Plymouth Collection of Hymns and Tunes
For the Use of Christian Congregations
A.S. Barnes & Burr, 51 & 53 John Street.
Sold by Booksellers, Generally, throughout the United States.
The book here presented to Christians and Churches numbers more than thirteen hundred hymns, and three hundred and sixty-seven tunes. The work is the result of a conviction that Congregational Singing best answers the end of worship by means of song. A choir should not sing for the congregation, but incite them to sing, and lead the way.
It is hoped that a book which shall present both the hymns and the music will contribute to the development of Congregational Singing, by providing the materials for it.
Although the work will not specially benefit those who have never been taught to read music, yet every year musical instruction in schools and in the community at large is increasing the number of those who can read plain music with facility. Already, and especially among the young, the number who might use such a work as this is very considerable.
It is desirable that every pew in the church should contain one or more copies of the Hymn and Tune Book. The Hymns have, however, been printed without the music, at a cheaper rate, for the use of those who wish only hymns.
We submit a few words in respect to the Hymns and the Music.
1. No pains have been spared in collecting materials for this work. The principal collections of Psalms and Hymns that have been published, either in America or Great Britain, have been carefully searched, and the fugitive pieces which have appeared in religious journals, or in collected poetical works of recent authors, have been made to contribute to the store.
A hymn is a lyrical discourse to the feelings. It should either excite or express feeling. The recitation of historical facts, descriptions of scenery, narrations of events, meditations, all may tend to inspire feeling. Hymns are not to be excluded, therefore, because they are deficient in lyrical form, or in feeling, if experience shows that they have power to excite pious emotions. Not many of Newton’s hymns can be called poetical; yet there are few hymns in the English language that are more useful.
We have carefully avoided a narrow adherence to our own personal taste in the selection of hymns. Scarcely any two ministers would agree in the selection of hymns. A collection should be made so large and various that every one may find in it that which he needs. Neither should one complain of the multitude of hymns useless to him. They are not useless to others. A generously spread table is not at fault because, in the profusion, each guest cannot use everything. Every one should have all the liberty and the means of following his own taste. Had we made this collection merely for our own use, it would not have numbered more than five hundred hymns.
Many Hymn-books have been so fastidiously made, as not only to exclude many hymns, as extravagant, that were not half so extravagant as are the Psalms of David, and as is all true and deep feeling which gives itself full expression; but also those retained have been abused by corrections, so called, and tamed down from their noble fervor and careless freedom, into flat and profitless propriety.
We have, as far as possible, avoided all changes, except those necessary to restore mutilated hymns to their original state. No language can well replace that which the original inspiration of the author suggested. Watts’ hymns and psalms have been carefully compared with the original, and for the most part restored.
2. Great additions have been made to the hymns which celebrate Christ; to hymns of Christian experience, in its deeper and more tender moods; to hymns suitable for religious awakenings; and there will be found a great number of admirable pieces upon these topics, not combined in any other single collection.
Much attention has been given to the Great Humanities which the Gospel develops, whenever it is faithfully and purely preached. The hymns of Temperance, of Human Rights and Freedom, of Peace, and of Benevolence, will be found both numerous, energetic, and eminently Christian. No pains have been spared to secure a full expression to the whole religious feeling and activity of our times.
3. We have sought for hymns in the books of every denomination of Christians. There are certain hymns of the sacrifice of Christ, of utter and almost soul-dissolving yearning for the benefits of His mediation, which none could write so well as a devout and truly pious Roman Catholic. Some of the most touching and truly evangelical hymns in this collection have been gathered from this source. It has been a matter of joy to us to learn, during our research, how much food for true piety is afforded through Catholic devotional books to the masses of darkened minds within that Church of Error.
We have gathered many exquisite hymns from the Moravian Collections, developing the most tender and loving views of Christ, of his personal presence, and gentle companionship. We know of no hymn-writers that equal their faith and fervor for Christ, as present with his people. Nor can any one conversant with these fail to recognize the fountain in which the incomparable Charles Wesley was baptized. His hymns are only Moravian hymns re-sung. Not alone are the favorite expressions used and the epithets which they loved, but, like them, he beholds all Christian truths through the medium of confiding love. The love-element of this school has never been surpassed.
To say that we have sought for hymns expressing the deepest religious feeling, and particularly the sentiments of love, and trust, and divine courage, and hopefulness, is only to say that we have drawn largely from the best Methodist hymns. The contributions of the Wesleys to hymnology have been so rich as to leave the Christian world under an obligation which cannot be paid so long as there is a struggling Christian brotherhood to sing and be comforted amid the trials of this world.
Charles Wesley was peculiarly happy in making the Scripture illustrate Christian experience, and personal experience throw light upon the deep places of the Bible. Some of his effusions have never been surpassed. Nor are there any hymns that could more nobly express the whole ecstasy of the apostolic writings in view of death and heaven.
Cowper, Stennet, Newton, Doddridge, Mrs. Steele, and many other familiar authors, will be found in this collection, as in every other that aspires to usefulness.
