SONGS IN THE NIGHT.
"Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept."
"Thoughts at night are deepest," said the heavenlyminded Leighton. And perhaps some who are more used to night watchings than to "night thoughts" will be disposed to take up his style, and pronounce that music at night is sweetest. At all events, many of those who have known the weariness of night watches will have some pleasant recollections of times when their spirits have been cheered by a night carol, or when some pipe or flute, or horn, has given them a strain, plaintive or merry, touching their jaded soul pleasantly as it has come floating upon the calm air of night. It has seemed doubly sweet in the dark and dreary hour; and has brought its own welcome to the watcher. For some reason or other, night music seems to have a more mellow richness and sweeter melting touch for the soul when we listen to it by the seaside. On the wild precipitous coast of Northern Cornwall, there are the remains of an ancient castle. Tradition says it was the birth-place of the British King Arthur. More certain records show that as early as 1245, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, gave shelter there to the rebellious David, Prince of Wales; that, after witnessing many changes, it became a state prison under Richard II.; that in 1385, John Northampton, Lord Mayor of London, for his "unruly mayoralty was condemned thither as a perpetual penitentiary;" and that about ten years later it held as a prisoner Thomas, Earl of Warwick. About the middle of the sixteenth century, the first and last "antiquary royal" of England, John Leland, visited the spot, and says, "This castelle hath bene a marvelus strong and notable forteris, and almost situ loci inexpugnabile, especially for the dungeon, that is on a great high terrible cragge, environed with the se, but having a draw-bridge from the residew of the castelle into it. Shepe now fede within the dungeon. The residew of the buildings of the castelle be sore wether-beten and yn mine, but it hath beene a large thinge."
A somewhat later chronicler describes it in his day—
'' Half of the buildings were raised on the continent, and
the other half on an iland, continued together (within
man's remembrance) by a drawe bridge, but now divorced
by the down-fain steepe cliffes, on the farther side, which,
though it shut out the sea from his wonted recourse, hath
yet more strengthened the iland; for in passing thither
you must first descend with a dangerous declyning, and
then make a worse ascent, by a path, through his stickle
ness occasioning, and through his steepnesse threatening,
the ruin of your life, with the falling of your foote. At
the top, two other terrifying steps give you an entrance to
the hill, which supplieth pasture for sheep and cowyes;
upon the same I saw a decayed chappelle. Under the
iland runs a cove, throw which you may rowe at ful sea,
but not without a kind of horrour at the uncouthnesse of
the place." A tourist who saw it in the reign of James I.,
says:•—"By a very narrow rockye and wyndinge waye
up the steepe sea cliffe, under which the sea waves wallow,
and so assayle the foundation of the ile, as may astonish.
an unstable brayne to consider the perill, for the least
slipp of the foote sendes the whole bodye into the devour
inge sea; and the worste of all is higheste of all, nere the
gate of entraunce into the hill, where the offensive stones
so exposed hang over the head, as while a man res
pecteth his footinge he endaungers his head; and lookinge
to save the head, endaungers the footinge, according to the
old proverb, Jneidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim—
He must have his eyes that will scale Tyntagelle."
Not quite thirty years ago, an enthusiastic band of pedestrians reached this romantic scene. It was about twelve o'clock at night; and the young moon was throwing a faint light over the sea, gently touching the ruined walls, and half revealing the mysteries of the " great high terrible cragge." All the dangers which the old chroniclers had felt were threatening still; but they were braved, and the green sward within the old bounds of the "dungeon" was gained. There the band gathered. It was a still night. The sea far below was whispering among the caves and rocks. But the hush was broken by the sudden swell of a night song. The voices of the devout travellers were as harmonious as their souls while they sang:—
Join all ye ransomed sons of grace,
The holy joy prolong,
And shout to the Redeemer's praise
A solemn midnight song.
Blessing, and thanks, and love, and might
Be to our Jesus given,
Who turns our darkness into light,
Who turns our hell to heaven.
Thither our faithful souls He leads,
Thither He bids us rise
With crowns of joy upon our heads,
To meet Him in the skies.
