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SACRED LATIN POETRY,
SELECTED AND ARRANGED FOR USE;
NOTES AND INTRODUCTION:
RICHARD CHENEVIX TRENCH, M.A.,
VICAR OF ITCHENSTOKE, HANTS, AND
LATE HULSEAN LECTURER.
HE aim of the present volume is to offer to
members of our English Church a collection of the best sacred Latin poetry, such as they shall be able entirely and heartily to sympathize with and approve—a collection, that is, in which they shall not be evermore liable to be offended, and to have the current of their sympathies checked, by coming upon that, which, however beautiful as poetry, in higher respects they must reject and condemn-in which, too, they shall not fear that snares are being laid for them, to entangle them unawares in admiration for ought which is inconsistent with their faith and fealty to their own spiritual mother. Such being the idea of the volume, it is needless to say that all hymns which in any way imply the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation are excluded. In like manner all are excluded, which involve any creature-worship, or which speak of the Mother of our Lord in any other language than that which Scripture has sanctioned, and our Church adopted. So too all asking of the suffrages of the saints, all addresses to the cross calculated to encourage superstition, that is, in which any value is attributed to the material wood, in which it is used otherwise than it is in the Epistles of St Paul, namely, as a figure of speech by which we ever and only understand Him that hung upon it; all these have been equally refused a place.
Nor is it only poems containing positive error which I have counted inadmissible; but, so far as I could judge, I have given no room to any which breathe a spirit foreign to that tone of piety which the English Church desires to cherish in her children; for I have always felt that compositions of this character may be far more hurtful, may do far more to rob her of the affections, and ultimately of the allegiance, of her children, than those in which error and opposition to her teaching take a more definite and tangible shape. Nor surely can there be a greater mistake, than to suppose that we have really "adapted” such works to the use of our Church, when we have lopped off here and there a few offensive excrescences, while that far more potent, because far subtler and more impalpable, element of a life which is not her life remains interfused through the whole.
Having thus in a manner become responsible for all which appears in this volume, I may be permitted to observe, that I do not thereby imply that every single phrase of every poem which it contains exactly meets my desire—that there is not, here and there, that which one would willingly have had otherwise expressed. Two or three phrases also there may be,—yet not, I believe, more,—which in their doctrinal aspects will claim of the reader the interpretation of charity, and that he remember how unfair it is to try the theological language of the middle ages by the greater strictness and accuracy of a happier theology. Thus, for us at this day to talk of any “merits” save those of Christ, after all that the Reformation has won for us, would involve a conscious and a deliberate falling away from a sole and exclusive reliance upon his work. But it was a different thing then, and the word might quite be used by one who had implicitly an entire affiance on the work of Christ for him as the ultimate ground of his hope; and who only waited to have the truth, which with some confusion he held and lived by, put before him in accurate form, to embrace it henceforth and for ever, not only with heart, as he had done already, but with the understanding as well.