William Garrett Horder.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 3 of 37)
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goes under his name. The Book of Psalms was doubt-
less thus ascribed just as the Book of Proverbs was to
his son Solomon, because, as Professor Cheyne sap,
'* Solomon had become the symbol of plain ethical
' wisdom/ just as David had become the representative
of religious lyric poetry."* But then a reputation like
this does not grow out of nothing. David not only
contributed to the songs of the people, but
through him the service of song was added to the
ordinary worship of the sanctuary, and made a fixed
and integral part of the daily offering to Jehovah.
Before his time, if ever connected with the Tabernacle
at all, it had been fitful and occasional, depending to
a large extent on individual enthusiasm. ''For so
mighty an innovation no less than a David was needed.
The exquisite richness of verse and music so dear to
him — *the calves of the lips' — took the place of the
costly offerings of animals. His harp or guitar was to
him what the wonder-working staff was to Moses,
the spear to Joshua, or the sword to Gideon."

Thus sacred song found its way into the regular
services of the Temple, and the Psalms became the
liturgical hymn-book of the Jewish church. How com-
pletely the union of song and sacrifice (in the national
worship) had been effected and how certainly it met the
divine approval was made manifest at the dedication of
the Temple. In the account contained in 2 Ohron. v. 12,
we read "Also the Levites which were the singers, all
of them, even Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their son,
and their brethren, arrayed in fine linen with cymbals and

* ** Job and Solomon," p. 132.


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psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar,
and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding
their trumpets: it came even to pass when the
trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one
sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord;
and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets
and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the
Lord, saying. For he is good, for his mercy endureth
for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud,
evw the house of the Lord; so that the priests could
not stand to minister by reason of the cloud ; for the
glory of the Lord filled the house of GK)d." Whilst in
the 7th chapter of the same book we find that wh^i
Solomon had made an end of praying, that all the
children of Israel bowed themselves with their faces to
the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and
gave thanks unto the Lord, saying, ''For he is good;
for his mercy endureth for ever." Thus, prayer and
praise — ^the two most vital elements of a true worship,
are found as integral parts of the service. It is some-
what difficult to say witii certainty what place was
afterwards held by sacred song in the regular services
of the Temple. Certain Psalms have been identified as
having been used at particular seasons. But it is
generally admitted that from this time onward, save
when interrupted by the calamities which befell the
nation, song, no less than sacrifice, held its ground as
part of the Jewish worship.

Mr. Paul Isaac Hershon, a distinguished Eabbinical
scholar, has been good enough to furnish me with the
following note as to the use of the Psalms : —

''.On all ritual occasions the position of the Levites


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in the Temple was on a raised platform technically
called * Buohan,^* This seems to have been in the
front ofy and considerably lower in height than the
Dnchan occupied by the Priests, on the east of the
altar, from whence they could see both the Levites
and the Israelites when they blessed the whole congre-
gation present." (See Numb. vi. 24-26.)f

" The Levites, without the accompaniment of any of
their usual musical instruments, used to sin^ in the
Temple on each day of the week a different Psalm.
On the first day of the week they sung Ps. xxir. ;
on the second day of the week, Ps. xlviii; on the
third, Ps. Ixxxii. ; on the fourth, Ps. xciv. ; on the
fifth, Ps. Ixxxi. ; on the sixth, Ps. xciii. ; and on the
holy Sabbath-day, Ps. xcii.^J

"On other occasions various other Psalms were
SMUff, and sung so loud that their voice could be heard
as far as Jericho, § a distance of about 12 miles. On
such occasions the youngsters of the Levites were
permitted to enter the Hall of the Sanctuary in order
to spice with their fine 'thin voices' the rougher
voices of the elder Levites." ||

"The same Psalms that were sung in the Temple

are now merely repeated by every orthodox Jew in

his daily morning-prayer. Having no Temple, the

priest does not sacrifice and the Levite does not sing !

* I-chabod I the glory is departed ! '

' How shall we sing the Lord's song Id a strange land ! ' "

♦ •* Yoma," fol. 20b.

t Dr. Levy's " Rab. Lex.," p. 382, c. 1.

% ** Rosh-ha^hanah," fol. 81a, and also in Anglo Jewish Liturgy.

j " Tamid," fol. 806.

II "Erchin,"fol. 186.


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** The Song of Moses, Ex. xv., and also Psalms
cxlv.-cl., are repeated at Morning-Prayer every day
all the year round. The cxlv. is repeated thrice daily,
and ho who never fails to do so may he sure to inherit
eternal life " {'' Berachoth," fol. Ah).

"The voice of a woman is an obscenity" (**Kiddu8hin,"
fol. 70a) ; ** hence when men sing assisted by women, it
is impudence; and when women sing assisted by men,
it is as fire applied to tow ** (" Sotah," fol. 48tf).

Tradition has much to say about musical instruments,
but now only one or two quotations must suffice. '*N<>
man could hear the voice of his neighbour in the Temple
at Jerusalem when the Magreypha (organ) played"
("Tamid,"fol. 33a).

" A ram has but one voice when alive but seven after
he is dead. How so? His horns make two trumpets,
his hip-bones two pipes, his skin makes a drum, his
larger intestines make strings for the lyre, and the smaller
chords for the harp " (** Kinnim," Chap. III. m. 6).

The later history naturally tells only of the special
occasions in which the people broke into song, but these
serve to confirm the idea that worship through song
had become a habit among the people. "There is the
song of Jehoshaphat and his army, the chant of victory
sung in faith before the battle, and itself doing battles
in that the Lord fought for those who trusted Him,
and they had nothing to do but divide the spoil and
return to Jerusalem, with psalteries and harps and
trumpets, into the house of the Lord. There is the
song of Hezekiah, when he recovered from his sickness,
and the Psalm of Jonah from the depths of the sea,
made up from the memory of -^ther Psalms sung in


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happier hours. There was many a song by the waters
of Eabylon, whispered low that the oppressors might
not hear. There was the song of liberated Israel, at
the dedication of the wall of the Holy City (another
witness to the customs of the past), when the singers
sang aloud and they all rejoiced; so that the joy of
Jerusalem was heard afar off" all these serve to show
how the lyric spirit prevailed among the people, ready,
when touched by any deep emotion, to give rhythmic
utterance to their prayer and praise.

It is with David, the minstrel King, however, that
the stream of song suddenly grows broad and deep.
Around him the chorus begins to gather, which has now
grown to such a glorious multitude.

Ewald truly says: "His harp was fuU-stringed, and
every angel of joy and of sorrow swept over the chords
as he passed. For the hearts of a hundred men strove
and struggled together within the narrow continent of
his single heart. The Lord allowed him not to curtail
his being by treading the round of one function. He
cultivated his whole being, and filled his soul with
wisdom and feeling. He brought him up in the
sheep-pastures, that the groundwork of his character
might be laid amongst the simple and universal forms
of feeling. ' He took him to the camp and made him a
conquerer, that he might be filled with nobleness of
soul and ideas of glory. He placed him in a palace,
that he might be filled with ideas of majesty and
sovereign might. He carried him to the wilderness
and placed him in solitude, that his soul might dwell
alone in the sublime conceptions of God and His mighty
works ; and He kept him there for years, with only one


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step between him and death, that he might be schooled
to trust and depend upon the providence of God.''
The Psalms formed at once the justification and inspi-
ration of all the noble songs of the later history of Israel,
to say nothing of lyric notes which are heard sounding
through the pages of the Prophets. But most remark-
able it is, that when we reach the New Testament we
find no lyric book corresponding to the Psalter. There
are distinct psalms, like the ''Kagnificat" and ''Nunc
Dimittis," kindled from the lyric fire of the Hebrew
Psalter; and hints which indicate the presence of the
lyric gift in the Apostolic Church, but there is no
Christian Psalter in the New Testament, and the reason is
not far to seek. It is not that the lyric fire has departed,
but that the Old Testament Psalter has so sounded the
deepest notes of the soul in joy and sorrow, in dark- '
ness and light, that it is adequate to the needs, not
only of Jewish, but Christian hearts. Thus it was
not for an age, but for all time. Just as the octave
in music can express the loftiest conceptions of the
composers of every age, from the simple Gregorian
chant to the intricate music of Beethoven, so the Psalter,
meeting the deepest needs of the soul, becomes the
fitting vehicle through which Christian as well as
Jewish feeling can find expression.

And so we find, as a matter of fact, that through by
far the greater part of the history of the Church the
Psalms have formed its worship-song; they have had a
place in the services of every Chnrch of Christendom
where praise has been offered. They have been said or
sung in grand cathedral or lowly meeting-house, by
white-robed priests and plain-clad Puritans. The hearts


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of Soman and Greek, Armenian and Anglican, no less
than Puritan and Nonoonformist, have been kindled into
praise by the Psalms of David and his company.
Edward Irving says: **From whatever point of view
any Church hath contemplated the scheme of its dodr%n$,
by whatever name they have thought good to designate
themselves, and however bitterly opposed to each other
in Church government or observance of rules, you
will find them all, by harmonious consent, adopting the
Psalms as the outward form by which they shall
express the inward feelings of the Christian life."

And even those who refused to sing the Psalms in
the form in which they are found in Scripture — ^who
deemed it dangerous and even heretical so to do, have
sung them in metrical versions from which much of
their glory had departed. Until quite recently there
were churches whose only hymnal consisted of these
versions. Thus the Psalms have been at once an inspi-
ration and a bondage : an inipfration, in that they have
kindled the fire which has produced the hymnody of
the entire Church; a bondage, because by stereotyping
religious expression they robbed the heart of the right to
express in its own words the fears, the joys, the hopes
that the Divine spirit had kindled in their souls. Had
there been no Psalter in the Canon of Scripture, the
Church would have had no model for its song — no
place at which to kindle its worship fire ; but, on the
other hand, its worshipping instinct would have compelled
it to create a Psalter of its own, and so there would
have been an earlier and fuller development of hymnody
in the Church. The very glory and perfection <tf the
Psalter made the Church for long ages o^mtent with


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the provision thus made for its worsliipy and so it
discouraged all who else would have joined the company
of the singers. And even those who at last ventured
to join their company, did so timidly, and chiefly as
adapters of the Psalms for public worship. G^eorge
Wither, Sir Philip Sidney and his sister belong to this
class. Even when Dr. Watts began to write, his hymns
were used only as supplemental to the Versions ; indBed,
a large part of his compositions are themselves metncal
renderings of the Psalms, though some of them ard so
alive with his peculiar genius as to deserve Tank
as original compositions.

Mighty indeed was the spell the Psalter exercised
over the Church, and rightly so, for it is the heart-
utterance of the noble men whose mission* it was to
give the world religion. And as we have not outgrown
the art of Greece or the laws of Bome, so neither
have we out-grown the worship-song of Israel. This
is so deep and true that it expresses the longings and
praise even of those who have sat at the feet of Christ
and learnt of Qim. And as in the most sacred moment
of His life one of these Psalms served to express His
deepest feelings, so they have inspired and expressed
the feelings of His followers in all aftertime. It has
been well said, ''the Church has been singing these
Psalms ever since, and has not yet sung them dry,"
and she will go on singing them until she takes up the
new song in the heavenly city. It should be frankly
admitted that there are elements in the Psalms distinctly
Jewish, and expressive of the feeling of earlier days.
There are imprecatory notes that are out of harmony
with the gentler melody of Christ. These ought to be


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dropped as unsuitable to Christian worship; but as a
whole the Psalms form the noblest treasury of sacred
song, and their inspiration may be discerned in every
hymn that is worthy of a place in the Church's
worship. Her hymnody can never be understood apart
from the Psalter, and it will be found that those whose
hearts are steeped the most deeply therein have given
to the Church the songs that she will not willingly
let die *

* For an admirable aoooont of the parallellism and strophio
anangemeni of Hebrew poetov as well as of the musio and psalmody
of the Temple, ef. Prof. Frank DelitzBch's Commentary on the
Psalms, introduction (4th edition).