This was the first time probably that old Tintagel had heard a midnight song like this. It was one of Charles Wesley's "watch-night" hymns. And what holy associations gather around those finely-adapted "Songs of the Night Season!" The primitive martyr churches were in "watchings often." Theirs were nights of prayers, interwoven with psalms and hymns; vigils, sometimes in fear and sometimes jubilant. And who can chant the hymns that have come down to us from the night services of early childlike generations of Christian households, without catching a little of their holy, watchful spirit! The first "watch-night" among the Methodists was held in London on the 9th of April, 1742. "The custom," says a Methodist chronicler, "was begun at Kingswood by the colliers there, who, before their conversion, used to spend every Saturday night at the ale-house." "We commonly chose," says Wesley himself, "for this solemn service, the Friday night nearest the full moon, either before or after, that those of the congregation who live at a distance may have light to their several houses. The service begins
half an hour past eight, and continues till a little after midnight. We have often found a peculiar blessing at these seasons. There is generally a deep awe upon the congregation; perhaps, in some measure, owing to the silence of night—particularly in singing the hymn with which we commonly conclude: "—
Hearken to the solemn voice,
The awful midnight cry!
Waiting souls, rejoice, rejoice,
And see the Bridegroom nigh:
Lo' He comes to keep His word,
Light and joy His looks impart:
Go ye forth to meet your Lord,
And meet Him in your heart.
Ye who faint beneath the load
Of sin, your heads lift up;
See your great redeeming God,
He comes and bids you hope:
In the midnight of your grief,
Jesus doth His mourners cheer;
Lo ! He brings you sure relief;
Believe, and feel Him here.
Ye whose loins are girt, stand forth,
Whose lamps are burning bright;
Worthy, in your Saviour's worth,
To walk with Him in white:
Jesus bids your hearts bo clean;
Bids you all His promise prove;
Jesus comes to cast out sin,
And perfect you in love.
Wait we all in patient hope,
Till Christ, the Judge, shall come;
We shall soon be all caught up
To meet the general doom:
In an hour to us unknown,
As a thief in deepest night,
Christ shall suddenly come down
With all His saints in light.
Happy he whom Christ shall find
Watching to see Him come;
Him, the Judge of all mankind
Shall bear triumphant home.
Who can answer to His word?
Which of you dares meet His day?
"Rise, and come to judgment!" Lord,
We rise, and come away.
A watch-night of great solemnity is always observed by the Methodists on New Year's Eve. A sermon is preached, suitable addresses are given, and the intervals are spent in singing and prayer; all kneel, and spend some minutes, immediately before and after the stroke of midnight, in silent prayer, broken at length by the hymn with which they enter on the New Year.
Between thirty and forty years ago, there was an English missionary and his iwife stationed on the island of Zante, "the flower of the Levant," in the Ionian Sea. The mission was a quiet one, and, like most quiet things, it had some lasting fruit; but like English rule, in more cases than one, its duration proved to be limited. The missionary came back alone; God had taken from him the wife of his youth. There is one now living who remembers how the tears crept down his cheeks as he listened to that missionary's plaintive and touching story. "My wife and I," said he, "entered on our work in hope; but we soon felt that we were pilgrims indeed in a strange land. We had sympathy from few; none joined us in our distinctive religious services; but we kept at our work. New Year's Eve came round, and my dear wife and I observed the watch-night by ourselves. We could sing, both of us, and our voices were as one; and we prayed by turns, and sang together, as midnight approached, some verses of Charles Wesley's:—
We win not close our wakeful eyes,
We will not let our eyelids sleep,
But humbly lift them to the skies,
And all a solemn vigil keep:
So many years on sin bestow'd,
Can we not watch one night for God?
We can, O Jesus, for Thy sake
Devote our every hour to Thee:
Speak but the word, our souls shall wake,
And sing with cheerful melody;
Thy praise shall our glad tongues employ,
And every heart shall dance for joy.
Oh may we all triumphant rise,
With joy upon our heads return,
And far above these nether skies,
By Thee on eagles' wings upborne,
Through all yon radiant circles move,
And gain the highest heaven of love!
"The next New Year's Eve came, for years roll along amidst all human changes, but, ah! my wife was gone! I had watched her across the Jordan, and I was alone. What could I do? It was the watch-night. I had to watch alone with God. Where could I watch but by my Mary's grave-side? There I went; there I wept; there I prayed. I had no soul to commune with or to speak to; but surely, I thought, my Mary is here; and better even than that, my Jesus is here. I tried to sing again what we sang together the year before, but tears choked my utterance till the midnight hour struck, and then there was a hush in my soul; I knelt by my Mary's grave, renewed my covenant with Christ, gave myself once more to His will; and, feeling as if I were not without blessed company—yea, as if I heard one beloved voice in harmony with mine—I raised the old New Year's song, and sang as in company with the glorified—
Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.
His adorable will let us gladly fulfil,
And our talents improve,
By the patience of hope and the labour of love.
