr. Bonar of a hymn for the Lord’s Day.



Glory to the glorious One!

Good and great our God alone,

Who this day hath glorified

First and best of all beside,

Making it for every clime

Of all times the sweetest time.

From the beginning, day of days,

Set apart for holy praise,

When He bade the willing earth

All its hidden stores bring forth,

When He made the shining heaven,

Then to man this day was given.

On this day the Son of God

Left His three days’ dark abode,

In the greatness of His might

Rising to the upper light.

On this day the Church puts on

Glory, beauty, robe, and crown.

On this day of days, the Lord,

Faithful to His ancient word,

On His burning chariot borne,

Shall in majesty return.

King of kings, He comes in might,

From His heavenly home of light,

To His own Jerusalem,

Old Judea’s brightest gem;

To the hill of Jebus, see,

King Messiah, cometh He;

With His cross to bless and save,

With His cross to spoil the grave.


Earth is fleeing, fleeing fast,

And its beauty fades at last;

O belovèd, then, awake,

Bonds of carnal slumber break;

Wake, belovèd, watch and pray

While remains one hour of day!

Death, it cometh; oh beware!

Judgement cometh; oh prepare!

Steadfast, steadfast let us stand,

For the Judge is nigh at hand:

Steadfast let us rest each night,

Steadfast wake at morning light.

Glory, glory, glory be,

Gracious God and Lord, to Thee!

To the Father and the Son,

To the Spirit, Three in One:

Thus we now Thy mercy praise,

Thus through everlasting days.

In the new and revised edition of Church Hymns, there is a translation by the Rev. R. M. Moorsom of an anonymous Syriac hymn, which is one of two placed under the heading, ‘The National Church.’

His the glory, His the honour,

High and low, recount His praise;

Tell it out among the nations,

How the Christ in ancient days

Left His home, His Father’s side,

Sought, and found, and won His Bride.

In the far-off land He found her,

And she gave to Him her heart,

For His love is everlasting,

That nor life nor death can part;

There, to win her troth, He died,

There, for her, was crucified.


Oh, our King! fulfil Thy promise,

Bring her where no taint of sin,

Where no sadness and no blemish,

Where no stain can enter in;

Keep her ever at Thy side,

Bring her home, Thy faithful Bride.

Perfect then, Thy new creation,

With the grace that shall endure,

E’en amid temptation growing

Still more stately and more pure;

Till by sorrow sanctified,

She becomes Thy holy Bride.

Peace be hers within her temples;

Strength be hers, her walls to guard;

May her holiness and beauty

By no evil thing be marred;

Through all peril, Saviour, guide

To Thy heaven Thy crownèd Bride.

2. Greek.—What is often called the first Christian hymn is found in the Paedagogus, or Tutor, of St. Clement of Alexandria (d. cir. 212). It has been translated into English by many writers. Dean Plumptre’s version is the best known. At the end of his treatise Clement ‘burst out into a kind of choral, dithyrambic ode, in anapæstic metre, the lines very short and abrupt, and the whole being more exclamatory and fervid than most later hymns.’

Curb for the stubborn steed,

Making its will give heed;

Wing that directest right

The wild bird’s wandering flight;

Helm for the ships that keep

Their pathway o’er the deep;


Shepherd of sheep that own

Their Master on the throne,

Stir up Thy children meek,

With guileless lips to speak,

In hymn and song, Thy praise,

Guide of their infant ways.

O King of saints, O Lord,

Mighty all-conquering Word;

Son of the Highest God,

Wielding His wisdom’s rod;

Our stay when cares annoy,

Giver of endless joy;

Of all our mortal race,

Saviour, of boundless grace,

O Jesus, hear!

Shepherd and Sower Thou,

Now helm, and bridle now,

Wing for the heavenward flight

Of flock all pure and bright,

Fisher of men, the blest

Out of the world’s unrest,

Out of sin’s troubled sea,

Taking us, Lord, to Thee;

Out of the waves of strife,

With bait of blissful life,

With choicest fish, good store,

Drawing Thy nets to shore.

Lead us, O Shepherd true,

Thy mystic sheep, we sue,

Lead us, O holy Lord,

Who from Thy sons dost ward,

With all prevailing charm,

Peril, and curse, and harm;

O path where Christ hath trod,

O way that leads to God!

O Word, abiding aye,

O endless Light on high,


Mercy’s fresh-springing flood,

Worker of all things good,

O glorious Life of all

That on their Maker call,

Christ Jesus, hear!

. . . . .

Our holy tribute this,

For wisdom, life, and bliss,

Singing in chorus meet,

Singing in concert sweet,

The Almighty’s Son.

We, heirs of peace unpriced,

We, who are born in Christ,

A people pure from stain,

Praise we our God again,

Lord of our Peace!

I must add one other hymn, though it has been often translated, and is found in several modern hymn-books. There is a pretty little version in Longfellow’s Golden Legend, but the best is Keble’s fine rendering published in the Lyra Apostolica. It is a hymn for eventide, and was sung at ‘The Lighting of the Lamps.’ It has been sung at vespers in the Greek Church for many centuries, and is still in daily use.

Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός

οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος,

Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,

ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τοῦ ἡλίου δύσιν,

ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,

ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, καὶ Υἱόν, καὶ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ,

ἄξιος εἶ ’ν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς ὁσίαις

Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς·

διὸ ὁ κοσμός σε δοξάζει.


Hail! gladdening Light of His pure glory poured,

Who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest,

Holiest of Holies—Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest,

The lights of evening round us shine,

We hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine!

Worthiest art Thou at all times to be sung

With undefiled tongue,

Son of our God, Giver of Life, alone!

Therefore in all the world, Thy glories, Lord, they own.

3. Latin.—The following hymn has not only intrinsic value, but peculiar interest on account of St. Augustine’s reference to it as having brought to his eyes the kindly relief of tears, as he thought of his mother laid that day in her grave.

Then I slept and rose up again, and found my sorrow diminished not a little and as I lay lonely on my bed I recalled the truthful verses of Thy Ambrose ... and I gave my tears, which I had restrained till now, leave to flow as they would.

It is found in the Breviaries as a Saturday vesper hymn, and is a good example of the hymns of St. Ambrose. It has much of the strength and simplicity of Ken’s hymns.

Deus, creator omnium!

Polique Rector! vestiens

Diem decoro lumine,

Noctem soporis gratiâ,

Artus solutos ut quies

Reddat laboris usui:

Mentesque fessas allevet

Luctusque solvat anxios.


Grates peracto jam die

Et noctis exortu preces,

Voti reos ut adjuves,

Hymnum canentes solvimus.

Te cordis ima concinant,

Te vox canora concrepet,

Te diligat castus amor,

Te mens adoret sobria;

Ut, cum profunda clauserit

Diem caligo noctium,

Fides tenebras nesciat,

Et nox fide reluceat.[53]

Dormire mentem ne sinas,

Dormire culpa noverit;

Castis fides refrigerans

Somni vaporem temperet.

Exuta sensu lubrico

Te cordis alta somnient,

Nec hostis invidi dolo

Pavor quietos suscitet.

Christum rogemus et Patrem,

Christi Patrisque Spiritum,

Unum potens per omnia

Fove precantes Trinitas.[54]

The best English translation is by Mr. J. D. Chambers, late Recorder of New Sarum. I take it from his beautiful Psalter; or, Seven Hours of Prayer of the Church of Sarum.[55]


Maker of all things! God Most High!

Great Ruler of the starry sky!

Robing the day in beauteous light,

In sweet repose the quiet night;

That sleep may our tired limbs restore,

And fit for toil and use once more;

May gently soothe the careworn breast,

And lull our anxious griefs to rest.

We thank Thee for the day that’s gone,

We pray Thee now the night comes on:

O help us sinners as we raise

To Thee our votive hymn of praise.

To Thee our hearts their music bring,

Thee our united voices sing:

To Thee our pure affections soar,

Thee may our chastened souls adore.

So when the deepening shades prevail,

And night o’er day hath dropped her veil:

Faith may no wildering darkness know,

But night with Faith’s own splendour glow.

O sleepless ever keep the mind!

Our guilt in lasting slumbers bind;

Let Faith pure Chastity renew,

And freshen sleep’s lethargic dew.

From every wrongful passion free,

O may our hearts repose in Thee;

Nor envious fiend with harmful snare,

Our rest with sinful terrors scare.

Christ, with the Father ever One!

Spirit of Father and of Son!

God over all of mighty sway,

Shield us, great Trinity, we pray!


I would gladly linger awhile longer among these ancient hymns; but except as they have passed into our hymnals in the last two centuries, they hardly belong to my subject.


The following notes may be useful to some readers:—Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus (Leipsic, 1841-55); Mone’s Hymni Latini Medii Aevi (Freiburg, 1853-4-5), Christ’s Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum; Trench’s Sacred Latin Poetry (1849): Duffield’s Latin Hymns (1889); Macdonald’s Latin Hymns of the Wesleyan Methodist Hymn-book (1899).

Neale’s Mediaeval Hymns, Hymns of the Eastern Church, &c.; Chandler’s Hymns of the Primitive Church; William’s Hymns from the Parisian Breviary (1839); Chambers’s Lauda Syon; Mant’s Ancient Hymns from the Roman Breviary; Chatfield’s Songs and Hymns of the Greek Christian Poets; Mrs. Charles’s Christian Life in Song; Moorsom’s Renderings of Church Hymns. See also articles in Dictionary of Hymnology, on ‘Greek,’ ‘Latin,’ and ‘Syriac,’ ‘Hymnody,’ ‘Te Deum,’ &c.

It should be remembered that many of the Breviary hymns are not ancient, but belong to the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.


Early Modern Hymns

I.—Sixteenth Century

Before the Reformation England was rich in ballads, but had practically no hymns. Yet there are in that earlier period a few great names—Cædmon, Aldhelm, Bede, Alfred—which are beginning to appear in some modern hymnals.[56]

It is usual to date English hymnody from the days of Dr. Watts. Before his time, however, a considerable number of hymns had been written in English, a fair proportion of which were of high poetic character, and not unsuitable for public worship. But the idea of a hymn-book had hardly entered the mind of the Church. Many longed for ‘godly ballads’ to supplant the vain songs of the Court, the camp, and the street, but for the most part they longed in vain. We must not, however, overlook the preparation made during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The English Reformation had no poet, no one who could give the common people songs such as Luther 63 had provided for the Germans. Myles Coverdale (1487-1569), Bishop of Exeter, saw how great the need was; but he could not supply it, though he did his best. His ‘Ghostly Psalms and Spiritual Songs, drawn out of the Holy Scripture for the comfort and consolation of such as love to rejoice in God and His Word,’ is an unsuccessful attempt to render into English some of the German hymns. He confesses that the verses are ‘rude in song and rhyme.’ Yet there is not wanting that yearning after God, that quiet trust in Christ, that turning to Him with hope and penitence and love which is the note of all Christian psalmody. I quote a few verses—modernizing the spelling—from what is, I think, his best effort.

I call on Thee, Lord Jesu Christ,

I have none other help but Thee:

My heart is never set at rest,

Till Thy sweet word have comforted me.

And steadfast faith grant me therefore,

To hold by Thy word evermore.

Above all thing

Never resisting

But to increase in faith more and more.

Lord, print into my heart and mind

Thy Holy Spirit with ferventness;

That I to Thee be not unkind,

But love Thee without feignedness.

Let nothing draw my mind from Thee,

But ever to love Thee earnestly:

Let not my heart

Unthankfully depart

From the right love of Thy mercy.


Give me Thy grace, Lord, I Thee pray,

To love mine enemies heartily:

Howbeit they trouble me alway,

And for Thy cause do slander me,

Yet, Jesu Christ, for Thy goodness,

Fill my heart with forgiveness,

That while I live

I may them forgive

That do offend me more or less.[57]

Coverdale’s hymns prepared the way for more successful efforts in the same direction. And it is pleasant to remember that the brave old reformer, who stood by his friend and tutor, Robert Barnes, the martyr, when he was summoned to appear before Wolsey as a heretic, and who devoted so many years to the translation of the Holy Scriptures, was one of the first who desired to make the English folk love godly hymns.

It is an ancient fashion to disparage Sternhold and Hopkins’s version of the Psalms, but it was a great advance upon Coverdale, and ‘marks an era in the history of sacred song.’[58] Sternhold died in 1549, and Coverdale survived him for twenty years. He was Groom of the Robes to both Henry VIII and Edward VI. Probably the popularity of Clement 65 Marot’s[59] French version may have suggested to Sternhold the attempt to provide the English Court with similar sacred songs instead of the profane ballads which pleased both French and English courtiers. Henry had a sincere regard for him, and remembered him in his will. Edward loved to hear these metrical psalms sung by their author, and caused them to be ‘sung openly,’ so that others might learn to love them as he did. Sternhold was a modest man, and did not claim any great merit for his songs.

‘Albeit,’ he says, in his dedication to Edward VI, ‘I cannot give to your Majesty great loaves, or bring into the Lord’s barn full handfuls ... I am bold to present unto your Majesty a few crumbs which I have picked up from under the Lord’s board.’

Part of his version of Ps. xviii. is usually given as the best example of his work.

O God, my strength and fortitude,

Of force I must love Thee.


There are some good verses in Ps. ix., which are of the same type.

O Lord, with all my heart and mind

I will give thanks to Thee;

And speak of all Thy wondrous works

Unsearchable of me.

I will be glad and much rejoice

In Thee, O God, most high;

And make my songs extol Thy name

Above the starry sky.

For evermore in dignity

The Lord doth rule and reign;

And in the seat of equity

True judgement doth maintain.

With justice He doth keep and guide

The world and every wight,

With conscience and with equity

He yieldeth folk their right.

He is Protector of the poor,

What time they be opprest;

He is in all adversity

Their refuge and their rest.

All they that know Thy holy name,

Therefore do trust in Thee;

For Thou forsakest not their suit,

In their necessity.

But sure the Lord will not forget

The poor man’s grief and pain;

The patient people never look

For help of God in vain.

The Old Version, which bears the name of Sternhold and Hopkins, was the work of several hands. 67 John Hopkins was the largest contributor. Of his life little is known. Warton called him not the least of the British poets of his day, and his versions are generally considered superior to Sternhold’s. They are no doubt smoother, but I cannot see that they have more poetry in them. Sometimes his lines are ridiculously divided, and it is difficult to imagine that at any period they could have been regarded as tolerable.

It was, however, a psalm of Hopkins’s which comforted John Wesley after hearing a sermon, of which he disapproved, at Bow, in 1738. ‘God answered the thoughts of my heart, and took away my fear, in a manner I did not expect, even by the words of Thomas Sternhold. They were these (sung immediately after the sermon)’—

Thy mercy is above all things,

O God; it doth excel;

In trust whereof, as in Thy wings,

The sons of men shall dwell.

Within Thy house they shall be fed

With plenty at their will;

Of all delights they shall be sped,

And take thereof their fill.

Because the well of life most pure,

Doth ever flow from Thee;

And in Thy light we are most sure,

Eternal light to see.

From such as Thee desire to know,

Let not Thy grace depart;

Thy righteousness declare and show

To men of upright heart.


William Whittingham, Calvin’s brother-in-law, and Knox’s successor as pastor of the English congregation at Geneva, contributed about twelve psalms, including the cxix., which runs to over 700 lines. In 1563 he became Dean of Durham, and was excommunicated by the Archbishop of York (father of George Sandys). He died in 1579, and was buried in the cathedral in which he is said to have destroyed the image of St. Cuthbert and other ancient monuments which were obnoxious to his Puritan taste. Other writers were John Pullain, another Genevan exile; Robert Wisdome, who was frightened into a recantation of his ‘errors’ by Bishop Bonner, but shortly after recanted again; Thomas Norton, who wrote the version of Ps. cxlvii., beginning—

Praise ye the Lord, for it is good

Unto our God to sing;

For it is pleasant, and to praise

It is a comely thing.

William Kethe, author of ‘All people that on earth do dwell;’ John Marckant, and John Craig.[60] John Marckant, vicar in 1559 of Great Clacton, and of Shopland 1563-8, was the author of four psalms in the Old Version. But he is remembered by ‘The Lamentation of a Sinner,’ which is one of the redeeming features of the book. It is known in modern times almost exclusively in Heber’s revision. The original is admirable in its pathos and simplicity.



O Lord, turn not Thy face away

From him that lies prostrate,

Lamenting sore his sinful life,

Before Thy mercy-gate.

Which gate Thou openest wide to those

That do lament their sin,

Shut not that gate against me, Lord,

But let me enter in.

And call me not to mine account,

How I have livèd here;

For then I know right well, O Lord,

How vile I shall appear.

I need not to confess my life,

I am sure Thou canst tell,

What I have been, and what I am,

I know Thou knowest it well.

O Lord, Thou knowest what things be past,

And eke the things that be;

Thou knowest also what is to come,

Nothing is hid from Thee.

Before the heavens and earth were made,

Thou knowest what things were then,

As all things else that have been since

Among the sons of men.

And can the things that I have done,

Be hidden from Thee then?

Nay, nay, Thou knowest them all, O Lord,

Where they were done and when.

Wherefore with tears I come to Thee,

To beg and to entreat,

Even as the child that hath done ill,

And feareth to be beat.


So come I to Thy mercy-gate,

Where mercy doth abound,

Requiring mercy for my sin,

To heal my deadly wound.

O Lord, I need not to repeat,

What I do beg or crave:

Thou knowest, O Lord, before I ask,

The thing that I would have.

Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask,

This is the total sum,

For mercy, Lord, is all my suit,

Lord, let Thy mercy come.

With Sternhold and Hopkins began the reign of the metrical Psalter. The attempt to turn the whole book of Psalms into verse for congregational use has had a curious fascination. No one has attained more than very partial success, not even Watts or Keble. In Julian’s long list of those who have essayed to render the Psalms into English verse, are many names upon which one lingers with interest. Queen Elizabeth, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Archbishop Parker, Sir Philip Sidney and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, Bishop Hall, George Wither, George Herbert, George Sandys, John Milton, General Fairfax, Richard Baxter, Joseph Addison, Cotton Mather, Christopher Smart, and great numbers in more recent times.

Of the multitude of these forgotten psalms the majority, even of the best, are but literary curiosities, myriads are not even curious, they are simply dull. A few little-known psalms of these early days I quote 71 either for their own or their authors’ sake. The following by Queen Elizabeth is characteristically vigorous in expression. I have modernized the spelling—


Fools, that true faith yet never had,

Say in their hearts there is no God!

Filthy they are in their practice,

Of them not one is godly wise.

From heaven the Lord on man did look

To know what ways he undertook;

All they were vague and went astray,

Not one He found in the right way.

In heart and tongue have they deceit,

Their lips throw forth a poisoned bait;

Their minds are mad, their mouths are wode,[61]

And swift they be in shedding blood.

So blind they are no truth they know,

No fear of God in them will grow.

How can that cruel sort be good

Of God’s dear folk which suck the blood?

On Him rightly shall they not call,

Despair will so their hearts appall.

At all times God is with the just,

Because they put in Him their trust.

Who shall therefore from Sion give

That health which hangeth on our belief.

When God shall take from His the smart,

Then will Jacob rejoice in heart.

Praise to God![62]


In the sandy desert of the metrical Psalters there are, however, some wells of living water. Such are the psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and his sister, and those of George Sandys. The metre, for the most part, as well as the language, makes them unsuitable for use in the congregation; but I think many readers will be glad to see the following verses. The verses from Ps. xix. are by Sir Philip, and the version of Ps. xciii. is by the Countess of Pembroke.


The heavenly frame sets forth the fame

Of Him that only thunders;

The firmament, so strangely bent,

Shows His hand working wonders.

Day unto day doth it display,

Their course doth it acknowledge:

And night to night succeeding right

In darkness teach clear knowledge.

There is no speech, nor language, which

Is so of skill bereavèd,

But of the skies the teaching cries

They have heard and conceivèd.

There he no eyne, but read the line

From so fair book proceeding;

Their words be set in letters great

For everybody’s reading.



Clothed with state and girt with might,

Monarch-like Jehovah reigns:

He who earth’s foundation pight,[63]

Pight at first, and yet sustains:

He whose stable throne disdains

Motion’s shock, and ages’ flight:

He who endless One remains,

One the same in changeless plight.

Rivers, yea, though rivers roar,

Roaring though sea-billows rise;

Vex the deep, and break the shore,

Stronger art Thou, Lord of skies.

Firm and true Thy promise lies

Now and still as heretofore:

Holy worship never dies

In Thy house where we adore.

George Sandys (1577-1643) was a true poet. Dryden called him ‘the best versifier of the former age,’ and Richard Baxter said, ‘I must confess after all that, next the Scripture poems, there are none so savoury to me as Mr. George Herbert’s and Mr. George Sandys’s.’ Charles the First comforted himself with Sandys’s psalms during his imprisonment at Carisbrooke.

He is even yet little known to our hymn-books, though a few of his psalms make, with a little adaptation, good hymns. The Methodist Hymn-book contains two—

Thou who art enthroned above[64] (Ps. xcii.).

Ye who dwell above the skies (Ps. cxlviii.).


His version of Ps. lxvi. also has some good lines. It begins—

Happy sons of Israel,

Who in pleasant Canaan dwell:

Fill the air with shouts of joy,

Shouts redoubled from the sky.

Sing the great Jehovah’s praise,

Trophies to His glory raise.

These quotations must suffice for the psalms of the period between the Old and New Versions. Those who are interested in this not very attractive literature will find specimens of the principal British and American writers in Holland’s Psalmists of Britain (1843), and Glass’s Story of the Psalters (1888). When one looks at the two authorized metrical versions, and the many attempts made to supplant them, it is difficult to understand how the Church could so long have clung to the metrical Psalter, and could be so slow to use a hymn-book. Keble says of his own version—‘It was undertaken, in the first instance, with a serious apprehension, which has since grown into a full conviction, that the thing attempted is, strictly speaking, impossible.’ Yet scores have made the same fruitless effort since Keble failed.

Apart from the psalm-versions there are few hymns of the sixteenth century. George Gascoigne (d. 1577), a lawyer, poet, and courtier of Elizabeth’s day, and a descendant of Sir William Gascoigne, the judge who committed Henry V, when Prince of Wales, to prison, wrote a poem entitled ‘Good Morrow,’ from which 75 a good hymn has been made, which is in many of the better school hymnals.

You that have spent the silent night

In sleep and quiet rest,

And joy to see the cheerful light

That riseth in the East;

Now clear your voice, now cheer your heart,

Come help me now to sing;

Each willing wight come bear a part,

To praise the heavenly King.

Yet as this deadly night did last

But for a little space,

And heavenly day, now night is past,

Doth show his pleasant face:

So must we hope to see God’s face

At last in heaven on high,

When we have changed this mortal place

For Immortality.

Unto which joys for to attain,

God grant us all His grace,

And send us, after worldly pain,

In heaven to have a place:

Where we may still enjoy that light,

Which never shall decay:

Lord, for Thy mercy lend us might

To see that joyful day.[65]


Thomas Campion (1567-1619), a doctor of medicine, wrote some lovely hymns, ‘admirable for their union of melodious simplicity, beauty, and strong common sense.’[66] Josiah Conder included one in the section for Private Worship of the Congregational hymn-book, 1836.[67]

Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore,

Never tired pilgrim’s limbs affected slumber more,

Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast.

O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest!

Ever blooming are the joys of heaven’s high Paradise,

Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes:

Glory there the sun outshines, whose beams the Blessed only see.

O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to Thee!

Here is another of Campion’s hymns.

View me, Lord, a work of Thine!

Shall I then lie drowned in night?

Might Thy grace in me but shine,

I should seem made all of light.

Cleanse me, Lord, that I may kneel

At Thine altar, pure and white:

They that once Thy mercies feel,

Gaze no more on earth’s delight.

Worldly joys, like shadows, fade,

When the heavenly light appears:

But the covenants Thou hast made,

Endless, know nor days nor years.


In Thy Word, Lord, is my trust,

To Thy mercies fast I fly;

Though I am but clay and dust,

Yet Thy grace can lift me high.

Campion is not mentioned in the Dictionary of Hymnology, but he deserves a place there.

One other hymn must be mentioned, ‘Jerusalem, my happy home.’ It is found in a MS. preserved in the British Museum, with the title ‘A Song Mad, by F. B. P. To the tune of Diana.’ Who the author was no one knows, but internal evidence indicates that he was a devout Roman Catholic. In the Arundel Hymns it is attributed to Father Laurence Anderton, alias John Beverley, S.J. The MS. has twenty-six verses, of which nineteen were printed in London in 1601. The hymn is probably based upon a passage in the Meditations of St. Augustine. The popular modern hymn, ‘Jerusalem, my happy home,’ which is now believed to have been written by Joseph Bromehead, Vicar of Eckington, near Sheffield, was no doubt suggested by this hymn, or one of the various versions of it, but has little verbal agreement except in the first and last verses. I give a portion of the original poem.

Hierusalem, my happie home,

When shall I come to thee,

When shall my sorrowes haue an end,

Thy ioyes when shall I see.


O happie harbour of the saints,

O sweete and pleasant soyle,

In thee noe sorrow may be founde,

Noe greefe, noe care, noe toyle.

Hierusalem, Hierusalem,

God grant I once may see

Thy endless ioyes, and of the same

Partaker aye to bee.

Thy wales are made of precious stones,

Thy bulwarkes diamondes square,

Thy gates are of right orient pearle,

Exceeding riche and rare.

Thy terrettes and thy pinnacles

With carbuncles doe shine,

Thy verie streetes are paued with gould,

Surpassinge cleare and fine.

Thy houses are of ivorie,

Thy windoes cristale cleare,

Thy tyles are mad of beaten gould,

O God that I were there.

There David standes with harpe in hand,

As maister of the queere,

Tenne thousand times that man were blest

That might this musicke hear.

Our Ladie singes magnificat

With tune surpassinge sweete,

And all the virgins beare their parts

Sitinge aboue her feete.

Te Deum doth Sant Ambrose singe,

Sant Augustine dothe the like;

Ould Simeon and Zacharie

Haue not their songes to seeke.


There Magdalene hath left her mone,

And cheerefullie doth singe,

With blessed Saints whose harmonie

In everie streete doth ringe.

Hierusalem, my happie home,

Would God I were in thee,

Would God my woes were at an end,

Thy ioyes that I might see.

Finis. Finis.[68]


Early Modern Hymns

II.—Seventeenth Century

When the seventeenth century opened there were, as we have seen, hardly any English hymns except such as may be taken from metrical versions of the Psalms. With the new century a new era begins; and though we are not yet in what George Macdonald calls ‘the zone of hymn-writing,’ we are soon able to gather the materials of a hymn-book of the modern type. It would be quite possible to compile a very good hymnal from writers who preceded Dr. Watts, if a wise editorial discretion were exercised in the omission of unsuitable verses and the revision of phrases offensive to modern taste.

Amongst the hymn-writers of the seventeenth century one name is pre-eminent—Thomas Ken (1637-1711), Bishop of Bath and Wells. His fame rests upon his three great hymns—Morning, Evening, and Midnight—for little else in his voluminous poetical works is suited to the worship of the sanctuary. In all the 81 Christian choir there is no worthier name than that of Thomas Ken, whom neither fear nor flattery could move from the strait path of duty. He lived in the spirit of his own lines—

Let all thy converse be sincere,

Thy conscience as the noonday clear;

Think how all-seeing God thy ways,

And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

He spent his earlier years of ministry in quiet places, amongst those who honoured and loved him, but later had some curious experiences as Lord Dartmouth’s chaplain at Tangier, where he testified with his accustomed resolution against evil-doers and evil-speakers, coming, as Samuel Pepys records, into collision with the afterwards infamous Colonel Kirke, because he preached against ‘the excessive liberty of swearing which we observe here.’

Amongst all the heroes of his day there was none with a more serene courage than ‘little Ken,’ who would not receive Charles’s mistress at his house—‘No, not for his kingdom’—and thus won his bishopric in as unlikely and as creditable a fashion as ever bishopric was earned. After that one is not surprised to find him, as one of the seven bishops, saying to James II, ‘We have two duties to perform, our duty to God and our duty to your Majesty. We honour you, but we fear God.’ Nor need we wonder that, notwithstanding his resistance of James’s illegal demands, he could not bring himself to take the oath of allegiance to William 82 of Orange. Ken always had that infirmity of noble souls, ‘a weakness for the weaker side.’ As Dean Plumptre well says, ‘If he was in doubt it was safer, in quite another sense than that in which others counted safety, to take the losing and not the winning side.’

Ken was deprived in 1791, and the bishopric was offered to Beveridge, then Archdeacon of Colchestor. Had Ken been translated to heaven, or to Canterbury, Beveridge would have accepted the preferment with delight, for he had no nonjuring scruples and wished to be a bishop. But he too was a saint, and not unworthy to be Ken’s successor; so he would not take the place from which Ken had been thrust out, and waited thirteen years for ‘preferment,’ becoming Bishop of St. Asaph in 1704.

When Ken left the episcopal palace, Lord Weymouth honoured his own magnificent mansion of Longleat by welcoming Ken to its hospitable shelter, as Sir Thomas Abney, in widely different circumstances, made the great Nonconformist hymn-writer his guest twenty-five years later. Longleat was Ken’s home for twenty years. There he died, after long and acute suffering, soothed by the writing of hymns, and by the thought that they would be sung on earth while he praised God in heaven.

’Twill heighten even the joys of heaven to know

That in my verse the saints hymn God below.[69]


Ken’s hymns, as we now sing them, are selected from the thirty-seven verses of the originals, which were intended in the first place for the scholars of his old school—Winchester. As in most other cases, the popular selection is amply justified. The hymns abbreviated are much more serviceable alike for public and private devotion than if they were transferred in extenso to our hymn-books. Like Sternhold, Herbert, and Watts, Ken was a musician, and loved to accompany himself on the lute or organ.

The morning hymn, which consists of fourteen verses, falls into three sections, addressed (1) to the soul, (2) to the angels, (3) to God. In the evening hymn two verses are addressed to the guardian angel. The following verses from the morning hymn are not usually found in modern hymnals—

Influenced by the Light Divine,

Let thy own light in good works shine:

Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways,

In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

Awake, awake,[70] ye heavenly choir,

May your devotion me inspire,

That I, like you, my age may spend,

Like you, may on my God attend.

May I, like you, in God delight,

Have all day long my God in sight,

Perform, like you, my Maker’s will;

O may I never more do ill!


Had I your wings, to heaven I’d fly,

But God shall that defect supply,

And my soul winged with warm desire,

Shall all day long to heaven aspire.

I would not wake, nor rise again,

Even heaven itself I would disdain;

Wert not Thou there to be enjoyed,

And I in hymns to be employed.

Heaven is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,

O never then from me depart;

For to my soul ’tis hell to be

But for one moment without[71] Thee.

The special charm of Ken’s hymns lies in their simplicity and suitability. In the plainest words he asks for just what every Christian feels that he needs, morning and evening, his whole life through. They are the first great English hymns, and are worthy to lead the devotions of the Church.

Ken’s influence upon later poets has been great. Charles Wesley, Keble, and Christopher Wordsworth were, to some extent, inspired by his hymns on the Festivals, whilst Newman desired to add Ken to the Calendar of English saints, and actually prepared a service for use on ‘Ken’s day.’[72]

Archbishop Alexander, himself a poet, preaching in Wells Cathedral at the festival commemorative of the bicentenary of Ken’s consecration, said—


Outside the Psalter, no lines have ever been so familiar to English Christians as Ken’s Morning and Evening Hymn. Other hymns have been more mystical, more impassioned, more imaginative—have perhaps contained profounder thoughts in their depth, have certainly exhibited richer colouring upon their surface. But none are so suitable to the homely pathos and majesty of the English Liturgy; none are so adapted to the character which the English Church has aimed at forming, the sweet reserve, the quiet thoroughness, the penitence which is continuous without being unhopeful. They are lines which the child may repeat without the painful sense that they are beyond him, and the man without the contemptuous sense that they are below him. They appeal to the man in the child, and the child in the man. They are at once a form of devotion, a rule of life, a breath of prayer, a sigh of aspiration. They are the utterances of a heart which had no contempt for earth, but which is at home among the angels. When we listen to them, or repeat them with congenial spirit, in whatever climate we may be, the roses of the English dawn and the gold of the English sunset are in our sky.[73]

Montgomery wrote of Ken’s three hymns that, ‘had he endowed three hospitals, he might have been less a benefactor to posterity.’[74] The importance of his hymns as setting a standard of simplicity and directness can hardly be overstated. Yet it is curious how slowly they won general acceptance. They were not printed in the supplement to the Book of Common Prayer till 1801, and though John Wesley included them in his Psalms and Hymns, 1738, he omitted them from 86 his later publications and from his hymn-book. Dean Plumptre, however, says that both the hymns had appeared in some of the earlier collections of hymns for congregational use by English clergymen between 1750 and 1760. The three hymns are given in the Moravian Hymn-book of 1754.

After Ken the seventeenth century had no sweeter hymn-writer than John Austin (1613-69), who left St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1640, on becoming a Romanist. He wrote two volumes of Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offices. These were ‘a family piece among Catholics,’ and were much used by devout Protestants. The nonjuring Bishop Hickes edited them for Protestant use, and John Wesley included seven of the hymns in his Charlestown hymn-book—a larger number than by any other author except Watts. Austin did not complete his work. ‘Death, for which he had fitted his soul by a well-spent life, interrupted his labours.... When he perceived death immediately seizing its prey, he gave up the ghost with these remarkable words: ... “Now, heartily for heaven, through Jesus Christ!”’[75]

Austin’s hymns are used chiefly outside his own communion,[76] though Romanism has no English hymn-writer to compare with him till the time of Faber. In the Arundel Hymns his verses are attributed to W. Austin (a Protestant contemporary). The following 87 hymn illustrates the similarity of Austin and Faber’s writing. Few readers would guess that one of these four verses was written two centuries after the others.


Jesu! all hail. Who for my sin

Didst die, and by that death didst win

Eternal life for me;

Send me Thy grace, good Lord! that I

Unto the world and flesh may die,

And hide my life with Thee.

Jesu! who on that fatal wood

Poured forth Thy life’s last drop of blood,

Nailed to a shameful cross;

O may we bless Thy love, and be

Ready, dear Lord, to bear for Thee

All grief, all pain, all loss.

Jesu! who by Thine own love slain,

By Thine own power took’st life again,

And from the grave didst rise;

O may Thy death our souls revive,

And at our death a new life give,

The life that never dies.

Jesu! who to Thy heaven again

Returned in triumph, there to reign

Of men and angels King;

O may our parting souls take flight

Up to that land of joy and light,

And there for ever sing.[77]

In this hymn the first verse is from Faber’s series on ‘The Life of our Lord,’[78] and the rest from Austin’s 88 ‘Vespers for our Blessed Saviour.’ Wesley’s selection from the same hymn began with the verse—

Jesu! behold three kings from far,

Led to Thy cradle by a star,

Bring gifts to Thee their King:

O guide us by Thy light, that we

May find Thy favour and to Thee

Ourselves for tribute bring.[79]

Of another hymn which Faber might have written, I give the first two verses—

Sweet Jesu! why, why dost Thou love

Such worthless things as we?

Why is Thy heart still towards us

Who seldom think on Thee?

Thy bounty gives us all we have,

And we Thy gifts abuse:

Thy bounty gives us even Thyself,

And we Thyself refuse.

Austin’s best hymns, however, are, I think, one for Monday morning, which Wesley entitled ‘Universal Praise,’ and the evening hymn, of which some verses will be familiar to most readers.


Hark, my soul! how every thing

Strives to serve our bounteous King:

Each a double tribute pays;

Sings its part, and then obeys.


Nature’s chief and sweetest choir

Him with cheerful notes admire;

Chanting every day their lauds,[80]

While the grove their song applauds.

Though their voices lower be,

Streams have too their melody;

Night and day their warbling run:

Never pause, but still sing on.

All the flowers that gild the spring,

Hither their still music bring:

If Heaven bless them, thankful they,

Smell more sweet, and look more gay.

Only we can scarce afford,

This short office to our Lord:

We, on whom His bounty flows,

All things gives, and nothing owes.

Wake! for shame my sluggish heart;

Wake! and gladly sing thy part:

Learn of birds, and springs, and flowers,

How to use thy nobler powers.

Call whole nature to thy aid,

Since ’twas He whole nature made:

Join in one eternal song,

Who to one God all belong.

Live for ever, glorious Lord!

Live by all Thy works adored:

One in Three, and Three in One,

Thrice we bow to Thee alone.



Lord! now the time returns,

For weary man to rest,

And lay aside those pains and cares

With which our day’s opprest.

Or, rather, change our thoughts

To more concerning cares;

How to redeem our misspent time,

With sighs, and tears, and prayers.

How to provide for heaven,

That place of rest and peace,

Where our full joys shall never fade,

Our pleasures never cease.

Blest be Thy love, dear Lord!

That taught us this sweet way,

Only to love Thee for Thyself,

And for that love obey.

O Thou, our soul’s chief hope!

We to Thy mercy fly,

Where’er we are, Thou canst protect;

Whate’er we need, supply.

Whether we sleep or wake,

To Thee we both resign;

By night we see as well as day,

If Thy light on us shine.

Whether we live or die,

Both we submit to Thee:

In death we live as well as life,

If Thine in death we be.

William Austin (d. 1633) had not the devotional fervour of his younger namesake (he does not seem to have been a relative, though both were of Lincoln’s 91 Inn), but he is among the noteworthy hymn-writers of a time when hymns were few. As his poems are little known, I give a charming little hymn and two verses of a bright Christmas carol—

What a gracious God have we,

In His gifts of grace how free!

How intent our prayers to hear,

And to them that pray how near.

How to balmy mercy prone,

And to kind compassion.

How regardfully He wakes,

For His chosen servants’ sakes.

How He gives them grace to pray,

And then to their suits gives way.

How He prompts each good desire,

And blows up that spark to fire.

He hath set no greater task,

To obtain of Him but ‘Ask!’

No exacter search to find,

But to seek with humble mind.

No more pains heaven to unlock,

But with spotless hands to knock.

Yet He joys to see man press Him,

And to wrestle till He bless him![81]

. . . . .

All this night bright angels sing;

Never was such carolling.

Hark! a voice which loudly cries,

‘Mortals, mortals, wake and rise;

Lo! to gladness,

Turns your sadness;

From the earth is risen a Sun,

Shines all night, though day be done.’


Hail, O Sun! O blessèd Light,

Sent into this world by night;

Let Thy rays and heavenly powers

Shine in these dark souls of ours;

For, most duly,

Thou art truly

God and Man, we do confess;

Hail, O Sun of Righteousness![82]

George Wither (1588-1667), lawyer, soldier, poet, Cavalier, Roundhead, Puritan, Anglican, was a writer of many hymns. He finds a secluded corner in a few modern hymnals; but had there been what we call hymn-books in his day, he would have been a considerable contributor. His hymns are more of the Evangelical than the Puritan type. His songs of the Church form a ‘Christian Year,’ and some of the hymns for Saints’ days are much more original and poetic than those commonly in use. Here are three verses for—


For God doth not a whit respect

Profession, person, or degree;

But maketh choice of His elect

From every sort of men that be,

That none might of His love despair,

But all men unto Him repair.

For those, oh let us therefore pray,

Who seem uncallèd to remain;

Not shunning them, as cast away,

God’s favour never to obtain:

For some awhile neglected are,

To stir in us more loving care.


And for ourselves, let us desire,

That we our avarice may shun;

When God our service shall require,

As this Evangelist hath done,

And spend the remnant of our days

In setting forth our Maker’s praise.

There is nothing in these simple lines of the exquisite beauty of Keble’s poem on St. Matthew’s Day, one verse of which would reconcile the least ecclesiastical of us to the observance of saints’ days—

There are in this loud stunning tide

Of human care and crime,

With whom the melodies abide

Of the everlasting chime;

Who carry music in their heart,

Through dusky lane and wrangling mart;

Plying their daily task with busier feet,

Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.

But as a hymn to be sung in church or to be read in the hour of private devotion, Wither’s lines compare very favourably with those of Bishop Ken,[83] Bishop Wordsworth, and even Dr. Monsell.

Wither’s hymn for Whit Sunday is a very appropriate ‘devotion’ for that festival. Here are four of its six verses—

Exceeding faithful in Thy word,

And just in all Thy ways,

We do acknowledge Thee, O Lord,

And therefore give Thee praise:


For as Thy promise Thou didst pass,

Before Thou went’st away,

Sent down Thy Holy Spirit was,

At His appointed day.

Now, also, Blessed Spirit, come,

Unto our souls appear;

And of Thy graces shower Thou some

On this assembly here:

To us Thy dove-like meekness lend,

That humble we may be,

And on Thy silver wings ascend,

Our Saviour Christ to see.

O let Thy cloven tongues, we pray,

So rest on us again,

That both the truth confess we may

And teach it other men.

Moreover, let Thy heavenly fire,

Inflamèd from above,

Burn up in us each vain desire,

And warm our hearts with love.

Vouchsafe Thou likewise to bestow

On us Thy sacred peace;

We stronger may in union grow,

And in debates decrease;

Which peace, though many yet contemn,

Reformèd let them be;

That we may, Lord, have part in them,

And they have part in Thee.

Other poems in this series are well worth preserving, though perhaps few would find favour with the average congregation. For the most part they run smoothly; the language is that of plain men, and the spirit of the festival finds happy expression in praise or prayer. His Communion hymn is intended to be sung during the 95 administration. It is interesting to find that those who are now adopting this custom are but reviving an ancient order. ‘We have a custom among us,’ he says, ‘that during the time of administering the blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there is some psalm or hymn sung, the better to keep the thoughts of the communicants from wandering after vain objects.’

But the piece which is most easily adapted to modern use is the poem, a paraphrase of Ps. cxlvii., which he prefixed to his Preparation for the Psalter. I give the poem as Wither published it. Mr. Horder and Miss Wood[84] have shown how well it may be adapted to public worship.

Come, O come! in pious lays

Sound we God Almighty’s praise;

Hither bring in one consent,

Heart, and voice, and instrument.

