William Garrett Horder.

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

. (page 11 of 37)
Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 11 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

doubt, as Lord Selbome has done, whether Montgomery
ever wrote anything quite equal to his hymn on the Cross,
shows an exaggerated estimate of EeUy, and a want of
appreciation of Montgomery, who certainly holds a far
higher place in the Christian Choir. He did not write
nearly as many hymns as Kelly, probably because he had
a much higher conception of what is essential to a good
hymn. "Would that this had been the case with hymnists
generally, and that they had the grace to commit to the
flames such of their hymns as were either echoes of
previous ones, or but the mere rhymed prose, with
which the hymnal stores of the Church are so sadly

To scarcely any hymnist does this remark apply with
less force than to James Montgomery (1771-1854), who
came of a Moravian stock, and received his education at
Fulneck, in Yorkshire. He had been designed for the
ministry of that body, but was probably kept therefrom
by a certain diffidence and shyness of nature which
prevented him from even becoming a member of the
Moravian Church till he was over forty years of age. To
this peculiarity of his nature some of the excellences of
his hymns may, perhaps, be ascribed. Too many of the
hymnists have been of the bolder and more assertive type
of character, and so their verses lack the tenderness and
quiet reserve which add so much beauty to hymns. For
variety, clearness, strength, suitability of form to subject,
Montgomery's hymns have rarely, if ever, been excelled.
An unusually large proportion of those he wrote has


by Google


passed into use and favour. I found as many worthy of a
place in public worship as in the far more voluminous
productions of Dr. Watts. But for the prejudice in
favour of Dr. Watts as the real founder of English
hymnody — ^for which, indeed, he deserves high honour —
Montgomery would, I believe, be ranked above him.
Where can grander missionary hymns be found than his
**0 Spirit of the living God," and "Hark! the song of
Jubilee." They move the heart like the sound of a
trumpet. Where shall we find a nobler version of a
Psalm than his of the 72nd, "Hail to the Lord's
Anointed;" or if we turn to those of a more subdued
type, how compact and yet tender is " When on Sinai's
top I see;" how suggestive and impressive, "0 where
shall rest be found;" how pathetic, "According to Thy
gracious word ; " how comprehensive in its scope, how
catholic in its sympathy, "Millions within Thy courts
have met." In all these there is a unity of thought, a
clearness of utterance, a purity of style, a healthiness
of religious tone, ranking them amongst the choicest
treasures of the Church's song. If Charles Wesley is
more subjectively lyrical, Montgomery is more objectively
clear and impressive. His writings did much to elevate
and purify the taste of the Church in relation to
hymnody. He seems to have been conscious that his real
success had been as a h3n3mist rather than as a poet, since,
when asked by a Whitby solicitor, " Which of your poems
will live?" he replied, "None, sir; nothing, except,
perhaps, a few of my hymns."

Mrs. Yoke was an ardent friend of missions. Most of
her hynms owe their origin to this feeling. Two of
them, at a time when missionary hymns were much


by Google


fewer in number and poorer in quality than they are now,
were popular. One of these was " Ye messengers of
Christ," and the other, " Behold the expected time draws

George Keith, a son-in-law of Dr. Gill, who is said to
have written hymns as he listened to his father-in-law's
sermons, is credited by Mr. Sedgwick, but on quite
insufficient eyidence, with the authorship of '^ How firm a
foundation, ye saints of the Lord," a hymn of no great

James Hogg (1772-1835), commonly known as the
Ettrick Shepherd, one of Nature's geniuses, finds a place
among the hymnists by one hymn, in which there are
many poetic touches, ** Lauded be Thy name for ever."

Harriet Auber (1773-1862), daughter of the rector of
Tring, was the authoress of " The Spirit of the Psalms,"
in which the deservedly popular hymn, **Our blest
Bedeemer, ere He breathed," is found. It is one of the
most beautiful hymns on ''The Comforter" in the
language. Her version of the 75th Psalm, beginning
** That Thou, Lord, art ever nigh," though not equal
to the former, is of considerable merit.

John Cawood, M.A. (1775-1852), the perpetual curate
of St. Ann's Chapel' of Ease, Bewdley, was the author of
at least seventeen hymns, of which one, '' Almighty God,
Thy word is cast," suitable to be sung after the sermon, is
very practical, and adapted for its purpose.

