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is, does the Scripture countenance such prayers? I think not. The highest language used by the holiest men, who walked most closely with God, and were engaged in the most painful conflicts here (if we except two or three instances, when under peculiar temptations *) is, a desire to depart and to lie with Christ, as heing for better, a willingness rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord : and even this appears to have been with entire submission to the divine will, and a predominant desire to glorify God in life and death. If believers may pray for death, how is it then their duty at the same time to pray for the continuance of life, and to give thanks for that blessing, as the Apostle did in the case of Epaphroditus, and deenied it a special mercy of God to that saint and to himself, when he raised him up from a bed of sickness? The true scripture doctrine appears to be, that we to wait for the Lord in the diligent performance of every duty, and to leave the time and manner of our death to Him, who does all things well'; or, in the Apostle's words, that “whether we live, we may live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we inay die unto the Lord.”
Several writers have addressed the Holy Spirit in their hymns by the name, or title of Dove, when using the language of solemn prayer. Their ground for doing this may probably be the fact
* Num. 11. 15. Jonad 4. 3.
recorded at the Baptism of our Lord. But I cannot see that this is sufficient to authorize such a mode of address; and there is no place of scripture where the Holy Spirit is called by this name.
I have no desire to censure any my brethren, who differ from me in opinion on this subject; but as the purity of divine worship is of great moment, and the God, whom we address, is jealous of his honour, I conceive we ought not to apply the name of a creature to the Eternal Spirit on light grounds, and without any necessity, or plea of usefulness : tor as the Holy Spirit has condescended to re. veal himself by other Titles, expressive of his nature and attributes, it is surely prudent, and must be proper for us to abide by those, which have the sanction of his own word.
Some writers speak of adoring the grace, the ways, &c. of God. These expressions I think exceptionable, because the term adore implies an act of worship, which is due to God alone, and not to any of his works, I suspect the practice to be of pagan origin, adopted by nominal Christians into their poetry, and inadvertently used by some of better principles. Indeed it would be easy to shew, were this a proper place, how the depraved mind of man ever tends to polytheism. 'We have many writers (and I may add with regret, they are admired and imitated) who ascribe to nature, fortune, or other imaginary beings, what belongs solely to the only wise God, the Disposer and Go vernor, as well as the Creator of all things. As the sacred writings do not authorize the above practice, it is carefully avoided in these hymns.
The late Dr. Watts has probably contributed more than any writer to improve this part of the divine service. He has presented us with evangelical truths in rich and genuine poetry, and in many instances has happily combined simplicity with elegance. Some of the best hymns in our language are to be found in his works; and it may be questioned whether the 62nd hymn of his first book, has been equalled by any human author, The church of God has doubtless seen reason to praise him for the grace bestowed on his servant, by whose labours so many have been comforted and edified. Yet we are constrained to acknowledge, that his hymns are not free from several of the defects and blemishes already pointed out. Many of them have a certain negligence, and too little counection and order in the stanzas, so as to carry the appearance of haste and an unfinished state. There are a few instances of fond expressions, where the language is too low and familiar for the subject. But what appears to me the most prevalent defect, and the most difficult to be accounted for in a judicious writer is the great inequalities in the composition ; not only in different byvons, but in separate stap zas of the same hymn. For instance, in the · 14th hymn of the 2nd book, the 1st stanza has a tender and beautiful simplicity with which all persons of a correct devotional taste are delighted But in the 2nd line of the 3rd stanza the Lord's presence is incorrectly expressed in the past time, probably for the sake of the rhyme, which aster all is but indifferent ; and the 4th line has the awkward and nearly 'obsolete word pleasurable to fill up the metre. The expression sit occurs twice in the hymn, which is objectionable, as it may seem to encourage an indolent posture, not generally be-coming acts of worship.
There'are a few passages,' where the doctrine, as I conceive, is not perfectly scriptural, or not delivered with sufficient care and perspicuity. And as these hymns are in so many hands, there is the more propriety in pointing out the chief of them. The first I shall notice is in the 94th hymn of the 1st book, where all the actions of men in the state of nature are declared to be guilt.
The depravity of our nature is a doctrine in which we are all so awfully concerned, that it is very desirable to have just views of it. Man
is à rational creature ; and when he is brought to vield in all things to his Maker's revealed "will, his reason is as perfect as it can be. To convince men of their depravity, we are not to affront their common sense, but to reason with them from the word of God, * and to shew them how exactly the description there given of man agrees with what they may know of themselves, and of the world around them. And the more closely we adhere to the letter of the scripture the better. But if we suffer our zeal to exceed the bounds there set us, we endanger ourselves and others, by throwing stumbling blocks in the way of our hearers, and depriving our labours of the divine blessing. Let us suppose a minister is defending the above assertion in a public congregation, and there come in some of the unlearned so common every where, and hear him insist, that the obedience of heathen children to their parents, and the kind offices which unregenerate persons perform to their poor, afflicted neighbours, as well as all tbeir other actions, are guilt itself, would they not conclude that these teachers confound and destroy all distinction between virtue and vice, good and evil; and that they are not fit to be heard? Let us suppose also, that the minister exemplifies his doctrine from the scripture, and selects for his purpose the conduct of the compassionate Samaritan, in which there is nothing but what a heathen of humane feelings might perform. What would be their astonishment, if told, that ibis benovolent action, so beautifully desGibed by our Saviour, might after all be guilt.