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ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States
for the Southern District of New York. .
The Lyric, rather than the Polemic spirit, is the fairer witness of a living Christianity. Periods of scholastic heat are periods of ethical chill. When the Church goes forth in her militant greatness, overthrowing strongholds of darkness and death, she is garlanded with hymns and spiritual songs. Flushed with springtime fulness of the Indwelling Presence, her heart wakes into Praise and Thanksgiving.
In her conquering march she keeps step to the rhythm and cadence of her stirring chant and hymn.
Ambrose, Luther, and the Wesleys wrought to such music; and perhaps their Hymns are stronger and more persuasive with us, than are their Definitions of Faith and Doctrine.
Hence, while the Ages all the way down, are littered with stranded controversies, wasted
and wasting, the dead leaves and blasted fruit of aimless thinking; their Hymns live with us, quick with spiritual forces, unspent and yet warm with the great love that inspired them.
We reject their Definitions, and accept their Hymns, finding the Fellowship of Praise wholesome, and large enough for all our wants, overliving and outliving all that is merely incidental and extrinsic to the Church Life.
Hymns are personal disclosures of the inner life: they bring to us all that is communicable of “the fruits of the Spirit.” They come to us with all that words are permitted to bear of ecstacy, the trance and the vision. They are, then, our sweetest sureties of the greatness and reality of the regenerate life,---of its promise and prophecy.
The Hymnology of English Christianity, representing so many widely-remote cultures, interpenetrated with such rapturous, forceful impulses, prismatic with such variously-hued yet blended experiences, stands eminently alone and unequalled in its wealth and beauty.
At the outset, kindled by the calm fervor of the Missal and Breviary Hymns, and the glowing symbolism of a Church still guarding the fires of the early faith, the Lyric spirit is felt among the first developments of our Language, while the Anglican Church was emerging from the bondage of a dead tongue and dead superstitions. And recalling the general and cordial reception of the Christian Faith throughout England, we find full explanation of the Christian temper more or less clearly defined in nearly
all her poetry
Thus the Church at the Reformation found a new language waiting to do its bidding : a language that had grown with her own growth, and developed an energy and wealth of resource, while yet in its infancy, equal to the illustrious service of her Evangelists or Psalmists : the language of Spenser and Shakespeare, George Withers and Herbert, of Hooker and Barrow, of Newton and Bacon.
The present posture of English Christianity is a complex result of many vital movements, at different times, acting from different centres of power. They have each and all wrought for the shaping of the structure as it now stands.
This compilation undertakes to register something of the Lyric spirit of this varied history; and not without some reference to the proportions and relations which seem to have obtained between the Ecclesiastic and Subjective, the Retrospective and Prophetic tendencies which in their turn have quickened the Church.
During the preparation of this work nothing has been more clearly manifest, than the continual recurrence of deep and earnest unisons of feeling—unisons of experimental life and Christian consciousness, especially touching the Adorable Person and Offices of our Lord, floating down from age to age, in such unfailing sweetness, that a Christianity, which, to the Theologian, lies the fragment of a perished Unity, finds its way to the heart of the Worshipper clothed upon with the freshness of a living, loving Presence, among the Faithful, ministering in the name and stead of its Lord.
The Poetry selected, is not generally found in American reprints; and a large part, it is believed, reaches the general reader for the first time in this volume.
G. T. R.