As a "Friend" of my local public library, I occasionally help organize and shelve books that people donate for our book sales. This can be a dirty, musty, dusty and often moldy business, but it is a necessary service and, now and again, I find a treasure. Some months ago, the treasure came in the form of a small volume in very poor condition. It had clearly belonged to an individual and then had had an incarnation on the shelves of a library long ago. I opened it with that flash of anticipation rarely rewarded, yet always hoped for. And what a reward. It was an 1865 edition of the "Hymns of the Spirit" compiled by Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson. This Unitarian Hymnbook contained many hymns written by Longfellow (younger brother of Henry Wadsworth) and Johnson who were classmates and longtime friends. Both "second generation transcendentalists," Longfellow and Johnson are at the very end of the "Boston Unitarian" era.
A few selections for a Sabbath evening...
Thou Power and Peace! in whom we find
All holiest strength, all purest love,
The rushing of the mighty wind,
The brooding of the gentle dove,-
Forever lend Thy sovereign aid,
And urge us on, and keep us Thine;
Nor leave the hearts which Thou hast made
Fit temples of Thy grace divine.
Nor let us quench Thy saving light;
But still with softest breathings stir
Our wayward souls, and lead us right;
O Holy Spirit, Comforter!
Thanks For Daily Mercies
Tender mercies, on my way
Falling softly like the dew,
Sent me freshly every day,
I will bless the Lord for you.
Though I have not all I would
Though to greater bliss I go
Every present gift of good
To eternal Love I owe.
Source of all that comforts me
Well of joy for which I long,
Let the song I sing to Thee
Be an everlasting song.
Published towards the end of the Civil War, it is not difficult to imagine families gathered together in the evening, sharing these hymns and praying for loved ones and for their world. Amen