1   Christian hymns and songs are the expression of the hope and spiritual sentiments of the saints formed by their experience in Christ, their knowledge of God and His truth, and their expressions of praise and thanksgiving to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They are necessary both for Christian meetings and the Christian private life in order to fulfill the following purposes:

  1. To worship God the father
  2. To praise the Lord Jesus Christ
  3. To edify the saints
  4. To build up the Church
  5. To fight the spiritual warfare
  6. To preach the Gospel

 2   The Church has been on the earth for nearly twenty centuries. In such an extended period of time, throughout all the centuries, many good hymns and songs have been produced by many saints who have possessed a certain amount of spiritual experiences and knowledge. We follow in their train and are blessed to enjoy all their writings as a rich heritage. In this present compilation, therefore, we have done our best to collect all of their works within the limit of possibility, that all the riches of God's household may be utilized and enjoyed by today's Church. For all these we are grateful to the writers as well as to our Father, the Giver of all gifts.

 3   We have sought to include in the collection all the classical, good, sound, and spiritual hymns and songs, excepting a few which have not been available to us because of unnegotiable copyrights. In so doing, over 700 of the hymns from past centuries were chosen. In addition, we have endeavored to obtain from many spiritual writings, pieces of quality that would be suitable to music and singing as hymns. A considerable number were collected and arranged from these sources, increasing the number to over 800. We are convinced that this compilation contains the cream of all the past centuries of Christian experience and apprehension of truth in hymns and songs.

 4   In selecting the hymns the wording was minutely scrutinized and a good number of alterations were made, except where a copyright has been involved, in order to improve their accuracy in the truth and enrich their spirituality in meaning. In this delicate and difficult work, we have sought, however, to depart from the meaning and words of the original author only where we deemed it necessary.

 5   In the way of the Lord's recovery, the Church's knowledge of the Lord and His truth is progressing daily and new discoveries are continually being made by the saints in the spiritual experiences. Though the hymns and songs composed in the past are many, and not a few are masterpieces, yet they have not attained to the present phase of the Lord's recovery and in many respects are not adequate to meet the advanced need of today. In the past forty years the Lord has strongly recovered the truth and experience of Christ as life and the Church as the expression of Christ, and it is these two matters that the Lord is particularly emphasizing and seeking to recover in a full way among His people today. Accompanying these, some vital aspects of the inner life have also been recovered, such as knowing and discerning the spirit, exercising the spirit, releasing the spirit, etc. Among the hymns and songs of the past it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to find some which can express our feeling, experiences and knowledge in these aspects. The hymns inherited from past centuries for the worship of God the father and for the praise of the Person of the Lord Jesus are also very few in number.

 6   In order to meet the urgent need for adequate hymns in these aspects, we have endeavored to translate some of the hymns produced in the Chinese language in the past forty years and also to compose more new ones to fill the gap and keep our expression in hymns and songs up to date. This has been done, of course, according to what grace and time would permit. The number of our translations is 33, and that of our new compositions is 244, bringing the total number of hymns to 1080. All translations are marked with a dagger (+), and all the new compositions with an asterisk (*) to make a distinction. Including the translations and newly composed hymns, this collection may be considered quite comprehensive, covering most areas of the truth and experience to date.

 7   We have classified all the hymns and songs into thirty main categories, which are arranged according to truth and spiritual experience. All of the categories have been carefully and elaborately subdivided into 400 sub-divisions with suitable headings to facilitate the proper selection of hymns in meetings and other occasions and to aid in the apprehension of the dominant thought of each hymn. These are listed in the Contents and printed at the top of the pages. We have also sought to arrange the hymns within each subdivision into an appropriate order, but it has not always been possible to adhere strictly to such an arrangement.

 8   An index of the first lines of all hymns with the first lines of choruses in alphabetical order is prepared at the rear of the hymnal so that a hymn may be located by recalling either its first line or the first line of its chorus.

