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thoughts, speak their dialects, feel their emotions, but our own thoughts are refined, our scanty language is enriched, our common feelings are elevated; and, though we may never attain their standard, yet, by keeping company with them, we shall rise above our own, as trees growing in the society of a forest, are said to draw each other up into shapely and stately proportion, while field and hedge-row stragglers, exposed to all weathers, never reach their full stature, luxuriance, or beauty. In the composition of hymns, men of wealthier imaginations, and happier utterance, may furnish to others of susceptible hearts, the means of bodying forth their own conceptions, which would otherwise be a burden to their minds, or die in the birth, without the joy of deliverance. The most illiterate person, who understands his Bible, will easily understand the most elegant or emphatic expression of all the feelings which are common to all; and, instead of being passive under them, when they are excited at particular seasons, he will avail himself of the songs put into his mouth, and sing them with gladness and refreshment, as if they were his own. Then, though, like Milton's, his genius can ascend to the heaven of heavens, or like Shakespeare's, search out the secrets of Nature, through all her living combinations,-blessed is the bard who employs his resources thus; who, from the fulness of his own bosom, pours his divinest thoughts, in his selectest words, into the bosoms of his readers, and enables them to appropriate the rich communications to their personal exigencies, without robbing him, or hindering others from partaking of the same abundant fountain of human inspiration,--a fountain flowing, like the oil, at the command
of the prophet, from one vessel into as many as could be borrowed, without exhausting the first, though the whole were filled. If he who pens these sentiments knows his own heart,—though it has deceived him too often to be trusted without jealousy,—he would rather be the anonymous author of a few hymns, which should thus become an imperishable inheritance to the people of God, than bequeath another epic poem to the world, which should rank his name with Homer, Virgil, and “ our greater Milton.”
After these strong words, but more especially after the freedom and severity which he has exercised in judging the performances of his predecessors, the Editor may offer, with many misgivings, the Hymns in the Fifth part of the following collection, as his own. Tried by the standard which he has himself set up, every one of them would be found wanting. He might, perhaps, be able to assign reasons for the failure of each, independent of positive incapacity in himself ;but the judgment he leaves with his readers, to whom he humbly presents these gleanings, under the perfect conviction, that they will be throughly sifted, and the chaff burnt up, and the grain, if there be any, gathered into the garner of the true Church.
J. M. SHEFFIELD, October, 1825.