Kichard Mant, D.D. (1776-1848), Bishop of Dromore,
was the author of '' The Book of Psalms in an English
Metrical Version," and '' Ancient Hymns from the
'Eoman Breviary' and Original Hymns" (1837); many
of these hymns were inserted in his prose works.


by Google


Some of them are very vigorous, and marked by a
certain grandeur of style. Perhaps the finest is ** Bright
the vision which delighted," which is often appropriately
inserted in hymnals with the omission of the first verse,
and beginning, " Round the Lord, in glory seated." His
Litany, " Son of God, to Thee I cry," is a fine example
of that class of composition ; whilst there is a quiet rest-
fulness about " There is a dweUing place above," which is
very attractive. His Funeral Hymn, "For Thy dear saint,
Lord," has also not a little merit. The really anony-
mous hymn, ** Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him,"
has often been ascribed, without proof, to Bishop Mant.

Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), the well-known author
of " The Pleasures of Hope," and many stirring national
poems, is represented in a few hymnals, by "When
Jordan hush'd his waters still," which, as was to be
expected, has poetic, but little hymnic merit. I have
sometimes thought that the anxiety of editors to remove
the charge that few great poets have contributed to
hymnody, has sometimes led them to strain a point, so as
to include in their collections verses by well-known
authors which are not really hymns. In several recent
hymnals there are compositions against which one would
be disposed to write — a poem, but not a hymn. A dis-
tinction which may be briefiy described in the following
way. The poem dwells on a theme or a word, without
designing it to be a vehicle of praise, or a medium for
worship, whilst the hymn proper has one or both of these
as its special purpose — it should be the lyric outburst of a
worshipping spirit, calling and helping others to worship

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) is a considerable name in


by Google


poetry, and if his religious fervour had been stronger,

might have been equally so in hynmody. In a literary

and intellectual sense, he was singularly and most richly

fitted for hjrmnic composition. He was deeply poetic ; he

had a wonderful command of rhythm; the music of his

verse is lovely; and yet his hymns have never laid hold

of the worshipping instinct. And the reason is probably

to be found in a lack of spiritual fervour. Had a great

religious movement taken hold of him, he would have

been, I fancy, one of the greatest hymn writers of the

world. As one regards the perfect mechanism of his

hymns, the feeling rises in the heart, " 0^ that the fire

were there to set it in motion ! " Having that fire,

the hymns of many an inferior writer have grown into

far greater favour. And yet we could hardly spare from

our collections such hymns as ** Thou art, God, the life

and light," with its exquisite poetry, or " Thou who

dry'st the mourner's tear," with its beautiful verse

embodying the fine idea of Blanco White's noble sonnet,

" Mysterious Night." Did Moore borrow the idea from

Blanco White or Blanco White from Moore ? —

" Then sorrow, touch'd by Thee, grows bright
With more than rapture's rav ;
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day."

His rendering of Miriam's song, " Sound the loud timbrel

o'er Egypt's dark sea," used to be a great favourite, but

is less so now that a tenderer spirit is in the ascendant in

the Church.

Marianne Nunn (1779-1847) is well known by her

hymn, ** One there is above all others," a version of John

Newton's beginning in the same way, adapted to be sung

to a favourite Welsh tune.


by Google


Ralph Wardlaw, D.D. (1779-1853), occupies a con-
siderable place in the theology, but a small one in the
hymnody of his age. For a collection he edited, he
wrote eleven hymns, of which the most widely known
one is " Lift up to GK)d the voice of praise," which has a
force and crispness of utterance that are remarkable. To
these characteristics, rather than to its poetic quality, its
popularity is due.

Joseph Dacre Carlyle, B.D. (1759-1804), the learned
Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, appended to a volume
of poems, suggested by scenes in Asia Minor, three of a
religious character. One of these is the hymn, ** Lord,
when we bend before Thy throne," intended for use
before public worship, calling the heart to sincerity and
penitence before God. It is a hymn of great reality and
tenderness, and deservedly popular.

John Marriott (1780-1825), for a time Vicar of Church
Lawford, in Warwickshire, was the author of the
Missionary Hymn, " Thou, whose Almighty word,"
which justly holds a place in the first rank.

George Croly, LL.D. (1780-1860), acquired consider-
able reputation in literature, and wrote a good deal of
sacred poetry, but of his "Psalms and Hymns for
Public Worship," containing twenty Psalms and the
same number of hymns, not one has established itself in
the affections of the Church.

