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Bethlehem of Judea; and there was in the same country, shepherds watching over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said, “ Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” Luké, ii.
At the feast of the Passover, when our Lord was about to be offered up, he instituted the ordinance called the supper of the Lord; on which occasion, he and his disciples sung a hymn. Mark, xiv. 26.
Paul and Silas, in prison at Philippi, prayed and sang praises unto the Lord at midnight. And the Lord sent an earthquake, and wrought out a mighty deliverance. Acts, xvi. 25.
From this instance, it appears that, at times, the, singing assists in growing into faith. It may be remarked too, that when the three kings sought unto Elisha for deliverance, he said, “ bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” 2 Kings, iii. 15.
In the New Testament, we have peculiar directions for the performance of this service, in 1 Cor. xiv. 15) the apostle says, “ I will sing with the spirit, and I, will sing with the understanding also.” And Ephes. v. 18, 19, says, “ Be filled with the Spirit ; speaking: to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts unto the Lord." In Col. iii. 16, we have this farther instruction, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs ; singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
As we advance in the New Testament, the singing service grows upon us.
In Rev. v. John saw the Lamb take the book sealed with seven seals, and a new song was sung, saying, “ Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof : for thou wast slain, and hast redeemned us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign upon the earth."
In Rev. xiv. the Lanıb and his company sung, as it
were, a new song. And in Rev. xv. those who stand on the sea of glass, have the harps of God; and sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. And in Rev. xix. after Babylon was fallen, a voice came out of the throne, saying, “ Praise our God all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great,” And John heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, “ Alleluia : for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
General Observations. The Lord hath not only raised pious and holy men to compose psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, but he has, from time to time, raised up suitable persons to conduct the singing service ; men and women who can sing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord, and whose singing is accompanied with the power of God, and is a general blessing to the people. These are appointed of the Lord : all others would bring a vain oblation, and would injure both themselves and the congregation. None should be suffered to take any part in leading the singing service, but such as can sing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord.” These are the people whom the Lord calls into this service; and their faith and piety is a blessing to all the people. Their zeal is to bring the whole congregation forward in the singing service, to lead them into faith, and enable them, as much as possible, to sing with the spirit and with the understanding also, and with grace in their hearts unto the Lord.
The Lord, in ancient times, raised up holy men to write songs and psalms as a part of the scriptures of truth; and in later ages he has raised up others who have performed a very useful, though a different, service. These have not been called to write with the authority of those who penned the scriptures of truth; but they have composed a variety of hymns, in different languages, for the edification of the children of God. In England, have been Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and a variety of others, who have laboured in this service with considerable success.
Of the present Book, In compiling the present hymn book, great care has been taken to select the best hymns from the best
authors; and a considerable number of original hymns have been composed expressly for this work. These are of a superior cast; they lead into the mystery of faith, and embrace a variety of subjects.
For the greater agreeableness, the authors' names, when known, are usually inserted, by way of signature, at the close of the hymns.
One great excellency in this book, is, its being suited to the varieties of meetings and worship. It is not only suited to the different ordinances, but the varieties in the lengths of the hymns will be a great accommodation. At the opening of a service, a hymn of considerable length is generally used ; and, as the worship proceeds, shorter ones are usually required. And here are an excellent proportion of long hymns; and, it is hoped, a sufficiency of shorter ones. Again, in prayer meetings, and on various other occasions, hymns, consisting of one or two verses, are almost constantly wanted: and great care has been taken to provide a considerable number of these. Nevertheless, if the excellent short hymns be found too few, a verse or two from any long hymn, may be occasionally given out. And, for the saving of time, the short hymns should mostly be given out from memory.
ON WORSHIP. The more constant and frequent services of worship, are, Private prayer, Preachings, Prayer meetings, and Class 'meetings ; such as Lovefeasts and Camp meetings, are excellent and powerful, but not so frequent.
