William Garrett Horder.

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

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was once inserted as a Communion Hymn in the Book of
Common Prayer, and for a considerable period remained as
part of the Prayer Book, in certain editions of which are
two hymns by Doddridge, one each by Wesley, Stemhold,
or J. Mardley, and Bishop Ken's Morning and Evening


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hymn abridged and altered. "0 God of Bethel, by whose
hand," sometimeB attributed to Logan, is by Doddridge,
and in his manuscript is dated January 16th, 1736-7. To
whom the alterations in the hymn as usually printed
are due is unceri;ain — ^they have been ascribed to Michael
Bruce, but are known to be either Logan's or the revisers
of the 1781 Scotch Paraphrases. " Interval of grateful
shade," is a hymn of great beauty, set in a subdued and
soothing key. It is a part of " an Evening Hymn (of
76 lines) to be used when composing one's self to sleep."
In many of Doddridge's hymns which do not reach the
highest excellence, there are found lines and verses of
great beauty. His hymns appear to me to be a con-
necting link between Dr. Watts and Charles Wesley.
They are akin to the Independent's in form, but to the
Methodist's in their lyric force and fervour. Thus they
possess the excellences of both. Many of them are likely
to hold a permanent place in the song of the Church.


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Sowo lias nearly always proved a mighty inflnence in
stirring the hearts of men in times of religious revival,
and has also been felt to be a necessity for the full
expression of the feelings aroused at such seasons. The
Methodist Revival was no exception to this rule. Song
had much to do both with the origination and expression
of its feeling. And it was a providential thing that, in
the person of the Brother of the real Leader of the move-
ment, a man was at hand singularly fitted to provide the
hymns that were needed.

To Charles Wesley we owe the largest contribution to
the Church's treasury of song. Br. Watts is usually
regarded as a large contributor, but whilst his hymns
number about six hundred, those of Charles Wesley
number many thousands. Mr. Stevenson says six
thousand; whilst a writer in McClintock and Strong's
** American Cyclopcsdia " credits him, and rightly, with no
less than seven thousand. The hymns and poems of John,
Charles, and Samuel Wesley fill thirteen volumes in Dr.
Osbom's edition ; probably a larger number than could be
gathered from all previous hymn writers put together.
Charles Wesley is far and away the chief contributor to the


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volumes we have mentioned, and is the most fertile,
and, taken altogether, probably the most brilliant of
English hymnists. As in the case of Dr. Watts, however,
we cannot help wishing that the number had been
fewer, and the finish greater. Until almost recently,
they practically held undisputed sway in the Methodist
choir, since the hymn book issued by John "Wesley in
1789, to which a supplement was added in 1831, and
which continued in use till 1874, was, to all intents and
purposes, the exclusive production of the "Wesley family,
of which by far the largest portion was contributed by
Charles "Wesley. His brother John, however, was the
Editor of the collection, a task in which he showed great
judgment. This secured the exclusion of the poorer of
his brother's hymns. It would have been well for the
iame of Dr. "Watts if his hymns had been edited by an
equally skilful hand.* This would have ensured the
exclusion of such doggerel as we have quoted in a
previous chapter. To the editorship of John "Wesley is
due the fact that the Wesleyan collection is of a far
higher type than Dr. "Watts's, which held a corresponding
place in the Independent Church. The "Wesleyan Hymnal
contained, it is true, fragments from Gambold, Herbert,
"Watts, and translations from the Oerman (these were by
John "Wesley), but the book is essentially a "Wesley

The preface to this book is a curiosity of conceit. I do

* John Wealey's capacity as an editor is seen in the fact that he did
not always import hymns from other sources in their entirety, hot
<miitted verses nnsoitable for singing ; thus, from Watts' magnincent
rendering of the 146th Psalm he omits the fifth verse, which con-
tains the line, **Bat tarns the wicked down to hell" whidi he
evidently felt was scarcely a subject for praise.


