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Your Maker's Praise becomes your Voice:
How wisc and holy, just and true!
His Word the heavenly Arches sprcad:
Were all the Starry Armies made.
In the vast Store-boufc of the Deep:
His everlating Orders kecp.
Nor dare indulge their feeble Rage :
Specimen Page of John Wesley's First Hymn Book
converted, but also started on a new business career that developed him into a prominent publisher. John Wesley severely criticized this "bookseller of York” for using so many of the Wesley hymns from the 1780 hymnal without permission. Nevertheless, the book continued to gain wider acceptance.
That same year, 1784, in America, there assembled the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore, from which the Methodist Episcopal Church dates its formal existence. Bishop Coke, who was appointed by Wesley to the Methodists in America, was an intimate friend of Robert Spence; and it is not surprising, therefore, that the first hymnal introduced into America after the organization of the new Church was a reprint of the York “Pocket Hymn Book” of Robert Spence. Its title both in England and in America was the same: "A Pocket Hymn Book, Designed as a Constant Companion for the Pious. Collected from Various Authors." Its size also was the same, the covers being five and one half by three and one half inches, and the pages being four and one half by two and one half.
The Preface to the American edition states among other paragraphs: “We intend to strike off an impression of twenty or thirty thousand copies, that the general cry from congregations that they cannot purchase Hymn Books will be stopped. The Hymn Books which have been already published among us are truly excellent. The select Hymns, the double collection of Hymns and Psalms, . and the Redemption Hymns display great spirituality, as well as
purity of diction. The large Congregational Hymn Book is admirable indeed, but it is too expensive for the poor, who have little time and less money. The Pocket Hymn Book, lately sent abroad in these States, is a most valuable performance for those who are deeply spiritual, but is better suited to the European Methodists. . . . All the excellencies of the former publications are, in a great measure, centered in the present, which contains the choicest and most precious of the Hymns that are to be found in the former editions; and at the same time is so portable that you may always carry it with you without the least inconvenience.”
An early suggestion of the benevolent arrangement that has prevailed throughout the history of the Methodist Episcopal publishing house, of devoting the profits of the Concern to philanthropy, is seen in this paragraph of the Preface: "We are the more delighted with this design, as no personal advantage is concerned but the public good alone. For, after the necessary expenses of printing and binding are discharged, we shall make it a noble charity, by applying the profits arising therefrom to the heavy debts of our Churches and Colleges. No motive of a sinister nature has therefore influenced us in any degree to publish this excellent Compilation. It has received the approbation of the Conferences."
The churches are begged to purchase “no Hymn Books but what are signed with the names of your two Bishops”; and, finally, they are exhorted "to sing with the Spirit and with the understanding also: and
thus may the high praises of God be sent up froin East to West, from North to South; and we shall be happily instrumental in leading the Devotions of Thousands and shall rejoice to join you in Time and Eternity. We are, Dear Brethren, your faithful Pastors in Christ, Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury.” This, then, was the first official hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church
The General Conference of 1800 in appointing Ezekiel Cooper to be superintendent of the book business of the Church, authorized him to publish books or tracts, approved or recommended by the Book Committee. The hymnal then in use, not being protected by copyright, was being published also by another concern. For this and probably other reasons a revision was made, and a new hymnal was published in 1802, bearing practically the same titlepage, adding a quotation from Psa. 104. 33, and the legend: "Philadelphia, Printed by Solomon W. Conrad, For Ezekiel Cooper, No. 118 North Fourth Street, near the Methodist Church." The same Preface, as in the preceding hymnal, with slight variations, bears the signatures of Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury, and Richard Whatcoat. The material of the old book is here rearranged and revised, a few hymns added, and “the poetical numbers and measurement of some of the old hymns improved, that, according to the rules of music, they may agree better with the tunes to which they are sung. Also, in place of certain words and sentiments, others are introduced, which appear more proper and harmonious."