Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small]









It may seem matter for surprise that they, whose ideal of CC Worship or "Divine Service" finds no place for vocal prayer, should continue to follow the ancient custom of singing hymns. But it will, I think, be readily recognised that the gradual transformation of "Divine Worship," from the extreme sacrificial rites of the Eastern and Latin Churches, where the priest is everything and the laity so many onlookers, to the deepening simplicity of pronounced Protestant communions, has led to a corresponding modification of the hymn as a factor in Religious Worship. The Christian hymn of the past was almost exclusively a pæan of praise to the Supreme Being or some hierarchical angel or saint, very much as ancient Greece and Rome sang chants in honour of Pallas Athene or Apollo. With

the advent of the sixteenth century reform of religion, the adulatory poems to saints were discontinued, and henceforth confined to the celebration of the greatness and goodness of God, of His inscrutable Being and wonderful works, and to the glorifying of Jesus Christ. With the dawn of a still more searching reformation, which we may date from the era of Immanuel Kant, at the beginning of the present century, and which endeavours to recall men from the shadows that beguile them to the substance of things which is thereby obscured, the laudatory and supplicatory hymn is still further curtailed in fact it undergoes an almost complete eclipse. A new genus of hymn appears calculated to more fitly express the new ideals of Worship, which has for its highest motive the kindling of an intense ethical enthusiasmi in the hearts of its votaries.

Such a hymn is exactly adapted to Emerson's conception of a Religious Service, which is not an ecclesiastical function or a methodical series of ritualistic acts, and still less an atonement or propitiation of an offended Divinity,

but an assemblage of men who meet "to encourage each other to good living". Such a service is held, not on behalf of the Deity, who needs nothing, but on behalf of humanity, which needs everything; and it is in a spirit of the most profound reverence that we make such a protestation.

Accepting this ideal of the legitimate expression of the religious emotion, believing that we best fulfil the Divine law of life by the dutiful observance of those spiritual laws of conduct which are to man what the physical laws are to inorganic nature, we sing such hymns at our services as we deem best calculated to awaken and sustain that ethical and spiritual fervour which is the only real | source of well-being and well-doing, for individuals as for the community. Our idea is that life itself and its several duties are something sacred, that man has no need of church, priest or rite whereby to enter into the Holy of Holies, that he is ever in it, that—

Our common daily life's divine,
And every land a Palestine.

« PreviousContinue »