By E. P. Dutton and Company.. Boston :
RELIGIOUS emotion has asked very little of literary art ; and if we are to let hymnology witness, it has received as little as it has asked in times past. To call upon Christ’s name, to bless God for goodness and mercy, suffice it; and no form of words enabling it to do this seems to be found too feeble, or affected, or grotesque. For anything more, the inarticulate tones of music are as adequate to devotion as the sublimest formula that Milton or Dante could have shaped. It is only since religion has been so much philosophized, and has in so great degree ceased to be a passion, that we have begun to find the hymns which our forefathers sang with rapturous unconsciousness rather rubbishy literature. How blank, and void of all inspiration, they seem for the most part to be ! Good men wrote them, but evidently in seasons of great mental depression. How commonplace is the language, how strained are the fancies, how weak the thoughts ! Yet through these stops of lead and wood, the music of charity, love, repentance, aspiration, has poured from millions of humble hearts in sweetness that blessed and praised.
With no thought probably of affecting the standard hymnology were the hymns written in the little book before us. They are characterized by poetic purity of diction as well as tenderness of sentiment. They express, without freshness of intuition, the emotions and desires of a devoutly religious nature ; and they commend themselves, like some of the best and earliest Christian hymns, by their realization of the Divine essence as something to be directly approached with filial and personal affection. Here is no burst of fervid devotion, but rather a quiet love, breathing contrition, faith, and praise in poems of gentle earnestness, which even the reader not imbued with the element of their inspiration may find graceful and pleasing.