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not like to apply such an epithet to one so deservedly

honoured as John "Wesley; but the wisest err, and it

cannot, I think, be rightly described in any milder

language. The sixth paragraph reads as follows : " May

I be permitted to add a few words with regard to the

poetry? Then I will speak to those who are judges

thereof with all freedom and unreserve. To these I may

say, without offence: 1. In these hymns there is no

doggerel; no botches; nothing put in to patch up the

rhymes ; no feeble expletives. 2. Here is nothing turgid

or bombast on the one hand, or low and creeping on the

other. 8. Here are no cant expressions; no words

without meaning. Those who impute this to us know not

what they say. "We talk common-sense, both in prose

and verse ; and use no word but in a £xed and determinate

meaning. 4. Here are, allow me to say, both the purity,

the strength, the plainness suited to any capacity. Lastly,

I desire men of taste to judge (these are the only judges)

whether there be not, in some of the following hymns,

the true spirit of poetry, such as cannot be acquired by

art or labour, but must be the gift of nature. By labour,

a man may become a tolerable imitator of Spenser,

Shakespeare, or Milton, and may heap together pretty

compound epithets, as pale-eyed, meek-eyed, and the like ;

but unless he h$ horn a poet, he will never attain the

genuine spirit of poetry."

Unbiassed critics will probably demur to this declara-
tion — ^if not in relation to the "Wesleyan Hymn Book>
certainly in relation to Charles "Wesley's hymns as a
whole. Of certain of these (his hymns on the Nativity),
even his brother once said : '< Omit one or two of them,


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and I will thank you. They are namby-pambical." Such
a criticism would apply to every large contributor to
hymnody ; and must, in the nature of things, apply to
a man like Charles Wesley, who wrote hymns by the
thousand. Even the noblest poets are best represented by
a selection from their writings, and the smaller it is the
more choice it is likely to be. But when this has been
said, it may also be said, that amongst his writings are to
be found some of the grandest hymns in the English
language. For spontaneity of feeling, his hymns are pre-
eminent. They are songs that soar. They have the rush
and fervour which bear the soul aloft. They are more
subjective, and grow more directly out of the personal
experience of the writer than do the hymns of "Watts,
which sprang rather from the contemplation of the Divine
facts and doctrines of Scripture. They are a kind of
cardiphonia, caught from the beating of his own heart,
and the observation of hearts kindled by the great move-
ment in which he bore so large a part. The question
has been debated again and again whether he or Watts
bears off the palm in hymn writing. Comparisons are
proverbially odious, but if a comparison must be made, in
my judgment it must be in favour of Charles Wesley,
especially for the lyric fervour of his hymns. Before him
in time, Watts must, I think, be placed after him in order
of merit, and this partly because his nature was not so
fervid, nor was there so much in his course to kindle it.
His wing was not so strong, and, therefore, his flight was
not so high. And if , as I feel, the lyric should be the
dominant note in hymns, the first place in the Christian
choir must be assigned to the author of " Thou Who
earnest from above," " Love Divine, how sweet Thou


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art," ** Head of the Church triumphant," " Hark ! the
herald angels sing," "Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts
inspire," ** Jesus, lover of my soul," " Soldiers of Christ,
arise," "Come, let us join our friends above," "Thou
hidden source of calm repose," " for a thousand tongues
to sing," " Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day," " 0, what
shall I do, my Saviour to praise," "Leader of faithful
souls, and Guide," and perhaps greatest of all — probably
the finest sacred lyric in the language — " Come, Thou
Traveller unknown." Isaac "Watts is the founder of the
choir, but in it Charles Wesley's is the noblest voice.

And the reasons for this pre-eminence are to be sought
(first) in the lyric nature of the man himself, who could
not help but sing — whose hymns are not the product of the
mere student, but of a soul that naturally soared on the
wings of praise ; (secondly) in the religious influences which
surrounded his early life. It is well known that both the
Wesleys were at first deeply affected by the writings of
William Law, the Mystic ; and though in after years they
threw aside his particular doctrines, yet his influence is
discernible, more or less, in all their hymns. If William
Law had not taught, Charles Wesley would not have sung
as he did. A touch of mysticism, indeed, is necessary to
hymns of the most spiritual and inspiring kind. A third
influence may be found in his association with the
Moravians, by whom both he and his brother were deeply
impressed. Mr. Beecher, in the preface to his hymn book,
says: "His hymns are only Moravian hymns resung,
Not alone are the favourite expressions used, and the
epithets they loved, but, like them, he beholds all
Christian truths through the medium of confiding love.
The lov$ element of this school has never been surpassed."



