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The author of the following hymns, well known to the world by many excellent and useful writings, was much solicited by his friends to print them in his life-time, from a hope they might be serviceable to the interest of religion, by assisting the devotion of christians in their social and secret worship; and, had God continued his life till his Family Expositor on the epistles had been published, it is probable he would have complied with their request : But this and many other pious and benevolent purposes were broken off by his much lamented death. During the last hour I spent with him, a few weeks before that mournful event, he honoured me with some particular directions about trauscribing and publishing them. I have at length, through the good hand of my God upon me, finished them, and present them to the world with a cheerful hope, that they will promote and diffuse a spirit of devotion, and, together with other assistances human and divine, prepare many to join with the devout author in the nobler and everlasting anthems of heaven.
These hymns being composed to be sung, after the author had been preaching on the texts prefixed to them, it was his design, that they should bring over again the leading thoughts in the sermon, and naturally express and warmly enforce those devout sentiments, which he hoped were then rising in the minds of his hearers, and help to fix them on the memory and heart: Accordingly the attentive reader will observe, that most of them illustrate such sentiments as a skilful preacher would principally insist upon, when discoursing from the texts on which they are founded. There is a great variety in the form of them : Some are devout paraphrases on the texts : Others expressive of lively acts of devotion, faith, and trust in God, love to Christ, desire of divine influences, and good resolutions of cultivating the temper and practising the duties recommended : Others proclaim an humble joy and triumph in the gracious promises and encouragements of scripture, particularly in the discovery and prospect of eternal life. The nature of the subjects will easily account for the difference of composure, why some are more plain and artless, others more lively, sublime, and full of poetic fire, If any of them should at first reading appear flat or obscure, it may well be supposed they would affect the mind in a stronger manner, when used in a religious assembly after sermons upon the texts, in which the context hath been considered (if that were necessary) parallel places compared, the design of the inspired writer judiciously opened, and the beauty, propriety, and emphasis of the several clauses of the text illustrated : They therefore who use them in their devout retirements, should first read and consider the text and contexts, and if they would consult sowie expositor upon them, particularly the authors on the subjects taken from the New Testament, they will see a spirit and elegance in these composures, which may otherwise be overlooked, and be more likely to reap real and lasting advantage by them.
In this collection there are many hymns formed upon passages in the Old Testament, particularly in the prophets, directly relating to the case of the Israelites, or some particular good man among them, which the author hath accommodated to the circumstances of christians, where he thought there was a just and natural reseinblance; and he apprehended, that the practice of the inspired writers of the New Testament warranted such accommodations. He experienced this to be a very acceptable and useful method of preaching on the Old Testament, and ac. cordingly recommended it to bis pupils, as what would afford them an opportunity of explaining the design of the prophecies, displaying the wisdom, faithfulness and
* Compare Heb. xiii. 5, 6. and Family Expositor in Loc. Note (e). There are also some good remarks on this subject in Dr. Watts's holiness of times, places, &c. Dis. v. especially Prop. 15.
grace of God, and suggesting many striking and important instructions : This method would at the same time occasion an agreeable variety in their discourses, prevent their confining themselves to general or common-place subjects, (or in order to avoid a frequent repetition of well known arguments' running into dry and abstruse speculations, which the capacities of the generality of their hearers could not comprehend, nor their hearts relish and feel: A fashion in preaching too prevalent, and, considering its apparent unprofitableness, much to be lamented.
Those young ministers, who are desirous of entering into the spirit and copiousness of scripture, may find this work greatly useful to them, by directing them to many very suitable texts, and to some natural thoughts, and useful reflections to be insisted upon in discoursing from them.
There are several hymns in this collection suited to special and extraordinary occasions, for which there was not before a sufficient provision ; such as, for opening a new place of worship, the vacancy and settlement of churches, the ordination of ministers, their removal from our world, &c. especially for days of fasting and humiliation on account of actual or apprehended calamities; the want of which, during the late rebellion and war, was much regretted by many ministers and private christians.
