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POBTRY and music, or the expression of sentiment in metrical composition, and the recitation of such sentiment in those modulated tones of the voice which constitute true melody, have a natural connection, and are adapted to the intellectual and moral constitution of man. Ardent and elevated emotion delights in the splendours of poetic diction, and in the expression, in measured numbers, and well adapted tune, of the feelings which it inspires. Sound thus lends all its sweetness to truth, and enables it more deeply to interest and affect. Devotional exercises have relation not only to the judgment, but to the affections; and are designed to elevate and purify them, by raising them towards God and heaven. Poetry and music thus become the handmaids of religion, supplying at once an appropriate medium for the expression of the sentiments and the feelings, and a powerful instrument by which to ex. tend their influence.
The most ancient poetic composition on record-the song of Moses when the children of Israel had effected the passage of the Red Sea, had for its object the celebration of Jehovah's praises on account of the deliverance he had wrought out for his people:--this composition, the Sacred page informs us, was sung by Moses and the children of Israel. The exultation of Deborah and Barak, the spiritual elevation of the Levites on Hezekiah's cleansing the house of the Lord; nay, even the sounds of woe uttered by Jeremiah, on the death of Josiah, afford sufficient proof that the practice of singing is no unfit medium for the expression of the varied
PREFACE. emotions which checker this mortal state. Can piety then refuse to serve the Lord with gladness, and to come before his presence with singing? The New Testament not only affords sufficient examples to warrant the practice of singing, but it is made even the subject of divine commands
"Is any merry? let him sing psalms.- Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." The great Redeemer of the world did not himself disdain to join in thus celebrating the divine praises; for we are told, that after the institution of the Last Supper, he united with his disciples to sing a hymn.
It is apparent, then, both from the usages of the best and wisest men, and from the plainest instructions of Divine wisdom, that the singing of poetic religious compositions is a duty incumbent both on individuals and on collective bodies, as an expression of personal feeling, and as a means of mutual edification. Thus it was employed by the royal psalmist; his sensibilities of joy, and grief, of gratitude and desire, were, by this means, habitually directed to God: and thus his afflictions and comforts, his difficulties and deliverances, were made to furnish supplies to that pure and ardent devotion, by which he was so honourably distinguished.
How happy would it be, if in privacy, in the domestic relations of life, and in social intercourse, all who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ, would thus direct their prayers, and look up! How many sorrows would thus be soothed, and how many burdens lightened! Increased profitableness and sweetness would be given to the fellowship of saints, and devotion's hallowing flame would become more pure and permanent. Can the voice of man be more nobly employed than in pouring out into the bosom of our merciful Father the expression of our holiest affections, in celebrating the excellencies of his nature, and the wonders he has wrought? Surely this is an employment by which heaven
is brought down to earth, and man is allowed to share the felicity of the celestial choirs.
But how promotive soever of our best interests the practice of singing may be, either at the family altar or in the domestic circle, it is entitled to a still more prominent place in the arrangements of Public Worship. Divine songs furnish an appropriate means by which the largest congregations may in unison express to the Great Source of all good, the feelings which they entertain towards Him, and towards each other, and their acquiescence in all his righteous will. The influence of example is thus also beneficially exerted, and the sympathies of our nature are rendered subservient to the highest and holiest purposes. Attuning our voices to those of the congregation, that penitence or divine assurance, that love or joy, that ardent desire or happy anticipation, which agitates the frames or beams in the countenances of those about us, is excited in bosoms which were before strangers to it, or invigorated where it had previously languished. They who entered the sanctuary, torn by distracting thoughts, and depressed in spirit, have, by the soft numbers of the Christian poet, the sweetness of sacred melody, the harmony, of united voices, become, through the concurrent grace of the Holy Spirit, tranquillized, comforted, and elevated, and have thus been prepared to pray, and read, and hear, with increased profit and delight. Nor are these advantages confined to the commencement of public religious services. By singing at the close a hymn embodying the leading principles of the discourse just delivered, and the convictions and determinations which that discourse was intended to produce, holy resolution is strengthened, the purest pleasure is connected with the exercise of faith and love, and thus the probabilities are increased, that the good which has been effected will be permanent.
By the expression of feeling thus reciprocally communicated, the tide of hallowed pleasure PREFACE.
swells and rises, till the pure and elevated devotion of angels and the spirits of the just above is realized by the church below. Such being the advantages derived from sacred psalmody, it win be natural to inquire, Where may such a publication be found as will furnish a variety of hymns, suited to all the circumstances of the Christian life? To this inquiry it may be answered, Con. sult the present Volume, and we trust that your search will not be in vain.
The Conference of the Methodist New Connexion, anxious that their congregations and societies should possess every facility for the attainment of divine truth, and for advancement in holiness, after mature deliberation, appointed individuals, considered by them every way competent to the undertaking, to whom they entrusted the compilation of a Hymn Book for general use. These brethren, with much prayer, undertook the task, being anxiously solicitous to discharge the duty assigned them in the fear of the Lord. The Hymn Book of Mr. Wesley, containing confessedly some of the best poetic composition on sacred subjects which our age affords, was made the basis of their labours. After having diligently perused its pages, they extracted from it all that which, for poetic merit, happy scriptural illustration, expressions of those spiritual breathings after peace and holiness that come home to the business and bosoms' of those who are taught from above, and for adaptation of metre to the existing taste for psalmody, was suited to the object which they had in view. The Appendix, also in use in the Community, furnished no inconsiderable proportion of suitable matter. From these two sources, combined with a number of other hymns from various authors, and a few furnished by pious individuals of true poetic genius, who kindly composed for the occasion, the present Volume is formed.
It now only remains to be observed, that this Book has been compiled with a most scrupulous regard to the introduction of such hymns only
vi as are calculated to give prominence to those doctrinal and experimental truths which distinguish and adorn the Gospel, and are the chief glories of Methodism: and that it is now ushered into the world, with earnest prayers and hopes that it may be made conducive to the interests of true religion. Let all who use it, adopt the resolution of St. Paul, “I will sing with the spint, and I will sing with the understanding also." Let them catch with ardour those divine influences, and cultivate with all diligence those impressions, which such devout exercises are calcufated to produce; and may the Great Head of the Church grant, that we may all so learn to sing the songs of Zion here, that we may through the merits of the Redeemer, be enabled to go from strength to strength, and at last appear before God in Zion above. Amen.''
London, October, 1815.
*** Where verses are enclosed in brackets thus [ ], such verses may be omitted without injury to the sense.
All the Hymns which have the name of the Rev. J. Wesley appended with an asterisk (*) are translations from the German, except one which is from the Spanish.