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And from the darkest shades, like some fair star
Of midnight, scattering beams of light afar.' pp. 137-9. We take one more specimen from the fourth week : it is Tuesday Morning
Almighty One! I bend in dust before Thee :
Even so veil'd cherubs bend ;-
All-wise, all-present friend !
Or curtained it in snow;
Before thy presence bow.
That map so fair and bright;
Pouring its streams of light.
Quickenest the teeming sea :
Thine, heaven's soft harmony.
Thine is the thunder-cloud,
To the tomb's solitude.
Heaves with Thy mighty breath ;
Drops in the lap of death.
Thee in their orbits bless;
Proclaim Thy righteousness.
That woke it into day;
Shall bid that world decay.
On stars and glowing suns ;
Waft Thee seraphic tones,
An offering worthy Thee,
Blest notes of ecstacy!
Just breathing from my breast;
A mingled song, of worthlessness and meekness,
And feeble hope at best.
Should speak as angels speak,
Thy seat of light should seek.
How terrible the sound !
Of strength-may I be found !
As when 't will cease to beat;
When I my God shall greet.' pp. 164–6. Considered as poetry, there is much that is pleasing, and melodious, and occasionally striking in these matins and vespers ; although they are not free from marks of carelessness and false tase, and the rhymes are sometimes inadmissibly defective and quite below the dignity of serious poetry. But, as the Author has reminded us in his Preface, that the substance,
of piety is of higher interest than any of its decorations, we waive all further criticism on the composition, and ask, the Bible being the rule and arbiter, Is this “piety?' Had we been told that these hymns were free translations of some Greek or Latin odes to the Father of gods and men, which modern researches had brought to light from among the unrolled treasures of Herculaneum, we should have been led to believe that, like the hymn of Cleanthes, they were probably imitations, rather than relics, of the poetry of the ancients; but, were it not for a few exceptions, there would have been nothing to forbid the idea, that they might possibly be the production of some later Platonist or Eclectic philosopher, whose mind had admitted a still further portion of the borrowed light of Christianity, than shines in the pages of Plotinus, or occasionally lights up the eloquence of Tully. An enlightened Deist of any school, whether Western or Eastern, might certainly have been the author of almost any and every matin and vesper in the present collection. And had they been the production of some Persian Soofi or some old classical theist, we should have been ready to say, This man wanted but the knowledge of the Bible, to be a Christian.
We could not have desired a better illustration, though it is a melancholy one, of the remarks we offered on true and
spurious devotion, in treating of love to God*, than is supplied
* Eclectic Review, Feb. 1823. pp. 103-5.
by these poems. We had not then read them—we believe they were not published-or it might have been supposed, that we had some allusion to the Author when we remarked, that men will admit nothing more readily than the doctrine of the general benevolence of God; will descant, with a refined and delusive sentimental pleasure, on the power, and wisdom, and beneficence of the Creator ; while yet, the God of the Bible is so far from being recognised by them, that the most illustrious manifestation which he has made of his character in the redemption and reconciliation of the world to himself through a Mediator, is viewed with indifference or distaste. These poetical contemplations' on the Deity, what are they, but the philosophic musings of a speculative mind, which has embraced its own deified ideal as the object of a sentimental worship, in lieu of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
The feature which will probably first strike most of our readers, is the irreverent and repulsive familiarity with which the Divine Being is addressed in some of the passages above cited. Mr. Bowring seems to wish to make it appear, that he does not feel to stand in need of a Mediator in drawing near to the Divine Majesty ; that he has no occasion for the doctrine, to enable him to come boldly' to the throne of grace, for it is not mercy he comes to supplicate. He calls the Supreme Being his all-wise, all-present friend,' with an which savours of any thing rather than " reverence and godly s fear;" and speaks, with an awful misappropriation of language, of greeting God at the day of judgement. Surely, his song breathes the reverse of meekness:' it is the haughty spirit of a guilty worm paying compliments to its offended Maker. The volume is full of expressions partaking of this unhallowed familiarity. Who would imagine that it is the Creator of all things, whom he thus addresses ?