Our life is a dream; our time, as a stream,
Glides swiftly away;
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.
The arrow is flown; the moment is gone;
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity's here.
Oh that each in the day of his coming may say,
'I have fought my way through;
I have finished the work Thou didst give me to do.'
Oh that each from his Lord may receive the glad word,
'Well, and faithfully done;
Enter into my joy, and sit down on my throne.'
This was my last watch-night hymn in the Ionian Sea; and 'I call to remembrance my song in the night,' and now calmly await the call unto that world where
Death, and grief, and pain,
And parting are no more."
The lone missionary had his call from above at last. He and his Mary join their voices again now, not in night songs, but in hymns of gratitude to Him who once gave them " songs in the night" in the house of their pilgrimage. There is one happy spirit with whom they are now associated, to whom thousands are indebted for happy means of beguiling the wearisome hours of wakeful nights in sickness and languor. He learnt to extract devout music from the hours of suffering which passed over him; and thus solacing his own soul, he has left consolation for all true lovers of sweet and soothing hymns at night.
"What, in tears again, my dear doctor!" Lady Huntingdon said, more than once of a morning, as she entered the room where a very impersonation of meekness, resignation, and love, was reclining, with a tremulous tear on his cheek.
"Yes," was the reply; "but they are tears of joy, my dear lady."
These tears of joy were upon the placid countenance of Philip Doddridge. His outward man was perishing, but "the inward man was renewed day by day." Yes, and night by night, for he had caught the spirit of Wesley's night song :—'
O Thou jealous God! come down,
God of spotless purity;
Claim, and seize me for Thine own,
Consecrate my heart to Thee:
Under Thy protection take;
Songs in the right season give;
Let me sleep to Thee, and wake;
Let me die to Thee, and live.
Only tell me I am Thine,
And Thou wilt not quit Thy right;:
Answer me in dreams divine,
Dreams and visions of the night;
Bid me even in sleep go on
Restlessly, my God desire;
Mourn for God in every groan,
God in every thought require.
Loose me from the chains of sense,
Set me from the body free;
Draw with stronger influence
My unfetter'd soul to Thee:
In me, Lord, Thyself reveal;
Fill me with a sweet surprise;
Let me, Thee, when waking feel,
Let me in Thy image rise.
It was not in vain that he had sought to hallow his writings by using his pen in private companionship with his Saviour. It was not in vain that the first Monday in every month was spent in meditation, intercession, and prayer, in that consecrated vestry of his meeting-house in Northampton. He had become so holily familiar with truth and love, that his days of decline were blessed with tears of heavenly joy, and his wakeful nights became fruitful with hymns and psalms. How the grateful calmness, the spiritual repose, the Christian submission, and the heavenly glow of the saintly hymnist's spirit continues to breathe on us as we chant with him on the return of night:—
Interval of grateful shade,
Welcome to my weary head;
Weleome slumber to my eyes,
Tired with glaring vanities.
My great Master still allows
Needful periods of repose;
By my heavenly Father blest,
Thus I give my powers to rest.
Heavenly Father! gracious name'
Night and day His love the same!
Far be each suspicious thought,
Every anxious care forgot.
Thou, my ever-bounteous God,
Crown'st my days with various good
Thy kind eye, that cannot sleep,
These defenceless hours shall keep.
What though downy slumbers flee,
Strangers to my couch and me F
Sleepless, well I know to rest,
Lodged within my Father's breast.
While the empress of the night
Scatters mild her silver light;
While the vivid planets stray,
Various through their mystic way;
While the stars unnumbered roll
Round the ever constant pole,
Far above these spangled skies
All my soul to God shall rise.
'Mid the silence of the night,
Mingling with those angels bright,
Whose harmonious voices raise,
Ceaseless love and ceaseless praise.
Through the throng His gentle ear
Shall my tunsless accents hear;
From on high doth He impart
Secret comfort to my heart.
He in these serenest hours
Guides my intellectual powers,
And His Spirit doth diffuse
Sweeter far than midnight dews,
Lifting all my thoughts above,
On the wings of faith and love:
Blest alternative to me,
Thus to sleep, or wake with Thee.
What if death my sleep invade?
Should I he of death afraid':
Whilst encircled by Thy arm,
Death may strike, but cannot harm.
What if beams of opening day
Shine around my breathless clay?
Brighter visions from on high
Shall regale my mental eye.
Tender friends awhile may mourn
Me from their embraces torn;
Dearer, better friends I have
In the realms beyond the grave.
