humous, and were never prepared for the public eģe, are so strikingly defective in point of rhyme and poetical merit, that scarcely any of them have been adopted into the Collections without some alteration. The Editor is aware, however, that he will in vain seek to shelter himself under precedents, unless his emendations shall be deemed such as even the Authors, if living, might have approved. He can only say, that he has introduced no gratuitous alterations; and that those which have been made, have often cost him as much pains as the composition of a new hymn. Indeed, in some few, the outline of the original only has been retained ; as in Hymns 170, 172,346, 364, which are almost re-written. But the Editor has in no case taken similar liberties with the productions of contemporary writers. He is not aware that, in availing himself of the permission to introduce the hymns of living authors, he has made any further change than the omission of a verse, or the substitution of a single word; except in the case of a beautiful hymn of Mr. Montgomery's, which appears in its present form, altered in adaptation to public worship, in the Collection edited by the Rev. Josiah Pratt. He must be a bold man, if not a wise one, who would attempt to improve the compositions of Mr. Montgomery; but it would be absurd to feel a similar delicacy with regard to the rude and homely compositions of Hart and Cennick. Yet there are some even of these, which it would be a sort of sacrilege to alter. Of this description is the well-known hymn, No. 427, “Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched," into which the alteration of only a single yerse has been admitted. No. 458, “ Behold a stranger at the door," is a very remarkable composition, which,

though too long for Psalunody, it was deemed improper to mutilate.

Although the primary purpose of the Selection as designed for public worship, has been kept steadily in view, some few hymns have been admitted, which may be deemed fitter for perusal than for singing. These are not numerous, and their exclusion would have been regarded as a deficiency. In some instances, (as in Hymn 173,) the verses proper only to be read, have been enclosed in brackets. A difficulty may be felt in finding appropriate tunes for some of the peculiar metres. But the Editor ventures to hope, that, for this temporary inconvenience, the proper remedy will ere long be provided. He thinks it more fitting, at all events, that the music should wait on the poetry, than that the poetry should always be made subordinate to the music.

In compliance with the wishes of the Committee, (who could scarcely be aware of the additional time and care which the task has demanded,) the Editor has prefixed to every hymn an appropriate passage of Scripture,---furnishing as it were a key-note to the general strain, and making the volume a sort of running metrical commentary on the Bible.” This feature of the work has cost him much profitable pains, which, he trusts, will enhance the acceptableness and utility of the Selection as an aid to devotion.

The pleasing duty remains, of rendering public acknowledgments for the permission so liberally and readily given to introduce the productions of living writers. To his much honoured friend, James Montgomery, not only the Editor, but“ the Churches of Christ give thanks.” The number of his hymns, several of them hitherto

unpublished, will constitute one of the most attractive features of the Selection. If he does not think that his generous permission has been taken exorbitant advantage of, no other reader will find them too numerous. To the Rev.W. H. Bathurst, Rector of Barwick-in-Elmet, and the Rev. H. F. Lyte, Minister of Brixham, the Editor begs also to return his most cordial thanks, for the leave given to introduce some of their truly evangelical compositions. To Mr. Tims, of Dublin, the proprietor of the copyright of Mr. Kelly's hymns, similar acknowledgments are due. To the Rev. John Bulmer, of Haverford-west, the Rev. H. March, of Colchester, the Rev. Thomas Morell, of Coward College, and other friends, the Christian public are also indebted for some valuable contributions to the volume.

For the frequency with which the name of ONE Contributor occurs in the Index of first lines, the Editor feels as if some apology were due; but the Committee must share in the blame, if blame attaches to the circumstance. Many of the hymns referred to had, without the Author's permission, already found their way into other Collections, and come into general use. Others, composed on various occasions and at distant intervals, had been accumulating in his hands, before the present volume was contemplated; and a few have been written expressly for this work, during its passing through the press, to supply what was felt to be a deficiency. He indulges the hope that their novelty will not prove their only recommendation; and that they will, as copyright, increase the value of the present volume, the profits of which will be entirely consecrated to the general objects contemplated by the Committee of the Congregational Union.

The Editor cannot close these Prefatory Remarks, without adverting to the pleasing demonstration which such a Collection as this exhibits, of the essential and indestructible unity of the Church of Christ, and of the unison of sentiment which, notwithstanding our unhappy ecclesiastical differences, characterizes the devotional creed of all denominations “holding the HEAD.” It has been said, that Ridley and Hooper, who quarrelled about vestments, agreed at the stake. We live in happier times, when Protestant Christians, who differ about more important matters, can still agree in their hymns of prayer and songs of praise. The productions of Bishops Ken and Heber, of Wesley and Toplady, of Doddridge and Hart, Cowper and Newton, Fawcett and Beddome-Episcopal clergymen, Moravians, Wesleyan Methodists, Independents, and Baptists,-all harmoniously combining in this metrical service,-prove, that “ by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body," and that there actually exists throughout that body a Communion of Saints.”


Watford Field House,

May 9, 1836.

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsett »