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FROM TATE AND BRADY'S
VERSION OF THE PSALMS;
BY VARIOUS AUTHORS.
FOR THE USE OF THE CHURCH IN BRATTLE-SQUARE
The book of sacred poetry first used in the worship of the Church in Brattle Square, was probably the same, which was then in gen-, eral use in this part of the country. This was the New-England Psalm Book,-a version of the Psalms, prepared in 1636–40, by Mather of Dorchester, Thomas Weld, and John Eliot. It was printed at Cambridge; the first book which was printed in North America. An improved edition was published, about 1650, by President Dunster, and Mr. Lyon.
In 1753, after some ineffectual attempts, à vote of this Church was obtained, for adopting Tate and Brady's version, with an Appendix of Hymns, to be selected by a Committee. The earliest edition which I have seen of this work, is of 1763. There was, however, another before it, as at the end of the book some errata are noted in the last edition. A Committee was appointed in 1808, to make an additional Selection ; which published in a few months our Second Part of Hymns.
The editions of the Brattle Street Collection being exhausted, a Committee was appointed, at the annual meeting last year, to devise means for obtaining a supply. It was proposed by some, to adopt, in place of the book hitherto used by the Society, one of the excellent Selections lately published, which comprehends most of the Hymns in our Second Part, with several of those in the First Part, and of Tate and Brady's Psalms. But it was found to accord better with the wishes of the Society to retain, in its existing shape, that part of the Collection, which is a memorial to them of their last deceased pastor. And it was further thought, that there was good ground for the disposition of Christians, to have the Psalms, the productions of holy men of old, appear as such, distinguished from other devotional poetry, and be used in public worship in a version as close as good taste allows.
Such a version is, in great part that of Tate and Brady. It has a character of genuine simplicity throughout, and often of great vigor. It is also, in truth, what it professes to be, a version of the Psalms ; and not like that of Watts, a collection of devotional poems, founded on the Psalms, by a kind of allegorical interpretation, and often accommodated to them by means of analogies merely fanciful. Dr. Watts, indeed, did not call his work by the namo which it commonly bears, but entitled it The Psalms of David, imitated in the Language of the New Testament.
But while it accords with just feelings of devotion, to respect these prayers and praises of holy men, who lived under the former dispensation, the whole or a part of many of the Psalms are rendered unsuitable to the use of Christians in their worship, by referring to feelings or circumstances of their authors, which were of a personal nature; to occasions which have now no parallel; to a condition of things which has passed away ; or to opinions and sentiments which Christianity has corrected or elevated. A great part of the propositions contained in the Psalms, in a literal,-in other words, in their true sense,-can never, by any force of imagination, be applied by a Christian individual to his own case ;much less by a Christian Society.
The Committee appointed to prepare a new edition, was accordingly directed to omit that portion of the Psalms, which is unsuitable to the special use intended in a devotional manual for a Christian Society. The Committee have intended to retain every passage of sufficient length which does not come under that description. Proceeding strictly on the principle, that if the Psalms were to be used as such, the version should express, as nearly as might be, the sense of their authors, and not, -while it retained that name,-be altered in the way of accommodation, they have omitted largely, but have changed nothing.* They have found this selection from the Psalms a very difficult work. It will probably be thought rather too copious than too limited; but they have retained nothing without full reflection. 'In some cases, (as, for ex
* That is, they have in no case substituted any for the literal sense of the original. In a very few instances, about fifteen, (as Ps. iii. 1, v. 3, xvi. 1.) they have, for obvious reasons, changed a word or a phrase for its synonyme, or inserted a word plainly implied. In some of these, they have given a more literal rendering than that of the version.
ample, in giving the whole of Psalm 104,) they have been determined, by considering that a book of this nature is meant to be the companion of devotional retirement, as well as a help in Public Worship.
It has been found by experience, that a large portion of the First Part in the Collection of Hymns was useless in conducting the public services; and it was thought that a still larger portion might give place to better poetry. The Committee were accordingly directed to make another Selection in its place. This constitutes the First Part of Hymns in the present volume. They have aimed to embrace a sufficient variety of subjects, and by supplying deficiencies which before existed, to give something of proportion and system to the whole work. They cannot be expected to have done this throughout with pieces of high poetical merit; especially when it is remembered, that out of the proverbially small stock of good devotional poetry, the late lamented pastor of this Church, with the advantages of his singular resources and taste, had culled the best before them. They have made a thorough examination of more than twenty Collections, besides searching for single copies of verses of different authors, and have, after all, found that most of the pieces which recommended themselves to their judgment, were the same which are cmbraced in recent popular works of the same nature. They have selected chiefly from standard writers, and have, in many cases, restored the original lines, where some alterations had been introduced. Some of the most indifferent hymns, in a literary view, are introduced on account of their subject; and some, as the 5th and 11th, for the sake of the metre.
The Collection is offered to the Church, for which it was formed, with sincere prayers, that it may be honored and blessed as a means of their comfort and edification.
June 28, 1827