« PreviousContinue »
prevent his use by the “holy church universal”; but the facts and illustrations we have given present one cause, things being as they are, why he is used so little. We have never heard the subject discussed; but this peculiar feature of his theology must have done much towards hindering the church at large from knowing, honoring, and using him as she might and should have done.
These two reasons existed in the nature of the subject : the others are more casual and less creditable. One springs from — soften the terms as we may - the sectarianism, the denominational spirit, the party pride and prejudice, not of Methodism, but of other churches. We are not so bigoted as our grandfathers were : a catholic and liberal spirit, thank heaven, is advancing fast; but there is still room for improvernent. When Cowper wrote his poetry, though he reverenced the character and labors, he dared not mention the name, of Whitefield. Some of us are still afraid of the brother name, Wesley. Why do several of the Methodist's finest hymns —" Blow ye the trumpet, blow”; “ Light of those whose dreary dwelling"; " From the throne of God there springs”; alınost universally appear credited to Toplady? Why are numerous others with the same origin wildly credited to Montgomery, Cowper, Cudworth, or any but the true author, or still more wildly fathered upon Whitefield's Collection, Pratt's Collection, Tiebout's Collection, or any obscure compilation which had no more to do with them than we have, in putting them likewise into our hymn books? Ignorance or inistake, of course: but what caused the mistake or ignorance? It was wilful somewhere, with somebody; and it is quite time it were rectified. The blunders of hymn-book manufacturers have been multifarious and disgraceful; and never so numerous or inexcusable as when they fell upon Charles Wesley. But one ought to be thankful if he is named at all. We have seen collections of size and respectability, in which his poems are either totally kept out, or carefully ascribed to some one else, or with but one or two exceptions — left anonymous.
simply contemptible, and the practice is fortunately abating. But Calvinists still have some dread of the heresy-monger, and churchmen affect to dispise the schismatic. It is time all Christians should learn that no instrument is to be slighted which God uses for his own glory, and that this psalmist was not merely, nor chiefly, the poet of a party, but of the holy church universal.
If the present writer were a Methodist, he would blush to mention the last reason why Charles Wesley is so little known. It is the fault of those who were the natural heirs of the treasures he left, and guardians of his reputation. The spiritual children of the great itinerants profess to venerate the memory of their founder's brother, and to admire beyond measure his poetry; but they have done almost nothing towards bringing the mass of that poetry within their own reach, or making it generally known. While the
complete works” of a thousand obscure scribblers have been presented to the world; while every unfinished frag. ment and posthumous relic of many an inferior literary light has been carefully edited and published; the Bard of Methodism has been treated as though he had written nothing that could interest posterity, nor ever left a great church under incalculable obligations. It may be guessed, from the samples we have given of his forgotten poetry, that it is worth reprinting and reading. His brother's entire prose works are still sold; Charles's poems should be no less interesting, and would occupy less space. Two large octavos might contain all that were ever published; and meantime a volume of judicious selections from the whole would be one of the most attractive books of poetry in the language. But neither the American Methodists nor the English Wes. leyans -- both large, powerful, thoroughly organized bodies
seem to possess the enterprise, liberality, and spirit for such an undertaking. The latter did indeed republish a few of Charles's smaller volumes; and, with a keen eye to business, purchased of his heirs the vast mass of his manuscripts (already referred to), which they never attempted to print.
In this country, nothing whatever has been done. Mr. Creamer, in his Hymnology, raises a cry of natural and honest indignation about this, and vainly urges his church to republish the “ Hymns for Children.” It is difficult to understand this lethargy, when a very simple action of obvious propriety and duty would open an additional revenue to the church; for the Wesleyan volumes, officially put forth, would sell largely. But so it is. That the Methodist body knows anything about her own hymnology, and is able to tell which separate lyrics in her hymn book are by her own poet, she owes to the spirit and zeal of a few private individuals like Mr. Creamer. Excepting his Hymnology, the present Article is probably the most extensive dissertation on the subject which has been printed in America. If any wish to be further acquainted with Charles Wesley and his poetry, they must consult the above-mentioned volume, and Mr. Jackson's Life. The former contains much important information, not to be found elsewhere; the latter is one of the most thorough, interesting, and appreciative of biographies. We speak of the English edition, in two volumes ; that published in America is abridged, and the poetical quotations much diminished.
