The Higher Criticism Of Lady Huntingdon As Hymnist -- By: James H. Ross

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 062:247 (Jul 1905)
Article: The Higher Criticism Of Lady Huntingdon As Hymnist
Author: James H. Ross

The Higher Criticism Of Lady Huntingdon As Hymnist

James H. Ross

North Cambridge, Mass.

There is great need that Christians and churches, pulpit and press, hymnists and compilers, should awaken to the fact that there is a new literature of hymnology, which ought to be accompanied by a new and widening hymnal scholarship. The researches of critical scholars, of investigators like Daniel Sedgwick and successors to him, have been published. They are voluminous, informing and accurate, destructive and constructive. There is a higher criticism in hymnology, which deals with texts, authorship, editions, dates, alterations by authors themselves and compilers. Its conclusions are various: the critics are not agreed among themselves. The conclusions reached, in some instances, are radical, destructive of traditions, but conservative of the truth. Antique opinions, and allegations of disputed and doubtful facts, are put upon the defensive. Some of them are demonstrative of the untenable. It is not easy to make the necessary concessions. Old associations of a pleasant and profitable kind are too old to yield easily and gracefully. They ought not to yield except to proofs, good and sufficient. A long line of unbroken traditions

on any subject has some value, although it may not be very great.

For mere than one and one quarter centuries, the hymn,

“When Thou, My Righteous Judge, Shall Come,”

has been assigned to Lady Huntingdon. A few additional hymns have been attributed to her. It seems rash to undertake a demonstration that she did not write it nor them; that the proof of her authorship is insufficient and unsatisfying; that her possession of the poetic gift, the hymnal faculty, in any degree equal to the production of a good poem and an abiding hymn, is yet to be proved. Such proof as there is that she was a poet and hymnist is of the indirect kind. It consists of testimony rather than of her own authority, her actual productions, and the authority of her biographers. A list of her alleged hymens once existed, but has been lost; and thus the very evidence that would settle, or tend to settle, whether she wrote the great hymn under discussion, and what additional hymns she wrote, is wanting. In 1878 Doddridge wrote to his wife, that he had “stolen a hymn “which he steadfastly believed to have been written by her, and which he would not fail to communicate. But he did not communicate, or at least the knowledge of what he did communicate is wanting. Hence some hymn usually attributed to Doddridge may belong to Lady Huntingdon. Rev. Josiah Miller (1838–80), in his “Singers and Songs of the Church” (1869), says, that “although the Countess wa...

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