SONGS OF THE MORNING.
"But I will sing of Thy power: yea, I will sing aloud of Thy mercy in the morning."
It is pleasant to sit in the oriel window of an old grammarschool library, with the many-coloured light falling on the open folio as it lies on the ponderous reading-desk, and to hear, amidst one's musings, the music of the boys' voices as their morning hymn comes floating up along the gallery, gently touching the soul with its mellow harmony. How many a time since the fourteenth century, when William of Wykeham opened his Winchester School, has such morning music charmed the old college of that storied city. Bishop Mant used to think with pleasure of the morning hymn which the boys used to sing in that school in his days. It was the simple, beautiful, and devout old song, "Jam lucis orto sidere," etc., and nothing could be more happily chosen as a morning song for the young scholars. Mant threw his whole soul into his translation of it:—
Brightly shines the morning star:
Pray we God His grace to give,
That from sin and 'danger far
We the coming day may live.
That the tongue by Him withheld,
May from sounds of strife refrain;
That the eye, from roving quelled,
Seek not sights corrupt or vain;
That the heart, with pureness fraught,
May from folly turn aside;
And the flesh, by temperance taught,
Calm its lusts and veil its pride.
That, when the day shall close,
And the night successive bring,
We, triumphant o'er our foes,
May our hymn of glory sing;
Glory, Sire of all, to Thee;
And to Thee, co-equal Son,
With the Spirit glory be;
One in Three, and Three in One.
Between one and two hundred years before Mant's time, that same hymn was sung in that same school, and among• the rest of the voices then swelling the devout music there was Ken's; and how far the style, and manner, and spirit of that ancient hymn served to form that habit of tuneful expression which afterwards distinguished the good bishop, who can tell? Should we ever have had his inimitable morning hymn but for that early Winchester exercise? Probably, when in after-life he used to chant his own morning and evening hymns to the music of his lute, his soul was giving forth the echoes of the old melody which. had so deeply touched his poetic soul while yet a boy. To think of morning songs is always to think of Bishop Ken, and, whether the morning be bright or dull, his hymn is always fresh:—
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise
To pay thy morn ing sacrifice.
Thy precious time misspent redeem;
Each present day thy last esteem;
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.
In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all-seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.
By influence of the light divine,
Let thy own light to others shine;
Reflect all heav'n's propitious rays,
In ardent love and cheerful praise.
Wake and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the Eternal King.
Awake! awake! ye heavenly choir,
May your devotion me inspire,
That I, like you, my age may spend.
Like you, may on my God attend.
May I, like you, in God delight,
Have all day long my God in sight,
Perform like you my Maker's will!
Oh may I never more do ill!
Had I your wings, to heaven I'd fly;
But God shall that defect supply;
And my soul, wing'd with warm desire,
Shall all day long to heaven aspire.
All praise to Thee, who safe has kept,
And hast refreshed me while I slept!
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless light partake!
I would not wake nor rise again,
Ev'n heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoy'd
And I in hymns to be employ'd.
Heav'n is, dear Lord, where'er Thou art;
Oh never then from me depart!
For, to my soul, 'tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.
Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew,
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.
Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
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.
The best of men are never entirely independent of circumstances. Our religious feelings and expressions often take their tone from the atmosphere about us, and especially from the present physical condition of the outer man. Thought flows freely, or lags in heaviness, just as the subtle influences around us quicken or oppress. And though no mere circumstances can entirely quench the fire of genius, or prevent the Christian poet from uttering his inspirations, yet his hymns and songs will often be sprightly or plaintive as outward changes pass over him, or as the condition of his physical life is 'shadowy or bright. Each morning seems to bring its own inspiration to every pious hymnist. The morning song should be sprightly; but sometimes even the morning has shadows which give a kind of holy melancholy to the tone of praise. The praise that should wing its way upward, now and then lingers in the form of plaintive reflection or humble appeal. So in one of Toplady's songs of the morning. Not far from a spot in his Devonshire parish, where Cluniac monks used to sing such morning songs as came from their brother, Bernard of Morlaix, and others, his kindred hymnists, Toplady learnt to wear his weak body down by nightly study, until his morning songs became rather sombre or languid at times, so that they touch our human sympathy, while they give a subdued tone of feeling to our worship. Nevertheless, that day is well begun which opens with a song from the author of "Rock of Ages." His "Hymn for the Morning" runs thus :—
Jesus, by whose grace I live,
From the fear of evil kept,
Thou hast lengthen'd my reprieve,
Held in being while I slept;
With the day my heart renew;
Let me wake Thy will to do.
Since the last revolving dawn
Scattered the nocturnal cloud,
Oh, how many souls have gone,
Unprepared to meet their God!
Tet Thou dost prolong my breath,
Hast not seal'd my eyes in death.
Oh, that I may keep Thy word,
Taught by Thee to watch and pray
To Thy service, dearest Lord,
Sanctify th' ensuing day;
Swift its fleeting moments haste;
Doom'd, perhaps, to be my last.
Crucified to all below,
Earth shall never be my care:
Wealth and honour I forego;
This my only wish and care,
Thine in fife and death to be,
Now and to eternity.
There was another hymnist of Toplady's time, of a merrier constitution than he—more disposed to look at the bright side of things, and having somewhat broader and more pleasant sympathy with the human multitude. His relir gious notions would, perhaps, have a brighter influence on his character and utterances than those of Toplady; while one at least of his fixed principles, as a Christian minister, would give a more lively and agreeable effect to his ministrations both in prose and verse. While Toplady was spending his energies in fruitless controversy, his contemporary, not, perhaps, less learned, but more practical, was acting on his own advice given to a younger man, "Look simply unto Jesus for preaching food, and what is wanted will be given, and what is given will be blessed, whether it be barley or a wheaten loaf, a crust or a crumb. When your heart is right, meek, and simple, Jesus will make an orator of you; when you grow lofty and are pleased with your prattle, Jesus will make a fool of you. Your mouth will be a flowing stream, or a fountain sealed, according as your heart is. Avoid all controversy in preaching, talking, or writing; preach nothing down but the devil, and nothing up but Jesus Christ." A man of such views, such principles, and such diction, when gifted with poetic genius, and a faculty for writing hymns, would surely give out pleasant songs for the common people—songs always loved, too, by the cultured lover of pure Saxon, strong sense, playful fancy, pith, point, and tender feeling. Such songs sometimes come from the heart and life of the amusing and lovable man who has bequeathed to us a morning hymn. His mornings were always bright, it would seem, and his hymn shows how his cheerful sense of renewed vigour was in harmony with his reverent reliance on his God.
Through Jeeu's watchful care
I safely pass the night;
His providential arm was near,
And kept off every fright.
No pains upon my bed
Prevented my repose;
But laying down my weary head,
Refresh'd with sleep I rose.
And here I stand possest
,0f strength and vigour new;
And with my limbs and senses blest,
Another morn I view.
From Thee my mercies flow,
In pearly drops they fall;
But give a thankful bosom too,
The sweetest pearl of all.
Be Thou my grade to-day,
My arm whereon to rest,
My sun to cheer me on the way,
My shield to guard my breast.
From Satan's fiery dart,
And men of purpose base,
And from the plague within my heart,
Defend me by Thy grace.
There is an amusing story told of the author of this hymn. He was one of those clergymen of his day who sometimes turned out from their parishes as occasional itinerant preachers, going up and down proclaiming the gospel to the neglected masses. He had come, it is said, to a village in the North of England on a Saturday evening. He must needs stay there over the Sabbath. But always ready for work, he requested his host at the inn to go to the parson of the parish and state that a clergyman was stopping at his house who would be glad to assist the vicar at the service to-morrow. The vicar was cautious. "We must be careful," said he, "for you know there are many of these wandering Methodist preachers about. What sort of a man is he?" "Oh, it is all right, sir," was the reply; "just see his nose, sir, that will tell you he is no Methodist." "Well, ask him to call on me in the morning," said the parson, "and I shall judge for myself."
The call was made, and the waggish and somewhat rubicund nose was a sufficient introduction to the pulpit. The morning came. The congregation gathered. The vicar read prayers, and then the stranger mounted the pulpit. It must be all right, the vicar may have thought; for there seemed to be waggish thoughts playing around the corners of the preacher's mouth, and there was that remarkable peaked and kindling nose which threatened to provoke a laugh among his hearers. Nor would his first address belie his features. It seemed to be pleasant talk from the pulpit. The preacher is rather homely and blunt. But everybody listens, for everybody thinks and feels that the parson is speaking to him. By and by, however, his home-thrusts at the conscience make his hearers somewhat uneasy; but ere they are prepared for defence, the sharp piercing sentences come in such rapid succession that both vicar and flock find themselves arrested as sinners before God—
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
E'en children follow'd with endearing wile,
And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile.
The "good man's smile" was always ready for those who sought it, and his loving, mirthful heart was always open to those who wanted to know more about his Divine Lord and Master. The gifted itinerant was no other than the humorous but holy and eminently useful John Berridge, vicar of Everton, in Bedfordshire. His racy letters, brimful of wit; his "Christian World Unmasked," with its union of drollery and seriousness; the floating traditions about his active and holy life; and the still accumulating fruits of his preaching;—all serve to keep alive and fresh the memory of this early Methodist clergyman; this eccentric but sanctified genius, who, with Wesley and others, worked in the pulpit, with his pen, at home and abroad for the religious renovation of his country. He wrote his hymns as he preached his sermons, for those who needed them most; and he never failed to engage the hearts as well as the taste and understanding of those to whom he preached, and for whom he wrote. What child of God who has learnt his "Labourer's Morning Hymn," will ever cease to love the name of the man who has helped him to sing of a morning :—
I thank my Lord for kindly rest
Afforded in the night;
Refresh'd and with new vigour blest,
I wake to view the light.
What need I grieve to earn my bread,
When Jesus did the same?
If in my Master's steps I tread,
No harm I get, or shame.
Oh let me Hess with thankful mind,
My Saviour's love and care,
That I am neither sick, nor blind,
Nor lame as others are!
A trusty workman I would be,
And well my task pursue;
Work when my master does not see,
And work with vigour too.
And whilst I ply the busy foot,
Or heave the labouring arm,
Do Thou my withering strength recruit,
And guard me well from harm.
To sweeten labour let my Lord
Look on, and cast a smile;
For Jesus can such looks afford,
As well the hours beguile.
Berridge was ready for all work, and for work among all classes, for his Master's sake; but in all his works, and among all classes, he was the same honest, transparent, loving spirit, acting and speaking with the most earnest purity amidst all the sparkle and play of his humorous genius; always, and to all, expressing himself in the purest, clearest, most pithy, racy, and proverb-like style of his native tongue. Now, as in his "Christian World Unmasked," he says, "Gentle reader, lend me a chair, and I will sit down and talk a little with you. Give me leave to feel your pulse. Sick, indeed, sir, very sick, of a mortal disease, which infects your whole mass of blood. . Let me step into your closet,
sir, and peep upon its furniture. My hands are pretty honest, you may trust me; and nothing will be found, I fear, to tempt a man to be a thief. Well, to be sure, what a filthy place is here! never swept for certain since you were christened! and what a fat idol stands skulking in the corner !—a darling sin, I warrant it! How it simpers, and seems as pleasant as a right eye! Can you• find a will to part with it, or strength to pluck it out? And supposing you a match for the self-denial, can you so command your heart as to hate the sin you do forsake? This is certainly required; truth is called for in the inward parts." At another time he is writing to his dear Rowly (young Rowland Hill), "When I began to itinerate, a multitude of dangers seemed ready to engulph me. My friends were up in arms, my college was provoked, my bishop incensed, the clergy on fire, and the church canons were pointing their ghastly mouths at me; my first diocesan told me that I should soon be either in Bedlam or in jail. But, through the good blessing of my God, I am yet in the possession of my senses, my tithes, and my liberty; and He who has hitherto delivered, I trust will yet deliver me from ecclesiastical fires, and the paw of worldly bears. I have suffered from nothing except from lapidations and pillory treats, which yet have proved more frightful than hurtful. If you are invited to go out, and feel yourself inclined to do so, take a lover's leap, neck or nothing, and commend yourself to Jesus. Ask no man's leave to preach Christ; that is unevangelical and shameful. Seek not much advice about it; that is dangerous. Such advice, I find, generally comes the wrong way— heels uppermost. Most preachers love a snug church and a whole skin, and what they love they will prescribe. If you are determined to be evangelically regular, that is, secularly irregular, then expect, wherever you go, a storm will follow you, which may fright you, but will bring no real harm. Make the Lord your whole trust, and all will be well." And then again, from such stirring correspondence with clerical friends, we find him turning to give lessons in psalmody to such as do not often catch the attention of educated poets—the domestic servant. He teaches her to sing, as she begins her morning work :—
To Jesue, my dear Lord, I owe
The rest I had this night;
By Him preserved from every woe,
I wake to view the light.
Accept, O Lord, my early praise,
It is Thy tribute due;
And let the morning song I raise,
Rise with affection too.
My dear Redeemer, while on earth,
A servant was to all;
With ready foot He stepped forth,
Attentive to each call.
If unto labour I am bred,
My Saviour was the same;
Why then should I a service dread,
Or count it any shame?
Yet, Lord, I need a patient mind,
And beg a ready will,
To pay my master service kind,
And every task fulfil.
No saucy language I would use.
Nor act a treacherous part,
But serve him with the purest views,
And work with freest heart.
Many labourers and many servants thank thee for thy verses, happy, plain-spoken, kind "old Berridge," and we hope to see thy face some bright morning when the Sabbath sun rises never to set again! There is something about "old Berridge" which reminds one of George Wither—the sympathy with all classes, with human nature under all circumstances, the hearty readiness to employ the whole soul for the good of all, and the wonderful facility for adapting forms of hymnic expression to the taste and heart of those for whom their good feeling is engaged. Wither has his morning hymn, too; and it is one of his finest; less rugged, and more free from those quaint conceits and uncouth modes of expression which suited the ear of his times better than our own. It was his way, and a good way it was, freely to give a "reason" not merely for "the hope within" him, but for all the utterances of his thought and feeling which he put forth to the world. "Many dangers hang over us all the day," he says, "therefore, before we venture forth to follow our affairs, we might be more safe if we were first charmed by such invocations as these :—
Since Thou hast added now, 0 God!
Unto my life another day,
And giv'st me leave to walk abroad,
And labour in my lawful way;
My walks and works with me begin;
Conduct me forth, and bring me in.
In ev"ry power my soul enjoys
Internal virtues to improve;
In ev'ry sense that she employs
In her external works to move,
Bless her, O God, and keep me sound,
From outward harm and inward wound.
Let sin nor Satan's fraud prevail,
To make my eye of reason blind;
Or faith, or hope, or love to fail,
Or any virtues of the mind;
But more and more let them increase,
And bring me to my end in peace.
Lewd courses let my feet forbear,
Keep Thou my hands from doing wrong;
Let not ill counsel pierce my ear,
Nor wicked words defile my tongue;
And keep the windows of each eye,
That no strange lusts climb in thereby.
But guard Thou safe my heart in chief,
That neither hate, revenge, or fear,
Nor vain desire, vain joy, or grief,
Obtain command or dwelling there.
And, Lord, with ev'ry saving grace,
Still true to Thee maintain that place.
From open wrongs, from secret hates,
Preserve me likewise, Lord, this day;
From slanderous tongues, from wicked mates,
From ev'ry danger in my way.
My goods to me, secure Thou too,
And prosper all the works I do.
So till the evening of this morn,
My time shall then so well be spent,
That when the twilight shall return,
I may enjoy it with content;
And to Thy praise and honour say,
That this has proved a happy day."
But who, in the course of his morning devotions, can omit a song which so associates the first kindlings of praise and thanksgiving with balmy thought about gracious example, as the hymn which comes to us from the reverend, gentle, elegant, and glowing Bishop Heber? His eye falls, it may be, on David's anthem of thanksgiving, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits," and his devout and tuneful spirit sings :—
What secret hand at morning light,
By stealth unseals mine eye;
Draws back the curtain of the night,
And opens earth and sky?
'Tis Thine, my God !—the same which kept
My resting hours from harm;
No ill came nigh me, for I slept,
Beneath th' Almighty's arm.
"Us Thine my daily bread which brings
Like manna scattered round;
And clothes me as the lily springs
In beauty from the ground.
This is the hand which saved my frame,
And gave my pulse to beat;
Which bare me oft through flood and flame,
Through tempest cold, and heat.
In death's dark valley though I stray,
'Twould there my steps attend;
Guide with the staff my lonely way,
And with the rod defend.
May that dear Hand uphold me still,
Through life's uncertain race,
To bring me to Thy holy hill,
And to Thy dwelling-place.
'Have you learnt to sing within yourself a hymn like this as each morning opens on you? If not, enter on the practice and pursue it, until it becomes your morning habit, and you will realize the habitual enjoyment of a poor, but religiously intelligent man, whose very appearance and manners were beautifully illustrative of a peaceful, happy religion. It was thought that the secret of his inward but evident repose would be touched by one question; he was asked, "I suppose your first work of a morning is to pray?"
"No! What then is it?"
"Praise," said he. "Praise is my first act; and when the day begins with praise, prayer and every good thing comes in its turn; for you soon learn the happy art of turning the bright side of things towards yourself, of looking at God's goodness until it always cheers you, of marking the blessings of each hour as the hour passes, and of communing with a happy future until you find it possible to 'rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.' Thus 'joy in Christ Jesus' passes into prayer, and prayer into thanks, and thanksgiving brings the happy soul back again to the blessed Saviour; and so the day passes, and from hour to hour the heart keeps up its music like a sweet peal of bells; yes, and the Holy Spirit Himself seems to be ringing the changes in my soul of praise and prayer, love and joy, gratitude and peace."
"Thank you," said the old man's friend, "thank you for your lesson on morning music. God gives you the grace of praise 'new every morning'; you must have some favourite morning hymns."
"Oh yes, many, many a hymn and psalm come springing up, and sometimes I wonder how they come, for I do not know that I ever took very great pains to learn them. Among them all I have my favourite verses, and they are always fresh ; and it strikes me that they bring their own tunes with them, for the verses no sooner come to my mind, than some suitable tune flows from my tongue. Scarcely a morning opens but these verses are forthcoming from my heart and lips :—
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o'er the shades of night.
Day-spring from on high, be near,
Day-star in my heart appear.
Oh disclose Thy lovely face,
Quicken all my drooping powers;
Gasps my fainting soul for grace,
As a thirsty land for showers.
Haste, my Lord, no more delay,
Come, my Saviour, come away.
Dark and cheerless is the morn,
Unaccompanied hy Thee;
Joyless is the day's return,
Till Thy mercy's beams I see.
Till Thou inward light impart,
Glad my eyes and cheer my heart.
Visit, then, this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Till me, Radiancy Divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day."
"Whose verses are these?"
"Whose? Why, Charles Wesley's; and they are so like him. Prayer and praise are always so cheerfully intermingling in his hymns. He must have been a cheerful Christian; and I like cheerful Christians, they are so consistent with their profession. If the New Testament teaches anything, it is that the disciples of Jesus are to be happy; and Charles Wesley's spiritual songs appear to breathe that lively, happy spirit which is so sweetly in tune with the promises of the new covenant. There is another morning hymn of his that I am fond of singing. It tells out one's sense of weakness and dependence so sweetly, and yet gives the longing soul new fire, and makes it feel that while it kindles into warmer desires after God, everything within, and everything without, brightens with spiritual joy. This is the hymn :—
Jesus, the all-restoring word,
My fallen spirit's hope,
After Thy lovely likeness, Lord,
Ah, when shall I wake up?
Thou, 0 my God ! Thou only art
The Life, the Truth, the Way;
Quicken my soul, instruct my heart,
My sinking footsteps stay.
Of all Thou hast in earth below,
In heaven above to give,
Give me Thy only love to know,
In Thee to walk and live.
Fill me with all the life of love;
In mystic union join
Me to Thyself, and let me prove
The fellowship divine.
Open the intercourse between
My longing soul and Thee,
Never to be broke off again
To all eternity."