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We turn next to the New Testament to discover in what
relation sacred song stands to the practice and teaching
of the Church founded hy our Lord and His Apostles.

Here at once we may naturally expect that as
Christianity arose among the Hebrew race, and did not
break immediately with the past, neither ignore the
grand truths held by the Fathers, because they were
truths belonging to all time, so we must expect to find
some of the old methods of worship, some presence of the
old lyric spirit, showing themselves, and this more
especially in the earlier days of its history.

It cannot, therefore, be deemed wonderful but rather
a thing to be looked for, that when the hope of Israel
neared fulfilment, a hope to which their political circum-
stances caused them to cling with a very passion of
expectation, and which made every line of promise in
the Old Testament thrill with new meaning and authority ;
if the spirit of sacred song descended again, as we find
it did upon those who were waiting and praying for
the '^ Consolation of Israel."

Note. — The Apocrypha belongiog to the time between the doae
of the Old Testament and the op^iing of the Christian Era, contains
several notable examples of sacred song, such as those of ToHt and
Judith and the Benedidte.


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Critics, indeed, have refused to believe that the
"Magnificat" could have sprung from the lips of a
simple peasant of Gkdilee, they have said the song is
too lofty for so lowly a source — ^forgetting that some
of the grandest strains of former days came from those
little if anything superior in station ; such as Haonah, to
whose song that of Mary hears considerable resemblance.

But if the lyric spirit of which we have spoken
was a peculiar gift of the Hebrew people, if the power
to improvise be a reality clearly discernible through their
history, surely it is not wonderful that a Hebrew maiden,
whose mind was kindled by a prospect of the highest
joy to which Hebrew motherhood could attain, a joy
for which every woman of her nation had longed, the
promise, the joy, that to her should be given the
surpassing glory of becoming the mother of Messiah;
that her heart should break forth into song, that
her rapture should call forth all the poetry of her
nature, and cast it into the forms consecrated by the
sacred usages and instincts of her race. This song,
which repeats the promises of the past with the assurance
of a present realisation, is a preluding note that prepares
for the great chorus of Christian song one day to be
heard, and which will repeat through the ages the
rapture, the trust, the praise of her words, "My soul
doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in
God my Saviour."

Her song has scarcely died on her lips ere another
voice is heard, the voice of a man, a priest whose lips
had been closed through unbelief, but on whom when
faith has sprung again in his heart, the spirit of praise
and prophecy descends with all its accompaniment of


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Ijrric power — ^the Song of Zachariah, "Blessed be
the Lord God of Israel. . . . This in turn is
succeeded by another, the voice of one standing on
the outermost edge of this mortal life, more subdued
in tone but full of quiet confidence and expectant
hope, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart
in peace." ... A noble triad making up by their
quality for the silence of other lips.

The 'New Testament contains no Book of Sacred
Song ; but then the fulness and spirituality of the Book of
Psalms, its adaptations to express in prayer and praise
the deepest emotions of the religious mind, rendered
any other unnecessary, and it is not, therefore, surprising
that neither Christ nor His apostles joined the company
of singers, that no Christian David was given to the

Lideed, it was scarcely possible amid the disquiet,
the contention, the troubles of the earlier years, when
as yet Christian worshippers had no churches of their
own, but rather found a place in the S3magogue or the
Temple. Ere Christian life had crystallised to its proper
forms, it was not possible that the service and song,
the outcome and expression of that life should arise.

La the only two other references to singing in the
Gospels — ^when Christ made His triumphant entry into
Jerusalem, and ere He left it for the garden of Geth-
semane — one (perhaps the same one) of the Psalms
was used, otherwise the Gospels are silent as to sacred

There can be little doubt that singing formed a part
of both the social and public worship of the Apostolic


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age. The disciples dismissed by the rulers in Jerusalem,
came to their own company and lifted up their voice
with one accord in a song, partly the inspiration of the
moment, and partly from the book of Psalms (Acts iv. 24).
In the Philippian dungeon, Paul and Silas prayed and
sanff praises to God, Paul exhorts both the Ephesians
and Colossians to the use of psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs.

