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PSALMS AND HYMNS,
In publick and private.
SELECTED FROM THE BEST AUTHORS, WITH VARIATIONS
PUBLISHED BY THOMAS WELLS,
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, to wit:
District Clerk's Office.
BE it remembered, that on the fourth day of November, A D. 1812, and in the thirty-seventh year of the Independence of the United States of America, THOMAS and ANDREWS and WEST and BLAKE, of the said district, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit:"Sacred Poetry: consisting of Psalms and Hymns adapted to Christian Devotion, in publick and private. Selected from the best Authors, with variations and additions. By Jeremy Belknap, D. D. A new edition, with additional Hymus "
In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned." And also to an Act entitled "An Act supplementary to an Act, entitled, an Act for the encourage. ment of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned,' and extending the bene fits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints." WILLIAM S. SHAW, Glerk of the District of Massachusetth
DR. JOHNSON hath observed concerning devotional poetry, that "the sanctity of the matter rejects the crnaments of figurative diction." Inferior subjects may be heightened by the charms of rhetorick, but this is too sublime to receive any decoration from human eloquence; and we often debase it by making the attempt.
Dr. WATTS, in one of his hymns, hath said,
"Join all the names of love and power
"That ever men or angels bore ;
"All are too mean to speak his worth,
Yet, such was the imperfection of one of the best of men, that we frequently find in his divine poems, epithets and allusions taken from "mortal beauties," and applied to the Saviour, with a license disgusting to the spirit of devotion. It has been my aim to avoid these familiarities; and either to change or omit such epithets and allusions.
The names of the authors from whom this Selection is made, are subjoined to each psalm or hymn; excepting when they are unknown, or have requested concealment. Most of these names are familiar to the readers of poetry; but there is one, to whom I am largely indebted for some of the most elegant of these productions, who is but little known in this country, and of whom I conceive the following account will be acceptable to every reader.
"ANNE STEELE was the eldest daughter of a dissenting minister at Broughton, in Hampshire; a man of piety, integrity, benevolence, and the most amiable simplicity of manners. She discovered in early life, her love of the muses, and often entertained her friends with the truly poetical and pious productions of her pen. But, it was her infelicity, as it has been of many of her kindred spirits, to have a capacious soaring mind enclosed in a very weak and languid body. She lived for the most part a life of retirement in the same peaceful village where she began and ended her days. The duties of friendship and religion occupied her time, and the pleasures of both constituted her delight. Her heart was apt to feel, often to a degree too painful for her own felicity; but always with the most tender and generous sympathy for her friends. Yet, she possessed a native cheerfulness; of which, even the agonizing pains she endured, in the latter part of her life, could not deprive her. In every short interval of abated suffering, she would, in a variety of ways, as well as by her enlivening conversation, give pleasure to all around her. Her life was a life of unaffected humility, warm benevolence, sincere friendship, and genuine devotion. She waited with christian dignity for the hour of her departure: when it came, she welcomed its approach: and having taken an affectionate leave of her friends, closed her eyes with these animating words on her lips, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."*
This account is taken from the preface to the third volume of her "miscellaneous pieces in prose and verse,' published under the name of THEODOSIA, by the Rev. Caleb Evans, of Bristol, 1780, after her decease.
It is humbly apprehended, that a grateful and affectionate address to the exalted Saviour of mankind, or a hymn in honour of the Eternal Spirit, cannot be disagreeable to the mind of God. To stigmatize such an act of devotion with the name of idolatry, is (to say the least) an abuse of language. It cannot be justly charged with derogating from the glory due to the ONE God and Father of all, because he is the ultimate object of the honour which is given to his Son and to his Spirit.
In this Selection, those Christians who do not scruple to sing praises to their Redeemer and Sanctifier, will find materials for such a sublime enjoy. ment; whilst others, whose tenderness of conscience may oblige them to confine their addresses to the Father only, will find no deficiency of matter suited to their idea of "the chaste and awful spirit of devotion."
BOSTON, MAY 10, 1795.
N. B. The characters denoting the sharp or flat key, are prefixed to each psalm or hymn at my request, by the Rev. Dr. MORSE, of Charlestown.