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The undersigned, having been requested, by the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Publication and Sunday School Society, to examine the proof-sheets of “THE PSALMIST," edited by the Rev. B. Stow and Rev. S. F. Smith, and to suggest such emendations as might seem expedient to render the work more acceptable to the churches throughout our country, hereby certify that they have performed the service assigned them, and unite in recommending the work as one well adapted to the purpose for which it was designed.
George B thugas wolle
Comand for about
WORSHIP must have its own forms of utterance These forms can be neither didactic nor expository. Worship is not designed to communicate illumination to the intellect of him who offers it, nor information to the omniscient Being to whom it is offered. If it be confined to the understanding, or if it pass from the heart to the understanding, and thus become a merely intellectual exercise, it departs from its proper aim. Worship is prompted by emotion. Its first object is praise ; after this, the expression of emotions of penitence, joy, humility, hope, love, or dependence, in such a manner as to involve an acknowledgment of God, and thus to glorify him. It is the offspring of religious emotion. From whatever feeling it takes its rise, it tends towards God. If it begins in our own misery, it elevates the soul to the contemplation of the divine mercy. It is, in truth, the utterance of the spirit of man, aspiring upward to its Creator.
The nature of worship determines the proper mode of its expression. As it is an act of the heart, it should be expressed in the language of the heart. This is not cold, nor in the manner of common conversation, but fervent and impassioned. Acceptable worship is the fruit of deep and true emotion. The expression of worship should be in language suited to such emotion. Sacred harmony is the union of measured sounds with the words of worship. In order to be sung well, the words of worship must be expressive of the emotions which belong to worship; and any want of mutual adaptation is immediately felt by a sensitive mind. It is the want of adaptation of the words to the music, or of the music to the words, which often renders singing heavy. The words are either expository, or didactic, or in some other way prosaic. They are expressive of no emotion, or destitute of poetry, and therefore unsuited to be sung. Or, on the other hand, the leader, having no true poetic feeling, selects a tune which indicates an emotion of a character different from that which is indicated by the words of the hymn. The music and the words should breathe one spirit. Both should breathe the spirit of a fervent, humble, spiritual worshipper.
Beside lyrical excellence, there are other requisites of a good hymn. It should possess unity - treating of only one subject from the opening to the close. It should be a complete composition, having, however short it may be, a beginning, middle, and end. Every verse should add something to the preceding, making the sense, finally, complete, and raising the soul to the highest conception of the theme. The sentences should be brief. The sense should not extend from one verse into another. Parenthetic clauses should be avoided. The style should be simple, and the words, generally, short, and easy to be understood. The accent should be uniformly on the same syllables in each verse. A profusion of ornament should be avoided. A sounding epithet should never be used merely to furnish the requisite number of syllables. The whole spirit of the hymn should be lyrical. It should be adapted not only to be read, but to be sung. It is hoped that this compilation will be successful
in exemplifying many of these principles. The hymns of Dr. Watts take the lead, being more numerous than those of any other author. All his pieces are inserted which possess lyrical spirit, and are suited to the worship of a Christian assembly. The book contains, also, a large number of hymns of Beddome, Steele, Doddridge, and other standard writers, whose productions have become consecrated by use. Beside these, numerous hymn books, both ancient and modern, and many other books, together with various periodicals, American and foreign, have been carefully examined. From these sources many hymns have been selected, whose decided merit and high spiritual tone eminently adapt them to the purposes of worship.
The hymn books known as Winchell's Watts, and Watts and Rippon, have filled a large and honorable space in our American psalmody. But, since the first publication of those collections, many excellent hymns have been composed, suited to aid the devotional in the worship of God. A correct and elevated taste, and a pious spirit, alike sanction the introduction of such pieces into our collection of hymns for the sanctuary.
The authorship of the hymns has been stated, where it was practicable; but, in consequence of the variety and irresponsibleness, in this respect, of some of the sources from which they have been drawn, a few are still anonymous. In some instances, a hymn has been ascribed, in various collections, to different authors; and no means exist of identifying the true one. In such cases, it is possible that errors may have occurred; but it is believed that they are very few. Any errors of this kind, which may hereafter be discovered, will be promptly corrected.
Alterations have been made in the forms of expression, where it was necessary in order to adapt the hymns to be sung. The spirit of the author has been, in every case, retained. The changes are mainly such as were demanded in consequence of the faulty accentuation in the original. A mere reader of hymns can hardly appreciate the injury to the singing, and the inconvenience which is felt by choirs, resulting from the misplacement of the accented syllables in a line. So extensive is this fault, that a collection could not be entirely expurgnted, without re-writing a large part of the hymns now in existence.
An effort has been made to arrange, the hymns agreeably to the natural order of mental association and of Christian experience, so that a person disciplined in evangelical truth and pious emotion will find in his own bosom an-index to the sequence of the successive topics. It is hoped that hymns will be found in the collection adapted to every important subject on which a minister of Christ would be likely to address a congregation.
The demand for a new compilation of hymns for the use of the Baptist churches, has been, for several years, growing more and more imperious. The public voice has called for an effort to fill up the acknowledged deficiencies of our existing collections. The present offering is an attempt to meet that demand.
The editors have been deeply conscious of their responsibility in the undertaking. The work is dedicated to Christ and the church. If it shall tend to the elevation of evangelical taste, the interest of worship, the diffusion of a more fervent piety, and the glory of God, their aims will be accomplished.