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TO the account, given by the Author, in the following Preface, of the occafion and defign of thefe Scripture Songs, it may not be improper to acquaint the Reader with the manner of their first publication, and the reafon of their prefent arraignment.
As to the manner in which thefe Songs were emitted into the world, it was at first in four different tracts. The Paraphrafe on the Lamentations of Jeremiah was first published as a fpecimen of the whole, with an intimation to any, who had a mind, to offer their remarks thereupon. We never heard of any obfervations made to the Author upon it; and we are quite certain he himself made no alterations upon it after the firft publication. The kindly reception it met with, encouraged him to proceed; and the public was next favoured with A New Verfion of the Song of Solomon, published along with his large Explicatory Poem on that book. Some time after this he published what was intitled, Job's Hymns; or, his Poems on several felect paffages of that book. Then we were favoured with the rest of the Scripture Songs, in three parts. All these were carefully revised and prepared for the prefs by the Author himfelf, except a few Poems which compofed what was called the third part of the Scripture Songs, which were not extracted from his fhorthand characters before his death; but these were carefully revised and compared with the original by his fon, the Rev. Mr. Henry Erfkine of Falkirk.
We are next to affign the reafon of their prefent arraignment. Though thefe Poems were published at first in fundry separate tracts, and at different times, yet it is certain they were defigned to compofe one intire work. As we have now the whole before us, it was judged proper to arraign them in fuch a manner as to compofe one completo Collection of Scripture Songs. To effectuate this defign, they are divided into two books: the first book contains Old Tefiament Songs, in fix parts; the other confifts of New Tefilament Songs, in three parts. All thofe are placed in the regular order, in which they ly in the fcripture.
It is probable, had our Author lived fome time longer, he would have enriched this collection with feveral other Poems, upon other parallel and celebrated paflages of fcripture; for it appears he was going on with the work when providence put a period to his natural life, and tranflated him to fing the fong of Mofes and the Lamb, in the church triumphant above.
AND DESIGN OF THE
HE work of turning all the reft of the Scripture Songs into metre, as the Pfalms of David are, and for the fame public ufe, was propofed by the church of Scotland, more than an hundred years ago, and that in one of the moft noted periods of her reformation; particuarly by an act of the General Affembly, August 28th, 1647.This affair having never yet been accomplithed to general fatisfaction, though fome effays were made towards it, it was recommended to me, however fenfible of my own unfitness for it, to try my hand upon this work. The first public recommendation was by the Affociate Synod, Anno 1747. and though I began it, by turning fome of these Songs into metre, the best way I could, fuch as the fong of Moses, Exod xv. and Deut. xxxii. the Song of Deborah and Barak, Judges v. and feveral others; yet, I may fay, Satan hindered me in my progrefs therein, and flood at my right hand to refift me, by cafting temptations in my way and the holy providence of God feemed, from time to time, in vacant hours, to be putting other neceffary work in my hand; which yet, I hope, (with means that others alfo have ufed) has had its own ufefulness, for fencing and fortifying a number of the Lord's people against the terrible temptations, into which too many have been fo much infnared, as that, under the mafk of zeal for a new religion and profeffion, they cannot tell what, Satan has got his circle drawn about them, to hedge them in from coming to feed in these green pastures, wherein they have been formerly nourished: and in which firait and finful inclosure they will, in all appearance, be detained, till God himfeif break the fnare, and loofe the prifoners; and till "The captives of the mighty be taken away, and the prey of the terrible be delivered," Ifaiah xlix. 24, 25. †
But as I have again got a little leifure, amidst the intervals of my ether minifterial work, to go on in the profecution of what has been fo often recommended to me; fo I have yielded to the publication
This recommendation of the Affembly was given to Mr. Zacharias Boyd. He complied with the recommendation; for we find the Affembly 1648. ap. pointing two of their number to revife his labours: but they were never publickly approven of.-About forty years after this there was another attempt to have this design accomplished; and to we find a vertion of the Scripture Songs published, Anno 1686. Supposed to be written by one Mr. Simpfon: but these did not yield public fatisfaction neither. This affair was again propofed by fome latter Affemblies; and fome of the fcripture fongs underwent a revifing: but none of them have as yet obtained the public fanction of the church.
The interruption that our Author met with in this affair, and the other neceffary work that was called for at his hand, has a refpect to the unhappy conteft about the lawfulnefs of the Religious Claufe of fome Burgess Oaths, and the writings he published on that fubject.
of this small part of the work in the mean-time; because this being one of the intire books of fcripture by itself, and having just now made this effay upon it: the judgment of the judicious about this being once given, and remarks offered by thofe that pleafe upon it, there may be the lefs ado, if providence bring forward all the reft, to be subjected alfo to the trial of those who have parts as well as piety. And, no doubt, but the reft, if the Lord will, may be forwarded with the more pleasure, if this, as a fpecimen, fhall be acceptable.