See the guardian angels nigh,
Wait to waft my soul on high!
. See the golden gates displayed;
See the crown to grace my head;
See a flood of sacred light,
Which no more shall yield to night.
Transitory world, farewell!
Jesus calls, with Him to dwell!
With Thy heavenly presence blest,
Death is life, and labour rest;
Welcome sleep or death to me,
Still secure, for still with Thee.
Doddridge's hymns, and some of his most useful prose treatises, were produced in stray moments, or what have been called loose intervals of time. They came richly oozing through the crevices of the day or the night, the overflowings of a mind full of goodness for all who needed blessing. So when harder work had wearied his thinking head, and all but exhausted his spirits, his tuneful genius breathed forth its life for his own refreshment in his hymn for the night; and so his prose chapters on "The Eise and Progress of Religion in the Soul" were penned now and then as the happy thoughts' occurred, and welled up during moments of comparative leisure. And it is beyond our power to say which has instilled its saving unction into the greater number of human souls—his midnight hymn, or his "prayers" for the seeker of "religion in the soul." Will those who have gathered life from the daily study of his prose pages outnumber the sufferers whose night watches have been brightened by the Divine music of his hymn? Who can tell? The fruit of both is ever living, and is ever accumulating its harvest joys. And the fruit of the one is ever mixing with the kindred fruit of the other. The holy work of a few well-improved fragments of time gives out a virtue which, like well-directed electrical influence, conveys gracious and quickening power to hearts far away in space, and at the most distant points of time. Baxter filled up his remnants of hours by writing his "Saint's Everlasting Best;" that book touched the soul of Doddridge, and gave it life. Doddridge, in turn, employed his leisure moments in throwing off his pages on "Religion in the Soul;" those pages touched the heart of Wilberforce, and engaged his intellect for Christ. He filled up spare hours by writing his '' Practical View of Christianity;" that volume touched the mighty mind and heart of Chalmers: and whose mind and heart has not been, and will not be, touched by the works of Chalmers? "I used to read a great many books in my young days," said a languid sufferer to one who sat by him, "but of all I ever read, nothing did me so much good, and so helped me to see my way clear to Christ, as Doddridge's 'Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.' I was then feeling after God, and a young friend lent me the book; and oh, how thankful I shall always be for it! The prayers at the ends of the chapters were such gracious helps to me. I used to pray them over on my knees, with many tears; and then I learnt the happy art of throwing the soul into a suitable form of prayer. Indeed, these forms of prayer taught me to pray. And the answers have been coming upon me ever since. Here I am, often half the night sleepless and uneasy; but if anything hushes me, it is going over those pages, and then in turn humming a hymn to myself."
'' What is your favourite hymn? Do you use Doddridge's beautiful hymn 'for the night'?"
"No, I did not know that he had written one. Had I known it, I should have chosen that above all; I love Doddridge so much. I wish I had known his hymn. But my favourite has been the good old hymn for midnight, by Bishop Ken."
Well did the sufferer call that hymn, "the good old hymn." It is good, and will always be good; it is as fresh now as when it was first sung. The saintly old bishop, put out of his bishopric for conscience' sake, had gone from his residence at Longleat, in Wiltshire, on a visit to his nephew, so dear to those who love good biography, Isaac Walton, then Prebendary of Salisbury. That great storm which swept over the island, in 1703, touched the old city rather roughly as it passed, and blew down a stack of chimneys, which fell cutting through the bed-room in which Ken was lodged, without touching his person; but rushing on upon Wells, it hurled another stack through the chamber of the bishop who had supplanted Ken, and killed him on the spot. Strange thoughts would perplex some minds as to the meaning of this variety of action by the same storm; but whatever we may think, it may be that we owe much of the spirit and power of Ken's midnight hymn to the effects of that preserving presence which was manifest in his case. With what swelling feeling would he ever after sing in his night-watch:—
My God, now I from sleep awake,
The sole possession of me take;
From midnight terrors me secure,
And guard my heart from thoughts impure!
Bless'd angels, while we silent lie,
Your hallelujahs sing on high;
You joyful hymn the Ever-blest,
Before the throne, and never rest.
I, with your choir celestial join
In offering up a hymn divine;
With you in heaven I hope to dwell,
And bid the night and world farewell.
My soul, when I shake off this dust,
Lord, in Thy arms I will entrust:
Oh make me Thy peculiar care;
Some mansion for my soul prepare!
