George Albert Coe.

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1 live, yet languishing I die,
While in thy furnace bound I lie.

In love's sweet swoon to thee I cleave,
Bless'd source of love.

Love's slave, in chains of strong desire
I'm bound.

Grant, O my God, who diedst for me,
I, sinful wretch, may die for thee
Of love's deep wounds ; love to embrace,
To swim in its sweet sea ; thy face
To see ; then, joined with thee above,
Shall I myself pass into love."

Protestants, of course, revert less to St. Francis
than to an earlier man of God who, though he be
the intellectual father of Western theology, is no
less remarkable for the emotional side of his reli-
gious life. Augustine's Confessions clearly show
that he was accustomed to indulge emotions for
their own sake. Speaking of some of his youthful
follies, he exclaims, "Who can unravel that twisted
and tangled knottiness? It is foul. I hate to re-



fleet on it. I hate to look on it." 1 But herein he
probably misunderstands himself, for everything
shows that he fairly revels in self-analysis. Hear
how he dissects his feelings upon the death of a
friend : "At this sorrow my heart was utterly dark-
ened, and whatever I looked upon was death. My
native country was a torture to me, and my father's
house a wondrous unhappiness ; and whatsoever I
had participated in with him, wanting him, turned
into a frightful torture. Mine eyes sought him
everywhere, but he was not granted them; and I
hated all places because he was not in them; nor
could they now say to me, 'Behold, he is coming/
as they did when he was alive and absent. I be-
came a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul
why she was so sad, and why she so exceedingly
disquieted me. . . . Naught but tears were sweet to
me, and they succeeded my friend in the dearest of
my affections. And now, O Lord, these things are
passed away, and time hath healed my wound. May
I learn from thee . . . why weeping should be so
sweet to the unhappy. . . . Whence, then, is it that
such sweet fruit is plucked from the bitterness of
life, from groans, tears, sighs, and lamentations?" 2
Again, describing the same experience, he says:
"All things looked terrible, even the very light it-
self; and whatsoever was not what he was, was
repulsive and hateful, except groans and tears, for in

1 Book ii, chap. x. * Book iv, chaps, iv and v.



those alone found I a little repose." 1 Here is a soul
that not only feels profoundly, but also rolls his
feelings under his tongue and secures satisfaction
therefrom just because they are feelings. The con-
nection between this trait and Augustine's besetting
sin in his unregenerate days is plain enough.

There is, moreover, a direct connection between
this temperamental quality and the characteristics
of Augustine's religious experience. It is in exact
keeping that an hallucination should accompany his
conversion, and that, looking backward, we should
find that his mother had repeatedly beheld visions. 2
After his conversion he still likes his food, but,
looking upon all pleasures of sense as a temptation
of the flesh, he examines himself with painful mi-
nuteness to see whether his only motive for eating
is the preservation of health. The result is tribula-
tion of soul, for he finds that he sometimes eats be-
cause he likes to, and so eats more than is absolutely
necessary ! 3 Thus the passionate Augustine, always
intemperate where feeling was concerned, was now
intemperately temperate. The same thing happens
with respect to the music of the Church. Of course
such sensibilities as his could not help enjoying
music, and so he must confess, "When it happens
to me to be more moved by the singing than by what
is sung I confess myself to have sinned criminally,

1 Book iv, chap, vii * Book iii, chap, xi ; book v. chap, ix ; book vij chap. I
* Book x, chap. xxxi.



and then I would rather not have heard the singing.
See, now, the condition I am in! Weep with me,
and weep for me, you who so control your inward
feelings as that good results ensue." 1

Citations like these do not, of course, discredit
the piety of any saint. It is not at all for the pur-
pose of detracting from anyone's reputation for
holiness that the point has been raised, but rather
for the sake of asking whether the saintly qualities
that the Church has officially most delighted to
honor do not presuppose temperamental traits pos-
sessed by only a part of humanity. Have not tem-|
peramental qualities been made a standard for
measuring spirituality? The typical saint is the
one who feels most the one who feels the hollow-
ness of the world or the awfulness of sin, who re-
pents with strong groans and tears, who has great
fervor in prayer, or a permanent mood of calm
trustfulness, or ecstatic communion with the divine,
or great billows of triumphant joy. Before such
experiences can be common or characteristic there
must be present, first of all, a mental organization
of a particular kind. There are many, many persons
who simply cannot feel the hollowness of the secular
life that drove many saints to the desert. Only now
and then do we find a person who can give himself
up to meditation, prayer, self-examination, and the
other spiritual exercises of the typical saint. I once