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And the fourth influence must be sought in the marvellous
scenes amid which he moved, and the stirring work-in
which he bore a part. His hymns are the offspring of
the Methodist revival almost as much as of the Methodist
singer. Just as David's life is reflected in his Psalms, so
Charles Wesley's career shines out through his stirring
verses. All these things combine to make him the
greatest hymn writer of England.

His brother John is as great a translator as Charles
is an original hymnist. John came to know and love the
hymns of Oermany through his association with the
Moravians. And it was probably during his voyages in
their company that he turned many of their finest hymns
into English. For congregational use, they are probably
the finest translations in the English language, whilst they
have the high honour of having opened to us the rich
treasures of sacred song which Germany possesses. They
are so good that they read like original English com-
positions. They have never yet been, and probably never
will be, supplanted by other translations. What can be
finer than his rendering of Paul Gerhardt's ** Jesus, Thy
boundless love to me," and *^ Commit thou all thy griefs,"
or Tersteegen's ** Lo, God is here ; let us adore," and
"Thou hidden love of God, whose height," or Rothe's
" Lord, Thine everlasting grace," or Scheffler's " Thee
will I love, my strength, my tower."* For such importa-

* I quote the fint line of the teeond vene of this hymn, beoaiue
ihefint verae—

*' Now I have fonnd the gronnd wherein
Sore my soul's anchor may remain,
The wounds of Jesus for my sin " —
is disfigured by the horrible imagery of an anchor cast in wounds.
This has prevented the hynm from taking tiie high place which the
rest of it so richly deserves, and, when the first verse is omitted, it
is destined to receive.


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tions we may be as thankful as for Ms brother's original
productions. The choir opened by "Watts is now full-
voiced, and the music has ever since been growing richer
and more varied. It is very pleasant to remember that
these great and holy singers were brought into very close
and blessed fellowship on the death-bed of John Wesley.
The very last words that passed from his lips were those
of Dr. Watts — "FU praise my Maker with my breath,"
and it was as he was struggling to say, "I'll praise — I'll
praise," that his spirit passed away to join "the choir


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We have now reached a time in which the song of the
Church finds expression through many voices. The lyric
fervour of "Watts and Wesley stirred the dormant
flame of many a soul; whilst, at the same time, the
place which hymns had won for themselves in the
actual worship of the Church, has proved an additional
influence to lead those with any hymnic gifts to its
exercise. The demand had much to do with creating the
supply. In earlier times, if hymns were written, no
place was open for their use in worship. But now, hymn
writers felt that their hymns might, if they approved
themselves to the puhlic taste, he used as the vehicle for
worshipping feeling. This seems to me to account for the
fact that a large numher now entered the ranks of the
hymnists, most of whom were men (together with a few
women) touched hy the new religious fervour, and
associated with the churches in which hymns formed an
important part of the worship. Many of these, it is true,
were mere imitators of Watts and Wesley, especially the
former, since he was far easier to imitate than the more
lyric Methodist. These were mere echoes, and, like
echoes, had neither the force nor fervour of the voices
they prolonged. Still, here and there a distinct note was


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Btraok, yibrating with the indiyiduality of the smger;
but for the most part, until we reach the " Olney Hymns "
of John Newton and William Cowper, there are but few
hymnists of any great originality to be found.

Contemporary with the Wesleys was Joseph Grigg, who
died in 1768. He wrote a few hymns, but is chiefly
remarkable as having written, at ten years of age, the
well-known "Jesus, and can it ever be," which first
appeared in the Qoapel MagMtne for April, 1774, with the
title, " Shame of Jesus conquered by love : by a youth of
ten years." To the same author we owe another hymn
of similar style and fervour, " Behold a Stranger at
the door." He wrote altogether some forty hymns, but
all save those we have mentioned have dropped out of

Thomas Scott, a Presbyterian minister at Ipswich (who
died about 1776), and who must not be confounded with
the well-known Commentator of the same name, wrote
many hymns and poems, but is now remembered only by
two, the better known of which is ** Hasten, sinner, to
be wise," a hymn of earnest invitation and warning
against delay, and ** Angels, roll the rock away."

WiULam Hammond, B.A. (who died in 1783), at

first a Calvinistic preacher, but in later life a member

of the Moravian body, wrote and published "Psalms,

Hymns, and Spiritual Songs." His hymn "Awake and

sing the song" has found its way into a very large

number of hymnals. There is in it considerable vigour.