With whatever partiality to Dr. Watts we may have begun this compilation, a comparison of his hymns and psalms with the best effusions of the best hymn-writers has only served to increase our admiration, and our conviction that he stands incomparably above all other English writers. Nor do we believe any other man, in any department, has contributed so great a share of enjoyment, edification, and inspiration to struggling Christians as Dr. Watts. We have retained the greatest number of his versions of the Psalms, though under the title of Hymns. A table is prefixed by which the version of any particular psalm may be found.
II. – The Music
1. As this work is designed for families, for social meetings, and for the lecture-room, as well as for the great congregation, so the music has been selected with reference to all these wants. But the tunes are chiefly for Congregational Singing. We have gathered up whatever we could find of merit, in old or new music, that seemed fitted for this end. Not the least excellent are the popular revival melodies, which, though often excluded from classic collections of music, have never been driven out from among the people. These have been gathered up, fitly arranged, and having already performed most excellent service, they are now sent forth with the best of all testimonials—the affection and admiration of thousands who have experienced their inspiration. Because they are homebred and popular, rather than foreign and stately, we like them nonetheless. And we cannot doubt that many of them will carry up to heaven the devout fervor of God’s people until the millennial day!
2. Congregational singing will never become general and permanent, until the churches employ tunes which have melodies that cling to the memory and touch the feelings or the imagination.
Music is not simply a vehicle for carrying a hymn. It is something in itself. No tune is fit to be sung to a hymn which would not be pleasant, in itself, without any words. Any other view of the function of music, if it shall prevail, will in the end bring music to such a tame and tasteless state that a reaction will be inevitable, and the public mind will go to the opposite extreme. Thus, those who are conscientiously anxious to make music a means of religious feeling, will, by an injudicious method, produce by and by the very mischief which they sought to cure.
A corruption of hymns will not be more fatal to public worship than will be a corruption of music. And any theory that denies to church music a power upon the imagination and the feelings, as music, and makes it a mere servile attendant upon words, will carry certain mischief upon its path, and put back indefinitely the cause of church music.
The tunes which burden our modern books, in hundreds and thousands, utterly devoid of character, without meaning or substance, may be sung a hundred times, and not a person in the congregation will remember them. There is nothing to remember. They are the very emptiness of fluent noise. But let a true tune be sung, and every person of sensibility, every person of feeling, every child even, is aroused and touched. The melody clings to them. On the way home snatches of it will be heard on this side and on that; and when, the next Sabbath, the same song is heard, one and another of the people fall in, and the volume grows with each verse, until at length the song, breaking forth as a many-rilled stream from the hills, grows deeper and flows on, broad as a mighty river! Such tunes are never forgotten. They cling to us through our whole life. We carry them with us upon our journey. We sing them in the forest. The workman follows the plow with sacred songs. Children catch them, and singing only for the joy it gives them now, are yet laying up for all their life food of the sweetest joy. Such tunes give now harmony and sweetness even to the hymns which float upon their current. And when some celestial hymn of Wesley, or of the scarcely less than inspired Watts, is wafted upon such music, the soul is lifted up above all its ailments, and rises into the very presence of God, with joys no longer unspeakable, though full of glory!
In selecting music, we should not allow any fastidiousness of taste to set aside the lessons of experience. A tune which has always interested a congregation, which inspires the young, and lends to enthusiasm a fit expression, ought not to be set aside because it does not follow the reigning fashion, or conform to the whims of technical science. There is such a thing as Pharasaism in music. Tunes may be very faulty in structure, and yet convey a full-hearted current that will sweep out of the way the worthless, heartless trash which has no merit except a literal correctness. And when, upon a trial, a tune is found to do good work, it should be used for what it does, and can do.
3. We do not think that Congregational Singing will ever prevail with power, until Pastors of Churches appreciate its importance, and universally labor to secure it. If ministers regard singing as but a decorous kind of amusement, pleasantly relieving or separating the more solemn acts of worship, it will always be degraded. The pastor, in many cases, in small rural churches may be himself the leader. In larger societies, where a musical director is employed, the pastor should still be the animating center of the music, encouraging the people to take part in it, keeping before them their duty, and their benefit in participating in this most delightful part of public worship.
It is a very general impression that the pastor is to teach and to pray, but another man is to sing. Music is farmed out, and the unity of public services is marred by two systems of exercises conducted by different persons, and oftentimes without concord or sympathy with each other, and sometimes even with such contrariety that the organ and the choir effectually neutralize the pulpit. While it may not be needful that the pastor should perform the part of a musical leader, yet it is certain that there will not be a spirit of song, in the whole congregation, if he is himself indifferent to it and the first step toward Congregational Singing must be in the direction of the ministry.
The musical department of this work has been under the joint care of Mr. John Zundel, and Rev. Charles Beecher. But by far the greatest part of the labor has devolved upon the latter gentleman, to whose diligence and enthusiasm the Christian public will be greatly indebted for the adaptation of words, and the arrangements and harmonies of the music.
Our task, which has occupied much time during a period of four years, is now concluded. We shall be disappointed if the judgment of the Christian churches shall set aside this collection, as adding nothing to those which have gone before. But even then we shall not regret our task. It has rewarded us at every step. Should it only prepare the way for another and better work, promotive of Congregational Singing, we shall rejoice to have wrought as a pioneer.
HENRY WARD BEECHER
BROOKLYN, N.Y., August 10, 1855.