1 Book x. chap. xxxiiL


heard a theologian say that if he had an extremely
important duty to perform in a very brief time he
would spend the first quarter or half of the time in
prayer. But, with the whole situation impelling
one to be up and doing, persons of a more active
nature simply could not spend so much time in real
prayer. The very attempt to do so would seem to
them to be a sacrilegious waste of time.

Spiritual Exercises.

It is only natural that this ideal of sainthood
should color our spiritual exercises, or efforts after
spiritual culture. This remark applies to the more
mystical or, as it is sometimes called, devotional
current in both Catholicism and Protestantism, and
particularly, in our day, to Protestant Churches that
put special stress upon what is called personal piety
or personal religious experience. Here introspec-
tion and the cultivation of certain moods are held
in especial esteem. When prayer is offered in a
devotional meeting for a "personal blessing" what is
really meant appears to be a comfortable religious
emotion. As the term "blessing" is here commonly
employed it would hardly include the perception
of a new truth or a calm and deliberate decision
to perform a duty. It may be asked, furthermore,
whether the most common notion of Christian
testimony is not tUat of witnessing to states of




Now, it is necessary to enter a loud caveat lest
all this should be taken to be a denunciation of the
cultivation of religious feeling. On the contrary,
to seek to experience religious emotion, or, rather,
to put one's self in the way of experiencing it, is as
reasonable as any other part of religious aspiration.
To take feeling out of religion would be as absurd
as to take parental or conjugal fondness out of the
family. Yet it is not possible to maintain the family
solely, or even chiefly, by reliance upon feeling.
What we protest against is one-sidedness ; what we
plead for is symmetry. Religion ought to rest upon
and call into exercise all the faculties of the mind,
and no superior sanctity should be ascribed to per-
sons whose temperamental make-up is sentimental
rather than choleric.

Professor James, remarking on the flabbiness of
character that results from a disproportionate ex-
ercise of passive emotion, advises that we never so
much as listen to a concert without compelling our-
selves to perform also some voluntary act for the
sake of preserving the equilibrium between sensi-
bility and will. 1 When this equilibrium is lost in
rushes a tide of religious vagaries. At a camp
meeting in western New York a number of years
ago a brother testified somewhat as follows : "Breth-
ren, I feel I feel I feel I feel that I feel I can't
tell you how I feel, but O, I feel ! I feel !"

1 Principles of Psychology . New York, 1890, i, isf.


Not long since, the pastor of an important church
made a remark to me substantially like this : "There
are in my church two distinct classes of members.
On the one hand, there is a group of substantial
persons of high character and agreeable conduct
who support the enterprises of the church with their
money, but are rarely or never seen at prayer meet-
ing. One never sees them prostrated before God in
earnest prayer. If a sinner should come weeping
to the altar they would not gather round to pray
for him. If he should rise shouting they would
shake hands with him and tell him they were glad
he had started, but that is all. On the other hand,
there is a class of members who can be relied upon
to be present at the prayer meeting, who would rush
to the altar to pray with a sinner, and who, if he
should rise shouting, would scarcely know whether
they were in the body or out of the body. Never-
theless, these persons are without influence in spite
of their unction. They are flighty and changeable
in their moods, lack organization, and their judg-
ment is not to be trusted. If I were to go on a long
journey I would not choose them for companions,
but rather persons of the former description. And
if I were to go sailing in a small boat I would not
take one of these prayer-meeting members with me
lest he should have a spell of some sort and capsize
the boat." Without even guessing what he was

doing, this pastor drew a firm line between two



temperamental groups. On one side he ranged the
members of his flock who manifest either the mel-
ancholic or the sanguine characteristics in excess,
and confessed that the spiritual exercises of his
church appealed almost exclusively to them. On
the other side he ranged the more choleric and more
balanced characters, against whom, it appears, there
lies a suspicion of defective spirituality, and for no
other reason than that they do not respond heartily
to forms of church life and activity that are based
upon a narrow and ill-balanced conception of the
spiritual life.

