MARRIAGE SONGS AND BIRTHDAY HYMNS.
"And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage."
It is said of Solomon that "his songs were a thousand and five." One of this number occupies a distinguished place in the sacred canon, and is called "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's," or "the most beautiful or excellent of his songs." It was written a thousand years before Christ—long before the earliest profane poets whose works are extant; but the freshness of its unrivalled beauty has remained through all the changes of time and manners, while its charms continue to exert their power under all the disadvantages of incompetent translation. It may be called a pastoral, in which two leading characters are represented as speaking and acting throughout the poem. The one is a king called Shelomoh, " The peaceful, or Prince of Peace," the other a female, who from being a rustic shepherdess becomes his queen; she bears the name of Shelomith, which is simply the feminine form of Shelomoh. Whether this poem was written by Solomon on the occasion of his own marriage or not, it seems to stand among the oracles of inspiration as a seal of divine approbation on the institution of marriage, or as the fixed light of God's smile upon the fervid but modest and delicate affection of conjugal life. Both ancients and moderns, Jews and Christians, have agreed that under its face of poetic beauty an allegorical meaning is hid, for the instruction and solace of the teachable, chaste, and believing soul. Indeed, we cannot conceive that Ezra, a man under divine inspiration, and the members of the great synagogue, or those who assisted in collecting the sacred writings, would have admitted this song into the sacred canon if they had not a full conviction that under its mysterious and luxuriant imagery there lay concealed some great truths bearing on the interests of God's kingdom and people. It is an Oriental book, written by a highly poetical Eastern monarch, intended, in the first place, for an Oriental people such as seven-eighths of the human race have been, and such as form one-half of the present population of the earth. The book should therefore be interpreted in accordance with Eastern manners and rules of composition. It has always been the universal custom in the East to represent spiritual things under such figures as are beautifully sketched in the Song of Solomon. Numerous examples might be quoted from mere heathen authorities; but the Bible is full of them. David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the evangelists, apostles, and our Lord Himself, all speak of the intercourse of the divine and the human under the imagery of marriage feasts and conjugal communion. And in this light the Song of Solomon has always been viewed, both by Jews and Christians. The Jews explained it as a song of Jehovah's love for the synagogue; the Christians, as celebrating the union of Christ and His Church. Both have agreed, however, that the spirit and design of the book can be realized by none but the chaste and devotional mind. The Jews denied it to the weak and the profane, as too strong for the one, and too holy for the other. They have always guarded and honoured it not only as holy, but as they say, "the Holy of holies"; and have ever used it as an incentive to holy thought and intense devotion. While the Christians, who have consulted it as the expression of Christ's love to the community of the faithful, have ever found in it a refreshing sweetness and power, leading them, as it does, to meditate on tie mutual affection of the Bedeemer and His people, as sociated with trials and vicissitudes in this life, but promising perfect fruition and repose in the world to come. This may be illustrated by one passage from a personal history.
"Ah ! my dear friend, is that you?" said a kind-hearted and intelligent Polish Jew, as he affectionately took the hand of a Methodist preacher, who had taken his seat by the side of his sick-bed. The two had known each other in earlier life, and had learnt to "love one another," distinct as they were in creed as well as by birth. After some years of separation, the Gentile had found out his Jewish brother and first Hebrew teacher, in his affliction; and now once more they were heart to heart, and entered into communion about the sacred text which they had at one time so lovingly studied together. The Jew was gentle, tender, and open as a child, and freely told out his hope in the mercy of that God who had been pleased, as he said, "to put the innocent for the uninnocent, that the sinner, who was penitent over the sacrifice, and trusted there, might be saved." And then he talked about divine love, how it begat love in us; what a comfort it was to him; how it helped him in his sickness; and how it disposed him to love everybody around him. The holy texts from his Hebrew Bible " came bubbling up in his mind," he said, "and there were no words which seemed to speak the feelings of his heart so happily as some of the words in Solomon's Song."
"Somebody said to me, the other day," he remarked, 'What is the use of Solomon's Song? I cannot understand it; I think it had better be left out of the book!' Oh, I was grieved; and I said, that is wicked. No ! you do not see the use of that blessed book! how can you? You do not understand it. How should you? Those who do not love the truth cannot see the use of it, or understand it. You are not a spiritual man; and you do not see. There now is my box, poor looking box to you. What is the use of it? you may say, it might as well be thrown away. Ah! it is locked! you do not see what is in it! nor can you tell what is the value or the beauty of the jewels that are there. But if I give you the key, and you open it, then you may be able to talk about the box, for you will see and know all that is in it. So you have no key to Solomon's Song; none but spiritual men have a key to it!"
