« AnteriorContinuar »
intended by him ; for it is evident that those whom he speaks of as having every one a psalm, were not using in the Church the Psalms of David, but were blameable for misusing their spiritual gifts, either in composing psalms or hymns in excess, or in imposing them on the brethren arbitrarily, when composed, as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As time, however, progressed, and the use of words became settled in the Church,“psalms” and “psalmody,” it would seem, became the recognised terms to distinguish the Psalms of David as sung in the Church ; while the word “hymns” was almost exclusively appropriated to mean those compositions, which the sacred poets of the Church from time to time bestowed upon her, in which Jesus Christ is immediately praised and worshipped with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Common usage recognises this distinction, and it is probably equally intended, in the language of S. Paul, with the interpretation already mentioned.
But, however this may be, there is manifestly an essential difference between the Psalms of David and the Christian hyin, which is the principal point here to be insisted upon. When, therefore, it comes to be duly considered what is the real place which the Psalms of David occupy in the devotions of Christians, it will be seen that however advantageous, however essential, and however blessed to their use are the songs of the elder Church, there is an obvious want of another description of song, the absence of which could scarcely have failed to be detrimental to the well-being of the Church.
For, while we admit that the Psalms are replete with the spirit of the Gospel, and that they speak of Christ and of His Church, and that in a way in which only the Holy Spirit directly inspiring the sons of men can speak; while we affirm of the Psalms, that they are no less the Christian's than the Israelite's songs of praise-yea, even that they are more the rightful possession of the former than of the latter, inasmuch as the former has passed beyond the letter to the spirit of them yet it is obvious that they are rather the direct addresses of thanksgiving to Almighty God of the Jewish saint of old, than the natural channel of praise of the Christian. But, as we have the same devotional necessities which caused a provision to be made for the direct address of the ancient Church to her Almighty King and Ruler; so, also, it would seem, might we justly look for a similar provision in the Christian Church. Let us freely admit that the Psalms of David were intended by God to be sung in the congregations of Christians before all other songs ; yet, unless the Divine injunction has directly forbidden it, it no where appears that we may not, when the prior place and authority is given to these inspired songs, use also songs the direct issue of the Christian muse. If the peculiar hopes, fears, and sources of exultation from their past history naturally formed one peculiar feature in the sacred songs of the Jewish people; is it not likewise necessary that the Christian people should possess a direct poetical exponent of the feelings, actions and sentiments peculiar to them as a Church ?
Not a little stress, likewise, may be laid upon the fact, that the Psalms of David are in the highest degree. mystical compositions; and that, while there are indeed clear waters at which all may quench their spiritual thirst, yet are there deep wells that the most learned cannot fathom. It was under these impressions that Bishop Heber remarked, “I have found, in conversing with the lower classes, that they really do not understand or appre. ciate the prophetic allusions of the Psalms of David; and require, besides the glorious moral and devotional lessons which these last contain, something more directly applicable to Christ, the Trinity, and the different holydays which the Christian Church observes.”
Is it too much to say that the lower classes are not the only classes of society involved in this want of less mystical,
and more obviously direct, allusions to their hopes and positions as members of the Christian Church ?
The Psalms, therefore, in this point of view, cannot serve the same purpose to the Christian saint as the hymns are designed to do. They are, indeed, made a vehicle for the Christian's voice of praise and thanksgiving; but it is often by such accommodation of the sense of very large parts of them, as so few are able to make, that it would seem peculiarly hard upon the Christian worshippers generally, that they should be debarred from other means of speaking to God in the more direct language of their hearts,
Now, as we have already the genuine Psalter in use in our Church, that portion of our Christian service of praise spoken of by S. Paul as the psalm is provided for; and all the ends, whether mystical, prophetical, ethical or otherwise, for which its use is retained in the Christian Church, duly secured. We, then, have no further need of psalms. If the Psalms metrical are to be dealt with on any terms at all, it is as substitutes for hymns that we must regard them. For as they are used not as entire psalms, but a selection is made of three or four verses, they can pretend no longer to serve in the solemn assembly the same office with the ancient psalm. But if they may not pretend to the dignity of the psalm, certainly they can in no degree be made to supply that necessity which we have just represented the members of the Church as labouring under. At best, the metrical Psalms can only be regarded as mutilated psalms and inefficient and imperfect hymns; a perversion of a Divine work made to act as a substitute, in the very lowest and most inefficient way, for another excellent work.
Nor is this subject to be quitted without insisting upon one other most important point'in connexion with it. As long as these metrical Psalms are used in congregations they must, in some degree, serve to divert the attention
from the inspired Psalter, and thus injure the impression it is intended to convey to the minds of the members of the Church. While portions are selected from the metrical version easy of comprehension, as most fitted to celebrate the praises of God, will not most persons be led to deem the mystical portions of little value, as seeming not to affect practice, or to come directly home to the feelings?
If, too, by singing metrical Psalms and only saying the Psalter, we tacitly admit the distinction in vulgar use, of “singing psalms” and “reading psalms,” can we expect that people in general should look upon what they call the “ reading psalms” as the proper songs of the Church, and, as such, in the highest degree desirable to be stored up in their memories, to supply them with the inspired language of praise, and thanksgiving, and prayer, in all their devotional necessities?
There remain now only a few points to be alluded to briefly. It has been the aim of the compiler, in the formation of the directions for the use of these hymns, to follow as closely as possible the analogy furnished by the rubrics of the Common Prayer. Such words as mattins and evensong have been used, because they are still retained in the Table of Lessons and Proper Psalms, and because it was thought that no fitter can be employed in a book of sacred song. In like manner, where the hymn is ancient, the first words of the Latin are placed above it, after the model furnished in the Canticles and throughout the Psalter. These are points perhaps of no great moment, save that attention to these lesser manifestations of the Church's spirit, argues a probable purpose and desire to cling to her teaching in more important matters.
A more noticeable deviation from the general practice in the compilation of hymn-books is in the retention on principle, in almost all instances, of the hymns in their original length. Unnecessarily to curtail a hymn, simply for the purpose of reducing a whole collection to one standard in point of length, appeared to the compiler, not to allege other reasons, a proceeding opposed to the precedent furnished by the Church, which, in the Veni Creator Spiritus, Gloria in Excelsis, Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis, Benedictus, and Benedicite, afford instances of hymns of every variety of length.
Among the occasional hymns, it might perhaps have been expected that some should have been inserted for the occasional offices, baptisms, churchings, marriages and burials. On a full consideration, however, this course was not pursued. If introduced into the public service at all, it could not be in the course of the offices, as no place for singing any thing but Psalms, and that only in the two latter, is appointed. They must, therefore, if any where, be introduced at the proper places in the Morning or Evening Services, and hence must displace one of the hymns, as adapted in this book to the services of the day; and as oftentimes this might be thought by the minister a most undesirable proceeding, especially on days, when the teaching of the Church is more than usually marked and impressive: and as these occasional hymns could not, therefore, be invariably used, so to omit them in some cases and to use them in others, must of necessity lead to jealousy and invidious feelings.
Some doubts have been entertained whether hymns should be sung on Good Friday. It seems to be a sufficient answer that the Church has appointed Proper Psalms for this day. Hymns appropriate for it have, therefore, been inserted in this collection.
To those persons, to whom it will afford matter of surprise that no hymn for the communion has been introduced among the Occasional Hymns, the following considerations are addressed. It will be very generally admitted that the use of a sacramental hymn in the course of the Communion Office itself is to be strongly deprecated as a violation of Church order, no 'rubric providing any,