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UNIMPORTANT as the present work may appear, and humble the place it may fill in the department of our sacred literature, the author would be unjust to himself, were he to send it forth without sending with it some account of the circumstances under which it was prepared. Early in life he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the spiritual birthplace of his honored parents, and of a sainted maternal grandsire. With his religious habits came an increasing desire to do something that would advance the cause of Christ, and promote the interests of his church; but being sedulously engaged in mercantile affairs, his leisure hours alone could be devoted to literary pursuits. Among these the history of his own denomination; the records of the good and the great that have adorned her pulpits and literary walks, and the memoirs of whose lives and labors constitute an inheritance for the children of the church above all price; were some of the chief sources whence he derived spiritual and mental food. Of course, the works of the venerated Wesleys were not overlooked ; and the poetic talent they exhibited presented attractions not to be found elsewhere. The HYMNBOOK, which is composed principally of their poetical effusions, soon obtained a place high in his affections, and he desired to know more about its history and contents than could be obtained from merely perusing its pages. Collateral aid was invoked. Little, however, could be found in this country; and years passed by ere he could accomplish his purpose by importing from England a complete set of the Poetical Works of Messrs. John and Charles Wesley, as far at least as they contribute to the contents of the Hymn-book. These works he has now secured and consulted, with the exception of a single small tract. And, fortunately, that is noticed so fully by Mr. Jackson in the English edition of his Life of its author, as to leave but little, if anything, unknown concerning it. While in the pursuit of his studies, the thought was suggested to him, that others might feel the same desire to become better acquainted with the history of the Hymnbook; that prompted him to his researches, and he eventually determined to embody his labors in a volume, and publish them. After he had been thus engaged for some time, he was greatly encouraged in his undertaking by finding, in a minister of our church, one who regarded its hymnology with an interest equal to his own. Since then they have in a measure pursued the subject together, and to him the author is indebted for much valuable information in the preparation of his work.
When the author first directed his attention to Methodist or Wesleyan hymnology, the subject had attracted but little public interest. Soon after his earliest newspaper articles were published, he was somewhat, though agreeably, surprised to find that, simultaneously with himself, two other persons, one in our own country, the other in England, were devoting some attention to the same topic; both of whom have since published the results of their labors: the former, Dr. Floy, in a review of the M. E. Hymn-book in the Methodist Quarterly Review for May, 1844; the latter, Mr. Burgess, in a small volume, entitled “ Wesleyan Hymnology, or a Companion to the Wesleyan Hymn-book," which appeared in London, in 1845, and passed to a second edition the following year. During the past year, the M. E. Church, South, have published a new collection of Hymns, prepared by an able committee, of which the Rev. Dr. Summers was chairman. An elaborate review of the new Hymn-book, comprising upward of sixty pages, appeared in the Southern Methodist Quarterly Review for January, 1848. These publications, together with a small tract of thirty or forty pages, ably written by the Rev. Thomas Roberts, and issued at Bristol in 1808; the brief but valuable observations of Mr. Watson, in his Life of Wesley; the still more concise remarks of Mr. Moore; and the equally interesting, but more extended, review of Wesleyan poetry, by Mr. Jackson, in his biography of Charles Wesley ; in connection with which, perhaps, ought to be mentioned the remarks of Milner, in his Life of Dr. Watts, of Holland, in his Psalmists of Britain, and some brief notices by James Montgomery, in his Christian Psalmi and other works; comprise nearly all that has been published on this deeply interesting and important department of church literature.
Although the work now presented to the public is the latest
1 and most comprehensive history of Methodist hymnology that has yet appeared, the author having enriched its contents from all available sources, he is fully aware that the subject is by no means exhausted. And if he shall awaken new interest in the minds of the membership in relation to an important, though long-neglected, part of sacred literature, but one intimately associated with our history as Methodists; and especially if he shall be the occasion of bringing abler pens, and better hearts, to the consideration and elucidation of this subject, he will find an ample reward for his labors in the pleasing and approving consciousness of having done his duty, and accomplished a “good work.”
The PLAN of the following work is simple, consisting of three parts.
PART FIRST embraces brief sketches of the authors of the hymns in the Hymn-book of the Methodist Episcopal Church, biographical, historical, and critical; showing the relation each sustained to Methodism, when there was such a connection, and giving such other facts as it was thought would be most interesting, in the limited space allowed for that purpose. This portion of his work has cost the author much less trouble, and is, perhaps, of less importance, than either of the other parts.