Music add of every kind;

Sound the trump, the cornet wind;

Strike the viol, touch the lute;

Let no tongue nor string be mute;

Nor a creature dumb be found,

That hath either voice or sound.

Come, ye sons of human race,

In this chorus take a place;

And amid the mortal throng,

Be you masters of the song.

Angels, and supernal powers,

Be the noblest tenor yours;

Let in praise of God the sound

Run a never-ending round;

That our song of praise may be

Everlasting as is He.


From earth’s vast and hollow womb,

Music’s deepest bass may come;

Seas and floods, from shore to shore,

Shall their countertenors roar,

To this concert, when we sing,

Whistling winds your descants bring;

That our song may over-climb

All the bounds of place and time,

And ascend from sphere to sphere,

To the great Almighty’s ear.

So, from heaven, on earth He shall

Let His gracious blessings fall:

And this huge wide orb we see,

Shall one choir, one temple be;

Where, in such a praise-full tone

We will sing what He hath done,

That the cursèd fiends below

Shall thereat impatient grow.

Then, O come! in pious lays

Sound we God Almighty’s praise.

Wither has been slow in winning his place among our sacred poets. He was a man of war from his youth, had a perilous gift of sarcasm, and lacked the caution and good sense which were so much needed in his troublous times. He was boycotted by the booksellers, satirized by Butler in Hudibras, by Pope, Dryden, and Swift, and seemed likely to be forgotten, save as the butt of a former age. But Southey, Charles Lamb, Montgomery, Edward Farr, George Macdonald, F. T. Palgrave, Dr. Grosart, among others have recognized his merits. He was a devout man and courageous, for he not only fought on both sides in the Civil War, but with rarer bravery chose to remain in 97 London during the Great Plague, and to render what little help he could to the sufferers in that awful visitation. The king is said to have spared his life at Sir John Denham’s good-naturedly contemptuous entreaty that he (Denham) might not be ‘the worst poet in England’; his contemporaries thought the prison cell a fit cage for the poet, but somehow he joined the lark, and sang at heaven’s gate.[85]

Samuel Crossman, who died in 1683, within a few weeks of his appointment to the Deanery of Bristol, makes up in quality what he lacks in quantity. Of his nine hymns—published in 1660—two or three have won an assured place in the hymn-book of the Church.

My life’s a shade, my days

Apace to death decline.


Sweet place, sweet place alone

The home of God most high.

They are in a minor key, but they speak to the heart of the Christian pilgrim who seeks another country—his true fatherland. His other hymns are seldom met with. I quote one, omitting a verse.



‘If thou knewest the gift of God’ (John iv. 10).

This is the Gift, Thy Gift, O Lord!

The token of Thy dearest love:

The orient jewel of Thy Word;

Sent down my thankfulness to prove.

Great is his gift in all men’s eyes,

Who gives himself, his friend to save:

My Lord does more, for foes He dies,

This Gift no parallel may have.

But Lord! whil’st Thou thus gav’st to Thine

Others arose to vie with Thee:

The world and Satan did combine,

And they would needs a giving be.

Satan, sin’s pleasures offerèd,

And almost forced them upon me:

But while they bloomed, they witherèd,

And Lord! Thy Gift my choice shall be.

Then did the World its gayes present,

And still alluring cried, See, See!

Here’s that may rather give content;

But Lord! Thy Gift my choice shall be.

These cannot give, they’d steal away

From me my heaven, my heart from Thee:

Whate’er they offer, I’ll say nay,

Still Lord! Thy Gift my choice shall be.

Richard Baxter (1615-91) is to Nonconformity what Ken is to Anglicanism. He might have been a bishop if he would, but preferred the rough ways of persecution for conscience’ sake to the pleasant paths 99 of ecclesiastical preferment. He wrote many hymns, and attempted, with as little success as others, a metrical version of the psalms. He is, and will be, known to our hymn-books by the exquisite verses taken from his long poem on the ‘Covenant and Confidence of Faith.’ These verses, beginning

Now it belongs not to my care

Whether I die or live.

are in almost every hymn-book. Another of his hymns, in a brighter tone, is in many collections—

Ye holy angels bright.

The two following are not so well known. They are good in themselves, and very characteristic of their author.

As for my friends, they are not lost:

The several vessels of Thy fleet,

Though parted now, by tempests tost,

Shall safely in the haven meet.

Still we are centred all in Thee;

Members, though distant, of one Head,

In the same family we be,

By the same faith and Spirit led.

Before the throne we daily meet,

As joint petitioners to Thee;

In spirit we each other greet,

And shall again each other see.

The heavenly hosts, world without end,

Shall be my company above;

And Thou, my best, my surest Friend,

Who shall divide me from Thy love?


The three following verses are in Miss Wood’s Hymns for School Worship—a very striking selection of hymns suitable for intelligent young people.

Lord, though Thy Church in this dark world

Do but begin and learn Thy praise,

Accept both it and us through Christ,

Till it and us Thy glory raise.

Here trembling sin resists Thy grace;

Of joy and sorrow we partake:

Our broken hearts and broken peace

Can none but broken music make.

Thy ways to us seem often dark,

Thou crossest human wit and will:

We murmur; but Thou dost Thy work;

That’s wise and good, which we thought ill.

If Austin is the Faber of the seventeenth century, John Mason (d. 1694), whom Baxter called ‘the glory of the Church of England,’ is its Newton. There is in Mason the same childlike simplicity which is the charm of the Olney hymns, with an added quaintness which belongs to the earlier century. He is one of the minor poets of the sanctuary, but in his own time he was amongst the best of the evangelical hymn-writers. Mason was born a Dissenter, but entered the Anglican Church. His friend, Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739), who also wrote some noteworthy hymns, seceded from the Establishment, and was for a few years pastor of the church at Nottingham, where Doddridge subsequently ministered. Of the hymns of these good men, George Macdonald and Mr. Horder 101 express a high opinion, comparing them favourably with those of Dr. Watts. Mr. Horder justly says that Mason would have reached a higher standard had his lot been cast in a ‘hymn-singing age.’

Some of Mason’s verses are too racy for congregational use, e.g. this from ‘A Song of Praise for Health’—

Their earnest cries do pierce the skies,

And shall I silent be?

Lord, were I sick as I am well,

Thou shouldst have heard from me.

The sick have not more cause to pray

Than I to praise my King;

Since nature teaches them to groan

Let grace teach me to sing.

Here is a verse from his ‘Song of Praise for the Birth of Christ’—

The wakeful shepherds near their flocks

Were watching for the morn;

But better news from heaven was brought—

Your Saviour Christ is born.

In Bethlehem the Infant lies,

Within a place obscure;

O little Bethlehem, poor in walls

But rich in furniture!

One of his best hymns, perhaps the very best, is


How shall I sing that Majesty

Which angels do admire?

Let dust in dust and silence lie:

Sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.


Thousands of thousands stand around

Thy throne, O God, most high:

Ten thousand times ten thousand sound

Thy praise; but who am I?

Thy brightness unto them appears,

Whilst I Thy footsteps trace:

A sound of God comes to my ears,

But they behold Thy face:

They sing because Thou art their Sun,

Lord, send a beam on me:

For where heaven is but once begun,

There Hallelujahs be.

Enlighten with faith’s light my heart,

Inflame it with love’s fire,

Then shall I sing and bear a part

With that celestial choir.

I shall, I fear, be dark and cold

With all my fire and light,

Yet when Thou dost accept their gold,

Lord, treasure up my mite.

How good art Thou whose goodness is

Our parent, nurse, and guide:

Whose streams do water Paradise

And all the earth beside!

Thine upper and Thy nether springs

Make both Thy worlds to thrive:

Under Thy warm and sheltering wings

Thou keep’st two broods alive.

Thy arm of might, most Mighty King,

Both rocks and hearts doth break;

My God, Thou canst do everything

But what would shew Thee weak.

Thou canst not cross Thyself, or be

Less than Thyself, or poor;

But whatsoever pleaseth Thee,

That canst Thou do, and more.


Who would not fear Thy searching eye,

Witness to all that’s true?

Dark hell and deep hypocrisy

Lie plain before its view.

Motions and thoughts, before they grow,

Thy knowledge doth espy;

What unborn ages are to do

Is done before Thine eye.

Thy wisdom which both makes and mends

We ever much admire;

Creation all our wit transcends,

Redemption rises higher.

Thy wisdom guides strayed sinners home,

’Twill make the dead world rise,

And bring those prisoners to their doom,

Its paths are mysteries.

Shepherd’s poems were called ‘Penitential Cries,’ and were published with Mason’s Songs of Praise in 1693. His best-known hymn begins

Alas, my God, that we should be

Such strangers to each other!

O that as friends we might agree,

And walk, and talk together!

Most of his hymns have vigour and freshness, but there is generally something which hinders them from becoming hymns of the first class. The following verses are taken from a hymn entitled, ‘Lamenting the Loss of First Love,’ and were probably known to Cowper—

O that my soul was now as fair

As it has sometimes been,

Devoid of that distracting care

Without, and guilt within.


There was a time when I could tread

No circle but of love;

That joyous morning now is fled,

How heavily I move!

Unhappy soul, that thou should’st force

Thy Saviour to depart,

When He was pleasèd with so coarse

A lodging in thy heart!

How sweetly I enjoyed my God!

With how divine a frame!

I thought, on every plant I trod

I read my Saviour’s name.

O might those days return again,

How welcome they should be!

Shall my petition be in vain,

Since grace is ever free?

Lord of my soul, return, return,

To chase away this night;

Let not Thine anger ever burn;

God once was my delight.

Other hymn-writers of this period are almost or entirely unknown to modern hymnals. One or two names may, however, be mentioned. Matthew Henry wrote a number of ‘family hymns’; Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) not only wrote hymns by the hundred, but published a defence of congregational singing under the title—The Breach repaired in God’s Worship.

William Barton may be taken as a fair example of the poorer hymn-writers of the time. There is little to choose between the best and the worst of his Six Centuries of Hymns. The work was dedicated to Sir Matthew Hale, who had spoken a good word for the 105 hymns to the Mayor and Aldermen of Leicester, in which town Barton had been minister of St. Martin’s Church. Led by Dr. Julian’s statement that these hymns ‘deserve more attention from compilers than they have hitherto received,’ I have searched them diligently, but in vain. I am most impressed that such dull productions could ever have been popular.

There is, indeed, something very pathetic in the author’s evident satisfaction with his work and in his son’s pride in his father’s ‘pious and laborious undertaking,’ which he was led to attempt, ‘finding that the ancient usage of our speech in Sternhold and Hopkins’s translation was become obsoletely contemptuous to many people of this age.’ This filial editor believed that the hymn-book ‘would sufficiently manifest its excellency in the perusal,’ a belief which the extensive circulation of its many editions may be taken to justify. Barton’s first book, his version of the Psalms, was published in 1644, and the last edition was printed in 1768. During a great part of that period it was probably the standard psalter of the Nonconformist congregations. His hymns are usually brief, and he was careful to use familiar metres, having a special weakness for ‘delicate and expeditious tunes.’ His psalms and hymns owed their long life to the poverty of rivals, but one cannot be surprised that Enoch Watts, in urging his brother ‘to oblige the world by showing it your hymns in print,’ should say that ‘honest Barton chimes us asleep.’


The following verses are a fair specimen—

My Saviour, my Beloved One,

Is mine and I am His;

Chief of ten thousand He alone,

Pure red and white He is.

Made sin for us that knew no sin,

That so we might be made

The righteousness of God in Him,

By whom the price was paid.

Stronger than death His love is found.

Not to be bought with goods:

Nor quenched with waters, nor be drowned

With whatsoever floods.

O draw me, my dear Saviour,

With these strong cords of love,

And then will we go after Thee

As fast as we can move.[86]

Although the seventeenth century is poor in hymn-writers, we find some grand and beautiful hymns written by poets and men of letters. There is, for instance, Sir Thomas Browne’s evening hymn, of which he says, ‘This is the dormitive I take to bedward: I need no other laudanum than this to make me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the sun, and sleep unto the resurrection.’[87]


The night is come, like to the day;

Depart not Thou, great God away.

Let not my sins, black as the night,

Eclipse the lustre of Thy light.

Keep still in my horizon; for to me

The sun makes not the day, but Thee.

Thou whose nature cannot sleep,

On my temples sentry keep;

Guard me ’gainst those watchful foes,

Whose eyes are open while mine close.

Let no dreams my head infest,

But such as Jacob’s temples blest.

While I do rest, my soul advance:

Make my sleep a holy trance;

That I may, my rest being wrought,

Awake into some holy thought,

And with as active vigour run

My course as doth the nimble sun.

Sleep is a death—O make me try

By sleeping, what it is to die!

And as gently lay my head

On my grave, as now my bed.

Howe’er I rest, great God, let me

Awake again at last with Thee.

And thus assured, behold I lie

Securely, or to wake or die.

These are my drowsy days; in vain

I do not wake to sleep again:

O come that hour, when I shall never

Sleep again, but wake for ever!

Another great name is that of John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s, and friend of James I, who wrote one of the truest and most affecting hymns of that or any other century. If its form prevents its being sung in 108 modern congregations, it is at least one of those spiritual songs which we should preserve for the hour of private devotion.


Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,

Which was my sin, though it were done before?

Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,

And do run still, though still I do deplore?

When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,

For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won

Others to sin, and made my sin their door?

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun

A year or two, but wallowed in a score?

When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,

For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son

Shall shine as He shines now, and heretofore;

And, having done that, Thou hast done;

I fear no more.

‘I have the rather mentioned this hymn,’ says Izaak Walton, ‘for that he caused it to be set to a most grave and solemn tune, and to be often sung to the organ by the choristers of St. Paul’s Church in his own hearing; especially at the evening service, and at his return from his customary devotions in that place, did occasionally say to a friend: “The words of this hymn have restored to me the same thoughts of joy that possessed my soul in my sickness when I composed it. And, O, the power of Church music! that harmony added to this hymn has raised the affections of my heart and quickened my graces of zeal and gratitude; 109 and I observe that I always return from paying this public duty of prayer and praise to God, with an unexpressible tranquillity of mind, and a willingness to leave the world.”’

Ben Jonson’s lovely Christmas hymn is to be found in a few hymn-books to-day. Is it too much to hope that it may yet become a familiar carol of the Nativity?

I sing the Birth was born to-night,

The Author both of life and light;

The angels so did sound it:—

And like the ravished shepherds said,

Who saw the light, and were afraid,

Yet searched, and true they found it.

The Son of God, the eternal King,

That did us all salvation bring,

And freed the soul from danger;

He whom the whole world could not take,

The Word, which heaven and earth did make,

Was now laid in a manger.

What comfort by Him do we win,

Who made Himself the price of sin,

To make us heirs of glory!

To see this Babe, all innocence,

A martyr born in our defence!—

Can man forget this story?

Robert Herrick’s (1591-1674) quaint ‘Litany to the Holy Spirit’ yields a few verses to some of our best modern collections, but his irrepressible humour makes several verses impossible, and his references to ‘furies in a shole,’ to ‘flames and hellish cares,’ shut out others. In his Noble Numbers are many fine verses and epigrams, but he is not a hymn-writer.


George Herbert (1593-1632) did not write hymns to be sung in church, though his ‘Antiphon’ and ‘The Elixir’ are, for love of their author, found in many modern hymn-books, and ‘Praise’ is also beautifully possible as a hymn. Yet his loveliest poems cannot be adapted to congregational use. He is the greatest of the poets of the sanctuary, but he is not a chorister. John Wesley and George Rawson tried to make Herbert’s poems into hymns, but with no great success—though in one or two instances Wesley came near it.[88] In any collection of religious poetry for use in the hour of private devotion, Herbert would rank among the chief contributors, and it is well that he should be represented in our hymn-books, if only that he may be remembered and honoured by our children.[89] He is the chief singer of a school of poets in which Henry Vaughan and Christina Rossetti are distinguished and worthy disciples.

I give three of Herbert’s poems. The first because it is an ideal example of his quaint but exquisite pathos, and of his gracious, humble, affectionate devotion to his Lord; the others because they are the most hymn-like of his poems.



Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my Dear,

I cannot look on Thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes, but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My Dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.


King of Glory, King of Peace,

I will love Thee:

And that love may never cease,

I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request,

Thou hast heard me:

Thou didst note my working breast,

Thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art

I will sing Thee,

And the cream of all my heart

I will bring Thee.


Though my sins against me cried,

Thou didst clear me;

And alone, when they replied,

Thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in seven,

I will praise Thee.

In my heart, though not in heaven,

I can raise Thee.

Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears,

Thou relentedst:

And when Justice called for fears,

Thou dissentedst.

Small it is, in this poor sort

To enrol Thee:

Even eternity’s too short

To extol Thee.


Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:

Such a Way, as gives us breath:

Such a Truth, as ends all strife:

Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:

Such a Light, as shows a feast:

Such a Feast, as mends in length:

Such a Strength, as makes His guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:

Such a Joy, as none can move:

Such a Love, as none can part:

Such a Heart, as joys in love.

After Herbert comes Henry Vaughan (1621-95), ‘the Silurist,’ or South Wales man, who says that his 113 master was ‘the blessed man, Mr. George Herbert, whose holy life and verse gained many pious converts, of whom I am the least.’ Vaughan had his devoted admirers, but his verse never attained anything approaching to the popularity of Herbert’s. It was long the fashion to ignore or disparage him, and it was not till Henry Francis Lyte republished his Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations, with a brief memoir, that he came to his rightful place amongst the minor, but not to be forgotten, poets of the seventeenth century. He was a mystic, and had visions Blake might have envied.

I saw Eternity the other night,

Like a great ring of pure and endless light,

All calm as it was bright:

And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,

Driven by the spheres,

Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world

And all her train were hurled.

Vaughan’s songs have the marks of the true Christian poet—intense devotion to Christ, humility, ecstasy. His best-known hymns are—‘My soul, there is a country,’ and ‘Up to those bright and gladsome hills’ (Ps. cxxi.). I give one less often quoted. Vaughan’s title is


King of Mercy, King of Love,

In whom I live, in whom I move,

Perfect what Thou has begun,

Let no night put out this Sun.


Grant I may, my chief desire,

Long for Thee, to Thee aspire.

Let my youth, my bloom of days,

Be my comfort, and Thy praise;

That hereafter, when I look

O’er the sullied, sinful book,

I may find Thy hand therein

Wiping out my shame and sin.

O! it is Thy only art

To reduce a stubborn heart:

And since Thine is victory,

Strongholds should belong to Thee.

Lord, then take it, leave it not

Unto my dispose or lot;

But since I would not have it mine,

O my God, let it be Thine.

The following for Trinity Sunday is very bold—

O holy, blessed, glorious Three,

Eternal witnesses that be

In heaven, One God in Trinity!

As here on earth, when men withstood,

The Spirit, Water, and the Blood,

Made my Lord’s Incarnation good:

So let the antitypes in me

Elected, bought, and sealed for free,

Be owned, saved, sainted by You Three!

Herbert and Vaughan were in the seventeenth century what Heber and Keble were in the nineteenth.

They set the tone of the Church of England, and they revealed with no inefficient or temporary effect to the 115 uncultured and the unlearned the true refinement of worship. They united delicacy of taste in the choice of ornament and of music with culture of expression and of reserve, and they showed that this was not incompatible with devoted work and life.[90]

Henry More (1614-87) ‘the Platonist,’ whom Professor Palgrave calls ‘the most interesting figure among our poetical mystics,’ owes his place in our hymn-books to John Wesley, who made from one of More’s ‘Divine Hymns’ two numbers in his Collection

Father, if justly still we claim,

and a fine missionary hymn

On all the earth Thy Spirit shower,

The earth in righteousness renew,

Thy kingdom come and hell’s o’erpower,

And to Thy sceptre all subdue.

John Norris (1657-1711), who succeeded—sixty years intervening—George Herbert as Parson of Bemerton, was a Platonist of the school of More, for whom he had unbounded admiration, saying

Others in learning’s chorus bear their part,

And the great work distinctly share:

Thou our great catholic professor art,

All science is annexed to thy unerring chair.

John Wesley and Dr. Martineau tried to make Norris’s poems available for congregational use, and 116 his name is linked with those of Ken and Mason in the preface to the Moravian book of 1754, but he can never take a place among hymn-writers.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1613-67) wrote a number of hymns, most of them being published in his Golden Grove, but they are unsuited for congregational use. His ‘Advent Hymn’ has, however, been adapted with admirable skill, and has a place in many hymnals. It is perhaps as good a specimen of this kind of ‘translation’ as can be found. I give Taylor’s original first, and afterwards the version of the Sarum Hymnal, which is said to have been made by Earl Nelson. There is another good version in the Leeds Hymn-book, which has been adopted by Mr. Horder and others.


Lord, come away,

Why dost Thou stay?

Thy road is ready: and Thy paths, made strait,

With longing expectation wait

The consecration of Thy beauteous feet.

Ride on triumphantly; behold we lay

Our lusts and proud wills in Thy way.

Hosanna! welcome to our hearts. Lord, here

Thou hast a temple too, and full as dear

As that of Sion; and as full of sin;

Nothing but thieves and robbers dwell therein,

Enter, and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor;

Crucify them, that they may never more

Profane that holy place,

Where Thou hast chose to set Thy face.


And then if our stiff tongues shall be

Mute in the praises of Thy Deity,

The stones out of the temple wall

Shall cry aloud, and call

Hosanna! and Thy glorious footsteps greet.

. . . . .

Draw nigh to Thy Jerusalem, O Lord,

Thy faithful people cry with one accord:

Ride on triumphantly! Behold we lay

Our passions, lusts, and proud wills in Thy way!

Thy road is ready; and Thy paths, made straight,

With longing expectation seem to wait

The consecration of Thy beauteous feet,

And silently Thy promised advent greet!

Hosanna! Welcome to our hearts! for here

Thou hast a temple too, as Sion dear;

Yes, dear as Sion, and as full of sin:

Nothing but thieves and robbers dwell therein.

Enter and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor!

O’erthrow them all, that they may never more

Profane, with traffic vile, that holy place,

Where Thou hast chosen, Lord, to set Thy face.

And then, if our stiff tongues shall faithlessly

Be mute in praises of Thy Deity,

The very temple stones shall loud repeat

Hosanna! and Thy glorious footsteps greet!

Near the end of the seventeenth century the New Version of the Psalms appeared, under royal and episcopal sanction, and began at once to supplant the Old Version. The authors were both Irishmen. Nahum Tate (1652-1715) was a very minor poet, who 118 became Laureate in 1690. Nicholas Brady (1659-1726) was, like Charles Wesley, a scholar of Westminster and student of Christ Church. He entered the Church in Ireland, but in later life held various livings in England, being at one time Vicar of Stratford-on-Avon. The New Version was published in 1696.

Many attempts had been made to depose the Old Version from its supreme position as the hymn-book of the English Church, and some by men of much greater gifts than Sternhold, Hopkins, or any of their fellows. But the innate conservatism of Englishmen, and especially of English Churchmen, gave the Old Version a long life. Moreover, no version was sufficiently superior to it to win wide approval until Tate and Brady produced the New Version and secured royal ‘permission’ for its use in churches. Without this ‘permission’ it would probably never have dislodged the Old Version, though it owes something to intrinsic merit. Compared with the great hymn-writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Tate and Brady are, as a rule, dull, pretentious, diffuse; but as compared with their predecessors and the vast majority of their successors, their version deserves more consideration than it usually receives. Even in our own day there are more of their psalms in our best hymn-books than there are of Keble’s. It is unfortunate that neither of the authors was a man for whom it is possible to feel any great regard, or in whom one can take an interest.


To say nothing of

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,

what Church would willingly give up

As pants the hart for cooling streams,


Through all the changing scenes of life?

There is about such songs a gracious simplicity worthy of John Newton, who might well have written—

O make but trial of His love,

Experience will decide.

How blessed they are, and only they,

Who in His truth confide.


Extend to me that favour, Lord,

Thou to Thy chosen dost afford:

When Thou return’st to set them free,

Let Thy salvation visit me.

O may I worthy prove to see

Thy saints in full prosperity;

That I the joyful choir may join,

And count Thy people’s triumph mine.

Dr. Watts and the Wesleys did not scruple to borrow from the New Version, and Watts, with characteristic modesty, is content to yield them ‘the preference of’ their ‘poesy’ in some of their compositions.

Whatever its intrinsic merit or demerit, the New Version rendered an important service in breaking the 120 monopoly enjoyed by the Old Version, and thus preparing the way for a larger view of Christian psalmody.

One condemned to tread the waste of metrical Psalters will consider it an advance on its predecessors, suffering more from its own success than comparison with them.... They asserted successfully, and with an emphasis scarcely known before, literary and poetical excellence (according to their light) as a principle of translation, and the precedent thus set was seldom ignored afterwards.[91]

Tate, being Laureate, naturally considered the state occasions on which psalms were to be used. The sentiments, at least, of his version of Ps. cl., which is appointed for the day of the Sovereign’s accession, are excellent.

The private slanderer shall be

In public justice doomed by me.

From haughty looks I’ll turn aside,

And mortify the heart of pride.

But honesty, called from her cell

In splendour at my court shall dwell.

Who virtue’s practice make their care,

Shall have the first preferments there.

No politics shall recommend

His country’s foe to be my friend:

None e’er shall to my favour rise

By flattering or malicious lies.

All those who wicked courses take,

An early sacrifice I’ll make;

Cut off, destroy, till none remain

God’s holy city to profane.


With the publication of the New Version a new era began. It was to be the last ‘authorized’ metrical version. Hymns of the modern type were beginning to be known, and soon there would be hymns in abundance.[92]


Eighteenth-century Hymns

I.—The School of Watts

The greater sacred poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries spoke, for the most part, to themselves and to God; their hymns are of the study and the oratory. But with the eighteenth century a new era began. Its chief hymn-writers were ministers of religion, accustomed to offer prayer and praise, not only for themselves, but for the people. Their hymns were for the congregation and the religious society. They were written with the distinct intention of providing for common need; and in the Nonconformist Churches hymns supplied the place of the rejected liturgy, enabling the congregation to unite in praise and prayer.

The earlier centuries give us many rich devotional poems, few of which are entirely suited to the public worship of our time. But we now reach, what George Macdonald calls, ‘the zone of hymn-writing,’ and are embarrassed by the plenteousness of the stores available for use in the service of the sanctuary. Moreover, by this time modern English has become 123 fairly established, and there are few archaic expressions to distract the unlearned.

Whatever may be said of the metrical Psalters, no one can doubt that we are in an ampler, purer air when we listen to Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Brighter days were dawning for the religious life of England, and especially for the Nonconformists. Yet as a babe Isaac Watts was nursed by his mother as she sat on a stone near the door of the prison where his father was confined for conscience’ sake. But by the time he was a man the sky had cleared, and there is little in his hymns to recall the times of trouble except the version of Ps. lxxv., ‘applied to the glorious revolution by King William or the happy accession of King George to the throne,’ in which these verses occur—

Britain was doomed to be a slave;

Her frame dissolved, her fears were great,

When God a new supporter gave,

To hear the pillars of the State.

No vain pretence to royal birth,

Shall fix a tyrant on the throne;

God, the great Sovereign of the earth,

Will rise and make His justice known.

His own life was happy, and its story is singularly attractive. His feeble health saved him from many a rough conflict, and called forth the affectionate hospitality of Sir Thomas and Lady Abney. It was seemly that the non-juring Bishop Ken should find a home with a peer of the realm at Longleat, but 124 Dr. Watts found an even more congenial refuge at Theobalds and at Abney Park. There are few pleasanter stories than that of Lady Huntingdon’s calling upon Dr. Watts, when he said to her, ‘Madam, you have come to see me on a very remarkable day. This day thirty years I came hither to the house of my good friend, Sir Thomas, intending to spend but a week under his hospitable roof, and I have extended my visit to thirty long years.’ ‘Sir,’ said his gracious hostess, Lady Abney, ‘what you term a long thirty years’ visit, I consider as the shortest visit my family ever received.’

If the world had dealt a little less kindly with the poet, it might have been all the better for his poetry, which lacks the vigour, the martial music, the glorious enthusiasm of Luther and of Charles Wesley. He was, it is true, not without at least one coarse and bitter adversary—Thomas Bradbury, a Nonconformist minister of some fame and more notoriety; who seems, without any special reason, to have regarded Dr. Watts as a suitable mark for his vehement and vulgar abuse. He sneeringly forbade ‘Watts’s whims[93] to be sung in his congregation, and charged the saintly poet with ‘burlesquing’ the poetry of the most High God. He led, if he did not initiate, the charge of Arianism. Had Watts been as ready for a theological fray as 125 John Wesley, or even John Fletcher, Bradbury would have had judgement without mercy. But Watts’s letters in reply to these reiterated accusations are models of Christian controversy, or rather of Christian remonstrance. Their last encounter was at a meeting where Watts’s feebleness made it difficult for him to make himself heard. ‘Shall I speak for you, Brother Watts?’ asked Bradbury. ‘Well, you have often spoken against me,’ was the gently sarcastic reply.

Bradbury’s malice can have done Watts little real harm, except that of establishing the suspicion in a good many minds that he leaned to Unitarianism—a charge which has been repeated to our own day. The mild and colourless character of many of Watts’s hymns made them favourites with Unitarian editors of a former time; but the author of

Not all the blood of beasts

On Jewish altars slain,

and of

When I survey the wondrous Cross,

is not to be claimed as Arian, Unitarian, or anything other than an evangelical believer.

Our concern is with Watts as a hymn-writer rather than as a theologian. He was the first man, able to write good hymns, who set himself seriously to secure freedom in worship. In the meeting-house at Southampton he wearied of the dull and halting verse of Barton, and was not slow to accept his father’s challenge to write something better. If tradition may be relied 126 on, his first hymn, written during the week and sung on the following Sunday, was that which he placed first in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, with the title:


(Rev. v. 6, 8, 9-12.)

Behold the glories of the Lamb,

Amidst His Father’s throne:

Prepare new honours for His Name,

And songs before unknown.

Let elders worship at His feet,

The Church adore around,

With vials full of odours sweet,

And harps of sweeter sound.

Those are the prayers of the saints,

And these the hymns they raise:

Jesus is kind to our complaints,

He loves to hear our praise.

Eternal Father, who shall look

Into Thy secret will?

Who but the Son shall take that book

And open every seal?

He shall fulfil Thy great decrees,

The Son deserves it well;

Lo, in His hand the sovereign keys

Of heaven, and death, and hell.

Now to the Lamb that once was slain,

Be endless blessings paid;

Salvation, glory, joy remain

For ever on Thy head.

This is far from being one of Watts’s best hymns, but it is vastly better than Barton’s best.


It is characteristic of Dr. Watts that in the preface to his Psalms he speaks courteously of his predecessors in the attempt to adapt the Psalms to modern use. He praises Sir John Denham, Luke Milbourne, Tate and Brady, and, most of all, Dr. Patrick, whose ‘chief excellency,’ he thought, was that ‘he departed further from the inspired words of Scripture’ than others had done. Watts’s hymns were published ten or twelve years before the Psalms, and in his preface he delivers a vigorous apology for what he felt to be a bold venture, but pays no compliment to predecessors. He could not say, like John Wesley, that but a small part were of his own composing, yet even his extreme modesty does not prevent his showing a quiet and most just confidence in his work as compared with what had been hitherto available. His picture of the public worship of his day may comfort us in regard to the attractiveness of modern services. He says—

While we sing the praises of our God in His Church, we are employed in that part of worship which of all others is the nearest akin to heaven, and it is pity that this, of all others, should be performed the worst upon earth. The gospel brings us nearer to the heavenly state than all the former dispensations of God amongst men. And in these last days of the gospel we are brought almost within sight of the kingdom of our Lord; yet we are very much unacquainted with the songs of the New Jerusalem, and unpractised in the work of praise. To see the dull indifference, the negligent and the thoughtless air, that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is on their lips, might tempt even a charitable observer to suspect 128 the fervency of inward religion; and it is much to be feared that the minds of most of the worshippers are absent or unconcerned. Perhaps the modes of preaching, in the best churches, still want some degrees of reformation; nor are the methods of prayer so perfect as to stand in need of no correction or improvement. But of all our religious solemnities, psalmody is the most unhappily managed. That very action which should elevate us to the most delightful and divine sensations, doth not only flatten our devotion, but too often awakes our regret, and touches all the springs of uneasiness within us.

He goes on to protest that it was ‘far from’ his ‘thoughts to lay aside the book of Psalms in public worship,’ which ‘is the most noble, most devotional and divine collection of poesy.’ At the same time he says—

It must be acknowledged still that there are a thousand lines in it which were not made for a Church in our days to assume as its own. There are also many deficiencies of light and glory which our Lord Jesus and His apostles have supplied in the writings of the New Testament. And with this advantage I have composed these spiritual songs, which are now presented to the world. Nor is the attempt vain-glorious or presuming, for, in respect of clear evangelical knowledge, The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than all the Jewish prophets.

Such a defence of Christian hymns is superfluous to-day, but it took many long years to convince the Churches that ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’ was more suitable for use in Christian worship than Ps. cix.


When Watts’s victory was achieved it was only too complete. In the congregations of his own denomination it was counted almost an impiety to sing anything but his psalms and hymns. This extravagant and narrow loyalty to Watts naturally placed the Dissenting congregations at a great disadvantage—far greater than that which the Methodist societies suffered through the too exclusive use of Wesley’s hymns. The idea that one man can write the hymns of any Church or congregation is long since exploded; indeed, we go further, claiming that a good hymn belongs to Christendom. We do not ask what a man’s ‘denomination’ is before giving him a place in our hymn-books. Only the Romanists, and some of them faint-heartedly, now demand that the writer and the singer must belong to the same communion.

Watts has been at once unduly lauded and unduly depreciated. Keble spoke of him as ‘no poet,’ and this may be true of his ‘poems,’ but his greater hymns could only have been written by a poet of no mean order. Montgomery puts the case more justly when he calls Watts ‘one of the least of the poets of his country,’ but ‘the greatest name among hymn-writers.’[94] Professor Palgrave does Watts full justice—

His views as an Independent were modified and enlarged by his sweet, devout temper—may we not add, by his gift in poetry? And ‘every Christian Church,’ as 130 Dr. Johnson finely remarked, ‘would rejoice to have adopted’ one so fervently devout, so faithful to his duty—we may add, so much more truly gifted by nature as a poet than common Fame has recognized. As with C. Wesley and other good men, fluency, want of taste and finish, the sacrifice, in a word, of art to direct usefulness, have probably lost them those honours in literature to which they were born. But they have their reward.[95]

The sacrifice of art to usefulness was much more deliberate in the case of Watts than of Wesley. Charles Wesley often wrote in haste, with the rush and glow of a present inspiration, with thoughts that must find expression, and which it was easier to utter in poetry than in prose. Watts designed his hymns for the service of the house of God, and had ever before him the dull man in the pew and the tiresome man in the singing gallery. ‘I have seldom,’ he explained, ‘permitted a stop in the middle of a line, and seldom left the end of a line without one; to comport with the unhappy mixture of reading and singing, which cannot presently be reformed.’ ‘The metaphors,’ he continues, ‘are generally sunk to the level of vulgar capacities. If the verse appears so gentle and flowing as to incur the censure of feebleness, I may honestly affirm that sometimes it cost me labour to make it so. Some of the beauties of poesy are neglected, and some wilfully defaced.’ Finally, he describes his work as ‘an attempt for the reformation of psalmody amongst the Churches.’ 131 In estimating Watts’s contribution to the hymn-book of the modern Church, this service must be gratefully recognized. It may seem to us that he stooped too much ‘to the level of vulgar capacities,’ but in this he had to consider what men were able to bear; and we must remember that even those of his hymns which were to perish in the using had their share in preparing the way for the ‘nobler, sweeter song’ in which the Church praises her Lord to-day.

When the Independent Churches began to seek a wider range of choice than Watts could afford, they proceeded by way of supplement, as the Methodists did until 1903. Dr. Thomas Gibbons, Watts’s affectionate but ponderous biographer,[96] issued one in 1769, and others followed in fairly rapid succession, amongst their editors being George Burder, Dr. Bengo Collyer, and finally Josiah Conder, whose book was prepared in 1833 under the direction of the Congregational Union.[97] When at length the Congregationalists began to compile completely new books, Watts naturally still exercised a preponderating influence—as in the excellent Leeds Hymn-book of 1853. But each successive 132 official or unofficial publication emanating from the Congregational Churches has been marked by a great reduction in the number of Watts’s hymns, so that the present Congregational Church Hymnal contains fewer hymns by Watts than were included by Dr. Martineau in his Hymns for the Church and Home. If we turn to the hymn-books of other Churches, the reduction in the number of hymns by Dr. Watts is even more striking; e.g. the Church Hymnary (Presbyterian) gives only nine, and Church Hymns only fourteen.

At present it would seem as though Dr. Watts were more honoured in the Methodist Churches than among his own people, the Methodist and the Primitive Methodist each giving a larger number of his pieces than either the Congregational or Baptist hymn-books. Probably the number of Watts’s hymns in common use will be further reduced. Some inferior compositions still hold their place. They are survivals of a time when the Church’s hymn-book was vastly poorer than it is to-day. But when the lowest point is touched, there must ever remain a number of imperishable hymns which will be sung in the Church of Christ as long as it is militant here on earth.

Watts’s hymns were greatly helped in public favour by the publication of his Psalms in 1719. The Dissenting Churches, for the most part, soon agreed with his own judgement that the two books were ‘such a sufficient provision for psalmody as to answer most 133 occasions of the Christian’s life.’ Long use had made psalm-singing as a distinct part of the service essential, and it was many years before the Dissenting Churches cared for a hymn-book which did not make the distinction between psalms and hymns. The place of honour, or at least of precedence, was given to the Psalms, and as far as possible every psalm was paraphrased.

Watts’s preface to The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Applied to the Christian State and Worship is a vigorous manifesto, and it may well have seemed to some men as audacious as many readers find Wesley’s famous preface. His chief contention was that Jewish psalms must be translated, paraphrased, or, to use his own word, ‘imitated’ in Christian language before they are fit for use in Christian worship. He specially emphasizes the small number of psalms sung at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and, gaining courage as he writes, adds, ‘Though, to speak my own sense freely, I do not think David ever wrote a psalm of sufficient glory and sweetness to represent the blessings of this holy institution.’

Acting upon this conviction Watts boldly departed from the ideal of most of those who have paraphrased the Psalter.

In all places I have kept my grand design in view, and that is, to teach my author to speak like a Christian.... I have chosen rather to imitate than translate, and thus to compose a psalm-book for Christians, after the manner of 134 the Jewish Psalter.... I have not been so curious and exact in striving everywhere to express the ancient sense and meaning of David, but have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done, had he lived in the days of Christianity.[98]

Not only does common sense confirm Watts’s general principle; his own success, partial though it was, justified the new departure, and from his day to ours the most useful and the most poetic versions of Psalms are those which ‘teach the author to speak like a Christian.’ Yet, if a psalm could be dealt with from the Old Testament standpoint without inappropriateness to Christian worship, Watts preferred to retain the original idea. Thus in all his versions of the 23rd Psalm he makes no reference to the Good Shepherd of the New Testament. His best version—and it is very good—is as suitable for the synagogue as the meeting-house.

My Shepherd will supply my need;

Jehovah is His Name;

In pastures fresh He makes me feed,

Beside the living stream.

The Methodist Hymn-book omits the last verse, which is given in most other collections—


There would I find a settled rest,

While others go and come;

No more a stranger or a guest,

But like a child at home.

It is a beautiful paraphrase of ‘Thy house for ever.’ He felt, however, that his experiment was so novel and so likely to provoke adverse criticism, that he continually explained or defended his versions in notes appended to the psalms, which form a sort of running commentary.

Watts’s Psalms mark the passage from psalm-singing to hymn-singing. Slowly but surely the distinction disappears from modern hymn-books, and psalm-versions take their place amongst ‘hymns.’ This was not Watts’s design, but it is a part of the success of his enterprise. If to-day we had to make choice of any one metrical version of the Psalter for use in Christian worship, it would be impossible to find anything better than Watts’s. Indeed, if feeble ‘aliters’ (to use Barton’s phrase) and poor verses were omitted, the result would show how near he came to achieving success.

It is difficult to overstate the service rendered to the worship of the Christian Church by Dr. Watts. As Lord Selborne says, ‘He was the first to understand the nature of the want,’ and he ‘led the way in providing for it.’ Yet it is easy to quote poor verses, to find lines that are intolerably flat. His rhymes are often either discordant in the extreme or lacking altogether. Sometimes he is too colloquial, as in


Well, the Redeemer’s gone

To appear before our God.

Perhaps no hymn-writer needs editing so much as Watts, and certainly none has been edited more skilfully. Not a few of his hymns owe their place in our hymnals to the judicious way in which they have been ‘improved.’ We cannot dispute Dr. Johnson’s criticism

The rhymes are not always sufficiently correspondent.... His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of sprightliness and vigour?[99]

Hymn-writers are in a special degree affected by their surroundings. There is an open-air life in many of the psalms attributed to David which is lacking in those—e.g. the cxix.—which belong to a more formal age. Watts was a student, a scholar, a recluse, an invalid, who yet came into frequent contact with the Church life of the Independents. He could not be coarse or fantastic, and he both consciously and conscientiously condescended to men of low estate. The sacrifice of his own taste to that of the unlearned reader was part of his offering to the Lord, and it did not cost him nothing. The pity of it is that he misjudged and under-estimated the intelligence of those who would use his hymns. It is but just to bear his self-imposed limitation in mind, yet 137 it must also be allowed that, like many a far greater poet—Wordsworth, for example—he did not know which were the superior and which the inferior pieces. He believed his Lyrics to be his best poetical work, and possibly this may have been the judgement of his friendly contemporaries; but the severer taste of later times has forgotten the Lyrics while treasuring the hymns.

