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volume of sacred poetry on sound principles, was much wanted, I resolved to endeavour to supply so remarkable a deficiency; and by the assistance of my friends, and by extracts from our best moral poets, added to what I have selected from my own and other collections, the work has grown into two small volumes; though, by omitting some pieces less calculated for general use, I have been able to furnish an edition in one thicker volume at a moderate price.
As there is not a single line of my own in this publication, I am free from the anxiety of an author; and as an editor, I shall not only be content, but highly gratified, if (as I hope) my book shall be found to contain nothing hurtful, and much that may promote the glory of God, and the well-being of my fellow Christians.
That it might have been better executed is too evident; but those who are struck with its defects, are requested to observe, that my object was not to produce a collection of elegant poetry, but to do good; and that havtered my seventy-sixth year, I had no
time to lose. I therefore hastened my work, and extracted and abridged freely, and even ventured, in a few instances, to alter a word or phrase when not suited to my purpose.
As youth is the season best fitted for instruction, and every Christian must admit that religious knowledge is the most important of all; and as verse is more easily learnt, and longer retained than prose; I have made the rising generation my principal objects. And, being convinced by long experience, that such instruction cannot begin too soon, and that short hymns and psalms are suited to the minds and memories of children, even in infancy, I have placed such in the first pages of my book, and would earnestly recommend to those of my readers who have the charge of children in their tender years, to teach them to repeat a few stanzas of these, even before they can speak plain. I know it may be done with pleasure to them, as well as to their instructors, and it will implant in their minds pious ideas and useful maxims, which will be retained, and prove highly beneficial throughout their future lives.
A practice has long prevailed, (chiefly indeed among the middle and lower classes) of compelling little children to learn, each Sunday morning, the Collect for the day; a practice which appears to me very prejudicial. It is evidently useless, for these Collects are no sooner learnt than forgotten. Indeed, it would be absurd to attempt to make children retain fifty-two Collects in their memories. But there is a much more serious objection to this custom. The minds of children are light and lively; Religion and its duties are serious and solemn; and, while it is of the utmost importance that these duties should be inculcated at the earliest years, it is, at the same time, of equal importance, to use every effort, that they may not become irksome to the young, nor the LORD's day be rendered unpleasant to them. But how can this be avoided, if, as soon as that day begins, they are summoned to a lesson as hard and dry as those of the other six days, and the perfect acquisition of which is rigidly insisted on? The Church Catechism and some short exposition of it, must be learnt, but even these ought to make part of the
business of the week, and a repetition only be exacted on the Sunday; and, perhaps, no other prose task need be imposed on that day; and if, instead thereof, a few short hymns be recited, which all who hear them will acquire without difficulty, the employment will become pleasant as well as profitable. For the truth of this I appeal to Dr. Watts's excellent preface to his Divine Songs: the pious conclusion of which I desire to adopt, and say, with him, to all who are concerned in the education of children,
May the ALMIGHTY GOD make you faith"ful in this important work! May He suc"ceed your cares by His abundant grace, "that the rising generation of Great Britain 46 may be a glory among the nations, a pat"tern to the Christian world, and a blessing
to the earth!"