- Wave thy pure wand of mercy o'er me'
• Thy hope shall sweetly play before me.' -a style of invocation only adapted, one would have thought, to some allegorical personage, some guardian spirit of the fancy. But the volume contains things much worse than this - phrases in which irreverence touches on blasphemy. Our readers will have noticed the expression, proud mandate.' This is either nonsense, or it is worse. But what will they think of the following lines, which we feel that we ought almost to apologize for transcribing into our pages?
• Thy name, Thy glories, they rehearse,
Sense of all sense and soul of soul,
Both worlds and worms are equal, God.' Wretched, wretched is the delusion of the man who mistakes this, the very rant of pantheism, for piety or worship.
Such is Unitarian piety !-we entreat our readers to mark it well--a piety that knows of no repentance towards God, no faith in the Mediator; a piety without humility, without contrition, without love. For love to God is not the true character of our Author's panegyrics on the Creator. There is no recognition of the revealed character of God, no gratitude expressed for his manifestation of Himself in his holy word, no corresponding sense of the Divine attributes. If the Poet were met with the exhortation, “ Be ye reconciled to God," he would doubtless answer, that he had never offended him, that he stood in no need of the great means of reconciliation.
Now men may call this state of mind love to God, but the Scriptures term it " enmity.”
The want of reverence betrayed in the Author's expressions, is the more remarkable, because it has been a frequent charge against orthodox hymn writers, that they have fallen into this impropriety; and we are far from thinking that the charge has been wholly without foundation. There are passages in the hymns of Watts and Wesley, which we consider as very reprehensible in this point of view. Our readers will have in re-. collection one line in particular, which is chargeable with this improper familiarity,
• Dear God! the treasures of thy love !' But, in that instance, as in most others, the scope and tenor of the hymn, if they do not redeem the expression from impropriety, prevent it from being misunderstood as proceeding from any want of devout reverence. But, in Mr. Bowring's poetry, the name of the Divine Being is invoked with more than equal familiarity, but without any epithet of affection, and in connexion with no redeeming sentiments; with the familiarity, not of humble affection, but of a presumption that makes one shudder.
It is quite unnecessary to remark on the almost total avoidance of the dialect of Scripture, which distinguishes these hymns. There is a version of the 104th psalm among the matins, and, among the other pieces, a versification of Psalm xc., Habakkuk, chap. iii. and the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. But these comprise nearly all our Author's obligations
to the Bible, while his general cast of expression is at the furthest remove from the language of the inspired writers. It could not be otherwise : no one could have composed these poems, who believed that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God.
Pure devotion can have but one source. It may be aped with more or less success by the poet or the philosopher; and as the to or of the heathen philosopher was the object of a certain intellectual worship, so now, the Divine Being may be made the theme of complimentary addresses and sentimental melodies, and such poems may be chanted, with a delusive emotion of pleasure, in the chapel or in the drawing room. Mr. Bowring's matins and vespers, though of a different character, may very naturally rank in the polite world, with the Hebrew Melodies of Lord Byron, and the sioklier strains of Anacreon Moore. But give us, we say, Sternhold and Hopkins, or the Scotch Psalms, rather than such melodramatic devotion as this. Christian worship disclaims alike the offering and the priest. The character of a psalmist is a sacred character; and his lyre, more especially, to ' fix his fame,'
must be the poet's heart.' We regret that Mr. Bowring has attempted this style of poetry. We presume not to call in question his right to hold the sentiments he has adopted, and to give them expression as he may please ; nor do we doubt his sincerity or the honesty of his purpose. But we regret that he should have deceived himself by imagining, that he could either do his Maker service, or himself honour, or his fellow creatures good, by such effusions as these. We regret the moral delusion under which he labours, and the misapplication of his talents, occasioned by a blighting, heartwithering creed. If his volume answers any useful purpose, it will be by illustrating the indissoluble connexion between the faith of Christ and the love and worship of the Father. When Socinianism can bring forth devotion, then may men gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles. But how then should the declaration of our Lord hold good, that “ He that • honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath " sent him?"