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PSALMS AND HYMNS
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion." PSALM CXXxvii. 3.
"I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.'
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1845, By JAMES MUNROE & Co.
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
GEORGE A. CURTIS;
NEW ENGLAND TYPE AND STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY.
THIS Collection of devotional poems was made in compliance with the request of the Society to which the Compiler ministers, the one in use among them being out of print. The very number of the collections now found in our churches suggested, if it did not justify, the compilation of still another; for a choice among them is difficult, and the facilities of the press for performing its work anew present themselves, perhaps too readily. This collection, of course, will show all the imperfections which belong to every work of the kind, as exhibiting the peculiar taste, judgment, preferences, and prejudices of an individual compiler. It may besides have other defects not chargeable upon our common deficiencies.
The object of the Compiler has been to bring together the best Sacred Lyrics in our language, as well those the sentiments of which convey instruction conformed to the Scriptures, as those of a simply devotional strain. The Scriptures are the inspiring source of the sentiments, and the rich treasury of much of the language of the best lyrics; and therefore it seems right and good to affix sacred texts to the poems, whenever the sentiment or language is close enough to admit the connection. A good hymn may often do very much to aid and impress a sermon or a prayer.
All sacred poems are the common property of all Christians. Whatever epithet, attached to the simple name of Christian, may have expressed the peculiar religious views of the writers, all that they have written or sung belongs to the church universal. We have equal liberty to employ their melodies when they harmonize with our ears, our minds, and our souls
that we have to imitate their virtues, and to follow their examples wherein they followed the Master. If this be true, then we may bring together the hymns of writers of different religious communions, from the ancient leaves of the Roman Breviary to the all but rhapsodical strains of the field preacher. The Compiler has not been careful in all cases to assure himself that each poem is copied with exactness from the author whose name is attached to it. Many of the hymns most in use have been repeatedly altered, restored, and reältered; the alteration being sometimes to their great improvement in language or sentiment. Any such alteration seems to be allowable, with this single restriction-other restrictions of justice and propriety being of course implied-that no stanza, line, or word of a hymn, be so changed as to attribute to the writer whose name is attached to it, a sentiment or doctrine conflicting with the belief or opinions he himself expresses. Dr. Watts, who, by general consent, is the richest of all our lyrical poets, has written hymns and parts of hymns which would scarcely be accepted now in any church in Christendom. An occasional alteration of the sentiment even, in some of his pieces, seems to be more allowable than in the case of other writers, because it is on record that his religious opinions having undergone a change in a late period of his life, he himself wished to alter essentially some of his hymns, to which, however, the owner of the copyright would not assent.
This collection being designed to contain only such hymns as could be used appropriately in the public services of the sanctuary, some favorite pieces will be missed, as not coming under this condition. A few well known hymns, of a character of which a specimen is found in that beginning,
"The hour of my departure's come,"
are excluded, because, though beautiful for the household or sick chamber, they could not be used in public worship. Children's hymns are for a like reason excluded. Some others are left out because the sentiments they express cannot be truly attributed, as they are attributed, to all the members of
a promiscuous congregation. Of this class of hymns is one in most of the books beginning,
"God of mercy, God of love,
A few other familiar hymns have been excluded, because of their strange confounding of Christian with heathen sentiments and feelings, as in the hymn, beginning,
"I would not live alway, I ask not to stay."
It is no part of Christian faith or feeling to contemn the scenes of man's earthly trial and happiness, nor shall we be likely to quench our excessive love for the world, by heaping upon it reproachful epithets.
A Hymn-Book, well used and improved, stands next to the Bible among the means for religious education. The sacred lines, associated with the youngest thoughts of religion, help to guide and direct mature years: they rise to remembrance in the solitary walk, or amid the occupations of duty: they come as memorials of the dead and the unseen, either to comfort or to warn: they cheer the loneliness of travel afar from home they tremble often on the lips of the dying as the last effort of parting life to connect earth with heaven. Much of the contents of this volume has already long been blessed of God, through Christ, for such a holy and enduring ministry. May this volume be acceptable at least to the Society for which it was compiled, and whenever it is necessary may the treasures which it contains be united with others in a better form.
Charlestown, April, 1845.
GEORGE E. ELLIS.