Watts seldom writes without a consciousness of the congregation for whose use he intended his hymns. The story—probably true—that he undertook to write one every week for the Independent Chapel at Southampton explains the character of very many of them, and accounts at once for their strength and weakness. On the one hand, he avoided the tiresome verbosity of Tate and Brady and the halting rhythm of Barton and, on the other, he abstained from the ‘conceits’ which are the charm of Herbert and Vaughan, but which make many a lovely poem impossible as a hymn. The ease and simplicity of his best hymns, which no hymn-writer surpasses and few have attained, endeared them to ‘men of heart sincere,’ alike among the unlearned and ignorant and among men of culture. He has that sweet, plaintive undertone of perplexity concerning the mysteries of life and death which touches all thoughtful souls, and is so true to the inner life of one whose many infirmities made him die daily. He had in large measure the rich indwelling of the word of God without which a man may write hymns, 138 but can never be one of God’s great singers. His hymns are full of scriptural phrases, though less so than those of Charles Wesley, and he has many happy and instructive applications of passages both from the Old and New Testament. Take, for instance, one of his sacramental hymns, in which he uses the parable of the Great Supper as a type of the Supper of the Lord—an application singularly appropriate, though not often made.[100]

How rich are Thy provisions, Lord,

Thy table furnished from above;

The fruits of life o’erspread the board,

The cup o’erflows with heavenly love.

We are the poor, the blind, the lame,

And help was far and death was nigh;

But at the gospel-call we came,

And every want received supply.

From the highway that leads to hell,

From paths of darkness and despair,

Lord, we are come with Thee to dwell,

Glad to enjoy Thy presence here.

It cost Him death to save our lives,

To buy our souls it cost His own,

And all the unknown joys He gives,

Were bought with agonies unknown.[101]


The ‘sacramentarian’ element is naturally absent from Watts’s twenty-five hymns ‘prepared for the holy ordinance of the Lord’s Supper,’ which are, with a few exceptions, much less solemn and impressive than those of Wesley. Two have, however, a permanent place among our Communion hymns. The seventh of the series, ‘Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ’—

When I survey the wondrous Cross

is so great a hymn, and consecrated by so many hallowed associations, that comment is superfluous and criticism impertinent. The third, ‘The New Testament in the Blood of Christ, or The New Covenant Sealed,’ is absent from the chief hymnals to-day with the exception of the Methodist, to which it was added in 1830. It begins—

‘The promise of my Father’s love

Shall stand for ever good,’

He said; and gave His soul to death,

And sealed the grace with blood.

Watts wrote no great festival hymns to be compared with ‘Hark! how all the welkin rings,’ or ‘Hail the day that sees Him rise.’ His best work is found in his hymns and spiritual songs, some of which are among the most spiritual and most scriptural ever written. The tone of triumph is comparatively rare, though now and again, as in ‘Join all the glorious names,’ he rises as high as ever Charles Wesley rose in his hymns for 140 ‘Believers rejoicing.’ Such are, ‘My God, the spring of all my joys’; ‘Come, we that love the Lord’; ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’; ‘Come, let us join our cheerful songs.’

To Dr. Watts, with his delicate health and protracted sicknesses, songs in a minor key were peculiarly suitable, and some of his most precious hymns are those which speak of the life to come. He seldom writes of death as Wesley does, and such a line as

Ah, lovely appearance of death

would have been impossible to him; but no Christian poet has touched the sorrows of our hearts more tenderly or comforted the bereaved more wisely than he has done in such a hymn as

Give me the wings of faith to rise;


There is a land of pure delight

has voiced the thoughts of myriads of anxious souls, to whom only ‘a prospect of heaven’ could make ‘death easy.’ Watts seldom, if ever, showed the ecstasy of Charles Wesley. He never sang

The promised land, from Pisgah’s top,

I now exult to see;

but he knew that

Could we but climb where Moses stood,

And view the landscape o’er,

Not Jordan’s stream nor death’s cold flood

Should fright us from the shore.


There are few more tender lines than the verse in his hymn for ‘The Death and Burial of a Saint’—

The graves of all His saints He blessed,

And softened every bed:

Where should the dying members rest,

But with their dying Head?

But Dr. Watts was not a man whose whole thought was centred on the world to come. After the fashion not only of his own time, but of the religious men of most times, he speaks slightingly of earth and its charms; but when he allows himself to dwell on its beauty and glory he writes, I think, with a clearer and more poetic vision than Wesley, as in his ‘Song to Creating Wisdom’—

Eternal Wisdom, Thee we praise.

The hymns of Dr. Watts are so well known that it is difficult to select any that would worthily represent him without repeating what is already familiar to every reader. ‘The Cradle Song’ is one of the most delightful lullabies ever written, and shows Watts in a charming and unexpected light.

Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber;

Holy angels guard thy bed!

Heavenly blessings without number

Gently falling on thy head.

Sleep, my babe; thy food and raiment,

House and home, thy friends provide;

All without thy care or payment,

All thy wants are well supplied.


How much better thou’rt attended

Than the Son of God could be,

When from heaven He descended,

And became a child like thee!

Soft and easy is thy cradle:

Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay:

When His birthplace was a stable,

And His softest bed was hay.

Blessèd Babe, what glorious features,

Spotless, fair, divinely bright!

Must He dwell with brutal creatures?—

How could angels bear the sight!

Was there nothing but a manger

Cursèd sinners could afford

To receive the heavenly Stranger?

Did they thus affront their Lord?

Soft, my child—I did not chide thee,

Though my song might sound too hard;

’Tis thy mother sits beside thee,

And her arm shall be thy guard.

Yet to read the shameful story,

How the Jews abused their King;

How they served the Lord of Glory,

Makes me angry while I sing.

See the kinder shepherds round Him,

Telling wonders from the sky!

There they sought Him, there they found Him,

With His Virgin Mother by.

See the lovely Babe a-dressing;

Lovely Infant, how He smiled!

When He wept, the Mother’s blessing

Soothed and hushed the holy Child.


Lo, He slumbers in His manger,

Where the hornèd oxen fed;

Peace, my darling, here’s no danger;

Here’s no ox a-near thy bed!

’Twas to save thee, child, from dying,

Save my dear from burning flame,

Bitter groans, and endless crying,

That thy blest Redeemer came.

May’st thou live to know and fear Him,

Trust and love Him all thy days;

Then go dwell for ever near Him,

See His face, and sing His praise!

I could give thee thousand kisses,

Hoping what I most desire;

Not a mother’s fondest wishes

Can to greater joys aspire.[102]

From Isaac Watts we turn naturally to Philip Doddridge (1702-51), another name which is amongst the glories of the Nonconforming Churches, and of him also it may be said that every Christian Church would rejoice to have adopted him. He was the twentieth child of his parents, was all his life in delicate health, and died of consumption at Lisbon, where he was buried in the English cemetery. His life was happy and devout from the earliest days, when he learnt from his mother’s lips the Bible stories which were illustrated by the Dutch tiles in the fireplace in his childhood’s home in London—‘London! dear city of my youth!’ On his father’s side he was descended from a good stock 144 of English gentlemen, some of whom were men of renown in their own generation. His father was a tradesmen, but his grandfather was Rector of Shepperton until the Act of Uniformity made him a Nonconformist. His mother was the daughter of a Protestant refugee from Bohemia, whose Bible (Luther’s version) he kept as his most cherished possession. As a child he attracted the notice of the Duchess of Bedford, who offered to send him to Oxford or Cambridge, and to provide a living for him if he took orders in the Church of England. He declined the offer, though discouraged by the great Dissenter, Calamy, in his purpose of entering the Independent ministry. But his old friend and pastor, Samuel Clark, of St. Albans (author of Scripture Promises), encouraged him, bidding him come to his house and make it his home during his preliminary studies.

Like Watts, he was a scholar and a gentleman, and was revered and loved in all Churches. Doddridge was a man of broad views and wide sympathies, and was honoured by the enmity of Watts’s old adversary, Thomas Bradbury, whose ‘zeal and fury’ in opposing ‘Moravians and Methodists and all who will not go his length in putting them down’ he deprecated. Indeed, his sympathy with Methodism led less vehement Dissenters than Bradbury to remonstrate with him, and when he not only preached at Whitefield’s Tabernacle, but invited that great evangelist to preach in his chapel at Northampton, even moderate men in 145 his own communion thought he had given just offence to the Nonconformist conscience of the day. He found it necessary to explain and apologize for his patronage of the enthusiasm which sober Churchmen and Dissenters alike abhorred.

His hymns were often written to be sung in his own chapel at the Castle Hill, Northampton, and were upon the subjects of his sermons. Written on the same principle as Watts’s hymns, they belong to the same class; and while they are on the whole inferior to those of Watts, they make a distinct and very precious addition to our hymnals. There is less variety of theme, metre, and expression in Doddridge than in Watts, but he is rarely so completely on the level of the ‘vulgar capacities’ for whom his great predecessor had such a tender regard. His hymns are the prayers and praises of a saint, ‘they shine,’ as Montgomery said, ‘in the beauty of holiness,’ and some must live while Christianity endures.

He is like Watts also in his indebtedness to editors. The best known of the hymns that bear his name, ‘O God of Bethel,’ would make a fine specimen for a polychrome hymn-book, though I venture to suggest that no ‘higher critic’ could pick out the portions supplied by the various revisers if he were left solely to subjective considerations. Dr. Julian says that its authorship should be thus described—‘P. Doddridge, Jan. 173⁶/₇ Scottish Trs. and Paraphs., 1745; J. Logan, 1781; and Scottish Paraphs., 1781.’


The earliest form is still extant in Doddridge’s own handwriting.


From Gen. xxxiii. 20, 22.


O God of Bethel, by whose Hand

Thine Israel still is fed

Who thro’ this weary Pilgrimage

Hast all our Fathers led


To thee our humble Vows we raise

To thee address our Prayer,

And in thy kind and faithful Breast

Deposite all our Care


If thou thro’ each perplexing Path

Wilt be our constant Guide

If thou wilt daily Bread supply

And Raiment wilt provide


If thou wilt spread thy Shield around

Till these our wand’rings cease

And at our Father’s loved Abode

Our Souls arrive in Peace


To thee as to our Covenant God

We’ll our whole selves resign

And count that not our tenth alone

But all we have is Thine.

January 16, 173⁶/₇.[103]


Another hymn, even better known and loved than this, at least amongst Methodist congregations, is—

O happy day that fixed my choice.

This also has been edited to its advantage. It has been the birthday song of countless redeemed souls. Dr. A. B. Bruce says that St. Matthew’s feast, at which ‘a great company of publicans and of others sat down,’ ‘was a kind of poem, saying for Matthew what Doddridge’s familiar lines say for many another.’[104]

Contemporary with Watts and Doddridge, but having closer spiritual affinity with John Bunyan, was Joseph Hart (1712-68), whose hymns, with two or three exceptions, have almost disappeared from our hymnals, though in older books, and in Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn-book, they are fairly numerous. To the first edition of his hymns he prefixed ‘a brief summary account of the great things’ God had ‘done for’ his ‘soul,’ which, but for its Calvinism, might have been written by one of the early Methodist preachers. Again and again this narrative recalls Grace Abounding, though Hart has little of the vigour, and none of the humour, of Bunyan. He was ‘born of believing parents,’ but after his conversion he ‘hasted to make myself a Christian by mere doctrine, adopting other men’s opinions before I had tried them.’ The result was, according to his own account, a deplorable fall into the prevalent Antinomianism, against which 148 Fletcher and Wesley wrote so energetically. After seven or eight years ‘in this abominable state’ he ‘began by degrees to reform a little,’ and in the week before Easter, 1757, he had ‘an amazing view of the agony of Christ in the garden,’ which affected all his after life. ‘While these horrors remained’ he found occasional comfort at Whitefield’s Tabernacle in Moorfields, or his chapel in Tottenham Court Road, but on Whit Sunday (which was also Charles Wesley’s Day of Pentecost), at the Moravian chapel in Fetter Lane, under a sermon on Rev. iii. 10, he felt ‘deeply impressed,’ and hastening home found himself ‘melting away with a strange softness of affection.’ His experience was that of Christian at the Cross, his ‘burden’ under which he was ‘almost sinking’ was immediately taken from his shoulders. ‘Tears ran in streams from my eyes, and I was so swallowed up in joy and thankfulness that I hardly knew where I was.’ After this ‘reconversion’ he had many Bunyan-like temptations, but walked humbly with God, and ministered till his death to the Independent church in Jewin Street.

His hymns are said, in the ‘advertisement’ to the edition published after his death, to describe his preaching exactly, and they are evidently the fruit of his own experience.

The vicissitudes of a trembling faith, the alternations of comfort and depression, the ever-recurring conflict between grace and sin, and all the emotions of a soul 149 ‘ready to halt,’ but knowing where to look for strength, are plentifully and feelingly represented. But he has little acquaintance either with the joyful hope and buoyant cheerfulness of Wesley or with the ‘quietness and confidence’ of Keble.[105]

He had a small poetic gift, and some of his hymns, with their happy alliterations, quaint phrases, easy rhythm, and, above all, their simple piety, have charm and power. Dr. Johnson’s estimate of Hart may be inferred from a curious incident. ‘I went to church. I gave a shilling; and, seeing a poor girl at the sacrament in a bed-gown, I gave her privately half a crown, though I saw Hart’s hymns in her hand.’

The hymns by which he is, and will be, known, are—

Come, Holy Spirit, come,

Let Thy bright beams arise.

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,


This God is the God we adore.

Some of his forgotten verses have real epigrammatic force, e.g.—

If profit be thy scope,

Diffuse thy alms about.

The worldling prospers laying up,

The Christian laying out.

A few other hymn-writers belong to the Dissenting Church of the eighteenth century, but they have passed or are passing from our modern hymn-books. Simon 150 Browne (1680-1732), pastor of an Independent church in Old Jewry, published in 1720 a supplement to Watts, which shows how early Watts began to be regarded as the standard hymn-book in Congregational Churches. There is a pathetic interest in the strange affliction from which he suffered. In 1723 he was attacked by highwaymen, and defended himself with such vigour that his adversary, when he released him, was found to be dead. Browne was overwhelmed with grief, and sank into a state of melancholy which was deepened by family bereavement. ‘He imagined that God had in a gradual manner annihilated in him the thinking substance,’ yet he continued his ministry, and wrote many books, including an exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in Matthew Henry’s Commentary. His best-known hymn is still to be found in many hymn-books.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,

My sinful maladies remove.

Its form is altered and improved, having passed through the hands of many editors.

He was also the author of a penitential hymn, which is much more impressive when given as Browne wrote it in the first person singular. In other respects editors have improved it by slight alterations.

Lord, at Thy feet a sinner lies,

And knocks at mercy’s door;

With heavy heart and downcast eyes

Thy favour I implore.


On me the vast extent display

Of Thy forgiving love;

Take all my heinous guilt away,

This heavy load remove.

Without Thy grace I sink opprest,

Down to the gates of hell:

O give my troubled spirit rest,

And all my fears dispel.

’Tis mercy, mercy, I implore,

I would Thy pity move,

Thy grace is an exhaustless store

And Thou Thyself art love.

Benjamin Beddome (1717-95) was for more than half a century a Baptist minister at Bourton-on-the-Water, refusing for the sake of his rustic flock the attractions of a call to more conspicuous pastorates. ‘I would rather honour God,’ he said, ‘in a station even much inferior to that in which He has placed me, than intrude myself into a higher without His direction.’ His hymns were written for his own congregation, and usually to suit his sermon for the day.

There is not much to choose amongst Beddome’s pious verses. The following lines are interesting since they may, perhaps, have suggested Montgomery’s well-known hymn:

Prayer is the breath of God in man,

Returning whence it came;

Love is the sacred fire within,

And prayer the rising flame.

It gives the burdened spirit ease,

And soothes the troubled breast;

Yields comfort to the mourning soul,

And to the weary rest.


When God inclines the heart to pray,

He hath an ear to hear;

To Him there’s music in a sigh,

And beauty in a tear.

To these clerical hymn-writers of the school of Watts must be added the name of Anne Steele (1716-78), daughter of William Steele, timber-merchant and Baptist minister at Broughton, Hants. Miss Steele is the first Englishwoman who takes a permanent place amongst hymn-writers. She has been called the Miss Havergal of the eighteenth century, and so far as popularity and piety are concerned the comparison is fair. She wrote under the name of ‘Theodosia,’ and her hymns were for a hundred years extensively used in Nonconformist worship, and several are to be found in Anglican hymnals.

Dr. Watts was her acknowledged model. She cries—

O for the animating fire

That tuned harmonious Watts’s lyre,

To sweet seraphic strains![106]

She was so modest and devout, suffered and sorrowed so much, that one is glad to know that some at least of her songs will take their place among the permanent treasures of Christian song. Her hymns are generally improved by the omission of some verses, and by slight changes; but Miss Steele is never guilty of the clumsy and offensive phrases which mar so many contemporary hymns. Her best-known hymns are ‘When I survey 153 life’s varied scene,[107] and ‘Father of mercies, in Thy word.’

Here are a few verses from a hymn on the text, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also’ (John xiv. 19)—

If my immortal Saviour lives,

Then my immortal life is sure;

His word a firm foundation gives:

Here let me build and rest secure.

Here let my faith unshaken dwell:

Immovable the promise stands;

Not all the powers of earth or hell

Can e’er dissolve the sacred bands.

Here, O my soul, thy trust repose!

If Jesus is for ever mine.

Not death itself, that last of foes,

Shall break a union so divine.

Dr. John Ryland (1753-1825), one of the pioneers of the modern missionary revival, and a few others are still remembered as hymn-writers, but there is little distinctive about their poetry. Indeed one is compelled to admit that a very large portion of the hymns of the school of Watts are dull, formal, and prosaic. For the most part they were written to suit particular sermons, and the shades of the meeting-house are about them still. To many of them Montgomery’s criticism of Beddome applies: ‘His compositions are calculated to be far more useful than attractive.’

The ‘atmosphere’ was hardly likely to inspire 154 enthusiasm. The long struggle between King and Parliament, Catholic and Protestant was stilled, the Toleration Act (1689) had given to orthodox Nonconformists a religious liberty unknown before, and, though there were occasional fears lest the old, bad conditions should be revived, their freedom became gradually larger and more thoroughly established. Watts and Doddridge represent the best side of the Nonconformity which settled down after ‘the glorious Revolution’ into sedate, intelligent, unaggressive, and highly respectable Churches, rejoicing devoutly, but without enthusiasm, in the right to worship God in their own sanctuaries, and to ‘sit under’ the ministry of their own pastors. ‘Then had the Churches rest, and walking in the comfort of the Holy Ghost were multiplied.’ The high character and sound scholarship of the leading Nonconformist ministers compelled the respect and won the esteem of their episcopalian neighbours, with whom they lived in pleasant relationships. It was just the time for a quiet reform in modes of worship, and it was in the years between the Toleration Act and the Methodist Revival that the hymn, already known but not yet loved, won its way to a sure and increasingly honourable place in the service of the sanctuary. Had the hymns been more original and aggressive in tone, they would not so readily have won the ear and heart of Independent congregations at the beginning of the eighteenth century.


Eighteenth-century Hymns

II.—Hymns of the Methodist Revival

The first Wesleyan hymn-book is earlier than the Evangelical Revival. When John Wesley sailed for Georgia, he took with him Herbert’s Poems, Watts’s Psalms and Hymns, and John Austin’s Offices. From these and some other books he prepared ‘the first hymn-book compiled for use in the Church of England.’[108] It was published at Charlestown in 1737, and is entitled, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns. The book is a ‘Christian week’ rather than a Christian year, being divided into three sections—for Sunday; for Wednesday and Friday; for Saturday. It is in many respects a most interesting volume. There is little trace of ‘catholic’ doctrine, unless it be in the verses taken from Austin’s Office of the Saints, and there is less of sacramental teaching than in the present Methodist Hymn-book.

Of the seventy hymns half are by Dr. Watts, and amongst these are his version of Ps. c, with Wesley’s famous first lines—


Before Jehovah’s awful throne,

Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;

and the cxlvi., which Wesley repeated with his dying breath. Seven hymns are by John Austin; six are moderately successful attempts to make some of Herbert’s matchless poems available for use in public worship. The Wesleyan portion of the book consists of five hymns by Samuel Wesley, senior; five by Samuel Wesley, junior; and five translations from the German by John Wesley himself. Charles Wesley’s hymns are conspicuous by their absence. Probably the explanation is that, as he had already sailed for England, his MSS. were not at his brother’s disposal.

In 1738, on his return to England, John Wesley published another small hymn-book, with the same title and a similar arrangement, though the contents are different. This is, I think, the only one of his many hymn-books in which Ken’s hymns are included. In 1739 the brothers issued their first joint publication, ‘Hymns and Sacred Poems, published by John Wesley, M.A., Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and Charles Wesley, M.A., Student of Christ Church, Oxford. London. Printed by William Strahan, and sold by James Hutton, bookseller, at the Bible and Sun without Temple Bar; Mr. Bray’s, a brazier, in Little Britain, M DCC XXXIX.’ In this volume Charles Wesley’s first published poems appeared, and from this time he is the recognized poet of the Revival.

Charles Wesley was born at Epworth Rectory on 157 December 18, 1707. Notwithstanding poverty, debt, difficulty, and persecution, there was probably no more truly Christian home in England. The cultivation of personal religion and simple faith in God found congenial soil here, and doubtless in other obscure country parsonages. The Rector of Epworth was a poet of some gifts, which the whole family inherited in greater or less degree. His eldest son—sixteen years older than Charles—was a minor poet and hymn-writer, and the younger members of the family grew up in an atmosphere which must have made it natural for them to write verses.

We have, however, no indication of precocious hymn-writing on the part of Charles Wesley, nor, indeed, of any poetic composition till he was seven-and-twenty, when he writes to convey a protest against his sister’s marriage. Probably he did not discover his special talent till he was in Georgia, where the Governor’s wife wrote, ‘Mr. Wesley has the gift of verse, and has written many sweet hymns, which we sing.’[109]

But if Charles Wesley wrote little poetry before his American mission, he had received much of the training which was in due season to yield such abundant fruit. The gracious influences of the Lincolnshire rectory, of the Oxford Methodists, of his Moravian fellow passengers, all helped to mould his fervent spirit. The poet within him could not long be silent, and had 158 already awoke when he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, 1738. This was the time of his evangelical conversion, when he passed out of the state of the anxious and conscientious servant into the glorious liberty of the child of God. From that time the word of Christ dwelt in him richly. ‘The wealth of God’[110] was bestowed upon him, and out of the abundance of a heart enriched by the indwelling word he poured forth psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in an almost ceaseless stream. Had Charles Wesley never passed through this experience he would have been one of our greatest ecclesiastical hymn-writers, and would have ranked with Heber and Keble, but there would have been no distinctively Methodist hymnody, and the Evangelical Revival would have been immeasurably poorer. Moreover, he did very much to preserve the standard of good taste, as well as the fervour of religious feeling, in primitive Methodism.

Charles Wesley, a Christ Church student, came to add sweetness to this sudden and startling light. He was the ‘sweet singer’ of the movement. His hymns expressed the fiery conviction of its converts in lines so chaste and beautiful, that its more extravagant features disappeared. The wild throes of hysteric enthusiasm passed into a passion for hymn-singing, and a new musical impulse was aroused in the people which gradually changed the face of public devotion throughout England.[111]


Charles Wesley would probably have accepted Keble’s judgement as to the value of ‘a sober standard of feeling in matters of practical religion,’ but his standard allowed a much wider range and warmer glow to feeling than was possible to the poet of the later Oxford Movement. Both the Wesleys shrank with the instinct of the scholar and the gentleman from extravagance and vulgarity. Their energies were often devoted to restraining the exuberant manifestations of the fervour of their converts; and though they dared not deal too strictly with what they believed to be indications of genuine spiritual emotion, they deprecated undue excitement, and regarded hysterical testimonies in a very different light from that in which Edward Irving viewed the speaking with tongues.

Saved from the fear of hell and death,

With joy we seek the things above;

And all Thy saints the spirit breathe

Of power, sobriety, and love.

Pure love to God Thy members find,

Pure love to every soul of man;

And in Thy sober, spotless mind,

Saviour, our heaven on earth we gain.[112]

If Charles Wesley impressed himself upon the Methodist Revival to its great benefit, the Revival in its turn most advantageously affected his hymn-writing. In many of his poems it is easy to trace the influence of the Anglican Prayer-book or the Moravian prayer-meeting, 160 but the typically Methodist hymns show little trace of either; they are songs of the open-air service or of the class-room. Beecher’s statement that Charles Wesley’s ‘hymns are only Moravian hymns re-sung’ is more than a gross exaggeration.

In the early days of Methodism, Charles Wesley was as energetic and as successful an evangelist as John. He loved the stir, the tumult, the triumph of those great outdoor gatherings, where testimony must be borne before mobs who might at any time endanger the property and even the lives of preacher and hearers. In this regard the poet of the Evangelical Revival had a great advantage over the poet of the Tractarian Movement. Keble is one of the singers of the country parsonage. At Fairford and Hursley he found, as Cowper at Olney,

The calm retreat, the silent shade,

With prayer and praise agree;

but Charles Wesley was moved to his highest flights of praise by hard-won victories amongst his wild hearers in Cornwall, or Moorfields, at Kingswood, or Walsall. The depths of his soul were moved when he saw the first signs of penitence in the unwonted tears which cut white channels in the begrimed faces of the colliers, whom he taught to sing

But O the power of grace Divine!

In hymns we now our voices raise,

Loudly in strange hosannas join,

And blasphemies are turned to praise!


Nor must we overlook the influence of the Methodist class-meeting upon Charles Wesley’s hymns. That institution was of the essence of Methodism. It provided a ‘Holy Club,’ or a number of holy clubs, in every place where converts had been gathered. True to his mission as the poet of Methodism, he provided hymns for the Societies in their private meetings as well as in their vast evangelistic gatherings. The hymn-book naturally begins with the section headed ‘Exhorting and Beseeching to Return to God,’ but the majority of the hymns are for the penitent, the mourner, the believer, and for the backslider—the man in whom old habits have proved too strong, who has wandered back to sin, but longs to turn to God again. Charles Wesley shared with John the pastoral oversight of the converts, often spending many weeks in Dublin, Newcastle, or Bristol, or passing rapidly through Cornwall or the Black Country, not only preaching the gospel, but carefully examining, encouraging, and sifting the societies. The class-meeting gave the distinctive tone to Methodist devotion, and Charles Wesley was quick to sympathize with the varying moods of religious experience related by the members. His hymns were often written for use by the Society in its stated gatherings or by Christian friends meeting socially in each other’s houses. In every revision of the Methodist Hymn-book it has been recognized that ample provision must be made for such occasions, and that hymns might be very useful and, in 162 fact, extensively used though never heard in public worship.

The Wesleys were singularly open to impressions from those whom they met, or whose books they read. Anglican, Moravian, Mystic by turns, they only gradually developed into Methodists. In their first joint publication they note that ‘some verses ... were wrote upon the scheme of the Mystic divines’ whom they ‘had once in great veneration, as the best explainers of the gospel of Christ.’[113] George Herbert, John Norris (that other less famous parson of Bemerton), Henry More, and such German hymn-writers as Freylinghausen, Christian Friedrich Richter, and W. C. Dessler, were their first masters of Christian song; but Charles Wesley soon found his own wings, and ceased to belong to any school of poets, though to the end traces of other men’s writings are to be found—amounting occasionally to actual verbal quotation, e.g. from Milton, Young, Tate and Brady.

It is not possible to assign dates for the composition of many of Charles Wesley’s hymns after the early years of the Revival, except those called forth by some special occasion, such as the ‘Earthquake Hymns,’ and those for the troubled days of the Insurrection of 1745. At such times the hymns must have been written as a kind of task-work, and the result is rarely more than commonplace. The poet seemed to think it his duty, as the laureate of Methodism, to provide suitable hymns 163 for the special services rendered necessary by stirring events, and usually wrote one or two in each of the favourite metres. These were issued in small pamphlets at a few pence, and no doubt sold very extensively, as did John Wesley’s prose tracts, through which he ‘unawares became rich.’

It is difficult for a Methodist preacher of the fourth generation, whose earliest and most sacred associations are hallowed by memories of Wesley’s hymns, to attempt an impartial, not to say a critical, survey of them. If, then, I seem to place too high an estimate on the Wesley poetry as compared with the hymns of others, I trust it may be credited rather to early training and inherited affection than to denominational partiality.

It may at once be granted that Charles Wesley wrote far too easily and too diffusely to secure permanent remembrance for the majority of his hymns. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, might disappear without serious loss to the spiritual and devotional life of the Church. It may be admitted, further, that he did not know which were his best and which his worst productions, and that John Wesley’s editing might with advantage have been more severe. The printing-press was dangerously convenient to Charles Wesley, and the certainty of extensive sale for everything he published, combined with the enthusiasm with which their people received what the brothers wrote, either in prose or verse, presented a temptation to rapid and frequent publication 164 which few poets could resist. Moreover, much that he wrote was designed for immediate use, and had to be written, printed, published ere the occasion passed. Yet it is probable that not much would have been gained by elaborate revision. Charles Wesley was too tender-hearted to treat his literary offspring as David treated the Moabites, measuring two lines to put to death and one full line to keep alive, though both he and Dr. Watts might not unwisely have adopted some such heroic measure.

His hymns were often written at white heat, but they underwent constant revision by their author, and generally they had a further revision by his brother. The poet himself records eight revisions of his Short Hymns on the Gospels and Acts, which he noted were ‘finished April 24, 1765,’ and revised for the last time May 11, 1787.

In his Journal, John Wesley records, under date December 15, 1788—

This week I dedicated to the reading over my brother’s works. They are short poems on the Psalms, the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. Some are bad; some mean; some most excellently good; they give the true sense of Scripture, always in good English, generally in good verse; many of them are equal to most, if not to any, he ever wrote; but some still savour of that poisonous mysticism with which we were both not a little tainted before we went to America.

‘Some bad, some mean, some most excellently good.’ The judgement is just, though we who are accustomed 165 to our richer and more varied hymn-books should probably place not a few in a fourth class—certainly not ‘bad’ or ‘mean,’ yet hardly ‘excellently good.’

In the Methodist Hymn-book 429 hymns are attributed to Charles Wesley; in the hymnals of other Churches there are to be found a number which are unknown in Methodism. It is safe to say that of Charles Wesley’s hymns about 500 are living still.

The first great service Wesley’s hymns rendered to Christian song was to raise the standard of feeling in matters of practical religion. John Wesley’s emendation of a line of Doddridge’s may illustrate the influence of Methodist hymns upon religious emotion. Doddridge wrote—

Ye humble souls, that seek the Lord,

Chase all your fears away;

And bow with pleasure down to see

The place where Jesus lay.

Wesley changed ‘pleasure’ into ‘rapture’ in the hymn, and Methodism raised Christian emotion from the quiet satisfaction of Watts, Doddridge, and the elect souls who kept alive the faith during the drab years which preceded the Revival, to the ecstatic gladness of those to whom that great movement brought the brightness of a morning without clouds. The largest section of the hymn-book was headed ‘For Believers Rejoicing.’ No other Christian poet ever sang such songs, for no other has ever known the joy of the evangelist as Charles Wesley knew it.


In a rapture of joy

My life I employ,

The God of my life to proclaim;

’Tis worth living for this,

To administer bliss

And salvation in Jesus’s name.

Joyousness was the natural result of the gospel he preached. It was the good news of the assurance of personal salvation. Here John Wesley’s emendation of one of Watts’s famous hymns may serve as an illustration. Watts wrote—

My soul looks back to see

The burdens Thou didst bear

When hanging on the cursèd tree,

And hopes her guilt was there.

Wesley shows the difference between Methodism and Calvinism by the change of a word—

And knows her guilt was there.

The Methodist doctrine of Assurance, the revival or rediscovery of the doctrine of the Witness of the Spirit, gave to Christian experience a confidence which was more joyous than that of the ‘elect.’ The Wesleys never slurred the need of repentance—deep, poignant, practical; but there is a great gulf between the comparatively brief pangs of the Methodist penitent and the habitual depression of the devout Romanist ever searching through the dark places of the heart to find matter for confession. The shades of the prison-house did not linger long around the emancipated soul. 167 Coming out of the gloom into the sunshine the road wound

Uphill all the way,

Yes, to the very end.

The redeemed of the Lord returned to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads. Notwithstanding all that may be said, and, to some extent, with justice, of the terrors, even the horrors, of early evangelical preaching concerning death, hell, and judgement, the Methodist hymns brought into Christian worship a brighter and more trustful tone than it had known for many generations. The Revival brought back the golden days, the joy of heart, which characterized the Apostolic Church, and the German Protestants at the Reformation. At the time of the Revival the Church of England, though largely Arminian in doctrine, was so incapable of fervour, so afraid of zeal, that it had practically no power over the masses, whilst by the classes Christianity was, as Bishop Butler said, regarded ‘not so much as a subject of inquiry,’ but ‘now at length discovered to be fictitious.’

In the Establishment there was hardly spiritual life enough to put real vigour even into religious controversy. Butler’s Analogy is typical of the position of the ecclesiastical leaders of that day. They were content if they could demonstrate that the balance of probabilities was in favour of Christianity, and did not even desire to be anointed with the oil of gladness above their fellows.


The most earnest and aggressive of the Nonconformists were stanchly Calvinistic, and, by their most cherished beliefs, were precluded from the magnificent visions of a redeemed world, which were at once the inspiration and the attraction of Methodist preaching.

Altogether outside theological controversy, and, for the most part, uncared for by the religious people of the day, lay the masses, ignorant, degraded, despised, who neither gave, nor were expected to give, heed to things higher than the needs of the ‘mere animal.’ Of them Charles Wesley only too truly said—

Wild as the untaught Indian’s brood

The Christian savages remain.

The hymns ‘Exhorting and Beseeching to Return to God’ at once attracted the

Poor outcasts of men, whose souls were despised

And left with disdain.

Very surely, though very slowly, the glad evangel of the hymns which offer pardon and holiness and heaven to all won its way in the Churches. It is one of the most precious fruits of the Revival that now hardly any Church can forbear to sing them. Nor is it too much to say that Methodist hymns, even more than Methodist teaching, broke down the Calvinistic idea of the Church—

We are a garden walled around,

Chosen and made peculiar ground;

A little spot enclosed by grace

Out of the world’s wide wilderness.


Again, John Wesley’s hymns gave a great impulse, and added a great sanction, to the expression of personal experience in hymns. They were unfettered by what has been well described as the ‘old traditions of reserved and reticent worship.’[114] For good or ill, there is little of reserve or reticence in Charles Wesley’s hymns.

What we have felt and seen

With confidence we tell.

Many poets of the sanctuary have felt that the most sacred experiences of the penitent sinner and of the sanctified believer were not to be put into words, that to utter them was to expose to the coarse breath of the world what must perish in the very act of expression. It was not without an effort that Charles Wesley broke through this ‘reserve;’ yet he did, and that not only from a sense of duty, but from a conviction that to be silent would be a cowardly yielding to the temptation to shun the reproach of Christ.

And shall I slight my Father’s love?

Or basely fear His gifts to own?

Unmindful of His favours prove?

Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,

Refuse His righteousness to impart,

By hiding it within my heart?[115]

Moreover, many of Charles Wesley’s hymns—especially the more personal—were intended to be sung ‘secretly 170 among the faithful,’ rather than in the congregation. They were written for the family gatherings of ‘the household of the faith,’ and thus were free from the restraints which might be necessary in compositions intended for larger and less sympathetic assemblies.

Wesley’s hymns represented and, to a considerable extent, created the specific Methodist type of religious thought, emotion, and expression. They were, also, the vehicle by which doctrine was conveyed to the minds of the uneducated masses. The great truths which it was the mission of Methodism to teach are conspicuous in the Methodist hymns. Justification by Faith, the Witness of the Spirit, Universal Redemption, Entire Sanctification, are all taught in Charles Wesley’s remembered hymns as they are in John Wesley’s forgotten tracts. If the hymns have ceased to be peculiarly Methodist, it is because Christian experience and teaching have been so largely influenced by them.

It is impossible not to compare Charles Wesley with his great predecessor, Isaac Watts. The day has gone by in which rival camps or choirs seek to exalt the one by disparaging the other. As we have seen, Watts’s Psalms and Hymns were taken by the Wesleys on their mission to Georgia, and it can never be forgotten that, with his dying breath, John Wesley quoted the hymn which, from those early days, had been included in the hymn-books prepared by him for congregational use.


Watts was less careful of the technique of his poetry than Charles Wesley. His rhymes are often very bad, and occasionally are altogether forgotten, and this is true of hymns whose intrinsic value is such that they retain, and are likely to retain, their place in our hymn-books. Charles Wesley is not without sin in this regard, but a really bad rhyme is comparatively rare in his best compositions. He has less of poetic imagery than Watts, and has not so keen an eye for the beauties of the natural world. Charles Wesley never wrote a hymn that, in its own way, compares with

Eternal Wisdom! Thee we praise;

nor do I know any verse of his which equals in its rich, strong monosyllables, Watts’s

His every[116] word of grace is strong

As that which built the skies;

The voice that rolls the stars along

Speaks all the promises.

Wesley was apt to use long and awkward words, sometimes of his own coining, rarely adding to the force, and always detracting from the practical value of the hymn.

It must also be admitted that Charles Wesley wrote some verses the taste of which is dreadful, though he never approaches the execrable coarseness of some Moravian hymns, or of the lines which Walter Shirley transfigured into ‘Sweet the moments rich in 172 blessing.’ Both Watts and Wesley had a quiet rather than a keen sense of humour, but they had little of that appreciation of the comic which is so acute in our own time.[117]

Charles Wesley rarely, if ever, reaches the depth of prosaic commonplace which marks many of Watts’s hymns. He had a more sensitive ear and a more cultivated taste, and, what is perhaps more to the point, he had a faithful, though affectionate and admiring, critic in his brother. When John Wesley said of Charles that his least praise was his talent for poetry, he meant, not to disparage his hymns, but to bear the highest testimony possible to the gifts and graces of his mind and character.

In considering somewhat in detail the hymns of Charles Wesley, it is convenient to treat of them in the classes into which they may be broadly divided. But even so it is obviously impossible to glance at more than a small number of his poems.

1.—Hymns of the Christian Year

The idea of an elaborate classification according to the Church seasons, so usual in modern Anglican hymnals, had not yet become popular. Bishop Ken’s 173 Hymns for all the Festivals of the Year[118] (published in 1721, ten years after his death), the precursor and, to some extent, the inspiration of the Christian Year, was not intended for use as a hymn-book. Wither’s Hymns and Songs of the Church (1623) provided for all the chief festivals, saints’ days, and other occasional services. About forty years later (1661) Dr. Eaton, Vicar of Bishop’s Castle, Salop, published The Holy Calendar, but his poems were not intended to be sung. The Wesleys issued a number of pamphlets containing hymns for the great festivals, and it would not be difficult to select from their various publications a ‘Christian year,’ in which every hymn was suitable for public worship. But the pieces would need to be gathered, for the brothers did not contemplate the use of their hymn-books in Church services; they were designed for the preaching-house, the open-air service, and the class-meeting. The Nonconformist Churches had adopted the custom early in the century, but in the Church of England hymn-singing was still, and for many years after, an irregularity, if not an offence.

First and greatest of Charles Wesley’s festival hymns is the Christmas carol

Hark! how all the welkin rings,

‘Glory to the King of kings.’

It was published in 1739, and is not impossibly one of the ‘many sweet hymns’ which were sung in the 174 household of General Oglethorpe. Whitefield made some popular alterations, and included it in his Collection, in 1753. In 1782 it found a place in the Prayer-book, after the new version of the Psalms. It was omitted from Wesley’s Collection, but was inserted in the supplement of 1830—nearly a century after its composition.

In the same metre, and not inferior, are the hymns for Easter—

‘Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day,’

Sons of men and angels say!

and for Ascension Day—

Hail the day that sees Him rise,

Ravished from our wishful eyes.

There are some good verses in the Whit Sunday hymn—

Granted is the Saviour’s prayer,

Sent the gracious Comforter;

and in the little-known hymn for the Epiphany—

Sons of men, behold from far,

Hail the long-expected Star![119]

but they are not equal to the others.

Of Charles Wesley’s hymns on our Lord’s Passion, the finest are those beginning

With glorious clouds encompassed round,

Whom angels dimly see,

Will the Unsearchable be found,

Or God appear to me?

. . . . .


O Love divine! what hast thou done!

The immortal God hath died for me

The Father’s co-eternal Son

Bore all my sins upon the tree;

The immortal God for me hath died!

My Lord, my Love is crucified.

. . . . .

O Thou who hast our sorrows borne,

Help us to look on Thee and mourn,

On Thee Whom we have slain,

Have pierced a thousand thousand times,

And by reiterated crimes

Renewed Thy mortal pain.[120]

The popular hymn beginning

All ye that pass by,

To Jesus draw nigh:

To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?

is, owing to its cheerful metre, hardly suited to the solemn services of Good Friday, and was intended for the open air. It was headed ‘Invitation to Sinners,’ and was used by Whitefield with great effect when preaching at the Market Cross, Nottingham, and elsewhere.


John Wesley appointed many fast days, and was careful to fix them on Friday, but the observance of Lent does not seem to have been enforced, or even strongly recommended, in the Methodist Society. Hymns for saints’ days and for the minor festivals are unknown to the Wesley poetry.

2. Hymns on the Lord’s Supper.[121]

This pamphlet contains 166 hymns, many of which are admirable and very close paraphrases of passages in Brevint’s Christian Sacrifice, but others are independent of that devout treatise. Many lend themselves readily to use in ‘catholic’ services, and have often been quoted as indicating high sacramentarian views.[122]

On the other hand, such verses as the following must be taken in an entirely evangelical sense—

The cup of blessing, blessed by Thee,

Let it Thy blood impart:

The bread Thy mystic body be,

And cheer each languid heart.

. . . . .


With solemn faith we offer up,

And spread before Thy glorious eyes,

That only ground of all our hope,

That precious, bleeding Sacrifice,

Which brings Thy grace on sinners down,

And perfects all our souls in one.

. . . . .

By faith we see Thy sufferings past

In this mysterious rite brought back:

And on Thy grand oblation cast,

Its saving benefits partake.

