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THIS Selection of Hymns, designed as a Supplement to Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns, has been undertaken in pursuance of a Resolution passed at the annual meeting of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, held in May, 1833. The preparation of the work was confided to a Sub-Committee, by whom the task of collecting and revising the materials was ultimately devolved upon a single Editor; but the whole work has been, in its progress through the press, submitted to the careful scrutiny of the Reverend Secretaries to the Union, and of other Ministers, who have devoted much time and pains to the minute examination of the Selection, and have thereby relieved the Editor from the very delicate responsibility which he would otherwise have felt pressing upon him.
The general directions by which the Editor had to guide himself, as agreed upon by the Sub-Committee, were, that the Selection should be framed on the principle of special adaptation to Congregational worship, hymns for private and family devotion being reserved for a distinct part of the work; and that the preference should be given to hymns containing direct addresses to the Divine Being. It was the opinion of the Committee, that a great deficiency of hymns of praise and adoration characterizes most of our modern Collections, and that our Psalmody is in some danger of being too much diverted from its primary purpose, by the introduction of so large a proportion of
metrical compositions of a descriptive, sentimental, or didactic character,-instructive and edifying in themselves, but not in the form or spirit of either prayer or praise.
The arrangement of the hymns, adopted after mature deliberation, was partly suggested by these views. It appeared to the Editor, that the general character of the hymns, as hymns of thanksgiving, of supplication, of confession, or of doctrine, afforded the proper basis of the classification; the occasions to which they are specially adapted being made the secondary principle of arrangement, while the Index will shew what hymns bear upon a common subject. Agreeably to the views of the Committee, it was wished to make the first division (Hymns of Praise and Thanksgiving) not only a prominent feature of the work, but as perfect as possible, by including all the compositions of this class that have any pretensions to devotional excellence. But the Editor was soon made to feel that the range of selection was extremely limited. Many of the hymns which he had collected, relating to the Divine Perfections, as the best that our language affords, were rejected, on revision, by the Committee, as not sufficiently recommended by their intrinsic merit, though admitted into many Collections. The truth is, that for psalms and hymns of direct adoration and thanksgiving, the Christian Church is more indebted to Dr. Watts than to any other individual, not to say, than to all others. In one of the best Collections extant, that by the Rev. Dr. H. F. Burder, in which a selection from Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns is incorporated with those of other writers, of 110 hymns of praise, 80 are from Dr. Watts; and on the subject of the Divine Perfections, all are from Dr.Watts, except 4. In the present Selection,
112 Hymns, including Doxologies, are of this specific character.
As a general rule, it has been the study of the Editor to select Hymns upon those subjects and occasions with regard to which the greatest deficiency has been felt. In his own peculiar walk, as THE Poet of the SANCTUARY, Dr. Watts still stands almost alone. But in his day, the Missionary spirit had not been poured out upon our churches; nor had Protestants been roused to a sense of their highest duty, as the conservators of the true faith. For hymns breathing the spirit which ought to animate the exertions of the disciples of Christ to propagate the Gospel, the Church stood in need of additional contributors; and in the elevated and thrilling strains of a living writer, one of the sweetest singers of Zion, we seem to hear the silver notes of the trumpet of jubilee. Between fifty and sixty hymns adapted to missionary prayermeetings and public services, will be found in the present volume.
One specific feature of the work, as a Denominational Hymn Book, has not been lost sight of; namely, its supplying hymns adapted to the special services of our Congregational discipline. Under the heads of Baptism, Funereal, Ordination, Founding or Opening a place. of Worship, Admission of Members, Prayer Meetings, and Church Meetings, a sufficient variety, it is hoped, will be found to meet this want; many of them new to the religious public.
Another class of hymns in which Dr. Watts has been found deficient, is of an experimental cast. For these, we have to turn to the fervent compositions of Charles Wesley, the pathetic complaints of Cowper, and to other writers of
inferior order, whose hymns owe their popularity to this character. But, keeping in view the adaptation of the Selection to Congregational worship, it has been deemed proper to place a large proportion of these effusions of piety among those appropriate to the Family and the Closet; although some of them may, perhaps, be deemed suitable for occasional use at Sacramental or other services of a more private nature, under the guidance of a sounder discretion than is sometimes found to preside over the choice of hymns for public worship.
One of the most arduous and delicate points for the determination of the Editor, related to the license allowable in altering or abridging the compositions of others. He confesses that he entered upon his task with a very strong feeling against the justice and propriety of this proceeding; and if he shall be thought to have discovered no such feeling of restraint or compunction in the freedoms he has taken, he can only say that he has found his intentions overruled by a stronger necessity. In many hymns that it was deemed proper to retain, endeared to pious persons by early associations, there occur gross improprieties of phraseology, and inaccuracies of rhyme and composition, which it was impossible to leave untouched; and, indeed, amid the varying editions of the same hymn, it is often difficult to discover the genuine original. Both Toplady and Wesley, as well as subsequent Editors, carried to a great extent their adaptations and mutilations of the hymns they selected. Charles Wesley himself, one of the most beautiful of our sacred poets, is often bold, careless, and unequal to an extreme, and requires a pruning hand to render his hymns fit for general use. The hymns of Dr. Doddridge, which, it must be recollected, are post