Obrazy na stronie
PDF

strengthened man to bear his part worthily in the war. fare of life. It is well when we introduce the million to the study of comparative religion that the Religions should be on their best behaviour. All religions show their best manners in sacred song. But until this little book chanced to fall into the hands of its readers, how many of them were utterly oblivious of the treasures of beauty, of wisdom, and of love that were to be found outside the cover of the hymn-book of their own church? Here at least Roman, Greek, Lutheran, Cal. vinist, Methodist, Unitarian, and Jew are recognisable only by the common accents of a common faith in the One Father in Whose family all we are brethren.

PREFACE.

THE songs of the English-speaking people are for

1 the most part hymns. For the immense majority of our people to-day the only minstrelsy is that of the hymn-book. And this is as true of our race beyond the sea as it is of our race at home.

Of the making of collections of hymns there is no end. But so far as I have been able to discover, no collection of hymns has ever been made based upon the principle of including in it only those hymns which have been most helpful to the men and women who have most influenced their fellow-men. Yet surely those hymns which have most helped the greatest and best of our race are those which bear, as it were, the hall-mark of Heaven.

The root idea of this Hymnal is to select the hymns, not by the fine or finical ear of the critic in the study, or even by the exalted judgment of the recluse in the cloister, but by the recorded experience of mankind. Here and thus did this hymn help me: that is the best of all possible arguments in favour of believing that it will prove helpful under similar circumstances to similar characters. The hymn may be doggerel poetry, it may contain heretical theology, its grammar may be faulty and its metaphors atrocious, but if that hymn proved itself a staff and a stay to some heroic soul in the darkest hours of his life's pilgrimage, then that hymn has won its right to a place among the sacred songs through which God has spoken to the soul of man.

Who is there among the men and women of this generation who has not, at some time or other, experienced the strange and subtle influence of sacred song? Hymns have rung in the ears of some of us while still wandering idly in the streets of the City of Destruction, stern and shrill as the bugle-blast that rouses the sleeping camp to prepare for the onslaught of the foe. Their melody has haunted the ear amid the murmur of the mart and the roar of the street. In the storm and stress of life's battle the echo of their sweet refrain has renewed our strength and dispelled our fears. They have been, as it were, the voices of the angels of God, and when we have heard them we could hear no other sound, neither the growling of the lions in the path nor the curses and threatenings of the fiends from the pit. Around the hymn and the hymn tune how many associations gather from the earliest days, when, as infants, we were hushed to sleep on our mother's lap by their monotonous chant! At this moment, on the slope of the Rockies, or in the sweltering jungles of India, in crowded Australian city, or secluded English hamlet, the sound of some simple hymn tune will, as by mere magic spell, call from the silent grave the shadowy forms of the unforgotten dead, and transport the listener, involuntarily, over land and sea, to the scene of his childhood's years, to the village school, to the parish church. In our pilgrimage through life we discover the hynins which help. We come out of trials and temptations with hymns clinging to our memory like burrs. Some of us could almost use the hymn-book as the key to our autobiography. Hymns, like angels and other ministers of grace, often help us and disappear into the void. It is not often that the hymn of our youth is the hymn of our old age. Experience of life is the natural selector of the truly human hymnal.

There is a curious and not a very creditable shrinking on the part of many to testify as to their experience in the deeper matters of the soul. It is an inverted egotism, - selfishness masquerading in disguise of reluctance to speak of self. Wanderers across the wilderness of Life ought not to be chary of telling their fellowtravellers where they found the green oasis, the healing spring, or the shadow of a great rock in a desert land. It is not regarded as egotism when the passing steamer signals across the Atlantic wave news of her escape from perils of iceberg or fog, or welcome news of good cheer. Yet individuals shrink into themselves, repressing rigorously the fraternal instinct which bids them communicate the fruits of their experience to their fellows. Therein they deprive themselves of a share in the communion of saints, and refuse to partake with their brother of the sacramental cup of human sympathy, or to break the sacred bread of the deeper experiences.

“Hymns that have Helped Me.” What hymns have helped you? And if they have helped you, how can you better repay the debt you owe to your helper than by setting them forth, stamped with the tribute of your gratitude, to help other mortals in like straits to yourself? All of us have our moments when we are near to the mood of the hero and the saint, and it is something to know what hymns help most to take us there, and keep us at that higher pitch.

Such in substance was my appeal. I sent it out in broadcast, and received many widely varying responses. Lord Rosebery, for instance, declined “confession in general” to the public on the subject. The Archbishop of Canterbury referred me to a hymnal which he him. self had compiled many years ago. The Prince of Wales indicated his preference for Mrs. Adams' wellknown hymn. The Dean of St. Paul's disapproved of the principle of the hymn-book, and wrote as follows:

I imagine that hymns are one of the best instruments for implanting religious ideas in the minds of children, and as I cannot think of any religion that can have the desired influence from which the essential doctrines of Christianity are excluded. I must decline to accept your courteous invitation to take part in compiling an unsectarian hymn book.

As if the "essential doctrines” must be excluded because the Hymnal is unsectarian!

Mr. Grant Allen replied:

I do not remember that any hymn, or, for the matter of that, any text of scripture, maxim, or line of poetry, was ever of the least use to me. There are poems which I love, such as Shelley's “Skylark;” but I cannot honestly say they ever “helped” me. I never needed help, other than physical or monetary. My own philosophy has always amply sufficed me.

It is no doubt difficult to obtain a frank and full statement as to the “Hymns that have Helped ” people, owing to the fact that all such confessions must be more or less autobiographical, and deal with the hidden matters of inner spiritual life. The Bishop of Winchester says:

I agree with you in thinking that a compilation made in the manner and on the lines proposed will have a special interest, and, subject to the limitations I refer to in this note, I heartily wish you success in your endeavour; but I am not quite at one with you in regarding it to be the duty of all who could do so to tell you for publication not merely what hymns they have found helpful, but how, and where, and when the help has been given. To do this with any approach to completeness would require not an autobiography only, but an autobiography respecting the sins, the sorrows, the temptations, and the blessings of the inner life of each one of us. There may be a few men who can make such thoughts and memory public without harm to themselves or others, but the number of such is small, and I am not of them.

Mrs. Humphry Ward goes further than the Bishop, and maintains that she cannot help saying that the question she is asked seems to her to be just that one which should not be answered, if one sets any value upon religious feeling and religious life. This is rather a hard saying, coming as it does from the author of “ Robert Elsmere,” which is a more or less successful attempt to unveil the hidden movements of religious thought and religious life in the soul of her hero before the eyes of the million.

Dr. Rigg, the well-known Wesleyan Methodist minister, noted with a certain grim satisfaction the Methodist note in my appeal for experiences, and made me

« PoprzedniaDalej »