Give me a place at Thy saints' feet,
Or some fall'n angel's vacant seat;
I'll strive to sing as loud as they
Who sit above in brighter day.
Oh may I always ready stand,
With my lamp burning in my hand;
May I in sight of heaven rejoice
Whene'er I hear the Bridegroom's voice!
All praise to Thee, in light arrayed,
Who light Thy dwelling-place hast made;
A boundless ocean of bright beams
"From Thy all-glorious Godhead streams.
The sun in its meridian height
Is very darkness in Thy sight;
My soul, oh, lighten and inflame
With thought and love of Thy great name.
Bless'd Jesu, Thou, on heaven intent,
Whole nights hast in devotion spent;
But I, frail creature, soon am tired,
And all my zeal is soon expired.
My soul, how canst thou weary grow ; Of antedating bliss below?
In sacred hymns, and heavenly love,
Which will eternal be above?
Shine on me, Lord, new life impart,
Fresh ardours kindle in my heart;
One ray of Thy all-quickening light
Dispels the sloth and clouds of night.
Lord, lest the tempter me surprise,
Watch over Thine own sacrifice;
All loose, all idle thoughts cast out,
And make my very dreams devout.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Heaven has watched over many a night-watcher besides Bishop Ken. It is now nearly a hundred years ago that a poor girl in Ipswich lost her father, and her mother being left with a large family unprovided for, she, at the age of sixteen, went out into domestic service. There, however, she was seized with a complicated disorder, which baffled all medical skill, and shut her up to a life of suffering. But her affliction was hallowed to her. Christ revealed Himself as her Saviour, and became her Divine companion. She taught herself to write, and then solaced herself during the weary days and nights of languishing by composing hymns and psalms. Her songs were worthy of notice, and were published by her friends as "Songs in the Night." Her genius and piety, spirit and expression, are fairly given in an acrostic which reveals her name :—
S hall I presume to tell the world my name?
U p to this hour I glory in my shame:
S o great my weakness, that I boast of might,
A fool in knowledge, yet in wisdom right;
N o life, and yet I live; I'm sick, and well;
N ot far from heaven, though on the brink of hell,
A nd words and oaths, and blood, delight me well.
H ow strange! I'm deaf, and dumb, and lame, and blind,
A nd hear, and see, and walk, and talk, you find.
R obbed by my dearest friend, I'm truly poor,
R iches immense I always have in store.
I 'm fed by mortals; but let mortals know
S uch is my food, no mortal can bestow.
O h, how I long to die, and wish to live!
N ow, if you can, explain th' account I give.
Her songs are appropriately entitled "Songs in the Night." Mere circumstances were all dark around her; but there was undying light in her soul, and her hymns breathe a reverent cheerfulness, a placid resignation, and a comfortable hope. Her genius was uncultured, but in sentiment, diction, and musical tone, many of her hymns are worthy of being closet companions with the night songs of hymnists bearing far more distinguished names. The poor sufferer used to sing as night came on:—
God of my days, God of my nights,
Source of my soul's supreme delights,
Come, manifest Thy love to me,
And let me close this day with Thee.
Nearness to Christ I fain would find,
Oh let not distance vex my mind;
I long to know my sins forgiven,
To converse with the God of heaven.
Send, Source of Light, some cheering ray,
To turn my darkness into day;
I mourn, and think Thy absence long,
Oh listen to my evening song.
Command my blindness to depart,
Still keep me from a careless heart;
Lord, captivate each vain desire,
And raise these vile affections higher.
Oh let the mercies of this day
Teach me to praise as well as pray:
Now take, my soul, on Jesu's breast,
Thy sweetest, safest, surest rest! .
In her last hours she was truly "compassed about with songs of deliverance." "I have not sung for some time," she said. "Sing with me; it will not hurt me. Sing Dr. Watts's hymn :—
How sweet and awful is the place,
With Christ within the doors;
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores."
The hymn was softly sung by her friends; and then she added, "Let us sing again" :—
Come, let us join our cheerful songs
With angels round the throne;
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.
Worthy the Lamb that died, they cry,
To be exalted thus;
Worthy the Lamb, our lips reply,
For He was slain for us.
Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine;
And blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, for ever Thine.
Nobody seemed able to sing with her. Her voice was like something more than human, and she waved her arm exultingly, as she sang. "You do not sing with me," she said; "well, I cannot forbear." Then she continued nearly the whole night warbling softly, though at times apparently dying. Her last night was full of song; and just before she took her upward flight, she pointed heavenward, and said, "I cannot talk, but I shall soon sing there."