Hymnology -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 016:61 (Jan 1859)
Article: Hymnology
Author: Anonymous


A good Hymn Book must be a good manual of religious experience. The Ideal of a perfect Hymn Book is that of a perfect expression of the real life of the church, in forms perfectly adjusted to the service of song. It excludes, on the one hand, lyric poetry which is only poetry, though it be on sacred themes; and, on the other hand, it is equally unfriendly to devotional rhymes which, though truthful, are so unworthy in respect of poetic form as to degrade the truths they embody; and yet again, it rejects, as unbecoming to the sanctuary, those religious poems which are both true to the Christian life and unexceptionable in their poetic spirit, and yet are of such rhythmic structure as to be unfit for expression with the accompaniment of music. Genuineness of religious emotion, refinement of poetic taste, and fitness to musical

cadence—these three are essential to a faultless hymn, as the three chief graces to a faultless character. Yet “the greatest of these,” that grace which above all else vitalizes a true hymn, is that which makes it true — its fidelity to the realities of religious experience. Every true hymn is a “Psalm of Life:” some soul has lived it. A manual of such psalmody is the guide which the church needs in her worship of God in song.

Such a manual must therefore be pervaded by a historic spirit. We must search for its materials along the track which a living church has trodden; and must expect to find them in the richest profusion, where the life of the church has been most intense. The search cannot disappoint us. It is a signal fact that the history of hymnology and the history of piety are synchronous in their development. Hymnology has not been swayed mainly by the mutations of literature as such, but by those of the religious vitality of the church. The rise and fall of the one have been the invariable exponent of the ebb and flow of the other. Hebrew piety created the Hebrew literature, and that found its chief expression in the Hebrew psalmody. The “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs” of the apostolic churches, were an out-gushing of the new spirit of Christianity, which does not seem to have restricted itself to the ancient songs of the temple, or of the synagogue. Even the miraculous endowments of the first Christian age, appear to have manifested one class of their phenomena in the inspired improvisation of psalms. The earliest Christian historians agree in affirming, that the Christian communities of their times employed in the worship of the sanctuary, not only the Psalms and other metrical passages of the Old Testament, but also hymns original to the age, and which the religious cha...

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