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the old parish of Epworth, in Lincolnshire, England, lived the earnest, eccentric,
John and Charles Wesley.
The story of Samuel Wesley's ministry at Epworth, extending over a period of thirty-nine years from 1696 to 1735—is alive with interest. The people whom he served were, for the most part, poor, ignorant, coarse, and cruel. Those were days of political strife, when missiles and firebrands were used as arguments. The godly rector, unflinching in his devotion to conviction, paid the price of his fidelity.
In poverty most oppressive; in conflicts most bitter; in labors most abundant, did the old rectory of Epworth hold and train the remarkable family from which were to come forth two of the most widely-known and most successful workers in the Church of God-the one a preacher and bishop, the other a writer of sacred hymns. By sermon and song, they two went forth to make known to the world the exceeding glory and the saving power of the Lord Jesus; to defend by Scripture the great doctrines of redemption, and by persuasive song to win the hearts of men from sin to righteousness, from self to Christ.
However grand the work and its results, we must not forget that the beginnings and the most valuable preparations were at Epworth, where Samuel Wesley studied and prayed and served, and where Susannah Wesley trained her children, counseled her husband, instructed their parishioners, and walked with God. Before Oxford was Epworth. Before Bristol and City Road Chapel was Epworth.
The poetic fire burned in Samuel Wesley. It reached white heat in the soul of his son Charles, "who was a poet by nature and habit," and of whose productions a distinguished critic says: "There are no hymns in the world of such spontaneous devotion;' none so loftily spiritual; none so unmistakably genuine and intensely earnest, as the best-known and largely-used of Wesley's." *
John Wesley was also a writer of hymns, a lover of poetry, and a firm believer in the service of song as a means of grace for saints, and of awakening for sinners. He urged all the people to sing. He gave wise directions concerning the spirit and manner of singing, and his followers in all parts of the world have been famous for the ardor and power with which they have sung the praises of the Lord.
All this carries us back to Epworth, where, in addition to the songs of the rectory at family worship, we hear from the church the songs of the people as the faithful rector taught them to sing. The biographer of "The Mother of the Wesleys" says: "Samuel Wesley regarded psalmody as the most elevated part of public worship.' Notwithstanding his love for anthems and cathedral music,' he was willing to forego his own preferences for the sake of his uneducated flock, and allowed the novel way of parochial singing.'. . . Discarding the lazy and inharmonious drawlings of a choir of ignorant and self-important rustics, he resolutely set himself to teach the congregation and children the divine art of sacred song. His efforts were so successful that he declares 'they did sing well after it had cost a pretty deal to teach them.'"
Thus from the Epworth church and parsonage rang out strains of music that have attracted the attention of the world; filled chapel, cathedral, and tented grove with melody; lifted the cry of penitence and the shout of triumph to the heavens; filled
*The Rev. Frederic M. Bird, in "Bibliotheca Sacra." 1864.
the mouths of children with praise, the hearts of believers with joy, the chamber of death with the pæans of victory.
The Committee appointed in pursuance of the action of the General Conference to prepare this book, has done well in calling it THE EPWORTH HYMNAL. Besides a certain euphony in the title, there come with it reverent and grateful thoughts concerning the character and services of the most excellent father of the Wesleys, and that modern Monica, whose strength and loveliness, whose piety and scholarship, are so manifest in the sons whom generations honor. There come also with the title-THE EPWORTH HYMNAL-memories of family prayer and family songs, of neighbors gathered by the devout Susannah on Sunday afternoons for special services of prayer, praise, and admonition, and of the meetings in Epworth church for the training of all the people, old and young, to sing the songs of the sanctuary.
The Committee, to which the work of compiling THE EPWORTH HYMNAL was assigned, is as follows: Rev. J. H. VINCENT, Rev. J. S. CHADWICK, JAMES M'GEE, JOHN E. SEARLES, JR., A. S. NEWMAN, JOHN J. MATTHIAS.
The editorial work of this book has been performed by Mr. JOHN E. SEARLES, JR., by appointment of the Committee.