Trace this temperamental line a step further and
you will come upon the psychological root of what
distinguishes holiness movements from the ordi-
nary life of the churches. A holiness band or sect
that separates itself from the general life of the
church is organized and held together chiefly by
temperamental affinities. This fact sets a rather
strict limit to the possible growth of such move-
ments, and goes far toward explaining their tend-
ency to early dissolution. It is no more possible for
the generality of Christians to attain the ecstasy or
maintain the exalted serenity often proclaimed as
their privilege than it is for them all to feel drawn
toward the life of monks, nuns, and hermits. Any-
one who doubts this statement would do well to ob-
serve how many seek for these experiences and how

few attain them, j Whether the honest seeker shall




attain or not is simply a question of suggestibility
and temperament.

The interest which many churches and pastors
are now beginning to take in the social problems
that agitate our times promises to do much toward
removing the historical stigma upon the conception
of spirituality. Men are beginning to perceive and
to teach that merely filling one's station in life in
the fear of God is a spiritual exercise. Doubtless
one who is absorbed in the activities of what is
called practical life has all the greater need for
specific culture of the contemplative and emotional
side of human nature ; but it will be a great triumph
for truth when the Church generally comes to be-
lieve and teach that the normal exercise of one fac-
ulty is neither more nor less a spiritual act than the
normal exercise of any other faculty.

With the enfranchisement of the moral will we
may expect also a recognition of the spiritual ca-
pacities of intellect. Perhaps the most typical illus-
tration of the attitude of many religious minds
toward the intellect is afforded by the distinction
not seldom made between the devotional study of
the Bible and the intellectual study of it. To say
nothing of the confusion involved in the notion of a
nonintellectual study of anything, we might ask
whether truth has not a positive relation to religious
devotion. We cannot admit the possibility that

either untruth or the absence of truth concerning



the Bible can produce or promote any truly devo-
tional state of mind. Surely, the followers of Him
who is the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life,
must see, upon reflection, that the impulse after
exact and complete knowledge of whatever may be
known is included in the most complete worship.
What a paradox it is that anyone who worships a
being of absolute wisdom, and looks for guidance
to the Spirit of Truth, should nevertheless exclude
intellectual exercises from the conception of the
spiritual life! Shall we not at last learn that we
may assume an attitude toward all truth that is it-
self essentially worship of the God of Truth? A
prominent philosopher of our day has put one aspect
of the matter in these profoundly true words : "All
of us, I presume, more or less are led beyond the
region of ordinary facts. Some in one way and
some in others, we seem to touch and have com-
munion with what is beyond the visible world. In
various manners we find something higher which
both supports and humbles, both chastens and trans-
ports us. And, with certain persons, the intellectual
effort to understand the universe is a principal way
of thus experiencing the Deity." 1

Some Psychological Aspects of Hymnology.

Song proceeds from emotion as one of its most
natural and adequate expressions. It returns to

1 F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, $f.


emotion, also, as its quickener and inspirer. We 1
should expect sacred music, then, to be full of reli-
gious feeling; and the test of its quality will be just
its capacity to communicate in fitting literary and
musical form the various chords, major and minor,
that resound throughout normal religious experi-
ence. Should it omit to echo some of these chords,
or vary too little from some one or a few favorite
chords, in either case it would be defective itself or
significant of defect in ecclesiastical life. It is rea-
sonable to look to the hymns sung by any Church forf
an index, true though partial, of the emotional as-
pect of its life. If we find certain types of senti-*
ment unrepresented in the hymns, we infer that the
corresponding type of religious experience has not
been sufficiently cultivated to secure proportional
musical expression.