The verse, however —

« Sing till we feel OUT hearts
j&oendiDg with our tongaes ;
Sing till tiie love of sin departs,
And gtaoe inspires oar songs "— >


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attributes to sacred song a power even greater than it
possesses. His hymn beginning " Lord, we come before
Thee now " is in a much more subdued and tender strain,
and still retains a place in the Church's song.

James Grant (died 1785), a distinguished layman con-
nected with the Church of Scotland, who wrote many
hymns for use with Scotch melodies, for which he had a
great affection, is now remembered, and eyen that remem-
brance is growing fainter, by one beginning ''0 Zion,
afflicted with wave upon wave."

Daniel Turner, M.A. (1710-1798), Elizabeth Scott
(circa 1764), John Needham, and Benjamin Wallin, fill
too small a place in modem hymnody to demand more
than the mention of their names.

Joseph Hart (1712-1768), minister of Jewin Street
Independent Church, though possessing, in our judgment,
little merit as a hymnist, has enjoyed a considerable
popularity, especially with persons inclining to the
Calvinistic view of Christianity, and his hymn book still
finds purchasers and admirers. He is largely represented
in " Our Own Hymn Book," edited by the Rev. C. H.
Spurgeon for the use of his congregation at the
Metropolitan Tabernacle. His Christian experience was
of rather a striking nature, and is reflected in his hymns.
The most popular, undoubtedly, is " Come, Holy Spirit,
come," which is not without merit, though a good deal
like other hymns addressed to the Holy Spirit. '* Come
ye sinners, poor and wretched," used to be a great
fevourite, but is so steeped in the extreme spirit of his
day — ^a spirit which is now the exception rather than the
rule — ^that its popularity is rapidly waning. It belongs


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to a class of hymns which are addressed, not to the
Divine Being, but to the congregation, or rather to those
who are supposed specially to need such exhortation.
There is a kind of incongruity in such hymns which is
increasingly felt, and which leads to their disuse in public

To Dr. John Hawkesworth (1715-1773), compiler of
the Parliamentcuy debates in the Oentlefnan^s MdgMtne,
we owe a hymn of some merit, "In sleep's serene
oblivion laid;" to James Hutton (1715-1795), a cousin
of Sir Isaac ^Newton, a bookseller, and deacon of the
Moravian Church, a hymn of fine sentiment, " teach us
more of Thy blest ways ; " and to Christopher Batty
(1715-1797), " Captain of Thine enHsted host." AU these
three, it will be noted, were bom in the same year.

Anne Steele (1716-1778), who, all her life, was a great
sufferer, through an accident in childhood, and whose
coxirse was marked by many sorrows, has enjoyed con-
siderable fame as a hymnist, not, in our judgment,
quite justified by the quality of her productions. She
is, perhaps, the first English woman who contributed
hymns of any importance to the Church's treasury of
song. Her hymn, "Father, whate'er of earthly bliss,"
is the expression of a life troubled as was hers, and
is, indeed, remarkable for its tone of quiet resignation.
In the original it begins with the verse, " When I survey
life's varied scene." Touched with a similar spirit is her
hymn, " Far from these narrow scenes of night."

John Berridge (1716-1793), vicar of Everton, and
friend of "Wesley and Whitfield, a quaint and racy
preacher, published " A Collection of Divine Songs," but,


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on account of his adoption of Calvinistic views, repented
of the publication, and whenever he met with a copy
of it, committed it to the flames. In character and
style of address, he was not unlike to John Newton. He
altered and adapted certain of Charles "Wesley's hymns.
His hymn, ** Jesus, cast a look on me," the first three
verses of which consist of an altered version of Charles
"Wesley's "Lord, that I may learn of Thee," has a
simplicity which is very pleasing. This and his "Wedding
Hymn, " Since Jesus freely did appear," are the only ones
which have gained currency in hymnals.

