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Music and Poetry were associated with Religion, from a very early period, and we hear not only the melodious harp of David, but the rude timbrel of Miriam, accompanying the song of Jewish piety. Our Lord consecrated the practice of singing praises to God, by one of his latest acts on earth; * and St. Paul particularly recommends the melody of a grateful heart to be expressed in Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.t. Their disciples, therefore, could not be inattentive to a part of devotion recommended by such endearing authority, and which harmonized so well with the warm and glowing affections of holy gratitude. Hymns addressed to the Supreme Being, the Son of
* Mat. xxvi, 3. + Ephes. v. 19, 20.
God, and the Holy Trinity,” were introduced in the Primitive Church, and constituted, in the opinion of the Orthodox, a most interesting and valuable part of Public Worship. 4 “The Hymns and Songs of the Church,” says one of the eminent Fathers, “ moved my soul intensely, the truth was distilled by them into my heart, the flame of picty was kindled, and my tears flowed for joy.” Another Father, f who composed many of the Hymns in question, bears a testimony equally strong to their value and influence :-‘‘they
affirm that the people are led away by the poetry of my Hymns; and it is a charge, which I do not alto
* An objection has been made to the use of hymns, because they frequently are addressed to the Saviour; and it is on two accounts a very singular objection. It implies an ignorance of the important fact, that Christians are required, in very strong terms, (Phil. ii. 9, 11.) to worship Christ; and it shews an equal ignorance of the real contents of the common prayer, so considerable a part of which is occupied in a ddresses of prayer and praise to him, who “ is God over all blessed for ever.”—The Primitive Christians had, however, less fastidiousness, or more discernment. Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, informs us on the authority of some, who had been examined, “that they sang praises to Christ as God.” Origen observes “we sing praises to none but the Supreme Being and his only SoN.” The “Te Deum” and the “ Gloria in excelsis” two prose Hymns of high antiquity, preserved in our liturgy, are beautiful illustrations of the fact.
+ Augustine. : Ambrose.
gether deny. The subject of them is sublime and powerful. For what can be more powerful than the confession of the Trinity, which is daily celebrated by the mouth of all the people : They strive together with zeal in making a profession of their Faith, and are instructed how to celebrate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in strains of Poetry " The Hymns written by this excellent Father were in constant use in the Western Church, from whose formularies the Church of England principally composed her services. It is not however certain, whether many of them were in existence at the Reformation; but at least it is remarkable, that although the latter so properly excluded the various effusions to the Cross, the Saints, and the Virgin Mary, she should not have retained some of the more pious and unexceptionable hymns” in the Roman Breviary, and that our Liturgy should have been published without a single metrical hymn, if we except the paraphrase of the “Veni Creator” in the Ordination service. To those who are in the habit of contemplating the Old Version of Psalms as constituting a part of
the Common Prayer, this circumstance may not be sur
* The Compiler has translated four of these, (see pp. 4, 27, 33, 35,) of which that p. 27 was written by Claudianus Mamercus, and in the original, is remarkable for its beauty.
prising. Its use, however, was never exclusively anthorised. In a short time after its publication it was adopted in many Churches; and, therefore, was appended to the Prayer Book, by the Stationers, as matter of convenience, and with this recommendation in the title: “as allowed to be said or sung in all Churches and Chapels” Any other version might have claimed a similar allowance, and for the following reason. By an Act for confirming the Liturgy, it was declared lawful to use other Psalms or Prayers, taken out of the Bible, if those in the Book were not omitted; upon which enactment Burnet makes the following remark: “this Proviso for the Psalms and Prayers was for the singing Psalms which were translated into verse.”f Metrical Hymns, therefore, do not appear to have been admited during Edward's reign :-but in that of Elizabeth, a very important alteration took place in this respect. In 1559 Her Majesty, in Council, issued her celebrated Injunctions to the Clergy, of which, so much as re
** This allowance seems rather to have been a connivance than an approbation: no such allowance being any where found by such as have been most industrious and concerned in the search thereof.”—Heylin,