Page images

less necessary than a course on Sermonizing and Pastoral Thcology; and a preacher of the gospel should read and study the best Psalms and Hymns, as an every-day-business, as he does his Bible, till he is acquainted with their sentiments, familiar with their structure and imagery, and deeply imbued with their spirit. The advantages of such a course are obvious and numberless ;-some of them so plain that they need not be specified, and when taken collectively, and in all their intellectual and moral relations, too many to be embraced in this rapid sketch. It is not saying too muc'ı to affirm, that such a discipline would enlarge a minister's knowledge, improve his taste, increase his

piety, refine his imagination, invigorate his eloquence, and give him readiness, appropriateness and power, in the public exercises of his profession. His volume of sacred poetry should be a Text-Book by the side of the Bible, and he should be equally familiar with both. If this were the case, the sermon and singing would more generally harmonize in their object and impressions, than they now do; the minister would have to expend less time in consulting numerous indexes in order to know what to select; and in the very act of reading the Psalm or Hymn, he would make an impression which would instruct the hearers, and give the key-note of sentiment and expr vsion to the choir. How deficient the ministry may be in these respects, is matter of opinion of which every person will judge for himself.

The character of Psalmody must always be affected by a great variety of circumstances which need not be adverted to in this place; but nothing has a greater influence to elevate or depress, to advance or retard its progress, than the Lyric Poetry which is employed in the service of God. The following defects may easily be detected in many of the Psalms and Hymns now in use. Some are composed on subjects unsuited to song-others are destitute of a lyrical spirit_another class lack simplicity of design and execution-and not a few are of an unreasonable length for a single exercise of singing. To remedy these and other defects, and to secure, if possible, certain excellencies which are attained as yet only in part, are among the objects of this publication.

That Lyric Poetry has a character of its own-that it moves in a sphere peculiar to itself—and that its subjects are limited, there is no room for doubt. On these points all critics agree. This poetry is made to be sung; and, when combined with appropriate music, we have a vehicle, at once natural and refined, for the expression of strong emotion. A Psalm or Hymn should be devotional,

rather than didactic, because the warm inspirations of the heart, and not the cool deductions of the intellect, are its province. Ascriptions of thanksgiving and praise to God, the breathings of filial desire and confidence, the cheering influence of hope, the tremblings of self-distrust and religious fear, “peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” and all the strong feelings which are called forth in a world of conflict and expectation, belong to this department of poetry. Any thing and every thing which pertains to devotion and christian experience, may furnish a subject for spiritual song.

And yet, notwithstanding these well-defined limits, which nature itself has fixed to Lyric Poetry, there are hundreds of Hymns, in our language, which can never be sung to any good effect, because their subject-matter is foreign to this kind of writing. They can, from their very nature, neither inspire religious emotion, nor become the channels of this emotion already inspired. They contribute to extinguish rather than to kindle up, the holy flame. They are good sermons, but poor songs.

This fault in the choice of subjects, is much more rarely to be met with in secular than spiritual odes; and the same may be said in relation to the music by which they are accompanied. The reasons of this may not, perhaps, be easily detected. It cannot be for a moment admitted, that revealed religion is unfruitful in themes. If nature may be sung, why not nature's God? If creation can inspire the lyric bard, why not redemption, with its brighter glories, and its more enduring interests? If earth has its raptures, why should heaven be poor, and powerless, and without a song? If great and good men who have lived and acted and died, have, by their virtues or heroism, called forth the finest and sweetest tones of the Lyre, why should the praises of the only Great and Good, who lives in his own immortality, and whose wondrous acts are recorded for the admiration of all worlds, sleep in silence and be forgotten? It may be worthy of remark in this place, that few poets of the first order have ever tried their pinions in this upper sky; but when they have, and selected an appropriate themē, they have showed that the waters of Zion can impart a purer inspiration than the fabled Castalian spring.

If the province of Lyric Poetry is to inspire and express emotion, then no Psalm or Hymn can answer the true purpose of christian worship unless it breathes the appropriate spirit. Its execution, as well as its subject, must be lyric. It may be rhyme, and not poetry. It may be poetry, and yet not be adapted to einging. Heroics can

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]








New York: IVISON & PHINNEY, 321 Broadway.
Chicago: S. C. GRIGGS & Co...... Detroit : RAYMOND & SELLECK.

Cincinnati: MOORE, WILSTACH, KEYS & Co.

St. Louis : KEITH & WOODS.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

wwwins ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1847

BY MARK H, NEWMAN & CO., In the Clerk's Office of the Dis ict Court of the United States for the

Southern District of New York,


« PreviousContinue »