Dr. Lightfoot regards ** Psalms" as referring specially,
though not exclusively, to the Psalms of David, which
would early form part of the religious worship of the
Christian brotherhood. "Hynms" would refer to a
set form of words or spontaneous effusions of the moment
of the Christians themselves, whilst the ** spiritual
songs" would extend the precept to all forms of song
provided they were spiritual. Whilst St. Paul, in his
Epistle to the Corinthians, declares that when they
came together each one hath a psalm (1 Corinthians
xiv. 26).

One of the earliest descriptions of the Christians
contains the statement that ** they sang hymns to Christ
as God." But whether such hymns were Psalms adapted
to the purpose and with a Christian application, or
original compositions, we do not know. There is nothing
in the record to decide the question, nor has any hymn
of the Apostolic ago come down to us. The threefold
division of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs may
indicate that in addition to the Old Testament Psalms,
other compositions distinguished by the titles " hymns "
and " spiritual songs " were used, but of this we cannot


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be certain.* The likelihood is that the new Christian
feeling found expression in hymns of a simple kind
addressed to Christ. Some hare maintained that the
rhythmic passages which arc found in the Epistles are
parts of hymns then in use.

The principal of these are the following : ** Wherefore
He saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from
the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee" (Ephesians
V. 14). ** And without controversy great is the mystery
of godliness ; He who was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among
the nations, believed on in the world, received up in
glory" (1 Timothy iii. 16). "Who is the blessed and
only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unap-
proachable ; whom no man hath seen, nor can see :
to whom be honour and power eternal. Amen "
(1 Timothy vi. 15). "Faithful is the saying: for
if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him;
if we shall deny Him, He also will deny us: if we
are faithless. He abideth faithful, for He cannot deny
Himself" (2 Timothy ii. 13). But it is not unlikely
that such passages are due to impassioned emotion

♦ Dr. Morison (Evangelical Repo»itorf/t June, 1856) says **h3rmn8'*
and ** spiritual songs'* denote compositions more or less measured
that were simply sung, whilst ** psalms" denote the Psalms of
David and other kindred lyrics that were writtm to be $ung to an
vutrumental aeeompaniment. On the authority of Ephesians t. 19,
he claims that instrumental music (in worship) has the .sanction
of the New Testament, and that it was practised in many of their
assemblies, though it was probably confined for the most part to
their more private meetings, and as persecution increased gradually
disappeared. Dr. Nealesays: — **From the brief allusions we find
to the subject in the New Testament we should gatiier that the
hymns and spiritual songs of the apostles were written in metrical


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which not unfrequently rises to rhythmic utteraacc,
whihst the passage in 1 Cor. xiv. 26, forms a clear
indication that the power to improvise, so apparent in
the early history of Israel, prevailed in the times of
the Apostles.

Of course these are utterly unlike hymns as we
know them ; hut it must he rememhered that it is all
hut certain that metrical compositions were not used
until ahout the fourth century. Indeed, so late as the
ninth century Walafrid Straho warns us that hy hymns he
does not mean merely such metrical hymns as those
of Hilary, Amhrose, Prudentius, or Bede, hut such
other acts of praise as are offered in fitting words and
with musical sounds. Augustine lays down the same
rule — any composition of a rhythmic character, whether
in verse or not, which was capahle of heing sung,
was reckoned a hymn. Looked at in the light of this
rule, the passages in the Epistles already quoted seem
likely to have heen parts of the earliest hymns of the
Church, for ttiey have every quality, save metrical
form, fitting them for such a use. The well-known
" Gloria in Excelsis " may serve as a specimen of the
kind of composition first of all used as hymns in the
early Church.

The " Gloria in Excelsis " was in all prohahility the
morning hynm of the Christians of early times, as the
Fho9 tlaron preserved by St. Basil, which belongs to the
first or second century, was their hymn for evening
use. The latter, though less known, is as beautiful,
perhaps in a poetic sense more beautiful, than the
former. It has been effectively rendered in English by
the following translation by Mr. Keble : —


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*' Hail 1 gladdening Light, of His pore glory poured,

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 3 of 37)