And so the afflicted Hebrew talked. He might have communed, one would think, with that disciple of Gamaliel who says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things." Nor could his Methodist friend help thinking, at the moment, of Charles Wesley's metrical introduction to Solomon's Song. There was something so remarkably akin in the pure simplicity of the poor Hebrew's thoughts and those of the Methodist poet. Wesley expresses what the Jew thought and felt, with becoming purity and spirit, and in a pleasant hymnic form, thus :—
Hence, ye profane; far off remove,
Ye strangers to redeeming love;
Sinners, whom Jesus never knew,
The Song of Songs is not for you!
Away, ye worldly groats and swine,
Who trample on this pearl divine,
Which only wisdom's sons esteem,
While fools and infidels blaspheme.
With deepest shame, with humblest fear,
I to Thine oracle draw near,
To meet Thee in the holiest place,
To learn the secret of Thy grace.
Now. Lord, explain the mystery,
Display Thy precious self to me,
And when Thou dost the veil remove,
My heart shall sing the song of love.
Thou heavenly Solomon divine,
To teach the Song of Songs is Thine;
Thy Spirit alone the depth reveals,
Opens the book, and breaks the seals:
Oh might I find the bar removed,
And love the Lord as I am loved,
This moment gain my heart's desire,
The next within Thine arms expire!
The Jew kindled with his theme, and with that charming intonation which is natural to the children of the synagogue, he gave voice to his loving heart in a succession of stanzas from the "Song of Songs." He repeated again and again with growing warmth, and with a music of expression that seemed like the voice of love itself, "Tell me, OThou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon!" The afflicted child of Abraham had wandered long among strangers, and was now longing for rest with the Great Shepherd to whom his fathers had been gathered. By a Methodist, such as his friend and visitor was, Charles Wesley was, of course, thought of again, and that tender, glowing paraphrase of Solomon's stanza came, as the Jew who had.quoted it said, "bubbling up in the mind":—
Thou Shepherd of Israel and mine,
The joy and desire of my heart,
For closer communion I pine,
I long to reside where Thou art:
The pasture I languish to find,
Where all, who their Shepherd obey,
Are fed on Thy bosom reclined,
And screen'd from the heat of the day.
Ah! show me that happiest place,
The place of Thy people's abode,
Where saints in an ecstasy gaze,
And hang on a crucified God.
Thy love for a sinner declare,
Thy passion and death on the tree:
My spirit to Calvary bear,
To suffer and triumph with Thee.
'Tis. there, with the lambs of Thy flock,
There only I covet to rest,
To lie at the foot of the rock,
Or rise to lie hid in Thy breast:
'Tis there I would always abide,
And never a moment depart;
Conceal'd in the cleft of Thy side,
Eternally held in Thy heart.
"Do you think that the ' Song of Songs' was written by Solomon on the occasion of his own marriage?" said the Gentile visitor to the Jewish patient.
"Yes, that is my opinion. I think God has given it to us as a marriage song, to show that marriage is His own arrangement and ordinance for our comfort, and the purity and happiness of the world. But it means something more than that; it is a song of love between the Messiah and His people. Ah! that is a mysterious love ; but it is sweet, and he only who enjoys it deeply can sing Solomon's Song as it was intended to be sung."
In hearing this from a Jew, who would not think of one, in earlier times, who was trained a Pharisee, but becoming, like the suffering Polish wanderer, a truly spiritual man, uttered kindred thoughts? "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any snch thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church ; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church."
If, then, Solomon's Song is an inspired marriage song, having under its beautiful surface a spiritual allusion to a still deeper mystery of love, marriage songs are not unacceptable to God, nor can they be out of place at a weddingfeast. They should, however, emulate the spirit and tone of the inspired exemplar; and the hymnist who so happily introduces Solomon's divine pastoral, and who has left us so many sweet little hymnic paraphrases of favourite passages from the "Song of Songs," has furnished an appropriate song for the bridal morn. One who so deeply enjoyed the chaste pleasures of conjugal life, and whose soul was so full of hymn and song, would certainly aid the newly-married pair with forms of devout expression. Here is one of his marriage hymns :—
Thou God of truth and love,
We seek Thy perfect way,
Ready Thy choice to approve,
Thy Providence to obey;
Enter into Thy wise design,
And sweetly lose our will in Thine.
Why hast Thou cast our lot
In the same age and place?
And why together brought
To see each other's face?
To join with softest sympathy,
And mix our friendly so•Us with Thee?
Didst Thou not make us one,
That we might one remain,
Together travel on,
And bear each other's pain;
Till all Thy utmost goodness prove,
And rise renew'd in perfect love?
Surely Thou didst unite
Our kindred spirits here,
That all hereafter might .
Before Thy throne appear;
Meet at the marriage of the Lamb,
And all Thy glorious love proclaim.
Then let us ever hear
The hlessed end in view,
And join, with mutual care,
To fight our passage through;
And kindly help each other on,
Till all receive the starry crown.
Oh may the Spirit seal
Our souls unto that day,
With all Thy fulness fill,
And then transport away!
Away to our eternal rest,
Away to our Redeemer's breast!
Old George Withers would make marriage songs as a matter of course; for he made songs and hymns about everything, for all times, all conditions, and all circumstances. His " Halleluiah" is full of psalms for days of every name and shade, and for every part of every day; for nights starry and nights dark, for sea and for land, for storm and for calm, for battle and for peace. He has hymns for all seasons; for workers, for idlers, for kinsfolk, for strangers, for the bond and the free, for plenty and for famine, for kings and for people, for pastors and for flocks, for seed-time and for harvest, for saints and for sinners, for young and for old, for every place, for every calling, for all the world, and for "himself." His marriage song must have a choir in advance and a choir in the rear. He teaches us to hymn it over a marriage-contract. "This hymn," says he, "is tendered to those who purpose a contract of marriage, in hope it may so remember them to consider what they intend that it shall keep them from proceeding farther than they lawful may, and from professing more than they mean. Sing this," he adds, "as TeDeum":—
Lord! in Thy name, and in Thy fear
Our faith we plighted have;
And that our meanings are sincere,
Thy witness now we crave.
We come not only to repeat
Our vows before Thy face,
But that we may likewise entreat
Thy favour and Thy grace.
For mutual helpers while we live,
According to our might;
Ourselves we to each other give,
So far as we have right;
And we profess that free we are,
For aught that we do know,
To be each other's wedded pair,
If Thou permit it so.
We see no contradicting cause,
But that we may be joined,
Without infringement of the laws
Whereby we are confined.
Nor any such infirmity
In us do we suspect
As that our marriage bond thereby
Shall prove of no effect.
We have no guileful dealings used,
Our purpose to acquire,
Nor one another's trust abused,
To gain what we desire.
But our affections are sincere,
And as they have been true,
Upright those courses likewise are,
By which we them pursue.
If both have now, 0 Lord, professed
What may not be denied;
Let our affections so be blest
That nothing us divide.
Let not by beauty, wit, or wealth,
By high or low degree,
By want of riches or of health
Our hearts estranged be.
But if that either of us now
Hath trod a faithless way,
Or shall infringe this holy vow
Before our wedding day:
Lord! let the party innocent,
From blame and guilt be free;
For truth a contract never meant,
Where naught but falsehoods be.
Then out of his full soul the quaint but musical and happy hymnist pours forth a song for the marriage, telling us that "God is hereby besought to bless the marriage solemnized to all there present, and so to prosper the bridegroom a"nd bride in their desires and affections, that the waters of their carnal contentment may be turned into the wine of spiritual delights" :—
To grace, O Lord! a marriage feast
In Cana, long ago,
It pleased Thee to be a guest,
And there Thy power to show;
For by a miracle divine,
When they their wine had spent,
Thou changedst water into wine,'
Which did their want prevent.
Lord! let the brightness of Thy face
Among us now appear;
So let the bounties of Thy grace
Be manifested here:
That neither bridegroom, bride, nor guest,
In body or in mind,
Of less content may be possess'd,
Than they have hope to find.
All joys which in a married life,
Well matched couples know,
On this new wedded man and wife
Vouchsafe Thou to bestow;
Fulfil their hopes, prevent their fears,
Grant them their just desires;
Increase that love which keeps off cares,
And warms with lawful fires.
To wine those heartless waters turn
Which in their vessels be;
To give them comfort when they mourn,
And make them glad in Thee.
