« PreviousContinue »
FORibniany uncears I have been importuned to
publin a generally used in all our Congregations throughout Great-Britain and Ireland. I have hitherto withstood the importunity, as I believed such a Publication was needless, confidering the various Hymn-Books, which my Brother and I have published within these forty years laft paft, so that it may be doubted whether any religious Community in the world has a greater variety of them.
But it has been answered,“ Such a Publication is highly needful upon this very account for the greater part of the people being poor, are not able to purchase so many books. And those that have purchased them are, as it were, bewildered in the immense variety. There is, therefore, still wanting a proper Collection of Hymns for general use, carefully made out of all these books; and one comprised in so moderate a compass, as neither to be cumbersome nor expensive.”
It has been replied, ." You have such a Colleétion already, (entitled, ILYNNS AND SPIRITVAL SONGs), which I extracted several years ago, from a variety of Hymn-Books.?! But it is objected,
“ This is in the other extreme: it is far too small. It does not, it cannot, in 'fo narrow a compass, : contain variety enough: Not so much as we want, among whón finging makes - so considerable-a part of the public service. What we want is, a Collection, not too large, that it may be cheap and portable, nor too small, that it may contain a sufficient variety for all ordinary occafions."
(iv) Such a Hymn-Book you have now before you. It is not lo large as to be either cumbersome, or expensive. And it is large enough to contain such a variety of Hymns, as will not foon be worn threadbare. It is large enough to contain all the important truths of our most holy Religion, whether speculative or practical : Yea, to illuftrate them all, and to prove them both by Seripture and reason. And this is done in a regular order. The Hymns are not carelessly jumbled together, but carefully ranged under proper heads, according to the experience of real Chriftians. So that this book is, in effet, a little body of experimental and practical divinity.
As but a fmall part of these Hymns are of my composing; I do not think it inconfiftent with modefty tò declare, that I am perfuaded, no such Hymn-Book as this has yet been published in the English language. In what other publication of the kind, have you fo diftin&t and full an account of Scriptural Christianity ? Such a declaration of the heights and depths of Religion, speculative and practical ? So strong cautions against the moft plausible errors ; particularly those that are now most prevalent ? And so clear directions for making your calling and election sure ; for perfecting holiness in the fear of God?
May 1 be permitted to add a few words with regard to the Poetry? Then I will speak to those who are judges thereof, with all freedom and unreserve. To there I may say, without offence, 1. In these hymns there is no doggerel : no botches; nothing put in to patch up the rhyme ; no feeble expletives. 2. Here is no
ang turgid or bombast, on the one hand, of low and creeping, on the other. 3. Here are no cant expreffons; no words without meaning. Those who impute this to us, know not what they say. We talk common sense, (whether they understand it or not,) both in prose and verse, and use no word but in a fixt and determinate sense. 4. Here are, (allow me to say,) both the purity, the ftrength, and the elegance of the English language : and, at the same time, the utmost fimplicity and plainness, suited to every capacity. Laftly, I delire men of taste to judge, (these are the only competent judges,) whether there is not in some of the following verses, the true Spirit of Poetry ; such as cannot be acquired by art and labour ; but muft be the gift of Nature. By labour a man may become a tolerable imitator of Spenser, Shakespeare, or Milton; But unless he be vorn a Poet, he will never attaiu the genuine Spirit of Poetry.
But to return. What is of infinitely more moment than the Spirit of Poetry, is the Spirit of Piety. And, I truft, all perfons of real judgment, will find this breathing thro' the whole Collection. It is in this view chiefly, that I would recommend it to every truly pious reader, as a mean of raising or quickening the fpirit of devotion, of confirming his faith; of enlivening his hope; and of kindling and increasing his love to God and Man. When Poetry thus keeps its place, as the handmaid of Piety, it Thall attain, not a poor perishable wreath, but a Crown that fadeth not away.
JOHN WESLEY. Losdon, October 20, 1779.