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JOHN MASON.

The other, sagely solemn in his look,

But coarse and homespun in his garb appear'd;
Nor had he any mantle's help to cloak

That vileness which in his poor raiment star'd;

The serious beams which darted from his eye
Spake eremitical severity.

Two ravens, whose plumes taught blackness how to shine,
Upon his venerable shoulders sat:

And, ravenous now no more, did freely join
Their services in purveying for his meat;
For in their faithful beaks they ready had
The one a piece of flesh, the other bread.

Behind him stood a flaming chariot,
With steeds all of the same fierce element;
Nor was their fire more than courage hot,
And much ado they had to stand content.
Which tokens being well observ'd, they knew
Those indications must Elias shew.

These two grand prophets, whom the Lord gave leave
To wear some glorious beams, though He were by,
Their reverend discourses interwove

Of His humanity's economy,

With high ecstatic words displaying how

At Salem He death's power should overthrow.

117

JOHN MASON.

In his "Christian Poet," Mr Montgomery, noticing a volume entitled "Spiritual Songs; or, Songs of Praise, with Penitential Cries," &c., remarks: "The extracts hereunder given are from the twelfth edition, 1725. From the discreditable incorrectness of this copy, it cannot be supposed to have been printed under the eye of the author. Indeed, whoever he might be, it is probable that he had been long dead in that year. These compositions evidently belong to the preceding

century; and the author probably flourished between the age of Quarles and that of Watts, his style being a middle tint between the raw colouring of the former and the daylight clearness of the latter. His talent is equally poised between both, having more vigour and less versatility than that of either his forerunner or his successor. That such writings should once have been exceedingly popular (as the multitude of editions proves), and now be nearly forgotten, is little creditable to the admirers of sacred literature in this country. Dr Watts, Mr Pope, and the Wesleys, appear to have been familiar with the contents of this volume, sundry lines and phrases in verses of theirs being evidently borrowed from passages in it."

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The author of the hymns which thus commended themselves to the taste and piety of the bard of Sheffield, was John Mason, the grandfather of the better-known John Mason who wrote the treatise on Self-Knowledge." He died in 1694. His "Spiritual Songs" retained a measure of popular favour till the middle of last century. The edition which we have used is the fourteenth, dated 1750. Dr Watts's brother, Enoch, speaks of them as attaining only to a sort of "yawning indifferency;"* but a later critic speaks of them more generously, and much more truly, as "equalled by few writers of hymns," and "remarkable for a pure and sound, though high-toned devotion."+

46

Surely E come quickly.”

I sojourn in a vale of tears,

Alas, how can I sing?

My harp doth on the willows hang,
Distun'd in every string.

* Milner's Life of Watts, p. 177.

† Cattermole's Sacred Poetry of the Seventeenth Century, vol. ii. p. 387.

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For He that is to be thy Judge,

Thy Saviour is become.

A Song of Praise for the Morning.

My God was with me all this night,

And gave me sweet repose:

My God did watch, even whilst I slept,

Or I had never rose.

How many groan'd and wish'd for sleep,

Until they wish'd for day;

Measuring slow hours with their quick pains,

Whilst I securely lay!

Whilst I did sleep, all dangers slept,

No thieves did me affright;

Those evening wolves, those beasts of prey,

Disturbers of the night.

No raging flames nor storms did rend

The house that I was in;

I heard no dreadful cries without,
No doleful groans within.

What terrors have I 'scap'd this night,

Which have on others fell!

My body might have slept its last,

My soul have waked in hell.

Sweet rest hath gain'd that strength to me,

Which labour did devour:

My body was in weakness sown,
But it is raised in power.

Lord, for the mercies of the night,

My humble thanks I pay;

And unto Thee I dedicate

The first-fruits of the day.

Let this day praise Thee, O my God,

And so let all my days:

And, O let mine eternal day

Be thine eternal praise.

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