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WAILE hymns of an ecclesiastical character, as distinguished from all other compositions of a less sacred kind to which the term hymn may be applicable, may be anticipated from the title prefixed to this volume by those who are in search of books of devotional praise for their own use, or as a medium of instruction in their families; it will as naturally be presumed by others to include in its meaning a collection of Christian songs designed, in the absence of an authorized Hymn-Book, to contribute, where its use might seem to be needed, to the efficient celebration of the Divine services of the sanctuary.
This is, indeed, the twofold purpose which this work will serve ; the latter being by far the more prominent object which its compiler had in view.
Perhaps, however, on the submission to the Church of another compilation, in addition to those numerous collections of Hymns which have from time to time appeared, a few words more fully explaining its design may not unreasonably be expected. A further, and, considering the prejudices with which this subject is beset, an important end of this introduction, will be to vindicate the claims of the Christian Church to the use of Ecclesiastical Hymns in her services.
It has been attempted, then, in this selection to attain several objects :
First, to form such a book as both in its general arrangement and in the subject of its hymns would be found to correspond, as nearly as might be, and as the materials at the compiler's disposal would allow, with the leading idea of the Church services for the Sundays and sacred days and seasons throughout the year, especially as exhibited in the Gospels and Epistles. It has been frequently the subject of remark that, with whatever feelings of thankfulness we regard our Church's provision of services, and the order and aptitude of her holy and wise teaching in them, yet, that when we rise up in the solemn assembly to hymn forth our praises to the Ever-Blessed Trinity, and commemorate “ our fathers, and the noble works God hath done in their days and in the old time before them," there is nothing which we more feel the absence of, or suffer in spiritual edification from the lack of, than such songs and hymns of praise as are directly applicable to the occasion, and give at once expression and direction to our feelings. It is only at the seasons of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and then very imperfectly, that we find appended to the Prayer Book any spiritual songs at all adapted to inspire our feelings with direct ideas and sentiments in harmony with those characteristic features which belong to the particular time. The compiler, therefore, hopes that the attempt to produce a series of hymns properly illustrative of the entire round of the Church's year, will be no slight recommendation to the acceptance of this work by many congregations.
Another object aimed at has been to select, as far as a patient collection from existing materials would permit, all such hymns as, while they would foster a spirit of reverence and be calculated to inculcate sound doctrine, would yet (many of them being already well known and prized by religious people) be interesting in subject and
harmonious in rhythmical flow, and, for the most part, of familiar images and thoughts, and, while possessing a charm for the ears and sensibilities of the uninstructed, would not, at the same time, prove unacceptable to the minds and tastes of the more refined. The compiler however is well aware that, owing to the great difficulty he has found in procuring hymns at once superior in point of composition and sound in doctrine, he has not been always so successful as could be desired in carrying out the nice line of selection he had described for himself.
A third object was, by recommending the constant and regular use of a more limited and more carefully chosen selection of hymns than is usually to be met with to encourage a taste and love for those sacred songs which are of an unexceptionable character. The compiler hoped that a collection of hymns might be formed, very many of which would become eventually that which the metrical versions of the Psalter have so conspicuously failed to be, the home, as well as the Church-songs of the Faithful; and might thus, in some measure, minister wholesome food to that craving after lyrical compositions of a direct Christian tendency which is so common among religious minds, and which, for lack of satisfaction in the Church, has unhappily sought its gratification, it is well known, among dissenting bodies.
And, as respects the limits of such a work, it can scarcely be doubted that the extent to which most hymnbooks run, their defectiveness in plan, their want of doctrinal teaching, as well as the too great sameness and repetition of subjects and ideas, have been great obstacles to their more extensive influence among the people as instruments of Christian edification to them. If, indeed, we expect the Christian hymn to make its way in the cottages of the humble villager, or in the homes of our mechanics and artisans--if we expect it to be, as, indeed, it should be, helping to form the minds and influence the affections