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Other specimens of a similar character might be quoted, which the compilers must have known were not in harmony with the creed of the larger portion of Christ's militant Church. The fact is, the book was intended for the use of Calvinists, and it would have been honest to have said so on the titlepage.
We shall have more to say presently upon the alterations and improvements made by our compilers. Just here, on the doctrinal teachings of their book, we may notice the manner in which they print one of Charles Wesley's stanzas. It is from hymn 133 of the Methodist collection, where it may be found as it came from the poet's pen :
Is crucified for me and you,
To bring us rebels back to God:
Ye all are bought with Jesus' blood :
Our compilers thus mend the stanza, and give no intimation that it differs at all from the original:
Was crucified for you and me,
To bring us rebels back to God;
His Church is purchased with his blood.
On the subject of alterations generally the compilers are very explicit—in theory. They tell us that, “in general the author's words should be preferred to others," and assure us that they “have admitted no changes for slight reasons, and few without obvious necessity.” Doubtless they believed this statement, and made it in good faith. It has been our misfortune, in examining the book, to stumble on the “few” that seem to have been made without obvious necessity; and if the compilers had not told us the contrary, we should have thought that they had made some changes for slight reasons. The first hymn in the Methodist collection,
O for a thousand tongues to sing,
has been transferred to the Sabbath Hymn Book, (No. 247.) It is altered a little in four of the six stanzas. In the third, where the poet says of the name of Jesus,
'Tis music in the sinner's ears, our compilers have it
'Tis music in my ravished ears, an alteration, the necessity of which, either theologically or poetically, is not to us “obvious.”
The 306th of the Methodist collection was also, in part, thought worthy of a place. The line,
And dances his glad heart for joy, was, however, too poetical for our compilers. Dancing is such a bad thing per se, that they will not allow even the heart of him who is from sin set free, to usurp a function which prosaically belongs only to the heels. So they say,
And bounds his gladdened heart with joy. That well-known lyric,
Jesus, lover of my soul, finds a place, in whole or in part, in almost every collection. Compilers generally insert it without mutilation. The coin. mittee who prepared the volume before us have made two hymns of it, (408, 409.) In reading it, however, it occurred to one of them, and the others appear to have agreed with him, that thero was “an obvious necessity” for an alteration in the first stanza:
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high. Nearer? nearer waters? What can that mean? Verily, the compilers didn't know. Of course they took it for granted that nobody else would; so, felicitously, one of them hit upon this alteration :
While the waters near me roll. That's plain, certainly, but as certainly prosy. Our compilers' hymn 604 is a part of Charles Wesley's beautiful lyric, beginning,
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Instead of the poet's language, (v. 2,)
I have long withstood his grace,
we are taught in the Sabbath Hymn Book to sing,
I have scorned the Son of God,
Trampled on his precious blood, which is an alteration not required, as it seems to us, by any obvious necessity. The rhyme is spoiled and the rhythm mangled. So their hymn 622, which is 865 of the Methodist collection, in which the first stanza reads,
And wilt thou yet be found,
And may I still draw near ?
Of a poor sinner's prayer, our compilers have altered so that it reads:
Still wilt thou, Lord, be found ?
And may I still draw near ?
A sinner's earnest prayer. There may have been some plausible pretext for the alteration in the last line. “A sinner's earnest prayer” may be more poetical, perhaps, than “A poor sinner's prayer.” It will suit a rich sinner, or a sinner in comfortable circumstances better doubtless. But the iteration in the first and second lines, “still," "wilt,” and “still,” does not strike us as an improvement on the original.
In a number of instances, as if the compilers had been seeking to gratify Unitarians, they obliterate the name of Jesus and substitute for it God, as in their hymn 634, which, in the Methodist collection, reads,
Jesus, my strength, my hope, but which they have altered (or followed an alteration made by some one else) to
O God, my strength, my hope, FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XIII.—4
And in their hymn 644 we read,
But thou, O God, my wisdom art, instead of, as the poet wrote,
But thou, O Christ, my wisdom art. and the lines of the same beautiful hymn,
Whither, O whither, should I fly
But to my loving Saviour's breast! are barbarously, we were going to say sacrilegiously, altered to
Whither, O whither, should I fly
But to my loving Father's breast ! Perhaps no single doctrine have our compilers labored so assiduously to exclude from their book as that of the fullness of the atonement made by Christ Jesus. That beautiful lyric, beginning
Light of those whose dreary dwelling, has, in the last stanza, this line:
By thine all-atoning merit, etc., Onr compilers alter it to
By thine all-sufficient merit, they being willing to admit that the Saviour's merit is allsufficient, but not that it is all-atoning. On this point, of course, no one would have any right to complain if the Sabbath Hymn Book were avowedly and openly what it is really and secretly, Calvinistic in its teachings.
On the score of good taste many of our compilers' alterations are objectionable. The first stanza of their hymn 158 (107 of the Methodist collection) reads :
Eternal Power! Almighty God!
Who can approach thy throne!
Accessless light is thine abode, etc. What kind of light that may be of course everybody knows; but the word is composed of harsh syllables, and is, we are thankful to know, not English.
This leads to the remark that our compilers seem to have a great fondness for long words, a peculiarity found in very few similar compilations. Indeed, all other hymn-book makers, so far as we know, go to the other extreme in their alterations, and, as some of them tell us, for the sake of those who sing, prefer short words. Here we have,
This acknowledgment I'll make.-H. 695.
Life's strange vicissitude.-H. 207.
As to the number and variety of the hymns which make up the collection, we have of course all the favorite productions of Watts, Mrs. Steele, Cowper, Newton, Doddridge, quite a number from the pen of Montgomery, and but a few, comparatively, from the Wesleys. Determined, however, that their collection should not be lacking in quantity, the compilers have pressed into “the service of song in the house of the Lord" a great many stanzas, and not a few entire hymns, that are utterly unworthy of the honor. A large number have no other merit than that they are new, and have never found a place in any former collection. “The Sabbath Hymn Book," the compilers tell us," has been enriched by several contributions prepared expressly for it by the Rev. Horatius Bonar, of Scota land, and by many of his poems, abridged and accommodated to the use of our psalmody, after a full consultation with him and with his very kind permission. It has been also enriched by several hymns, some of them written immediately for us by Rev. Ray Palmer, D. D., of Albany, and others translated expressly for it by him from the original Latin.” We have a word or two to say about these novelties presently. Just now we notice the hymns that have been inserted for the very opposite reason, namely, that they are “old;" and although the compilers fear that some of them may be thought “ too quaint for modern psalmody," they nevertheless insert them, and thus swell the size of their book. They give us, for instance, no less than four very good versions of the one hundredth psalm,