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En Three Books.
I. COLLECTED FROM THE SCRIPTURES.
BY ISAAC WATTS, D, D.
And they sung a new Song, saying, Thou art worthy, &c, for thou wast slain, and bast redeemed us, &c.—Rev. v. 9.
Soliti essent (i. e. Curistiani) convenire, carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere.- Plin. in Epis.
PREFACE TO THE HYMNS.
WHILE we sing the praises of our God in his Church, we are employed in that part of Worship which of all others is the nearest akin to Heaven; and it is pity that this, of all others, should be performed the worst upon Earth. The Gospel brings us nearer to the heavenly state than all the forner dispensations of God amongst Men: and in these last days of the Gospel we are brought almost within sight of the Kingdom of our LORD; yet we are very much unacquainted with the Songs of the New Jerusalem, and unpractised in the work of Praise. To see the dull indifference, the negligent and the thoughtless air, that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the Psalm is on their Lips, might tempt even a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of inward Religion; and it is much to be feared, that the minds of most of the Worshippers are absent or unconcerned. Perhaps the modes of preaching, in the best Churches, still want some degrees of reformation; nor are the methods of Prayer so perfect, as to stand in need of no correction or improvement: but of all our religious solemnities, Psalmody is the most unhappily managed: that very action which should elevate us to the most delightful and divine sensations, doth not only flatten our Devotion, but too often awakes our regret, and touches all the springs of uneasiness within us.
I have been long convinced, that one great occasion of this evil arises from the matter and words to which we confine all our Songs. Some of them are almost opposite to the spirit of the Gospel: many of them foreign to the state of the New Testament, and widely different from the present circumstances of Christians, Hence it comes to pass, that when spiritual affections are excited within us, and our Souls are raised a little above this Earth in the beginning of a Psalm, we are checked on a sudden in our ascent toward Heaven, by some expressions that are most suitable to the days of carnal Ordinances, and fit only to be sung in the worldly Sunctuary. When we are just entering into an Evangelic frame, by some of the glories of the Gospel presented in the brightest figures of Judaism, yet the very next line perhaps which the Clerk parcels out unto us, bath something in it so extreinely Jewish and cloudy, that it darkens our sight of God the SAVIOUR. Thus, by keeping too close to David in the House of God, the veil of Moses is thrown over our Hearts. While we are kindling into divine Love by the meditations of the Loving-Kindness of God, and the multitude of his tender Mercies, within a few Verses, some dreadful Curse against Men is proposed to our lips; that God would add Iniquity unto their Iniquity, nor let them come into his Righteousness, but blot them out of the Book of the Living, Psal. Ixix. 26–28. which is so contrary to the new Commandment of loving our Enemies; and even under the Old Testament is best accounted for, by referring it to the spirit of prophetic vengeance. Some sentences of the Psalmist, that are expressive of the temper of our own Hearts, and the circumstances of our lives, may compose our Spirits to seriousness, and allure us to a sweet retireinent within ourselves; but we meet with a following line, which so peculiarly belongs but to one action or hour of the life of David or of Asaph, that breaks off our Song in the midst; and our Consciences are affrighted, lest we should speak a
a falsehood unto God: thus the powers of our Souls are shocked on a sudden, and our Spirits ruffled, before we have time to reflect that this may be sung only as a History of ancient Saints; and, perhaps, in some instances, the Salvo is hardly sufficient neither: Besides, it almost always spoils the Devotion, by breaking the uniform thread of it: for while our Lips and our Hearts rụn on sweetly together, applying the words to our own case, there is something of divine des light in it; but at once we are forced to turn off the application abruptly, and our Lips speak nothing but the heart of David. Thus our own Hearts are as it were forbid the pursuit of the Song, and then the harmony and the worship grow dull of mere necessity.
Many Ministers, and many private Christians, have long groaned under this inconvenience; and have wished, rather than attempted a Reformation: at their importunate and repeated requests, I have for some years past devoted many hours of leisure to this service. Far be it from my thoughts to Jay aside the Book of Psalms in public Worship; few can pretend so great a value for them as myself: it is the most noble, most devotional, and divine collection of Poesy; and nothing can be supposed more proper to raise a pious Soul to Heaven, than some parts of that book; never was a piece of experimental Divinity so nobly written, and so justly reverenced and admired: but it must be acknowledged still, that there are a thousand Lines in it which were not made for a Church in our days to assume as its ow: there are also many deficiencies of Light and Glory which our Lord Jesus and his Apostles have supplied in the writings of the New Testament; and with this advantage I have composed these SPIRITUAL SONGS, which are now presented to the World. Nor is the attempt vain-glorious or presumning; for in respect of clear Evangelical knowledge, the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than all the Jewish Prophets, Mat. xi, 11.
NOW let me give a short account of the following composures. The greatest part of them are suited to the general state of the Gospel, and the most common affairs of Christians. I hope there will be very few found but what may properly be used in a religious assembly, and not one of them but may well be adapted to some seasons either of private or public Worship. The most frequent tempers and changes of our Spirit, and conditions of our life, are here copied, and the breathings of our Piety expressed according to the variety of our Passions, our Love, our Fear, our Hope, our Desire, our Sorrow, our Wonster, and our Joy, as they are refined into Devotion, and act under the influence and conduct of the blessed Spirit; all conversing with God the Father by the new and living Way of access to the Throne, even the person and the mediation of our LORD Jesus CARIST. To him also, even to the Lamb that was slain and now lives, I have addressed many a Song; for thus doth the Holy Scripture instruct and teach us to worship, in the various short patterns of Christian Psalm. ody described in the Revelation. I have avoided the more obscure and controverted points of Christianity, that we might all obey the direction of the word of God, and sing his Pruises with Understanding, Psal. xlvii. 7. The contentions and distinguishing words of Sects and Parties are secluded, that whole Assemblies inight assist at the barınony, and different Churches join in the same worship without offence.
If any expressions occur to the Reader that savour of an opinion' different from his owni, yet he may observe, these are generally such as are capable of an extensive sense, and may be used with a charitable latitude. I think it is most agreeable, that what is provided for public singing, should give to sincere consciences as little disturbance as possible. However, where any unpleasing word is found, he that leads the Worship may substitute a better; for (blessed be God) we are not confined to the words of any Man in our public solemnities.
The whole Book is written in four sorts of Metre, and fitted to the most common Tunes. I have seldom permitted a stop in the middle of a Line, and seldom