« PreviousContinue »
with a vividness and grace they could derive from no other figure.
The figure fills the same office in the following hymn :
“ Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain ;
And he will make it plain.”
In the first verse, moving in a mysterious way, planting footsteps in the sea, and riding upon a storm, which are corporeal acts, are put by hypocatastasis for analogous acts of God's providence that are mysterious, untraceable, and full of terror; and are far more expressive of the greatness, incomprehensibleness, and majesty of his procedure, than any untropical or even metaphorical language that could have been employed. In the second stanza, unfathomable mines are, by an elliptical metaphor, ascribed to his skill; and then, by a hypocatastasis, he is represented as treasuring up his designs, and working his will there; to signify, that while his purposes are shrouded from the gaze of mortals, and their execution, which is perpetually going on, is veiled from their observance, they yet are marked by boundless wisdom, and carried into effect with perfect skill. In the third verse, clouds threatening a tempest to the material world, but that descend in genial showers, are put by the figure for measures of providence, or events that seem to portend analogous evils to God's people, but that in fact are to prove the sources of good to them. In the fourth verse, God's hiding a smiling face behind a frowning providence, is one of the most beautiful and most majestic figures in the whole compass of human language. With what inimitable reality, visibleness, and grandeur it invests the thought! hiding the face lighted with a smile, a corporeal act, behind a threatening attitude of the instruments which he employs to accomplish his will, being used by hypocatastasis to signify his veiling his gracious dispositions towards them beneath measures of providence that seem to portend to them misfortune and destruction! In the fifth verse, ripen and unfolding are used by a metaphor, to indicate the analogous evolution and maturing of God's designs; and the bud having a bitter taste, and the flower of a sweet smell, are used by hypocatastasis to represent the resembling forms which the measures God pursues assume as they advance in their accomplishment; though, like a bud, distasteful at first and embittering, unfolding at length in the most graceful shapes, assuming the most delicate and beautiful tints, and giving forth a sweet and exhilarating fragrance. In the last stanza, the figure is used in an equally impressive though less pleasing form. Unbelief being prt by metonymy for unbeliever, the sightless being scanning God's material work, is then put by hypocatastasis for man attempting, in his spiritual blindness, to judge of God's moral and providential sway; a picture as dark and sad as the other is bright and cheering.
The following hymn is eminently fine. The greatness and splendor of the thoughts, the distinctness with which the objects they respect are presented, and the appropriateness and glow of the sentiments that are expressed, touch the heart, like a lofty strain of music, with an entrancing power, and fill it with a sense of divine beauty and bliss :
“Father! how wide thy glory shines !
How high thy wonders rise !
By thousands through the skies.
“But when we view thy strange design,
To save rebellious worms;
In their divinest forms;
“Here the whole Deity is known;
Nor dares a creature guess
The justice or the grace.
“Now the full glories of the Lamb
Adorn the heavenly plains;
And try their choicest strains.
Though so eminently poetic, however, and shedding through the mind a sense of beauty and sublimity, its charms are not referable, except in a slight degree, to the images which it employs; as there are but seven figures in it, and none of them are of the boldest cast. A passage of high poetic excellence, though almost without a figure, is quoted in a preceding chapter, and the reason stated that such compositions do not need the aid of tropes to invest them with their resistless attractions. Does this song owe the impression it makes to the same cause ? If so, let the scholar state what the secret of its beauty is. Let the figures also be pointed out that occur in it.
The following hymn has a pointed expression, and a sprightly movement:
“Servant of God, well done!
Rest from thy lov'd employ;
Enter thy Master's joy.
“The voice at midnight came,
He started up to hear;
He fell—but felt no fear.
“The pains of death are past;
Labor and sorrow cease ;
His soul is found in peace.