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Israelites, through the wilderness, is thus sented by Sternhold.
When thou didst march before thy folk,
The Egyptians from among,
Which was both wide and long :
Heard were great claps of thunder ;
As it would cleave in sunder.
Abundantly was washt ;
By thee it was refresht.
Of warriours good and strong,
Is present them among.
Though this version has undergone many revisions, yet we fully agree with Warton, that its continued use is discreditable to the Church of England. The translation, in its genuine and unsophisticated state, may justly indeed be considered, as he observes, no inconsiderable monu
* Warton's censure is expressed in very strong language. “ To the disgrace of sacred music, sacred poetry, and our established worship, these Psalms still continue to be sung in the Church of England.” See History of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 461.
ment of our ancient literature, if not of our ancient poetry; and Fuller, likewise, remarks, “ Match these verses for their ages, they shall go abreast with the best poems of those times.” Still the spirit of the present age demands a higher standard both of poetical taste and devotional piety. They are too bald and jejune. The public feeling requires a more luminous exhibition of the great truths of the gospel, and a more experimental mode of delineating the trials and conflicts of the Christian warfare. No man has accomplished this important task more successfully than Watts. He has united the inspiration of poetry with the hallowed fire from the altar; and we hesitate not to assert, that if Watts had been a churchman, his version would have been in universal repute among
It is already incorporated with most of the modern selections, where there is a return to the doctrines of the Reformation; and Sternhold and Hopkins are becoming increasingly unsuited to the advancing spirit of religious inquiry.
It was this conviction which induced Newton, in the year 1771, to engage in the composition of the Olney Hymns. They were designed to be the joint contribution of Newton and Cowper, but the morbid depression of the poet prevented the fulfilment of his share of the engagement. The total number contributed by Cowper has been variously stated. Hayley estimates it at sixty-eight. Other biographers have considerably reduced the amount.
Some editions assign sixty-three; others insert sixtyfive. There is at present no uniform standard, nor is there, to the best of our judgment, one single edition entitled to the credit of correctness.* We trust that we have the means of deciding this controverted subject. So far as the original edition, now lying before us, published, under the superintendence of Newton himself, by Johnson, the bookseller, and bearing the date of 1779, may be considered as the most authentic guide and criterion, we are enabled to state that the original number, distinguished by the initial letter C (Cowper's signature) is sixty-seven. If to the above we add a hymn not inserted in Newton's original edition, because subsequently composed, but which we have been enabled to authenticate as the production of Cowper, the total number, entitled to be ascribed to his pen, is sixty-eight. The hymn that we allude to begins,
“ To Jesus, the crown of my hope.”
It has already appeared before the public in some modern selections.
Of these hymns two were written at the period of Cowper's recovery at St. Albans, when his mind had received those gracious impressions which so powerfully influenced his future principles and writings. The first which Cowper ever composed was in allusion to this event. It is entitled “ The Happy Change,” and begins with the words,
* One edition imputes two bymns of Newton's to Cowper, by mistaking the numerical letter C for the initial of Cowper's
“ How bless'd thy creature is, O God." The second was written when he contemplated retiring from the busy world. It is the beautiful and admired hymn,
Far from the world, O Lord, I flee.” It may be interesting to the reader to learn, from concurring sources of information, that the celebrated hymn commencing with
“ God moves in a mysterious way,” was the last in the collection that he composed, and that it was written on the eve of that afflicting malady, which, occurring in Jan. 1773, suspended his powers for nearly seven successive years, though his correspondence was partially resumed with Mr. Hill and Mr. Unwin, from the year 1776. It was during a solitary walk in the fields that he had a presentiment of his approaching attack, and it is to this remarkable impression that we owe the origin of the above admired composition.
This hymn acquires a peculiar interest from the above incident, as well as from the unshaken faith and submission which it inculcates under the darkest dispensations. It seems as if God were giving him a chart of the voyage through those seas of trouble which he was about to navigate. No man could have written this hymn unless under the influence of a real or supposed special dispensation ; and one end perhaps designed by it was, that Cowper should not only convey instruction to his own mind, but be made the instrument of consoling others. Few hymns have been more admired or more frequently quoted. It stands pre-eminent in that class which refer to the mysterious dealings of God, and is singularly qualified to invigorate the faith, to check the speculations of finite reason, and to lead the sufferer to repose on the unerring wisdom and goodness of God.
We must be careful, at the same time, how we reason on these subjects. That impressions of approaching trials may be sent from God, and subsequently be realized, we are by no means prepared to deny; but that they are often the occasion of fulfilling themselves, by acting strongly on a nervous temperament, we still more firmly believe. Again, that they frequently exist, and are not confirmed by the result, is well known. On the whole, we think reason as well as Scripture militates strongly against the doctrine of impressions. There is often an order and progression in them which, if minutely traced, prove their fallacy. Anxiety first suggests fear. A too great sensitiveness of feeling, an excursive imagination, and the want of a more vigorous exercise of faith next invest what was only imaginary, with reality. It thus acquires a form and existence, next expands into magnitude, and then rises into the power and ascendency of an