In these paraphrases there are naturally expressions which represent Brevint and not the Wesleys, except in so far as they indicate a general approval of his teaching. The hymns which most closely follow the treatise are often the least happy. Yet, when every deduction is made, this little book is one of the most edifying of devotional preparations for the Communion.

These hymns have had a permanent influence upon Methodist worship. Many of them were probably suggested by the Order of Administration in the Book of Common Prayer, the most beautiful of all the Anglican services. Both the brothers had a profound reverence for the Holy Communion, as the supreme act of Christian worship, and constantly impressed upon Methodists the duty of its regular observance. Never at any time was there a danger of the Methodist Societies cutting themselves off from the Catholic Church by neglect of the Sacraments, or of their becoming an exclusively evangelistic organization on the plan of the Salvation Army. This pamphlet, of 178 which many editions were issued during the lifetime of John Wesley, shows how serious a view they desired their people to take of the value of this sacrament, whilst its great popularity suggests that the intelligence of the Methodists of a hundred and fifty years ago was very much above that with which we are accustomed to credit them. The republication of Brevint’s Treatise, in a small series of devotional manuals, edited by Dr. George Osborn, did not revive interest in it, as it might have done had a judicious selection from the hymns been included.[123]

Several hymns familiar to us in other sections of our hymn-books were written for, or included in, this series. The prayer for the Church militant, with its remembrance of and thanksgiving for those in trouble and for those who have ‘departed this life in Thy faith and fear,’ probably suggested the hymn—

What are these arrayed in white?

whilst the Ter-Sanctus is the inspiration of—

Lift your eyes of faith and see

Saints and angels joined in one.


The thought of communion with the Church triumphant was very precious to Charles Wesley, and there is a most beautiful and solemn appropriateness in the lifting of the eyes as well as of the heart, when, having claimed in faith the forgiveness of sins, we take our unchallenged place at the table of the Lord. The Holy Communion includes fellowship with those who have ‘crossed the flood’ and are for ever with the Lord.

Nor is the other aspect of the communion of saints forgotten. It is often easier for earnest souls to claim fellowship with the white-robed company of heaven than with those on earth who are divided from them by divergencies of doctrine and practice. But if, on the one hand, the Eucharist has been a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to theologians and ecclesiastics, on the other it is the bond of union between all ‘holding fast the Head.’[124] The true evangelic and the typically Wesleyan position is well stated in the verse—

Part of His Church below,

We thus our right maintain;

Our living membership we show,

And in the fold remain,—

The sheep of Israel’s fold,

In England’s pastures fed;

And fellowship with all we hold,

Who hold it with our Head.[125]

This is the attitude our Church has consistently adopted. We do not claim exclusive privileges or profess that our boundaries are the walls of that city 180 of God which lieth four square. We are but ‘part of His Church below,’ but we are a part, and in obedience to our dying Lord’s command ‘we thus our right maintain.’ What matter though some deny the validity of our ‘orders,’ the efficacy of our sacraments, our title to a place in the Holy Catholic Church? They may drive us from their local altars, but they cannot exclude us from the Lord’s table. They may deny us a place in that family for which our blessed Lord was content to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. What then? We do not deny theirs.

Fellowship with all we hold,

Who hold it with our Head.

This is a note too seldom heard in Communion hymns. I do not remember to have found it so clearly put anywhere else, though Major Turton’s prayer for unity comes graciously near to it.

For all Thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;

Make Thou our sad divisions soon to cease;

Draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,

By drawing all to Thee, O Prince of Peace;

Thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,

Through this blest Sacrament of Unity.[126]

The sacramental character of the Lord’s Supper as the sign and pledge of the believer’s consecration to the service of Christ is represented in the hymn beginning—


Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

One in Three, and Three in One,

As by the celestial host,

Let Thy will on earth be done;

Praise by all to Thee be given,

Glorious Lord of earth and heaven.

which in some of its verses suggests the prayer known as the First Thanksgiving,[127] though it is based upon a beautiful paragraph of Brevint’s.

A few hymns under the heading ‘After the Sacrament’ form an unimportant supplement, but the long series really ends with a joyous song well-suited to be the happy close of the solemn commemoration of the sacrifice of Calvary and the renewal of the Christian’s oath of allegiance

Let Him to whom we now belong

His sovereign right assert,

And take up every thankful song

And every loving heart.

This final note of glad thanksgiving reminds us that in our Communion Service the ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ immediately precedes the Benediction.[128]


3. Hymns of the Calvinistic Controversy.

From these Communion hymns we pass to a series of a very different type. The story of the Calvinistic controversy—which seemed to show that a theological fountain could at the same time send forth sweet water and bitter—belongs to Church history, not to hymnology. Yet we cannot pass it over, for none of the hymns of the Wesleys meant so much as those which proclaimed the glad tidings of a free and full salvation. The controversy was civil war, a strife among brethren, and it is good to know that the love of Whitefield and the Wesleys was able to bear, though not without terrible strain, even this sore trial. From that great controversy we inherit the true eirenicon, the agreeing to differ, which is the best possible solution of many religious disputes. Whitefield and the Wesleys finally agreed to differ and continued to love. But for a time there was ‘a sharp contention so that they parted asunder one from the other.’

In 1740 John Wesley published, after some hesitation, his sermon on ‘Free Grace,’ and added a long, dull hymn by his brother on ‘Universal Redemption.’ In the same year the brothers issued a second series of Hymns and Sacred Poems, which contained this and other pieces, setting forth in the most emphatic terms the Arminian doctrine, and condemning in even more emphatic terms all who believed in what Calvin had 183 called ‘decretum horribile.’ Whitefield was shocked by the Wesleyan doctrine itself, and was beyond measure distressed by what he saw must lead to a breach between himself and his dearest friends. His love and sorrow come out most attractively in his letters.

‘My dear, dear Brethren,’ he wrote, ‘why did you throw out the bone of contention? Why did you print that sermon against predestination? Why did you, in particular, my dear brother Charles, affix your hymn and join in putting out your late hymn-book?’[129]

John Wesley’s sermon carefully avoided reference to his friend. Whitefield, however, felt in honour bound to state his own views and to ‘answer’ Wesley’s sermon. To this reply he added a poor poem by Dr. Watts, which was intended to balance Charles Wesley’s hymn. Here are two of Watts’s verses—

Behold the potter and the clay,

He forms His vessels as he please;

Such is our God, and such are we,

The subjects of His high decrees.

May not the sovereign Lord on high,

Dispense His favours as He will;

Choose some to life while others die,

And yet be just and gracious still?

After this the battle became fast and furious. The two pamphlets of Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love[130] were issued in 1741, and Whitefield was in despair. He 184 writes: ‘Dear brother Charles is more and more rash. He has lately printed some very bad hymns.’[131] From Whitefield’s point of view they were undoubtedly very bad, and even justify his charge that the Wesleys ‘dressed up’ the doctrine of election in ‘horrible colours.’ On the other hand, these hymns contain some of the finest specimens of evangelic hymn-writing to be found in the Wesley poetry.

They may be readily divided into two classes, the one vigorous and often bitterly satirical onslaughts upon the Calvinistic position, which are more in the style of ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’ than in that of ‘Jesu, Lover of my soul,’ the other containing the proclamation of the glad tidings of universal redemption. Both elements are often found in the same composition. This is true of the first of the hymns, a portion of which has been used in Methodist congregations for more than a century and a half, and retains its place in the new hymn-book. I print some verses with the original italics, indicating its polemic purpose.

Father, whose everlasting love

Thy only Son for sinners gave;

Whose grace to all did freely move,

And sent Him down a world to save.

Help us Thy mercy to extol

Immense, unfathomed, unconfined;

To praise the Lamb who died for all,

The general Saviour of mankind.


Thy undistinguishing regard

Was cast on Adam’s fallen race:

For all Thou hast in Christ prepared,

Sufficient, sovereign, saving grace.

Jesus hath said, we all shall hope,

Preventing grace for all is free:

And I, if I be lifted up,

I will draw all men unto Me.

Arise, O God, maintain Thy cause!

The fulness of the Gentiles call:

Lift up the standard of Thy cross

And all shall own Thou diedst for all.[132]

In other hymns he employs the most biting, taunting sarcasm. It is difficult to suppose that these were ever sung even in the thickest of the fight; but they were sown broadcast (price fourpence), and were, no doubt, read with ecstatic delight by those who were on the Wesleys’ side in the great controversy. It is easy at this distance of time and circumstance to condemn the vehemence of the language used on both sides, especially in the later and more acrimonious stages of the controversy. But this was one of ‘freedom’s battles.’ It was magnificent, and it was war. To the Wesleys the doctrine that by the arbitrary decree of God—the God of love!—children were born to a doom which they could neither escape nor deserve was hateful, blasphemous, impossible. If this were indeed the truth of God, what gospel was there to preach? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die and meet the inevitable 186 doom. Nor could they tolerate what seemed to them the smug satisfaction of ‘the elect,’ to whose certainty of salvation the equal certainty of the damnation of the reprobate added a pleasing flavour. They would not accept salvation on such terms. ‘Take back,’ Charles Wesley cries indignantly,

Take back my interest in Thy blood,

Unless it streamed for all the race.

With a true controversial instinct, the Wesleys fastened upon Calvin’s phrase ‘decretum horribile,’ and, preferring to transliterate rather than to translate, turned again and again to rend it.

A poem describing the possibilities of evil in the human heart and mind comes to a climax thus—

I could the devil’s law receive,

Unless restrained by Thee;

I could (good God!) I could believe

The Horrible Decree.

I could believe that God is hate—

The God of love and grace

Did damn, pass by, and reprobate

The most of human race.

Farther than this I cannot go,

Till Tophet take me in.

But, O, forbid that I should know

This mystery of sin.[133]

Such were the amenities of religious controversy in the eighteenth century!


Again, in a lighter but still intensely earnest vein, he caricatures his adversaries’ teaching—

The righteous God consigned

Them over to their doom,

And sent the Saviour of mankind

To damn them from the womb:

To damn for falling short

Of what they could not do,

For not believing the report

Of that which was not true.

He did not do the deed—

(Some have more mildly raved),

He did not damn them, but decreed

They never should be saved.

This effusion ends in a higher strain, with a dedication of his own life to the proclamation of universal redemption—

My life I here present,

My heart’s last drop of blood;

O let it all be freely spent

In proof that Thou art good:

Art good to all that breathe,

Who all may pardon have:

Thou willest not the sinner’s death,

But all the world wouldst save.

John Wesley tried in his brief tract on the Calvinistic Controversy[134] (1743) to make peace with Whitefield, and some of his concessions are surprising—indeed, he afterwards retracted them. But Charles, who at this time was in the full glow of his early evangelistic 188 triumphs, and who was much less of a theologian than his brother, felt that he was engaged in a holy crusade. He tried to write calmly, he prayed for grace to speak tenderly of those who were erring from the truth he held so dear, but—well, he could not keep silence.

In one of these hymns—a portion of which remains in the Methodist Hymn-book—he prays—

O arm me with the mind,

Meek Lamb! that was in Thee,

And let my knowing zeal be joined

To fervent charity.

With calm and tempered zeal

Let me enforce Thy call,

And vindicate Thy gracious will,

Which offers life to all.

Thou dost not stand in need

Of me to prop Thy cause,

To assert Thy general grace, or spread

The victory of Thy cross.

O may I love like Thee!

And in Thy footsteps tread!

Thou hatest all iniquity,

But nothing Thou hast made.

O may I learn Thy art,

With meekness to reprove;

To hate the sin with all my heart,

But still the sinner love.[135]

These verses might be headed ‘A Prayer before Controversy,’ but it is a shock to the reader on turning the page to find that the next verse shows how soon he descended from this high level.


The controversy was renewed thirty years later with vastly greater bitterness, and with much more personal feeling.

John Fletcher parted in 1771 from his Trevecca students like the saint he was, for he could no longer hold his place when other Arminians were discharged. ‘I cannot give up the possibility of the salvation of all any more than I can give up the truth and love of God.... I left them all in peace, the servant, but no more the president of the college.’[136]

The love of Whitefield and the Wesleys was of the kind which many waters cannot quench; but when Madan, Romaine, Hervey, and Rowland Hill heaped upon John Wesley’s venerable head torrents of vulgar abuse—abuse absolutely impossible, inconceivable in our milder mannered age[137]—Charles felt that there was a point beyond which even Christian charity could not decently go. His refusal to write Hervey’s epitaph is worthy of a Christian gentleman:

Let Madan or Romaine record his praise,

Enough that Wesley’s brother can forgive.

The flowing tide, however, was with the Methodists, and though the fight was long, and the victory was not wholly won in their day, these hymns rendered an inestimable service to the cause of religious freedom. It may be true that they represented Calvin’s teaching one-sidedly, and at times misrepresented it, but it 190 cannot be denied that they pictured current Calvinistic teaching accurately enough. The Wesleys saw clearly that, should belief in a limited redemption spread in their Society, they would but labour in vain and spend their strength for nought. They might have gathered little coteries of devout folk, strongly tinctured with what we now call Plymouth Brethrenism, but they could never have founded a great Church, whose chiefest glory should be its missionary enterprise both at home and in the ends of the earth. The mission of Thomas Coke more than a hundred years ago, the great city missions of our own time, the work of William Booth, of Hugh Price Hughes, and Samuel F. Collier, would have been impossible had they not been able to say anywhere and to all—

Sent by my Lord, on you I call;

The invitation is to all:

Come, all the world; come, sinner, thou;

All things in Christ are ready now!

The Wesleys reached their doctrine of general redemption by two paths. In the first place, they had been trained in the school of Arminius and of Laud, and had been confirmed in the faith by their own careful study of God’s word. But it is abundantly evident that their own experience had led them to believe in the infinite mercy of God. Charles Wesley, especially, argued with the profound humility of the sincere penitent, that his own salvation, of which he had received the undeniable assurance, ‘the indubitable seal,’ on 191 Whit-Sunday, 1738, was itself convincing evidence of the good tidings he proclaimed.

Thy sovereign grace to all extends,

Immense and unconfined:

From age to age it never ends;

It reaches all mankind.

Throughout the world its breadth is known,

Wide as infinity;

So wide, it never passed by one,

Or it had passed by me.[138]

This is a note which constantly recurs in the Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love—sometimes expressed quaintly and unpoetically, sometimes with a pathos truly sublime, as in these verses—

O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet,

And bathe and wash them with my tears;

The story of Thy love repeat

In every drooping sinner’s ears,

That all may hear the quickening sound,

Since I, even I, have mercy found.

O let Thy love my heart constrain,

Thy love for every sinner free;

That every fallen soul of man

May taste the grace that found out me;

That all mankind, with me, may prove

Thy sovereign, everlasting love.[139]

In this, as in other respects, the Wesleyan theology was characteristically Pauline. ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all men to be received that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.’


Hymns of this class have an important place in the story of the Methodist Revival, as well as in the Calvinistic controversy. The vehemence, the violence, with which the Wesleys asserted their doctrine was largely, if not entirely, due to their sense of what it meant to the vast crowds of neglected, ignorant, savage folk who listened with amazement to the messengers who proclaimed God’s love to them.

Sinners, believe the gospel word,

Jesus is come your souls to save!

Jesus is come, your common Lord;

Pardon ye all in Him may have,

May now be saved, whoever will;

This Man receiveth sinners still.

See where the lame, the halt, the blind.

The deaf, the dumb, the sick, the poor,

Flock to the Friend of human kind,

And freely all accept their cure;

To whom doth He His help deny?

Whom in His days of flesh pass by?[140]

And again—

O unexampled Love,

O all-redeeming Grace!

How freely didst Thou move

To save a fallen race!

What shall I do to make it known

What Thou for all mankind hast done?

O for a trumpet voice,

On all the world to call!

To bid their hearts rejoice

In Him who died for all;

For all my Lord was crucified,

For all, for all my Saviour died![141]


This was a new voice crying in the wilderness of dull religious mediocrity or of self-satisfied religious devotion, it was the clarion-cry of one that brought good tidings to the outcasts of Israel.

4. Hymns of the Methodist Evangel

From the first the Methodists made their own experience the starting-point of their preaching. John Wesley desired no help from any who had not ‘the witness in himself.’ His itinerants must set to their seal that God is true. ‘We are witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost.’ This personal element, the testimony of the man who believed and therefore spoke, differentiated at once Methodist preaching from the cold impersonal moral essays of the parish church. But Methodist preaching would not have been what it was had John Wesley’s sermons rather than Charles Wesley’s hymns represented Methodism to the masses. John Wesley’s keen intellect held his deep religious fervour in check, but Charles took full advantage of the poet’s licence to say what was in his heart without reserve and without modifying explanations.

His hymns of invitation strike a new note. There is nothing to compare with them in earlier hymn-writers, and comparatively little in later. They are the battle-songs of an open-air preacher, and are borne on the wings of the tempest that raged around 194 the heroic little poet as he faced cheerily the rage or ridicule of the mob. His metres are bright and lilting, winning the ear of the simple and arresting the casual passer-by.

The mercy I feel To others I show,

I set to my seal That Jesus is true:

Ye all may find favour Who come at His call,

O come to my Saviour, His grace is for all!

O let me commend My Saviour to you,

The publican’s Friend And Advocate too,

For you He is pleading His merits and death,

With God interceding For sinners beneath.

And again—

O all that pass by, To Jesus draw near;

He utters a cry, Ye sinners, give ear!

From hell to retrieve you, He spreads out His hands;

Now, now to receive you, He graciously stands.

Only a preacher, perhaps only an open-air preacher, could have written such hymns. They are not hymns of the oratory, of the class-room, or the village church; but of that vast cathedral whose roof is the blue vault of heaven; they are songs of Moorfields, of Kingswood, of Newcastle, and of Gwennap. Perhaps of all Wesley’s hymns these are the most characteristically Methodist. Comparatively few are to be found even yet in any but Methodist books, but in them they hold an unchallenged place, and belong to the whole Methodist family, which has had many a quarrel in Conference, has been many a time by 195 schisms rent asunder, but has never faltered in its loyal and steadfast proclamation of the message of God’s everlasting love.

As a general rule each revision of a Nonconformist hymn-book renders it less distinctive of the denomination it represents, and this is, to some extent, true of the new Methodist hymn-book. It has lost the section with which Wesley’s book opened, ‘Exhorting and Entreating to Return to God,’ but it retains almost all the hymns. Modern writers have seldom succeeded in hymns of this type. A few, however, rank with the best of Charles Wesley’s, who himself never struck a note of yearning sympathy for the erring more true and tender than Faber in his ‘Come to Jesus.’

Souls of men! why will ye scatter

Like a crowd of frightened sheep?

Foolish hearts! why will ye wander

From a love so true and deep?

It is not one of the best signs of the times that hymns of invitation are now for the most part provided by American singers and are of the ephemeral class.

Faber’s exquisite lines, set side by side with such a hymn as Wesley’s

Ye neighbours and friends Of Jesus, draw near,

well illustrate the difference between the cheery, hopeful, out-door evangel of the Wesleys and the subdued earnestness of the pleading of the modern 196 Catholic or Anglo-Catholic missioner. I do not suggest that the comparison is to the advantage or disadvantage of either, but only indicate the difference of the tone of the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century mission hymns. In our day evangelism has lost much of its novelty, and men are less hopeful than they were of the world’s conversion. To the first Methodists it seemed as though any triumph was possible to such a gospel as theirs, and their battle-songs were all songs of victory.

Wesley’s hymns enshrine the history as well as the doctrines of Methodism, and few studies in Methodist hymnology are more interesting than that of the geography of the hymn-book. As to the local setting of ‘Lo! on a narrow neck of land’ there has been much controversy, but it undoubtedly belongs to Jekyl Island, and not to the Land’s End. Charles Wesley wrote to Lady Oglethorpe from Jekyl Island in 1736—

‘Last evening I wandered to the north end of the island, and stood upon the narrow point which your ladyship will recall as there projecting into the ocean. The vastness of the watery waste, as compared with my standing place, called to mind the briefness of human life and the immensity of its consequences, and my surroundings inspired me to write the enclosed hymn, beginning

Lo! on a narrow neck of land,

’Twixt two unbounded seas I stand—

which, I trust, may pleasure your ladyship, weak and feeble 197 as it is when compared with the songs of the sweet psalmist of Israel.’[142]

He did write a hymn at the Land’s End, but it is of quite a different type. It might have been written for St. Augustine of Canterbury on his landing at Ebbsfleet.

Come, Divine Immanuel, come,

Take possession of Thy home,

Now Thy mercy’s wings expand,

Stretch throughout the happy land.[143]

The popular hymn

See how great a flame aspires,

Kindled by a spark of grace!

Jesu’s love the nations fires,

Sets the kingdoms on a blaze—

tells of victory at Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Glory to God, whose sovereign grace

Hath animated senseless stones;[144]

tells of triumph at Kingswood, whilst—

Worship, and thanks, and blessing,

And strength ascribe to Jesus!

is reminiscent of mobs at Walsall and Devizes.


5. Hymns of the Methodist Society

The duty of a Methodist preacher was not simply to sow good seed broadcast, but to gather those who received the word into Societies, where they could be taught, trained, watched over. A large part of John Wesley’s itinerations were for the purpose of confirming and sifting the Societies. In many cases they might be described as Charles Wesley, who had an eye for the humorous side of people and things, describes the Newcastle converts, ‘a wild, loving, staring Society.’ But the converts who remained steadfast were soon led to an intelligent faith and a life of devotion such as is possible only to those who are taught by educated men or their pupils. The debt Methodism owes to Oxford culture is inestimable. The Wesleys were never discouraged by the ignorance of their hearers, but they were never content with it. They had profound faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as a teacher, and prayed, like St. Paul for his simple-minded converts at Philippi, that love might abound in good sense and good taste.[145]

Him Prophet, and King, And Priest we proclaim,

We triumph and sing Of Jesus’s name;

Poor idiots[146] He teaches To show forth His praise,

And tell of the riches Of Jesus’s grace.


No matter how dull The scholar whom He

Takes into His school, And gives him to see;

A wonderful fashion Of teaching He hath,

And wise to salvation He makes us through faith.

To a generation brought up to regard Sankey’s Songs and Solos as the best possible hymns for mission-halls and open-air services, a study of Wesley’s hymns is a liberal education. For the most ignorant of the converts the hymns were the one and only means of culture. They could not read, much of the preaching must have been beyond their comprehension, but the hymns, read slowly, a line at a time, soon became familiar, and the favourite hymns sung over and over again in the house, the class-room, and the family circle, became a part of their very life. Methodist biography shows how the life and death of the saints has been cheered and sanctified by these spiritual songs.

The most important, and by far the largest, part of Wesley’s Collection was devoted to hymns of the Christian life.

It is divided into sections: For Believers Rejoicing, Fighting, Praying, Watching, Working, Suffering, Seeking for Full Redemption, Saved, Interceding for the World. It begins with his own translation of Johann Andreas Rothe’s great hymn

Now I have found the ground wherein

Sure my soul’s anchor may remain,

The wounds of Jesus, for my sin,

Before the world’s foundation slain;

Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,

When heaven and earth are fled away


This is followed by his version of Zinzendorf’s hymn

Jesu, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress.

After these Moravian hymns are a number of Charles Wesley’s, which celebrate the joys of believers, for ‘How should not he be glad, whom the glad tidings have reached?’[147] It is often difficult to understand John Wesley’s principle of classification, but in this section almost every hymn of the seventy-five is obviously well placed under the title ‘For Believers Rejoicing.’ The notes of thanksgiving are very varied, from the calm confidence of ‘Now I have found the ground’ to the simple songs written for him ‘that in God is merry,’ such as

O what shall I do My Saviour to praise,

So faithful and true, So plenteous in grace,

So strong to deliver, So good to redeem

The weakest believer That hangs upon Him!


My God, I am Thine, What a comfort divine,

What a blessing to know That my Jesus is mine!

We cannot claim for these hymns that they introduce new songs to the Christian choir. Joy and gladness are common to all who have found salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, F. W. Faber, Frances Ridley Havergal, and many more have had ‘the high praises of God in their 201 mouth.’ From the days of the Hebrew psalmists until now the sense of infinite content which comes with the peace which passeth all understanding has been the theme of God’s singers. ‘He satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.’ Yet joyousness is a special characteristic of Methodist hymns, and especially of those which were written in the early days of the triumphs of the itinerant preachers. No hymns rise higher in their exultant rapture, none are more tenderly triumphant than the songs of Charles Wesley.

His Birthday hymn exhibits the happy enthusiasm of his evangelism.

My remnant of days

I spend in His praise,

Who died the whole world to redeem;

Be they many or few,

My days are His due,

And they all are devoted to Him.

In other hymns he expresses the same joy in living in calmer tones.

The winter’s night and summer’s day

Glide imperceptibly away,

Too short to sing Thy praise;

Too few we find the happy hours,

And haste to join those heavenly powers,

In everlasting lays.

Bright and inspiring as these pieces are, they are in striking contrast with the hymns characteristic of minor religious movements, and justify John Wesley’s claim 202 that ‘in these hymns is no doggerel.’ That they are of unequal merit goes without saying, but it is remarkable how many of them are living hymns to-day. Religious feeling is no more healthy because it loves to pray for guidance ‘amid the encircling gloom,’ or to describe the hosts of the Church militant as ‘pilgrims of the night.’ A ‘sober standard of feeling’ must take into account that the darkness has passed and the true light now shineth.

Yet one who knows little of early Methodism would be surprised to find how ‘sober’ is the tone of most of the hymns provided for the people called Methodists. They are songs in which ‘calmly reverential joy’ is more often heard than ecstasy. It is instructive to turn from Mr. Lecky’s chapter on ‘The Religious Revival,’ in his History of England in the Eighteenth Century to Wesley’s hymns. The uninstructed reader of Mr. Lecky would expect to find here the turbid, involved, hysterical expression of a morbid fanaticism, but he would search almost in vain for illustrations of that side of the Methodist Movement. It is true that both the Wesleys were perplexed by the physical effects of their preaching, and were afraid to treat them as mere manifestations of hysterical excitement. But they dealt with them as St. Paul dealt with somewhat similar phenomena at Corinth, and carefully avoided encouraging such painful and inconvenient interruptions of their services. The hymn-book makes no provision for the nervously excited, and has no compositions of 203 the class characteristic of many ‘revivals’—such, for instance, as are found in Hugh Bourne’s Hymns for Camp Meetings, Revivals, etc. The novelty, the directness of the preaching, and, no doubt, the lack of education of many of the preachers naturally led to indiscretion in many places, especially in the early days of the Revival; but it is fair to judge the Wesleys’ own standard of religious emotion by their hymns rather than by the extravagances of their least intelligent helpers.

Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘For the Fear of God,’ is a good example of the attitude of soul he desired for himself and for Methodists generally.

God of all grace and majesty,

Supremely great and good!

If I have mercy[148] found with Thee,

Through the atoning blood,

The guard of all Thy mercies give,

And to my pardon join

A fear lest I should ever grieve

The gracious Spirit divine.

Rather I would in darkness mourn

The absence of Thy peace,

Than e’er by light irreverence turn

Thy grace to wantonness:

Rather I would in painful awe

Beneath Thine anger move,

Than sin against the gospel law

Of liberty and love.


But O! Thou wouldst not have me live

In bondage, grief, or pain,

Thou dost not take delight to grieve

The helpless sons of men;

Thy will is my salvation, Lord;

And let it now take place,

And let me tremble at the word

Of reconciling grace.

Still may I walk as in Thy sight,

My strict observer see;

And Thou by reverent love unite

My child-like heart to Thee;

Still let me, till my days are past,

At Jesu’s feet abide,

So shall He lift me up at last,

And seat me by His side.

Perhaps there are few hymns quite of this type, but the subdued and subduing sense of the fear of God pervades many of Charles Wesley’s poems. He dwells much on ‘the mystic joys of penitence,’ as in his brief meditation on Ezek. xxxvi. 26, ‘I will give you an heart of flesh.’

Let me, according to Thy word,

A tender, contrite heart receive,

Which grieves[149] for having grieved its Lord

And never can itself forgive;

a verse which reminds one of Cardinal Newman’s saying that true penitence never forgives itself. This, however, is not what Charles Wesley meant, for 205 he of all Christian poets best understood how truly the pardoned prodigal might make merry and be glad when he was safe in his Father’s house once more.

Lift up Thy countenance serene,

And let Thy happy child

Behold, without a cloud between,

The Godhead reconciled.

An important series of hymns—so important that it demands separate consideration—is that which is found in Sections vii.-ix. of the original hymn-book. They include nearly one hundred pieces, and from the days of John Wesley until the latest revision the section began with a hymn which is the most fitting introduction to the series, since it sets forth with great simplicity the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection. Familiar as this hymn is to Methodists, it is worth while to quote it in full here—

The thing my God doth hate,

That I no more may do,

Thy creature, Lord, again create,

And all my soul renew;

My soul shall then, like Thine,

Abhor the thing unclean,

And, sanctified by love divine,

For ever cease from sin.

That blessed law of Thine,

Jesus, to me impart;

The Spirit’s law of life divine,

O write it in my heart!

Implant it deep within,

Whence it may ne’er remove,

The law of liberty from sin,

The perfect law of love.


Thy nature be my law,

Thy spotless sanctity,

And sweetly every moment draw

My happy soul to Thee.

Soul of my soul remain!

Who didst for all fulfil,

In me, O Lord, fulfil again

Thy heavenly Father’s will!

This hymn is made up, as are many others, by joining together verses from the Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures. The first verse is suggested by Jer. xliv. 4: ‘Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.’ The second and third by Jer. xxxi. 33: ‘I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

Another peaceful and attractive hymn on the same subject is based on Heb. iv. 9: ‘There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.’ Charles Wesley wrote twenty-seven verses; John Wesley selected eight, these are reduced to six in the Methodist Hymn-book. I am inclined to think that a further abridgement would have been still wiser. The four verses which follow are a beautiful meditation on the text—

Lord, I believe a rest remains

To all Thy people known,

A rest where pure enjoyment reigns,

And Thou art loved alone:

A rest, where all our soul’s desire

Is fixed on things above;

Where fear, and sin, and grief expire,

Cast out by perfect love.


O that I now the rest might know,

Believe, and enter in!

Now, Saviour, now the power bestow,

And let me cease from sin.

Remove this hardness from my heart,

This unbelief remove:

To me the rest of faith impart,

The Sabbath of Thy love.

The doctrine of Entire Sanctification, as it was believed and taught by the Wesleys, is set forth in the hymn-book with emphasis, but the expressions are rarely open to serious objection, nearly every phrase having Scriptural precedent. In early days Charles Wesley had often prayed for death, believing that through its gate alone could he find entrance into ‘the land of rest from inbred sin.’ In one of his first hymns, published in 1739, he had written—

Fain would I leave this world below,

Of pain and sin the dark abode,

Where shadowy joy or solid woe

Allures or tears me from my God;

Doubtful and insecure of bliss,

Since death alone confirms me His.[150]

But in later years he had outgrown this mood. John Wesley wrote No against the last line of the stanza, and in his hymn-book gave—

Since faith alone confirms me His.

The brothers taught that sanctification was progressive, yet might be ‘cut short in righteousness,’ 208 a phrase which they often quoted. In one of the hymns for those that wait for ‘full redemption,’[151] Charles Wesley writes—

Surely I have pardon found,

Grace doth more than sin abound,

God, I know, is pacified;

Thou for me, for me hast died;

But I cannot rest herein,

All my nature still is sin,

Comforted I will not be

Till my soul is all like Thee.

See my burdened, sin-sick soul,

Give me faith, and make me whole!

Finish Thy great work of grace,

Cut it short in righteousness.

Speak the second time, ‘Be clean!’

Take away my inbred sin;

Now the stumbling-block remove,

Cast it out by perfect love.

This doctrine of what has been called ‘the second blessing’ is often met with in Charles Wesley, but he used expressions which John disapproved, and would not repeat in his Collection, as in the second verse of the great hymn, ‘Love divine, all loves excelling,’ which reads—

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,

Into every troubled breast;

Let us all in Thee inherit,

Let us find that second rest;

Take away the power of sinning,

Alpha and Omega be;

End of faith as its beginning,

Set our hearts at liberty.


John Fletcher suggested that ‘power’ should be altered to ‘love.’

The Wesleys’ teaching concerning sanctification had an immense influence upon Methodist life and thought. ‘The pursuit of holiness,’ to use Dean Goulburn’s phrase, was the daily interest and delight of multitudes of devout souls. No doubt in many cases there was more or less of morbid introspection, but the rich treasury of Methodist biography witnesses to the saintliness of those who made the search for ‘full redemption,’ or, as they delighted to say, ‘perfect love,’ the one serious business of life.

Important and influential as this section of Wesley’s Hymns is, not many of the best are found here.[152] The finest are John Wesley’s translations from the German but only a few original compositions are of marked value. Some exceptions, indeed, must be made, notably—

Love divine, all loves excelling;

and there are many verses inspired by that thirst of the soul ‘for God, yea, even for the living God,’ which is characteristic of no one Church or age, but of all elect souls restless till they find rest in Him. The varying 210 moods of the seeker after God are impressively illustrated. Some of the hymns are of a solemn and even sombre type, while others are bright with assurance of the favour of God and the gladness of the redeemed. Here are a few verses from a


Come, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire!

Come, and my hallowed heart inspire,

Sprinkled with the atoning blood;

Now to my soul Thyself reveal,

Thy mighty working let me feel,

And know that I am born of God.

Thy witness with my spirit bear,

That God, my God, inhabits there;

Thou, with the Father, and the Son,

Eternal Light’s co-eval Beam;

Be Christ in me, and I in Him,

Till perfect we are made in one.

Let earth no more my heart divide,

With Christ may I be crucified,

To Thee with my whole soul aspire;

Dead to the world and all its toys,

Its idle pomp, and fading joys,

Be thou alone my one desire!

Be Thou my joy, be Thou my dread;

In battle cover Thou my head,

Nor earth nor hell I then shall fear;

I then shall turn my steady face,

Want, pain, defy, enjoy disgrace,

Glory in dissolution near.


My will be swallowed up in Thee;

Light in Thy light still may I see,

Beholding Thee with open face;

Called the full power of faith to prove,

Let all my hallowed heart be love,

And all my spotless life be praise.

Come, Holy Ghost, all-quickening fire,

My consecrated heart inspire,

Sprinkled with the atoning blood;

Still to my soul Thyself reveal,

Thy mighty working may I feel,

And know that I am one with God!

Of the other type two bright verses on 1 Chron. xxix. 5 are a good example—

Lord, in the strength of grace,

With a glad heart and free,

Myself, my residue of days

I consecrate to Thee.

Thy ransomed servant, I

Restore to Thee Thine own,

And, from this moment, live or die

To serve my God alone.

These two verses belong to the very extensive series of

6. Hymns on Passages of Holy Scripture

Charles Wesley’s poetry is always sanctified by the word of God. In this regard he is unsurpassed, and I think unequalled, by any other writer. He thought and wrote in the language of the Bible, and constantly weaves into his hymns the words, phrases, incidents 212 of Holy Scripture. No one ‘spiritualized’ more boldly than he. Of this his most famous poem, ‘Wrestling Jacob,’ is the great example. Many other hymns illustrate the same power, e.g. this verse, which ‘spiritualizes’ Peter’s deliverance from prison—

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

and this, which refers in the same fashion to the resurrection of Lazarus—

Buried in sin, Thy voice I hear,

And burst the barriers of my tomb,

In all the marks of death appear,

Forth at Thy call, though bound, I come.

His more formal paraphrases are often very fine, and are hymns of permanent worth. Such are—

None is like Jeshurun’s God (Deut. xxxiii. 26-29).

Wherewith, O God, shall I draw near (Mic. vi. 6-8).

Away my unbelieving fear (Hab. iii. 17, 18).

Of course Charles Wesley wrote many Psalm-versions. Comparatively few are above the average, but there are some exceptions. Among these are the 48th—

Great is our redeeming Lord,

In power, and truth, and grace.


the 84th—

How lovely are Thy tents, O Lord!

Where’er Thou choosest to record

Thy name, or place Thy house of prayer,

My soul outflies the angel-choir,

And faints, o’erpowered with strong desire,

To meet Thy special presence there.

the 121st—

To the hills I lift mine eyes,

The everlasting hills.

the 125th—

Who in the Lord confide

And feel His sprinkled blood,

In storms and hurricanes abide,

Firm as the mount of God.

Often only two or three verses can be taken from a long poem, as in Ps. iii.—

Thou, Lord, art a shield for me.[153]

and Ps. ix.—

Thee will I praise with all my heart.

Here the whole psalm, as it appears in the Poetical Works, consists of fourteen verses, most of them impossible for singing in a Christian Church, but there are four good verses, especially this, with its tender trustfulness that the humble seeker must at length find his Saviour—

A helpless soul that looks to Thee

Is sure at last Thy face to see,

And all Thy goodness to partake;

The sinner who for Thee doth grieve,

And longs, and labours to believe,

Thou never, never wilt forsake.[154]


The 23rd Psalm is also very beautiful, and is worthy to take its place amongst the many lovely renderings of this sweetest of the praises of Israel. I venture to quote the whole, as it is little known outside Wesleyan Methodism, and not too well known in our own Church. It is the 23rd Psalm read in the light of the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.

Jesus the good Shepherd is;

Jesus died the sheep to save;

He is mine, and I am His;

All I want in Him I have,

Life, and health, and rest, and food,

All the plenitude of God.

Jesus loves and guards His own;

Me in verdant pastures feeds;

Makes me quietly lie down,

By the streams of comfort leads:

Following Him where’er He goes,

Silent joy my heart o’erflows.

He in sickness makes me whole,

Guides into the paths of peace;

He revives my fainting soul,

Stablishes in righteousness;

Who for me vouchsafed to die,

Loves me still,—I know not why!

Unappalled by guilty fear,

Through the mortal vale I go;

My eternal Life is near;

Thee my Life, in death I know;

Bless Thy chastening, cheering rod

Die into the arms of God!


Till that welcome hour I see,

Thou before my foes dost feed;

Bidd’st me sit and feast with Thee,

Pour’st Thy oil upon my head;

Giv’st me all I ask, and more,

Mak’st my cup of joy run o’er.

Love divine shall still embrace,

Love shall keep me to the end;

Surely all my happy days

I shall in Thy temple spend,

Till I to Thy house remove,

Thy eternal house above!

Dr. Watts’s ‘grand design’ in his version of the Psalter was ‘to teach’ the ‘author to speak like a Christian.’ Charles Wesley took St. Augustine’s view, that we ought to hear the voice of Christ in all the psalms. His version of Ps. xlv. is typical of his attitude toward the Psalter as a whole.

My heart is full of Christ, and longs

Its glorious matter to declare!

Of Him I make my loftier songs,

I cannot from His praise forbear;

My ready tongue makes haste to sing

The beauties of my heavenly King.

In 1762 Charles Wesley took advantage of a time of physical weakness to write a large number of verses, forming a kind of running commentary on the Holy Scriptures. They are, for the most part, purely devotional; but the events of the time and, perhaps, of the day on which a poem was written are mirrored in some of the verses. In the preface he says—


Many of the thoughts are borrowed from Mr. Henry’s Commentary, Dr. Gell on the Pentateuch, and Bengelius on the New Testament. Several of the hymns are intended to prove, and several to guard, the doctrine of Christian Perfection. I durst not publish one without the other. In the latter sort I use some severity.

On this point the brothers differed, and especially as to the method of treating those who discredited the doctrine by extravagance in teaching or by inconsistency of life.

The Short Poems account for the enormous number of Charles Wesley’s hymns. On the Old Testament he wrote 1,609, on the New Testament 3,491, a total of 5,100 poetical notes on the Holy Scripture. But very many consist of only one verse.[155] By skilful combination some very good hymns have been made, and in a few instances we come upon a complete hymn of great strength or beauty. Many of these are familiar in Methodist congregations, though probably few worshippers recognize the passages of Scripture which suggested the verses. The well-known hymn

A charge to keep I have,

is the poet’s meditation and prayer after reading Lev. viii. 35: ‘Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not.’ After reading Lev. vi. 13: ‘The fire shall 217 ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out,’ he prays

O Thou who camest from above

The pure celestial fire to impart,

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart!

There let it for Thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze;

And trembling to its source return,

In humble prayer and fervent praise.

On the words ‘merciful and gracious’ in Exod. xxxiv. 6 he comments

Mercy is Thy distinguished Name,

And suits the sinner best.

On the twenty-ninth verse of the same chapter, ‘Moses wist not that his face shone,’ he writes

Thine image if Thou stamp on me,

Let others, Lord, the brightness see,

By me unseen, unknown.

As these verses are buried in the last four volumes of the Poetical Works, I venture to quote a few others which have, I think, some special value, reminding one at times of Herbert or Crashaw.

‘The Lord went His way’ (Gen. xviii. 33).

Unwearied let us still request

By instant prayer whate’er we want:

The patriarch from asking ceased,

Before the Almighty ceased to grant.


‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent’ (Exod. iv. 10).

How ready is the man to go

Whom God hath never sent!

How timorous, diffident, and slow

God’s chosen instrument!

Lord, if from Thee this mark I have

Of a true Messenger,

By whom Thou wilt Thy people save,

And let me always fear.

Slow of speech and slower still

Of heart, alas! am I,

Cannot utter what I feel,

Or speak to the Most High:

But I to my Brother look,

Mighty both in word and deed:

He my cause hath undertook

And lives for me to plead.

‘Where hast thou gleaned to-day?’ (Ruth ii. 19).

At evening to myself I say,

My soul, where hast thou gleaned to-day,

Thy labours how bestowed?

What hast thou rightly said or done?

What grace attained or knowledge won,

In following after God?

‘Oh that I knew where I might find Him’ (Job xxxiii. 3).

Where but on yonder tree?

Or if too rich thou art,

Sink into poverty,

And find Him in thine heart.

‘Israel served for a wife’ (Hos. xii. 12).

While Jacob for a wife doth wait,

A length of servile years

(His love to Rachel is so great)

As a few days appears:


And shall I think it long to stay

Or wish my labours passed?

A thousand years are but a day

If Christ be mine at last.

These verses on Num. xi. 27, 28 are in a different strain.

Eldad, they said, and Medad there,

Irregularly bold,

By Moses uncommissioned dare

A separate meeting hold!

And still whom none, but Heaven, will own,

Men whom the world decry,

Men authorized by God alone

Presume to prophesy!

How often have I blindly done

What zealous Joshua did,

Impatient to the rulers run

And cried, ‘My lords, forbid!’

Silence the schismatics; constrain

Their thoughts with ours to agree;

And sacrifice the souls of men

To idol unity!

John Wesley lets this pass without note or comment, but when, on Num. xvi. 10, Charles wrote

Raised from the people’s lowest lees,

Guard, Lord, Thy preaching witnesses,

Nor let their pride the honour claim

Of sealing covenants in Thy name.

he notes on the first line, ‘Query? J. W.’

Here our detailed consideration of Charles Wesley’s hymns must end, though there are many others over which one would be glad to linger. Some of the hymns 220 on Death and the Future Life are of great power, though some have lost and others are losing their hold upon Methodist worshippers. Charles Wesley’s view of death is well illustrated in these verses, which I quote the more readily because, to my regret, they are not found in the Methodist Hymn-book. If they could not often be sung in the congregation, there are times when they would speak the inmost feeling of the devout disciple.

O when shall we sweetly remove,

O when shall we enter our rest,

Return to the Sion above,

The mother of spirits distressed!

Not all the archangels can tell

The joys of that holiest place,

When Jesus is pleased to reveal

The light of His heavenly face.

’Tis good at Thy word to be here,

’Tis better in Thee to be gone,

And see Thee in glory appear,

And rise to a share of Thy throne.

To mourn for Thy coming is sweet,

To weep at Thy longer delay;

But Thou, whom we hasten to meet,

Shalt chase all our sorrows away.

This is not the tone of modern worship. It is open to the charge of that ‘other-worldliness’ of which our time is so impatient and knows so little, but it is the language of the disciples whom Jesus loves. ‘Having the desire to depart and be with Christ: for 221 it is very far better.’ ‘He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’

After Charles Wesley, Methodism had no great hymn-writer, though Thomas Olivers (1725-99), one of the early preachers, wrote one of the finest of our hymns of adoration.

He was a man of considerable ability, but Wesley had more confidence in him as a corrector of errors of doctrine than of errors of the press. He left Toplady to be ‘corrected by one that is full his match, Mr. Thomas Olivers,’ but he rejected Olivers as assistant-editor of the Arminian Magazine, because ‘the errata are insufferable.’

‘The God of Abraham praise’ was published at Nottingham in a pamphlet of eight pages, with the title, ‘A Hymn to the God of Abraham. In three parts, adapted to a celebrated air, sung by the priest, Signior Leoni, &c., at the Jews’ Synagogue in London.’ There is only slight verbal resemblance between Olivers’ version and the Hebrew original.[156] He wrote a few other hymns, not to be compared with this, yet indicating considerable poetic power. One of them, ‘On the Last Judgement,’ was published at ‘Leedes.’ It contained twenty verses, and was afterwards altered, and enlarged to thirty-six verses, Scripture references being given in the margin of almost every line. Some verses 222 of this poem have been occasionally used in hymn-books, and Lord Selborne gave twelve verses in his Book of Praise. It is, however, little known. The following are among the best verses.

Come, immortal King of Glory!

Now with all Thy saints appear;

While astonished worlds adore Thee,

And the dead Thy clarions hear,

Shine refulgent,

And Thy Deity maintain.

Lo! He comes with clouds descending:

Hark! the trump of God is blown:

And the archangel’s voice attending,

Makes the high procession known.

Sons of Adam,

Rise and stand before your God!

‘Come, Lord Jesus, O come quickly,’

Oft has prayed the mourning Bride.

Lo! He answers, ‘I come quickly’;

Who Thy coming may abide?

All who loved Him,

All who longed to see His day.

Come, He saith, ye heirs of glory,

Come, ye purchase of My blood,

Claim the kingdom now before you,

Rise and fill the mount of God:

Fixed for ever,

Where the Lamb on Sion stands.

Now their trials all are ended,

Now the dubious warfare’s o’er,

Joy no more with sorrow blended,

They shall sigh and weep no more:

God for ever

Wipes the tear from every eye.


Hail! Thou Alpha and Omega!

First and last of all alone.

He that is, and was, and shall be,

And beside whom there is none.

Take the glory,

Great Eternal Three in One!

Praise be to the Father given:

Praise to the co-eval Son:

Praise the Spirit, One and Seven;

Praise the mystic Three in One.


Everlasting praise be Thine.

John Bakewell (1721-1819), a Methodist schoolmaster, wrote several hymns, and is widely known as the author of ‘Hail, Thou once despisèd Jesus.’[157] Benjamin Rhodes (1743-1815), converted under the preaching of Whitefield, and for many years a Methodist preacher, wrote one really fine hymn, ‘My heart and voice I raise.’ Another of the early Methodist preachers, John Murlin, ‘the weeping prophet,’ published a small volume of hymns, some of which are quite as good as most of the eighteenth-century songs.


Eighteenth-century Hymns

III.—The Olney Hymns

The contribution of evangelical Churchmen, apart from the Wesleys, to the hymnody of the eighteenth century, is slight, with the important exception of the remarkable collection of hymns issued by William Cowper and John Newton, which takes its title from the little Buckinghamshire town in which Newton was for years curate for an absentee vicar.

Our little England has been the mother of so many famous sons that it often happens that some out-of-the-way village or obscure country town is rich in memories of the great and good, for

Half of her dust has walked the rest

In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages.

Such a spot is Olney, the town of Cowper and of Cowper’s Mary, of John Newton, and for a time of Thomas Scott, of whom Newman speaks as ‘the writer who made a deeper impression on my mind than any other, and to whom (humanly speaking) I almost owe 225 my soul.’[158] Where William Carey, after some hesitation on the ground of his slight abilities, was ‘allowed to go on preaching,’ and finally sent forth to the ministry by the unanimous vote of the Baptist Church, over which John Sutcliff presided. Where also Dr. H. J. Gauntlett, when a boy of ten, was organist at the parish church.[159]

The Olney hymns are at once the ‘monument’ of ‘an intimate and endeared friendship’ and of a memorable literary partnership. ‘The old African blasphemer’ must have felt it even more a matter of thankfulness that he found himself collaborating with William Cowper than that he should become minister of the nearest church to the Mansion House. John Newton’s romantic story is too well known to be repeated here. He is a unique figure in the Christian choir, and the story of our hymn-writers would be vastly poorer if his life were omitted.

Influenced, as he gladly recognized, by the mother who died when he was a boy of seven, his soul lay open to intellectual and spiritual impressions, even in the midst of his wanderings and sins. Euclid, as well as Thomas à Kempis, shared in the saving of his soul and kept him from sinking to the level of his companions and oppressors. His hair-breadth escapes were so many and so remarkable that he might well regard them as interpositions of Providence, indicating 226 that he was ‘a chosen vessel’ whom God had designated to special work when his hour should come.

Among the many interesting men who occupy secondary places in the religious life of the eighteenth century, he is one of the most interesting and attractive. The promise of his childhood blighted by the death of his mother, his restless, roving, adventurous manhood, his pursuit of knowledge under difficulties, his seven years’ faithful love for Mary Catlett, thoughts of whom were never absent from his mind for an hour amidst all his ‘misery and wretchedness,’ the unegotistic frankness of his Authentic Narrative, his profound and thankful modesty,

The genuine meek humility,

The wonder why such love to me,

his genius for friendship, his good-humoured perplexity as to his proper theological and ecclesiastical affinities, his ready wit and manly tenderness, unite to make John Newton’s a name over which one may well linger.

He was a Calvinist for the same reason that the Wesleys were Arminians. They were convinced that only a love divine which included every soul of man could have stooped to them. Newton believed that only God’s determinate counsel could have set such wandering feet as his upon the rock and established his goings. To such elect souls the divers ways of contradictory theologies blend in the one path which leads the sinner to the Saviour. ‘The views,’ he says, ‘I 227 have received of the doctrines of grace, are essential to my peace, and I could not live a day or an hour without them.’ He found them ‘friendly to holiness,’ and it was not in him to be ‘ashamed of them.’ One of his favourite stories was of an old woman near Olney, whose views on predestination suited him exactly. ‘Ah! I have long settled that point; for if God had not chosen me before I was born, I am sure He would have seen nothing in me to have chosen me for afterwards.’ But we can well believe that he was not a satisfactory Calvinist from the ‘highest’ point of view. ‘There were two sorts of Calvinists at Olney,’ he said, ‘and they always reminded me of the two baskets of Jeremiah’s figs.’

His Churchmanship was like his Calvinism, convinced but liberal, almost easy-going. He writes to his friend, William Bull—

I know not how it is. I think my sentiments and experience are as orthodox and Calvinistical as need be; and yet I am a sort of speckled bird among my Calvinist brethren. I am a mighty good Churchman, but pass amongst such as a Dissenter in prunello. On the other hand, the Dissenters (many of them, I mean) think me defective, either in understanding or in conscience, for staying where I am. Well, there is a middle party called Methodists, but neither do my dimensions exactly fit with them.... But there are a few among all parties who bear with me and love me, and with this I must be content at present.... Party walls, though stronger than the walls of Babylon, must come down in the general ruin when the earth and all its works shall be burned up, if not sooner.


In truth, he also was one of those whom any Church might gladly have adopted. He would have been thoroughly happy and at home amongst the best of the Dissenters, he would have been an ideal Methodist, and his Narrative would have given an added glory to the Lives of Early Methodist Preachers; but, notwithstanding the difficulties which delayed his taking orders, he was in his right place as a parish clergyman, and had no reason to complain that he was not appreciated in the Establishment. His Apologia shows that when he desired to enter the ministry, Dissenters were quite as much afraid of him as Churchmen, and were as unwilling to ordain him as the archbishop himself.[160]

He entered the Church without any special prejudice in its favour, but his conviction that he had taken the right step grew stronger year by year. His defence of the Prayer-book against the criticism of the Dissenter who availed himself of Watts’s Psalms and Hymns is as effective as it is witty, and is enforced by a characteristic anecdote of a preacher who used to compose hymns line by line as he announced them from the pulpit.

Crito freely will rehearse

Forms of praise and prayer in verse;

Why should Crito then suppose

Forms are sinful when in prose?

Must my form be deemed a crime

Merely for the want of rhyme?


Newton’s charity went a good deal beyond that of the ordinary evangelical of his own and of many a later day. In the Apologia he expresses with vigour his conviction that ‘the Lord has a people’ among the members of the Roman and Greek Churches.

I should hope that they who, having themselves tasted that the Lord is gracious, know the language of a heart under the influence of His Spirit, would, in defiance of Protestant prejudices, be of my mind if they had opportunity of perusing the writings of some Papists.

Newton was not one of the great men of his age, but he is remarkable, if not pre-eminent, for the naturalness with which he speaks the common tongue of the children of God. Father Faber, in the preface to his Hymns, bears a somewhat reluctant witness to this.

Catholics even are said to be sometimes found poring with a devout and unsuspecting delight over the verses of the Olney hymns, which the author (Faber) himself can remember acting like a spell upon him for years, strong enough to be for long a counter influence to very grave convictions, and even now to come back from time to time unbidden into the mind.

If Faber deprecated the ‘spell’ of the Olney hymns, it is fair to remember that Newton concludes his defence of devout Catholics by saying, ‘However, I desire to be thankful that I am not a Papist.’

In 1764 the difficulties which beset his entrance to the ministry ended, and he was ordained by the Bishop 230 of Lincoln to the curacy of Olney, which had been secured for him by the Earl of Dartmouth,[161] a devout and liberal Churchman, commemorated in Cowper’s lines—

We boast some rich ones whom the gospel sways,

And one who wears a coronet and prays.

Newton was nearly forty when he entered upon his first clerical employment. A few months after his coming to Olney, Cowper and Mrs. Unwin stayed with him at the vicarage for about six weeks, and from that time they were bound together by the ties of a deep affection. Newton recognized with his usual shrewdness how much he was inferior to his friend in intellectual capacity, but he was able to give to the sorely tried poet, in his fits of depression, much comfort and a very patient friendship. When in 1773 one of Cowper’s worst attacks came on, he went to the vicarage and remained there for more than twelve months. It was no light trial to Newton, but he said, ‘I think I can hardly do or suffer too much for such a friend,’ and ‘upon the whole’ he was not weary of his ‘cross.’ It has sometimes, most ungenerously, been charged against Newton that his influence tended to produce, or to aggravate, the religious melancholy of the poet, but Cowper’s malady had been very pronounced long before 231 Newton met him. Richard Cecil, and more recently Canon Overton, have defended Newton against this accusation. Cowper’s morbid depression must have been much more trying to Newton than Newton’s humble, cheerful faith could have been to Cowper. Indeed, his playful poems addressed to John Newton and his wife and to their common friend, ‘the smoke-inhaling Bull’—the Independent minister of Newport Pagnell, whom Cowper calls ‘a man of letters and of genius.... but he smokes tobacco—nothing is perfect’—sufficiently show how genial and even jovial was their friendship. The fable that Nonconformist ministers and Evangelical clergymen are either rank hypocrites or intolerable dullards, though it had, and perhaps still has, the support of many great authorities, is only believed in circles profoundly ignorant of them.

Yet Newton must have been greatly indebted, especially as a hymn-writer, to Cowper. His hymns were all written during his residence at Olney, and he had intended that his share in the volume should have been much less than Cowper’s. Indeed, when his friend’s ‘long and affecting indisposition’ occurred, he laid the project aside for some time. In the end the collection appeared with sixty-eight of Cowper’s and two hundred and eighty of Newton’s. Of Cowper’s hymns, some few had been written before he went to Olney, e.g. ‘The Happy Change’ and ‘Retirement.’

Cowper is the one great hymn-writer who ranks 232 with the greater poets. Montgomery, Heber, Milman, all wrote ‘poems,’ but their enduring poetic monument is in their hymns. Had Cowper never written a hymn, he would have had fame sufficient as a poet; had he never written a ‘poem,’ he would still have lived through the ages as the writer of immortal hymns. Lord Selborne says that Cowper’s contributions to the Olney collection ‘are, almost without exception, worthy of his name’; but, as a fact, many of them are prosaic and feeble, apparently written as task work, perhaps to meet a challenge of Newton’s, or to follow a particular sermon. Cowper’s choicest hymns are too well known for quotation—

O for a closer walk with God.
Hark, my soul, it is the Lord.
Sometimes a light surprises.
God moves in a mysterious way.
Jesus, where’er Thy people meet.

Newton’s best are—

Glorious things of thee are spoken.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.
Quiet, Lord, my froward heart.
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare.

And the simple Spiritual songs—

Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near.
Though troubles assail and dangers affright.

Like Watts, Doddridge, Beddome, and many others, Newton wrote his hymns for use after preaching or for some special occasion, such as the opening of a room at the Great House for prayer-meetings and children’s services. It was for this event that Cowper wrote

Jesus, where’er Thy people meet,

and Newton a less effective hymn—

Dear Shepherd of Thy people, hear,

Thy presence now display;

As Thou hast given a place for prayer,

So give us hearts to pray.

I do not suppose that the Olney hymns were often selected as a hymn-book for congregational use. The range of subjects is too narrow, and is so largely affected by the circumstances of composition, the sadness of Cowper’s prolonged illness, and the needs of the rustic worshippers, that it is, as a whole, more suited to private devotion than public worship, though from it may be gathered some of the most beautiful of the songs of Zion.

From twelve to twenty of the Olney hymns have won a permanent place in our hymn-books, but what is left is very far from being ‘empty chaff well meant for grain.’ Indeed, there are very few hymn-books of the eighteenth century so interesting as this. When you have picked out of Watts or Doddridge their best hymns, you find it a wearisome and profitless task to plod through the remainder. An outrageous rhyme is 234 a pleasing break in the dull monotony of the sentiment, but the Olney hymns, even at their feeblest, have life and vigour, and are often provokingly easy to remember. Their influence on modern hymnody has been all in favour of the expression of personal, individual experience, in which regard they may not unfairly be compared with many of the sublimest Psalms.

In Cowper’s verses there are often references to his own depressed and anxious state of mind, and pathetic prayers for deliverance or suggestions of comfortable thoughts.

She, too, who touched Thee in the press,

And healing virtue stole,

Was answered, ‘Daughter, go in peace,

Thy faith hath made thee whole.’

Concealed amid the gathering throng,

She would have shunned Thy view;

And if her faith was firm and strong,

Had strong misgivings too.

Like her with hopes and fears we come,

To touch Thee, if we may:

Oh! send us not despairing home,

Send none unhealed away.


The Lord will happiness divine

On contrite hearts bestow;

Then tell me, gracious God, is mine

A contrite heart, or no?


I hear, but seem to hear in vain,

Insensible as steel;

If ought is felt, ’tis only pain,

To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined

To love Thee, if I could;

But often feel another mind,

Averse to all that’s good.

Thy saints are comforted, I know,

And love Thy house of prayer;

I therefore go where others go,

But find no comfort there.

Oh, make this heart rejoice or ache,

Decide this doubt for me;

And if it be not broken, break—

And heal it, if it be!


Breathe from the gentle south, O Lord,

And cheer me from the north;

Blow on the treasures of Thy word,

And call the spices forth!

Help me to reach the distant goal;

Confirm my feeble knee;

Pity the sickness of a soul

That faints for love of Thee!

I seem forsaken and alone,

I hear the lion roar;

And every door is shut but one,

And that is Mercy’s door.

There, till the dear Deliverer come,

I’ll wait with humble prayer;

And when He calls His exile home,

The Lord shall find him there.



Lord, who hast suffered all for me,

My peace and pardon to procure,

The lighter cross I bear for Thee,

Help me with patience to endure.

The storm of loud repining hush,

I would in humble silence mourn;

Why should the unburnt, though burning bush,

Be angry as the crackling thorn?

Ah! were I buffeted all day,

Mocked, crowned with thorns, and spit upon,

I yet should have no right to say,

My great distress is mine alone.

Let me not angrily declare

No pain was ever sharp like mine,

Nor murmur at the cross I bear,

But rather weep, remembering Thine.

Cowper’s hymns are not all the voice of the penitent or of the anxious believer. He shared Newton’s opinion as to the classification of Calvinists, and two of his compositions evidently refer to the second basket of figs. They illustrate Hazlitt’s criticism, ‘His satire is excellent. It is pointed and forcible, with the polished manners of the gentleman and the honest indignation of the virtuous man.’[162] The following verses are a good example of his satire.



With golden bells, the priestly vest,

And rich pomegranates bordered round,

The need of holiness expressed,

And called for fruit as well as sound.

Easy indeed it were to reach

A mansion in the courts above,

If swelling words and fluent speech

Might serve instead of faith and love.

But none shall gain the blissful place,

Or God’s unclouded glory see,

Who talks of free and sovereign grace,

Unless that grace has made him free!

This is not a favourite strain of Cowper’s. His hymns are nearly always the expression of personal emotion or experience. We may close our quotations from his Olney hymns with one which expresses, in his own way, the common yearning of all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.


My Saviour, whom absent I love,

Whom, not having seen, I adore;

Whose name is exalted above

All glory, dominion, and power;

Dissolve Thou these bonds that detain

My soul from her portion in Thee,

Ah! strike off this adamant chain,

And make me eternally free.

Oh then shall the veil be removed,

And round me Thy brightness be poured,

I shall meet Him whom absent I loved,

I shall see Him whom unseen I adored.


Newton’s contribution to the Olney hymns is considerable both in quality and quantity. His preface disarms criticism.

Dr. Watts might, as a poet, have a right to say, ‘That it cost him some labour to restrain his fire, and to accommodate himself to the capacities of common readers.’ But it would not become me to make such a declaration. It behoved me to do my best.... If the Lord, whom I serve, has been pleased to favour me with that mediocrity of talent, which may qualify me for usefulness to the weak and the poor of His flock, without quite disgusting persons of superior discernment, I have reason to be satisfied.

It is quite refreshing to find a hymn-writer who describes himself thus. They have often been modest men and women, but have had a fairly good idea of the value of their own compositions.

Newton’s hymns are, even more than those of Watts or Doddridge, pastoral hymns. Other men wrote for the congregation, he wrote for his own particular congregation, and very often with a special reference to one member of it. We know that his sermons were suggested in this way. If ‘Sir Cowper’ had a bad fit, or the Vicarage maid, Molly, was ‘perplexed and tempted on the point of election,’ the kind-hearted pastor had a sermon and a hymn, suited to their ‘state,’ ready on Sunday.

Many of Newton’s pieces express much more of Cowper’s experience than of his own. In such lines as the following is not his eye upon 239 the sad figure in ‘the poet’s corner’ in the Great House?

Sure the Lord thus far has brought me

By His watchful tender care,

Sure ’tis He Himself has taught me

How to seek His face by prayer:

After so much mercy past,

Will He give me up at last?

In my Saviour’s intercession

Therefore I will still confide!

Lord, accept my free confession,

I have sinned, but Thou hast died:

This is all I have to plead,

This is all the plea I need.

That is what he has to say of ‘Confidence’ from Cowper’s point of view. When he speaks for himself he adopts a different tone.

Oh! I tremble still to think

How secure I lived in sin;

Sporting on destruction’s brink,

Yet preserved from falling in.

Come, my fellow-sinners, try,

Jesu’s heart is full of love!

Oh that you, as well as I,

May His wondrous mercy prove.

He has sent me to declare,

All is ready, all is free:

Why should any soul despair

When He saved a wretch like me?

Perhaps it was with Cowper in his mind he wrote that beautiful and touching hymn for private devotion, 240 which has been often most unjustly censured—‘’Tis a point I long to know.’ Newton, like Bunyan, knew how sincere a pilgrim Mr. Little Faith was, and each in his own way sought to comfort him. There is good robust common sense in the prayer of the last two verses. In strength and beauty it does not compare with Cowper’s hymn on the same text, ‘Lovest thou Me?’ which Mr. Gladstone reckoned one of the three greatest English hymns; but it belongs to the Christian treasury, and has brought help to many.

Lord, decide the doubtful case,

Thou who art Thy people’s sun,

Shine upon the work of grace,

If it be indeed begun.

Let me love Thee more and more,

If I love at all, I pray;

If I have not loved before,

Help me to begin to-day.

The tenderness of ‘the old African blasphemer’s’ heart is nowhere more touchingly illustrated than in his version of Isa. liv. 5-11, which must surely have been written for Cowper, since it quotes and emphasizes the words of his own great hymn. It has five eight-line verses, and is headed ‘To the Afflicted, Tossed with Tempest, and not Comforted.’

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,

Hear what Christ the Saviour says;

Every word should joy impart,

Change thy mourning into praise.


Yes, He speaks, and speaks to thee.

May He help thee to believe!

Then thou presently wilt see

Thou hast little cause to grieve.

Though afflicted, tempest-tossed,

Comfortless awhile thou art,

Do not think thou canst be lost,

Thou art graven on My heart.

All thy wastes I will repair,

Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;

And in thee it shall appear

What a God of love can do.

It is the pastor’s heart which takes up the very words of his friend—

Yes, He speaks and speaks to thee,

May He help thee to believe!

Richard Cecil says that Herbert was a ‘favourite’ of Newton’s, and there are not wanting reminiscences of Herbert in the Olney hymns, though Newton had little of Herbert’s ingenuity or power, and he says in a few plain words what Herbert weaves into a quaint poem, bright and ever-memorable with some ‘conceit’ such as he only conceived. If we set Newton and Herbert side by side, the comparison is, of course, all in favour of Herbert. Herbert speaks to himself and to God in what is an unknown tongue to many a good plain Christian. Newton wrote for his simple labouring folk at Olney; he is the poet of the rustic prayer-meeting. Bemerton and Olney were both villages in the land of Beulah, but there is a difference in the 242 dialect, which is easily accounted for when we remember the contrast between the life of Herbert and of Newton. When they passed through a similar spiritual experience they described it in very different fashion, but, though there are diversities of gifts, there is the same Spirit; there is the same self-distrust, self-abhorrence; and there is the same calm acceptance of the great salvation and its joys. George Herbert tells his deepest, sweetest experience in the final poem of The Temple.[163] Newton tells his story in simple, homely verse that is not poetry, but is prayer and praise expressed in natural rhythm.

Dost Thou ask me who I am?

Ah, my Lord, Thou know’st my name:

Yet the question gives a plea

To support my suit with Thee.

Thou didst once a wretch behold,

In rebellion blindly bold,

Scorn Thy grace, Thy power defy:

That poor rebel, Lord, was I.

Once a sinner near despair,

Sought Thy mercy-seat by prayer;

Mercy heard and set him free:

Lord, that mercy came to me.

Many years have passed since then,

Many changes I have seen,

Yet have been upheld till now;

Who could hold me up but Thou?


Eighteenth-century Hymns

IV.—Addison, Toplady, and Others

A few other hymn-writers of the eighteenth century remain to be mentioned. The first writer is of a very different class from those of the later years. In 1712 Joseph Addison published six hymns in successive numbers of the Spectator. One was by Dr. Watts; the others were undoubtedly his own, though the authorship has been claimed for others. The hymns themselves are the work of a devout man of letters, and, without being exactly ‘popular,’ have been and still are extensively used. They have the easy grace of Addison’s prose-writings, and his name made them at once acceptable to all classes. They belong to no school, and are used by all the Churches.

The six hymns are—‘The Lord my pasture shall prepare’; ‘When all Thy mercies, O my God’; ‘When Israel, freed from Pharaoh’s hand’ (Watts); ‘The spacious firmament on high’; ‘How are Thy servants blest, O Lord’; ‘When rising from the bed of death.’


John Cennick (1718-55) had much of Newton’s simplicity and sincerity, though he had not his touches of genius or any trace of the old sea-farer’s raciness. Cennick was ‘found’ by John Wesley at Reading, in 1739, and was one of his earliest lay-preachers. But he adopted Calvinistic views, and soon left the Methodists and attached himself to Whitefield, whom he served as a brother beloved for several years. He bore reproach, violence, hardship, with the courage which characterized the itinerants of that day of either school of theology. He separated from Wesley in 1741, from Whitefield in 1745, and found a more congenial home among the Moravians. He was ordained a deacon, and ministered in London and Dublin. He it was who earned for Protestants of the Methodist type the nickname of ‘swaddlers,’ so long common in Ireland. ‘A name given to Mr. Cennick, first by a Popish priest, who heard him speak of a Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and probably did not know the expression was in the Bible, a book he was not much acquainted with.’[164]

Cennick was vacillating, and apparently easily influenced by stronger minds than his own, but he was not able to keep up a quarrel, and, ten years after his defection from Wesley, wrote him an affectionate letter, in which he wishes ‘heartily that Christians conferring together had hindered the making that wide space between us and you.’ Whitefield, though he had 245 suffered a larger defection from his Society than Wesley, bore Cennick no ill will, but kept up an affectionate correspondence with him to the end. ‘My dear John,’ he wrote in 1747, ‘I wish thee much success, and shall always pray that the work of the Lord may prosper in thy hands.’[165] Cennick continued his abundant labours till 1755, when he died in London in his thirty-seventh year.

His best-known hymn is in every collection—

Children of the heavenly King,

As ye journey, sweetly sing;

and notwithstanding the dreadful rhyme of its second verse—

Thou dear Redeemer, dying Lamb

still finds a place in many hymn-books.

Cennick is often spoken of as the author of

Lo! He comes with clouds descending;

but there is very little trace of Cennick’s hymn in Charles Wesley’s. Canon Ellerton calls the hymn ‘a recast by Charles Wesley,’ and adds, ‘Cennick’s hymn is poor stuff compared to that into which Wesley recast it, putting into it at once fire and tunefulness.’ This, however, is an inaccurate statement of the facts. Probably Cennick’s hymn suggested Wesley’s, but this is the only share Cennick had in it.

Cennick’s hymn was published in 1752, Wesley’s in 246 1758. In 1760 Martin Madan pieced together six verses, five (with some alterations) from these two hymns, and one from another of Wesley’s. Neither Cennick’s original nor Madan’s can be compared with Wesley’s fine verses, which are best left as he wrote them.[166] The following is Cennick’s original—

Lo! He cometh, countless trumpets

Blow before His bloody sign!

’Midst ten thousand saints and angels,

See the Crucifièd shine.


Welcome, welcome, bleeding Lamb!

Now His merits by the harpers,

Through the eternal deeps resounds!

Now resplendent shine His nail-prints,

Every eye shall see His wounds!

They who pierced Him

Shall at His appearing wail.

Every island, sea, and mountain,

Heaven and earth shall flee away!

All who hate Him must, ashamèd,

Hear the trump proclaim His day:

Come to judgement!

Stand before the Son of Man!

All who love Him view His glory,

Shining in His bruisèd Face:

His dear Person on the rainbow,

Now His people’s heads shall raise:

Happy mourners!

Now on clouds He comes! He comes!


Now redemption, long expected,

See, in solemn pomp appear:

All His people, once despisèd,

Now shall meet Him in the air:


Now the promised kingdom’s come!

View Him smiling, now determined

Every evil to destroy!

All the nations now shall sing Him

Songs of everlasting joy!

O come quickly!

Allelujah! come, Lord, come!

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-78) was a devout clergyman, converted through the preaching of a Methodist in Ireland. His ‘Arminian prejudices’ received an ‘effectual shock’ in 1758. His ministry at Broad Hembury, and in the French Reformed Church, Leicester Fields, was greatly valued, and his sincere piety impressed all who knew him.

He was one of the most violent opponents of Wesley and Fletcher in the Calvinistic controversy, and expressed himself in unmeasured terms. He was a good man, with deep convictions and narrow views. Yet he touched human hearts as few other hymn-writers have ever done. To have written ‘Rock of Ages’ would have been fame enough for a much greater man than Toplady. It appeared in a curious and unpromising setting. Toplady was editing the Gospel Magazine, and in 1776 published a Spiritual Improvement of a Catechism on the National Debt, in which he strives to estimate the number of individual sins a man 248 may be expected to commit in the course of his earthly life.

As we never, in the present life, rise to the mark of legal sanctity, is it not fairly inferrible that our sins multiply with every second of our sublunary durations?

’Tis too true. And in this view of the matter, our dreadful account stands as follows:—At ten years old, each of us is chargeable with 315 millions and 36 thousand sins. At twenty, with 630 millions and 720 thousand. At thirty, with 946 millions and 80 thousand. At forty, with 1,261 millions and 440 thousand. At fifty, with 1,576 millions and 800 thousand. At sixty, with 1,892 millions and 160 thousand. At seventy, with 2,207 millions and 520 thousand. At eighty, with 2,522 millions and 880 thousand.

We can only admire and bless the Father for electing us in Christ, and for laying on Him the iniquities of us all; the Son for taking our nature and our debts upon Himself, and for that complete righteousness and sacrifice whereby He redeemed His mystical Israel from all their sins; and the co-æqual Spirit for causing us (in conversion) to feel our need of Christ, for inspiring us with faith to embrace Him, for visiting us with His sweet consolations by shedding abroad His love in our hearts, for sealing us to the day of Christ, and for making us to walk in the path of His commandments.

A living and dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in the world.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee!

Let the Water and the Blood

From Thy riven Side which flowed,

Be of Sin the double Cure,

Cleanse me from its Guilt and Power.[167]


Toplady wrote a good many hymns, but no other compares with this great universal prayer, probably the best-known and best-loved hymn in the language. He was essentially a Methodist, his Calvinism being, one might almost say, accidental. His hymns have the tone and even the mannerisms of Charles Wesley.[168] Many of them are good devotional reading. The following verses will remind many readers of some well-known lines of Charles Wesley—

O when wilt Thou my Saviour be?

O when shall I be clean,

The true, eternal Sabbath see,

A perfect rest from sin?

The consolations of Thy word

My soul have long upheld;

The faithful promise of the Lord

Shall surely be fulfilled.

I look to my Incarnate God,

’Till He His work begin,

And wait ’till His redeeming blood

Shall cleanse me from all sin.

His great salvation I shall know,

And perfect liberty;

Onward to sin he cannot go,

Whoe’er abides in Thee:

Added to the Redeemer’s fold,

I shall in Him rejoice,

I all His glory shall behold,

And hear my Shepherd’s voice.


O that I now the voice might hear

That speaks my sins forgiven!

His word is past to give me here

The inward pledge of heaven.

His blood shall over all prevail

And sanctify the unclean;

The grace that saves from future hell

Shall save from present sin.

In no part of the kingdom was the Evangelical Revival more influential than in Wales. Whitefield, Howell Harris, and, perhaps more than all, Lady Huntingdon, were the controlling minds, and they led the people of the Principality to the Calvinistic rather than to the Wesleyan Methodists. The quaint poetry of Vicar Rees Prichard’s Welshman’s Candle and the Psalms of Archdeacon Prys seem to have been the songs of the Welsh Church until William Williams of Pantycelyn arose—a great light, well worthy to be called the Watts of Wales. His father was deacon of an Independent Church, which at one time met ‘in a cave during the hours of twilight,’ for fear of their enemies. Williams himself was studying medicine, and had no thought of the ministry. One Sunday morning, as he passed through Talgarth in Breconshire, he went into the parish church. After the service the congregation gathered in the churchyard, and Howell Harris, standing on a tomb-stone, preached with the Holy Ghost and with power. That was the hour of Williams’s conversion. He prepared for the ministry of the Established Church, and was ordained deacon in 251 1740. He acted as curate of two small parishes for three years, and then, drawn into the current of the Revival under the influence of Whitefield, David Rowlands, and Howell Harris, he became an earnest evangelist, travelling throughout the Principality. His hymn-writing is said to have been occasioned by a challenge of Howell Harris to the Welsh Calvinistic preachers to write better hymns than their congregations then possessed. He wrote hymns by the hundred, and they won an immediate and enduring popularity in Wales. ‘What Paul Gerhardt has been to Germany, what Isaac Watts has been to England, that and more has William Williams of Pantycelyn been to Wales.’[169] He was a great favourite with Lady Huntingdon, at whose suggestion he prepared a volume of hymns for Whitefield’s Orphan House. In this work, entitled Gloria in Excelsis, some of his best hymns appeared. In modern hymn-books he is known by two hymns—

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah!


O’er those gloomy hills of darkness.

It is probable that the English version of his greatest hymn was written by himself, and this seems to indicate that he suffers in translation, for none of the English versions of his other poems is to be compared with this. Mr. Garrett Horder thinks that ‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah’ has been largely supplanted by 252 ‘Lead, kindly Light,’ though the most recent hymn-books do not sustain this criticism. Keble re-wrote, but failed to improve it; and the same may be said of those who have made minor alterations. It is, and is likely to remain, one of the great songs of the Christian pilgrim in his progress from this world unto that which is to come.

Mr. Elvet Lewis has given several translations of hymns hitherto unknown to English people, which are good reading, though perhaps none are likely to attain extensive use. Here are two verses in Williams’s favourite metre—

Much I love the faithful pilgrims,

Who the rugged steeps ascend;

On their hands and knees they labour

To attain the heavenly end;

To the summit

On my knees shall I come too.

Bruisèd hands, oh! stretch ye upward,

Tired feet, walk ye with care;

The reward, the crown is yonder,

My Belovèd—He is there!

Earth forsaking

Now the journey’s end is all.

Here are two more in another metre, and with the cheery rhythm of John Newton—

Here I know myself a stranger,

And my native country lies

Far beyond the ocean’s danger

In the lands of Paradise:


Storms of trial blowing keenly

Drive me on this foreign strand;

Come, O South wind, blow serenely,

Speed me to my Fatherland.

Now the air is full of balm

With the fragrance of the land;

And the breezes clear and calm

Tell of Paradise at hand:

Come, ye much-desired regions,

With the best of joy in store;

Country of the singing legions,

Let me reach thy restful shore!

Williams had the spirit of devout enthusiasm which characterized the Revival; his missionary hymns, though not among the best, are among the earliest of that class, and he had the rapt devotion to his Lord which is ever the inspiration of the true hymn-writer.

To Thee, my God, my Saviour,

Praise be for ever new;

Let people come to praise Thee

In numbers like the dew;

O! that in every meadow

The grass were harps of gold,

To sing to Him for coming

To ransom hosts untold![170]


Nineteenth-century Hymns

I.—Anglican Hymns

The hymns of the eighteenth century are almost without exception by writers of the Dissenting, Methodist, or Evangelical schools. In the nineteenth century the tide turns, and though the Nonconformists are not without hymn-writers of distinction, the great hymns are by Anglicans. Henry Francis Lyte in the first half of the century, Bishop Bickersteth, Charlotte Elliott, and Miss Havergal in the second, represent the Evangelical school. Heber was a typical Anglican, but he was not of the Tractarian type, and died before the publication of the Christian Year. Keble and Newman were the poets of the Oxford Movement, and gave a distinctive tone to much of the later Church hymn-writing; but Heber, more than any other man, did for the Church of England what Watts had done for the Nonconformists.

Reginald Heber (1783-1826) was a scholar and a gentleman, his churchmanship was unimpeachable, and 255 his life and death alike served to win acceptance for hymns whose intrinsic worth must have secured the widest recognition. His hymns, like those of Herbert, Keble, and many of our sweetest singers, are hymns of the country parsonage, and seem all to have been written whilst he held the family living of Hodnet, to which he was welcomed by the people as ‘Master Reginald.’ He was little better satisfied with Tate and Brady than Watts had been with Barton, and at one time contemplated using the Olney hymns in his church. Then he projected a more ambitious scheme, and hoped, with the help of Milman, Southey, and Walter Scott, to provide a book which might, perhaps under episcopal sanction, become the authorized hymnal of the Church. But he felt the proposal a bold one, and tried to prepare the way by the publication in the Christian Observer of a few hymns which he described as ‘part of an intended series appropriate to the Sundays and principal holy days of the year, connected in some degree with their particular collects and gospels, and designed to be sung between the Nicene Creed and the sermon.’ Like other reformers, he indulges in criticisms of the hymns then in use, and is especially severe in censuring those which address our Lord ‘with ditties of embraces of passion.’ The hymn-book was duly compiled, and specimens were submitted to Bishop Howley in the hope that he might give it an episcopal benediction. It is curious to note the apologetic tone in which Heber writes.


The evil, indeed, if it be one, of the admission of hymns into our Churches has, by this time, spread so widely, and any attempt to suppress it entirely would be so unpopular, and attended with so much difficulty, that I cannot help thinking it would be wiser, as well as more practicable, to regulate the liberty thus assumed, instead of authoritatively taking it away. Nor can I conceive any method by which this object might be better obtained than by the publication of a selection which should, at least, have the praise of excluding whatever was improper in diction or sentiment; and might be on this, if on no other ground, thought not unworthy a licence of the same kind as that which was given to the psalms of Tate and Brady. I have the vanity to think that even my own compositions are not inferior in poetical merit to those of Tate; and my collection will contain some from our older poets, which it would be mockery to speak of in the same breath with his. There are a few also which I have extracted from the popular collections usually circulated, which, though I have not been able to learn their authors, possess considerable merit and much popularity, and are entirely free from objectionable expressions.[171]

The Bishop criticized freely, generally approved and advised the completion of the project; but Heber was called to Calcutta, and the collection was not published until after his death. It contained fifty-seven hymns of his own, twelve of Milman’s, and twenty-nine others. His object had been to obtain ‘a well-selected and sanctioned book of hymns for the Church of England, to supersede the unauthorized and often very improper compositions now in use.’ He did not secure 257 this, but he prepared the way for something better, and may justly be regarded as the first of the modern Anglican hymn-writers. His best hymns are too well known to need comment, and of the rest comparatively few are of special value in public worship. His hymns owe more to the inspiration of the Gospels than the Psalms. The collect or gospel for the day often explains and throws new light upon a hymn, as in this for the Second Sunday after Trinity, the gospel being the Parable of the Great Supper. It is usually regarded as a Communion hymn.

Forth from the dark and stormy sky,

Lord, to Thine altar’s shade we fly;

Forth from the world, its hope and fear,

Saviour, we seek Thy shelter here:

Weary and weak, Thy grace we pray;

Turn not, O Lord, Thy guests away!

Long have we roamed in want and pain,

Long have we sought Thy rest in vain;

’Wildered in doubt, in darkness lost,

Long have our souls been tempest-tost;

Low at Thy feet our sins we lay,

Turn not, O Lord, Thy guests away!

Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), who died Dean of St. Paul’s, is famous as an historian rather than a hymn-writer, but his few hymns have a wide popularity. In

Ride on, ride on in majesty!

he has shown how fine and true a hymn may be, though it departs from recognized devotional form. It is 258 a meditation of a highly rhetorical kind, and apostrophizes but does not address our Lord. By some editors this is regarded as fatal to its inclusion in a collection of hymns, but the common judgement of Christian congregations is right. It has proved itself a hymn in spite of all rules, and is an excellent spiritual song for Palm Sunday.

In the year (1827) of the publication of Heber’s Hymns, written and adapted to the Weekly Church Services of the Year, Keble issued anonymously the most influential devotional work of the nineteenth century, The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse for the Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year. Like Ken’s festival hymns, it was not a hymn-book, and was not meant for use in Church services, though from a few of the poems verses may be taken which make hymns of the very best type. Pusey regarded it as ‘the real source of the Oxford Movement,’ of which Newman also thought Keble ‘the true and primary author,’ though he ‘ever considered and kept’ July 14, 1832, the day when Keble preached his sermon on ‘National Apostasy,’ ‘as the start of the religious movement.’ Of the Christian Year Newman says, ‘Keble struck an original note, and woke up in the hearts of thousands a new music, the music of a school long unknown in England.’ But the teaching of the Oxford Movement was rather latent than patent in the Christian Year, and it would be a great mistake to regard it as influencing that religious revival or even 259 the English Church alone. On the other hand, Hurrell Froude feared that the authorship of the Christian Year would be attributed to a Methodist.[172] It was as important an element in the Movement as Charles Wesley’s hymns were in the Evangelical Revival. In each case the influence extended far beyond those who claim the poems as their special heritage.

