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I claim nothing for the collection beyond what its name implies. The hymns which it contains are hymns which have helped all sorts and conditions of men to do their work in this world and to face with composure or exultation the coming of the Messenger which summons them to the next. In its compilation I have naturally given the foremost place to those hymns which have helped those who have helped their fellows most. Some hymns are like jewelled chalices from which generation after generation has drunk of the water of life. Others are but as the rusty dipper from which the wayworn traveller cools his thirst. The workmanship of the vessel has weighed little compared with the authentic evidence that it was the means whereby the thirsty soul of man was able to drink and live.
In appealing to the American public I do not feel as if I were venturing upon ground that was more strange to me than that of my native land. For the English Nonconformist has always been more in fellowship with the churches of America than with the Anglican Church that is established and endowed in his own country. The men of the “Mayflower,” who founded New England, and their descendants after them, have always been more of our kith and kin than the representatives of the church of Laud and the Stuarts. The children of the Puritans in the Old World and in the New form one family, in a much more real and vital sense than those who are outside the circle are able to realise. And within that circle there is no language of the household so familiar as sacred song.
It would be difficult to overestimate the extent to which the religious life of the English-speaking world has been quickened and gladdened by the Songs and Solos of Mr. Sankey. And before Mr. Sankey, the “American Sacred Songster” of Mr. Phillips had done much to enliven our Service of Song. To this day the American hymns and spiritual songs are more popular among our masses than any others. When mission services are held, or a revival is under way, in the majority of cases the American hymns are used as a matter of course. This is not the case with the high Anglican services, but even there it would not be impossible to trace the influence of the inspiriting strains of the American Sacred Song. When we know the favourite hymns of a man we have gained a glimpse into his inner life. When we know the hymns which have most helped the English of the Motherland, we gain more insight into the real trend of the aspirations and the deepest emotions of the nation than can be gained from the perusal of the entire British press. Hence, I hope it may be possible that in the United States this collection may be of some slight service in helping to a better understanding between the two nations. These hymns have been most helpful to us. What are the hymns which have been most helpful to you ? I want to publish as a sequel or supplement to this volume a second series of “Hymns that have Helped,” based on the recorded experience of Americans. I do not know whether it may be possible to elicit an adequate response, but “nothing venture, nothing win.” The attempt to interrogate the foremost men and women in the States and Territories as to the hymns which have most helped them may possibly be less difficult where the Interviewer is indigenous than it is elsewhere. The experiment is well worth trying, but the experience gained in preparing the English edition suggested the expediency of slightly varying the form of interrogation. I originally appealed to those who were willing to help in the work of compilation: first, for the personal experience of the individual addressed; second, for note or reference to record of instances where hymns had influenced those whose lives had greatly influenced the history of mankind ; thirdly, for brief note of instances in which hymns had altered human lives, – even of the most obscure; and, fourthly, for reference to incidents where hymns had figured conspicuously in some notable episode in human history.
To these four I would add in making my appeal to the American public a fifth request; namely, that I should be furnished with the name of the living American whose life experience as to the helpful value of hymns my correspondent thinks would be most interesting and valuable to his countrymen.
May I ask all readers who are disposed to co-operate with me in preparing such an American sequel to the present volume to address their communications to me, care of the publishers of this volume, Doubleday & McClure Co., 141–155 East Twenty-fifth Street, New York, U. S. A.
W. T. STEAD.
THERE are now nearly half a million hymns, nominally Christian, in the two hundred languages or dialects in which Christianity is preached. The “Dictionary of Hymnology,” compiled by the Rev. John Julian, M.A., contains over sixteen hundred closely-printed double-column pages, giving an account of some five thousand authors and translators of thirty thousand hymns, – not ten per cent of the immense ImaSS. There are said to be no fewer than 269 hymnals in the Church of England. But “Hymns Ancient and Modern " is rapidly ousting all others. In 1894 it was in use in over ten thousand churches. The “Hymnal Companion ” had 1,478 supporters, run close by “Church Hymns” of the S. P. C. K. with 1,426, but only 379 used any other than these three collections. Of 1,058 London churches, “Hymns Ancient and Modern” were in use in 695. Of Methodist, Roman Catholic, Nonconformist, and Presbyterian hymnals there is no end. . Yet, numerous as they are, the demand of the public for hymns, continues unabated. How many hymn-books have been published this century no one can possibly say. But of “Hymns Ancient and Modern" no fewer than thirty-five millions have been circulated in the last thirty-five years, giving an average sale of close upon a million a year, or nearly three thousand per day, year in and year out, Sunday and week-day, ever since it was first published in 1860. It is impossible to estimate the number of hymn-books sold outside the Church of England at a less figure. We have, therefore, to face the amazing fact that of collections of sacred poetry the British public's normal regular consumption is two millions a year. It is thus possible that this collection, which is unique in its way, may have its share of popular support. It is at least of manageable dimensions. Most modern hymn-books suffer from corpulence. One thousand hymns seem to be regarded as the normal limit, a minimum which many compilers exceed. In putting together the present list of about one hundred and fifty hymns, one feels somewhat like a captain of a cricket team selecting the first eleven for his county. Every one knows what resentment such a process necessarily creates among those who are relegated to the second eleven, and how all their friends deplore the blindness and injustice which led to their exclusion. Still, it cannot be helped; and although there are many hymns I should like to have seen in this selection, the limits are inexorable, and I have chosen my “first eleven " for better or for worse. This Hymnal has been completed by the voluntary co-operation of a multitude of willing workers to whom I appealed, in the first place, for their own experience; in the second, for the well-authenticated record of how this or that hymn has helped those “whose lives sublime, shed undimmed splendour over unmeasured time; ” in the third place, for brief notes of instances in which hymns have altered human lives; and fourthly, for references to incidents such as that of the victorpsalm at Dunbar, where a hymn has figured conspicuously in some notable episode of human history. This Hymnal has no claim to literary merit other than that which attaches to hymns which have a wellattested value as having been the channel through which mortal man has heard the voice of God, or which have enabled him to commune with his Maker. Some day I hope, if I may be spared, to edit a commentary on the Bible on similar principles. Miss Hankey, the author of the very popular “Tell me the Old, Old Story,” while writing with approval of the method of compiling this collection, adds a word of caution: —