Images de page

The God shines gracious through the man,

And sheds bright glories on them all.” Throughout this collection. Jesus Christ is considered, equally with God the Father, the object of religious worship and bo mage. If this be an error, it pervades the book ; but at all events, there are many, as Dr. Belknap himself seems to have been aware, “ whose tenderness of conscience obliges them to confine their addresses to the Father;" and surely “ we are bound to consult the edification and comfort” of these weaker brethren. I will say nothing of the inconsistency of this worship with the great principle which is recognised in all Unitarian congregations, of one only living and true God, and that “worship to Him alone belongs,” (Hymn 54, in Belknap.) My object is simply to point out these passages as giving a sectarian character to this collection, and in so far diminishing its value, as a collection to be used in public worship. I shall quote but few examples, referring those who wish to pursue the subject further, to other examples below. * The 22d hymn begins in the following strain :

“ Awake! awake the sacred song

To our incarnate Lord !

heart and every tongue,

Adore th' eternal Word In the 105th hymn Jesus is worshipped under the title of “the Immortal God;' and it is his spirit which is sent down to supply his place on earth. In the 122d hymn he is addressed as follows :

“ Jesus, my God, I know his name,” &c. In this connection the 109th hymn is particularly objectionable, because it is a version of that noble anthem of praise in Revelation xv. 3. 4. " Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty," transformed into an ascription to Christ.

1." How great thy works, Almighty God,

Who shall not fear thy name !
How just and true are all thy ways,

Thou Son of God, the Lamb !
2. More hast thou done than Moses did
6. Thy lofty praise, O King of saints,

Shall every nation sing."
This certainly is a needless perversion of the original.

[ocr errors]

Hymn 6, 7. 23. altered from Mrs. Barbauld, apparently for no other purpose but to introduce an address to Christ: 24. 30. 52. 62. 93. 130. 135. 137. 138. 139. 161, 163, 167. 173. 225. 258. 280. 297.

See also psalm 16th :

Jesus, whom every saint adores."
And hymn 30th, concerning prayers to the Lamb:

Those, are the offer'd prayers of saints,

And these the hymns they raise.”
And hymn 297th :

“ Jesus, to thee I breathe my prayer.” Psalm 45th, 1st part, entitled “the glory of Christ, &c.” is wholly addressed to him, as “the mighty Lord.The reference at the 5th verse to the 1st chapter of Hebrews, will hardly be thought among Unitarians in general, to justify the following ascription to Jesus Christ.

Thy throne, O God, forever stands,

Grace is the sceptre in thy hands.' And again, in the 6th verse, he is addressed under the name of “God." Divines and scholars may understand this appellation, bestowed on Jesus, in an inferior sense; but what will be the impression from the use of such language, on the minds of a majority of those who thus find it in connexion with the object of their worship ; upon the minds of children and the uneducated ? Turning a few pages forward from the psalm last quoted, we meet the following :

" The God we worship now

Will guide us till we die ;
Will be our God while here below,

Our God above the sky." And who, it may be asked, is this “God we worship now, but Jesus Christ? If any thing further were necessary

besides this indiscriminate use of the name God, and this worship of the Father and the son under the same name, to confound all distinction between the ever-blessed Jehovah, and him “whom the Father sanctified and sent,” it is not wanting; for in the 2d part of the 45th psalm. it is made our duty to love and adore Christ, because he is our Maker and our Lord.

“ Let him be lov’d and yet ador’d,

He is thy Maker and thy Lord. And yet in the 94th psalm we are told,

" Jehovah is the Sovereign Lord,” and that “ We are his work :"--and in hymn 54th, it is to the “Eternal God,” “the only living and true God,"

alone ourselves we owe To Him alone our homage pay."

[ocr errors]

I will adduce but a single example more of religious address to Christ. It is in the 102d psalm, entitled “the mortality of man and eternity of Christ”-in which he is adored, not only as being himself eternal, but as possessing the power of life and death ; not only as our maker, and the maker of heaven and earth, but as immutable, controuling and directing all changes :

1. “It is the Lord, our maker's band,

Weakens our strength amidst the race ;
Disease and death at thy command

Arrest us and cut short our days.
2. Spare as, O Lord, aloud we pray

Nor let our sun go down at noon :
Thy years are our eternal day,” &c.
3. Christ is the same through every age-
4. 'Twas he this earth's foundation laid,

Heaven is the building of his hand;
This earth grows old, these heavens shall fade

And all be changed at his command.” Dr. Belknap altered, in the first line, the word “ Saviour," as written by Watts, to “ Maker.” The title of the hymn, nevertheless, confines its application to Christ, as well as the references to “the church," in the 5th and 6th verses, and to Hebrews, i. 8. at the head.

Besides addresses to the Son, we have also addresses to the Holy Spirit, in distinction from God the Father.*

" Eternal spirit, we confess

And sing the wonders of thy grace ;
Thy power conveys the blessing down

From God the Father and his Son.” Hymn 60. Passing over other controverted points, particularly the doctrines that we are to slun,ber in the grave until the general resurrection, (Psalms 4th, 17th, 71st, and others ;) and the greater propriety, to say the least, of immersion in baptism,t I proceed to examine this collection, as it respects another “essential requisite."

3. A collection of Hymns for public worship should abound" in those thoughts which in their own nature are best suited to pro

* See also Hymn 197, 5th and 6th v.

f" See how the spotless lamb

Descends into the stream,
And teaches us to imitate,

What bim so well became !"-Hymn 127.

mote and cherish the feelings of devotion." I have room only to notice one or two classes of hymns which I think very ill adapted to this most important purpose. They are those which give unworthy ideas of the Divine Being.

No one can have read Belknap's Collection with attention, who has not been struck with the contrast which seems even studiously displayed between the wrathful, avenging character of the Father of mankind, and the mild and merciful, and benignant attributes of the son of man; and who that has observed this, has not been sensible how repugnant it is to the spirit of devotion ? The blessings of salvation, the hope of immortality, are not uniformly ascribed to the goodness of God, but to the kind interposition of Christ. It was “his pity melted o'er our woes,” and prompted him “ to save.” Hymn 259. All in Peaven is “ the gift of Jesus’ love.” (Hymn 40.) It is

- Jesus who alone can give

True pleasure, peace, and rest.” " But he, for his own mercy's sake

My wandering soul restores.”—Hymn 173. “ Jesus, the spriog of joys divine,

Whence all our hope and comfort flow.” And

“Our everlasting love is due

To him, who pity'd sipners lost,
Who paid our rapsom when he knew,

His precious life must be the cost.”—Hymn 114. The gracious Father of all, “from whom descendeth every good gift,” is too frequently represented as angry, wrathful, and vindictive. As in psalm 6.

“In anger, Lord, rebuke me not,

But spare a wretch forlorn ;
Correct me not in thy fierce wrath,

Too heavy to be borne.” But Christ is every where represented in a very different light, and in hymn 218, he is negatively described in a sense which reminds us of the vindictive God.

His band no thunder bears,

No terror clothes his brow,
No bolts to drive our guilty souls

To fiercer flames below." In psalın 18 we have a high-wrought description of God executing judgment on his enemies, and we are told of “his vin


dictive fury."* But in the 48th hymn, we are called on to proclaim “ the sovereign of our hearts," namely, “Christ, the King of Saints ;"

Infinite power, and boundless love

In him unite their rays.' So also in hymn 156.

“We hear with trembling and affright,

The voice of heaven
“ What mortal could sustain the stroke

Should wrath divine

Descend to crush rebellious worms !"
But we have a refuge in the compassion of Christ :

His heart is full of tenderness,

Of pity and of love.”-Hymn 292. There are other hymns in this collection which seem to me to be no less at variance with a right spirit of devotion ; 1 refer to those which describe in terms more or less bold, the warfare carried on between the supreme Jehovah and the evil one.

In psalm 13, the christian, "complaining under temptation" represents himself, while God conceals his face, and delays his aid, as struggling and toiling in vain. He then warns, and expostulates with, the Almighty, in the following vituperative strain :

“ How would the tempter boast aloud,

If I become his prey,
And all the hosts of hell grow proud,

At thy so long delay.' Hymn 146 contains the triumphant description of a battle fought by Michael,

“ Appointed by the eternal King,

To fight the battles of our God," and the Dragon : But it was not by Michael, the appointed champion of the Almighty, that the victory and renown were gain'd;"

“'Twas by thy blood, immortal lamb ;

Thine armies trod the Dragon down.” 4. A collection suited to public worship, “should contain something appropriate to every important subject of practical religion, and to every interesting occasion ;" and " there should be

[ocr errors]

* This expression was altered, I find, in subsequent editions, to “tempestuous fury,"--but God's "vindictive frowns," are still to be found in psalm 11th.

« PrécédentContinuer »