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THE USE OF THE PEOPLE
THE REV. JOHN WESLEY, A. M.
Late Fellow of Lincoln-College, Oxford.
such a Hymn Book as might be generally used in all our Congregations throughout Great Britain and Ireland. I have hitherto withstood the importunity, a, I believed such a Publication was needless, cou. sidering the various Hymn Books which my Brother and I have published within these forty years last part: so that it may be doubted whether any religious Community in the world has a greater variety of them.
But it has been answered, “ Sucb a Publication is bigbly needful upon this very account; for the greater part of the people, being poor, are not able to pur. chase so many books. And those that have purchased them are, as it were, bewildered in the immense variety. A proper Collection of Hymas for general use, carefully inade out of all these books, is, there. fore, still wanting; and one comprised in so moderate & compass as to be neither cumbersome nor expensive."
It has been replied, “ You bave such a Collection already, (entitled Hymns and Spiritual Songs,) which I extracted several years ago, from a variety of Hymnn Books," But it is objected, " This is in the other extreme: It is far too small; it does not, it cannot, in so narrow a compass, contain variety enough: not so much as we want, ainong whorn singing 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 inay contain a sufficient variety for all ordinary occasions."
Such a Hyınn Book you have now before you. It is not so large as to be either cumbersome, or expen. sive: and it is large enough to contain such a variety of Hymns as will not soon be worn threadhare. It is large enough to contain all the important truths of our most holy Religion, whether speculative or practical : yea, to illustrate then all, and to prove them, both b: Scripture and Reason. And this is done in a regular order. The Hymns are not carelessly jumbled toge. ther, but carefully arranged under proper heads, ac cording to the experience of real Christians. So that this book is, in effect, a little body of experimental and practical divinity.
As but a small part of these Hymns is of my owr: composing,* I do not think it inconsistent with modesty to declare, that I am persuaded no such Hyınn Book as this has yet been published in the English language. In what other publication of the kind have you so dis. tinct and full an account of Scriptural Christianity; Such a declaration of the heights and depths of Reli. gion, speculative and practical: So strong cautions against the inost plausible errors : particularly those that are now most prevaleat? And so clear directions for inaking your calling and election sure; fur perfecting Holiness in the fear of God ?
May I be permitteil to add a few words with regard to the Poetry? Then I will speak to those w are judges thereof, with all freedom and unreserve. To these. I may say, without offence, 1. In these Hymns there is no dozgerel; no botches : nothing put in 19 patch up the rliyine: no feeble expletives. 2. Here is nothing turgid or bombast, on the one hand, or low and creeping on the other. 8. Here are 110 cant expre4. sions; no words without ineaning. Those who impute this to us, know not what they say. We talk coinoon sense, both in prose aud verse, and use no words but in a fixt and determinate sense. 4. Here are, (allow me to say,) both the purity, the strength, and the ele. gance of the English language: au, int the same time, the utmost simplicity and plainness, suited to every capacity. Lastly, I desire inen of tagte to judge, (these are the only competent juges,) whether there be not in some of the following Hyinns, the true Spirit
• The greater part was composed by the Rep. Charles Wesley.
of Poetry; such as cannot be acquired by art and labour; but must he the gift of Nature. By labour a man may becouse a tolerable imitator of Spenser, Shakespeare, or Milton, and may heap together pretry compound epithets, as pale-eyed, meek-eye'd, and the like; but unless he be born a Poet, he will never attain the genuine Spirit of Poetry.
But to returns. That wbich is of infinitely more mo. ment than the Spirit of Poetry, in the Spirit of Piety. Anil, I trust, all persons of real judgment will find this breathing througb the whole Collection. It is in this view chiefly, that I would recommend it to every truly pious reader, as a inean of raising or quickening the spirit of devotion; of confirining liis faith; of enliven. ing bis hope ; anil of kindling and increasing his love to God and man. When Poetry thus keeps its place, as the handmaid of Piety, it shall attain, not a poor perishable wreath, but a Crown that fadeth not away. London,
JOHN WESLEY. October 10, 1719.