Gerard Thomas Noel, M.A. (1782-1851, elder brother
of the devoted Baptist W. Noel), Vicar of Romsey, is
remembered by a hymn often used at the Communion,
"If human kindness meets return." It is full of a
tender and subdued feeling, and admirably suited for
such a service.


by Google


William Bengo Collyer, D.D., LL.D. (1782-1854), was
a Congregational minister at Hanover Chapel, Peckham,
and, like a few of his brethren in the ministry at that
time, had a considerable reputation for attracting more
fashionable folk than are usually found within the circle
of Dissent. The Duke of Kent, and others of the royal
blood, were occasional worshippers in his chapel. Ho
belonged to a type which has left no representatives
behind, but of which there were in his time not a few,
including men like the Claytons, Thomas Adkins, of
Southampton, Dr. Raffles, of Liverpool, and Dr. Morton
Brown of Cheltenham. All of them were touched in
their style of preaching by the influence of Dr. Johnson.
Dr. CoUyer published a collection of hymns for his own
congregation, but those from his own pen are by no
means remarkable. The best is " Return, wanderer,
return." He was one of the authors of that very com-
posite hymn in its present form, ** Great God, what do I
see and hear," the original source of which was a hymn
by Ringwaldt, of which Dr. Collyer saw the first verse in
a translation by Jacobi. He thought it was Luther's.
To it he added three verses ; these have been considerably
altered by other editors. It used to be often sung, but
conceptions of the future life have so altered during recent
years that it is now very rarely used. I have not heard
it sung for at least twenty years.

Reginald Heber, D.D. (1783-1826), the greatly-beloved
Bishop of Calcutta, is one of the few hymnists of an
earlier time whose reputation is increasing rather than
diminishing. Fault used to be found with his hymns
because they ** carried the poetic element to its utmost
point." Josiah Miller says: ''They are. usually dis-


by Google


tingnislied by a rhetorical flow, and an elevation of
manner and imagery that threatens to take them out
of the class of hymns, and rob them of that pious
moderation we ordinarily expect to meet with in such
productions." The pious moderation of which Mr. Killer
speaks has been the curse of hymnody, and it will be
found that such pious moderation will take the hymns
marked thereby, before long, out of the Church's song;
whilst the poetic element discernible in Heber*s hymns is
bringing them more and more into favour and use. I
have an impression that a larger proportion of the hymns
written by him are in actual use than is the case with
any considerable writer. By use I mean, not what is
commonly meant — their presence in hymnals — but their
actual use in the worship of the Church. Insertion in a
hymnal is one thing ; singing by a congregation is quite
another. A hymnist's true reputation rests on the latter,
and not on the former, since very few editors have, as
yet, had the courage to omit from their collections hymns
which have passed out of use.* Heber's best known, and
perhaps the most popular of all hymns for missionary
services, is "From Greenland's icy mountains." The
story of its production is as follows. On Whitsunday,
1819, the late Dr. Shipley, Dean of St. Asaph, and vicar
of Wrexham, preached a sermon in Wrexham Church in
aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
Foreign Parts. That day was also fixed upon for the
commencement of the Sunday Evening Lectures to be

* Since writiDg this paragrapb, I have learned from Mr. W. T.
Brooke, that both he and the Rev. John Julian, the Editor of the**
forthcoming " Dictionary of Hymnoiogy/' have oonae to the con-
dnrion that every hymn written by Heber is now in common nse^
a thing unique in hymnody. l


by Google


« -.

established in that church, and the late Bishop of
Calcutta (Heber), then rector of Hodnet, the Dean's
son-in-law, undertook to deliver the first lecture. In the
coiirse of the Saturday previous, the Dean and his son-in-
law being together at the vicarage, the former requested
Heber to write ^'something for them to sing in the
morning," and he retired for that purpose from the table
where the Dean and a few friends were sitting, to a
distant part of the room. In a short time the Dean
enquired, **What have you written?" Heber, having
then composed the three first verses, read them over
** There, there ; that will do very well," said the Dean.
" No, no ; the sense is not complete," replied Heber.
Accordingly, he added the fourth verse ; and the Dean
being inexorable to his repeated request of ** Let me add
another ! let me add another ! " thus completed the hymn
which has since become so celebrated. It was sung the
next morning in Wrexham Church for the first time.
Only one correction appears in the MS., that of the word
" savage " to ** heathen." Almost equal in popularity is
his hymn for Trinity Sunday, " Holy, holy, holy, Lord
God Almighty," a hymn of great beauty, and full of a
rich lyric feeling. Its only fault, in my judgment, is the
too metaphysical line, " God in Three Persons, blessed
Trinity," due, in all probability, to the fact that it was
written for Trinity Sunday. In hymns, dogma should take
on the softened form of poetry, and be a pervading spirit
— ^not a metaphysical declaration. Indeed, the doctrine
of the Trinity finds much more spiritual expression in
Bcripture than in the creeds of the Church of which,
when he wrote this line, the good Bishop's mind was
evidently full. Quite equal in merit is '' Hosanna to the


