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P R E F A C E.
DR. Johnfon baih obferved concerning do
votional poetry, that “the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diétion." Inferior subjects may be heightened by the charms of rhetoric, but this is too fublime to receive any decoration from human eloquence; and we often debase it by making the attempt. Dr. WATTs, in one of his hymns, hath said,
“ Join all the names of love and power
Or set EMANUEL's glory forth.” Yet, such was the imperfection of one of the best of men, that we frequently find in his divine poems, epithets and allufrons taken from “ mortal beauties," and applied to the Saviour, with a license disgusting to the spirit of devotion. It has been any aim to avoid these familiarities ; and either to change or omit juch epithets and allufions.
The names of the authors from whom this selection is made, are subjoined to each psalm or hymn; excepting when they are unknown, or have requested concealment. Most of these names are familiar to the readers of poetry; but there is cie, to whom I om largely indebted for some of the most elegant of these produtions, who is but little known in this country, and of whom I conceive the following account will be acceptable to every reader.
“ ANNE STEELE was the eldest daughter of a difsenting minister at Broughton, in Hampshire ; a man of piety, integrity, benevolence, and the most amiable fimplicity of manners. She discovered in early life, her love of the muses, and often entertained her friends, with the truly poetical and pious productions of her pen. But, it was her infelicity, as it has been of many of her kindred spirits, to have a capacious soaring mind inclosed in a very weck and languid body. She lived, for the inost párt, a life of retirement in the fame peaceful village where fhe began and ended her days. "The duties of friendship and religion occupied her time, and the pleafures of both constituted her delight. Her heart was apt to feel, often to a degree too painful for her own felicity : but always with the most tender and generous sympathy for her friends. Þet,
foe polleled a native cheerfulness ; of which, even the agonizing pains the endured, in the latter part of her life, could not deprive her. In every short interval of abated suffering, she would in a variety of ways, as well as by her en. livening conversation, give pleasure to all around her. Her life was a life of unaffected humility, warm benevolence, fincere friendship, and genuine devotion. She waited with christian dignity for the hour of her departure : When it came, she welcomed its approach ; and having taken an affectionate leave of her friends, closed her eyes, with these animating words on her lips, “ I know that my Redeemer liveth."*
* This account is taken from the preface to the third volume of her “miscellaneous pieces in prose and verse," published under the name of THEODOSIA, by the Rev. Caleb Evens, of Bristol, 1780, after her decease.
It is humbly apprehended, that a grateful and affectionate address to the exalted Saviour of mankind, or a hymn in honour of the Eternal Spirit, cannot be disagreeable to the mind of God. To stigmatize such an act of devotion with the name of idolatry, is (to say the least ) an abuse of language. It cannot be justly charged with derogating from the glory due to the ONE God and Father of all, because he is the ultimate object of the honour which is given to his Son and to his Spirit.
In this sele£tion, those Christians who do not forum ple to sing praises to their Redeemer and Sanctifier, will find materials for such a sublime enjoyment ; whilst others, whofë tendernefs of conscience may oblige them to confine their addresses to the Father only, will find no deficiency of matter suited to their idea of “ the chaste and awful spirit of devotion."
Boston, May 10, 1795.
N. B. The characters denoting the sharp or flat key, are prefixed to each psalm or hymn, at my request, by the Rev. Dr. Morse, of Charlestown.