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HYMNS OF THE BIBLE.
If church history be anything different from secular history, it should be the record of Christian truth, speaking through the lives of Christian men; the story of the struggle between selfishness and Divine love, of the Life which has pierced through and outlived the corruption and decay of States; the echo of the accents of truth and love, penetrating, like a musical tone, through the marketdin and battle-tumult of the world. But, too often, how different is the fact ! With what a weariness of disappointment we turn from pages which seem but the transferring of the old, selfish, secular ambitions to a new arena; the name of truth, and even of God, being merely the weapon of the strife, whilst Self is the god whose glory is contended for!
Yet we are sure, since the Prince of life arose from the tomb, the life of Christianity has never been altogether buried again ; and to watch for it, and rejoice in it when found, seem the only objects for which church history is worth being studied.
And as we watch, much is revealed to us. We trace Christian life through its various manifestations of love,
and find the golden chain unbroken through the ages, however dim at times the gold may shine. It manifests itself in its expansive form of love to man, in countless works of mercy, in missions, and hospitals, and ransomings of captives, and individual acts of love and self-sacrifice which cannot be numbered. We trace it in its direct manifestation of love to God, in martyrdoms and in hymns; the yielding up of the life to death for truth, and the breathing out of the soul to God in song.
The object of these pages is to follow the last track, by listening to the voice of that stream of spiritual song which has never been altogether silent on earth; by attempting to reproduce some notes of the song, and some likeness of the singers. And may
not such a search have its peculiar use, in a day and a land like ours ? It is, no doubt, difficult to ascertain the true characteristics of the nation or the times we live amongst; partly because we are too near to make the perspective correct, and partly because the atmosphere which colours the scene also colours our own minds. The rumble of the highway we are treading overpowers the roar of the retreating thunder-storm; the riot of to-day sounds louder than the revolution of the last century; and thus
age after age has seemed to hear in its own tumults the echo of those chariot-wheels which are still long in coming.
Yet some of the characteristics of the sea we are sailing on we must know, for safety, if not for science. Would it not, for instance, be generally admitted, that the character of Christian life, in our own time, is rather humane than devotional, its tendency rather outward than upward,