1780, A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the People Called Methodists

by Dean McIntyre
A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the People Called Methodists.
London: John Mason, 1780.

Introductory Note

This collection by Wesley, first issued in 1780 with 560 hymns and reissued in 1830 with a supplement containing 209 additional hymns, remained the definitive hymnbook of British Methodists long into the nineteenth century. Its publication came only after forty previous years of John and Charles' hymnal publishing efforts. Wesley claims in his Preface that many are "bewildered in the immense variety" of their previous hymns and hymnbooks and that these individual books are "far too small" to contain the required variety of hymns. The 1780 collection was Wesley's attempt to provide "a collection not too large, that it may be cheap and portable; nor too small, that it may contain a sufficient variety for all ordinary occasions."

Wesley claims that in this collection, English-speaking worshipers have: 1) the fullest "account of scriptural Christianity"; 2) the greatest "declaration of the heights and depths of religion, speculative and practical"; 3) the strongest "cautions against the most plausible errors"; and, 4) the clearest "directions for making your calling and election sure; for perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

Wesley's paragraph six of his Preface, without any gesture of false modesty, lays claim to "the true spirit of poetry, such as cannot be acquired by art and labour, but must be the gift of nature." By possessing such a gift, he places himself on a par with the great English poets of his past, such as Spencer, Shakespeare, and Milton. It is this self-assessment of his and Charles' gifts that leads him on in paragraph seven to plead with other writers and compilers to "let [these verses] stand just as they are" and that no one would "mend either the sense or the verse ... that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men." Wesley's plea is not unlike other hymn writers in later days who found their works altered, arranged, plagiarized, edited, and rewritten by hymnal editors or committees.

Wesley closes his Preface by stating the purpose of the collection: 1) raising or quickening the spirit of devotion; 2) confirming faith; 3) enlivening hope; and, 4) kindling and increasing love to God and humankind. The breadth of organization of the Contents became a hallmark of Methodist hymnals that followed.

Contents of this source reading:

Title Page













12mo. Fine.



1. For many years I have been importuned to publish such a hymn-book as might be generally used in all our congregations throughout Great Britain and Ireland. I have hitherto withstood the importunity, as I believed such a publication was needless, considering the various hymn-books which my brother and I have published within these forty years last past; so that it may be doubted whether any religious community in the world has a greater variety of them.

2. But it has been answered, "Such a publication is highly needful upon this very account; for the greater part of the people, being poor, are not able to purchase so many books; and those that have purchased them are, as it were, bewildered in the immense variety. A proper Collection of Hymns for general use, carefully made out of all these books, is therefore still wanting; and one comprised in so moderate a compass, as to be neither cumbersome nor expensive."

3. It has been replied, "You have such a Collection already, (entitled, 'Hymns and Spiritual Songs,') which I extracted several years ago from a variety of hymn-books." But it is objected, "This is in the other extreme; it is far too small. It does not, it cannot, in so narrow a compass, contain variety enough; not so much as we want, among whom singing makes so considerable a part of the public service. What we want is, a collection not too large, that it may be cheap and portable; nor too small, that it may contain a sufficient variety for all ordinary occasions."

4. Such a Hymn-Book you have now before you. It is not so large as to be either cumbersome or expensive; and it is large enough to contain such a variety of hymns, as will not soon be worn threadbare. It is large enough to contain all the important truths of our most holy religion, whether speculative or practical; yea, to illustrate them all, and to prove them both by Scripture and reason: and this is done in a regular order. The hymns are not carelessly jumbled together, but carefully ranged under proper heads, according to the experience of real Christians. So that this book is, in effect, a little book of experimental and practical divinity.

5. As but a small part of these hymns is of my own composing,* I do not think it inconsistent with modesty to declare, that I am persuaded no such hymn-book as this has yet been published in the English language. In what other publication of the kind have you so distinct and full an account of scriptural Christianity? such a declaration of the heights and depths of religion, speculative and practical? so strong cautions against the most plausible errors; particularly those that are now most prevalent? and so clear directions for making your calling and election sure; for perfecting holiness in the fear of God?

