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Cordial acknowledgment is tendered the editors of "The Chicago Tribune" for permission to publish in permanent form this collection, which appeared first in that journal.
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.
EW things in literature exert a greater power over us than good hymns; they are to be counted as amongst the most potent
factors in religious nurture. They are to very large numbers of people all that the Hebrew Psalms were to a smaller number. Religious truth, which in the form of syllogism or sermon would have failed to find welcome in the mind, has entered freely and been fully apprehended when presented in the form of the sentiment of hymns and on the wings of their metres. Many a heart, in the trying hour of fear or doubt, has suddenly discovered light on the way,-light radiating from some line or stanza of a hymn that had long lain in memory. The hymns of the English-speaking people have done more to mould their characters than all the sermons spoken or written.
Did you ever find yourself repeating over and over a sentence from a book or a sermon, find such a sentence gradually working forward, as it were, from the margin of consciousness to the
focus of attention? Not often. Yet how frequently have lines and stanzas of hymns thus stolen in on our field of thought, the same truth coming again and again in this manner and every time deepening its impression, its power over the mind and will, and increasing the facility of its
Teachers of men, especially the teachers of the young, fully appreciate the importance of storing the mind with reserves of strength and soul nourishment, with aspirations that lift up the eyes of the heart and ideals that lead. In seeking these sources of soul strength the questions must often occur, First, where may one find them in their noblest and richest form? and, Second, in what form will they find readiest admission to the mind and exert the largest and most lasting influence? There will be no hesitancy in answering the first by saying that nowhere are there greater riches of the life in the form of literature than in the Bible; the second question finds answer, both in reason and experience, that the splendid literary riches of the Bible set into the form of our great hymns then find their easiest vehicle into the mind and have their greatest potency. Our hymns are but the old songs of the Hebrew, the aspirations, visions, passions, and inspirations of the great religious teachers resung, set again into the forms to which we are accustomed. Religious truth in the form of hymns is so highly valuable because the hymns are easily learned; they are associated usually with inspiring tunes, with melodies often
that sing them back again and again to the mind, and because thus storing themselves in memory's treasury they come out automatically, perhaps, in some hour when the soul is feeling its spiritual poverty, a rich asset, to remind the soul of its yet greater unseen resources.
We do well then, seeing the power of these hymns, to exercise no little care in the selection of those with which children and youth shall become familiar. This is that which has been in mind in the selection of these "Hymns You Ought to Know," the bringing together of at least one hundred of those hymns which may be counted of greatest worth and force on account of their power for spiritual nurture, for character determination. There must be always wide difference of opinion as to what are the very best hymns. But there is certainly one safe test, viz., what hymns have, through a course of at least some time, shown themselves to be best capable of expressing the ideals and worship of the people, stirring their emotions and aspirations and strengthening their inner lives. The song which leaps into popularity and sweeps, whirlwind like, over the country may meet none of these requirements. But the song that the people sing year after year, that they sing in the hour of trial, in the quietude of evening, by the hearthside, in the cathedral—the song that is sung because it satisfies, strengthens, inspires, this is the one that all our people need to know.
These, we are told, are the days when mate
rialism is eating the heart out of men, when the family altar stands neglected or overthrown in the rush for the office, when the eye ceases to look up. The outlook is not so dark as some who hide their faces would have us believe; but it is a day when, by every power at our command, we need to bring the hearts of men back to things that are eternal; back from their dust and toys to the deep things, the infinite and only satisfying. Into our fevered lives there needs to come often the voices of calm, the songs of the spirit; into our hearts we need to admit all we may find that will serve to remind us that the things seen are passing, the things unseen abiding, to bring us the strength to meet each day's strain. What, in this, can help more, leaving out of estimate the sources of our religious literature, than a collection of the very best types of that form of religious literature which enters the mind most easily, stays longest, speaks clearest, and with largest character potency?
HENRY F. COPE.