William Garrett Horder.

The hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody online

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exceedingly few educational advantages. To his vigorous
nature, and the depth of his religious experiences, are due
the high quality of his hymns. One example out of
many afforded by hymnody, of the fact that scholarship
has very little to do with the production of poetry.
Scholarship may reflne, but it does not create the
poetic faculty. Newton disclaimed any pretension to
the possession of the poetic gift, but he nevertheless
possessed it, and, for the purposes of hymnody, in a
remarkable degree : so remarkable, that a few of hig
hymns will bear comparison with those of his great friend
and co-worker in the production of the '^ Olney Hymns,"


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William Cowper. There are no hymns more popular
among all sections of the Church than some of Newton's.
This is largely due to the depth and vitality of his religious
experience, which reached to regions far below the
doctrinal forms in which it found expression. Scarcely a
hymnal of any section of the Church can be mentioned
which does not include some of his best known hymns.
They may be found, not only in hymnals of the Evangelical
type, but in those so widely separated in doctrinal matters
as ''Hymns Ancient and Modem" and Dr. Martineau's
"Hymns of Praise and Prayer." His hymns indeed are
alive with personal and vital religious feeling, and so
are fitted to express the worshipping feeling of all
Christian hearts. The best known is "How sweet
the name of Jesus sounds," which some have thought
must have been suggested by Bernard's "Jesu dulcis
memoiia." In all probability, Newton did not know of
the earlier hymn of the saintly monk of Clairvaux, but
wrote prompted solely by ardent love to Jesus Christ.
Equally good, but in a different vein of feeling, is
" Quiet, Lord, my froward heart," a hymn whose
sentiment and style alike quiet and calm the restless
spirit. His hymn for Parting, too often mutilated and
made to begin with ** For a season called to part," instead
of, as it should, with "As the sun's enlivening eye," is of
great excellence. " While with ceaseless course the sun "
is a hymn of great solemnity and pathos. "Glorious
things of thee are spoken" is in a very different and much
bolder strain. I am disposed to regard those in his more
subdued style as reaching to the highest point of excel-
lence, and in them the affectionate characteristics which
lay beneath a nature trained amid rugged scenes, and


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in 80 rougli a life, find expression in hymns of a very
tender and subdued type.

"William Cowper, who co-operated with John Newton
in the production of the " Olney Hymns," brought to his
task the pathos and delicacy of touch of the true poet,
although most of his hymns were written before his
poetic power had reached its full development. Most
of them are full of the characteristics of that sensitive
and retiring poet, and enshrine his varying, though, for
the most part, despondent moods. " Hark ! my soul, it is
the Lord " — ^Mr. Gladstone has made a fine translation of
this hymn into Italian — and " 0, for a closer walk with
Gk)d," are in his more tender style ; whilst " Jesus,
where'er Thy people meet," written in a season of
unusual joy, and " God moves in a mysterious way," said
to have been written, though the evidence is not forth-
coming, after a marvellous deliverance from purposed self-
destruction, sound a bolder note. "Ere God had built
the mountcdns," is, perhaps, his grandest hymn. ** There
is a fountain filled with blood" is, in certain quarters,
greatly prized, but we cannot help regarding it as going
fer beyond Scriptural usage in its imagery, and not in
harmony with Scripture fact in its reference to the dying
thief. The retiring spirit of the poet finds very fuU
expression in the hymn, ** Far from the world, Lord, I
flee." From the little volume of " Olney Hymns " the
Church has drawn a far larger number of hymns, and
these greatly prized, than from many more voluminous
collections. Its somewhat narrow theology is softened by
the reality and tenderness of the religious experience of
its authors, of both of whom it maybe said, "They learnt
in suffering what they taught in song."


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— -♦


Yastlt different from the " Olney Hymns " in merit are
most of the compositions of their contemporaries and
immediate successors, in whom the didactic tone is very
marked. Still, here and there a lyric note is heard.

William Mason, M.A. (1725-1797), vicar of Aston, and
one of the chaplains of George the Third, was the author
of some few hymns, one of which, "Again returns the
day of holy rest," is of great merit.

Thomas Olivers (1725-1799), one of John Wesley's
travelling preachers, who had but the scantiest education
in youth, is represented in hymnals by one hymn in which
there are verses of remarkable power, "The God of
Abraham praise." The same may be said of Edward
Perronett (died 1752), whose "All hail the power of
Jesu's name " is one of the most striking hymns in the

Dr. Samuel Stennett (1727-1795) and Bishop Home
(1780-1792) are amongst the hymnists whose productions
are vanishing from hymnals.