by Google


living Lord," a glorious burst of praise, relieved, here
and there, by strains of great solemnity and tenderness.
" The Lord of might from Sinai's brow," is a hymn of
great force and picturesqueness, unhappily disfigured by
the line vrhich tells of Christ meeting the Father's
anger ; a line due, not to the kindly spirit of the writer,
but to the theology current in his time. ** Lord of
mercy and of might" is a litany solemn and grand.
"The Son of Ood goes forth to war" is a most stirring
hymn, marked in parts by very pathetic touches, and
strikes quite a new note in hymnody. " Thou art gone to
the grave, but we will not deplore thee," is one of the
most prized of Funeral Hymns. Bishop Heber evidently
thought that hymns should be more marked by poetic and
literary grace than they usually are, since he compiled a
small collection, containing what he thought the best of
his own, together with others by Jeremy Taylor, Addison,
Sir "Walter Scott, Dean Milman, and others of a like
character. In common with James Montgomery, he did
much to elevate the standard of hymnody.

Bernard Barton (1784-1849) presents to us the strange
spectacle of a member of the unsinging body of the
Society of Friends as a contributor to the Church's
song. From his poetical works, two hymns have been
drawn of no little merit — " Lamp of our feet, whereby
we trace," on the Bible, and " "W^dk in the light, so shalt
thou know." One cannot help wishing that they had
been addressed (as hymns should be) directly to God.
The first is really a description of Scripture, and the second
a persuasive to sincerity of life.

Henry Kirke White (1785-1806), is one of the small
company of real poets who have contributed to hymnody.


by Google


It was concerning him that Byron used the striking
image of the struck eagle, which

** Viewed his own feather on the fotal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered to his heart."

His life was brought to a premature end by his
excessive devotion to mathematical study. Strange to
say, the fragment of the hymn by which he is best
known, was found on the back of his mathematical
papers — " Much in sorrow, oft in woe." It was after-
wards completed by Fanny Fuller Maitland. There is a
singular delicacy and tenderness in his hymn for a
family party at eventide, "0 Lord, another day is
flown." " Awake, sweet harp of Judah, wake," a much
less known hymn, is in an altogether bolder style.

Sir Robert 'Grant (1785-1838), Governor of Bombay,
wrote some twelve hymns, which were published after
his death. From this small collection, three have
acquired, and deservedly, great popularity. Perhaps the
finest is "0 worship the King," a jubilant hymn of
praise, relieved by one verse in a tenderer strain,
beginning ** Frail children of dust." " Saviour, when
in dust to Thee " is one of the finest hymns in the litany
style in our language. His hymn, "When gathering
clouds around I view," is very pathetic, but is, perhaps,
too personal for use in public worship.

Andrew Reed, D.D. (1787-1862), minister of Wycliffe
Chapel, but better known as the founder of three of the
greatest Asylums in London, was the editor of ** The
Hymn Book," a too pretentious title, not justified by the
quality of the book. To this collection he contributed
nineteen, and his wife twenty-one hymns. One of his
hymns, and perhaps only one, is of great merit, " Spirit


by Google


Divine, attend our prayers." It has deservedly passed
into use in many sections of the Church, and is one of
the most inspiring hymns we possess addressed to the
Holy Spirit.

Thomas Raffles, D.D., LL.D. (1788-1863), enjoyed a
great reputation as minister of Great George Street
Chapel, Liverpool. He was one of the contributors to a
small volume, " Poems by Three Friends," and issued a
supplement to Watts*s ** Psalms and Hymns " for use in
his own congregation. A few of his hymns passed into
the "New Congregational Hymn Book," but none of
them are likely to retain a place in the favour of the y^ ^

Church. T hey are little more than rhvmed prose. Ct^<<^fCi ^
Perhaps the best are ** Lord, like the publican I stand," % yj^ ^ ^
and **! Bigh in^onder realms of lighU J ^the latter ^&^ rL\\ri
written for Collyer's Collectionln I8I2] ^

Josiah Conder (1789-1855) did a great deal, both by
the hymns he wrote and his editing of the hymns of
other writers, to raise the standard of taste in hymnody.
The issue of the " Congregational Hymn Book " under
his editorship in 1836, marks a distinct step in advance.
This was intended to be used as a supplement to Dr.
Watts*s " Psalms and Hymns," and thus Mr. Conder was
relieved of the great difficulty meeting the editors of all
hymnals for use in churches where Watts had been
largely used, of making a selection from his writings.
Very few have had the courage to reduce Dr. Watts's
hymns within the narrower dimensions which, in the
present state of hymnody, they rightly deserve to fill.
Most of the Hymnals for use in Congregational and
Baptist churches are spoilt by too large an infusion of
the Watts element. Mr. Conder had not to face that


by Google


problem, and so his task was easier. But still, for the
age in which it was done, it is marked by great ability,
and does great credit to his critical faculty. To it he
contributed fifty-six hymns from his own pen : too large
a number by one author; an error into which most
editors who hare been also hymnists have fallen. A
hymn writer should scarcely undertake the task of
editing a hymnal. A natural love for his own com-
positions is almost sure to lead him astray, as it did the
late Rev. Paxton Hood and the Rev. Godfrey Thring ; to
both of whom, especially the latter, we are indebted for
many noble hymns. Still, the general level of Mr. Gender's
hymns is high ; so high that we wonder they are nat
more used beyond the Church to which he belonged. He
had the mastery of a considerable variety of style. In
the more bold and jubilant strain, his best hymns are —
" The Lord is King, lift up thy voice," " give thanks
to Him who made," and " Beyond, beyond the boundless
sky." The last of these is a very distinctive and remark-
able hymn on the omnipresence of God. In " show
me not my Saviour dying," there is a very striking
mingling of minor and major tones. Perhaps this is his
finest hymn. Fine specimens of his more subdued style
may be found in "How shall I follow Him I serve,'*
** Holy, holy Lord," ** Day by day the manna fell," and
" Heavenly Father, to whose eye ; " whilst in ** Head of
the Church, our risen Lord," there is a fulness of
meaning, finding expression through very few words, that
is very remarkable. It is like a poetical collect. His
Communion Hymn, " Bread of heaven, on Thee we feed,'
though by no means his best, has probably reached a
greater general popularity than any other of his hymns.


by Google


The period between 1791 and 1792 is remarkable as
the birth-date of a company of hynmists filling a
considerable place in hymnody, and whose hymns are
still, and seem likely to remain, in constant use — Dean
Milman, James Edmeston, Sir John Bowring, John Keble,
and Henry Francis Lyte.

Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), the learned and
accomplished Dean of St. Paul's, was, like Josiah Conder,
a large contributor to literature. Many of his historical
works held a high place, and exerted a deep influence
on the thought of the Church. But he is known to
a far wider circle by his hymns than by his histories.
His compositions are chiefly in the litany form. They
have a certain grandeur and solemnity of style, but
are somewhat lacking in spontaneity and lyric force.
They are the work of the literary artist rather than
of the sacred poet; of the finished scholar rather than
the psalmist. Still, they possess a certain grandeur and
pathos which make them impressive. ** When our
heads are bowed with woe," and " Lord, have mercy
when we pray," are solemn litanies. ** Bide on, ride on
in majesty," is a striking rendering of the story of
our Lord's entry into the beloved but doomed city of
Jerusalem ; whilst in ** Lord, Thou didst arise and say,"
there is a union of tenderness and force which is very

James Edmeston (1791-1867) was a very large con-
tributor to hymnody, and wrote many hymns for the
young. By far the most popular is " Saviour, breathe an
evening blessing," which is marked by a tenderness of
tone that renders it specially suitable as an Evening
Hymn. It was written after reading ** Salte's Travels in


by Google


Abyssinia," in which the following passage occurs: " At
night, their short Evening Hymn, * Jesus, forgive us,'
stole through the camp." It deserves to be ranked with

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 11 of 37)