John Cennick (1717-1755), originally one of "Wesley's
preachers, but afterwards an assistant of "Whitfield, and
finally a Moravian, the friend of "Wesley and Whitfield,
is a name of note among the hymnists. His hymns owe
something to the revision of Charles "Wesley and others,
but they have a distinctiveness and lyric force which will
probably ensure for them a lasting place in the Church's
song. The best known is "Children of the heavenly
King," which has found its way into a very large number
of hymnals, both of the Established and l^onconformist
Churches. The same may be said of " Jesus, my all, to
heaven is gone," though it is not equal to the fonner.
His Evening Hymn, " Ere I sleep, for every favour," is
quaint and beautiful. His version of the T$ Deum^
commencing ""We sing to Thee, Thou Son of God,"
before the original was commonly used in l^onconformist
worship, was very popular in their assemblies. To him
we owe the original of the hymn, to which so many
writers contributed either alterations or additions, "Lo!
He comes, with clouds descending," which in his version


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began, "Lo! He cometh; coimtleBS trumpets." In my
judgment, Cennick possessed the genuine lyric fire, and,
but for deficient culture, and the narrowness of the
school of thought in which he lived, would have made
still more valuable contributions to hymnody.

I cannot agree with the praise bestowed by James
Montgomery and Kobert Hall on the hymns of Benjamin
Beddome, M.A. (1717-1795), pastor of the Baptist Church
at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire. The fonner
praises him for preserving the unity of each hymn. This
he does, but there is a didactic tone, and an absence of the
lyric element, which aie fatal faults in a hymn. This is
partly due to the fact that they were written to be sung
after his sermons, to which they are a kind of application.
This is not the true office of hymns. The mind of their
writers should not be occupied with the thought of the
edification of the people, but of praise to God. This is
the defect of most of his hymns, as will be seen even
in his most popular, **Did Christ o*er sinners weep?"
" Faith, 'tis a precious grace," and ** Let party names no
more." The fault is least evident in his Ordination hynm,
"Father of mercies, bow Thine ear." He was the author
of the large number of eight hundred and thirty hymns.

James Merrick, M.A. (1720-1769), a minister of the
Church of England, but, on account of weak health,
without pastoral charge, issued "The Psalms translated or
paraphrased in English Terse," designed to supplant Tate
and Brady, but the collection failed to secure royal
sanction for its use in the Episcopal Church. His
scholarship was equal to, but his poetic power sadly
deficient for the task he undertook. His finest hymn
— and it is a fine one — ^is "Eternal God, we look to


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Thee." His version of the 122nd Psalm, beginning **The
festal mom, my God, is come," a translation from
Buchanan, is striking, but in parts rather inflated.

Dr. Thomas Gibbons (1720-1758), pastor of various
Independent Churches, and tutor of the Dissenting
Academy at Mile End, may be ranked with Merrick as
possessing scholarship but not the poetic afflatus, although
he fancied that he possessed it. His Missionary Hymn,
"Great God, the nations of the earth," is not without
merit, and held its place in a time when such h3rmns were
not either plentiful or meritorious. It is a far finer hymn
than the other by which he is remembered, " Now let our
souls on wings subUme." He is one of the fading lights
of hymnody.

Joseph Humphreys (bom 1720), and Thomas Blacklock,
D.D. (1721-1791), are forgotten names in hymnody, and
need not detain us.

John Bakewell (1721-1819), a member of, and local
preacher in, the Wesleyan Church, is remembered by one
hymn which has had a wide popiilarity, "Hail! Thou
once de8pis6d Jesus," which has merit, though not of the
highest order.

Clare Taylor (died 1778), and John Fountain (died
1800), are now only represented by hymns in collections
prepared more to represent their editors' theological views
than with a view to poetic or lyric expression.

Andrew Kippis, D.D., F.K.S. (1725-1795), is more
remarkable for his contributions to literature than to
hymnody, but deserves to be remembered as the Editor of
the first thoroughly popular Unitarian hymn-book, all
previous ones having been for the worship of individual


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JlN oasis in tke desekt.

KsiCABEiKG on the fact that the hymns of earUer days
seem to have been written by all kinds of persons except
poets, James Montgomery says: " Cowper therefore staads
alone among the mighty masters of the lyre, as having
contributed a considerable nnmber of approved and
popular hymns for the purposes of public or private
devotion." In the "Olney Hymns" of John Newton
(1725-1807) aud William Cowper (1731-1800), we come
upon a veritable oasis in the wilderness, from which the
Church has gathered and preserved with loving care many
a flower of song. Newton's hymns are remarkable as
being the productions of a man who, in early life, had

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 9 of 37)