The greatest care has been taken by the Committee to meet the demands of the diverse constituency at whose request the book has been prepared, and to serve the variety of purposes involved in the terms of the appointment. Here are hymns of the ages that can never grow old or drop out of use. Here are more recent hymns which have already become standards, and which are to be hymns for the ages. Here are songs full of strength and sweetness, favorites of the devout, and attractive also to youth and childhood. Here are 66 popular songs" which hold much truth rhythmically told. The severest criticisms might point out slight defects in them which, although sufficient to exclude them from the classic lists, do not justify their omission in a book "for the people." Here are new songs-experiments of poetry and musicwhich the Committee has approved, but which must be tested by the leaders and the led in the service of song.
THE EPWORTH HYMNAL is designed for use in the family, the social meeting, and the Sunday-school. Its selections will tend to promote congregational singing in the sanctuary, by making youth and adults familiar with the words and music which already are, or certainly ought to be, rendered at the public service.
The Committee urges upon all pastors the importance of commending THE EPWORTH HYMNAL to the homes of our people. Back of the public activity of the Church we find the family. No religious training can become a substitute for home influence and instruction. In this day there is especial need of renewed endeavor in this direction. Shall THE EPWORTH HYMNAL be a delightful reminder of the old Epworth rectory in Lincolnshire? and by the power of music open the doors of neglectful homes to the sweet ministries of religion?
Sweet home of Epworth, where reverent scholarship presided; where parents governed and children obeyed; where the Holy Scriptures were continually quoted and habitually followed; where songs rose from grateful hearts to the listening heavens; where the voice of prayer was scarcely ever silent; where neighbors were collected for worship and counsel; where each child was brought into sacred conference with its mother concerning the soul, the law of God, the grace of Christ, and the home in heaven!
May our homes be full of law and liberty, of grace and gladness; and from them may there come into Sunday-school, social meeting, and public service those who are well prepared to study the word of God diligently, pray reverently, sing heartily, listen attentively, and live consistently!
J. H. VINCENT.
FOR THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL AND SOCIAL MEETING S.
OPENING SERVICE FOR THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL.
Leader. Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
School. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
L. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. S. Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.
L. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High.
S. To show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.
L. Sing praise to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion; declare among the people his doings. S. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
L. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.
S. Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.
L. O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our Salvation. S. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
Singi g. A hymn of praise. See Index, p. 226. PRAYER.
OPENING SERVICE FOR THE PRAYER-MEETING.
Leader. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Congregation. We will go into his tabernacle; we will worship at his footstool.
School. We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
L. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
S. The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
L. The Lord lift up his countenance thee, and give thee peace.
Singing. Gloria Patri, No. 1; hymn. See Index, p. 226.
L. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.
C. It is good to sing praises unto our God: for it is pleasant, and praise is comely.
Singing. A hymn of praise. See Index, p. 226. L. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
C. They shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.
L. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
C. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he
shall live forever.
Singing. Break Thou the Bread of Life. No. 90. L. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
C. Wherefore he is able to save them to the
Leader. Let the word of Christ dwell in you and doeth his will, him he heareth. richly in all wisdom.
uttermost, that come unto God by him,
L. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.
C. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
L. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.
C. Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshiper of God,
L. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
C. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
L. Seeing then that we have a great high. priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the upon Son of God,
C. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, closing and find grace to help in time of need.
L. Sing praises to God, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding.
C. To him that made great lights: the sun to rule by day; the moon and stars to rule by night.
L. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High.
C. O God, thou God of my salvation, my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
L. To show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.
C. And to stand every morning to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise at even.
L. Behold, bless ye the Lord all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.
L. Nor for the arrow that flieth by day.
C. He is a shield for them that put their trust in him.
L. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness.
C. He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.
L. Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
C. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
L. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
C. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, accord ing as we hope in thee.
Sing: "When all thy mercies, O my God." No. 42, three verses. Leader. Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
Congregation. The Lord will command his per-loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me.
L. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God.
C. God, my Maker, who giveth songs in the night.
L. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
C. It shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light.
L. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee, but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
C. I will both lay me down and sleep, for thou, Lord, makest me to dwell in safety.
Sing: "Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear." No. 23, verses 1, 2, 3, and 6. Leader. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray.