FOR COMMUNION WITH GOD.
Alas, my God, that we should be
Such strangers to each other!
- that as friends we might agree,
And walk and talk together!
Thou know'st my soul does dearly love
The place of thine abode;
No music drops so sweet a sound
As these two words, My God.
* * * * *
May I taste that communion, Lord,
Thy people have with thee?
Thy spirit daily talks with them,
O let it talk with me!
Like Enoch, let me walk with God,
And thus walk out my day,
Attended with the heavenly guards,
Upon the king's highway.
When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
O come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still:
I'm well when thou art near.
* * * * *
When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
For, till thou dost appear,
- count each moment for a day,
Each minute for a year.
* * * * *
There's no such thing as pleasure here;
My Jesus is my all:
As thou dost shine or disappear,
My pleasures rise and fall.
Come, spread thy savour on my frame--
No sweetness is so sweet;
Till I get up to sing thy name
Where all thy singers meet.
In the writings of both we recognize a straight-forwardness of expression
equal to that of Wither, and a quaint simplicity of thought and form like
that of Herrick; while the very charm of some of the best lines is their
spontaneity. The men have just enough mysticism to afford them homeliest
figures for deepest feelings.
I turn to the accomplished Joseph Addison.
He was born in 1672. His religious poems are so well known, and are for
the greater part so ordinary in everything but their simplicity of
composition, that I should hardly have cared to choose one, had it not
been that we owe him much gratitude for what he did, in the reigns of
Anne and George I., to purify the moral taste of the English people at a
time when the influence of the clergy was not for elevation, and to teach
the love of a higher literature when Milton was little known and less
esteemed. Especially are we indebted to him for his modest and admirable
criticism of the Paradise Lost in the Spectator.
Of those few poems to which I have referred, I choose the best known,
because it is the best. It has to me a charm for which I can hardly
Yet I imagine I see in it a sign of the poetic times: a flatness of
spirit, arising from the evanishment of the mystical element, begins to
result in a worship of power. Neither power nor wisdom, though infinite
both, could constitute a God worthy of the worship of a human soul; and
the worship of such a God must sink to the level of that fancied
divinity. Small wonder is it then that the lyric should now droop its
wings and moult the feathers of its praise. I do not say that God's more
glorious attributes are already forgotten, but that the tendency of the
Christian lyric is now to laudation of power--and knowledge, a form of
the same--as the essential of Godhead. This indicates no recalling of
metaphysical questions, such as we have met in foregoing verse, but a
decline towards system; a rising passion--if anything so cold may be
called a passion--for the reduction of all things to the forms of the
understanding, a declension which has prepared the way for the present
worship of science, and its refusal, if not denial, of all that cannot be
proved in forms of the intellect.
The hymn which has led to these remarks is still good, although, like the
loveliness of the red and lowering west, it gives sign of a gray and
cheerless dawn, under whose dreariness the child will first doubt if his
father loves him, and next doubt if he has a father at all, and is not a
mere foundling that Nature has lifted from her path.
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue etherial sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
Does his Creator's power display;
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets, in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found?
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine:
"The hand that made us is divine."
The very use of the words spangled and frame seems--to my fancy only,
it may be--to indicate a tendency towards the unworthy and theatrical.
Yet the second stanza is lovely beyond a doubt; and the whole is most
artistic, although after a tame fashion. Whether indeed the heavenly
bodies teach what he says, or whether we should read divinity worthy of
the name in them at all, without the human revelation which healed men, I
doubt much. That divinity is there--Yes; that we could read it there
without having seen the face of the Son of Man first, I think--No. I do
not therefore dare imagine that no revelation dimly leading towards such
result glimmered in the hearts of God's chosen amongst Jews and Gentiles
before he came. What I say is, that power and order, although of God, and
preparing the way for him, are not his revealers unto men. No doubt King
David compares the perfection of God's law to the glory of the heavens,
but he did not learn that perfection from the heavens, but from the law
itself, revealed in his own heart through the life-teaching of God. When
he had learned it he saw that the heavens were like it.
To unveil God, only manhood like our own will serve. And he has taken the
form of man that he might reveal the manhood in him from awful eternity.