« PreviousContinue »
The following selection has been arranged according to the natural succession of topics. If this principle of classification,-thought to be the most simple and perspicuous,-has been followed out with the precision aimed at, it will in a great measure supersede to the reader who has become familiar with it, the necessity of an Index. That appendage has however been furnished. Two objects have been principally kept in view in this work,- to embrace all those pieces which had the claim of long-established favour, or which, though less known, were of sufficient merit to be regarded as standard devotional poetry; and also, as far as possible, all that variety of subject which public instructions, or domestic and personal circumstances require. Hence may have arisen a redundancy on some topics ; or the insertion of particular hymns which were deemed worthy of a place not so much from their poetical merit, as from some of the thoughts they present. To accumulate farther than these rules require, would be a needless enlargement of the work; and the evil of deficiency, if indeed it can be longer felt, is more easily remedied than that of unlimited copiousness.
As that praise which with some, probably, attaches to a compilation of this kind from the number of originals with which it is graced, is no part of the compiler's ambition, it is proper to apprize the reader that the hymns which appear as anonymous, are such as from the changes and combinations they have undergone, or from other causes, do not easily admit of any name being affixed to them. In the remainder, alterations have often been made by the present compiler, and more frequently have been adopted from those who preceded him. In regard to the last, the authors of these changes are of course so numerous, and often so uncertain, that to specify them is impossible, and only this general acknowlodgment of obligation can be made.
If the desire to satisfy the demands of good taste, has led the compiler in any instance to sacrifice what is far more important, the devotional spirit, he can only regret thạt he has failed, where his solicitude was greatest ; and with examples before his eyes, that, if they were ineffectu-al to warn, may now serve to solace him. The character of too much of the sacred poetry, which has of late originated among us, evinces that this union is indeed a rare and high attainment; and not less, that any extreme of harsh and prosaical expression can be more easily forgiven, than the sickly and finical elegance into which solicitude on this point so often degenerates. It is proper also to say here, that practical utility has been ever kept in mind, as what ought to be the only aim of a work like this. Some pieces accordingly which the appellation of sacred poetry might possibly embrace, and likely from the names they bear, to recommend this volume to the mere reader of taste, have yet been
thought far foreign from its character and design. Examples in point will readily recur to mind. And none probably would be more surprised than the authors of such, to learn that they had ever found their way into collections of psalmody.
While the compiler trusts that a sectarian spirit does not appear in this selection, he has not been insensible, in preparing it, to the influence of such a work on the interests of truth as well as of piety. He ought not, of course, to expect for it very general acceptance. Truth, while it is so variously apprehended by believers, is, or should be, alike precious to them all. To think therefore of attracting to such a work, the favour of the whole christian community, by divesting it of the distinctive features of each section of it, would be as idle and unavailing, as it is indefensible. But while it has been his earnest desire and endeavour to preserve the pure
faith of the gospel, he is not conscious of thereby departing from its spirit; or of neglecting to render this offering to the cause of Christ, inoffensive, as far as may be, tu his followers of every name.
Cambridge, March 22, 1825,