« AnteriorContinuar »
Day to fing Hymns Chrifto quafi Deo, [to CHRIST a God;]" for this manifeftly implies Canticles made fince and particularly fuited to, the Chriftian Era. Indeed 'ti generally allow'd, that the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in excel fis, and probably feveral more, were in Ufe even at tha Time.
If fome Nations and Churches have again confined them felves somewhat strictly to the Pfalms, no one muft ima gine that this is done from a Suppofition of the Unlawful ness of all newer Hymns whatsoever. For if the Lord' Prayer, tho' dictated by the bleffed Founder of our ow Religion, is granted on all hands not to have been give as the fole Form of Words on that Occafion, but as a Pat tern for many more fuch like; much lefs can Forms of fing ing drawn up under a different Difpenfation of Religion and not fo explicitly reaching our Cafe, be look'd upon a the only Melody we Chriftians ever can or dare use. Th removing of fuch a weak Reason, which indeed was nc the Reafon with thofe Churches in this their Regulation leaves them the brighter Honour of their true one, viz. Solicitude to prevent the Luxuriancies and Abuses, so hard ly feparable from a Species of Writing and of Devotior which in itfelf was lawful enough.
There is no denying the Wifdom of this Caution.
And I would make no farther Remark, than only to de monstrate from it, that if any Body of People should be de firous, notwithstanding, to have a Hymn-book, and to adop into it a good number of Hymns in Ufe among other Fe low Chriftians, (in real, ecclefiaftical, established and imme morial Ufe ;) they cannot avoid, tho' very thankful for wha is to be found here at home, going out of England for more.
The German Nation has always excell'd in the Article c Hymns Luther himself compofed many, and encourage the bringing of Religion much into that Channel. Fror whence it has come to pafs, that every District there has it public authorized Hymn-book; ferving, to a very grea Degree, the double Purpose, both of Liturgy and found In
ftruction in the Faith. For the more ancient Hymns efpe cially, (which are always most regarded in fuch Books) are greatly helpful to maintain for ever the Chriftian Truths in the Minds of the common People, with the felf-fame Simplicity and Force, which adorned thofe worthy and golden Times when they were endited.
The Brethren therefore had the general Taste and Practice of their Nation on their Side, when publishing lately their large German revised Hymn-book; confifting as well of Hymns out of preceding Church-Collections of their Neighbours, as of others compofed by themselves. Which Hymnbook of theirs, afforded both the Model, and most of the German Materials to this.
Concerning the High-Dutch Language, one Obfervation is neceffary. It is indeed a living one, and spoken in a Country not very remote: This will difincline the Reader to believe, what I must nevertheless fay of it, that it has a good deal of the old Oriental Genius. As to the Brethren in particular, they have not damp'd, but rather pursued, thefe ingenuous Sparks they found in their Mother-Tongue. For which, no good Critic will blame them: but their Translators, it must be own'd, are hereby put to fome Difficulties, and render'd obnoxious to juft Criticifm fometimes. We don't doubt however, but it is in the Compafs of the English Tongue, to afford one time or other the fully correfponding Phrafes: And indeed the Caufe of fome lefs happy, too flat or obfcure Tranflations hitherto, has been not only that intrinfic Obftacle now mention'd, but withal a Care to tranGate literally, carried to a needlefs Excess.
Some may think it alfo a needlefs Conformity to the Original, that we make ufe of double Rhymes, or a Trochaic Ending of Lines; whereas English Poetry commonly contents itself with the Iambic. It has prov'd difficult enough to procure fuch Rhymes in a Language not made for it, and it may have left fome farther Stiffnefs upon the Performance: but when the Reader confiders the Motive, it being done for the fake of the original Tunes, and has himself tafted the fo-" jema
lemn and expreffive Harmony of those Tunes, he will cer tainly excufe all.
After these Preliminaries, it may be time to take a View of the prefent Work, both in the Whole, and in its Parts.
Confidering it all together, it is a continued Series of godly ⚫ and Chriftian Sentiments, both doctrinal and practical, thro' all the Ages of the Church; and confequently a Kind of Ecclefiaftical History, with regard to the State of Piety and Devotion. For tho' Poetry otherwife has not that Character; yet Hymns furely ought to be fuppofed a faithful, if not the faithfulleft, Picture and Conveyance of the Heart.
The feveral Divifions, or Claffes, are as follows.
The first are Anthems out of the Bible; facred Words, that are and must be laid as the Foundation of all. There is nothing farther to be obferv'd concerning thefe, but that we have follow'd the Tranflation of the English Bible; only a few times preferring the marginal Reading; and in the Pfalms, taking the liberty to choose between the new Bible-Tranflation and the old one in the Common-prayer Book.
Thefe are follow'd by Scripture-Hymus; or Portions o Scripture put into Metre, either already by others, or now by us.
As the History of former divine Oeconomies, and the first Inftitution and facred Bafis of the Chriftian, are contain'd in the preceding; now enfues a Tafte of the Spirit and Devotions of the Christian Church, in her feveral Periods of Superftructure upon that Bafis.
That whole Space of Time, from the Apoftles down, during which we ufually give our Predeceffors in the Miniftry the venerable Appellation of Fathers, is comprehended under the Title of Primitive Church. The Hymns of this Clafs are not many, confidering what an Interval they fill up; but they are weighty, and taken from all the chief Branches of the Church univerfal.
The firft, fo far as appears, after the Appellation of Fathers ceafed, that were more fpecial and confpicuous Depotaries of the Chriftian Truth, were the ancient Bohemian and
Moravian Brethren. (The Waldenfes incorporated with them.) The Reader will find their Hymns no rougher than he of might have expected; and inftead of thinking them fo at all, he can call them, if he please, folid and mafculine.
Next follow, according to Chronological Order, the German Hymns of the fixteenth Century, or thofe made about the Time of the Reformation. The ftrong Impreffions of Truth which reign'd in that remarkable Age, are known to every one; and fo it will be needlefs to fay any thing of the he Hymns, except in regard of the Tranflation. In that refpect it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge the confiderable Ufe we have made (here and in fome other Parts) of the at foregoing Labours of Mr. Jacobi, and the Rev. Mr. Wesley, in the fame Kind.
Then come (and I mention it with a peculiar Pleasure) a fome excellent old Hymns of the English Church. The Authors, befide the Common-prayer Book itself, are Robert Smith, Herbert, Dr. Donne, Faithful Teate, Crafhaw, Bishop Taylor, Sir Matthew Hale, Rees Pritchard the Welch Hymnologist, of&r. Some of thefe, particularly Herbert, having wrote in Stanza's adapted to noTune that we know of, a Liberty has been taken fometimes fo far as to make them fingable, yet with as little Alteration as poffible of the Senfe.
Hence we pass to the Hymns, firft the German, then the English, of the Seventeenth Century. The Authors of the latofter (for our Readers will not think themselves fo immediately interested in the literary Hiftory of the former) are Bishop Kenn, Mr. Norris, Rawlet, Mafon, &c.
Several more German Hymns of the fame Century, are inferted in the next Divifion; together with fome Extracts of English ones of the Eighteenth, or now current Century,which Elindeed has been the richest in that kind of writing that Eng. lead can ever remember. The Names here are very recent and well known, as Dr. Watts, Stennet, Davis, Erskine, Wesley, Cennick, &c.
After thefe Chriftian Breathings (indeed cotemporary with, or prior to fome of the laft) fucceed in order of Time, the
Hymns of the Brethren in the Eighteenth Century, that is, of the prefent Brethren's Congregation. And fince this whole Book was properly compiled for the Service of Perfons in Union with that People; no one, it is hoped, will think it strange, that this Division is fo much larger and fuller than any of the
The Time from whence the prefent, or reviv'd Brethren's Congregation is to be dated, is the Year 1724, when feveral of the Defcendants of the above-mention'd ancient Brethren in Moravia, retired on account of Religion to a Place call'd Herrnhuth in Upper Lufatia; and, by the Divine Be nediction, and not only Bounty but Ministry of their territo rial Lord there, became fuch a living Church, as hath ob tained (I may say it with Modefty) in feveral respects an undeniable Signature and Glory in Chrift.
As fhe has given a free Account of herself elsewhere to al. true Lovers of our Saviour's Kingdom; I fhall enter no farther here, than the prefent Subject obliges me.
It was but natural for the Members of this Church, to ex prefs their Ideas from time to time in Hymns. I have pur pofely avoided hitherto, the endeavouring to fix the peculia: or differencing Characters (amidft the noble Unity in Effen tials) of the several Claffes of Hymns; that fo every Reade might have the Pleasure of making this Difcovery and Com parison, and accordingly carrying on his Remarks as Church biftorian, for himself. But I am now come to a Class, which I cannot help characterizing in few Words.
The Brethren's grand Topic in their Hymns, as every on may fee, is the Perfon and Propitiation of Jefus Chrift: they collect, as in the Focus of a Burning glafs, what has defcend ed to them from paft Ages, or properly from the Bible itself upon this Head; and that it may not be evaded under th Notion of dicta ardentia. they prefent it in a Syftem, and ap ply that Syftem to Practice. They affirm our free Accept ance with God as Sinners, and thro' pure Grace; and yet the Neceffity of, and powerful Affiftances for, a moft rea Holiness of Life afterwards: with fuch a Warmth upon eac