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PR E FACE.
The foregoing Title indicates the purposes for which this Collection has been formed. It is especially designed for the use of those who, while they cherish reverential faith and grateful love towards the Lord Jesus Christ, deem themselves imperatively obliged to confine their religious worship, and the supreme homage of their affections, to Jehovah, his God and Father, who sent him to be the Saviour of the world. No serious candid persons, however, who make the teachings of Christ and his Apostles their guide in duty, faith, and worship, can find in it much, if any thing, to offend them. A very large proportion of the hymns are such as must approve themselves to the heart, and the judgment, of every one who understands and partakes the spirit of the Gospel.
This Hymn Book corresponds, in several respects, with that known by the appellation of the Exeter Collection; but it is considerably more copious, as the latter contains only three hundred and thirteen hymns. It was a leading object in the compilation of the Exeter Collection, increase the number of hymns peculiarly Christian-relating to the blessings of the Gospel, the character and offices of Christ, and the affections due to him. The course adopted in it has
met with extensive accordance. The Collection has itself been adopted by many Unitarian Congregations ; and its system has, in this respect, been followed in most of those Collections which have been formed, for the use of others, since the first publication of it in 1812.
The class of hymns above specified, will be found considerably augmented in the present Collection : but the chief additions have been made in the Fourth Book, which respects the experience of the Christian life, its trials, and its duties.
The influence of devotional poetry, and perhaps especially of hymns, (from their general brevity, unity of thought, and musical rhythm,) is very great in the hours of despondency, of contrition, of solicitude, and of affliction, as well as in guiding the soul in its periods of thankfulness and confiding hope, and in strengthening its purposes of faithful duty. The hymn book often supplies valuable aid to devotion, support to fortitude, balm to the wounded spirit, and elevation and animation to all the pious affections. Consisting of the compositions of various individuals, with great diversity of views and feelings, it may reasonably be expected to present something to touch the corresponding chords in the heart of every one who employs it for the purposes for which it is designed : and just like expressions from the Scriptures-hymns which, in some states of the affections, or in some of the ordinary circumstances of life, may present nothing to interest, will, in others, appear to have a force, and an adaptation to spiritual wants, which the inexperienced cannot understand.
While, therefore, no composition has been admitted into the Unitarian Christian's Hymn Book, which is exclusively adapted to the case of a solitary individual, it is hoped that there are no circumstances in the
Christian life, for which there will not be found something peculiarly suitable; and when an adequate acquaintance is gained with the contents of the Collection, the appropriate hymns will often suggest themselves in the time of need, to aid in yielding peace, and strength, and comfort.
From the system which has been followed in this compilation, it is obvious that many of the hymns must bé unsuitable for the ordinary purposes of public worship ; and that some must be exclusively adapted to individual use. It has, however, been deemed unnecessary to specify these ; and, indeed, it would not be easy to draw any well-defined line of distinction. The separation of such hymns from those for more general use, has been attended with inconvenience in the private employment of hymn books.
Should it appear to candid judges that, in some cases, the verbal expression will not bear a strict critical examination, it may nevertheless be found that the sentiment is conveyed so clearly and forcibly, that it was not worth while to alter the words, at the risk of lessening the strength and perspicuity of the passage. In some instances, defective rhymes have been left, rather than do injury to the sense ; and in others, hymns of little poetical merit have been admitted, for the sake of the sentiment. It has, however, been the constant aim, to satisfy the understanding, the correct taste, and the regulated imagination, as well as to animate and elevate the affections,
The compilation of this Hymn Book was commenced in 1824, in consequence of the liberal offer of one hundred pounds, made anonymously to the Lewin's Mead Congregation in this city, when the Collection in use among them had become out of print, in order to defray the expense of printing a new one; the individual proposing that a copy of it should be given for each copy of the former possessed by a Member of the Congregation. Various circumstances have contributed to delay the execution of the object; but it has never been out of sight. The arrangements since made with the Congregation, have enabled the publishers to print a small pocket edition, at the same time with that in duodecimo. Both are executed with great correctness ; and the labour of conducting this Hymn Book through the press, has been made light by the typographical skill and accuracy of the printer.
About three hundred of the following hymns are derived from the valuable Collection above referred to, which has been employed by the Lewin's Mead Congregation for the last twenty-five years. The omission of some contained in it, may, perhaps, be regretted by those to whom they have become familiar: it will, however, be found, that none which it would have been desirable to retain, have been omitted, without being replaced by others, from some cause deemed more suitable. It may be allowable to add, that no change has been made without repeated consideration; and indeed no time or exertion has been spared, to render this Collection complete and useful.
The Hymn Book which formed the basis of the present, like the London Collection which preceded it, gives many of the hymns that are here retained, with considerable variations from the originals : and a few of them are so much altered by various Editors, as scarcely to be referable to their Authors. In this Collection it has been kept in view, to employ the original readings where practicable; but no hesitation