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duty, by prudent means, to repress, or regulate such scenes of licentious, entertainment. But Almighty God, the author of all our talents, has expressly claimed this for himself, and commanded his people to employ their vocal powers of melody to his own glory, and to comfort and encourage one another in the spiritual conflict. We are therefore necessarily restrained to subjects which have his approbation; and to prefer those of a contrary nature would be an impious abuse of our talent. Are any of his people merry? di posed to lively expressions of joy? Let them sing Psalms. In this heavenly exercise, wbile praising their God and Saviour, they will experience the purest enjoyment of which they are capable here. And let them not consider this as a form only, or be content to please the ear with mere sounds ; but let them sing with the Spirit und uith the understanding, making melody in their heart to the Lord. At the same time let the love of holiness and of the brethren have its due influence, that they may teach and admonish one another in psalms. and hymns, and spiritual songs.
From the above observations it is evident, that the subject matter of our hymns is a very important concern. For how should we sing to the glory of God, and to mutual edification; or how can we expect his presence and blessing, if the sentiments employed be at variance with his word? The ministers of the gospel,
who watch over the souls of their people, will feel a concern that the compositions sung by them are scriptural and free from error, lest by their negligence in this respect they should counteract their own efforts to train them up in the whole word and will of God. In these compositions there should be nothing unworthy of the divine subjects, of which they treat; nothing to facilitate the progress of error; nothing wbich may give just cause of offence to the churcb, or to the world.
I was long in the ministerial office before I attained to my present views of this part of divine worship, or before I saw it connected with such important consequences. That it was an ordinance of God I had no doubt; but being engaged in what I considered the all-important work of preaching the gospel, and anxious to bring my hearers to the knowledge and obedience of it, the singing did not appear to claim from me any particular attention. I was content with what the circumstances and inclinations of the singers might provide; especially when I understood that the books made use of were reputed to be sound in doctrine. And theugh from time to time I heard expressions which I could not approve, I thought it prudent, on the Apostle's conciliating prmciple, to forbear in terference. The pulpit affo me the means of
1 Cor. 9. 22.
refuting what appeared erroneous; and it did not occur to me, that it was my duty to undertake what is here presented to the public, or that I had a talent to exercise in that way.
About three years ago attempts were made to improve the singing in my congregations, and it was desirable to adopt some collection, which might be conscientiously recommended, as likely to prove useful to the people. But objections arose, which made it difficult to determine the choice; and I at lergth concluded to print a new selection of the best hyinns I could find in the most approved authors, to use freedom in making any alterations I thought proper, and to intersperse some original compositions. With this view I engaged in a criti-> cal perusal and examination of several collec- } tions which are held in esteem; and I may add, that it was not with a desire to discover faults, but to select whatever appeared good and excellent, my principal object being truth, from: a conviction, that without this our religious services can neither be acceptable to God, nor edifying to man. In prosecuting this design I discovered blemishes till then unobserved ; the objectious I had before felt were strengthened and multiplied; I was induced to compose a far greater number of original bymns than I had intended; and my labour was increased to a degree that I was not aware of till after I had entered in earnest upon it. As it may be ex
pected that I should be more explicit in describing what I considered faulty, or exceptionable in the works I perused, I shall mention some instances with a view to usefulness, and with a desire, as far as possible," to avoid giving offence to tary. It is not a grateful office to point out what is wrong; yet it must sometimes be done for the truth's sake.
Though the style and language are an inferior concern compared with the doctrine, yet they ought to be correct, adapted to the subjects; and calculated rather to recommend than to hinder the truth. We must surtly regret that themes so heavenly in their nature, so infinitely interesting to man should be degraded by a careless and slovenly style, by low and vulgar expressions, by words and lines used as expletives to suit the rhyme, and complete the metre, and by deviations from the common rules of grammar. I have noticed blemishes of this description, though I conceive not all of them in the best of our collections.
There are passages in our hymns which, I think, cannot be vindicated from the charge of superstition and enthusiasm, properly so called.
Some men have written on sacred subjects with an unbecoming levity, and indulged a turu for what we commonly call wit. But such a turn, as I conceive, cannot be more unhappily misplaced. It appears to me a poor attempt to bring ourselves into notice, and betrays the
absence of a tender compassion for the souls of men. Though many are pleased by such means, it is at the expence of impressions the most necessary and valuable, arising from the fear of God, and a concern for salvation from sin. The inan is indeed entertained; hut the sinner is unhumbled. The doctrine may be all right; but the reader will not perceive it to be of very serious consequence, while he observes that the writer can play with his sub. ject.
A defect observable in many hymns is the want of a sufficient discrimination of character, and state. Special promises bave too wide and general a scope, where a little care might have distinguished the persons to whom they belong. On the other hand, I have met with some expressions which I thought harsh, and void of that tenderness we should feel for those who are ignorant, and out of the way.
There are passages in some hymns containing petitions for a speedy, or immediate dismission from the body. But let us soberly inquire, whether in our most serious congregations even a small number can be found, who are in a frame to use such expressions with sincerity? And supposing they may be found, whether it be lawful for them thus to pray? Does it not discover some impatience and want of resignation; or too fittle concern to do the present will of God, whatever it may be? But the question