The immense power of the Wesleyan poetry upon those who use it has been noticed. “ One of the greatest blessings," said Fletcher, “that God has bestowed upon the Methodists, next to the Bible, is their Collection of IIymns." We cannot but believe that this blessing was intended for wider use than the limits of a single denomination; and that the piety and taste of the rest of us will be improved, when we shall raise enough of both to make much larger inroads into the Wesleyan poetry, and enrich our reservoirs by more copious streams from that neglected but generous fountain.
It has been considered a difficult point to decide which is entitled to stand first among hymn-writers, Charles Wesley or Dr. Watts. The disficulty lies simply here, that Dr. Watts was merely a hymn-writer, and could and did, most naturally, put all his powers within the proper limits of a
song suited to public worship. The only question to ask relative to anything of his is, is it good enough? Whereas twenty reasons may unfit Wesley's poems for that use. If a piece of the Doctor's is unfit to sing, it is probably unfit to read: not so with the other; for Wesley was a poet in a larger sense. Their relative claims as poets will soon be settled, by the good taste of competent judges, whenever Wesley's poetry becomes sufficiently known. Dr. Watts's confession that his rival's “ Wrestling Jacob " was worth all his own effusions, proves nothing but the modesty and generosity of the speaker; but there are other grounds for believing that Wesley excelled him in originality, variety, intensity, and elevation. Dr. Watts has been appreciated within the church at large ; Charles Wesley has not. Let him not be judged further than as he is known.
It is an easy task to compare our poet with the other more eminent hymnists. Doddridge and Steele are diluted reproductions of Dr. Watts. Montgomery, a professed and lifelong poet, is inferior to Wesley in all the qualities mentioned above, and in no respect above him in propriety, harmony, and grace of style. Heber, the most elegant and mellifluous of sacred poets, is not more polished and fluent than his Methodist predecessor; nor has he anything of his solidity, strength, and fire. Cowper is the greatest name in the hymn books; but Cowper's best poems, which are very few, are but equal, not superior, to Wesley's best, which are very many. Toplady approaches most nearly to the Methodist poet; but Toplady borrowed his inspiration from Wesley, and reproduced his style ; and it is the Calvinist's highest praise that his finest pieces are undistinguishable from those of his Arminian neighbor. No other names in British sacred lyric poetry can be mentioned with that of Charles Wesley; and when it is remembered that all these counted their poems by dozens or hundreds, while he by thousands; and that his thousands were in power, in elegance, in devotional and literary value above their few, we call him, yet more confidently, great among poets, and prince of English hymnists.
THE AUTHOR OF THE APOCALYPSE.
BY PROF. R. D. C. ROBBINS, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE.
Reasons for the following Discussion. To some persons it may seem useless to occupy the pages of the Bibliotheca with an argument in favor of the genuineness of the Apocalypse, and of its composition by John the beloved apostle. It is enough for them that it is prefaced with the words : “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ ..... to his servant John,” or “ John to the seven churches which are in Asia,” and “ I John who am also your brotherand companion in tribulation ... was in the isle called Patmos,” etc.; and that near the close it is said, “ I John saw the holy city,” etc. Others, however, from the peculiarities of the book, may be inclined to excuse themselves from its study with the lingering feeling that while it has indeed “some things hard to be understood,” it yet does not come under the injunction : “search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.”
Such certainly has been the feeling of some in modern days; and some, as Oeder, Semler, and Corrodi, in Germany, have opposed it with bitterness and acrimony, and denied it aesthetical merit as well as inspiration.
The majority of the leading writers in Germany are unequivocal in their denial of its apostolic origin. De Wette says: “In New Test. criticism nothing stands so firm as that the apostle John, if he be the writer of the Gospel and the First Epistle did not write the Apocalypse; or if the latter be his work, that he is not the author of the former.” I Ewald is equally positive in his opinion. “That the Apocalypse was not written by the same author who composed the
1 Einl. N. Test., $ 189.