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ACTION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

At the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, May, 1840, the subject of Church Psalmody was referred to a Committee, which Committee, in the year 1842, unanimously agreed to approve and recommend the Church Psalmist, as being, in their judgment, the best adapted to the worship of God in our age and country. As such, it was commended to the Christian public, and especially to all the churches under the care of the Assembly. This Report was approved by the General Assembly of 1843, and the Church Psalmist recommended to the churches. J

At a meeting of the General Assembly held in New * York, May, 1856, it was resolved:. "In order to preserve J uniformity in Church Psalmody, that the Publication j Committee be authorized to negotiate with the com- | pilers and publishers of the Church Psalmist, and to. j purchase that book, if this can be done on reasonable ♦ terms."" \

At the meeting of Assembly in Cleveland, 1857, f the Assembly, recognising, with gratitude to God, the J securing to the possession of the Assembly a Book of J Psalmody which they can call their own, unanimously J recommended to the pastors and churches that they J use all reasonable diligence in promoting uniformity I by the introduction of this book. *

PREFACE.

Tbe object of this volume is to furnish the Churches with *

a complete Collection Of Sacred Songs for public wor- *

ship; and in presenting such a -work, when so many, aiming $

at the same end, are already in circulation, we seem to be *

called upon to state some reasons which have influenced us |

in this undertaking, and which may have some weight with $

others. The least offensive mode in which this can be done, J

will be to give a brief exposition of the principles which J

have been kej)t in view in its execution. An outline is all j

that will be given—for more than this, however much it $

may be demanded, or however rich in* thought or replete J

with practical wisdom, would be hardly ever read. A **

Preface Is generally deemed a very dull and unattractive I

part of a Book, so much so, that if an author had some pro- *

found secrets which he wished to record, and yet preserve j

in deep obscurity, he might be advised, as it regards most $

readers, to commit them to the safe-keeping of these ne- i

glected pages. And yet some persons read a Preface, and * for the benefit of such this one is written.

The subjects of Lyric Poetry and Psalmody are intimately and inseparably connected, and it is in vain to expect one to exist in a high state of perfection without the other; or for either to attain distinguished excellence without cultivation. It must be acknowledged, that ministers and churches have not studied this subject with that^ \ attention which it claims, nor even in relative proportion' J when compared with other grave matters pertaining to J the worship of God. Singing often falls far below every * other part of the services of the sanctuary, from the want { of both sympathy and knowledge, on the part of the $ Church. Little is known on the subject, and little is felt j in relation to it. But this is a state as unwise as it is J criminal. It is a matter of vast and vital importance that i all who desire that the public institutions of religion may J make the best impression and secure their highest results, £ and especially that ministers of the gospel should under- J stand what Sacred Songs are adapted to social worship, * and what tunes will impart to'them the greatest power * and efficiency. Both of these subjects should form a part J of christian instruction, and especially of theological train-' ing. A brief course of Lectures on Lyric Poetry, is hardly t

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I less necessary than a course on Sermonizing and Pastoral | Theology; and a preacher of the gospel should read and i study the best Psalms and Hymns, as an every-day-busi| ness, as he does his Bible, till he is acquainted with their l sentiments, familiar with their structure and imagery, and j deeply imbued with their spirit. The advantages of such t a course are obvious and numberless;—some of them so | plain that they need not be specified, and when taken coll lectively, and in all their intellectual and moral relations, | too many to be embraced in this rapid sketch. It is not i saying too muc7i to affirm, that such a discipline would enl large a ministry's knowledge, improve his taste, increase I his piety, refine his imagination, invigorate his eloquence, | and give him readiness, appropriateness and power, in the J public exercises of his profession. His volume of sacred t poetry should be a Text-Book by the side of the Bible* and J he should be equally familiar with both. If this were the J case, the sermon and singing would more generally harl imonize in their object and impressions, than they now do;

I the minister would have to expend less time in consulting numerous indexes in order to know what to select; and in the very act of reading the Psalm or Hymn, he would make an impression which would instruct the hearers, and igive the key-note of sentiment and expr .^sion to the choir. How deficient the ministry may be m these respects, is | matter of opinion of which every person will judge for | himself.

The character of Psalmody must always be affected by a great variety of circumstances which need not be adverted to in this place; but nothing has a greater influence to elevate or depress, to advance or retard its progress, t than the Lyric Poetry which is employed in the service of 'God. The following defects may easily be detected in many of the Psalms and Hymns now in use. Some are composed on subjects unsuited to song—others are destitute of a lyrical spirit—another class lack simplicity of design and execution—and not a few are of an unreasonable length for a single exercise of singing. To remedy these and other defects, and to secure, if possible, certain excellencies which are attained as yet only in part, are J among the objects of this publication. | That Lyric Poetry has a character of its own—that it I moves in a sphere peculiar to itself—and that its subjects $ are limited, there is no room for doubt. On these points | all critics agree. This poetry is made to be sung; and, I \rhen combined with appropriate music, we have a vehit ele, at once natural and refined, for the expression of I strong emotion. A Psalm or Hymn should be devotional, * • < rather than didactic, because the warm inspirations of the heart, and not the cool deductions of the intellect, are its province. Ascriptions of thanksgiving and praise to God, the breathings of filial desire and confidence, the cheering influence of hope, the tremblings of self-distrust and religious fear, "peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," and all the strong feelings which are called forth in a world of conflict and expectation, belong to this department of poetry. Any thing and every thing which pertains to devotion and christian experience, may furnish a subject for spiritual song.

And yet, notwithstanding these well-defined limits, which nature itself has fixed to Lyric Poetry, there are hundreds of Hymns, in our language, which can never be sung to any# good effect, because their subject-matter is foreign to this kind of writing. They can, from their very nature, neither inspire religious emotion, nor become the channels of this emotion already inspired. They contribute to extinguish rather than to kindle up, the holy flame. They are good sermons, but poor songs. This fault in the choice of subjects, is much more rarely to be met with in secular than spiritual odes; and the same may be said in*relation to the music by which they are accompanied. The reasons of this may not, perhaps, be easily detected. It cannot be for a moment admitted, that revealed religion is unfruitful in themes. If nature may be sung, why not nature's God? If creation can inspire the lyric bard, why not redemption, with its brighter glories, and its more enduring interests? If earth has its raptures, why should heaven be poor, and powerless, and without a song? If great and good men who have lived and acted and died, have, by their virtues or heroism, called forth the finest and sweetest tones of the Lyre, why should the praises of the only Great and Good, who lives in his own immortality, and whose wondrous acts are recorded for the admiration of all worlds; sleep in silence and be forgotten? It maybe worthy of remark in this place, that few poets of the first order have ever tried their pinions in this upper sky; but when they have, and selected an appropriate theme, they have showed that the waters of Zion can impart a purer inspiration than the fabled Castalian spring.

If the province of Lyric Poetry is to inspire and express i emotion, then no Psalm or Hymn can answer the true I purpose of christian worship unless it breathes the appro{ priate spirit. Its execution, as well as its subject, must I be lyric. It maybe rhyme, and not poetry. It may be \ poetry, and yet not be adapted in singing. Heroics can

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