It must be remembered, too, that emotion has a
scale as large and as varied as human life itself.
When we speak of emotional temperament, emo-
tional novels, emotional religious meetings, and the
like, what we really have in mind is not merely the
abundance of emotion, but also the quality. A tale
of heroic action, for example, may stir the reader
fully as much as a tale of suffering, but only the
latter would ordinarily be called emotional. Just
so, every normal religious activity has its own ap-
propriate emotional coloring, but not every form
of religious life would be popularly called emotional.



In any attempt at a psychological analysis of
hymnology, therefore, it is necessary to note what
emotion, rather than what degree of emotion, comes
to expression. In particular, in the present instance
we need to know whether, as in the most approved
spiritual exercises, the point of view tends to be that
of feeling for its own sake or that of feeling as the
atmospheric coloring of a many-sided conscious-
ness. More specifically, is the point of view that
of introspection, subjectivity, self -consciousness, or
that of practical activities and interests and facts?

Bearing this distinction in mind, let us examine
the first Hymnal that comes to hand, that of the
Methodist Episcopal Church. Possibly the scope
of its contents will scarcely correspond with the
scope of the hymns most frequently in actual use;
and yet any such depository of the ages will surely
reveal something as to the question before us.

The Methodist Hymnal contains, to begin with,
8 1 hymns on the subject of Christ. Of these 15
have to do with his incarnation and birth, 21 with
his sufferings and death, 37 with his resurrection,
priesthood, and reign, and only 8 with his life and
character; that is, only one in ten of the hymns
about Christ have to do with his life and character.
Moreover, of these eight, three deal with the trans-
figuration, one deals with his patience, one with his
meekness, one with his tears, one speaks of him as

a present help, one treats a miracle of healing as a
15 221


spiritual type. Not one has for its topic Jesus's life
activities objectively considered. His life was cer-
tainly not devoid of stirring action, or of deeds fit
to inspire poetic eulogy. Why, then, are his passive
virtues almost the only ones to be noticed ? Doubt-
less because the mind of the Church, through his-
torical causes yet to be named, has never fully
awaked to see the breadth of that which constitutes
the divine-human life.

Again, this Hymnal contains 345 hymns on the
general topic of the Christian, but only 47, or less
than one in seven, treats of Christian activity. This
is surely significant, but it is far from being the end
of the matter. For Christian activity can be con-
sidered in either one of two ways : we may fix our
thought upon the thing to be done, or upon the
feelings that accompany the doing of it. We may
assume the standpoint of the Epistle of James, or
that of the First Epistle of John. Take, for ex-
ample, this stanza of Henry Alford's hymn, "For-
ward ! be our watchword," and notice how the atten-
tion is directed to the contemplated act :

" Forward ! flock of Jesus,

Salt of all the earth,
Till each yearning purpose

Spring to glorious birth :
Sick, they ask for healing ;

Blind, they grope for day;
Pour upon the nations

Wisdom's loving ray.



Forward, out of error,

Leave behind the night ;
Forward through the darkness,

Forward into light ! "

This stanza does not lack feeling, but never once
does the feeling become the object thought about
or aimed at.

Compare with this Watts's hymn, "Am I a soldier
of the cross?" This also is a hymn of Christian
activity, but the attention is turned in just the op-
posite direction to the fears, the blushes, the cour-
age that is needed ; to bearing the toil, enduring the
pain; to the foretaste of victory even in the midst
of the fight. The battle of faith is looked at solely
from the standpoint of the fighter's feelings, and
not a word is breathed about the aims which Chris-
tian warfare seeks to accomplish. The subjective,
introspective mood is all-controlling.

The same attitude is, if possible, even more vivid-
ly revealed in several of Charles Wesley's hymns of i
Christian activity, as, for instance, "A charge to/'
keep I have." Another excellent example may be
found in his hymn, "Lo ! I come with joy :"

" Lo ! I come with joy to do

The Master's blessed will ;
Him in outward works pursue,

And serve his pleasure still.
Faithful to my Lord's commands,

I still would choose the better part,
Serve with careful Martha's hands,

And loving Mary's heart.



Careful, without care I am,

Nor feel my happy toil,
Kept in peace by Jesus' name,

Supported by his smile."