And though the pleasures of their love
Have yet a pleasing taste,
Yet let them daily sweeter prove,
And best of all at last.
The dear old hymnist seems to have had contentment in marriage, and is willing that all who are blessed with like satisfaction in matrimonial life should never lack the means of expressing their settled pleasure in devout and cheerful psalmody; and he introduces his hymn "for one contentedly married" by insinuating some very salutary lessons to parties concerned. "The intent of this ode," he says, "is to show that our natural affections are never fully satisfied in the choice of our helpers, until God bring man and wife together by, as it were, making the one out of the other through a frequent conversing together, and byobserving and approving each other's condition, which is never done till those passions are cast into a sleep which make them dote on wealth, honour, beauty, and such unfit marriage makers":—
Since they in singing take delight
Who in their love unhappy be,
Why should not I in song delight
Who from their sorrow now are free?
That such as can believe may know
What comforts are on earth below,
And prove what blessings may be won
By loving so as I have done.
When first affection warmed my blood,
Which was ere wit could ripen'd be,
And ere I fully understood
What fire it was that warmed me;
My youthful heat a love begat,
That love did love I know not what;
But this I know, I felt more pains
Than many a broken heart sustains.
When years informed me how to see
What had such wandering passions wrought,
The more my knowledge grew to he,
The greater torments still it brought;
Then sought I means to cure love's wound,
The more I sought, less ease I found;
And milder pangs than I have had,
Make many lovers sick and mad.
I have a deep-indented heart,
Which no content would let me find,
Until her proper counterpart
Should thereunto be firmly joined;
Ere far I sought or searched much,
I many found who seemed such,
But them when I did nearly view
Not one in heart was fully true.
Alas ! thought I, to what I seek
Why should so many draw so near,
And at the last prove nothing like
To what at first they did appear?
So much why do so many please,
Since I was made for none of these?
And why in show have I been one,
Beloved much, yet loved of none?
Could wealth have bought my marriage bed,
Or honour brought me true delight,
I could these ways have better sped
Than many do believe I might;
Nay, beauty, though none loves it more,
Nor proffer'd loves though I had store,
Could make me think now found is she
That proves a helper fit for me.
Nor ease nor pleasure could I find
In beauty, honour, love, or pelf;
Nor means to gain a settled mind,
Till I had found my second self;
Thus till our grand-dame Eve was made,
No helper our first parent had;
Which proves a wife in value more
Thau all the creatures made before.
Half tired in seeking what I sought
I fell into a sleep at last;
And God for me my wishes wrought,
When hope of them were almost past;
With Adam I this favour had,
That out of me my wife was made,
And when I waked I espied
That God for me had found a bride.
How He this riddle brought to pass,
This curious world shall never hear!
A secret work of His it was,
Nor fit for ev'ry vulgar ear:
Out of each other formed were we,
Within a third our beings be;
And our well-being was begun,
By being in ourselves undone.
I have the height of my desire,
In secret no dislike I find;
Love warms me with a kindly fire,
No jealous pangs torment my mind:
I breathe no sigh, I make no moan,
As others do, and I have done;
Nor do I mark, nor do I care,
How fair or lovely others are.
My heart at quiet lets me lie,
And moves no passion in my breast;
Nor tempting tongue, nor speaking eye,
Nor smiling lip, can break my rest;
The peer I sought by me is found,
My earthly hopes by thee are crown'd;
And I in one all pleasures find,
That may be found in womankind.
Each hath of other like esteem,
And what that is we need not tell;
For we are one though two we seem,
And in each other's hearts we dwell:
There dwells He two embracing thus
By whom we were endeared thus;
He makes us rich, though seeming poor,
And when we want will give us more.
Lord! let our love in Thee begun,
In Thee, likewise, continuance have;
And if Thy will may so be done,
Together lodge us in one grave;
Then on the Lamb's great wedding-day
Raise us together from the clay;
And where the Bridegroom doth remain
Let us both live aid love again.
Another of this prolific poet's songs is " a hymn for housewarming." "The ancient and laudable use of housewarmings is here insinuated," as he says, "for in this hymn the friends assembled are taught to beseech God Almighty to make that habitation prosperous and'comfortable to them and theirs, who are newly come thither to dwell" :—
Among those points of neighbourhood
Which our forefathers did allow,
That custom in esteem hath stood
Which we do put in practice now.
For when their friends new dwellings had,
Them thus they welcome thither made;
That they the sooner might be free
From strangeness, where they strangers be.