Keble regarded the Church as in a state of desolation, decay, and apostasy. He knew nothing of the glorious optimism of the Wesleys, who saw everywhere signs of the speedy triumph of the gospel and the coming of Christ’s kingdom. They sang

Plague, earthquake, and famine, and tumult and war,

The wonderful coming of Jesus declare.

Keble’s vision was

So Famine waits, and War with greedy eyes,

Till some repenting heart be ready for the skies.

They saw in the ingatherings to their scattered Societies the assurance of abounding blessing

Lo, the promise of a shower

Drops already from above;

But the Lord will shortly pour

All the spirit of His love.


Keble saw no such visions, dreamed no such dreams. All he dares to ask is

Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die,

Touch us with chastening hand, and make us feel Thee nigh.[173]

Yet, when he forgets the depression of the time, and turns to the consolations of eternity, he shows how firmly he believed his own motto, ‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ He has the sure trust and confidence of all God’s chosen, and at times kindles into holy rapture. The prevailing tone, however, is of sadness—the depression of the saint, not the perplexity of the doubter.

In 1839 Keble published, also anonymously, his metrical version of the Psalms. He had intended it to be a substitute for Tate and Brady, and had hoped to secure episcopal sanction for its use in the dioceses of Oxford and Winchester. It is, however, more interesting from the standpoint of the expositor than the hymnologist, very few of its versions being adapted to congregational use. The Lyra Innocentium, published anonymously in 1846, is vastly inferior to his great work, and has little to recommend it to those who are not in sympathy with the High Church Movement.

After Heber and Keble all that there was of justice in Montgomery’s sarcastic complaint, that hymns had been written by ‘all sorts of persons except poets’[174] is 261 gone. They were poets first, hymn-writers afterwards. Keble’s greatest hymn is taken from his ‘Verses for Evening,’ which begins as a poem, and rises from meditation to praise and prayer. The earlier verses are not suitable for a hymn-book, but the beauty of the later lines is only fully realized when they are remembered.

’Tis gone, that bright and orbèd blaze,

Fast fading from our wistful gaze;

Yon mantling cloud has hid from sight

The last faint pulse of quivering light.

In darkness and in weariness

The traveller on his way must press,

No gleam to watch on tree or tower,

Whiling away the lonesome hour.

Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,

It is not night if Thou be near:

O may no earth-born cloud arise

To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.

There is surely no more beautiful illustration of the way in which the Christian rises from Nature up to Nature’s God.

As in the case of so many hymns, the part is greater than the whole. The six verses universally selected are not improved by the addition of others—though they have much to commend them.

John Henry Newman (1801-90) belongs to Anglican hymn-writers in virtue of his ‘Lead, kindly Light,’ though it may almost be described as his farewell to the Church of England. It marks at least the beginning 262 of his long-drawn-out parting from the Establishment. Few hymns have won a wider popularity, and no doubt it has done much to accustom Nonconformist Churches to sympathize with the poetic and emotional side of the Oxford Movement. This hymn and the Christian Year made absolute want of sympathy with the new devotion impossible. Moreover, the tone of perplexity, the confession of bewilderment, the sense of ‘encircling gloom,’ fell in with the prevailing spirit of religious emotion. To many men of his own school the hymn meant something very different from what it means to the average worshipper, who finds in it a comfortable sedative for vague religious depression. I confess that personally the hymn does not seem to me as great as its reputation, but it has brought help and comfort to myriads. Dr. Wm. Barry says—

This most tender of pilgrim songs may be termed the March of the Tractarian Movement. It is pure melody, austere yet hopeful, strangely not unlike the stanzas which Carlyle has made familiar to the whole English race, the Mason-Song of Goethe, in its sublime sadness and invincible trust. Both are psalms of life, Hebrew or Northern, chanted in a clear-obscure where faith moves onward heroically to the day beyond.[175]

Newman’s other great hymn, ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height,’ which owes its popularity largely to Mr. Gladstone’s affection for it—though it is in itself a fine hymn—belongs to his Romanist days.


There was room for the new teaching. Perhaps Methodism was a little too buoyant, Evangelicalism too contented, and the Church was ready for a fresh upheaval.

Coincidently with the rise of the Oxford Movement came, as we have seen, the rolling away of the reproach of hymn-singing. Even the strongholds of the Establishment capitulated, and hymns formed an important part in the new propaganda. Stanch Churchmen had disliked hymn-singing. To quote Canon Ellerton—

It came to us from an unwelcome source—from the Dissenters, eminently from the Methodists. It was first adopted by those of the clergy who sympathized most with them; for many long years it was that dreaded thing, a party badge.[176]

The Evangelicals adopted the custom easily, and with delight. Cowper, Newton, Toplady, Hervey, Watts, Doddridge, and even Wesley, were no strangers to them. But for the Calvinistic trouble, they all minded the same things. They had no difficulty in regard to fellowship with Nonconformists in worship or in work. It has been the fashion to disparage the Evangelicals, and to regard the ‘Clapham Sect’ as a coterie of ill-informed, self-satisfied Pharisees; but for solid, practical Christianity it would be difficult to find any ‘school’ that outrivals them. The ‘Clapham Sect’ knew little 264 and cared less for priestly rights or the niceties of ritual. They may have been slack in the observance of fast and vigil, but they kept the fast of God, breaking the bonds of wickedness and letting the oppressed go free. The men who were the backbone of the anti-slavery movement, who were nursing fathers to the Bible Society, and established the Church Missionary Society, were not narrow-minded bigots, but held the true Catholic Faith concerning the kingdom of God.

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), whose highest preferment was the Perpetual Curacy of Lower Brixham, ranks, as a hymn-writer, with Ken and Keble. While ministering to his ‘dear fishermen,’ he wrote many a lovely hymn, and one of unsurpassed beauty. ‘Abide with me’ was his swan-song. He died, like Toplady, of consumption, and felt the pain and pathos of death in the prime of life. In a most tender poem he has recorded that common but infinitely pathetic grief. It is interesting to contrast the subdued sadness, the patient submission of Lyte with the triumphant ecstasy of Toplady’s ‘Deathless principle, arise.’

Shudder not to pass the stream,

Venture all thy care on Him.

Not one object of His care

Ever suffered shipwreck there.

Saints in glory perfect made

Wait thy passage through the shade;

Ardent for thy coming o’er,

See they throng the blissful shore.


Such the prospects that arise

To the dying Christian’s eyes.

Such the glorious vista, Faith

Opens through the shades of death.[177]

This was the view of death taken by the Evangelicals in the eighteenth century. The gospel of the great Revival brought life and immortality to light, robbed death of all its terrors, and made heaven seem, even to young men, far better than earth. The nineteenth century had not the glowing rapture of the earlier time. Moreover, its interest in works of Christian philanthropy, its awakening to the great missionary call, made the life and work of the day infinitely important and interesting. Christian men began to realize that heaven lay beyond the golden glory of the sunset sky, and felt, with those of the older dispensation, that it was a calamity for the sun to go down while it was yet day. Lyte felt with Anne Brontë—

I hoped that with the brave and strong

My portioned task might lie.

Lyte’s sorrow was not that he feared to change the earthly for the heavenly, but that he longed to have done enduring work e’er the night fell.

Why do I sigh to find

Life’s evening shadows gathering round my way,

The keen eye dimming, and the buoyant mind

Unhinging day by day?


Is it the natural dread

Of that stern lot, which all who live must see?

The worm, the clay, the dark and narrow bed,—

Have these such awe for me?

Can I not summon pride

To fold my decent mantle round my breast,

And lay me down at Nature’s Eventide,

Calm to my dreamless rest?

As nears my soul the verge

Of this dim continent of woe and crime,

Shrinks she to hear Eternity’s long surge

Break on the shores of Time?

I want not vulgar fame—

I seek not to survive in brass or stone;

Hearts may not kindle when they hear my name,

Nor tears my value own;

But might I leave behind

Some blessing for my fellows, some fair trust

To guide, to cheer, to elevate my kind,

When I was in the dust;

Within my narrow bed

Might I not wholly mute or useless be;

But hope that they, who trampled o’er my head,

Drew still some good from me;

Might verse of mine inspire

One virtuous aim, one high resolve impart;

Light in one drooping soul a hallowed fire,

Or bind one broken heart;—

Death would be sweeter then,

More calm my slumber ’neath the silent sod,—

Might I thus live to bless my fellow-men,

Or glorify my God!


O Thou! whose touch can lend

Life to the dead, Thy quickening grace supply,

And grant me, swanlike, my last breath to spend

In song that may not die!

Was ever faithful prayer more abundantly answered? ‘He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it, even length of days for ever and ever.’

Christopher Wordsworth (1807-85), Bishop of Lincoln, nephew of the poet, was of set purpose a writer of hymns for congregational use. He taught that hymns should express the feeling of the Church, and not of the individual worshipper. He thought it ‘inexpressibly shocking’ that ‘Jesu, Lover of my soul’ should be sung in Westminster Abbey, at least, so I understand his reference to ‘a large, mixed congregation in a dissolute part of a populous and irreligious city.’[178] His hymns are objective, and the best—e.g. ‘O day of rest and gladness,’ ‘See the Conqueror mounts in triumph’—are very fine. Bishop Wordsworth did not ‘translate any ancient hymns, but attempted to infuse something of their spirit into’ his own.

The Holy Year was a distinct contribution to the literature of the Anglican Revival. Very inferior in strength and beauty to the Christian Year, it was more useful to editors of hymn-books, and it helped to concentrate interest upon the selection of hymns suited to the Church year. Bishop Wordsworth kept closely to the Prayer-book ideal of devotion, and some of his 268 less-known poems are illustrative of its special teaching. A good example is the hymn for the Second Sunday in Advent, which he inscribed, ‘Christ ever coming in Holy Scripture.’

Lord, who didst the Prophets teach

To prepare Thy way of old;

And by Thine Apostles preach

Truths of wisdom manifold;

Teach us to behold Thee, Lord,

Present in the sacred page,

Living Word in written word

Coming thus to every age.

Coming in King David’s Psalms,

In Isaiah’s trumpet-call,

Coming in St. John’s deep calms,

Coming in the fires of Paul.

Coming brightly from afar

To the lands with darkness dim,

On the Evangelic car

Of Thy fourfold cherubim.

Thus, O blessèd Lord, when we

On Thy Holy Scriptures look,

May we ever worship Thee,

Coming in Thy sacred Book.

So, when as a scroll is past

Heaven, and earth with all its strife,

We may see our names at last

Written in the Book of Life.

But the Anglican hymn-writers of the nineteenth century are too many for detailed comment in my 269 fast-failing space. It is a glorious choir, including Joseph Anstice, who had so powerful an influence over Mr. Gladstone in his Oxford days;[179] Dean Alford, Dr. Monsell, Sir H. W. Baker, Dean Stanley, Bishops Mant, How, and Bickersteth, Canon Bright, Godfrey Thring, Canon Ellerton, S. J. Stone, Canon Twells, Laurence Tuttiett, S. Baring-Gould, among the clergy; Mrs. Alexander, Charlotte Elliott, Frances Ridley Havergal, Sir R. Grant, W. Chatterton Dix, among the laity.

Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-77) wrote the lovely sacramental version of Ps. xxiii.: ‘The King of love my Shepherd is.’ One verse he repeated with his dying breath—

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,

But yet in love He sought me,

And on His shoulder gently laid,

And home, rejoicing, brought me.

He is one of the simplest and most attractive of hymn-writers, and the inclusion of his hymns in Nonconformist hymnals is a great gain. His greatest service to Anglican hymnody was the editing of Hymns Ancient and Modern—a truly epoch-making (or perhaps epoch-marking) book.

While Baker was at work in his Herefordshire vicarage, John Ellerton (1826-93) was writing hymns 270 and essays on hymns in his rural or semi-rural parsonages. Ellerton had a rare gift in writing for special occasions. His great funeral hymn, ‘Now the labourer’s task is o’er,’ has a sombre strength which is full of comfort and trust. ‘Behold us, Lord, a little space’ is an ideal hymn for a week-day service, and ‘In the Name which earth and heaven’ is the grandest of all hymns for the laying of the foundation-stone of a church.[180] Without being a High-Churchman, Ellerton was a thorough-going Anglican, and his poetry has the restraint, the good taste, and the dignity which beseem a great Church.

S. J. Stone (1839-1900), unlike most clerical hymn-writers, was not a country parson, though his best hymns were written before he began his work in East London. But even in its dreary wastes he found the true poetry of life, and some of his obscure parishioners at Haggerston are richly shrined in his memorial verses. I feel all the more moved by the triumphant tones of ‘The Church’s one foundation,’ all the more tenderly impressed by ‘Weary of earth, and laden with my sin,’ when I remember how dear to his heart were the struggling, toiling masses of his dull East London parish. His best hymns are well known, so I quote a sonnet which expresses his love for those who live in the crowded city.


From Windermere, To the Congregation and Children of St. Paul’s, Haggerston.

Moored by a green isle of Winandermere—

Listening the gentlest lapping of the wave

On the rock margin, and the blackbirds’ brave

Soldierly antiphons, afar and near,

And the wind’s whispered evensong—I hear

A sound beyond, and sweeter as more grave

Than ever paradise of nature gave,

Dear to my heart of old, and now more dear:

The roar of London—the deep undersong,

The myriad music of immortal souls

High-couraged, much-enduring, midst the long

Drear toil and gloom and weariness. It rolls

Over me with all power, for in its tone

The hearts I love in Christ beat with my own.

Bishop Bickersteth demands mention, not only for his own beautiful hymns, but for his successful editing of the Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer. Edward Bickersteth’s Christian Psalmody was, in its day, one of the best and most catholic hymnals. In the Hymnal Companion, his son provided for a later generation the more complete and worthy hymn-book which the growth of hymnody made possible. Of Bishop Bickersteth’s own hymns, a few are amongst those universally accepted. His Communion Hymn, to the regret of many, is absent from the Methodist Hymn-book.


’Till He come!’ O let the words

Linger on the trembling chords;

Let the ‘little while’ between

In their golden light be seen;

Let us think how heaven and home

Lie beyond that ’Till He come.’

When the weary ones we love

Enter on their rest above,

Seems the earth so poor and vast,

All our life joy overcast?

Hush, be every murmur dumb;

It is only till He come.

Clouds and conflicts round us press;

Would we have one sorrow less?

All the sharpness of the cross,

All that tells the world is loss,

Death, and darkness, and the tomb

Only whisper, ’Till He come.’

See! the feast of love is spread;

Drink the wine, and break the bread:

Sweet memorials, till the Lord

Call us round His heavenly board,

Some from earth, from glory some,

Severed only till He come.[181]

This aspect of the Lord’s Supper, the proclamation of the Lord’s death ’till He come,’ must ever be present to the mind of the devout communicant. The hymn—especially in its last verse—is full of the gracious, subdued trustfulness which befits the Christian as he commemorates the Atoning Sacrifice and looks 273 forward to glad, eternal communion with those who have gone before, when once again our Lord Himself shall break the bread and drink the wine with His disciples in the Father’s kingdom.

Dean Stanley (1815-81) was not a poet, though he wrote the best English hymn on the Transfiguration. I mention him here, however, to quote some verses of his stirring national hymn, worthy of a Dean of Westminster. It is of a type that, I think, ought to be represented in our hymnals, and especially those intended for school use. Why should not such hymns as this and Mr. Gill’s ‘Lift thy song among the nations’ stir and consecrate the patriotism of our up-growing girls and boys? Dean Stanley’s hymn is very long. I quote less than half. In the Westminster Abbey Hymn-book it is assigned to the Accession.

Let us with a gladsome mind

Praise the Lord, for He is kind!

Long our island throne has stood,

Planted on the ocean flood;

Crowned with rock, and girt with sea,

Home and refuge of the free:

For His mercies aye endure,

Ever faithful, ever sure.

On that island throne have sate

Alfred’s goodness, Edward’s state;

Princely strength and queenly grace,

Lengthened line of royal race:

Round that throne have stood of old

Seers and statesmen, firm and bold;

Burleigh’s wisdom, Hampden’s fire,

Chatham’s force in son and sire.


Let us with a gladsome mind

Praise the Lord, for He is kind:

Him, in homely English tongue,

Epic lay and lyric song,

Shakespeare’s myriad-minded verse,

Milton’s heavenward strains, rehearse:

For His mercies aye endure,

Ever faithful, ever sure.

Hither in our heathen night

Came of yore the gospel light;

By the Saviour’s sacred story,

‘Angles’ turned to angels’ glory.

Breaking with a gracious hand

Ancient error’s subtle band;

Opening wide the sacred page,

Kindling hope in saint and sage.

Give us homes serene and pure,

Settled freedom, laws secure;

Truthful lips and minds sincere;

Faith and love that cast out fear.

Grant that light and life divine

Long on England’s shores may shine;

Grant that people, Church, and throne

May in all good deeds be one.[182]

Of the eighteenth century, Miss Steele and Mrs. Barbauld are almost the only women whose hymns survive to-day. In the nineteenth century, however, there are not a few women whose songs are likely to endure. Charlotte Elliott, Cecil Frances Alexander, Anna Lætitia Waring, have written immortal hymns, and it will be long ere Frances Ridley Havergal is absent from the songs of the Church. It is safe to 275 prophesy that ‘Just as I am,’ ‘There is a green hill far away,’ and ‘Father, I know that all my life,’ will be sung through many generations—as long, indeed, as English Christianity endures.

Charlotte Elliott (1791-1871), who belonged to a famous evangelical Church family, is one of many who learnt in suffering what she taught in song. Her greatest hymn, ‘Just as I am,’ was first published in the Invalid’s Hymn-book (1836), and, without her knowledge, was reprinted and widely circulated. In no other hymn has the sinner’s way to the Saviour been made more plain. Through the penitential self-despair of its earlier verses countless numbers of the weary and heavy-laden have found rest unto their souls, and entered into the joyous confidence of its closing lines. Wordsworth’s daughter, Dora, received the hymn in her last illness, and her husband wrote to the authoress, ‘At least ten times that day she asked me to repeat it to her,’ and every morning she asked for it again till the end came. After her death it formed part of her mother’s ‘daily solitary prayer.’

Miss Elliott is the truest and the best representative of the early evangelical Church hymn-writers. Many of her little-known hymns are very beautiful. I quote two pieces, notwithstanding a breath of Calvinism in them both, for it is a Calvinism that has good Scripture warrant.


‘My soul followeth hard after Thee’ (Ps. lxiii. 8).

I look to Thee, I hope in Thee,

I glory in Thy name!

I make Thy righteousness my plea,

Thou all-atoning Lamb!

Methinks even death will welcome be,

That I, through death, may pass to Thee.

Thou art my portion, saith my soul,

My all in earth or heaven;

None but Thyself can make me whole,

No name but Thine is given

At which the gates of pearl fly wide—

The passport of the justified.

I know Thy voice—I strive to keep

Thy word within my heart;

Though the most worthless of Thy sheep,

Still Thou my Shepherd art;

Firm as a rock that word shall stand,

None, none shall pluck me from Thy hand.

Without repentance are Thy gifts;

This thought my hope sustains,

In deep distress my soul uplifts,

When sin the victory gains;

My faith, though weak, shall never fail,

Thy prayer shall even for me prevail.

When I Thy glory shall behold,

And see Thee face to face,

Sheltered in Thy celestial fold,

A sinner saved by grace.

What will it be Thy love to adore,

Assured I shall go out no more?

The following lines are evidently in part suggested by her own great hymn. The text is ‘Into Thine hand 277 I commit my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth’ (Ps. xxxi. 5)—

God of my life! Thy boundless grace

Chose, pardoned, and adopted me;

My rest, my home, my dwelling-place!

Father! I come to Thee.

Jesus, my hope, my rock, my shield!

Whose precious blood was shed for me,

Into Thy hands my soul I yield;

Saviour! I come to Thee.

Spirit of glory and of God!

Long hast Thou deigned my Guide to be;

Now be Thy comfort sweet bestowed!

My God! I come to Thee.

I come to join that countless host

Who praise Thy name unceasingly.

Blest Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

My God! I come to Thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79) was full of the gladness of God’s chosen, and her songs illustrate Faber’s verse—

If our love were but more simple,

We should take Him at His word,

And our lives would be all sunshine

In the sweetness of our Lord.

After her conversion she knew nothing of Wesley’s experience of the ‘howling wilderness’; to her the night was never dark, as it was to Newman, and she was never far from home. Her hymns overflow with exultant faith.


Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,

Thy sky is ever clear,

Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

No winter in thy year.[183]

It would, perhaps, be unsafe to predict that any of Miss Havergal’s hymns will rank among the songs that cannot die, but they will certainly be long loved and sung. Her consecration hymns, especially ‘Lord, speak to me that I may speak,’ are solemn and impressive, and are, perhaps, her best. But her triumphant songs are often very fine, though they are not always well sustained. Her Advent hymn has the triumphant rapture of the soul that goes out to meet her Lord.

Thou art coming, O my Saviour,

Thou art coming, O my King,

In Thy beauty all-resplendent,

In Thy glory all-transcendent;

Well may we rejoice and sing;

Coming! in the opening east

Herald brightness slowly swells;

Coming! O my glorious Priest,

Hear we not Thy golden bells?

Thou art coming; at Thy table

We are witnesses for this;

While remembering hearts Thou meetest

In communion clearest, sweetest,

Earnest of our coming bliss,

Showing not Thy death alone,

And Thy love exceeding great,

But Thy coming and Thy throne,

All for which we long and wait.


Cecil Frances Alexander (1823-95) may almost be called the first writer of real children’s hymns. Dr. Watts was not happy in his Divine and Moral Songs, and some of Charles Wesley’s most horrible verses are to be found in his Hymns for Children. It is true that Watts wrote some simple lyrics which seem to have suited our prim little ancestors, and that Charles Wesley wrote ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,’ but even the manners and beliefs of the devout souls of that time cannot altogether excuse some of his hymns, which must have frightened many a poor little Methodist out of his wits.

Anne and Jane Taylor’s Hymns for Infant Minds are too infantile, though they served their generation well, and led on from Watts to Mrs. Alexander. The Taylors had a happy knack of conveying Scripture history and teaching in simple verse. I do not know a better definition of repentance than—

Repentance is to leave

The sins I loved before,

And show that I in earnest grieve

By doing so no more.

But Mrs. Alexander combines with the winsome simplicity which charms and instructs a little child, the power to speak to the child in the heart of the man. Never has the gospel story been told to children and to child-like souls more attractively than in ‘Once in royal David’s city’ and ‘There is a green hill far away.’ Since our Church hymnals began to include 280 a section for children, Mrs. Alexander has been a large contributor. Even yet, when we have a considerable number of good children’s hymns, there are none better than hers. Of course she wrote other hymns, but these are her glory, her most precious contribution to the hymn-book of the modern Church. ‘Her character,’ says Archbishop Alexander, ‘was based and moulded upon the best teaching of the original Oxford movement,’[184] but she had little sympathy with mere ritualism. Well known and loved as many of her hymns are, her collected Poems include, among the less familiar pieces, much of value and interest. She made for the Irish Church Hymnal a fine translation of the Breastplate of St. Patrick, a hymn which belongs to the Celtic, not to the Roman Church.

I bind unto myself to-day

The strong Name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind unto myself to-day

The power of God to hold and lead,

His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,


Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.[185]

This hymn is extensively used in Ireland on St. Patrick’s day.

To these hymn-writers we may add the poetesses Christina G. Rossetti and Jean Ingelow. Miss Rossetti wrote very little that is really adapted for use in public worship. There is much, however, to justify the inclusion in a hymn-book of such verses as, ‘None other Lamb, none other Name,’[186] though they are more fitting for private prayer than for social worship. The same is not equally true of Miss Ingelow’s poem, ‘And didst Thou love the race that loved not Thee?’ for the verses usually selected form a true hymn. The last verse is—

Come, lest this heart should, cold and cast away,

Die ere the Guest adored she entertain;

Lest eyes which never saw Thine earthly day

Should miss Thy heavenly reign.[187]

Of laymen I can mention only a few names here. Mr. W. Chatterton Dix has written more good hymns than those known to our hymn-books. Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-97), whose Treasury of Sacred Song is our best anthology, also wrote hymns which, it seems to me, deserve a wider use than they have attained. His best-known hymn, without being of 282 the popular type, is of the class which is appreciated by many in these days of perplexity and unrest.

Thou say’st, ‘Take up thy cross,

O man, and follow Me’:

The night is black,

The feet are slack,

Yet we would follow Thee.

But oh, dear Lord, we cry,

That we Thy face could see!

Thy blessèd face

One moment’s space:

Then might we follow Thee!

Dim tracts of time divide

Those golden days from me;

Thy voice comes strange

O’er years of change:

How can we follow Thee?

Comes faint and far Thy voice

From vales of Galilee;

The vision fades

In ancient shades:

How should we follow Thee?

Ah, sense-bound heart and blind!

Is naught but what we see?

Can time undo

What once was true?

Can we not follow Thee?

Within our heart of hearts

In nearest nearness be:

Give Thou the sign:

Say, ‘Ye are Mine’;

Lead, and we follow Thee.[188]


Other hymns by Professor Palgrave are, ‘O thou not made with hands,’ ‘Star of morn and even,’ ‘Thou that once on mother’s knee.’

I close this section of my lecture with a few verses which have, as far as I know, not yet found a place in any hymnal. They are from a Communion hymn by Mr. Gladstone. They may rightly be included in the hymns of the Anglican Revival.

‘Mr. Gladstone’s mind and heart,’ says Mr. G. W. E. Russell, ‘were already attuned to the new teaching, and prepared to receive it, even though he had not paid much attention to the controversy. It was in 1836 that he wrote his hymn on the Holy Communion.’ Mr. Russell gives the following verses—

Here, where Thine angels overhead

Do warn the Tempter’s powers away,

And where the bodies of the dead

For life and resurrection stay;

And many a generation’s prayer

Hath perfumed and hath blest the air;

Oh, lead my blindness by the hand,

Lead me to Thy familiar Feast,

Not here or now to understand,

Yet even here and now to taste,

How the eternal Word of Heaven

On earth in broken bread is given.

We, who this holy precinct round

In one adoring circle kneel,

May we in one intent be bound,

And one serene devotion feel;

And grow around Thy sacred shrine

Like tendrils of the deathless Vine.


We, who with one blest Food are fed,

Into one body may we grow,

And one pure life from Thee, the Head,

Informing all the members flow;

One pulse be felt in every vein,

One law of pleasure and of pain.

Oh, let the virtue all divine,

The Gift of this true Sabbath morn,

Stored in my spirit’s inner shrine,

Be purely and be meekly borne;

Be husbanded with thrifty care,

And sweetened and refreshed with prayer.[189]

It is at once necessary and almost superfluous to say that I know how much has been left unsaid, how many names there are deserving mention, how many hymns that might be referred to, but in such a fruitful land the gleanings are richer than the vintage of former years.


Nineteenth-century Hymns

II.—Free Church Hymns

The composing of hymns is one of the surest signs of spiritual life, and the use of hymns is a wonderful witness of Christian unity; and the Church of England has been fertile during the last half-century in the production of hymns which are used by all English Christians, whilst the confederate Churches of the same period can hardly point to any additions made by them to the hymns of the Christian world.[190]

As we have seen, the honours of hymn-writing during the period referred to are undoubtedly with the Anglicans, though Heber and Keble belong to an earlier time. But this sweeping assertion of Mr. Llewellyn Davis ought to have been impossible if he had remembered Horatius Bonar, certainly one of the greatest English hymn-writers. There are also George Rawson, T. T. Lynch, T. H. Gill, George Matheson, and, every Methodist would add, William M. Bunting.

It must be remembered also that the Free Churches were already rich in hymns when the nineteenth century 286 dawned, whilst the Tractarians had to make, translate, or borrow from the Nonconformists, hymns for their special needs. Methodism had an ample supply of hymns for such Church festivals as it desired, and the observance of festivals and other ecclesiastical occasions was only gradually adopted in the older Nonconforming Churches. When at length they felt the need for such hymns as form the characteristic portions of Anglican hymnody they were already to hand; and after the first natural prejudice against everything that savoured of the ritualistic movement had passed away, they found hymns intended to be the exclusive property of the Anglicans admirably suited to their own newly awakened Church consciousness. There is something delightful and even amusing in the readiness with which such hymns as ‘The Church’s one Foundation’ and ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ have been adopted by all the denominations. The Baptist and the Bible Christian sing with as simple confidence as the highest of Anglicans:

Like a mighty army

Moves the Church of God;

Brothers, we are treading

Where the saints have trod;

We are not divided,

All one body we,

One in hope, in doctrine,

One in charity.

They may have different thoughts as to Apostolic Succession, but as long as we believe that where 287 Christ is there is the Church such hymns belong to all.

But though Nonconformity was rich in hymns and could take without scruple many of the Anglican songs, the nineteenth century was very far from being altogether barren in regard to the Free Churches.

Two hymn-writers mark the transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century—James Montgomery and Thomas Kelly. They lived, it is true, into the second half of the last century, but their hymns are an aftermath of the Evangelical Revival. The later Oxford Movement did not affect them, and their songs might all have belonged to the earlier period, save for the missionary enthusiasm which inspires some of their best efforts.

James Montgomery (1771-1854) was the son of a Moravian minister, who died in the West Indies whilst the poet was at school. He was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, lived for a time in Ireland, and having been educated at the Brethren’s school at Fulneck, after a few unsuccessful experiments, settled to work at Sheffield as assistant to the editor of a local newspaper. He was a man of strong convictions, and did not hide his light under a bushel. He was rewarded by two terms of imprisonment, which he turned to profitable account by writing poems. His was the usual fate of honest men persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Montgomery’s name is one of the chief glories of this city,[191] where he wrought 288 with head and heart and hand for freedom and for righteousness. ‘The Climbing Boy’ is a memorial of his part in the great philanthropic movements of which Lord Shaftesbury was the leader. ‘The West Indies’—a poem which has lines here and there which Cowper or even William Watson might have written—celebrates the time

When Wilberforce, the minister of grace,

The new Las Casas of a ruined race,

With angel-might opposed the rage of hell,

And fought like Michael, till the dragon fell.

‘Greenland’ commemorates his inherited love of missions, and the curious ‘Thoughts on Wheels’—a satire upon State lotteries—reminds us that Montgomery anticipated the Daily News in refusing to insert advertisements of a ‘national nuisance.’ We are accustomed to think of Montgomery as a gracious Moravian poet, whose most appropriate place was the platform of a Methodist missionary meeting, but he passed through storm and tempest, through privation and struggle, to the peaceful haven of his later years. Montgomery was a Moravian all his life, a Methodist the greater part of it, and a Churchman toward the end. Once again, we may say, ‘Such he was as every Christian Church would rejoice to have adopted.’ Indeed, through its hymn-book, every Church has adopted him, and in some of the best modern collections Montgomery is more often heard than Watts.[192]


Montgomery cherished no illusion as to his poetic powers. He hoped that his Poems might be read for a generation, but that his Hymns would be his lasting memorial. ‘The World before the Flood’ and ‘The Wanderer in Switzerland’ are forgotten, and little likely to be revived; but such hymns as ‘Hail to the Lord’s Anointed’ and ‘For ever with the Lord’ will be sung through the centuries.

The first of these is not only Montgomery’s finest psalm-version, but an unsurpassed rendering of a triumphant Messianic psalm. It owes something to the instinctive wisdom with which the best verses have been selected, and to a few editorial touches.[193] One can well imagine the thrill with which it was heard in Pitt Street Chapel, Liverpool, when the author recited the hymn at the close of a missionary speech, and how Adam Clarke rejoiced to add this magnificent rendering of the 72nd Psalm to his Commentary. It is, I think, a finer and a much closer rendering of the ‘Psalm for Solomon’ than Watts’s great version. When urged by Dr. Clarke to attempt a complete version of the Psalms, Montgomery said that he feared to touch the harp of Zion. He did, however, paraphrase 290 about fifty or sixty psalms with more than average success.

It is sometimes said that ‘Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire’ is not ‘in the true sense’ a hymn, but this is to take too narrow a view of the term. It excellently illustrates the way in which devout meditation ends in prayer. Had the last verse been omitted, it would have been a religious poem, not a hymn, but this throws upon all that precedes it the light of devotion. Each verse looks forward to the last—

O Thou by whom we come to God,

The Life, the Truth, the Way!

The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:

Lord! teach us how to pray.

It is superfluous to refer to all Montgomery’s contributions to our hymn-books, but we must ever gratefully remember such pieces as his Communion hymn

According to Thy gracious word,

and the solemn prayer

In the hour of trial,

Jesus, pray for me,

Lest by base denial

I depart from Thee.

It is remarkable that editors should have thought it necessary to meddle (as indeed Montgomery himself did) with the second line of this verse, thinking it ‘unscriptural,’ although the very word ‘pray’ is taken from the lips of our Lord.


Montgomery has also given us a fine Christmas carol—

Angels, from the realms of glory;

and a solemn meditation on the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, rising at the last into actual prayer—

Early hasten to the tomb

Where they laid His breathless clay:

All is solitude and gloom;

Who hath taken Him away?

Christ is risen! He seeks the skies:

Saviour, teach us so to rise.

In Montgomery, as in all great hymn-writers, the word of Christ dwelt richly, and his songs are full of the thoughts and phrases of the Psalter and the New Testament. Some of his sacred poems, though unsuitable for congregational singing, are good devotional reading. I quote one such, which seems to me to deserve something better than the place he gave it in the Appendix to his Poetical Works.


(Mal. iii. 2, 3.)

He that from dross would win the precious ore

Bends o’er the crucible an earnest eye,

The subtle, searching process to explore,

Lest the one brilliant moment should pass by

When in the molten silver’s virgin mass

He meets his pictured face as in a glass.


Thus in God’s furnace are His children tried;

Thrice happy they who to the end endure!

But who the fiery trial may abide?

Who from the crucible come forth so pure,

That He, whose eyes of flame look through the whole,

May see His image perfect in the soul?

Not with an evanescent glimpse alone,

As in that mirror the refiner’s face,

But, stampt with heaven’s broad signet, there be shown

Immanuel’s features, full of truth and grace—

And round that seal of love this motto be,

‘Not for a moment, but eternity!’

Thomas Kelly (1769-1854), who was in Ireland what Williams of Pantycelyn was in Wales, wrote nearly 800 hymns, the vast majority of which belong to the same class as the masses of the forgotten hymns of pious Dissenting pastors in the eighteenth century. They are often redeemed from absolute dullness only by his love for curious rhymes, e.g. ‘hers is’ and ‘mercies.’ He illustrates abundantly how easy it is to have rhyme and rhythm without a suggestion of poetry, as in this verse—

Spread abroad the joyful sound,

Fly in all directions;

Speak to all the world around,

Men of all complexions.

It is amazing that a man who could at times write so well should, as a rule, write so feebly. Yet Kelly’s hymns have had a great popularity, and a few are firmly fixed in all our hymn-books. His best are—‘Look, ye 293 saints, the sight is glorious,’ ‘Through the day Thy love hath spared us,’ ‘We sing the praise of Him who died,’ ‘The Head that once was crowned with thorns,’ and that most inspiring and comforting missionary valediction, ‘Speed Thy servants, Saviour, speed them.’

Josiah Conder (1789-1855) was a poet and an expert editor. His Congregational Hymn-book (1836) marks a new era in the devotional service of Nonconformity. He was in some cases a grievous sinner in regard to alterations, and was often very unhappy in his emendations.[194] Some of his original poems are very beautiful, especially his short hymns and his versions of Prayer-book collects, e.g. ‘Bread of heaven on Thee I feed,’ and the beautiful paraphrase of the Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, with which the Methodist Hymn-book closes. Conder belongs to both centuries. His hymns are often of the dull didactic type of the earlier time, but he caught something of the spirit of the later day. Of his longer hymns the following is a good specimen. It is found in many hymnals.

How shall I follow Him I serve?

How shall I copy Him I love?

Nor from those blessèd footsteps swerve,

Which lead me to His seat above?


Privations, sorrows, bitter scorn,

The life of toil, the mean abode,

The faithless kiss, the crown of thorn,—

Are these the consecrated road?

’Twas thus He suffered, though a Son,

Foreknowing, choosing, feeling all;

Until the perfect work was done,

And drunk the bitter cup of gall.

Lord! should my path through suffering lie,

Forbid it I should e’er repine;

Still let me turn to Calvary,

Nor heed my griefs, remembering Thine.

Oh, let me think how Thou didst leave

Untasted every pure delight,

To fast, to faint, to watch, to grieve,

The toilsome day, the homeless night:—

To faint, to grieve, to die for me!

Thou camest not Thyself to please:

And, dear as earthly comforts be,

Shall I not love Thee more than these?

Yes! I would count them all but loss,

To gain the notice of Thine eye:

Flesh shrinks and trembles at the cross,

But Thou canst give the victory.

Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-71), an Independent minister, whose delicate health often interrupted his labours, published in 1855 a little book of poems which roused an extraordinary storm. It is difficult to understand how such an inoffensive book as The Rivulet could make any great sensation, but the theological mind was more sensitive, if not more restless, than it is to-day. The ‘Rivulet Controversy,’ in which the redoubtable Dr. John Campbell was the prime 295 mover, is long forgotten, but a few of the hymns survive. The best known is, ‘Gracious Spirit, dwell with me.’[195] Lynch is an important contributor to Congregational and Baptist hymnals, but he is practically unknown to Anglican books, and is not represented in the Presbyterian Church Hymnary.

Lynch was of the new and broader school of thought, and his hymns, which he is said to have designed as a supplement to Watts, are of an entirely different cast from those of the earlier day, though their teaching is familiar enough in our time. I make a brief quotation, which is more likely to be welcome to-day than it was half a century ago.

If love in any heart arise,

And stir the tongue, and light the eyes,

And speed the foot, and fill the hand;

Then, Christian, thou must understand

That, though unthought of, God is there;

So of denying Him beware.

If Little-more makes haste to bless

His troubled neighbour Little-less,

And poor men to the poorer give,

Weak ones the weaker help to live,

The sad those sadder still console;

Then God is working in the soul.


If the grown man forgoes his bread

That little mouths may first be fed;

And patient women serve the men

Who care for them but now and then,

And love keeps warm without a fire;

O, then, the grace of God admire.

Two strangers ocean may divide

Who yet shall bridegroom be and bride,

And God unknown to souls may be

Who love Him will eternally;

But all true hearts our Father knows,

And will to them His truth disclose.

George Rawson (1807-89) has won a wider recognition than any other English Nonconformist hymn-writer of the century, except Montgomery. He was a solicitor in Leeds, and took part in the preparation of the Leeds Hymn-book. His Communion hymn, ‘By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,’ his Evening hymn, ‘God the Father, be Thou near,’ and his Litany of the Holy Spirit, ‘Come to our poor nature’s night,’ are his most beautiful contributions to our hymnals, but several of his less-known poems are bright, simple, and melodious. His version of Ps. lxxxiv. would have been better known if Lyte’s had not been written.

Thomas Hornblower Gill’s (b. 1819) is a very distinct voice in the choir. He will, I fear, have but a small place in the hymn-books of the future, though there is an individuality and force in many of his hymns which make them singularly attractive. Unfortunately, he often uses an unusual word or phrase which diverts the worshipper’s mind from what is said to the 297 form in which it is expressed. Again, he is too fond of the epithets ‘dear’ and ‘sweet,’ which is the more to be regretted, as his hymns are never what Wesley called ‘namby-pambycal,’ but have a fine, robust tone, and often a stirring rhythm. He has much of the Puritan spirit. One of his best hymns, ‘Lord, in the fulness of my might,’[196] has for its text Cromwell’s saying, ‘How good it is to close with Christ betimes.’ In the Congregational and Baptist books Mr. Gill is largely represented. I hope the inclusion of a few of his hymns in the Methodist Hymn-book will make him known to a still wider circle. I have marked many of his hymns for quotation, for they have been dear to me from my boyhood, when I made acquaintance with them through George Dawson’s hymn-book. Those I quote are chosen, not because they are specially suitable for use in public worship, but because there is so much of force and freshness in both thought and expression. The hymn on ‘Free Grace’ has also a motto from Cromwell—‘I have had plentiful wages beforehand, and I am sure I shall never earn the least mite.’

Lord! dost Thou ne’er Thy servants bless

Until their work is done?

Dost Thou withhold Thy tenderness

Till they the meed have won?

Lord! dost Thou reckon with Thine own

Like taskmasters below?

First must the handiwork be shown?

Wilt Thou the wages owe?


Nay, Lord! to Thy dear servants fall

The wages long before;

The Taskmaster Celestial

Hath paid them o’er and o’er.

How can they reckon up the grace

Each hour, each minute brings?

How store Thy gifts? how find a place

For all their precious things?

Hath not the Son their ransom paid,

And brought them near to God?

Yes! hath not the sweet Spirit made

Their souls His dear abode?

O boundless treasure all unearned!

O wages given for nought!

Bestowed ere once their hearts have yearned,

Ere once their hands have wrought.

With eager love these souls may burn,

These hands their utmost strain;

Still, Lord, one mite they cannot earn;

Thy love doth grace remain.

O! mourn Thy servants that there fall

No earnings to their lot?

Because Thy grace hath given them all,

Lord, can they give Thee nought?

Thine own no heavenly burden spare!

Withhold no task divine,

And let our eager love declare

The unbought grace of Thine.

My last quotation is made for the sake of its quaint, sturdy, half-humorous Independency. The text is, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’


Lord! Thy gracious voice hath spoken,

Lord! Thy faithful ones obey;

Not by us be rudely broken

Christ’s command or Caesar’s sway!

God too greatly cannot task us,

Tribute glad we bring the Lord;

Service slight must Caesar ask us,

Tribute small can we afford.

Yet each holier soul desireth

Nobler Caesars to appear;

Each diviner hour requireth

Powers and thrones more glorious here.

All our tribute, all our treasure,

We would spend where we can love;

Jesus! come and be our Caesar!

Sovereign here as Lord above.

Low before Thy kingdom’s splendour

Make the world’s poor kingdoms bow!

Lord, to Thee our all we render—

Thou our gracious Caesar, Thou!

Thy mild monarchy victorious

Half Thy word shall needless make,

Our least service shall be glorious—

All our tribute God shall take.

I have already referred to Mr. Gill’s national hymn

Lift thy song among the nations,

England of the Lord beloved,

which is based on the text, ‘He hath not dealt so with any nation. Praise ye the Lord.’[197]


A few other hymns by English Nonconformist writers may be found, some, e.g. Thomas Binney’s ‘Eternal Light,’ being of a very high order. Mr. Spurgeon wrote a good many hymns and psalm-versions, but they are not likely to be widely used. One, intended as a paraphrase of Ps. xli., might, perhaps, find a place among hymns of Philanthropy, where our hymnals are still weak.

Jesus, poorest of the poor,

Man of sorrows, Child of grief!

Happy they whose bounteous store

Ministered to Thy relief.

Jesus, though Thy head is crowned,

Crowned with loftiest majesty,

In Thy members Thou art found

Plunged in deepest poverty.

Happy they who wash Thy feet,

Visit Thee in Thy distress;

Honour great and labour sweet,

For Thy sake the saints to bless.

Thou wilt deeds of love repay;

Grace shall generous hearts reward

Here on earth, and in the day

When they meet their reigning Lord.[198]

Bernard Barton (1784-1849), the Quaker poet, is best known by his hymn on the Holy Scriptures—‘Lamp of our feet, whereby we trace.’ To my mind 301 his best hymn is the bright song of the Christian soldier.

He who would win a warrior’s fame

Must shun, with ever-watchful aim,

Entangling things of life;

His couch the earth, heaven’s arching dome

His airy tent, his only home

The field of martial strife.

Unwearied by the battle’s toil,

Uncumbered by the battle’s spoil,

No dangers must affright;

Nor rest seduce to slothful ease,

Intent alone his chief to please,

Who called him forth to fight.

Soldier of Christ, if thou wouldst be

Worthy that epithet, stand free

From time’s encumbering things;

Be earth’s enthralments feared, abhorred,

Knowing thy leader is the Lord,

Thy chief the King of kings.

Methodism has not in later days been rich in hymn-writers. After Thomas Olivers there is but one great name, that of William M. Bunting (1805-66). Little as he is known outside his own Church, his hymns are amongst the best loved and best used in Wesleyan Methodism. I cannot but think that some day he will be recognized as one of the glorious choir of the universal Church. He was an extremely delicate man, and his natural bent was pensive and self-depreciatory. He once said to a friend, ‘There is one thing I shall miss in heaven, the mystic joys of penitence.’ His great penitential hymn,


Holy Spirit! pity me,

Pierced with grief for grieving Thee,

even if it be thought too personal for use in public worship—I do not think it is—might well be placed among hymns for private devotion. In the services of a minister’s ‘quiet day’ it would be most impressive.

Blessèd are the pure in heart,

They have learned the angel art,

While on earth in heaven to be,

God, by sense unseen, to see,

though not a direct prayer, is a long meditation, the kind of spiritual song which ought to be in all our hymn-books. His Baptismal hymn is very fine.

O crucified, triumphant Lord!

Thy sceptre and Thy cross we own;

And, taught by Thine apostle’s word,

Repose our faith on Thee alone.

The sign of faith ordained by Thee

We Thy confessors scorn to shun;

All men our fellowship shall see,

Our Lord, our faith, our symbol, one.

It is one of the strongest if not the tenderest of hymns for infant baptism, and will bear comparison with Dean Alford’s, ‘In token that thou shalt not fear,’ with this advantage, that it is not addressed to the infant, but to Him whose Name is named upon it.

William Morley Punshon’s (1824-81) Sabbath Chimes suffered from comparison with the Christian Year, but his hymns for Sunday morning and evening—especially 303 the latter—are not unworthy of a place amongst the many good hymns we include under this heading. Both are wisely shortened in hymn-books. Some readers will be glad to see the following verses from the Sabbath Evening hymn as they were originally published, though I do not suggest that the familiar cento is not better for use in the congregation.

We woke to-day with anthems sweet

To sing before the mercy-seat,

And, ere the darkness round us fell,

We bade the grateful vespers swell.

Whate’er has risen from heart sincere,

Each upward glance of filial fear,

Each litany, devoutly prayed,

Each gift upon Thine altar laid;

Each tear, regretful of the past,

Each longing o’er the future cast,

Each brave resolve,—each spoken vow,—

Jesus, our Lord! accept them now.

Whate’er beneath Thy searching eyes

Has wrought to spoil our sacrifice;

Aught of presumption, over bold,

The dross we vainly brought for gold;

If we have knelt at alien shrine,

Or insincerely bowed at Thine,

Or basely offered blind and lame,

Or blushed beneath unholy shame;

Or,—craven prophets,—turned to flee

When duty bade us speak for Thee;—

’Mid this sweet stillness, while we bow,

Jesus, our Lord! forgive us now.


Oh, let each following Sabbath yield

For our loved work an ampler field,

A sturdier hatred of the wrong,

A stronger purpose to grow strong.[199]

The Methodist Hymn-book contains contributions from several Methodist writers new to our authorized hymnal. Of those still living I will say nothing, but I cannot pass over the name of James Smetham (1821-89), whose tender, solemn lines, ‘While ebbing nature grieves,’ though they may rarely be sung in public, will be prized by many. Another of his hymns is in a different key. It is, perhaps, more suitable for congregational use—

Show me, Lord, that Thou art love

In confirmed tranquillity,

Like the silent sky above,

Let my craving spirit be;

Dwell in life as vast and still,

In the sunlight of Thy will.

Thou who fillest all in all,

Knowing that I wander here,

Thou wilt hearken when I call,

I will wait till Thou appear.

Angels in Thy smile are blest;

Smile, and Thou wilt give me rest.

See the lilies of the field!

They are all endued by Thee:

Thou their innocence wilt shield;

But Thou carest more for me:

For like summer verdure, I

Live and grow, but cannot die.


Since on me Thou hast conferred

This dread gift of endless life,

Let my spirit walk prepared

For its brief and mortal strife;

Rushing then into Thy breast,

Thou wilt smile, and I shall rest.

The weakness of this hymn lies in the word ‘rushing’ in the fourth verse, which breaks in upon the quietness and confidence of the poem.

Mark Guy Pearse has written several good hymns for children. They are, as Dr. Julian says, ‘of exceptional merit.’ Four are in the Methodist Sunday School Book. His Christmas carol, ‘The fierce wind howls about the hills,’ has a quaint, old-world simplicity and ruggedness that is both picturesque and affecting. His most carefully wrought hymn is a beautiful song of praise. The first two lines in each verse are its special charm. Many readers will be glad to see it here, though it is well known in Methodist Sunday schools.

Saviour, for Thy love we praise Thee,

Love that brought Thee down to earth;

Like the angels we would praise Thee,

Singing welcome at Thy birth;

Let Thy star, through all our gloom,

Guide us to Thy manger home.

Saviour, for Thy life we praise Thee,

Life that brings us from the dead;

Like the children we would praise Thee:

Lay Thine hands upon our head.

Call us, as Thou didst of old,

Little lambs into Thy fold.


Saviour, for Thy death we praise Thee,

Death that is our hope of life;

Like the ransomed we would praise Thee,

Who have passed beyond the strife.

Wash us in Thy cleansing blood,

Make us kings and priests to God.

Saviour, for Thy love we praise Thee,

Love that lifts us up to Thee;

With the angels let us praise Thee,

Joining in their minstrelsy;

All our love for ever telling,

And the mighty chorus swelling,

Praise the Lord!

Benjamin Gough (1805-77) was a local preacher and a very minor poet, yet he is not the least of Methodist hymn-writers. He was an echo, not a voice, but won much wider acceptance than most of the later Methodist poets. Dr. Littledale included a number of his hymns in the People’s Hymnal, and he is represented in several good hymn-books both in this country and America. His best hymns are ‘Awake, awake, O Zion’ and ‘Uplift the blood-stained banner.’

Though the English Free Churches are poor in hymn-writers, the balance is amply redressed in Scotland. Horatius Bonar (1801-89) is one of the great singers of the century, and some of his hymns, e.g. ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say,’ are surely immortal. He rightly named his poems ‘hymns of faith and hope’; they look for and haste unto the coming of the Day of Christ. His Communion hymn, ‘Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face,’ and ‘A few 307 more years shall roll,’ with some others, are in all great collections. Few modern books have less than ten of his hymns, and many have from twelve to twenty. He was also a successful translator, though his fame rests on his original hymns. If I quote few of his verses, it is only because they are so well known. The Second Advent filled a large place in his thought and teaching. The following lines, to which he prefixed a quotation from St. Augustine, ‘The world has grown old,’ are very characteristic—

Come, Lord, and tarry not,

Bring the long-looked-for day;

Oh, why these years of waiting here,

These ages of delay?

Come, for Thy saints still wait,

Daily ascends their sigh;

The Spirit and the Bride say, Come:

Dost Thou not hear the cry?

Come, for creation groans,

Impatient of Thy stay,

Worn out with these long years of ill,

These ages of delay.

Come, for Thy foes are strong;

With taunting lip they say,

‘Where is the promised advent now,

And where the dreaded day?’

Come, for love waxes cold,

Its steps are faint and slow;

Faith now is lost in unbelief,

Hope’s lamp burns dim and low.


Come, for the corn is ripe;

Put in Thy sickle now,

Reap the great harvest of the earth,

Sower and reaper Thou!

Come, and make all things new,

Build up this ruined earth;

Restore our faded Paradise,

Creation’s second birth.

Come, and begin Thy reign

Of everlasting peace;

Come, take the kingdom to Thyself,

Great King of righteousness.[200]

Fewer and less easily adapted to congregational use are the sacred songs of Dr. George Matheson, whose best-known hymn is probably the most widely appreciated of any written in the last quarter of a century. It must be familiar to most readers, but as it is not found in the Methodist Hymn-book, I give it here—

O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul on Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe,

That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to Thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.


O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to Thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from Thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

Very different are his verses on Brotherhood, which are not on the ordinary lines of a hymn, but make an excellent song for a gathering of working-men, for a temperance meeting, or for ‘united’ gatherings of many kinds. It is at least thoroughly modern.

Come, let us raise the common song—

Day’s beams are breaking;

Shadows have parted hearts too long,

Light in the east is waking.

Come, let us clasp united hands—

Love’s rays are falling;

Sea too long divides the lands,

Kindred claims are calling.

Come, let us lift a common prayer—

One hope combines us;

We are made hard by selfish care,

Mutual grief refines us.

Come, let us lift our brother’s load—

Christ’s cross is o’er us;

Ours shall fall upon the road

When Heaven’s is seen before us.


Come, let us win our brother’s love;

Love’s warm revealing

Melts the ice that will not move

By the frost’s congealing.

Come, let us lift our brother’s stain;

Hope’s power shall cherish

Dreams of daysprings not in vain

Wherein the spot shall perish.

Dr. Walter C. Smith’s is not a familiar name in our hymn-books. Only editors who are willing to leave the beaten track will find his poems ‘true hymns.’ The Baptist Church Hymnal, which is perhaps the most catholic and the most literary of our modern books, gives six of his hymns, while the Presbyterian and the Methodist have none. But many of his poems are good hymns, though perhaps they appeal to a limited circle. His Thoughts and Fancies for Sunday Evenings has long stood close to my study chair, and I do not think there is any book (except George Herbert) I have so often read after the day’s work is done. His hymns have the true patience and the happy trustfulness which are the strength and inspiration of Christian service. Here are three verses from the poem on Ps. cxviii. 1—

Why should I always pray,

Although I always lack?

Were ’t not a better way

Some praise to render back?

The earth that drinks the plenteous rain

Returns the grateful cloud again.


We should not get the less

That we remembered more

The truth and righteousness

Thou keep’st for us in store:

In heaven they do not pray—they sing,

And they have wealth of everything.

And it would be more meet

To compass Thee with song,

Than to have at Thy feet

Only a begging throng,

Who take Thy gifts and then forget

Alike Thy goodness and their debt.

My next quotation is well worthy of a place beside Bishop Bickersteth’s ‘Come ye yourselves apart,’ and with the most impressive and consoling of hymns for Christian workers.

Oft, Lord, I weary in Thy work,

But of Thy work I do not tire,

Although I toil from dawn till dark,

From matins of the early lark

Until his even-song expire.

Ah! who that tends the altar fire,

Or ministers the incense due,

Or sings Thy praises in the choir,

Or publishes good news, could tire

Of that he loves so well to do?

Sweet is the recompense it brings—

The work that with good-will is done;

For all the heart with gladness sings,

And all the fleeting hours have wings,

And all the day is full of sun.


And if he labour not in vain,

If souls are by his message stirred,

If he can comfort grief and pain,

Or bring repentant tears like rain

By force of his entreating word,

The hand may weary at its task,

And weary he may drag his feet;

The weary frame may long to bask

In needful rest; but do not ask

The heart to weary of its beat.

To these quotations—and they are few compared with those I would like to make—I must add Dr. Smith’s singularly solemn and beautiful prayer, which in the Baptist Church Hymnal is appointed for the close of the Communion Service. It is unique among sacramental hymns.

If any to the feast have come

Who were not bidden, Lord, forgive;

They were not of our Father’s home,

Yet in Thy mercy let them live.

If any came in doubt or fear,

O may they carry peace away;

Let heaven to them be calm and clear,

Still brightening to the perfect day.

And who in Zion mourning were,

O give them songs of praise to Thee;

And who were full of anxious care,

O set them from their burden free.

All those who never sat before

At this dear table of Thy grace,

O may they love Thee more and more,

And serve Thee in Thy Holy Place.


And they who ne’er again shall see

The day of our communion dawn,

Prepare them, Lord, to feast with Thee

At tables which are never drawn.

Forgive us all our wandering thought,

Our little love, our feeble faith;

And may we meet, our battle fought,

Beyond the realms of sin and death.

From these great Scotch hymn-writers I turn for a moment to the Unitarian contribution to the Church’s hymn-book. Here it must be said that the best comes to us from America, where the Unitarians claim Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, Samuel Longfellow, and Samuel Johnson. In England we have Sir John Bowring (1792-1872); and Sarah Flower Adams (1805-48), whose ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee’ has a sure place among the best-loved hymns. Mrs. Adams also wrote two beautiful little hymns suited for the close of service, each beginning, ‘Part in peace,’ and was an important contributor to W. J. Fox’s Hymns and Anthems for the use of the South Place Religious Society, one of the most curious of modern hymnals. Mr. Page Hopps has written some good hymns, which are widely used. His child’s prayer, ‘Father, lead me day by day,’ is beautiful in its strong simplicity. Dr. James Martineau wrote a few hymns which I cannot but think are included in evangelical hymn-books more out of respect for their author than for their actual 314 devotional or poetic value. The best known is ‘Thy way is in the deep, O Lord.’ I quote one less often found—

‘Where is your God?’ they say:

Answer them, Lord most holy!

Reveal Thy secret way

Of visiting the lowly:

Not wrapped in moving cloud,

Or nightly-resting fire;

But veiled within the shroud

Of silent high desire.

Come not in flashing storm,

Or bursting frown of thunder:

Come in the viewless form

Of wakening love and wonder;—

Of duty grown divine,

The restless spirit, still;

Of sorrows taught to shine

As shadows of Thy will.

O God! the pure alone,—

E’en in their deep confessing,—

Can see Thee as their own,

And find the perfect blessing:

Yet to each waiting soul

Speak in Thy still small voice,

Till broken love’s made whole,

And saddened hearts rejoice.


Nineteenth-century Hymns

III.—Roman Catholic Hymns

English Romanism has shared in the revival of hymnody, and has been greatly enriched by the men who, to quote Mr. Moorsom’s delightful record of Faber, ‘left the Church of England for the Roman schism in England.’ From Austin to Faber, Romanism has hardly any English hymn-writers. Some of the Latin hymns by English writers have an alluring rhythm, the ideal tone of a Christmas carol. It is easy to understand how popular they might be in the vernacular. Here is a bright lilting verse from a thirteenth-century hymn:

Gabriel to Mary went,

A mighty message bare he;

Deep in awe the maiden bent

To hear the first Hail Mary![201]


Richard Crashaw (d. 1650) was a poet, but scarcely a hymn-writer, though from his ‘Hymn of St. Thomas’ a good cento may be made.

With all the powers my poor heart hath

Of humble love and loyal faith,

Thus low, my hidden Life, I bow to Thee,

Whom too much love hath bowed more low for me.

Faith is my force: Faith strength affords

To keep pace with Thy powerful words,

And words more sure, more sweet than they,

Love could not think, Truth could not say.

Help, Lord, my faith, my hope increase,

And fill my portion in Thy peace:

Give love for life; nor let my days

Grow but in new powers to Thy praise.

O dear memorial of that Death,

Which lives still and allows us breath!

Rich, royal food! Bountiful bread!

Whose use denies us to the dead.

Come, Love! come, Lord! and that long day

For which I languish, come away!

When glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,

And for Thy veil give me Thy face.[202]

Robert Southwell (d. 1595) did not write so good a hymn as this, but several of his very striking poems are included in the Arundel book—‘The Burning Babe,’ ‘New Prince, new Pomp,’ ‘A Child my choice.’

Early in the nineteenth century efforts were made to 317 provide English hymn-books for Romanists. Father Haydock (1823) even adapted some of the hymns of Wesley, Watts, Montgomery, and other Protestants, but the effort does not seem to have been appreciated.[203]

Frederick William Faber (1814-63) did for English Romanists what Watts had done for Nonconformists more than a hundred years earlier. He is the Watts and Wesley of Romanism. Faber ‘went over’ in 1846, after a brief ministry in the Anglican Church. He lamented that Catholics had not ‘the means of influence which one school of Protestantism has in Wesley’s, Newton’s, and Cowper’s hymns, and another in the more refined and engaging works of Oxford writers.’ As ‘an English son of St. Philip’ Neri, he claimed to be following in the steps of that ‘right merry saint’ in his attempt to provide ‘English Catholic hymns fitted for singing.’ ‘St. Philip devised a changeful variety of spiritual exercises and recreations, which gathered round him the art and literature, as well as the piety of Rome, and was eminently qualified to meet the increased appetite for the word of God, for services in the vernacular, for hymn-singing and prayer-meetings.’ These last words have a fine Methodist flavour, and increase one’s sympathy with their writer. But it must be admitted that Faber was a thorough-going Romanist. He believed that ‘God raised up our dear and blessed Father, St. Philip ... just as the heresy of Protestantism 318 was beginning to devastate the world.’[204] Faber’s hymns must not be judged simply by our Protestant versions, but we may be thankful that he gave a new and better tone to the hymn-singing of the Roman Church. His best hymns, with their exquisite yearning tenderness, are so dear to us that there is no need to speak of them; they speak the language of the Christian heart, and he who sings thus sings the Holy Spirit’s song.

It must be admitted, however, that we have taken the best of Faber into our hymnals, and the residue is not—from the Protestant standpoint—of great value. What one may call the lighter songs of Roman Catholic psalmody are so little known to us that I quote, as a favourable illustration of a class of hymn that bulks largely in Romanist books, two verses of Faber’s song for St. Patrick’s Day. One can readily imagine that such a hymn would be popular in Ireland, and serve to keep alive the legend of St. Patrick.

All praise to Saint Patrick who brought to our mountains

The gift of God’s faith, the sweet light of His love!

All praise to the shepherd who showed us the fountains

That rise in the heart of the Saviour above!

For hundreds of years,

In smiles and in tears,

Our saint hath been with us, our shield and our stay;

All else may have gone,

Saint Patrick alone,

He hath been to us light when earth’s lights were all set,

For the glories of faith they can never decay;

And the best of our glories is bright with us yet,

In the faith and the feast of Saint Patrick’s Day.


There is not a saint in the bright courts of Heaven

More faithful than he to the land of his choice;

Oh, well may the nation to whom he was given,

In the feast of their sire and apostle rejoice!

In glory above,

True to his love,

He keeps the false faith from his children away:

The dark false faith,

That is worse than death,

Oh, he drives it far off from the green sunny shore,

Like the reptiles which fled from his curse in dismay;

And Erin, when error’s proud triumph is o’er,

Will still be found keeping Saint Patrick’s Day.

Edward Caswall (1814-78), who resigned his Anglican living in 1847, was received into the Roman Church in 1850. He is a more successful translator than composer, his best original hymn being ‘Days and moments quickly flying.’ His translations from the Latin and German are in all our hymnals.

Romish hymnals contain many prayers for the reconversion of England. There is something pathetic in such lines as these in a hymn of Father Potter’s—

Oh! yet once more, o’er English fields,

The glorious Cross shall wave;

The solace of the broken heart,

The standard of the brave.

Oh, isle of Saints! oh, Mary’s dower!

How long ere this shall be?

When wilt thou rise, throw off thy chains,

And once again be free?

But if our Romish brethren sing thus, why should not 320 we teach our children Mr. Gill’s stirring hymn, which includes the lines

Sing how He His England crownèd,

When He loosed the yoke of Rome?

Have we not as good cause for praise as they for prayer?

One turns from the study of Romish hymn-books with a sense of having travelled in a far country, where yet there is much to remind one of the home-land. There is a great gulf, as we thankfully acknowledge, between even the High Anglican and the Romanist—a considerable portion of the Romish hymn-book is, and we trust ever will be, impossible to the bulk of English Christians. On the other hand, one can neglect the chaff and gather golden grain, for saintly Romanists have a genius for devotion. It is much to be wished that the readiness with which we have adopted hymns from Roman Catholic sources had been reciprocated. But almost all the great English hymns are missing from Catholic hymnals. The Arundel editors admit translations by Dr. Neale, and even Miss Winkworth, but no original hymns save those by writers of their own faith. Mr. Tozer, in his Catholic Hymns, includes Charlotte Elliott’s ‘Thy Will be done,’ and gives the author’s name, but I am afraid he did not know she was a Protestant—though I hope he did.

Naturally, Faber and Caswall are the chief contributors; and books that contain their hymns and those of Matthew Bridges, Adelaide Anne Procter, and 321 J. H. Newman, cannot be without much spiritual wealth. The two collections I have named give a very hopeful impression concerning the future of Roman Catholic hymnody; though they are practically innocent of Protestant hymns, they contain many which are Catholic, and not Roman. Indirectly, the use of such books must prepare the way for a greater freedom in worship and a nearer approximation to the general company of believers.

I will close this slight sketch with two verses by Cardinal Manning:

Death has for me no fears; its bitter pains

Shall never from my King my heart divide:

Faithful to Him till death my will remains;

I nothing fear, with Jesus at my side.

Jesus, my Lord! my only hope and shield;

No powers of ill before Thee can abide;

I trust in Thee upon the battlefield;

I nothing fear, with Jesus at my side![205]

Here our study must perforce break off, for the limits assigned to my lecture have been already exceeded. Several important subjects must be omitted. American hymns take a comparatively inconspicuous place in our Church hymnals, but have a large space in collections of songs for mission services and undenominational gatherings.

Translations from the Greek, Latin, and German furnish many of our finest and most popular hymns. 322 In regard to modern hymn-books, the German are the older, and indeed many of the Latin hymns are actually of a later date than those of Luther and even Paul Gerhardt. John Wesley’s intercourse with the Moravians introduced him to the German hymns, and his translations are almost as important a feature in our hymn-books as Charles Wesley’s original compositions. Miss Winkworth’s Lyra Germanica is one of the great devotional works of the nineteenth century.

The Oxford Movement drew attention to the hymns of the Greek and Roman Churches, and Hymns Ancient and Modern popularized many hymns suitable to the worship of all the Churches. Bishop Mant, Isaac Williams, Edward Caswall, and Dr. Neale led the way in translating these hymns into English verse, and they quickly secured a large place in hymn-books. Not only have they great historic interest, but they give us some of the sublimest and the sweetest of our hymns of penitence and praise, ranging from the solemn tones of the ‘Dies irae’ to the lovely lyrics of Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘Jesu, the very thought of Thee.’ No survey of the hymn-book of the modern Church can be complete without reference to them, but I am compelled to pass them by with only this brief mention.



Our study of English hymns has carried us through three centuries and a half—from the rough, halting lines of Coverdale to the smooth and easy rhythm of the hymn-writers of to-day.

From Sternhold and Hopkins to the modern hymn-book is a long and delightful journey. ‘I envy not in any mood’ the man who finds in devotional poetry only matter for criticism. If it be true that the heart makes the theologian, it is more true that the heart makes the hymnologist.

The earlier stages of our study may yield little actual fruit in the shape of hymns which a modern editor would delight to add to his hymn-book. But it yields much in the way of inspiration, bringing us into communion with men like Herbert, Donne, Sandys, Vaughan, and, in his measure, Wither—men who might have lived the courtier’s life had they not chosen to serve the King of kings. So far as their poems are concerned, it is a mere accident that Herbert and Donne were in orders. They are not clerical hymn-writers, but, like others of their school, are poets of the 324 inner and individual life. They touch our hearts, not because they have written what expresses the common need of a congregation, but because they speak in graceful form what most of us can feel but could never put into words. Campion and the two Austins represent the devout laymen of the professional class—men who might, if they pleased, have been mere men of the world. It would be quite possible to discuss English hymns with scarce a mention of such names, but, it seems to me, that in losing them our study would lose its richest charm.

Ken may be considered the first of the Anglican, Mason of the Evangelical, and Watts of the Dissenting hymn-writers. They wrote, not simply for their own delight or relief, but for the sake of others. Ken had no immediate successors, though he is the founder of the school of Heber, Lyte, Keble, and Ellerton. Mason’s immediate successors were Shepherd, Newton, and Cowper; Watts was the first of a long succession of the later Puritans.

It is usual to call the eighteenth century the golden age of hymn-writing; but I am not sure that this will be the final verdict. I confess that in many respects I find both the earlier and the later period more attractive. If we leave out of the account Wesley’s hymns, many of which owe their long use in the Methodist Churches to other than poetic considerations, the vast majority of the eighteenth-century hymns have disappeared from modern use. It is interesting to compare 325 the hymn-books of 1750-1850 with those issued within the last twenty years. Rippon’s Selection, in its various editions; Collyer’s Hymns; Dobell’s New Selection of Nearly Eight Hundred Evangelical Hymns; Bickersteth’s Christian Psalmody; and Snepp’s Songs of Grace and Glory, compared with the most recent hymn-books, show not only what great additions have been made to the treasury of Christian song, but how many hymns once regarded as almost indispensable are now forgotten, and are never likely to be revived. The formal, didactic, preaching hymns, so popular a hundred years ago, have been steadily losing ground. They not only fail to touch the heart of present-day worshippers, they have no element of distinction, nothing that could or should give them a permanent place in the songs of the Church of Christ. Hymns of the period before Watts are much more common in twentieth-century hymn-books than in those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the hymns characteristic of the eighteenth century are rapidly disappearing. They were written to meet the needs of the Dissenting meeting-house and the Evangelical Revival. But among them are many which voice the experience, ‘not of an age, but of all time’; they speak the language of the soul that seeks and finds and follows the Saviour.

Nineteenth-century hymns were largely affected by the great Anglican Revival—a much wider term than ‘the Oxford Movement.’ The best known and loved of the 326 hymns of the last eighty years are those which, in one way or other, emphasize the idea of the Church, which help the worshipper to realize that he belongs to that Holy Church which, throughout all the ages and in all lands, acknowledges God to be the Lord. It is one of the unexpected and undesired fruits of the Anglican Revival that every denomination now claims its place in an undivided Church. The longing for unity which led the Tractarians first to look and then to move toward Rome, led the Free Churches to reconsider their own position, and to seek for a larger and more scriptural conception of the Church. A narrow Calvinism had, on the one hand, kept many coldly isolated from their brethren; and, on the other, a narrow fervour, a too literal belief that Methodism, and Methodism alone, was Christianity in earnest, made others keep themselves warm by their own firesides, under the impression that their neighbours sat by cold hearths or crouched over smouldering embers. For this estrangement of brethren, the earlier hymn-books are to some extent responsible. The spirit of Christian charity, of genial mutual appreciation, has wonderfully developed since denominational hymn-books became shining evidences of unity in diversity. Some of Wesley’s earlier hymn-books illustrate this, and it is to be regretted that he did not make a more liberal use of the work of other men when he issued his final hymn-book for the people called Methodists. The earliest great catholic Collection with which I am 327 acquainted is the Moravian book of 1754.[206] Disfigured as it is by a number of the bad Moravian hymns, it yet deserves a place—considering the time at which it was issued—beside Palgrave’s Treasury of Sacred Song. It was a by no means unsuccessful effort to do for the Moravians of the mid-eighteenth century what the Methodist Hymn-book has done for our own Church at the beginning of the twentieth century. It gathers into one volume most of the best hymns of other Churches, while preserving those peculiarly suited to the needs and tastes of its own members.

In this regard the hymn-books of the Methodist and of the Anglican Church represent a different type from those of the principal Nonconformist Churches. The latter include very little that is distinctive of the Churches for whose use they are prepared. Where they differ it is usually a matter of taste, not of doctrine. The Presbyterian, Baptist, and Congregational books might be used by any or all of these Churches. And there is much to be said in defence of the elimination of denominational characteristics.

On the other hand, there is, I believe, more to be said in favour of the hymn-book which is designed to aid the Church in its specific work and teaching. It would be impossible to exaggerate the influence of Wesley’s Hymns upon the Methodist Churches. And 328 there can be no question that Hymns Ancient and Modern has had an immense influence, both for good and ill, upon the Anglican Revival. It was originally issued in 1861, when the Movement was taking firm hold of the clergy, and beginning to change the whole tone of the teaching and the whole spirit of public worship in hundreds of parishes. Its success was enormous, only paralleled by that of Watts and Wesley. The title was in itself a confession of faith in the new Movement. The first edition was, in comparison with the popular hymnals of the Evangelicals, a marked advance toward High Church worship; but it is very modest and tentative when compared with its latest edition. I say nothing of its doctrine, for I have no space for criticism. I commend the principle upon which the work was done—the education of the worshipper in the faith and practice which the compilers believed to be most truly in accordance with the Divine ideal of the Church.

On the same general principle the Methodist Hymn-book has been compiled. It is made, not for other people, but for ourselves. Some friendly critics see, ‘with a scornful wonder,’ the number of Charles Wesley’s hymns which still survive, and talk of superstitious reverence for a name. But they do not understand that these hymns, perhaps especially those which are unknown to other Churches, enshrine what we regard as most precious in Methodist life 329 and teaching. From a literary or poetic point of view, it may be that our hymn-book is inferior to the Baptist, the Presbyterian, and the Congregational, and perhaps especially to such a book as Mr. Horder’s Worship-Song. But the hymn-book of a living, working Church should not be constructed on purely literary lines. It is not a treasury of religious poetry, not a sacred anthology, but a book of common prayer and praise, for use in particular congregations.

Next to Hymns Ancient and Modern the most influential of nineteenth-century hymn-books is Sacred Songs and Solos, the chief memorial of the mission of Moody and Sankey. They introduced the lighter ephemeral songs which suited large undenominational gatherings, and caught the ear and reached the heart of the man and the child in the street. I cannot regret that few of these ditties find their way into Church hymnals; yet I am not ashamed to admit that in many an East End meeting I have been thankful for ‘Sankey’s Hymns.’ In any review of English hymns this popular collection cannot be overlooked.

I have spoken of the advantage of diversity in Church hymnals, but there remains a further and very interesting question. How far does the study of hymns and hymn-books encourage the hope of a reunion of hearts in the Church of God, rent, as it now is, by many unhappy divisions?

In an Appendix I give a list of nearly a hundred and 330 sixty hymns, which are found in the four representative Non-episcopal hymnals and in one or both of two representative Anglican books. These hymns are the foundation material of what may be called the hymn-book of the modern Church. Canon Ellerton said, ‘The study of Nonconformist hymn-books does not encourage me in any hopes of what is sometimes called Home Reunion.’ My own study of modern hymn-books leads to an opposite conclusion. It is a commonplace of hymnology that in all good hymn-books you find contributions from men of widely different theological schools. But it is not in the fact that the choir of the Church includes Watts, Wesley, Heber, Montgomery, Newman, Keble, Lyte, Charlotte Elliott, Mrs. Alexander, Faber, S. J. Stone, Caswall, Bonar, Rawson, Neale, and others, that I see the most hopeful sign. A still more notable and instructive sign of the times is that alike in the most familiar and in the most solemn moments of life we draw nigh to God with the same words. Our morning and our evening hymns, our Christmas carols and our Easter anthems, are one. In the time of utmost need we turn to the Saviour with the same cry—

Just as I am, without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Our battle-songs, our penitential prayers, our hymns of adoration, are the same. We even tell the story of our conversion in the same words—


I heard the voice of Jesus say,

Come unto Me and rest.

We teach our children to sing the same songs in school and in the family.

Even more impressive is the fact that in the Holy Communion the same hymns are sung in the great cathedral, where men kneel before the high altar, and in the homely village chapel, where simple folk sit down at the Lord’s Table. Charles Wesley the poet of Methodism, Doddridge the Nonconformist pastor, Montgomery the Moravian bookseller, Rawson the Congregational lawyer, Bonar the Scotch Presbyterian, Bickersteth the Anglican bishop, are the writers whose hymns are common to all Englishmen as they break the bread and drink the wine in memory of their Redeemer’s death.

We know no distinction of creed or Church when we sing—

Come, let us join our friends above,

That have obtained the prize;

and we are all one as we entrust our dead to the Lord of Life—

Father, in Thy gracious keeping,

Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.

And when, wearied of earth and longing to depart and be with Christ, we lift our eyes to the eternal city, our Father’s house on high, the hymns of St. Bernard of Cluny or of Samuel Crossman are on the lips of all—

O happy place, when shall I be,

My God, with Thee to see Thy face?


There are many times when, amid the strife of tongues, we feel that reunion is a dream never to be fulfilled; but already we have found common ground in lowly ministries to the poor and the distressed. And they who are labourers together in the humblest and divinest tasks, also join in the songs which, even on earth, none but the redeemed can sing. In the service of love, in the prayer of penitence, and in the sacrifice of praise, we are already one in Christ Jesus.

Our goal, too, is the same, our diverse ways converge as we draw nearer to God and Heaven. ‘Many ways have one end.’

Jerusalem, where song nor gem

Nor fruit nor waters cease,

God bring us to Jerusalem,

God bring us home in peace;

The strong who stand, the weak who fall,

The first and last, the great and small,

Home one by one, home one and all!



The following hymns are in the Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian Hymn-books. They are also in Hymns Ancient and Modern, or Church Hymns. Hymns which are in Hymns Ancient and Modern, but not in Church Hymns, are marked *; those in Church Hymns, but not in Hymns Ancient and Modern, are marked †.


A few more years shall rollBonar
Abide with me: fast falls the eventideLyte
†According to Thy gracious wordMontgomery
All glory, laud, and honourTheodulph of Orleans
All hail, the power of Jesus’ namePerronet
All praise [Glory] to Thee, my God, this nightKen
†Around the throne of God in heavenAnne Shepherd
Art thou weary, art thou languidNeale
As with gladness men of oldDix
At even, ere the sun was setTwells
Awake, my soul, and with the sunKen
Before Jehovah’s awful throneWatts
*Behold us, Lord, a little spaceEllerton
†Bread of the world, in mercy brokenHeber
Brief life is here our portionBernard of Cluny
†Brightest and best of the sons of the morningHeber
Brightly gleams our bannerPotter and others
†By Christ redeemed, in Christ restoredRawson
Children of the heavenly KingCennick
Christ the Lord is risen to-dayWesley
Christ, whose glory fills the skyWesley
Christian, seek not yet reposeC. Elliott
Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspireWesley
†Come, let us join our friends aboveWesley
Come, my soul, thy suit prepareNewton
Come to our poor nature’s nightRawson
Come unto Me, ye wearyDix
Come, ye thankful people, comeAlford
†Commit thou all thy griefsPaul Gerhardt
†Creator Spirit! by whose aidTr. John Dryden
Days and moments quickly flyingCaswall and others
Eternal Father, strong to saveWhiting
For ever with the LordMontgomery
†For the beauty of the earthPierpoint
Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I goWesley
Forward! be our watchwordAlford
†From all that dwell below the skiesWatts
From Greenland’s icy mountainsHeber
†Gentle Jesus, meek and mildWesley
Go to dark GethsemaneMontgomery
God moves in a mysterious wayCowper
†God save our Gracious KingAnon.
†God, that madest earth and heavenHeber and Whately
Gracious Spirit, Holy GhostC. Wordsworth
Guide me, O Thou great JehovahW. Williams
†Hail, Thou once despised JesusBakewell
Hail to the Lord’s AnointedMontgomery
*Hark! hark, my soul! angelic songs are swellingFaber
Hark, my soul! it is the LordCowper
Hark! the herald angels singWesley
†Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to faceBonar
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God AlmightyHeber
How sweet the name of Jesus soundsNewton
I heard the voice of Jesus sayBonar
†I think, when I read that sweet story of oldJ. Luke
†It came upon the midnight clearSears
Jerusalem, my happy homeJ. Bromehead
Jerusalem the goldenBernard of Cluny
Jesus calls us: o’er the tumultC. F. Alexander
†Jesus, I my cross have takenLyte
Jesus lives! no longer nowGellert
Jesu, Lover of my soulWesley
Jesus shall reign where’er the sunWatts
Jesus, the very thought of TheeBernard of Clairvaux
Jesus, where’er Thy people meetCowper
Just as I am, without one pleaC. Elliott
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloomNewman
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead usJ. Edmeston
†Let us with a gladsome mindMilton
Lo! He comes with clouds descendingWesley
Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessingJ. Fawcett
Lord, I hear of showers of blessingCodner
Lord, it belongs not to my careBaxter
Lord of our life, and God of our salvationLöwenstern
†Lord of the worlds aboveWatts
Lord, speak to me, that I may speakHavergal
Lord, Thy word abidethBaker
Love Divine, all loves excellingWesley
My God and Father, while I strayC. Elliott
My God, how wonderful Thou artFaber
Nearer, my God, to TheeS. F. Adams
Now thank we all our GodMartin Rinckart
Now the day is overS. Baring-Gould
Now the labourer’s task is o’erEllerton
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphantTr. F. Oakeley
*O come and mourn with me awhileFaber
O come, O come, ImmanuelTr. Neale
O day of rest and gladnessC. Wordsworth
O for a closer walk with GodCowper
*O for a heart to praise my GodWesley
*O for a thousand tongues to singWesley
O God of Bethel, by whose handDoddridge
*O help us, Lord! each hour of needMilman
O Jesus, I have promisedBode
*O Lord, be with us when we sailDayman
O Lord of heaven and earth and seaC. Wordsworth
O love Divine, how sweet thou artWesley
†O sacred Head once woundedPaul Gerhardt
O timely happy, timely wiseKeble
† O Word of God incarnateWalsham How
*O worship the King all-glorious aboveR. Grant
Oft in danger, oft in woeWhite and Maitland
Once in royal David’s cityC. F. Alexander
Onward! Christian soldiersS. Baring-Gould
Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathedH. Auber
Our day of praise is doneEllerton
Our God, our help in ages pastWatts
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?Bickersteth
Pleasant are Thy courts aboveLyte
Praise, my soul, the King of heavenLyte
†Praise to our God, whose bounteous handEllerton
Praise to the Holiest in the heightNewman
Rejoice, the Lord is KingWesley
Rock of Ages, cleft for meToplady
*Safely, safely gathered inDobree
Saviour, again to Thy dear name we raiseEllerton
Saviour, blessed SaviourThring
†Saviour, breathe an evening blessingEdmeston
Saviour, sprinkle many nationsA. C. Coxe
Saviour, when in dust to TheeR. Grant
Soldiers of Christ, ariseWesley
*Souls of men, why will ye scatterFaber
*Stand up! stand up for JesusDuffield
Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dearKeble
Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we goFaber
The Church’s one foundationStone
The day is past and overAnatolius
The God of Abraham praiseOlivers
The Head that once was crowned with thornsKelly
The King of Love my Shepherd isBaker
The radiant morn hath passed awayThring
The roseate hues of early dawnC. F. Alexander
The Son of God goes forth to warHeber
There is a book who runs may readKeble
*There is a fountain filled with bloodCowper
There is a green hill far awayC. F. Alexander
There is a land of pure delightWatts
†There is no sorrow, Lord, too lightCrewdson
There’s a Friend for little childrenMidlane
Thine arm, O Lord, in days of oldPlumptre
This is the day of lightEllerton
Thou art gone up on highToke
†Thou didst leave Thy throneE. E. S. Elliott
Thou hidden Love of God, whose heightTersteegen
Thou to whom the sick and dyingThring
Thou whose almighty wordMarriott
Through the day Thy love has spared usKelly
Through the night of doubt and sorrowIngemann
Thy way, not mine, O LordBonar
†To Thee, O Lord, our hearts we raiseDix
We give Thee but Thine ownWalsham How
We plough the fields and scatterMatthias Claudius
We saw Thee not when Thou didst comeGurney
Weary of earth and laden with my sinStone
When God of old came down from heavenKeble
When I survey the wondrous crossWatts
*When morning gilds the skiesTr. E. Caswall
†When the weary, seeking restBonar


[1]James Martineau, vol. ii. p. 99.
[2]Christian Year (Fifth Sunday in Lent).
[3]Ibid. (Preface).
[4]‘The general Church histories mostly neglect or ignore hymnology, which is the best reflection of Christian life and worship.’—Schaff: Mediaeval Christianity, ii. 403. See also Lilly’s Christianity and Modern Civilization, ch. v., ‘The Age of Faith.’
[5]Church Hymns (revised edition, 1903). A new edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern is being prepared.
[7]John Ellerton: Principles of Hymn-book Construction, p. 228.
[8]Keble’s Occasional Papers and Reviews, 1877, p. 92. This essay, a review of Josiah Conder’s Star in the East, was published in the Quarterly Review, 1825. The quotation from Burns will remind many readers of Keble’s own lines (Third Sunday in Lent)—

There’s not a strain to Memory dear,

Nor flower in classic grove,

There’s not a sweet note warbled here,

But minds us of Thy love.

