William Garrett Horder.

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

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O Lord, with Thee!

The following hymn from C. J. P. Spitta may be taken as

a specimen of her translations : —

We praise and Uess Thee, gradoos Lord,

Our Saviour, kind and true,
For all the old things passed away,

For all Thou hast made new.

New hopes, new purposes, desires,

And joys, Thy grace has given ;
Old ties are broken from the earth,

New ties attach to heaven.

But yet, how mueh must be destroyed

How much renewed must be.
Ere we can fully stand complete

in likeness, Lord, to Thee !

Thou, only Thou, must carry on

The work Thou hast begun ;
Of Thine own strength Thou must impart,

In Thine own ways to run.

Ah ! leave us not; from day to day

Revive, restore again ;
Our feeble steps do Thou direct,

Our enemies restrain.

So shall we faulUess stand at last.

Before Thy Father's throne ;
The blessedness for ever ours.

The glory all Thine own.

"Jesus, still lead on," from the German of Count
Zinzendorf is too well-known to need quoting. As a
specimen of her sister's (Sarah Findlater) genius for
translation, I quote her rendering of GerharJt


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Torsteegen's magnificent hymn often sadly marred by

editors : —

Lord our God, in reverence lowly,
The hosta of heaven call Thee ' holy/

From cherafaim and seraphim,
From angel phalanx, far extemling,
In fuller tones is still ascending
The * holy,* ' holy,' of their hjTnn ;
The fount of joy Thou art,
Ever filling every heart,
Ever I Ever I
We, too, are Thine, and with them sing,

* Thou, Lord, and only Thou, art King.'

Lord, there are bending now before Thee,
The elders with their crownM glory,
The first born of the blessed band ;
There, too, earth's ransomed and forgiven.
Brought by the Saviour safe to heaven,
In glad unnumbered myriads stand ;
Loud are the songs of praise
Their mingled voices raise,
Ever! Ever!
We, too, are Thine, and with them sing,

* Thou, Lord, and only Thou, art King.'

They sing in sweet and endless numbers
The wondrous love that never slumbers,
And of the wisdom, power, and might.
The truth and faitbfuilneM aUding,
And over aU Thy works prefdding.
But they can scarcely praise aright ;
For «J1 is never sung.
Even by seraph's tongue,
Never! Never!
We, too, are Thine, and with them ting,

* Thou, Lord, and only Thou, art King.'

Oh ! come, reveal Th3rself more fully.
That we may learn to praise more truly ;

Make every heart a temple true.
Filled with 'Thy glory overflowing,
More of Thy love each morning showing,
And waking praises loud and new ;
Here let Thy peace divine
Over Thy children shine,
Ever! Ever!
And glad or sad, we joining sing,

* Thou, Lord, and only Thou, art King.'


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Both sisters prefer to be known under the signature
H. L. L. (Hymns from the Land of Luther), but I believe
I am right in ascribing those I have named as I have

Henry Downton (bom 1818), for many years Chaplain
of the English Church at Geneva, and now Rector of
Hopton, Norfolk, is the author of many hymns, and
translations from the French, chiefly of Vinet, which he
has gathered into a little volume, " Hymns and Verses,
Original and Translated." He possesses, in very marked
degree, the faculty for hymn composition. He has been
most successful in verses written for the opening and
close of the year. One of these, " For Thy mercy and
Thy grace," has become very popular, whilst another,
which I quote below, is on the high road to a like
popularity, which it richly deserves. I omit the first
four lines, which seem to me to mar the general effect of
the hymn.

Sing we, brethreD, fidthfol-bearted,

l3ft the Bolemn yoioe again
O'er another year departed

Of cor thr^core yean and ten.

Lo, a theme for deepest Badness,

In onrBelves with sin defiled ;
Lo, a theme for holiest gladness,

In oar Father reconciled.

In the dust we bend before Thee,

Lord of sinless hosts above ;
Yet in lowliest joy adore Thee,

God of mercy, grace, and love.

Qradons Savioor ! Thon hast lengthened

And hast blessed our mortal span,
And in our weak hearts hast strengthened

What Thy grace alone began.


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Siili, wben daoger shall beiide m,

Be Thy warniDg whisper heard ;
Keep OS at Thy feet, and guide us

By Thy Spirit and Thy word.

Let Thy &vour and Thy blessing

Crown the year we now begin ;
Let us all, Thy strength possessing,

Grow in grace and yanquish sin.

Stormi are round us, hearts are quailing,

Signs in heaven and .earth and sea ;
But, when heaven and earth are (ailing,

Saviour, we will trust in Thee.

Thomas Hincks (bom 1818), a minister of the XJnitarian

Olmrch, who has acquired a considerable reputation for

his scientific researches, has written a few hymns, which

were first included in a collection called ** Vespers,"

prepared for the congregation at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds,

to which he formerly ministered. They resemble the

hymns of many writers of his own section of the Church

in America : in their subdued feeling, their gracefulness

of expression, and a certain refined and spiritual love for

the place of worship. The finest is the following : —

Heavenly Father, by whose care
Comes again this hour of prayer,
In the evening stillness, we
Grateful raise our hearts to Thee;
To our spirits, as we bend,
Peace and holy comfort send.

Gladly we Thy presence seek:
Father ! to our spirits speak :
Call us from the world away;
Still our passions' reckless pUy;
On our inner darkness shine;
Bend our wayward will to Thine.

In this quiet eventide
May our souls with Thee abide.
Own Thy presence, feel Thy power.
Through this consecrated hour ;
And from peaceful vesper-prayer
Purer, stronger spirits bear.


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George Rundle Prynne (bom 1818), vicar of St. Peter's,
Plymouth, wrote several hymns for a collection he edited,
under the title, "A Hymnal, suited for the Services of
the Church, together with a selection of Introits.'*
The one notable hymn, which has since passed into
many collections, is *^Jesu, meek and gentle," equally
suitable for use by adults and children. His hymns
have recently been included in ** The Soldier's Dying
Vision, and other Poems."

James Hamilton (bom 1819), vicar of Doulting,
Shepton Mallet, has written several hymns, which are
chiefly used in churches of the Anglican order. One for
midnight services is of great beauty. In the original,
the third line of the first verse reads

<«We deck Thine altar, Lord, with light/'
but, in order to adapt it to churches in which there is no
altar, I ventured to alter the line as it stands below — an
alteration since adopted in other Hymnals : —

Acro08 the sky the shades of night

This winters eve are fleeting :
We come to Thee the Life and Light,

In solemn worship meeting :
And as the year's last hours go by,
We lift to Thee our earnest cry,

Once more Thy love entreating.

Before Thee, Lord, snbdned we bow,

To Thee oar prayers addressing ;
Becoonting all Thy mercies now,

And aU our sins confessing ;
Beseeching Thee, this coming year.
To hold OS in Thy faith and fear,

And crown us with Thy blessing.

And while we kneel, we lift our eyes

To dear ones gone before us ;
Safe housed with Thee in Paiadise,

Their spirits hovering o'er us :


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And beg of Thee, when life is past,
To re-nnite ns all, at last,
And to our lost restore as.

We gather np, in this brief hour,

The memory of Thy mercies ;
Thy wondrous goodness, love, and power,

Oar grateful song rehearses :
For Thou hast been our Stren^^th and Stay
In many a dark and dreary day

Of sorrow and reverses.

In many an honr, when fear and dread

Like evil spells have bound us,
And clouds were gathering overhead.

Thy Providence hath found us :
In many a night when waves ran high.
Thy gndous Presence drawing nigh

Hath made all calm around us.

Then, O great Qod, in years to come,

Whatever fate betide* ux,
Right onward through our ioumey home

Be Thou at hand to guide us :
Nor leave ua till, at dose of life.
Safe from all perils, toil, and strife.

Heaven shall unfold and hide us.

William Cowper, in his " Table Talk," sajp Jtlmt

Nature seldom —

Vouchsafes to man a poet's just pretence —
Fervency, freedom, fluency of thought,
Harmony, strength, words exquisitely sought ;
Fancy that from the bow ttiat spans the sky.
Brings colours, dipp'd in heav'n. that never die;
A soul exalted above earth, a mind
Skill'd in the characters thAt form mankind.
« « « « «

'Twere new, indeed, to see a bard all Are,
Touoh'd with a coal from heav*n, assume the lyre,
And iell the world, still kindling as he sung,
With more than mortal music on his tongue ;
That He who died below, and reigns above,
Inspires the song, and that His name is Love.

If fnich characteristics be rare in the poet, thay are still
more rare in the hymnist. It would be dificult, perhaps


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impossible, to name a liymnist in whom such transcendent
qualities are united. But many of these qualities —
fervency, freedom, fluency of thought — are very con-
spicuous, and are, indeed, the prominent qualities in the
hymns of Thomas Homblower Gill. Indeed, before I
made his personal acquaintance, or knew anything of his
spiritual history, I was struck with the freedom, and yet
the fervency of his song; the breadth of his thought,
and yet the truly evangelical tone which pervaded it.
This was a puzzle to me, and in my first interview with
him, I expressed my surprise. The story of his life which
he then narrated, at once removed the mystery from my
mind, as it will do from that of others who may have read
his hymns with a similar perplexity. He was bom at
Birmingham, on the 10th February, 1819, and educated at
the well-known King Edward's Grammar School, in that
town, under Br. Jeune, who afterwards became Bishop of
Peterborough. He took a distinguished place in the school,
and would have passed thence to the University of Oxford,
but his conscientious religious scruples prevented him
subscribing to the articles of the Church of England, with-
out which the University could not then be entered. This
led to his becoming for the rest of his life a student-recluse,
giving himself up chiefly to classical and historical studies.
Such a life has been, of course, singularly devoid of out-
ward incident. All that can be chronicled is connected
with the production and publication of his various works.
The real interest of his life centres, however, in the
singular and almost unique influences which have com-
bined to form his character, and determine his thinking.


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Here is to be found the tme clue to the strange combina-
tion of breadth of thought with the fervency and
eyangelical character of his hymns. He was trained in the
Priestley School of Unitarianism which had its head-quarters
in his native town, where Dr. Priestley exercised his
ministry. Later in life a breath of warm evangelical
feeling psussed over him. This was closely connected with,
and largely fostered by, an acquaintance with the hymns
and lyrics of Dr. Watts, of whom he is an ardent admirer.
If I understand him rightly, he came of a Puritan stock,
but his immediate ancestors had fallen under the influence
of Unitarianism, in which he was brought up. Indeed, he
calls himself a Puritan of the Puritans, and when he
wants to describe himself more fully he calls himself ^^ An
Emersonian Puritan." The careful reader of his hymns
will discern the freshness and freedom from restraint, so
characteristic of the Unitarian school of thought with the
fervour and passionate devotion to be observed in Puritan
circles. These two distinctive features of his hymns,
features so rarely combined, are fully accounted for by
his ancestry and training. The late Dr. Freeman Clarke,
of America, used to call him " A more-intellectual Charles
Wesley." This is a little too eulogistic, but is on the whole
a happy description, since there is in his hymns much of
the fire of the great Methodist singer, with an intellectual
vigour and subtlety of thought which are only here and
there to be found in the hymns of Charles Wesley, to whom,
however, he is not equal in force and directness of diction.
Those who may desire to gain a fuller insight into the
spiritual history of this remarkable hymnist will find much


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of his thought and feeling reflected in the life he has
written of his friend Franklin Howarth, who passed
through an experience very like to his own. The volume
was published in 1883, under the title **The Triumph of
Christ— Memorials of Franklin Howarth," by T. H. Gill.
This seems to me a kind of oblique biography of himself.
Besides this he has published " The Fortunes of Faith, or
Church and State," a poem of considerable length, with
much of the flre of youth against Church Establishments
(1841) ; "The Anniversaries — ^poems in commemoration of
Great Men and Great Events " (1858) ; **The Golden Chain
of Praise" (1869); "The Papal Drama," an historical
essay (1866), and "Luther's Birthday" (hymns) (1883.)
He is now engaged on "A History of the Germans," which
he scarcely expects to finish. He also edited the second
hymn-book issued by the late George Dawson, of Birming-
ham. Altogether he has written about 200 hymns, 165 of
these are contained in " The Gh)lden Chain of Praise," and
about 30 have not yet been published. His friend, Dr.
R. W. Dale, of Birmingham, is a great admirer of his
hymns, and introduced no less than 40 into his collection
called " The English Hymn Book." Half that number
were included in " The Baptist Hymnal," eleven in my
own " Congregational Hymns," and the same number in
Dr. Martineau's " Hymns of Praise and Prayer," whilst
in Dr. Odenheimer and F. M. Bird's "Songs of the
Spirit," there are 23, one of these, "Lord Gbd, by
whom all change is wrought," having been written for
that work. Up to the present time, and with one excep-
tion — " mean may seem this house of clay," his hymns


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have been conlined to collections used in the Free
Churches, which desire suggestiveness of thought, and
rely, for the deepening of spiritual life more upon the power
of truth over the mind than upon external ritual. But in
the Free Churches they are becoming increasingly known
and valued. The following are the most popular, ** mean
may seem this house of clay," our double kindred to
Emmanuel as suggested by " The second man was the Lord
from heaven," and " as we have borne the image of the
earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly " —

O mean may seem this house of clay.

Yet 'twas the Lord's abode ;
Oar feet may mourn this thorny way,

Yet here Immannel trod.

This fleshly robe the Lord did wear,

This watch the Lord did keep,
These burdens sore the Lord did bear,

These tears the Lord did weep.
« « « «

Oar very frailty Imngs us near

Unto the Lord of heaven ;
To every grief, to every tear,

Such glory strange is given.

Bat not this fleshly robe alone

Shall link us. Lord, to Thee ;
Not only in the tear and*moan

Shall the dear kindred be.

We shall be reckoned for Thine own,

Because Thy heaven wo share,
Because we sing around Thy throne,

And Thy bright raiment wear.
* « « «

O mighty grace, oar life to live,

To make oar earth divine :
O mightv grace. Thy heaven to give.

And lift our life to Thine.

Yes, strange the gift and marvellous

By Thee received and given !
Thoa tookest woe and death for us,

And we receive Thy heaven.


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** Our God ! our God ! Thou shinest here " is a noble

hymn suggested by the words of John Milton — " The

power of Thy grace is not passed away with the primitive

times, as fond and faithless men foolishly imagine, but

Thy kingdom is now at hand, and Thou standing at the

door." This is one of his finest and most characteristic

hymns —

Oiir Gk)d I our Gk)d I Thou shineet here,

Thine own tbis latter day :
To as Thy radiant iiteps appear :

We watch Thy glorious way.
Thou tookest once our flesh; Thy face

Once on our darkness shone :
Yet through each age new births oi grace

Still make Thy glory known.
Not only olden ages felt

The presence of the Lord ;
Not only with the fathers dwelt

Thy Spirit and Thy word.
» Doth not the Spirit still descend

And bring the heavenly fire ?
Doth not He still Thy Church extend,

And waiting souls inspire ?
Come, Holy Ghost ! in us arise ;

Be this Thy mighty hour I
And make Thy wuling people wise

To know Thy day of power !
Pour down Thy fire in us to glow,

Thy might in us to dwell ;
Again Thy works of wonder show,

Thy blessed secrets tell.
Bear us aloft, more glad, more strong,

On Thy celestial wing,
And grant us grace to look and long

For our returning King.
He draweth near. He standeth by,

He fills our eyes, our ears ;
* Come, King of grace," Thy people cry,

** And bring the glorious yeard ! "

Closely allied to the foregoing is a hymn on the passage in
Zech. viii. 21, " Let us go to seek the Lord " : —


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O saints of old I not yoon alone

These words most high shall be ;
We take the glory for our own ;

Lord ! we are seeking Thee. ■

Not only when asoends the song,

And sonndeth sweet the Word ;
Not only «* midst the Sabbath throng/'

Cor souls would seek the Lord,

We mingle with another throng.

And other words we speak ;
To other business we belong.

But still our Lord we seek.

We would not to our daily task

Without our Qod repair ;
But in the world Thy presence ask,

And seek Thy glory there.

Would we against some wrong be bold,

And break some yoke abhoired ;
Amidst the strife and stir behold

The seekers of the Lord ;
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When on Thy glorious works we gaze,

We fain would seek Thee there :
Our gladness in their beauty raise

To joy in Thee, First Fair 1

O everywhere, O every day,

Thy graoe is still outpoured ;
We work, we watch, we strive, we pray ;

Behold Thy seekers. Lord !

The sweetness of subjection to Christ is delightfully set
forth in the following hymn —

Dear Lord and Master mine.
Thy happy servant see !
My Conqueror ! with what joy divine !
Thy captive clings to Thee !

1 love Thy yoke to wear,
To feel Thy gracious bands,
Sweetly reetrainM hy Thy care,
And happy in Thy hknds.

No bar would I remove,
No bond would 1 unbind ;
Within the limits of Thy love
Full liberty 1 find.


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I would DOt walk alone,
Bat still with Thee, my Lord ;
At every step my bliDdness own,
And ask of Thee the road.

The weakness I enjoy
That casts me on Thy breast ;
The conflicts that Thy strength employ,
Make me divinely blest.

Dear Lord and Master mine,
Still keep Thy servant tme ;
My Guardian and my Guide Divine,
Bring, bring Thy pilgrim through.

My Conqueror and my King,
Still keep me in Thy tiain;
And with Thee Thy glad captive bring,
When Thou returo'st to reign.

Mr. Gtill is a passionate lover of nature, upon which he

looks with most religious gaze, finding therein '^ Parables

of God," as wiU be seen from the two hymns which follow,

which seem to me equally beautiful. The first ia on

** The Witness of Earth to Heaven."—

What sweetness on Thine earth doth dwell !
How precious. Lord, these gifts of Thine !
Yet sweeter messages they tall,
These earnests of delights divine.