To this good end we partly came,
And partly friendship to augment;
But if we fail not in the same,
This is the prime of our intent.
We come with holy charms to bless
The house our friends do now p .xsess;
In hope that God amen will say,
To that for which we now shall pray.
Lord! keep this place, we Thee desire,
To these new comers ever free,
From raging winds, from harmful fire,
From waters that offensive be;
From graceless child, from servants ill,
From neighbours bearing no good will:
And from the chiefest plague of life,
A husband lalse, a faithless wife.
Let neither thieves that rove by night,
Nor those that sneak about by day,
Have power their persons to affright,
Or to purloin their goods away.
Let nothing here be seen or heard
To make by day or night afear'd;
No sudden cries, no fearful noise,
No vision grim nor dreadful voice.
Let on this house no curse remain,
If any on the same is laid;
Let no imposture power obtain
To make the meanest wit afraid.
Let here nor Zim nor Dim be seen,
The fabled fairy king or queen;
Nor such delusions as are said
To make the former age afraid.
Keep also, Lord, we pray, from hence
As much as frailty will allow;
The guiltiness of each offence,
Which to a crying sin may grow.
. Let no more want, wealth, hope, or fear,
Nor greater griefs uor joys be here;
Thou may still keep them in Thy grace,
Who shall be dwellers in this place.
But that just measure let them have
Of every means which may acquire,
The blessedness which they most crave,
Who to the truest bliss aspire.
And if well-wishers absent be,
Who better wish them can than we,
To make this blessing up entire,
We thereto add what they desire.
The composition of verses1 on cheerful themes has not unfrequently afforded refreshment to afflicted genius. It was so with a hymn-writer of the last century. "HI health," says he, in a preface to a collection of hymns, "some years past, having kept me from travelling or preaching, I took up the trade of 'hymn-making, a handicraft much followed of late, but a business I was not born or bred to, and undertaken chiefly to keep a long sickness from preying on my spirit, and to make tedious nights pass over more smoothly. Some tinkling employment was wanted, which might amuse and not fatigue me." Merry old Berridge! even he, at times, needed "some tinkling employment" to keep his spirits up; and even he had. seasons of reaction from cheerful excitement, during which the good fruit of his recreation was in danger of being consigned to oblivion. "These hymns," he writes, "were composed in a six months' illness, and have since laid neglected by me; often threatened with the fire, but have escaped that martyrdom. Fatherly mercy prevented that literary death, for authors can seldom prove cruel to their own offspring, however deformed; but they came into the world naked, neither clothed with recommendation or correction of any friend. Such as they are, I offer them to the reader, and suppose he may find in them the common lot of human productions, some things to blame and some to commend. Some of the hymns have occasional!}' rambled into magazines, under the signature of 'Old Everton* and are now finding their way home again." Among these returning ramblers there is his hymn on " a Christian wedding," and those who wish to enter on married life with the holy songs of a hallowed weddingday in their hearts will be thankful for the fruit .of "Old Everton's" "tinkling employment," and learn to sing with him:—
Our Jesus freely did appear
To grace a marriage feast;
And, Lord, we ask Thy presence here,
To make a wedding guest.
Upon the bridal pair look down,
Who now have plighted hands;
Their union with Thy favour crown,
And bless the nuptial bands.
With gifts of grace their hearts endow,
Of all rich dowries best!
Their substance bless, and peace bestow,
To sweeten all the rest.
In purest love their souls unite,
And link'd in kindly care,
To render family burdens light,
By taking mutual share;
True helpers may they prove indeed
In prayer, and faith, and hope;
And see with joy a godly seed
To build the household up.
As Isaac and Rebecca, give
A pattern chaste and kind;
So may this new-met couple live
In faithful friendship joined.
The joys and contentment of matrimony should never interfere with the pleasures of commemorating one's birthday. The birth-day of wife or husband, of son or daughter, affords an opportunity of cheerful congratulation and devout thanksgiving. Nor can we forget to hang another wreath about our memorial of the man who has done so much to brighten the changes of domestic life with his sprightly and instructive hymns. "They who observe their birth-days," says the poet who taught us to sing at a "house-warming," "which many anciently have done, and some yet do, may by this hymn be remembered of such meditations as are pertinent to their anniversary, and God may be thereby the more often praised for our temporal being:—
Lord, on this day Thou didst bestow
A breathing life on me;
This day an actor here below,
I first began to be;
And but few rounds the sun hath made
Since I that now am here,
No portion of an essence had
Except in Thee it were.
But now there is a part of me—
And, Lord, from Thee it springs—
That shall both named and numbered be
With everlasting things.
And that which time doth wear away,
Time's ruin will restore,
To be rejoined thereto for aye,
When time shall be no more.
We now are Thy probationers,
And as we run this race,
The life which is to come prefers
To honour or disgrace.
And they which here the pathway miss
That unto virtue tends,
Shall find no means nor hope'of bliss
When this brief lifetime ends.
Another year is now begun,
And yet I do not see
How far the time which forth has run,
I can account to Thee.
For I confess I have misspent—
My longings to fulfil—
The times which unto me were but
To execute Thy will.
And in the days which are behind,
Behind if any be,
"What profit may I hope to find,
"What will they pleasure me?
Since, though time past I might redeem,
So much that work will cost,
As, first or last, my time will seem
In hazard to be lost.
Lord, let this day of my first birth,
Occasion yearly give,
To keep me mindful why on earth
My being I receive;
And of my second birth, likewise,
So mind Thou me thereby, ,
That I to life may not arise,
A second death to die.
But let this day, and all the days,
"Which I hereafter view,
Employed be to give Thee praise,
To whom all praise is due.
And thus let no man say of me,
When I to dust return,
Oh, well with him now would it be,
If he had ne'er been born.
Charles Wesley never allowed a birth-day to pass without some cheerful hymn. Like Withers, he knew how to extract sweets from every passing hour, and never failed to engage the inspiration which touched him as times and seasons went along in brightening with songs every token of our mortal state. No one whom he teaches to sing on his birth-day can forget that hymn which closes with so fine an allusion to the beautiful old Jewish tradition that God drew the soul of Moses out of his body with a kiss; a tradition founded on Deut. xxxiv. 5, "He died according to the word of theLord," or literally, "at the mouth of Jehovah." The sprightly verses run thus:—
G•od of my life, to Thee
My cheerful soul I raise;
Thy goodness bade me be,
And still prolongs my days.
I see my natal hour return,
And bless the day that I was born.
A clod of living earth,
Oh glorify Thy name,
For whom alone my birth,
And all my blessings came;
Creating and preserving grace,
Let all that is within me praise!
Long as I live beneath,
To Thee, 0 let me live;
To Thee my every breath
In thanks and praises give.
"Whate'er I have, whate'er I am,
Shall magnify my Maker's name.
My soul, and all its powers,
Thine, wholly Thine, shall be;
All, all my happy hours
I consecrate to Thee.
Me to Thine image now restore,
And I shall praise Thee evermore.
I wait Thy will to do,
As angels do in heaven;
In Christ a creature new,
Most graciously forgiven.
I wait Thy perfect will to prove,
All sanctified by spotless Iqve.
Then, when the work is done—
The work of faith with power—
Receive Thy favoured son,
In death's triumphant hour,
Like Moses to Thyself convey,
And kiss my raptured soul away.
George Withers and Charles Wesley have helped to deck many a bridal service with wreaths of song, and to hallow the merriment of many a grateful birth-day; but there is a name which will ever be balmy to those who devoutly hail the light of a wedding-day. The tender simplicity and quiet devotion of Keble's hymn on "Holy Matrimony" will always be welcome to those who wish to have their nuptial joys happily interwoven with prayer and praise :—
The voice that breathed o'er Eden,
The earliest wedding-day,
The primal marriage blessing,
It hath not passed away.
Still in the pure espousal
Of Christian man and maid,
The Holy Three are with us,
The threefold grace is said:
For dower of blessed children,
For love and faith's sweet sake, For high mysterious union,
Which nought on earth may break.
Be present, awful Father,
To give away this bride,
As Eve Thou gav'st to Adam,
Out of his own pierced side.
Be present, Son of Mary,
To join their loving hands,
As Thou didst bind two natures
In Thine eternal bands.
Be present, holiest Spirit,
To bless them as they kneel; As Thou, for Christ, the Bridegroom,
The heavenly spouse doth seal.
Oh spread Thy pure wing o'er them,
Let no ill power find place, When onward to Thine altar,
The hallow'd path they trace.
To cast their crowns before Thee,
In perfect sacrifice,
Till to the home of gladness,
With Christ's own bride they rise.