6. May I be permitted to add a few words with regard to the poetry? Then I will speak to those who are judges thereof, with all freedom and unreserve. To these I may say, without offence, 1. In these hymns there is no doggerel; no botches; nothing put in to patch of the rhyme; no feeble expletives. 2. Here is nothing turgid or bombast, on the one hand, or low and creeping, on the other. 3. Here are no cant expressions; no words without meaning. Those who impute this to us know not what they say. We talk common sense, both in prose and verse, and use no word but in a fixed and determinate sense. 4. Here are, allow me to say, both the purity, the strength, and the elegance of the English language; and, at the same time, the utmost simplicity and plainness, suited to every capacity. Lastly, I desire men of taste to judge, (these are the only competent judges,) whether there be not in some of the following hymns the true spirit of poetry, such as cannot be acquired by art and labour, but must be the gift of nature. By labour a man may become a tolerable imitator of Spenser, Shakespeare, or Milton; and may heap together pretty compound epithets, as pale-eyed, meek-eyed, and the like; but unless he be born a poet, he will never attain the genuine spirit of poetry.

7. And here I beg leave to mention a thought which has been long upon my mind, and which I should long ago have inserted in the public papers, had I not been unwilling to stir up a nest of hornets. Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honour to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse. Therefore I beg of them one of these two favours: either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.

8. But to return. That which is of infinitely more moment than the spirit of poetry, is the spirit of piety. And I trust, all persons of real judgment will find this breathing through the whole Collection. It is in this view chiefly, that I would recommend it to every truly pious reader, as a means of raising or quickening the spirit of devotion; of confirming his faith; of enlivening his hope; and of kindling and increasing his love to God and man. When Poetry thus keeps its place, as the handmaid of Piety, it shall attain, not a poor perishable wreath, but a crown that fadeth not away.

*The greater part was composed by the Rev. Charles Wesley.

London, Oct. 20, 1779. JOHN WESLEY.



I. Exhorting Sinners to return to God. 7
II. Describing, 1. The Pleasantness of Religion 17
________ 2. The Goodness of God 27
________ 3. Death 44
________ 4. Judgment 57
________ 5. Heaven 69
________ 6. Hell 81
III. Praying for a Blessing 82
I. Describing Formal Religion. 90
II. ________ Inward Religion 95
I. Praying for Repentance 98
II. For Mourners convinced of Sin 106
III. For Persons convinced of Backsliding 165
IV. For Backsliders recovered 177
I. For Believers Rejoicing 185
II. ________ Fighting 253
III. ________ Praying 283
IV. ________ Watching 294
V. ________ Working 307
VI. ________ Suffering 313
VII. ________ Seeking for full Redemption 322
VIII. ________ Saved 396
IX. ________ Interceding for the World 414
I. For the Society Meeting 447
II. ________ Giving Thanks 455
III. ________ Praying 468
IV. ________ Parting 496
On Divine Worship 505
On the Lord's Supper 509
On the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, &c. 515
Miscellaneous Hymns 517
I. Hymns of Adoration 525
II. On the Incarnation, Sufferings, &c., of Christ 554
III. On the Holy Spirit 593
IV. Penitential Hymns 601
V. The Experience and Privileges of Believers 609
VI. The Kingdom of Christ 626
VII. Time, Death, Judgment, and the Future State 641
VIII. Miscellaneous Hymns 665


The following Supplement is designed to furnish a greater number of hymns suitable for public worship, for festivals, and for occasional services, than are found in that invaluable collection, in common use, which the piety and genius of the Wesleys bequeathed to the societies raised up by their ministry. It is compiled chiefly from the festival and other hymns which Mr. Charles Wesley published in separate pamphlets; and from his unpublished poetry, which, by purchase from his heir, along with other papers, has lately become the property of the Connexion. To these, some hymns have been added from other authors, chiefly from Dr. Watts; and a few which though they sink below the rank of the Wesley poetry, are inserted because of some excellence which will be found in the sentiment, and the greater choice of subjects which they afford. Most of the hymns of this class, however, were inserted in the Morning Hymn-Book, prepared by Mr. Wesley for the London congregations, or in a smaller collection published by him; and so had his sanction. A few others have been introduced because of their popular character, and their being favourites with many of our people. Limited as this Supplement is, it will render our congregations more familiar than they have ever been with some noble hymns of Mr. Charles Wesley, only to be found in collections which are in the hands of comparatively few persons; whilst it brings into use, for the first time, a number of his compositions not inferior to those which he himself published. The Preachers will here find hymns adapted to various subjects on which they address the people; and our fine occasional hymns, which were seldom used, because not in the hands of the congregations generally, will be ready for festival occasions; and will be found in many instances adapted also, at least in some of their stanzas, to general use. As several of the hymns in this collection are selected from the papers of Mr. Charles Wesley above referred to, and have not before been published, a copy-right is established in this Supplement; and all pirated editions are rendered liable to legal process. To guard against such attempts to turn to private profit, what is sacredly applied to the support of the work of God, this collection has been regularly entered at Stationers' Hall.

London, Nov. 9, 1830

Categories: Source Readings, Wesley Music