Perhaps the best example of all is the fourth stanza
of his hymn, "Son of the carpenter, receive:"

4 ' Careless through outward cares I go,

From all distraction free :
My hands are but engaged below,

My heart is still with thee."

In this entire group of hymns the attention is di-
rected, you perceive, not at all to the specific end in
view, nor to the specific means of attaining it, but
to the feelings that one may experience in connection
with unspecified activities and difficulties.

Once more permit the remark that the antithesis
here pointed out is not to the discredit of these in-
trospective, subjective expressions of religious ac-
tivity. Many of them are beautiful, inspiring, and
fit to be sung forever. This is one perfectly legiti-
mate side of religious sentiment. But it is only one
side, and that is the whole point unless one should
find also that thinking of one's fetlings is an easy
road to a selfish, unsocial, and hence unchristian
view of life. One thing, at least, ought to be clear,
and that is that the sentiments natural to the more
objective, self-forgetting attitude demand utterance
fully as much as those just described.

It is therefore somewhat remarkable to find that

of the entire 47 hymns on Christian activity, 32



treat their theme in a purely subjective way, only 9
in a purely objective way, while 6 are mixed or in-

Again, this Hymnal contains 182 hymns on the
Church, of which only 89, or a trifle less than one
half, have to do with any species of Church work.
These 89 are divided about equally among the fol-
lowing subjects : Erection of Churches, Children
and Youth, Charities and Reforms, and Missions.
It is, naturally, less easy to follow the cleavage plane
between the subjective and the objective mood
through these topics than through that of Christian
activity. Erection of Churches, and Missions,
moreover, present clear objective images for con-
templation. The objective attitude could scarcely
be escaped. The test comes when the topic concerns
our own present life in the world ; hence particularly
with the hymns on Charities and Reforms. Of the
1 8 hymns in this group only 8 are clearly of the
objective variety.

Putting together the results of examining these
various sets of hymns, we have a striking exhibit:
Number of hymns in the entire collection. ... 1,117
Number of hymns on Christ, the Christian,

and the Church 608

On Life and Character of Christ, Christian

Activity, and Church Work 144

On the Life Activities of Christ, Christian

Activity, and Charities and Reforms, all

objectively viewed t 17



In other words, less than twenty-four per cent of
the hymns on Christ, the Christian, and the Church
have to do with the life and character of Christ,
Christian activity, and Church work. Again, less
than three per cent of the said hymns on Christ,
Christian, and Church treat of the life activities of
Christ, Christian actiyity, and charities and reforms
in an objective spiriti Finally, it follows that, of the
entire collection, only about one and a half per cent
take up the practical problems of the everyday ac- J
tivities of the adult Christian in this spirit.J

It is not necessary to suspect that falsehood has
crept into the ideals of life here presented except
as one-sidedness implies partial truth. Far be it
from me to discourage the singing of the tender and
noble sentiments that assuage the griefs of life and
lighten its burdens. Yet it would be folly to ignore
the existence of many Christians whose deepest soul |
remains unuttered even through these beautiful
products of the subjective mood. Without doubt
many persons can actually feel with Charles Wesley
that only the hands are engaged below, while the
heart is elsewhere ; but, on the other hand, there are
men, and not a few of them, whose hearts go into
their earthly work with their hands. These are 1
particularly the persons whose temperament we de-
scribe as choleric. They are less interested in how
their surroundings impress them than in controlling

those surroundings; they are not without feeling,



but their primary need is for action, and their char-
acteristic feelings are the desires and enthusiasms,
disappointments and joys of intense purpose; they
are eager, earnest, persistent ; they think of the pres-
ent rather than of the future, of the near rather than
of the remote; and their glance is outward rather
than inward. The mind of such a person is taken
up with the thought of ends and of means; upon
these his feelings as well as his tongue and his
hands fix themselves. His happiness lies not in
tranquillity, not in contemplation of heaven or of
the privileges of the Gospel, but rather in seeing
things move. Now, while this type of mind needs,

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Online LibraryGeorge Albert CoeThe spiritual life : studies in the science of religion → online text (page 13 of 16)