In these composures I hope few low or trivial expressions will be found : Nothing appears unsuitable to the gravity and dignity of a worshipping assembly: Nothing likely to darken or damp the devotion of the humble christian, or excite passions merely sensual. There is nothing that savours of a party-spirit, or carries an appearance of designing to confine their use to any of the sects into wbich cbris. tians are unhappily divided. The materials are divine, and the author's soul was never more enlarged, than when he was promoting a spirit of piety and candor in their just connection.
I chose to place these hymns in the order in which the several texts lie in the bible, as that prevents the necessity of another index, and there appeared no particular reason for disposing them in any different order. In a few places, where words occur not sufficiently intelligible to common readers, I have added some more plain and familiar ones in the margin, that they may be read and sung with understanding ; preferring this method to that of some authors, who have collected and explained them in a particular index.
As these hymns were composed during a series of inany years, amidst an uncommon variety and daily succession of most important labours, by a man who had no ear for music, and as they want bis retouching hand, the reader will be candid to what inaccuracies he may discover, particularly the repetition of the same thoughts and phrases, which in a few instances will be found : And indeed some of them could scarcely be avoided on subjects so nearly resembling, without the exclusion of the most suitable and affecting sentiments or aspirations, for which the introduction of a new or more poetic thought and phrase would not have been an equivalent. There may perhaps be some improprieties, owing to my not being able to read the author's manuscript in particular places, and being obliged, without a poetic genius, to supply those deficiencies, whereby the beauty of the stanza may be greatly de. faced, though the sense is preserved.
These hymns being originally designed for the use of a congregation of plain unlearned christians, it cannot be expected they should entertain those, who may peruse them merely for the sake of the poetry : Yet I think many of them will stand the test of a critical examination, and appear at least equal to other compositions of the like kind; and I am persuaded they will all be delightful and beneficial to those, who desire to have their devotions enlivened, their souls filled with divine love, and who are ambitious to live up to the rules of the gospel ; and that they will, through the influences of the Holy Ghost, spread a spirit of fervent piety in such congregations where they may be introduced.
I have nothing to add but my earnest wishes and prayers, that they may be subservient to the glory of God, the more delightful celebration of divine ordinances, and the edification of my fellow-christians. Amen.
JOB ORTON. SALOP, Jan. 1, 1755.
I. Enoch's Piety and Translation. Genesis v. 24. Hebrews xi. 5.
Admire thy matchless grace
With Adam's worthless race.
Where I my God may meet;
Though briars wound my feet.
The desart with delight:
Can dissipate the night.
A restless pilgrim roam ;
Shall soon convey me home.
To realms of heavenly day;
To bear this flesh away.
To drop its mortal load ;
That break its way to God.
II. God's gracious Approbation of a religious Care of our Families.
Genesis xviii. 19.
- Which crowns our families with peace:
* Salute or welcome,
2 To God, most worthy to be prais'd,
Be our domestic altars rais'd;
With saints in their obscurest cell.
Be taught thy precepts, and thy grace. 4 O may each future age proclaim
The honours of thy glorious name; While pleas'd, and thankful, we remove To join the family above.
III. Abraham's Intercession for Sodom. Genesis xviii. 32.
FOR A FAST-DAY. 1 CREAT God! did pious Abram pray
For Sodom's vile abandon'd race And shall not all our souls be rous'd
For Britain to implore thy grace? 2 Base as we are, does not thine eye
Its chosen thousands here survey; Whose souls, deep humbled, mourn the crowds, Who walk in sin's destructive way? 3 0 Judge supreme, let not thy sword
The righteous with the wicked smite: Nor bury in promiscuous heaps
Rebels, and saints thy chief delight.
Avert the thunders big with death;
Be kindled by thy flaming breath. 5 ()! be not angry, mighty God,
While dust and ashes seek thy face;
Renew, and still increase the grace. 6 Jesus the intercessor hear,
And for his sake thy grace impart,
Dissolves the most obdurate heart. 7 Sodom shall change to Zion then,
And heavenly dews be scatter'd round,
* Hidden, secret.