Yes I glory out of glory breaks.
More tnan the gi^ itseif is given ;
Each gift a glorious promise makes ;
Thine earth doth prophesy of heaven.

These mighty hills we joy to climb,
These happy streams we wander by,
Reveal the eternal hills sublime —
Of God's own river prophesy.

These odours blest, these gracious flowers.
These sweet sounds that around us rise.
Give tidings of the heavenly bowers.
Prelude angelio harmonies.

These vernal hours, what news they bring !
What tidings these bright summers tell I
They fore-announce the eternal spring, .
Foreshow the Light Ineffable.


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Lord, from Thy gifts to Thee we rise,
But with more streDgth we soar above,
Upon Uiese glorioos prophecies,
These earnests of Thy dearer love.

The second is on the " Divine Renewer," suggested by

"Thou renewest the face of the earth," and "Be

renewed in the epirit of your mind " : —

The glory of the spring, how sweet !

The new born life, how glad !
What joy, tlie happy earth to greet,

In new bright raiment dad

Divine Renewer ! Thee I bless ;

I greet Thy going forth :
I love Thee in the loveliness

Of Thy renewM earth.

But O these wonders of Thy graoe.

These nobler works of Thine,
These marvels sweeter fiur to trace,

These new births more divine !

These sinful souls Thou hallowest.

These hearts Thoa makest new,
These monming souls by Thee made blest

These faithless hearts made tme :

Thifl new-born glow of £aith so strong

This bloom of love so fair ;
This new-born ecstasy of song

And fragranoy of prayer !

Creator, Spirit, work in me

These wonders sweet of Thine I
Divine Renewer, graciously

Renew this heart of mine ;
Still let new life and strength npspring.

Still let new joy be given !
And grant the glad new song to ring

Throngh the new earth and heaven.

His New, Year's hymn strikes a new and quite original
note, and is full of life and tenderness : —

Break, new-bom year, on glad eyes break !

Melodious voices move I
On, rolling Time ! thou canst not make

The Father cease to love.


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The parted year had wingM feet ;

The Saviour still doth stay :
The New Year comes; bat, Sf^t sweet

Thou goest not away.

Our hearts in tears may oft nio o'er ;

Bat, Lord, Thy smile still beams;
Oar sins are sweUing evermwe ;

Bat pardoning grace still streams.

Lord ! from this year more service win,
More glory, more delight;

O make its hoars less sad with sin.
Its days with Thee more bright !

Then we may bless its predoos things
If earthly oheer shoold come.

Or gladsome mount on angel wings
If Thou shouldst take us home.

Space will not permit me to give further illustrations.
These will suffice to show that Mr. Gill, lover and student
of Dr. "Watts though he be, is, to use Goethe's distinc-
tion, no mere eeho^ but a voice. E[is hymns, as to their
substance, seem to me, marked by the following character-
istics: (I) A remarkable absence of , and even opposition
to, all antiquarian and sacerdotal ideas of Christianity,
being rather filled with the conception that the Spirit of
God is working as really and as mightily now as in the
first age of the Church's history. (2) A keen and
searching discernment between the spirit and letter of the
gospel ; and (3) By often really profound thought on
Scripture themes. As to their style, I may notice
(1) A certain quaintness of expression, reminding the
reader of George "Wither or John Mason, but rendered
clearer by his study and appreciation of Dr. "Watts. (2)
Great warmth of feeling, leading to the use of very
expressive epithets, but kept within due bounds, save in


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exceptional cases, by a taste smgolarly pure and chaste.
(3) Often there is to be noticed a happy adaptation of
metre and rhythm to the subject of the hymn. In
some cases the tune gave birth to the hymn. Mr. Gill
is only kept from reaching the very highest place as a
hymnist by too great subtlety of thought and expression.
This renders many of his hymns more suitable for private
reading than public praise.

The value of Mr. Gill's hymns is largely due to the
fact to which he calls attention* in the preface to " The
Golden Chain of Praise," that they enshrine the spiritual
experience of their author ; to this is due their living
force. They are not the product of the mere thinker or
rhymer, but of one impelled by great spiritual impulses.
Mr. Gill rarely, if ever, wrote unless moved thereto by
what he does not hesitate to call *' inspiration."

In an extract from an unpublished autobiography
which he has been good enough to communicate to me, he
says " I fully believe in tides of song which we cannot
command and cannot restrain; in seasons of inspiration
which come and go, not at our bidding, wherein the soul,

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 18 of 37)