PART SECOND is devoted entirely to a history and review of the poetical works of John and Charles Wesley. Here is shown the origin of all their hymns, first, in the Hymn-book of the Methodist Episcopal Church, then such hymns as are found in the Hymn-book of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, but not in the former work; lastly, such hymns as are in the Wesleyan collection, but not in either of the other two works. It is desirable that this feature of the plan should be remembered in reading the Second Part. The number of poetical publications, large and small, of John and Charles Wesley, amount to over forty; but several of them are compilations, principally however from their own works. The first Hymn-book published by Mr. J. Wesley was in 1738, the last in 1788, just half a century intervening between them.
In this part of his work the author thinks he has given some facts in the lives of the brothers not mentioned by their biographers, and of course not generally known. He also thinks some additional light has been elicited, by which the future historian of Methodism may be led to correct conclusions on certain obscure or uncertain points.
PART THIRD. This part of the work-although in reference to some hymns similar statements are repeated-contains the greatest variety of topics, and by many will be considered the most valuable, if this term may be applied to any portion of it. The hymns in the Methodist Episcopal Hymn-book are noticed in consecutive order; the original title of each hymn is given, when there is one; the text of Scripture on which founded, whether the hymn be a paraphrase of a number of verses, or a dilatation of a single verse, or part of a verse; the full number of original stanzas ; notices of alterations, omissions, emendations, &c.; occasional defects developed; beauties exhibited; sublime passages of thought or expression pointed out; omitted stanzas of a remarkable character, and there are many such, are inserted, some of which will be found necessary to a proper understanding of those that have been retained; occasional observations, critical, historical, and exegetical, are introduced ; parallel passages from our poet and the best English poets, living and dead, are quoted, showing a remarkable coincidence in thought and expression, from which it will appear that in plethory of poetic inspiration, sublimity of matter and conception, and classical purity of style, Wesley was in all respects their equal.
Deficient in many respects as the work may be, no labor nor expense has been spared in procuring from all available sources, but principally by importation from London, works of reference, to insure full and correct information on all points. The original · texts of all the hymns in the Hymn-book, with but very few exceptions, have been examined in the works of the authors. This has enabled the writer to point out what alterations, omissions, and emendations, have been made in the hymns either by the compilers of our collection, or by others. The volume may be consulted with nearly equal interest by the different branches of the great Wesleyan Methodist family; and the author flatters himself that his humble attempt to produce a work on a subject that has received, especially in this country, comparatively little attention, will not be deemed altogether undeserving of notice. He, however, with becoming diffidence, places it upon the altar of public opinion, and shall patiently await the verdict.
The author's thanks are due to several individuals for their
kindness and courtesy in furnishing him, or procuring for him, valuable works of reference, without which his volume would be less complete than it now appears. He therefore returns his most respectful acknowledgments to the Rev. Thomas B. Sargent and John G. Chappell, Esq., of Baltimore; and to Richard Baynes, Esq., of London, for the very important aid they have rendered him in the preparation of this work.
D. C. E. Monument-street, Baltimore, May, 1848.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE BALTIMORE ANNUAL
CONFERENCE, BALTIMORE, MARCH, 1848.
The committee to whom was referred the MSS. of brother David Creamer of this city, entitled, “ A History of the Hymnbook of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” beg leave respectfully to report,
That they have examined the work as carefully and minutely as the limited time afforded them allowed, and are of opinion that it will be a valuable and important contribution to our sacred literature, on a subject confessedly inaccessible to the researches of our ministry and membership generally, and especially in this country.
The book contains the results of six years' absorbing study of this engaging branch of sacred poetry, with unequaled aids and facilities, embodying a brief memoir of each lyrist to whose sanctified genius the church is indebted for these “Songs of Zion;" verifying the authors of the hymns in our book, as far as they have been discovered, giving in many instances the time and occasion of their composition, and, besides, a mass of critical observations, which we are convinced will give new information to a majority of readers. The entire production is so fully WesLEYAN and Methodistic, that your committee are of opinion, that this conference may safely advise its immediate publication by our Book Concern ; and as the hymnology of the church is in various quarters attracting increased attention, we may, as a conference, recommend the book to the favorable consideration of the coming General Conference of our church.