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“ it is not enough,” he says, “ that the new [collection) should be decidedly better than the old, but it should be the best which, within a reasonable time, could probably be produced by the combined exertions of piety, genius and taste.” That is, we are to look forward to some possible combination, which may produce a more perfect hymn-book than any we can now expect to see ; one that shall anticipate the progress of the human mind, and prevent the necessity of any further change for ages to come. But whatever may be the inconveniences of a change, one would suppose that among Unitarians the difficulties experienced in the use of the most popular hymn- books might be still more serious. A collection, in which the preacher finds it a task to select hymns that do not contain sentiments directly opposed to those he labours to inculcate, and in the use of which, the congregation must be perpetually tried by being called on to utter their devotions in language which they believe to be erroneous and destitute of all scriptural authority, might well be dropped for one that was “decidedly better."
I pretend not, any more than the correspondent to whom I have alluded, to give an opinion of the compilation published and adopted by the Congregational Society, at New York ;-) leave this to the abler hands who have given the promise of a Review of it, and who will doubtless do it justice : but I propose to enquire into the merits of the collection by which we are to abide, until some one is produced which shall supersede the necessity of further change for the time to come. The inconsistencies of Dr. Watts: “ Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs have already been very ably exposed.* Dr. Belknap's Collection will probably be thought less exceptionable than Watts', (which is still, however, in use in many churches long ago departed from the doctrines styled orthodox,) and to that I shall at present confine myself.
Let it not be thought that I would wisb to detract any thing from the merits of the ; excellent compiler. I have a high respect, in common with many of my fellow-worshippers, for the character of Dr. Belknap, and for his no less eminent coadjutor, Dr. Clarke; but we must not suffer ourselves or others, to be led astray by the influence of venerated names. Who does not esteem the amiable Watts; but what Unitarian would teach his children to worship God in such strains as may be found in some of his hymns ?
In No ix. of Tracts published by the Philadelphia Voitarian Tract Society, from the pen of the venerable Ralph Eddowes.
Your correspondent has given what he conceives to be the essential properties of a good collection. In the examination proposed, I shall follow him in what I presume will generally be admitted to be the most indispensable of these.
“ 1st. All the doctrines in such a work should be just and true;" and “ 2d, it should be free from all party sentiments and expressions, that may offend those whose comfort and edification we are bound to consult.” If we admit that Dr. Belknap's collection contains no inconsistencies,-nothing, which, upon some system, cannot be shown to be true; it cannot be denied that it contains much, which no considerable part of any unitarian congregation believes. As far, therefore, as they are concerned, it contains much that is not true and just. It abounds also in sectarian views and controverted doctrines, and can scarcely fail to offend some, however small a part, of every assembly of christians, where it may be used. • Of controverted points, we have in the 14th psalm, the doctrine of “ Universal depravity."
“ He saw that all were gone astray
Their practice all the same :" And again—
• Such seeds of sin, that bitter root,
In every heart are found;
refine the ground.” If there be any doubt whether the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity be inculcated here, none will remain, probably, in regard to the sense of the following passage from hymn 261.
“Vain are the hopes the sons of men,
On their own works have built ;
And all its actions guilt." The third line in the preceding verse is altered from Watts, who has it, “ their hearts by nature all unclean," with what view does not seem clear, for the carnal mind” means,
presume, nothing more in this connexion, than the heart of man by nature.
The doctrine of atonement, or satisfaction, in some shape or other, is found throughout the book. Now according to the rule, this should not be, because all are not agreed respecting it, and it will offend some whose comfort and edification we are bound to consult." In the 2d part of the 40th psalm, we have the following account of the work.
66 And see the blest Redeemer comes,
Th' eternal son appears !
The body God prepares.
He pitied sinner's cries;
Was made a sacrifice."
“ The one sacrifice he made,
Atones for all our sin." In hymn 174th, the rebel heart is represented as yielding to “ sovereign grace," and exclaims,
“ I see the prince of life,
Display his wounded veins ;
To wash away my stains.
My God is reconcild, &c." In hymn 40th, it is said
“ Jesus, our great high priest,
Has full atonement made." and in the same hymn he is called “the sin-atoning lamb."
Of the many other passages which contain the same doctrine, I shall mention a few without any particular order.
“ Bearer of our sin and shame,
By whose merit we find favour."~Hymn 93. “He paid our ransom when he knew
His precious life must be the cost."--Hymn 114. “ The sons and heirs of God
Are dearly bought with Jesus' blood."--Hymn 33. And it is his blood alone which can give life and happiness.
“See, in the Saviour's dying blood
'Tis ONLY that clear sacred flood
Of sins, and save our souls from hell.”—Hymn 182.
A victim in our place."--Same.
As a practical comment on the doctrine so plainly taught in these passages, we are told, in hymn 140, that
“ The guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice besides : Numerous quotations might be made to the same effect; and it will not be thought by those who are acquainted with this collection, or who will take the trouble to examine the passages noted below.* that I have selected all the most objectionable.
I shall not enter upon the illustrations of other points of the orthodox creed which might be drawn from this work.t On these two, all the others depend. I shall now proceed to adduce some instances of sectarian views with regard to the person and offices of Christ; and then with regard to the honour which is due to him. I beg here distinctly to state, that in doing this, I mean not to give any opinion of the justness of these views. My purpose obviously leads me no further, than merely to examine whether this collection contain sentiments upon which christians are very little agreed, and which for that reason alone, by the rule proposed, should find no place in a work of this nature. In hymn 136, “ Jesus” we are told
“ The bosom of his father left,
And entered human clay.”
“ See him below his angels made ;" and the enquiry is made,
“What honours shall thy son adorn
Who condescended to be born ?”
of Christ :
“The God of glory down to men
Removes his blest abode ;
And he their gracious God." In hymn 27 he is called “our descending God ;” and in hymn 274 is the following extraordinary passage :
* Hymn 9, 29, 30, 33, 93, 109, 188, 210, 286, 297. Psalm 69. I do not profess to have enumerated all, I intended to have given the verse, but finally omitted it as unnecessary.
# For the doctrine of election, connected with atonement and justification, see hymn 286.
« Forbid it, Lord! that I should boast,
But in the death of Christ, my God!" Now I believe that even Calvinists do not boast in the death of God.
Not only the name, but the attributes of the Most High are ascribed to Christ. In hymn 27, entitled, “ The word made flesh;" he is described as the maker and sustainer of all things, the whole creation's head:
“ By his great power were all things made,
By him supported, all things stand;
And angels fly at his command.”
" That he may converse hold with worms,
Dress'd in such feeble flesh as they."
6 That glorious word, that sovereign power,
By whom the worlds were made'; (0 happy morn, illustrious hour!)
Was once in flesh array’d.” Eternity and almighty power are attributed to him in many places. A single example will suffice.
“ To Jesus, our eternal King
Be universal power confess'd.”—Hymn 188. Christ is thus addressed in hymn 130.
“In thee, my great almighty friend,
My safety dwells and peace divine ;
For life, eternal life is thine." He is frequently represented as sharing the throne of God, and being at once the object of heavenly adoration and the source of heavenly blessedness. As in hymn 51:
“O for a beatific sight
Of our almighty Father's throne !
Adoring angels round him stand,
* See Ps. 40. 71. Hymn 27, 35, 48, 140, 141, 163, 176, 222, 259, 270, 271. In most of these instances, it is the Son who is called eternal, everlasting, &c. as “the eternal sou”-“God's everlasting son" a combination which is somewhat peculiar. New Series-vol. III.