Private Prayer. In private prayer a person may, through the Mediator, enter into conversation with the Almighty, and lay open bis whole soul unto him. He may press through temptation, grow into faith, and take hold of the strength of the Lord. At times, however, it is difficult to wrestle through the force of temptation, and get into the fulness of faith, till the Holy Ghost powerfully descends. But in this, as in other means, he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
Preaching Service. Preaching services usually open with singing and prayer, ending with the Lord's prayer. Singing again follows, (usually short,) after which a sermon or
discourse is delivered, for about twenty, or from that to thirty minutes. It should scarcely ever exceed thirty minutes ; and the preacher, if possible, should so fully get into faith, as to preach the gospel with: the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.* in order to this he should keep clear of all improprieties, all reflections on individuals or societies, and all other unpro-itable things ; using only, “ Sound speech, that cannot be condemned.t" and, as far as wisdom is given to him, preaching a pure gospel, and nothing but the gospel. After sermon or discourse, the service closes with singing and prayer. The whole service takes up about an hour or an hour and a quarter.
When the pious praying labourers are in proper discipline, (and not addicted to dragging out to too great lengths,) prayer meetings are introduced after preachings, with very great success. meeting usually commences at the conclusion of the preaching service, and is carried on for about twenty minutes. On some occasions, when circumstances warrant it, the prayer meeting begins immediately after sermon, and forms a part of the preaching service.
Every pulpit should have a proper convenience for the preacher to kneel at prayer. The preacher should always stand during the singing service, unless obliged to sit down through extreme illness. If two preachers stand up in one service, they may speak from 15 to 20 minutes each: and it would be prudent in the latter preacher not to make any reference to the preaching that went before. Such references are generally injurious.
The outline is as follows ; 1 Open with singing for about 4, 5, or 6 minutes.
2 Spend 4, 5, or 6 minutes in prayer, ending with the Lord's prayer.
3 Sing about 2, 3, or 4 minutes.
4 Let the members of the society pray in quick succession, for about 2, 3, or 4, minutes each ; with singing a verse or two, occasionally, to vary the ex. ercises.
5 In praying with mourners, or in other particular cases, the exercises may be lengthened. But, in general, long exercises, in public, are injurious, and
* 1 Pet. i. 11. + Titus ii. 8.
should be carefully avoided. And if any one trespass, by attempting to drag out to an improper length, then the leaders' meeting, or some other official au. thority, may determine what remedy shall be applied to such impropriety.
6 If exhortations be given, they may be from 2 or 3, to 6 or 8 minutes each.
7 Conclude in an hour, or an hour and a quarter.
8 On suitable occasions, prayer may again commence, and especially if there be souls in distress.
9 This outline may be judiciously varied in any point as circumstances may require.
In all kinds of meetings the general rules are as follows :-1 Begin at the proper time. 2 Get into faith as much as possible, in order that the Holy Ghost may descend. 3 Kneel at prayer. 4 Stand in singing. 5 Sit in the time of preaching, exhortation, or discourse. Nevertheless in worship in the open air, if the ground be wet or unsuitable, the kneeling is sometimes dispensed with.
Class Meetings. 1 Open with singing for about 4, 5, or 6 minutes.
2 Let 4 or 5 minutes be spent in prayer ending with the Lord's prayer.
3 Sing about 2 or 3 minutes.
4 Leader speak 1 or 2 minutes, chiefly his own experience.
5 Let 15, or from that to 20 minutes be spent in conversation of the leader with the members. And, to keep the attention alive, the leader, during the conversation, may if he chooses, give out one or two verses, and sing.
6 If a class have 15 or 16 members, the average time of speaking should be about one minute with each member. If there be 20 or 30 members the time should be less, because in speaking to one, the leader, in effect, speaks to all. In particular cases, more time may be spent witb any member.
7 If any member have acquired or be acquiring a habit of long speaking, then the leader, after dropping. a word or two, should immediately pass on to the next, and begin, at once, to speak to the next. If this be not attended to the meeting will soon be injured.
8 When the speaking is concluded, sing for 2, 3, or 4 minutes.
9 Then let the members pray in quick succession,