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1. The great variety of hymnals in the Church of England is alike a sign of vitality and a source of weakness.
Apart from collections introduced by clergymen for the sole use of their own congregations, there are probably more than two hundred hymn-books which are adopted by several churches, often by all in one town or neighbourhood, and several of them accompanied by most valuable music. It is difficult to estimate highly enough the amount of patient prayerful toil which the compilation of these hymnals has involved. And who shall affirm that any such labours, undertaken for the glory of God and in accordance with the faith once for all delivered to the saints, have been in vain ? Doubtless the humblest of these works has caught some rays of light peculiarly its own from the great crystal of truth, and has, at all events for a while, satisfied the wants of that company of the Church Militant which has used it as a manual of worship. And it would not be difficult to assign to each of the more important collections—those collections which are or have been used by hundreds of churches—its own especial meed of excellence, and to show the good work which each has done in its chosen department. Only a living laborious Church would have put forth such efforts. Indolence would have been content with the frigid respectability of days gone by. Fifty years ago, however, the frost began to break up. And now the winter is past; the rain is over and gone ;
the flowers appear on the earth; and, as we see in nature, accompanying all the other signs of spring, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
Nevertheless, the great diversity of hymnals, which at present obtains, is a source of real weakness to our beloved Church. It irritates, as is well known, when it does not estrange, our professional and business men, to find in every new church they enter their last hymnal useless : the expense to them is small, but the annoyance is great. And to the labouring classes and poor, who migrate from place to place so much more frequently now than they were wont to do, the cost is not inconsiderable, and the uncertainty what hymn-book they will find in any church, a serious drawback from attending it.
But, great as is the variety of hymnals, a very large number of the same hymns are found in every popular compilation. At first sight this might seem partly to obviate the previous objection; for, when any hymn is given out in church, a stranger, it may be said, has but to turn to the index in his own hymn-book, and will he not be able to join his fellow-worshippers with one heart and one voice in singing the praises of the sanctuary? By no means with any certainty. Even if the first line is the same, and he is fortunate enough to find the hymn in a different hymn-book, still the variations of the text in the same hymns are so numerous, that in all probability he would be singing some words while his neighbour was singing others. The jar is sensibly felt, where all ought to be the deepest harmony.
And then, beyond the irksomeness of these manifold collections and versions, is the far graver peril of the farthest extremes of doctrine being promulged in hymns adopted and used in the same national Church. There is much truth in the saying of the wise man, quoted by Andrew Fletcher, “Let me make the ballads of a country, and let who will make its laws.” What ballads are to the nation, hymns are to the Church. Now it is gratefully admitted by all thoughtful men, that our Prayer-book is constructed on no narrow basis, and is designed to embrace all who hold the truth within certain widely extended, yet welldefined limits. But it only needs to compare two or three of those hymnals which are the exponents of the ultra views held by sundry schools, to be convinced that the latitude indulged far exceeds any thing contemplated by the framers of our Liturgy. We seem, mutatis mutandis, fast drifting into the state of the
Church at Corinth described by S. Paul, “ How is it then, brethren ? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation ” (1 Cor. xiv. 26). This evil, as hymn-books multiply, appears to be growing worse and worse.
2. If these things are so, why then add yet another to the already confused and confusing multitude of hymnals ? I can only answer,
“Nunquam periclum sine periclo vincitur;" and that I believe the plan pursued in this compilation may at least point the way to a solution of many acknowledged perplexities.
It would, I allow, be exceedingly presumptuous in any editor to cherish, even for a moment, the hope that his individual taste in a matter of such difficulty and delicacy would commend itself to the judgment of the Church. But I trust I am not chargeable with any such presumption, at least to the smallest extent compatible with editing a hymnal at all, to be offered to the consideration of my fellow-Churchmen. I do not submit this volume to them as being the simple result of my personal predilections (that would have been a comparatively easy task), but as containing those hymns which have most widely commended themselves to our Church?. Nor do I rely on a general impression of the acceptability of a hymn, which is often a most fallacious guide ; but my readers will find in the notes a digest showing in which of certain hymnals best known in the Church of England the hymn in question may be found. If an exception is made on behalf of the few hymns for more private use (given under “ The Visitation of the Sick”) and in behalf of hymns for children (given under“ Catechism ”), which have only lately been admitted into most Church hymnals, this remark applies to the main bulk of this compilation. There will be a very small
1 The words of Dr. Irons are worthy of note, “The Church's general feeling makes itself known at last; and practically we shall not greatly err, if we ascertain that, and follow it. It may be true of hymns, as it once was of creeds and canons, that a common reception by the Church Diffusive' is an ultimate test.”—Preface to “ Hymns for use in Church," p. vi.
remnant, chiefly for occasional services, which lack such general sanction from all sides : these will of course invite the more careful scrutiny, and must be judged by the wide principles of approval so easily to be deduced from the other hymns.
3. The following is a list of the hymnals collated. They were selected either from their great popularity, proved by the large circulation they have obtained, or from their representative character, or from the high reputation in hymnology of their editors. The character of my work has confined this collation to Church hymnals ; but those who possess Mr. Miller's admirable volume, “Singers and Songs of the Church,” will how
many of the standard hymns, adopted by our Church from all sources, are also embodied in the hymn-books of the Nonconformist schools. Amid so much which tends to separate and to widen the breaches in the walls of our Zion, this harmony of song is no weak bond of union.
(1.) Hymn-book of the Society for Promoting Christian Know
ledge, containing 407 psalms and hymns for public worship. Enlarged edition (1863). This is used in thirteen hundred churches. New Appendix to above (1869), containing 190
additional hymns. Referred to by the letters, S.P.C.K. (2.) The Irish Church Hymnal, which has received the sanction
of nearly all the Irish Bishops, and is generally adopted throughout the Irish Church. Enlarged edition, containing
280 hymns. Referred to as, Irish. (3.) American Episcopal Church Psalter and Hymn-book, set
forth and allowed in Convention (1832). This is in universal use through the Episcopal Churches of America ; it contains 124 selections from the Psalms and 212 hymns.
Referred to as, American. (4.) Hymnal, chiefly from the Book of Praise, compiled and
arranged by Sir Roundell Palmer. It contains 320 hymns, being such as, in the judgment of that eminent hymnologist, “seemed best adapted for the purposes of public worship”
(1867). Referred to as, Palmer. (5.) Hymns Ancient and Modern, for use in the Services of the
Church, containing 273 hymns (1861), edited by the Rev.