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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Hymns and Hymnology

Hymns and Hymnology.

Sir,—Having occasion the other day to look over one of our popular Hymn Books, I was led into a mental commentary on its contents, and on laying it aside could not help scribbling a thought or two, which I now place at your service.

To any one not acquainted with orthodox writers, it seems surprising that such a vast number of hymns has been produced from such a slender stock of materials; one liymnologist having composed no fewer than 850 hymns; another 745; another 504; and several others from 200 to 400 each.

The Collection to which I have referred contains nearly a thousand hymns, and it seems truly marvellous that with only about ten or twelve Calvinistic dogmas to work upon such a quantity of versification could have been elaborated. But the marvel diminishes when they are inspected. Such endless repetitions clothed in such doggerel might easily be extended from thousands to tens of thousands. This, however, may be considered a mere matter of taste. Not so the language used; and here we cannot too strongly express our unmitigated disgust and even horror. We are told, for example, in reference to the Crucifixion, that

"Earth's profoundest centre quakes,

The great Jehovah dies."

What a monstrous idea that Almighty God should be nailed to a cross! I once heard a good man say, "Well, you affirm that Jehovah died; I want to know who took the reins of government in hand until he rose again from the dead." No doubt a question to the point. But the following verses arc, if possible, more monstrous still.

"Dies the glorious Cause of all!
The true eternal Pan;
Falls, to raise us from our fall,
To ransom sinful man!
Well may Sol withdraw his light,
With the Sufferer sympathise,
Leave the world in sudden night,
While the Creator dies!"

What strange language these good people use. Here we have the names of a couple of Pagan gods associated with Jehovah himself. One verse of another hymn is of such a mysterious character that we acknowledge our inability to understand it.

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"Jesus, at thy command,
We know it shall be done;
Take the two sticks into thy hand,
The two shall then be one."

But it seems that scarcely any language can be too coarse or too contradictory if employed in the support of Calvinism. Even the Trinity is not always sufficient, as may be gleaned from the following:—

"The Father shining on his throne,
The glorious co-eternal Son,
The Spirit, one and seven,
Conspire our rapture to complete."

What are we to understand by this strange language? The writer seems rather fond of it, for in another hymn we have the same idea.

"Let the Spirit before his throne,
Mysterious One and Seven."

The Trinity now seems to be insufficient, for the number "Seven" is added! What a strange confusion of ideas respecting the Divine Being we find in these orthodox writers. The amiable Dr. Watts, whose name ever deserves to be spoken of with love and affection, could, in his early days, pen such awful language as this:—

"God the Mighty Maker died
For man the creature's sin."

It is generally believed, however, that the good Doctor took a very different view of these matters before he left this world.

Now, if we reflect for a moment that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, bears the most emphatic testimony to the Unity of the Divine Being, it seems truly marvellous that writers should indulge in such strange ideas as the above, and expect congregations to sing them as part of their public worship.