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most exemplary soundness of doctrine atone for doggrel, or redeem from failure a prosaic didactic style.
There are many hymns in the English language, which will bear the test of these rules, as well, perhaps, as those of Germany, or of the ancient Latin Church. But they are apt to be presented in such company, or in such a manner, as to detract much from their effect. From the operation of causes connected with the nature of such compositions, it happens, that writers, who do not in general rise above mediocrity, sometimes produce beautiful hymns; while, on the other hand, there is far more dross than gold in the works of all voluminous hymnwriters. Nor are the principles, on which popular collections of hymns for congregational use are formed, favourable to that kind of selection, which is here attempted. In such collections, as a general rule, the taste of the compilers is regulated by their theology : they seem to be very easily satisfied with all that they think orthodox and edifying, or liturgically appropriate; they do not submit hymns, derived from sources which they respect, to any free or independent criticism ; and, on the other hand, they reject, with morbid fastidiousness, every sentiment and expression in which they think they detect the traces of opinions which they dislike. It is also their frequent habit to cut down the compositions which they approve, with little discrimination or judgment, to such arbitrary dimensions, as suit their ideas of the time which ought to be occupied, during Divine service, by congregational singing.
The same regard to motives of (real, or supposed, convenience and edification has introduced a system of tampering with the text of hymns, which has now grown into so great an abuse, that to meet with any author's genuine text, in a book of this kind, is quite the exception. Censurable as thịs practice is, in a literary point of view, it must be confessed that those who adopt it may plead, in their excuse, the examples of many of the writers, whose compositions they alter. The Wesleys altered the compositions of George Herbert, Sandys, Austin, and Watts., Toplady, Madan, and others, altered some of Charles Wesley's hymns, much to his brother John's discontent, as he testifies in the preface to his Hymn-Book for Methodists. Toplady's own hymns, even the “Rock of Ages," have not escaped similar treatment. James Montgomery complains much, in the preface to the edition of his collected hymns published in 1853, of his share in this peculiar cross of hymn-writers, as he calls it. But he had himself, about thirty years before, altered the works of other men, in his Christian Psalmist. Bishop Heber, scholar as he was, and editor of Jeremy Taylor's works, silently altered Taylor's Advent Hymn in his own hymn-book; and the hymns of Heber himself, and of writers still living, such as Keble, Milman, Alford, and Neale, are met with every day in a variety of forms, which their authors would hardly recognize. Perhaps, when the masters of the art have taken such liberties, it may be explained on the same principle as that on which musicians, and particularly the composers of anthems, produce variations from, and improvements upon, the works of their predecessors : and, indeed, some such variations of hymns are sufficiently good to take rank as new compositions; better than those by which they were suggested. But this is a rare felicity; and the result is widely different, when the work of alteration is undertaken by incompetent hands.
In the present volume, while the Editor has not thought it necessary to give the whole of every composition, from which a selection of parts might, in his judgment, more advantageously be made, it has been his desire and aim to adhere strictly, in all cases in which it could be ascertained, to the genuine uncorrupted text of the authors themselves. Great pains have been taken to trace out and ascertain the true authorship of such hymns, as were either without names of authors, or attributed to authors by whom they were not really written, in the books from which the Editor in the first instance took them. This was a task, which he could himself scarcely have undertaken, and in which he certainly could not have hoped to succeed, but for the assistance of Mr. Sedgwick, of No. 81, Sun Street, Bishopsgate; who has bestowed much time and attention on this branch of literature, and has attained to a knowledge of it, probably not possessed by any other Englishman. By his valuable help, the authorship of about thirteen-fourteenths of the compositions here collected has been traced, and the text collated with the original works of the authors. Thus aided, the Editor has been enabled, before finally completing his selection, to go through all, or almost all, the original publications containing hymns or sacred poetry of (amongst others), George Herbert, Sandys, Wither, Quarles, Crashaw, John Austin, Baxter, Bishop Taylor, Bishop Patrick, Bishop Ken, John Mason, Thomas Shepherd, Samuel Crossman, and Lancelot Addison (of the seventeenth century); Joseph Addison, Watts, Simon Browne, Ralph Erskine, Doddridge, Hammond, John and Charles Wesley, Cennick, Seagrave, Grigg, Berridge, Olivers, William Williams, Toplady, Cowper, John Newton, Anne Steele, Hart, Gibbons, Michael Bruce, Logan, Byrom, Skelton, Swain, Daniel Turner, Ryland, Stennett, Needham, Beddome, Medley, Henry Moore, and Mrs. Barbauld (of the eighteenth century); Gisborne, Kirke White, Anne Flowerdew, Drennan, Bowdler, Kelly, James Montgomery, Sir Robert Grant, Bishop Heber, Bishop Mant, Bathurst, Lyte, Edmeston, Bernard Barton, Grinfield, and Chandler (of the present century); besides other writers, still living, whom it is unnecessary to name ;
and cellaneous collections, old and modern. Of the names thus enumerated, several are not represented at all in this collection; as the Editor did not find anything in their works which appeared to him to be suitable for his purpose, and equal to the general standard of merit, which he desired to maintain. But of the great majority, as well as of some other writers whose works are not accessible in a collected form, specimens more or less numerous will be found. A few examples of successful variations or centoes (in all instances but two, by known authors) from earlier compositions, have also been included; together with three