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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855,
Prop. C.. Kathle
No pains have been spared in collecting materials for this work. The principal collections of Psalms and Hymns that have been published, either in America or Great Britain, have been carefully searched, and the fugitive pieces which have appeared in religious journals, or in collected poetical works of recent authors, have been made to contribute to the store.
A hymn is a lyrical discourse to the feelings. It should either excite or express feeling. The recitation of historical facts, descriptions of scenery, narrations of events, meditations, all may tend to inspire feeling. Hymns are not to be excluded, therefore, because they are deficient in lyrical form, or in feeling, if experience shows that they have power to excite pious emotions. Not many of Newton's hymns can be called poetical; yet there are few hymns in the English lar at are more useful,
We have carefully avoided a narrow adherence to our own personal taste in the selection of hymns. Scarcely any two ministers would agree in the selection of hymns. A collection should be made so large and various that every one may find in it that which he needs. Neither should one complain of the multitude of hymns useless to him. They are not useless to others. A generously-spread table is not at fault because, in the profusion, each guest can not use every thing. Every one should have all the liberty and the means of following his own
taste. Had we made this collection merely for our own use, it would not have numbered more than five hundred hymns.
Many Hymn-books have been so fastidiously made as to exclude many hymns, as extravagant, that were not half so extravagant as are the Psalms of David, and as is all true and deep feeling which gives itself full expression; but also those retained have been abused by corrections, so called, and tamed down from their noble fervor and careless freedom, into flat and profitless propriety.
We have, as far as possible, avoided all changes, except those necessary to restore mutilated hymns to their original state. No language can well replace that which the original inspiration of the author suggested. Watts' hymns and psalms have been carefully compared with the original, and for the most part restored.
Great additions have been made to the hymns which celebrate Christ; to hymns of Christian experience, in its deeper and more tender moods; to hymns suitable for religious awakenings; and there will be found a great number of admirable pieces upon these topics, not combined in any other single collection.
Much attention has been given to the Great Humanities which the Gospel develops, whenever it is faithfully and purely preached. The hymns of Temperance, of Human Rights and Freedom, of Peace, and of Benevolence, will be found both numerous, energetic, and eminently Christian. No pains have been spared to secure a full expression to the whole religious feeling and activity of our times.
We have sought for hymns in the books of every denomination of Christians. There are certain hymns of the sacrifice of Christ, of utter and almost soul-dissolving yearning for the benefit of His mediation. which none could write so
well as a devout and truly pious Roman Catholic. Some of the most touching and truly evangelical hymns in this collection have been gathered from this source. It has been a matter of joy to us to learn, during our research, how much food for true piety is afforded through Catholic devotional books to the masses of darkened minds within that Church of Error.
We have gathered many exquisite hymns from the Moravian Collections, developing the most tender and loving views of Christ, of his personal presence, and gentle companionship. We know of no hymn writers that equal their faith and fervor for Christ, as present with his people. Nor can any one conversant with these fail to recognize the fountain in which the incomparable Charles Wesley was baptized. His hymns are only Moravian hymns re-sung. Not alone are the favorite expressions used and the epithets which they loved, but, like them, he beholds all Christian truths through the medium of confiding love. The love-element of this school has never been surpassed.
To say that we have sought for hymns expressing the deepest religious feeling, and particularly the sentiments of love, and trust, and divine courage, and hopefulness, is only to say that we have drawn largely from the best Methodist hymns. The contributions of the Wesleys to Hymnology have been so rich as to leave the Christian world under an obligation which can not be paid so long as there is a struggling Christian brotherhood to sing and be comforted amid the trials of this world.
Charles Wesley was peculiarly happy in making the Scripture illustrate Christian experience, and personal experience throw light upon the deep places of the Bible. Some of his effusions have never been surpassed. Nor are there any hymns that could more nobly express the whole ecstacy of the Apostolic writings in view of death and heaven.