[9]The words rendered ‘meditation’ in these verses are not the same. The one perhaps suggests the devout meditation which is murmured half aloud, the other silent converse or communing with oneself.
[10]Lightfoot’s Colossians.
[11]Trench’s Synonyms of New Testament.
[12]Εἰς τὸ τέλος ἐν ὕμνοις, ψαλμὸς τῷ ’Ασάφ, ᾠδὴ πρὸς τὸν ’Ασσύριον.
[13]Neh. ix. 5.
[14]Ps. xxii. 3 (R.V.), margin.
[15]Isa. lx. 18.
[16]Cf. Jer. xlix. 25.
[17]Cf. Eph. v. 20: εὐχαριστοῦντες πάντοτε.
[18]Heb. xiii. 15.
[19]C. G. Rossetti.
[20]C. Wesley.
[21]The Holy Year, pp. xxxii., xxxiii.
[22]The Hymn Lover, p. 146.
[23]Hymns of the Christian Church and Home (Preface).
[24]Longfellow’s The Singers.
[25]Herbert’s A True Hymn.
[26]Cary’s Dante, Par. xiv.
[27]There is an article in the Journal of Sacred Literature for July 1864, on ‘Eccentricities of Hymnology: Early Moravian Hymn-books,’ which gives abundant illustrations to justify Southey’s statement that ‘the most characteristic parts of the Moravian hymns are too shocking to be inserted here’ (Life of Wesley).
[28]‘Viatrix,’ in an article on ‘The Tramp Ward,’ in the Contemporary for May 1904, says, ‘I have discovered that this (“Lead, kindly Light”) and “Abide with me,” with “Jesu, Lover of my soul:” are tramps’ favourites.’
[29]Matthew Arnold’s Progress. These lines were altered, much for the worse, in later editions.
[30]Martineau’s Hymns for Church and Home (Preface).
[31]Ps. lxxxi. 1 (P.B.V.).
[32]St. Augustine on Ps. lviii.
[33]Ps. lxviii. 20 (R.V.), ‘God is unto us a God of deliverances.’
[34]Exod. xv. ‘The song is, of course, incorporated by E from an earlier source, perhaps from a collection of national poems.... Probably, however, the greater part of the song is Mosaic, and the modification or expansion is limited to the closing verses; for the triumphant tone which pervades it is just such as might naturally have been inspired by the event which it celebrates.’—Driver’s Literature of the Old Testament.
[35]Wordsworth’s Ode to Duty.
[36]Edward Irving’s The Book of Psalms, Works, i. p. 410.
[39]Kirkpatrick’s Psalms (Cambridge Bible).
[40]Irving’s Introduction to Horne’s Psalms, Works, vol. i. p. 416 (slightly abridged).
[41]The Holy Year, p. xxxviii. The Bishop refers in a note to ‘one modern hymn, beginning, “My God, the spring of all my joys,” and consisting only of twelve (sic) lines, in which the pronouns I and my occur no less than eleven times.’ He might have added that in the twelve lines of Ps. xxiii. personal pronouns occur seventeen times, and that ‘My God’ occurs fifty-eight times in the Psalter.
[42]There are, of course, Psalms of the Old Testament not included in the Psalter admirably adapted for Christian worship. See Part II. of Dr. Barrett’s Congregational Church Hymnal.
[43]‘We have been especially glad to mark the essentially metrical structure of the Lord’s Prayer in St. Matthew’s Gospel, with its invocation, its first triplet of single clauses, with one common burden, expressed after the third but implied after all, and its second triplet of double clauses, variously antithetical in form and sense.’—Westcott and Hort, Introduction, p. 320.
[44]W.H., Introduction, p. 320.
[45]Adfirmabant autem, hanc fuisse summam vel culpae suae vel erroris, quod essent soliti stato die ante lucem convenire, carmenque Christo, quasi deo, dicere secum invicem.’—Pliny, Ep. x. 97.
[46]Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History, x. 28 (Bohn’s translation).
[47]Eusebius, vii. 24.
[48]Confessions, ii. pp. vi., vii.
[49]Trench’s Sacred Latin Poetry, pp. 81, 82.
[50]‘Most old MSS. read munerari. The common reading, “in gloria numerari,” does not appear to be found in any MSS., but is in many (not all) printed editions of the Breviary from about 1491 onwards. Mr. Gibson suggests that it is not so much due to the natural confusion of letters as to the well-known words added by Gregory the Great to the canon of the Mass in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari.’—Dictionary of Hymnology, p. 1121.
[51]Cf. Pss. xxxiii. 22; xxxi. 1; lxxi. 1 (P.B.V. & R.V.).
[52]Hutton’s English Saints, p. 208.
[53]The Sarum Breviary reads, Et nox fidei luceat.
[54]Mone’s Hymni Latini, i. 381.
[55]Masters, 1852.
[56]Church Hymns, 586, Cædmon, Tr. R. M. Moorsom; 212, Bede, Tr. C. S. Calverly.
[57]Coverdale’s Remains (Parker Society, 1846). The original is a German hymn beginning Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. Miss Winkworth, in her Chorale Book, described it as anonymous, but Julian ascribes it to Johannes Agricola (1492-1566). Miss Winkworth’s translation begins, ‘Lord, hear the voice of my complaint,’ Rev. A. Tozer-Russell’s, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, I cry to Thee.’
[58]Miller’s Singers and Songs of the Church.
[59]‘We mention the name of Clement Marot, important here chiefly for the influence he might have had. For he translated the Psalms into French verse, put them to tunes, and set the Court singing them. Let us think for a moment what England owes to those sweet and simple hymns which it is our godly fashion to sing in the churches and in the homes from earliest childhood, and which form a link to connect our religion with our daily life. Let us only try to think what we should be without these. And then give praise to Marot, for it was he who gave to France what should have been the foundation and beginning of a national book of praise and service of song, had not the bigots, the stupid mischievous bigots, stopped the singing because they pretended to see heresy in the words—David’s words. And France is without hymns to this day.’—Besant’s Essays and Historiettes, ‘The Failure of the French Reformation,’ p. 78.
[60]A full and interesting account of the Old Version is given in Julian. Holland’s notices of these writers are also good.
[61]Wode or wood, Anglo-Saxon = mad, violent.
[62]‘This literary curiosity occurs at the end of a book entitled, A godly Medytacion of the Christian Soule, &c., compyled in Frenche, by Lady Margarite, Quene of Naverre. This psalm is reprinted in Park’s edition of The Royal and Noble Authors of Great Britain.’—Farr’s Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (Parker Society), 1835.
[63]Pight = pitched, laid.
[64]This hymn appeared in Bickersteth’s Christian Psalmody in three verses, of which Miller says, ‘two stanzas bear no resemblance’ to Sandys’s original. The Methodist Hymn-book cento is much nearer to Sandys, though it has many variations.
[65]Farr’s Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. The poem has ten verses. Most are unsuited for congregational use, as may be judged from the following lines:—

The carrion crow, that loathsome beast,

Which cries against the rain,

Both for her hue and for the rest

The devil resembleth plain:

And as with guns we kill the crow,

For spoiling our relief,

The devil so must we o’erthrow

With gunshot of belief.

[66]Palgrave’s Treasury of Sacred Song, p. 333. Palgrave gives five of his poems.
[67]Condor gives three verses, but the third is very inferior to these. The two I quote are included by Professor Palgrave and Mr. Quiller-Couch in their anthologies. Conder apparently did not know the author’s name. He took the verses from an ‘old collection.’
[68]From a MS. in the British Museum. Cf. the very full and interesting article in Julian, p. 580.
[69]Life of Ken, ii. p. 201.
[70]Altered later to ‘I wake, I wake.’
[71]Altered to ‘void of.’
[72]Plumptre’s Life of Ken, vol. ii. p. 268.
[73]Plumptre’s Life of Ken, vol. ii. p. 288.
[74]Christian Psalmist, Preface, xviii.
[75]Preface to Austin’s Devotions, Edinburgh, 1789.
[76]Dictionary of Hymnology, Article: ‘Roman Catholic Hymnody.’
[77]Arundel Hymns, 77.
[78]Poems (1872), p. 62.
[79]I quote Austin’s text. Wesley’s changes do not improve it.
[80]This hymn is from the Office for Monday Lauds.
[81]From Farr’s Select Poetry of the Reign of James I.
[82]Presbyterian Hymnal, 531.
[83]Ken’s hymn for St. Matthew’s Day was edited by Bishop Walsham How, and in that form appears in Hymns Ancient and Modern, and in Church Hymns.
[84]Worship Song, 15; School Hymns, 6.
[85]There is a good sketch of Wither in Willmott’s Lives of the Sacred Poets, and an excellent biographical introduction by Mr. Edward Farr in The Hymns and Songs of the Church (Library of Old Authors). Both these volumes give striking portraits, the latter one of the poet in his twenty-first year, surrounded by the punning motto, ‘I grow and wither both together.’
[86]Barton did not always reach so high a level. One of his versions of the ‘Te Deum’ is in this fashion—

The blest Apo-

stles glorious company,

Do praise Thy ho-

ly Name continually.

[87]Religio Medici.
[88]The best illustration is the hymn beginning

Saviour, if Thy precious love,

Could be merited by mine.

No. 37 in the first edition of Wesley’s Hymns, No. 24 in the last. I am sorry it was omitted from the Methodist Hymn-book.
[89]There is a delightful chapter on George Herbert in Lady McDougall’s Songs of the Church.
[90]Introductory Essay, by J. H. Shorthouse, to Unwin’s facsimile reprint of The Temple.
[91]Julian, ‘Psalters, English,’ p. 919.
[92]The story of the Scotch psalms and paraphrases I must leave. It is well told in outline in Julian. The Scotch version has few literary or poetic graces, but it has held the heart and guided the mind of many generations, to whom it has been infinitely more precious than the smoother and more poetic verses of Addison, Heber, and Keble could ever be.
[93]This small witticism was repeated by Romaine in the preface to his Treatise on Psalmody, though he had the good sense to strike it out of his second edition, at the request, it is said, of Lady Huntingdon.
[94]Preface to Christian Psalmist.
[95]Treasury of Sacred Song, p. 349.
[96]Watts has been unfortunate in his biographers. Mr. Paxton Hood’s book is lively and interesting, but its style is amazingly slovenly. Here is a curious sentence: ‘His daughter and sole heiress, Margaret, married Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, so the estate descended to the Howard family, and became the Duke’s place; he lost his head; passing to his eldest son, he sold it in 1592 to the mayor, corporation, and citizens of London.’ The writer adds, naïvely, ‘This is a singular piece of history’ (p. 55).
[97]Julian, Article: ‘Congregational Hymnody.’
[98]Preface to Psalms. Dr. Martineau justified his own editing of Watts’s hymns by this sentence. ‘Every adaptation of a Jewish psalm to Christian worship affords an instance of theological adaptation; and the same rule which is applied to Dr. Watts’s hymns when their Trinitarianism is expelled, Watts himself has systematically applied to David’s writings, in reforming and spiritualizing their Judaism.’—Preface to Hymns for the Christian Church and Home.
[99]Lives of the Poets.
[100]One of Wesley’s Communion hymns begins—

Come to the supper, come,

Sinners, there still is room.

[101]The hymn has seven verses. It is given with slight alterations, and the omission of one verse in Barrett’s Congregational Church Hymnal, 497.
[102]Henry Ward Beecher included this song in his Plymouth Collection.
[103]Julian, p. 831.
[104]The Training of the Twelve, p. 24.
[105]‘Joseph Hart,’ by the late Rev. B. A. Gregory, M.A., City Road Magazine, December 1876.
[106]Poems by Theodosia, vol. ii. (1780).
[107]Often begins in hymn-books with the third verse, ‘And O [Father] whate’er of earthly bliss.’
[108]Julian, p. 332.
[109]Telford’s Charles Wesley, p. 245.
[110]Cf. Lightfoot’s Colossians, i. 27, iii. 16.
[111]Green’s History of the English People.
[112]Short Hymns, 2 Tim. i. 7.
[113]Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739).
[114]Church Hymns (1903), Preface.
[115]This verse is from the ‘hymn on my conversion,’ mentioned by C. Wesley in his Journal, May 23, 1738. It was written at Mr. Bray’s, Little Britain. Five verses are in the Methodist Hymn-book, 358.
[116]Watts wrote ‘very.’ ‘Every’ is Wesley’s emendation.
[117]I quote the following verse as an illustration: in doing so there is no risk of spoiling a hymn dear to anybody:—

Exempted from the general doom,

The death which all are born to know;

Enoch obtained his heavenly home

By faith, and disappeared below.

[118]Reprinted by Pickering in 1868 as ‘Bishop Ken’s Christian Year.’
[119]These hymns are in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739). The Epiphany hymn is in Church Hymns, 115, with alterations.
[120]Cf. Paradise Lost, bk. 1.

That with reiterated crimes, he might

Heap on himself damnation.

I cannot refrain from saying how much I regret the omission of this hymn from the Methodist Hymn-book. It is retained by the American Methodist Episcopal, Primitive Methodist, and others, though the Primitive Methodist most unfortunately changes ‘flaming’ into ‘loving’ eyes in verse 3, apparently overlooking the reference to ‘His eyes were as a flame of fire.’
[121]Hymns on the Lord’s Supper, by John and Charles Wesley, presbyters of the Church of England. With a preface concerning the Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice, extracted from Dr. Brevint, Bristol. Printed by Felix Farley, M DCC XLV.
[122]Canon Carter’s Altar Hymnal has eight of Wesley’s hymns. He also ascribes to C. Wesley Miss Leeson’s translation of Victimae Paschali.

‘Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day,’

Christians, haste your vows to pay.

[123]The whole book was reprinted, in 1871, with Wesley’s Companion for the Altar (extracted from Thomas à Kempis), and an Introduction by Mr. W. E. Dutton, under the title, The Eucharistic Manuals of John and Charles Wesley. Mr. Dutton’s design was to show that ‘the Wesleys held opinions and taught doctrines now known as Catholic, yet far in advance of the times in which they lived, and very different from the doctrines taught by that body of men now called by their name.’ I may also mention another interesting book, now out of print, Mr. Warrington’s Echoes of the Prayer-book in Wesley’s Hymns.
[124]Col. ii. 19.
[125]Methodist Hymn-book, 729.
[126]Hymns Ancient and Modern, 553. Altar Hymnal, 151.
[127]Cf. ‘And here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies;’ with verse iv., ‘Take my soul and body’s powers,’ Methodist Hymn-book, 562.
[128]‘The ordinary position of the ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ in ancient liturgies was at the beginning, not at the end of the office. It so stood in our own Liturgy down to 1552, when it was placed at the end of the service.... It may be truly said that there is no Liturgy in the world which has so solemn and yet so magnificent a conclusion as our own.’—Proctor and Maclear’s Introduction to the Book of Common Prayer.
[129]Tyerman’s Whitefield, vol. i. p. 465.
[130]Poetical Works, vol. iii.
[131]Tyerman’s Whitefield, vol. i. p. 478.
[132]The hymn has seventeen verses, some of which are, as Whitefield says, ‘very bad.’ Methodist Hymn-book, 65.
[133]Wesley Poetry, vol. iii. p. 60.
[134]Works, vol. xiii.
[135]Poetical Works, vol. iii. p. 78; Methodist Hymn-book, 435.
[136]Tyerman’s Wesley’s Designated Succession, vol. i. p. 88, 89.
[137]Cf. Tyerman’s Wesley and Horne’s History of the Free Churches.
[138]Poetical Works, vol. iv. p. 446.
[139]Ibid., vol. iii. p. 23.
[140]Poetical Works, vol. iii. p. 21.
[141]Ibid., vol. iii. p. 73.
[142]Telford’s Charles Wesley, p. 245.
[143]Poetical Works, vol. v. p. 133.
[144]Methodist Hymn-book, 366. Wesley himself closed this hymn with Ken’s doxology.
[145]Cf. Phil. i. 9.
[146]I am inclined to think there is a reference here to the ἀγρἁμματοί καὶ ἰδιῶται of Acts iv. 13.
[147]Trench’s Notes on the Parables.
[148]Charles Wesley wrote favour. John Wesley improved both the sense and sound by changing the word to mercy.
[149]Poetical Works, vol. x. p. 57. Charles Wesley wrote bleeds; the change to grieves was made in John Wesley’s hymn-book.
[150]Poetical Works, vol. i. p. 50.
[151]Hymns and Sacred Poems (1749); Poetical Works, vol. v. p. 306.
[152]Wesley included forty-nine hymns under the heading, ‘For Believers Groaning for Full Redemption,’ and twenty-six under the heading, ‘Believers Brought to the Birth.’ These sections were, later, united under the title, ‘Seeking for Full Redemption.’ The Methodist Hymn-book has forty-four, of which thirty-seven are Charles Wesley’s, three translations by John Wesley, two by Miss Havergal, one by Dr. Bonar, and one by T. Monod.
[153]Methodist Hymn-book, 905.
[154]Ibid., 88.
[155]The hymn, ‘When quiet in my house I sit,’ Methodist Hymn-book, 264, is made up of Nos. 300-303 in the Short Poems.
[156]Julian, p. 1149.
[157]Julian, p. 478, thinks that Bakewell wrote a very small portion of this hymn. Some readers will be interested to know that more than thirty years ago a great-grandson of John Bakewell’s was selling newspapers in the streets of a town in the North of England—friendless, homeless, ragged, and in delicate health. He came to The Children’s Home, and grew up worthy of his remote ancestors. He became an architect, and did some excellent work, but died in early manhood of consumption.
[159]See Wright’s Town of Cowper.
[160]John Wesley was very indignant at the refusal of ordination to John Newton, but was probably too loyal to the Church to suggest his becoming a Methodist preacher.—Journal, March 20, 1760.
[161]It was to the first Lord Dartmouth that Ken, on the recommendation of Pepys, became chaplain in the Tangier Expedition of 1683. His character may be judged from a letter, in which he writes that he has ‘to answer to God for the preservation of so many souls He hath been pleased to place under my care.’—Plumptre’s Life of Ken.
[162]Hazlitt’s English Poets, p. 123.
[163]Supra, p. 111.
[164]Wesley’s Journal, May 25, 1750.
[165]Tyerman’s Whitefield, ii. 174.
[166]Julian, p. 681, gives the three versions.
[167]Julian, p. 971. The three-verse cento, dear to Methodists, is slightly varied from that of Thomas Cotterill, of Sheffield.
[168]In early hymn-books there is often confusion between Wesley and Toplady. At the end of his reprint of Toplady’s Poetical Remains, Sedgwick gives a list of seventeen hymns of Charles Wesley’s, attributed to Toplady.
[169]Elvet Lewis’s Sweet Singers of Wales, p. 29.
[170]Lewis’s Sweet Singers, ch. iii. There are other Welsh singers included in this little book who deserve to be more widely known, but my limited space does not allow further quotation.
[171]Smith’s Heber, p. 84.
[172]It is curious how widespread the fear of Methodism was. Crabbe added to his beautiful and touching lines, beginning

Pilgrim, burthened with thy sin,

Come the way to Zion’s gate,

a note explaining that it had been suggested to him that ‘this change from restlessness to repose in the mind of Sir Eustace is wrought by a Methodistic call.’ He protests, however, that ‘though evidently enthusiastic in respect to language,’ they ‘are not meant to convey any impropriety of sentiment.’
[173]Advent Sunday.
[174]This was written in 1825, two years before the publication of Heber’s Hymns and of the Christian Year.
[175]Barry’s Newman, pp. 51, 52.
[176]John Ellerton, p. 185.
[177]Lyte wrote some verses, ‘The Dying Christian to his Soul,’ which are in a much more triumphant strain, but they are not equal to Toplady’s poem.
[178]Holy Year, xi. Dr. Wordsworth was then (1862) Canon of Westminster.
[179]‘Conversation of an hour and a half with Anstice on practical religion, particularly as regards our own situation. I bless and praise God for his presence here.’—Morley’s Gladstone, vol. i. pp. 55, 56.
[180]It is omitted from the Methodist Hymn-book. It was No. 990 in the former book, and is in the Presbyterian (469) and Baptist (641).
[181]This hymn is not in Hymns Ancient and Modern, but it is in Church Hymns, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, Horder’s, Primitive Methodist, and many other hymn-books.
[182]Westminster Abbey Hymn-book, 288; Young People’s Hymnal, 161.
[183]Michael Bruce’s ‘Ode to the Cuckoo.’
[184]Preface to Poems, p. xviii.
[185]The hymn has seven verses, Poems, p. 59.
[186]Methodist Hymn-book, 520.
[187]Congregational Hymnal, 127; Baptist Hymnal, 128.
[188]The last lines differ from the usual version. The change was made by Professor Palgrave himself, and, at his wish, the verse was given in this form in the Young People’s Hymnal.
[189]The Household of Faith, p. 8.
[190]‘The Church, Dissent, and Nation,’ National Review, July 1903.
[191]This lecture was delivered in Sheffield.
[192]Cf. Church Hymnary (Presbyterian), Church Hymns (S.P.C.K.), Westminster Abbey Hymn-book.
[193]The most important of these is in the last line. Montgomery wrote first, ‘His name—what is it? Love.’ He was, of course, dissatisfied with this anti-climax, and altered the line to ‘That name to us is Love.’ But the change in Hymns Ancient and Modern (said to be Keble’s) is a great improvement, ‘His changeless name of Love.’ It is remarkable that Montgomery did not include this hymn in his Christian Psalmist.
[194]He made a most unpoetic recast of Wesley’s ‘All ye that pass by’; but in the Index he is too honest to give Wesley’s name, and (I presume) had too much self-respect to give his own. Many alterations in hymns make one sympathize with Miss Ailie’s notice, ‘Persons who come to steal the fruit are requested not to walk on the flower-beds’ (Barrie’s Sentimental Tommy).
[195]A verse of this hymn is omitted in the Methodist Hymn-book. The hymn is, I think, improved by the omission.

Silent Spirit, dwell with me,

I myself would quiet be;

Quiet as the growing blade

Which through earth its way has made;

Silently, like morning light,

Putting mists and chills to flight.

[196]This hymn is usually rearranged in our hymn-books. Our first verse is sixth in the original.
[197]The only collection in which, so far as I know, this hymn has been included, is the Young People’s Hymnal. It is an excellent school-hymn.
[198]Our Own Hymn-book, 41. The hymn has six verses. The Baptist Hymnal gives a hymn of Spurgeon’s for an early morning prayer-meeting (633).
[199]This verse is given in Horder’s Worship-Song ad in the Primitive Methodist Hymn-book.
[200]Hymns of Faith and Hope. First Series.
[201]Arundel Hymns. Tr. Father O’Connor from the Latin—

Angelus ad Virginem

Subintrans in conclave

Virginis formidinem

Demulcens inquit, Ave!

[202]Crashaw’s English Poems (Tutin’s edition), vol. ii. 60. I have made two slight changes to suit the metre or indicate the connexion of thought. The poem has fifty-six lines.
[203]Julian, p. 975 (‘R. C. Hymnody’).
[204]Faber’s Hymns, Preface.
[205]Arundel Hymns, 145.
[206]A Collection of Hymns of the Children of God in all Ages, From the Beginning till Now. In Two Parts. Designed chiefly for the Use of the Congregations in union with the Brethren’s Church. London. Printed, and to be had at all the Brethren’s Chapels. M DCC LIV.



Abney, Sir Thomas and Lady, 82, 123
Adams, S. F., 313
Addison, Joseph, 243
Aldhelm, 51, 62
Alexander, Archbishop, quoted, 85
Alexander, C. F., 279
Alfred, 62
Ambrose, St., 49
American hymns, 321
Anderton, Laurence, 77
Anstice, Joseph, 269
Arnold, Matthew, quoted, 24
Arundel Hymns, 4, 77, 86, 316
Augustine, St., 6 ff., 10, 29, 47, 48
Austin, John, 86 ff., 155, 156, 315
——, William, 86, 90
Baker, Sir H. W., 269
Bakewell, John, 223
Baptist Church Hymnal, 310, 312, 329
Barbauld, Mrs., 274
Barry, Dr. Wm., quoted, 262
Barton, B., 300
——, Wm., 104 ff.
Baxter, Richard, 98 ff.
Beddome, Benjamin, 151
Bede, 62
Beecher, H. W., 160
Beveridge, Bishop, 13, 82
Bickersteth, Bishop, 271
Binney, Thomas, 300
Bowring, Sir J., 313
Bradbury, Thomas, 124, 144
Brady, Nicholas, 118
Brevint’s Christian Sacrifice, 176
Bromehead, John, 77
Brown, Simon, 149
Browne, Sir Thomas, 106
Bruce, Dr. A. B., 147
Bruce’s Ode to the Cuckoo, 278
Bull, Wm., 227, 231
Bunting, W. M., 301
Butler, Bishop, 167
Cædmon, 62
Calvinistic Controversy, 182 ff.
Campion, Thomas, 76
Carey, Wm., 225
Carter’s Altar Hymnal, 176
Caswall, E., 319
Cennick, John, 244
Chambers’s Psalter of Sarum, 59
Cheyne, Canon, 33, 35
Children’s hymns, 279
Christian Year, 254, 258
Church Hymns, 4 n., 54, 132
Clapham Sect, 263
Clarke, Adam, 289
Class-meeting, Methodist, 161
Clement’s Paedagogus, 55
Condor, Josiah, 9, 76 n., 131, 293
Congregational Church Hymnal, 4, 76, 132, 329
Contemporary Review, 21 n.
Coverdale, Myles, 63 ff.
Cowper, Wm., 17, 21, 224 ff., 227
Crabbe, George, 259 n.
Craig, John, 68
Crashaw, Richard, 315
Crossman, Samuel, 97
Dante, quoted, 18
Dartmouth, Earl of, 230
——, Lord, 81, 230
David, 32 ff.
David’s Lament, 33
Davison, Francis, 35
Davis, Rev. L., quoted, 285
Denham, Sir John, 97
Dix, W. C., 281
Doddridge, Philip, 143 ff.
Donne, John, 107, 323
Driver’s Literature of the Old Testament, 31 n.
Dutton’s Eucharistic Manuals, 178 n.
Dionysius, Bishop, 47
Eaton’s Holy Calendar, 173
Elizabeth, Queen, 71
Ellerton, John, 8, 20, 245, 263, 269, 324
Elliott, C., 275
Ephesians v. 14., 44
Ephraem Syrus, 52
Faber, F. W., 16, 21, 195, 229, 317 ff.
Farr’s Select Poetry, 72, 75
Fletcher, John, 189, 209
Fox’s Hymns and Anthems, 313
F. B. P., 77
Gascoigne, George, 74
Gauntlett, Dr. H. J., 225
Gibbons, Dr. T., 131
Gill, T. H., 273, 296 ff.
Gladstone, W. E., 283
Glass’s Story of the Psalters, 74
‘Gloria in Excelsis,’ 181
Gough, Benjamin, 306
Grace Abounding, 147
Greek hymns, 55
Green, J. R., quoted, 158
Gregory, B. A., quoted, 149
Harris, Howell, 251
Hart, John, 147 ff.
Havergal, F. R., 277
Haydock, Father, 316
Hazlitt’s English Poets, 236
Heber, Bishop, 15, 254 ff., 256
Henry, Matthew, 104
Herbert, George, 110, 242, 323
Herrick, Robert, 109
Hervey, James, 189
Hilary of Poictiers, 48
Holland’s Psalmists of Britain, 74
Hood’s Life of Watts, 131 n.
Hopkins, John, 64
Hopps, Page, 313
Horder, W. Garrett, 4, 15, 95, 329
Hutton’s English Saints, 50
Hymns, 12
Hymns A. & M., 4 n., 329
Ingelow, Jean, 281
Irving, Edward, 31, 36, 159
Johnson, Dr., 8, 9, 23, 136, 149
Jonson, Ben, 109
Julian, Dr., 50, 120, 145, 223 n.
Keach, Benjamin, 104
Keble, John, 2, 9, 17, 129, 160, 173, 258 ff.
Kelly, Thomas, 292
Ken, Thomas, 24, 80 ff., 93, 173
Kethe, William, 68
Kirkpatrick’s Psalms, 35
Latin Hymns, 58
Lecky’s History of England, 202
Leeds Hymn-book, 131, 296
Lewis’s Sweet Singers of Wales, 251 ff.
Longfellow’s Golden Legend, 57
Lord’s Prayer, The, 44
Lynch, T. T., 294 ff.
Lyra Apostolica, 57
Lyte, H. F., 113, 264 ff., 324
Madan, Martin, 246
Manning, Cardinal, 321
Marckant, John, 68
Marot, Clement, 65
Martineau, Dr. James, 15, 25, 132, 134, 313
Mason, John, 100 ff.
Matheson, Dr. George, 308 ff.
Methodist Hymn-book, 4, 73, 134, 161, 165, 188, 327, 328
Milman, H. H., 257
Milton’s Lycidas, 33
Montgomery, James, 85, 129, 287 ff.
Moorsom, R. M., 54, 62 n., 315
Moravian Hymn-book, 19 n., 86, 327
More, Henry, 115
Morley’s Gladstone, 269
Moses, Song of, 30, 35
Murlin, John, 223
Nelson, Earl, 116
Nepos, 47
Newman, J. H., 37, 84, 258, 261
Newton, John, 224 ff., 229, 238
New Version, 117 ff.
Norris, John, 115, 162
Norton, Thomas, 68
‘Nunc Dimittis,’ 46
Ode, 12
Old Version, 64 ff.
Olivers, Thomas, 39, 221
Olney Hymns, 224 ff., 255
Palgrave, F. T., 76 n., 115, 129, 281, 327
Paradise Lost, 175 n.
Patrick’s St., Breastplate, 280
Pearse, M. G., 305
Pembroke, Countess of, 72
φῶς ἱλαρὸν, 57
Pliny, 46, 47
Plumptre, Dean 82
Pope’s Universal Prayer, 24
Potter, Father, 319
Presbyterian Church Hymnary, 132, 310, 329
Prichard, Rees, 250
Prys, Archdeacon, 250
Psalms, 12
——, Book of, 31 ff.
Psalm xviii., 33
—— cl., 14
Pullain, John, 68
Punshon, W. M., 302
Rawson, Geo., 296
‘Rivulet Controversy,’ 294
Romaine, 124 n., 189
Rossetti, C. G., 14, 281, 332
Russell’s Household of Faith, 283
Ryland, Dr. John, 153
Sandys, George, 73, 323
Sankey, I. D., 3, 329
Schaff’s Mediaeval Christianity, 3 n.
Selborne, Lord, 135, 232
Shepherd, Thomas, 103, 324
Shirley, Walter, 171
Shorthouse, J. H., 114
Sidney, Sir Philip, 72
Smetham, James, 304
Smith, Dr. W. C., 310 ff.
Southwell, Robert, 316
Spenser, Edmund, 7
Spurgeon, C. H., 147, 300
Stanley, Dean, 273
Steele, Anne, 152, 274
Sternhold, Thomas, 64 ff.
Stone, S. J., 270
Syriac hymns, 52
Tait, Mrs., 38
Tate, Nahum, 117
Taylor, A. and J., 279
——, Jeremy, 116
‘Te Deum,’ 39, 49
Telford’s Charles Wesley, 157, 196
Tennyson, quoted, 23, 43
1 Timothy iii. 16., 43
Toplady, A. M., 27, 221, 247 ff., 264
Tozer’s Catholic Hymns, 320
Trench’s Sacred Latin Poetry, 48
Turton, Major, 180
Vaughan, Henry, 112, 323
Watts, Isaac, 11, 18, 19, 22, 27, 123 ff., 127, 128, 133, 135, 170
Walton, Izaak, quoted, 108
Wellhausen, 31
Wesley, Charles, 20, 23, 25, 27, 39, 157 ff., 196
Wesley’s Charlestown Hymn-book, 155
Wesley’s Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love, 183, 191
Wesley’s Hymns of the Calvinistic Controversy, 182
Wesley’s Hymns of the Christian Year, 172
Wesley’s Hymns on the Lord’s Supper, 176
Wesley’s Hymns of the Methodist Evangel, 193
Wesley’s Hymns of the Methodist Society, 198
Wesley’s Hymns on our Lord’s Passion, 174
Wesley’s Hymns on Passages of Holy Scripture, 211
Wesley, John, 15, 155 ff.
Wesley’s Journal, 67, 164, 228, 244
Westcott and Hort, 44, 45
Weymouth, Lord, 82
Whitfield, George, 174, 175, 182 ff., 245
Whittingham, Wm., 68
Williams, Wm., 250
Wisdome, Robert, 68
Wither, George, 92 ff., 173, 323
Wood’s School Hymns, 82
Wordsworth, Bishop C., 15, 37, 267
Wordsworth’s Ode to Duty, 31



Abide with me21
According to Thy gracious word290
A charge to keep I have216
A helpless soul that looks to Thee213
Ah! Lord, with trembling I confess27
Alas, my God, that we should be103
All praise to St. Patrick318
All ye that pass by175
And didst Thou love281
And shall I slight my Father’s love?169
Angels from the realms of glory291
Angelus ad Virginem315
As for my friends, they are not lost99
As pants the hart for cooling streams119
At evening to myself I say218
Away, my unbelieving fear212
Before Jehovah’s awful throne156
Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near232
Behold the glories of the Lamb126
Behold the potter and the clay183
Behold us, Lord, a little space270
Blessèd are the pure in heart302
Breathe from the gentle south, O Lord235
Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit208
Britain was doomed to be a slave123
Buried in sin, Thy voice I hear212
But O the power of grace Divine160
By faith we see Thy sufferings past177
Children of the heavenly King245
Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day174
Christ the Lord is risen to-day, Christians haste176
Clothed with state and girt with might73
Come, Divine Immanuel, come197
Come, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire210
Come, Holy Spirit, come149
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove150
Come, immortal King of glory222
Come, let us join our cheerful songs140
Come, let us raise the common song309
Come, Lord, and tarry not307
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare232
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life112
Come, O come, in pious lays95
Come then, and to my soul reveal21
Come to the supper, come138
Come, we that love the Lord140
Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched149
Curb for the stubborn steed55
Days and moments quickly flying318
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood21
Dear Shepherd of Thy people, hear233
Death has for me no fears321
Deus, Creator omnium58
Dost Thou ask me who I am?242
Draw near to Thy Jerusalem, O Lord117
Early hasten to the tomb291
Eldad, they said, and Medad there219
Eternal Wisdom! Thee we praise141, 171
Exceeding faithful in Thy word93
Exempted from the general doom172
Extend to me that favour, Lord119
Fain would I leave this world below207
Father, if justly still we claim115
Father of mercies, in Thy word153
Father, whose everlasting love184
Fools that true faith yet never had171
For all Thy Church, O Lord, we intercede180
For ever with the Lord289
For God doth not a whit respect92
Forth from the dark and stormy sea257
Gabriel to Mary went315
Give me the wings of faith to rise140
Glorious things of Thee are spoken232
Glory to God, whose sovereign grace197
Glory to the glorious One53
God moves in a mysterious way232
God of all grace and majesty203
God of my life, Thy boundless grace277
Gracious Spirit, dwell with me295
Granted is the Saviour’s prayer174
Great is our redeeming Lord212
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah251
Hail! gladdening Light58
Hail the day that sees Him rise174
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed289
Happy sons of Israel74
Hark! how all the welkin rings173
Hark, my soul! how every thing88
Hark, my soul, it is the Lord232
He that from dross would win the precious ore291
He who would win a warrior’s fame301
Here I know myself a stranger252
Here, where Thine angels overhead283
Hierusalem, my happie home77
Him Prophet, and King198
His every word of grace is strong171
His the glory, His the honour54
Holy Spirit, pity me302
How are Thy servants blest, O Lord242
How lovely are Thy tents, O Lord213
How ready is the man to go218
How rich are Thy provisions, Lord138
How shall I copy Him I serve293
How shall I sing that Majesty101
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds232
Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber141
I bind unto myself to-day280
I call on Thee, Lord Jesu Christ63
I could the devil’s law receive186
I hoped that with the brave and strong265
I look to thee, I hope in Thee276
If any to the feast have come312
If love in any heart arise295
If my immortal Saviour lives153
If profit be thy scope149
In a rapture of joy166
In the hour of trial291
In the Name which earth and heaven270
Influenced by the Light Divine83
Jerusalem makes melody14
Jerusalem, where song nor gem332
Jerusalem, my happy home177
Jesu, all hail, Who for my sin87
Jesu, Lover of my soul20, 39, 184, 267
Jesu, Thy blood and righteousness200
Jesus, poorest of the poor300
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun140
Jesus the good Shepherd is214
Jesus, where’er Thy people meet232, 233
Join all the glorious names19, 139
King of Glory, King of Peace111
King of Mercy, King of Love113
Lead, kindly light21 n., 37, 261
Let Him to whom we now belong181
Let me, according to Thy word204
Let us with a gladsome mind273
Lift thy song among the nations299
Lift up Thy countenance serene205
Lift your eyes of faith, and see178
Lo! He comes with clouds descending245
Lo! He cometh, countless trumpets246
Lo! on a narrow neck of land196
Long my imprisoned spirit lay212
Lord, at Thy feet a sinner lies180
Lord, come away116
Lord, dost Thou ne’er Thy servants bless297
Lord, I believe a rest remains206
Lord, in the strength of grace211
Lord, now the time returns90
Lord, Thou hast suffered all for me236
Lord, though Thy Church in this dark world100
Lord, Thy gracious voice hath spoken299
Lord, who didst the Prophets teach268
Love bade me welcome111
Love divine, all loves excelling208, 209
Maker of all things! God most high60
Moored by a green isle of Winandermere271
Much I love the faithful pilgrims252
My God, I am Thine200
My God, the spring of all my joys140
My heart is full of Christ, and longs215
My life’s a shade, my days97
My Saviour, my Beloved One106
My Saviour, whom absent I love237
My Shepherd will supply my need134
My soul looks back to see166
Nearer, my God, to Thee313
Never weather-beaten sail76
None is like Jeshurun’s God212
Not all the blood of beasts125, 166
Now I have found the ground wherein199
Now it belongs not to my care99
Now the labourer’s task is o’er270, 331
O all that pass by194
O arm me with the mind188
O blessed well of love7
O crucified, triumphant Lord302
O’er those gloomy hills of darkness251
O for a closer walk with God232
Oft, Lord, I weary in Thy work311
O God, my strength and fortitude65
O God of Bethel, by whose hand146
O happy day that fixed my choice39, 147
O, I tremble still to think239
O holy, blessed, glorious Three114
O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet191
O Lord, turn not Thy face away69
O Lord, with all my heart and mind66
O Love divine! what hast Thou done!175
O make but trial of His love119
O that my soul were now as fair103
O Thou not made with hands282
O Thou who camest from above217
O Thou who hast our sorrows borne175
O unexampled Love192
O what shall I do My Savour to praise200
O when shall we sweetly remove220
O when wilt Thou my Saviour be249
O yet once more o’er English fields319
On all the earth Thy Spirit shower115
Onward Christian soldiers286
Part of His Church below179
Pensive, doubting, fearful heart240
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed269
Pilgrim, burthened with thy sin259
Praise ye the Lord, for it is good68
Prayer is the breath of God in man151
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire290
Quiet, Lord, my froward heart232
Raised from the people’s lowest lees219
Repentance is to leave279
Ride on, ride on in majesty257
Rock of Ages, cleft for me248
Saved from the fear of hell and death159
Saviour, for Thy love we praise Thee305
See how great a flame aspires197, 259
Sent by my Lord, on you I call190
She, too, who touched Thee in the press234
Show me, Lord, that Thou art love304
Shudder not to pass the stream264
Sinners, believe the gospel word192
Sometimes a light surprises232
Sons of men, behold from far174
Souls of men, why will ye scatter?16, 195
Star of morn and even282
Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear39
Sure the Lord thus far has brought me239
Surely I have pardon found208
Sweet Jesu! why, why dost Thou love88
Sweet place, sweet place alone97
Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we go21
The Church’s one foundation270, 286
The cup of blessing blessed by Thee176
The graves of all His saints He blessed141
The heavenly frame sets forth the fame72
The Lord my pasture shall prepare143
The Lord will happiness divine234
The mercy I feel to others I show194
The night is come like to the day107
The private slanderer shall be120
The promise of my Father’s love139
The promised land from Pisgah’s top140
The righteous God consigned187
The spacious firmament on high234
The thing my God doth hate205
The wakeful shepherds near their flocks101
The whole triumphant host39
The winter’s night and summer’s day201
Thee will I praise with all my heart213
Their earnest cries do pierce the skies101
There are in this loud stunning tide93
There is a fountain filled with blood22
There is a land of pure delight11, 140
Thine image, if Thou stamp on me217
This God is the God we adore149
This is the gift, Thy gift, O Lord98
Thou art coming, O my Saviour278
Thou dear Redeemer, dying Lamb245
Thou, Lord, art a shield for me213
Thou say’st, ‘Take up thy cross’282
Thou that once on mother’s knee282
Though troubles assail, and dangers affright232
Through all the changing scenes of life119
Thy mercy is above all things67
Thy sovereign grace to all extends191
Thy way is in the deep, O Lord314
Till He come, O let the words272
’Tis gone, that bright and orbed blaze61
To the hills I lift mine eyes213
To Thee, my God, my Saviour253
Unwearied, let us still request217
View me, Lord, a work of Thine76
We are a garden walled around168
We woke to-day with anthems sweet303
Weary of earth, and laden with my sin270
What a gracious God have we91
What are these arrayed in white178
What conscience dictates to be done24
When all Thy mercies, O my God243
When I survey life’s varied scene153
When I survey the wondrous Cross11, 125, 139
When Israel, freed from Pharaoh’s hand243
When rising from the bed of death243
Where but on yonder tree218
‘Where is your God?’ they say314
Wherewith, O God, shall I draw near212
While Jacob for a wife doth wait218
While shepherds watched their flocks219
Who in the Lord confide213
Why do I sigh to find265
Why should I always pray310
Wilt thou forgive that sin108
With all the powers my poor heart hath315
With glorious clouds encompassed round174
With golden bells the priestly vest237
With solemn faith we offer up177
Worship and thanks and blessing196
Ye holy angels bright99
Ye humble souls that seek the Lord165
Ye neighbours and friends of Jesus195
Yes, I to the end shall endure27
You that have spent the silent night75



Transcriber’s Notes