Thomas Haweis, LL.B., M.D. (1732-1820), one of the
chaplains of Lady Huntingdon, and rector of All Saints,'


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Aldwinkle, in Northamptonshire, was the author of
" Carmina Christo," containing two hundred and fifty-six
hymns. Three of his hymns are of considerable merit, and
still retain a place in the song of the Church, ** Enthroned
on high. Almighty Lord," "0 Thou from whom all good-
ness flows," which has a touch of genuine pathos in it,
and " The happy mom is come," an Easter Hymn.

James Newton, M.A. (1733-1790), and Benjamin
Prancis (1734-1799), hoth ministers of the Baptist body,
belong to the class of mediocrities whose hymns are fast
fading from memory and use in the Church.

James Allen (1734-1804), a partial follower of the
Tiews of Glas and Sandeman, which, with some modifica-
tions, he preached in a chapel on his estate at Oayle, the
editor and chief contributor to the ** Kendal Hymn
Book," was the author of " Glory to God on high," a
hymn of great force and merit, and of '' Sweet the
moments, rich in blessing," a hymn rery frequently used
in earlier times at the Communion Service. It is,
however, lacking in healthiness of feeling, and expressive
of a rather sentimental and languishing type of devotion.
This hymn was afterwards altered to its present form
by "W. "W. Shirley, the brother-in-law of the Countess
of Huntingdon, who edited the 1780 edition of her

Eobert Kobinson (1735 - 1790), the vigorous but
eccentric Baptist minister at Cambridge, was the author
of ** Mighty God, while angels bless Thee," one of the
most vigorous and distinctive hynms in the English
tongue; and also (although doubts have been expressed
as to his authorship), of " Come, Thou fount of every


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blessing," a noteworthy hymn, but marred by its
doctrinal representation of the work of Christ.

Samuel Medley (1738 - 1799), minister of Baptist
churches, first at "Watford, and afterwards at Byrom
Street, Liverpool, issued a considerable number of hymns
on broadsides, which were afterwards collected into a
volume. They are of no special merit, save two which are
of great spirit and much lyric force, " Mortals, awake,
with angels join," and "Awake, my soul, in joyful lays."

John Fawcctt, D.D. (1739-1817), minister of the
Baptist Church at "Wainsgate, and afterwards at Hebden
Bridge, published a collection of his hymns as a supple-
ment to Dr. Watts's " Psalms and Hymns." They are of
little worth, and even those which have passed into
collections are fast going out of use. We may,
however, except ** Blest be the tie that binds," and "Thus
far my God hath led me on," which have considerable

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778), vicar of
Broad Hembury, Devonshire, is the author of " Rock of
Ages, cleft for me," which is perhaps the most popular
hymn in the language; at all events, it contests this
honour with Bishop Ken's Evening Hymn. It was
inserted in the Gospel Magazine for March, 1776, under
the title, ** A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest
Believer in the "World." The immediate purpose of the
author in writing it was to protest against the possibility
of entire sanctification in this life as he understood it to
be taught by the "Wesleys. This polemical purpose
probably led Toplady to express, in the strongest possible
forms, the doctrine which he opposed to that held, or
which he supposed to be held, by the early Methodists.


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The hymn is fall of solemnity and pathos, and exerts a very
wonderful power over the worshipper. Judged by a strictly
literary standard, it is not equal to many a hymn which
could be named, since its imagery is somewhat confused ;*
but judged by what is a true standard — ^its power to solem-
nise and move the heart — it takes a high place. Although
Toplady wrote one hundred and thirty -throe poems and
hymns, this is the only one which has attained to great
popularity. After this, perhaps his best hymns are :
" Deathless principle arise," and ** Your harps, ye
trembling saints." ** Jesus, at Thy command," is often
attributed to him, but is probably by Be Courcey.

