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am I hurt; I am black, astonishment hath taken hold upon me, Jer. viii. 21. A very considerable part of his prophecy, and almost the whole of his book of Lamentations, are the sympathetic complaints of a religious patriot, weeping over the sins, and the distresses of his country. Read the 137th Psalm. What is it, but the warmest effusions of a patriotic muse, glowing (and under the influence of divine inspiration too, glowing I say) with the most exalted and uneradicable love of its country. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill in music: if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy, that is, as dearly as I love to join in the public and private worship of God; may my hand never be able to touch the harp to his praise, nor my tongue to sing hymns to the glory of his name; if Judea and her capital are not dearer to me than any other country, and than any other temporal consideration whatever. But what must set the point beyond all farther dispute, is the example of Christ himself,
If he was a patriot, patriotism must be a virtue. And, that he was such, appears from his weeping over the approaching calamities of his country; the tears which, as. man, he shed on that occasion, were tears of patriotism.
A most tender and peculiar friendship subsisted between Jonathan and David, that Timothy and Philemon were amongst the most intimate and confidential friends of St. Paul, and (what' must decisively turn the scale is) that our Lord himself honoured Lazarus and his two sisters, and also the evangelist John, with such a share of his adorable intimacy and friendship, as the rest of his disciples,
much less the world at large, were by no means admitted to. And that the tears he poured at the tomb of Lazarus, were tears of friendship: we should distinguish sufficiently between friendship and benevolence. The latter, according to the amiable genius of Christianity, should extend to all mankind. The former may, without any wrong to others, be lawfully and reasonably restrained to a few.
ON SACRED POETRY.
God is the God of truth, of holiness, and of elegance. Whoever, therefore, has the honour to compose, or to compile, any thing that may constitute a part of his worship, should keep those three particulars constantly in view.
As we cannot pray, without the exciting and enabling grace of the Holy Ghost (Rom. viii. 26. Jude 20.); so neither can we sing, spiritually, acceptably, and profitably, without the presence and inspiration of the same condescending and most adorable person (1 Cor. xiv. 15. Eph. v. 18, 19). The reason is evident. For, what is a psalm, or hymn, strictly taken, but prayer, or praise, in verse ?
The original difference (if any specific difference there originally was) between psalms and hymns, seems to have lain in this : that, anciently, a psalm was actually set to instrumental music, and usually accompanied by it at the time of singing (Psal. lxxxi. 2). A similar, or even the self-same compo. sition, simply sung without the aid of musical instruments, was perhaps the primitive definition of an hymn (Matth. xvi. 30). By degrees, the word psalm became appropriated, for respectful distinction's sake, to the inspired songs of David, and others, recorded in scripture: while succeeding pieces, formed on those elevated models, but written, from time to time, as occasion served, by inferior believers, obtained the appellation of hymns.
St. Paul (in Eph. v. 19. and Col. iii. 16.) mentions a species of sacred poetry, which he terms ωδαι ηνευμαίικαι, i. e. “ spiritual odes.” These, likewise, I take to have been, what are usually called, human compositions: as much so, as the hymns of Prudentius, Beza, Grotius, Witsius, Vida, Dr. Watts, Miss Steele, or Mr. Hart. Such devout productions may be denominated odes, or songs at large, because (like many of the Psalms themselves) they admit of much latitude and variety: being not strictly limited to absolute prayer and praise, but occasionally fraught with doctrine, exhortation, and instruction in righteousness; tending, as the apostle expresses it in the passage last cited, to “ teach,” to “ admonish,” and to build up one another on our most holy faith.--The “ odes,” which St. Paul recommends, “are termed spiritual” ones, because they relate to spiritual things; are written by spiritual persons, under the impressions of spiritual influence; and, if the good Spirit of God shine upon us at the time, are a most spiritual branch of divine worship: conducing to spiritualize the heart, wing the affections to heaven, and give us a blessed foretaste of the employment and the felicity of elect angels, and of elect souls delivered from the prison of the flesh.
Some worthy persons have been of opinion, (and what absurdity is there, for which some well-meaning people have not contended ?) that it is “unlawful to sing human compositions in the house of God.” But, by the same rule, it must be equally unlawful to preach, or publicly to pray, except in the very words of scripture. Not to observe, that many of the best and greatest men, that ever lived, have, both in ancient and modern times, been hymnwriters; and that there is the strongest reason to believe, that the best Christians, in all ages, have been hymn-singers. Moreover, the singing of hymns is an ordinance, to which God has repeatedly set the seal of his own presence and power; and which he deigns eminently to bless, at this very day. It has proved a converting ordinance, to some of his people; a recovering ordinance, to others; a comforting ordinance to them all; and one of the divinest mediums of communion with God, which his gracious benignity has vouchsafed to his church below.
But remember, reader, that “none can,” truly and savingly, “ learn the song. of the Lamb,” who are not “redeemed from the earth" by his most precious blood : (Rev. xiv. 3.)–Pray, therefore, for the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost on thy heart, to apply and make known to thee thy personal interest in the Father's election and in the Son's redemption. So wilt thou not only sing with understanding, but with the spirit also beaming upon thy soul; and be able experimentally to say,
As from the lute soft music flows,
Obedient to the skilful hand;
Her harmony to thy command.
Sweet melody of praise I bring;
And feel the bliss that makes them sing.