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THE eighteenth century gave England nearly all its hymns. If any popular collection were analysed, it would be found that the chronology of its chief contents ranges between 1709, when Watts published his "Spiritual Songs," and 1800, when Cowper died. The three favourite compositions of Bishop Ken are a little older, and some delightful additions have been made to our sacred minstrelsy by writers of more recent date -by Heber and James Montgomery, by Keble and Canon Stowell, by Sir E. Denny and Horatius Bonar; but still the great staple of British hymnology is to be found in Watts and Doddridge, in Toplady, Cowper, and the Wesleys, and in those contemporaries of theirs who clothed ardent devotion in vivid words and melodious numbers. Consequently, readers who are familiar with this kind of literature will at once recognise nearly all our specimens. It has been our object to bring together a few of those Christian lyrics which have been crowned by general acclamation, rather than to move for a new trial in behalf of candidates who, however graceful or ingenious, lacked that kind of excellence which compels the popular favour.
Regarding the three following hymns, Mr Montgomery has said " Had he endowed three hospitals he might have been less a benefactor to posterity. There is exemplary plainness of speech, manly vigour of thought, and consecration of heart in these pieces. The well-known doxology, 'Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,' &c., is a masterpiece at once of amplification and compression-amplification, on the burthen 'Praise God,' repeated in each line; compression, in exhibiting God
as the object of praise in every view in which we can imagine praise due to Him; praise for all His blessings-yea, for all blessings, none coming from any other source; praise, by every creature specifically involved, 'here below,' and 'in heaven above ;' praise to Him in each of the characters wherein He has revealed Himself in His word-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Yet this comprehensive verse is sufficiently simple, that by it 'out of the mouths of babes and sucklings praise might be perfected; and it appears so easy, that one is tempted to think hundreds of the sort might be made without trouble. The reader has only to try, and he will quickly be undeceived.” *
This devout and conscientious prelate was born at Berkhampstead also the birthplace of Cowper-July 1637, and died at Longleat, March 19, 1711. For four years he held the bishopric of Bath and Wells, but, refusing the oath of allegiance to King William, he was deprived, and spent the rest of his life in peaceful retirement.
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Redeem thy misspent time that's past,
Let all thy converse be sincere ;
Influenced by the light divine,
* Montgomery's "Christian Psalmist."
Reflect all Heaven's propitious ways,
I wake, I wake, ye heavenly choir;
May I, like you, in God delight,
Had I your wings, to heaven I'd fly,
Glory to Thee who safe hast kept,
And hast refresh'd me whilst I slept.
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake, may of endless life partake.
I would not wake, nor rise again,
Heaven is, dear Lord, where'er Thou art,
For to my soul 'tis hell to be
Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Scatter my sins as morning dew;
And with Thyself my spirit fill.
Direct, control, suggest, this day,
The faster sleep the sense does bind,
O when shall I in endless day,
For ever chase dark sleep away,
And endless praise, with th' heavenly choir,
You, my blest Guardian, whilst I sleep,
Stop all the avenues of ill.*
Thought to thought with my soul converse,
And in my stead, all the night long
Sing to my God a grateful song.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Lord, now my sleep does me forsake,
Bless'd angels, while we silent lie,
I now awake do with you join,
* It would have been better if this prayer had been addressed to the Divine Spirit Himself. As it is, it is too like the Romish invocation of angels.