In cafe this paraphrafe (viz. on the Lamentations.) or any other part of the Scripture Songs, intended to be published, fhould come to have another edition, thefe who incline, and have skill and judgment, are hereby allowed and defired to fend, by letters, their observations to the author, if they find any real improprieties or failures, either in the frame of the poefy, or fitness of the paraphrafe; especially the latter of thefe, for he does not pretend to a genius fitted to act the fublime poet; and it may, perhaps, be no difadvantage, in compofures of this kind, defigned for general ufe, that the middle path be kept between the too flat and too foaring ftrain. But he will reckon himself much obliged to any fkilled hands, that shall not only observe what they think needs to be amended, but alfo fet down their own effays for correcting thereof; and, according to the gravity, merit and importance of the obfervations and amendments, fo fhall he endeavour to give those that make them all the fatisfaction he can in the next edition. And that any who please, may the more eafily compare the Text and the Pharaphrafe, he has caufed print them both together †. Where the decent frame of the metre allows not any feeming agreement with the words of the text, the learned reader is to judge especially of its agreement with the feope and intent thereof: and in this I have not neglected to confult commentators; only in places where they were of different minds, I was obliged to make a choice of what I thought beft, and most confonant with the context. And when the marginal readings, or the original Hebrew text yielded any affiftance, they were not neglected..
I have not, in all and every one of the Scripture Songs, ftudied rhyme in the first and third line of every ftanza; though, in the most part of them, it is carefully observed.--That all may be bleffed of God, for the edification of his church and people, is the earnest defire of their fervant, and yours in Chrift,
*The small part of the work, here alluded to by the Author, is his Paraphrafe on the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which he first published by itself, as a fpecimen of the whole, (with the fcriptures annexed on the margin at full length, and the marginal readings at the foot of the page, that the reader might easily compare the vertion with the original text,) and to which this account of the occafion and defign of his writing thefe SCRIPTURE SONGS was first prefixed; but as it refpects them all, it is now made to front the whole.
This was done in the fit edition of the Paraphrafe on the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which was defigned as a specimen.
OLD TESTAMENT SONGS; or, Songs upon feveral
POEMS felected from feveral Pallages of Scripture in the Historical Parts of the Old Testament, viz. from the Book of Genefis to Job.
It is generally agreed, among the learned and inquifitive, that writings. in poetry have been the first that were used in the world; that they have been co-equal with, if not even prior to the invention or usage of letters: nay, that in feveral nations poetical compofitions actually preceded the very invention or ufage of letters. And in fuch veneration was this way of writing held among the antients, that their poets were called vates, Prophets; and their mufes were deified. But, which is still more certain and confiderable, the most antient compofition that we meet with in the facred volume itfelf, is the Song of Mofes at the Red Sea, recorded, Exod. xv. 1,-22. * which we find before the very first mention of writing; for that occurs not till Exod. xvii. 14. when the Lord injoins Mofes to write a memorial of the war with Amalek,
Many facred Songs are to be met with in the Old Teftament, scattered both in the hiftorical and prophetical books, penned upon particular and remarkable occafions; which, in the opinion of very competent judges, have in them as true and noble strains of poetry and picture, as are to be met with in any other language what foever, in spite of all the difadvantage from tranflation into fo different tongues, and common profe; nay, are nobler examples of the true fublime ftile of poetry than any can be found in the Pagan writers: the images are fo ftrong, lively, and proper; the thoughts fo grand, elevated, and profound; the expreffions fo lofty, magnificent, and divine; and the figures fo admirable, bold, and moving, that the wonderful manner of these writings is quite inimitable.
Some other very important and highly interefting paffages of fcripture, very appofite for the matter of a fong, are alfo here verfified, though not fo in the original. And although the hiftorical parts of Scripture afford us the smallest number either of thefe, or poetical paffages, yet the following Songs are selected therefrom.
This Song is the most antient and most fublime piece of poetry in the world: the images are noble and lively; the arraignment of its ideas is proper and beautiful; the ftile, lofty and magnificent; and the ftrain of piety, which breathes through the whole, is evangelical.
The firft Six Days Work; or, the first Chapter of
THE first day at Jehovah's word,
The next, a firmament fo wide,
That might the waters courfe divide,
The third, fevering land from feas,
Set up to rule the day and night,
The fifth, made finny tribes to move,
The fixth, all earthly beafts did bring,
His Maker great preferr'd.
On man he did his image draw;
When God review'd his works, and faw
That all was very good.
[But foon as man, by fin's inrode,
Was ftain'd, the change was fad!
Of all the fix days work of God,
The Reader, if he pleases, may fee this tranfaction in another kind of poefy, p. 250. 251.