Anna Lcetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), sister of the
celebrated Dr. Aikin, whom she helped in his well-
known work, " Evenings at Home," the authoress of
many important works, and editor of the "British
Novelists," and some of the English poets, belongs to a
very different school to those wo have considered, all of

* Since this paragraph was written, I notice that the Rev. John
Hadson, in an artide on ♦* Church Hymns " in The National Review
for August, 1888, writes of this hymn : — ** It seemis a medley of
confused images, and accumulated, if not misapplied, metaphors —

* deft rock,' * riven side,' * to Thy cross I cling,' * to the fountain fly.*
What is the precise meaning of * double cure ? ' Is the curative
agent or the thing cured double f i.e., does it refer to * water and
^Md,' or * guQt and power ' of sin ? And surely, to * deanse ' from
power is an odd expression I The hymn itself does not make dear
to the reader whence the writer took his idea ' Rock of Ages ' is
generally supposed to be taken from the marginal reading of Isaiah
xxvi. 4, rendered bv the Revisers, ' In the Lord Jehovah is an
Everlasting Rock,' the idea being stability. But the second line,

* Let me hide myself in Thee/ would seem to be suggested by some
such verse as Isuah zxziL 2, * The shadow of a great rock in a weary
land,' or by the inddent in Moses* life recorded in Exodus xxxii. 22,

* I will put thee in a deft of the rock, and will cover thee with My
hand.' Whereas, again, the heading of the hymn, * That rock was
Christ,' would seem to imply lan allusion to the history of the
Inaelites described in Exodus xvii. 6, Numbers xx. 11, and referred
to in 1 Corinthians x. 4." k


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whom were of the strongly Evangelical type. She is one
of the earliest Unitarian contributors to hymnody; a
woman of great literary ability and vigour of mind.
Her hymn, " How blest the righteous when he dies " is
one of great beauty and delicacy of thought and

Rowland Hill, M.A. (1744-1833), the eccentric but
devoted minister of Surrey Chapel, published a collection
of " Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship," in which
some of his own were included. It is difficult to be
certain which they were, as he did not append his name.
''"We sing His love who once was slain," is, however,
known to be by him.

Michael Bruce (1746-1767), who for a brief time before
his early death was engaged in conducting a school, and
whose hymns were published by John Logan as his own,
was a hymnist of very considerable merit ; the best of his
hymns are "Where high the heavenly temple stands," and
" Behold the mountain of the Lord." Logan may have
slightly altered these, but there can be no doubt that,
substantially, they were Bruce's compositions. With
great effrontery, Logan also claimed as his own the fine
hymn of Doddridge, *'0 Gk)d of Bethel, by whose hand,"
which he only altered.

Jonathan Evans (1749-1809), the founder and minister
of an Independent Church at Eoleshill, near Coventry,
was the author of at least twenty-two hymns, but is only
remembered by the well-known one, ** Hark! the voice of
love and mercy," first published in Dr. Burder's Coventry
Collection in 1787. Some doubt has been felt as to his
authorship of this hymn, as his name is not appended, but
it is now generally admitted to be by him. It has


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enjoyed considerable popularity, and is, in some senses, a
striking hymn.

John Morrison, D.D. (1749-1798), minister of the
parish of Canisbay in Caithness, a member of the General
Assembly for revising the Church Paraphrases of the
Scottish 6hurch, was a hymnist of great vigour. Two of
his paraphrases, " The race that long in darkness pined,''
and ** Come, let us to the Lord our God," are deservedly

William Cameron (1761-1811), minister of Kirknewton
in Mid Lothian, also belonged to the company of Para-
phrasers, and for that collection prepared a version of
Dr. Watts's hymn which begins " How bright those
glorious spirits shine."

George Burder (1752-1832), minister of the West
Orchard Independent Church at Coventry, and afterwards
editor of the Evangelical Magaziney and secretary of the
London Missionary Society, well known £is the author of
" Village Sermons," once extensively used by lay
preachers, published three hymns of his own, in a
selection intended for use as supplementary to Dr.
"Watts* s " Psalms and Hymns." These have enjoyed
considerable popularity, and though not remarkable for
poetic excellence, are yet well adapted for the purposes of
worship. The best is " Great the joy when Christians
meet." " Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing " has been
attributed to him, but it appeared eleven years earlier, in
1773, in the Shawbury Collection, and is most likely, but
not certainly, by John Fawcett.

John Ryland, D.D. (1753-1825), President of the
Baptist College at Bristol, a post he held together with
the pastorate of Broadmead Chapel in the same city, a


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well-knowa Baptist minister, was the author of maay
hymns. The one beginning ** Thou Son of Gk>d, and
Son of Man," is marked by great force, and warmth of
expression. His favourite hymn was ** Lord, I would
delight in Thee." It is full of a joyful trustfulness, and
contains, in the following line, the fine thought that every
creature good has its source in God —

*' No good in creatcires can be found,
But may be found in Thee."

Edmund Butcher (1757-1822), minister of a congrega-
tion in Leather Lane, Holbom, wrote more than a hundred
hymns, amongst which his harvest hymn is found, be-
ginning ** Great God, as seasons disappear." It is a fine
hymn, and has passed into a large number of collections.

John Dobell (1757-1840), an ofBcer at Poole under the
Board of Excise, is more remarkable as an Editor than as
a Writer of hymns. In 1806 he issued **A New Selection
of Seven Hundred Evangelical Hymns for Private, Family,
and Public Worship, from more than two hundred of the
best authors in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America."
He spent many years in this work, and took great pains
to ascertain the authorship of the hymns he included.
On this account, his labours have been of great value to
hymnologists. His hymn, ** Xow is the accepted time,"
which has passed into several other collections, is of no
great value.

Sir James Edward Smith, M.D., F.R.S. (1759-1828), a
Norwich physician, is more remarkable for his scientific
labours, especially in natural history, than for his con-
tributions to hymnody. Of the nine hymns from his pen,
the best is " Adore, my soul, that awful name."


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William Shrubsole (1759-1829), who held a post of
importance in the Bank of England, is remembered by
his Missionary Hymns, one of which, ** Bright as the
sun's meridian blaze," was written for the first meeting of
the London Missionary Society, whilst his striking hymn,
though somewhat hard in tone, '* Arm of the Lord, awake !
awake ! " was published in " Missionary Hymns " (1796).

Alice Plowerdew (1759-1830) is the authoress of that
exceedingly poetical hymn (sometimes ascribed to John
Needham), "Fountain of mercy, God of love." It is
probably founded on a hymn of Needham's.

Basil Woodd, M.A. (1760-1831), author of a new
metrical version of the Psalms of David; James Upton
(1760-1834) ; and Thomas Park, F.S.A. (1760-1835), fill
too small a place in hymnody to deserve more than the
mention of their names.

Joseph Swain (1761-1796), minister of a Baptist
Church at Walworth, the author of the "Walworth
Hymns," is remembered by a few hymns, among which
we may mention: "Lift up your heads, ye gates," " For
ever to behold Him shine," and "How sweet, how
heavenly is the sight," which are not without merit.

Helen Maria Williams (1762-1827), a woman of great
ability, was the authoress of a hymn of great originality
and pathos, " While Thee I seek, protecting power."

William Goode, M.A. (1762 - 1S16), successor to
Bomaine in the Church of St. Ann, Blackfriars, dis-
satisfied, like many others, with the versions of the
Psalms then in existence, produced a new one, which,
instead of surpassing its predecessors in excellence, fell
below them. Only one of his versions has gained any


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popularity, that of the 74th, which begins "Thou
gracious God and kind."

Job Hupton (1762-1849), one of the Countiess of
Huntingdon's preachers, and afterwards minister of the
Baptist Church at Claxton, Norfolk, author of " Hymns
and Spiritual Poems," is the author of " Come, ye saints,
and raise an anthem," which, strange to say, has been
altered and republished by Dr. Mason Neale, whose
version begins " Come, ye faithful, raise the anthem."

John Kent (1766-1843), a shipwright in the employ
of the Government at Plymouth, was the author of
" Original Gospel Hymns," which reached a tenth
edition, and consisted of two hundred and sixty-four
hymns. No less than twelve of these appear in " Our
Own Hymn Book," edited by the Kev. C. H. Spurgeon.

Edmund Jones (circa 1777), Samuel Pearce, M.A.(1766-
1799), Thomas Fanshaw Middleton, D.D., F.R.S., and the
well known Amelia Opie (1796-1853), fill too small a
place in hymnody to call for special mention.

The period covered by this chapter is not a remarkable
one. It is little more than the afterglow of the brilliant
sunset of "Watts and Wesley. It includes a large number
of names, and a few fine hymns ; but, for the most part,
the hymns are expressive of a religious fervour from
which the freshness and individuality had departed.
Nearly all the writers were men who had been touched,
more or less, by the influence of the Methodist Revival.
Most of them were Dissenters, or Churchmen so low in
doctrine that, to a High Churchman, they differed little
from Dissenters. The Baptists fill a very large place in
the hymnody of this period. This was probably due to


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the fact that, though they were great admirers of Dr.
Watts's Psahns and Hymns, they were less dominated
by them than the Independents, to whose company Dr.
Watts helonged. Whilst the earliest English hymnists \
were stronger in poetic thought than doctrinal precision,
those of this period are more doctrinal and experimental
than poetic. This is, indeed, with a few exceptions, one
of the least poetic and lyric periods in the history of
hymnody, and, apart from the Gluey, and such hymns as
"Rock of Ages,** and "All hail the power of Jesu's
name," comparatively few of its hymns are likely to
retain a permanent place in the Church's song. It was,
indeed, a dull age as regarded poetry generally. It was
not tUl the latter part of the time that the poems of
Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats saw
the light, and still later before their influence was widely
felt. Hymnody is largely affected by the current poetry.
But it is prohable that the religious ideas of the age covered
by this chapter prevented the poetry then in existence
exerting its full influence on hymn writers. The range
of reading of the ministry in Nonconformist churches (and
to their ministers we owe the larger part of the hymns
of this period), was more exclusively theological than in
our day, and thus the poetic afflatus was little nourished,
as now, by the study of poetry. In many a hymnist
of succeeding times, we shall discover the true poet:
men who not only gave themselves to the production
of poetry, but even in their hymn writing worked with
the poet's spirit. To this narrow range of sympathy and
of reading is due the dulness and sameness which must
strike everyone acquainted with any considerahle number
of the hymns of the age covered by this chapter.


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We now come to a time at which the influence of Isaac
"Watts, and, in a less degree, of Charles Wesley, over
hymnody, has somewhat waned, and in which the
influence of contemporary poetry begins to make itself
felt in an increasing degree, whilst the more general
culture of the age becomes apparent in the hymns that
are produced. This is less evident in the earlier writers
of this period, but becomes more so as the time goes on.
To this we owe the variety of style and metre, the dis-
tinctiveness of theme, the greater finish, and the more
poetic touches which distinguish our modem hymnody.
These are not so apparent in the first writer of this period
to which I refer (Thomas Kelly), but are markedly so in
the second (James Montgomery), and others which follow.
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855), only son of Judge Kelly,
of the Irish Bench, was driven from the Established
Church of Ireland by the opposition of the then Arch-
bishop of Dublin to Evangelical doctrine. At first Mr.
Kelly's ministry was carried on in private houses ; but, at
length, York Street Chapel, Dublin, was erected for the
exercise of his ministry, on what were virtually the lines
of Independency. He was the author of a large number


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of hymnB, larger even than Dr. Watts. His completed

book contains seven hundred and sixty-seven. Like all

voluminous hymn writers, there are many — ^most, we may

aay — ^that are not remarkable. But scattered over the

volume there are hymns of great excellence. Of one of

these, "We sing the praise of Him who died," Lord

Selbome has said: "I doubt whether Montgomery ever

wrote anything quite equal to this." This seems to me

exaggerated praise, since James Montgomery must be

ranked as one of the greatest of English hymnists. But

still, at his best, Kelly is very good as a hymnist.

Though we cannot subscribe to Lord Selbome's praise of

the hymn he names, it is an exceedingly good one, fine in

sentiment, and lyric in expression. Li the Supplement to

the "New Congregational Hymn Book," it was the

subject of, perhaps, a more extraordinary alteration than

any hymn which could be named, although many have

suffered much at the hands of incompetent editors. Li

the original, the verse reads thus —

•< Inscribed npon the cross we see,
In shining letters, GOD IS LOVE.
He bears our sins upon the tree,
He brings us mercy from above."

which was changed to the following —

'* Inscribed npon the cross we see,
In crimson letters, darkly bright,
Of Holy Love the mystery.
For God is Love and God is Light."

The verse, as thus amended, is " darkly bright " indeed,

but there is more of darkness than brightness. Quite

equal to this hymn are — '^ The head that once was

crowned with thorns," **Look, ye saints, the sight is

glorious," and " We've no abiding city here," whilst his

Evening Hymn, " Through the day Thy love has spared


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us," is one of the most tenderly beautiful for that season.
Thomas Kelly deserves, and will probably long hold, a
place of honour in the hymnody of the Church, but to

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 10 of 37)