« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
In preparing the present Selection of Hymns, those passages of Scripture have been kept in view which teach that the object of praise is to glorify God, Psalm 1. 23 ; that the understanding and the spirit are to be exercised in worship, I Cor. xiv. 15 ; and that Christians should teach and admonish one another in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Col. iii. 16.
Many hymns which answer these ends, like many of the inspired Psalms, record the experience of the individual, and reach the congregation through expressions of individual penitence, faith, humility, zeal, love, hope, and joy. They, not infrequently, bear the evidence of having been written during periods of great spiritual activity, and at those times when the soul, pervaded by holy influences, made its nearest approaches to God. Such hymns, the offspring and the parent of revival, are naturally sought when the souls of Christians rise toward those heights which were ascended by the writers, and they have ever been, and must continue to be, the powerful support and comfort of the suffering and the dying. No stronger argument, however, can be found in favor of subjective hymns than that derived from the fact that nearly one half of the inspired Psalms relate more or less to individual experience.
The opinion has become somewhat general that a great improvement may be made in our Hymn Books by omitting the less effective hymns, and by concentrating attention upon a smaller number of the more potent. The present Selection is intended as an effort in that direction. Some hymns have been retained that may be subject to criticism, but their merits are deemed such as to defy ordinary rules. It is believed that no late compilation is more rigidly confined to the productions of such writers as Watts, Doddridge, Toplady, Wesley, Lyte, Cowper, and Heber, and perhaps none embraces so small a proportion by unknown authors. The pith and substance of what is omitted, it is believed, will generally be found aptly expressed in that which is retained. The total number, 616, is no larger than may be perfectly familiar to the pastor, and the arrangement under topics, following each other by a natural sequence, is such as to supersede the necessity for copious indexes. The music adapted to many written in unusual metres, is to be found in English and American collections, and all are suited either for singing or for chanting. It has been deemed best not to encumber this volume with the chants and music designed for this collection, but to publish them separately hereafter.
Undesirable as it would be to present every hymn in full length as originally written, yet it is frequently the case that our finest lyrics have been too much reduced, being shorn of their power, and made, by various transpositions and mutilations, to contravene the principle that we should sing both with the understanding and the heart. It has been said that "a complete hymn should consist of a central creative thought shaping for itself melodious utterance, and with every detail subordinated to its clear and harmonious presentation.” It is impossible, therefore, to abstract verses from such lyrics without injury. The fuller and more complete hymn in the glowing language in which it was originally written will often touch the heart, when a meagre selection from its contents, without our being at the time aware of the cause, possesses no such power. From a critical examination of hymns it
also that they have frequently been altered, in consequence of an apprehension that the expression of what Mr. Gladstone has called "half truths," might lead to the spread of error. But this apprehension is believed to be groundless, in most cases, since no book so abounds in the bold, unqualified utterance of the various aspects of truth as the Bible. Many lines have therefore been reinstated in this Collection, which appear to have been omitted or to have been altered from this cause. The original text and many important verses have been restored which seem to have been shut out from some late collections, in order to accommodate the music or the page.
All late compilations impress the fact upon us that in many of our churches too little use has been made of the doxologies and chants, which, like the “Gloria in Excelsis," and the “Te Deum," embody doctrines of the church,
especially the doctrine of the Trinity. The latest publication by authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, embraces eighty-one chants, whilst their previous compilation did not contain any. The Psalms and the Epistles abound in these doxologies, and the glimpse of the world of light exhibited in Revelations v. 11, 13, shows that such ascriptions of praise are to be gloriously perpetuated there.
It is a significant fact that the structure of the inspired Psalms shows a design to assist the memory. The rhythm of our hymns partially accomplishes the same result. Great spiritual benefit may be derived from committing hymns to memory, as they contain a brief summary of doctrine expressed in a powerful and attractive form. The practice was common in a past age. It tended, not only to increase the faith of our fathers, but also to promote that kind of congregational singing which has declined during periods of apathy in the church, and has again prevailed with each awakening to newness of spiritual life. It is believed that the children of our Sabbathschools would profit exceedingly by committing to memory many of our stronger hymns, and that such would prove themselves in the end more interesting than that extremely light kind of verse common in some of the Sunday-school compilations.
Long cherished hymns become an invaluable source of comfort, especially to those who are deprived of church privileges and who are called, late in life, to suffer during periods of protracted illness. Such of the longer lyrics as “ The God of Abraham praise,” and “Your harps, ye trembling saints," afford delightful comfort, and often sweetly illustrate the poet's declaration,
“Old tunes are precious to me as old paths
Oft trod, well worn, familiar, up to God.” Finally, the compilers feel deeply sensible of the imperfection of these labors and of their insufficiency for this great work, but they remember with gratitude to God, that success does not depend on human sufficiency but upon
the aid of that gracious Helper on whom they have constantly relied, and unto whom they would ascribe all praise.
NEW YORK, November, 1869.
This Collection of Hymns was made by a Committee of the Session of the Brick Presbyterian Church in the city of New York. The plan of the work and the manner of its execution have met the approval of clergymen and laymen of other churches.