 9   We have diligently sought to incorporate in the collection as many good, singable and appropriate tunes as possible. Most of the old familiar tunes are included, many of them being used for the newly composed and translated hymns. There are a good number of tunes which will be new to many, but which we believe, will be appreciated when learned. When it was deemed that the music could be made more singable and harmonious, slight changes in melody, rhythm and harmony have been made.

 10   Much attention has been given to the matching of tunes to the hymns, considering both popularity and suitability. In many cases two tunes are printed with the words, where it is known that both tunes are widely sung to the one hymn, or where the arrangement affords space for a second tune which may be preferred to the first. The compilers recommend that each hymn be sung to the tune, or tunes, indicated. However, below some of the hymns the numbers of alternate tunes are noted which may be better known or preferred. If, for a particular hymn, a tune is desired which is not printed with it nor cross-referred, the metrical index at the rear of the collection may be consulted for all of the melodies available for its meter. A tune may also be located by its title in the alphabetical index of tunes.

 11   We feel that when the lines of every verse are printed with the corresponding lines of music, as they are in most American hymn books, inspiration and meaning are lost by the need for the eye to locate the proper verse among other verses as it goes from line to line and by syllable breakdown and crowding that is unavoidable in such an arrangement. When each verse may be read as a whole without such interruption, there is a continual flow of the meaning of the hymn to the eye and inspiration is facilitated. For this reason the first verse only is printed with the music to indicate how the hymn should be sung and all the remaining verses are printed separately below.

 12   It will be noted that we have deleted the wording commonly used for the alto, tenor and bass voices in many of the hymns. This was done to eliminate the distractions to the meaning and spirit of the hymn caused by singing with the mind unduly set on the music rather than on the words and the spirit.

 13   A word of explanation is due for the omission of the author's and composer's name from the top of each hymn, except where required by copyright. This was done for the following purposes: 1) that each hymn might be as uncluttered as possible from any extraneous material, the hymn's message being set before the reader to impress itself with a minimum of distraction to the eye; 2) that all material might be removed which might incline the reader to give glory to the man instead of the Lord, the true indicter of each hymn. An index of authors, composers and sources, arranged numerically is at the rear of the hymnal for the interest of the reader and for the appropriate credit to be given to the human instrument of words and music. There are a number of authors and sources which we have not been able to trace, but which we will include upon notification in subsequent editions.

 14   We are really thankful to the many who have given us kind permission for the use of their hymns, poems and tunes—some without charge. We have made every effort to contact copyright owners to secure permission for the use of their pieces. If we have inadvertently overlooked any and included them without proper permission or credit, we ask the lenience of the owners. Upon notification we will give due credit in subsequent editions.

 15   All of our translations, marked with a dagger (†), and all of our new compositions, marked with an asterisk (*), are freely available for the use of all the children of God. In order to avoid confusion, however, we would ask that the Living Stream be consulted before they are reprinted.

 16   We must express here our deep thanks to the many brothers and sisters who have rendered precious help in so much of the collecting, selecting, translating, word-improving, music-adjusting, hand-copying, typewriting, photographing, proof-reading and printing work. This hymnbook has truly been completed in coordination according to the principle of the Body. May all the glory be unto the Head, God's glorious Christ!

 17   The book has been prepared to meet the needs of all kinds of Christian gatherings, excepting, perhaps, children's meetings (for which we believe the saints can better prepare extra material according to the particular needs), and also for use in the home and in the saint's private fellowship with the Lord. We would like to emphasize this latter use, since it can be a source of much blessing to the individual and satisfaction to the Lord, and because it is an exercise that is sorely missed and neglected. We would earnestly encourage all those who possess a copy of this book to use it together with their Bible in times of fellowship with the Lord. When we have fed upon the Lord in His Word, it is well to express our experience of Him, or our praise to Him, in the words of a suitable hymn, singing it not so much musically as spiritually.

 18   We would also encourage the saints to take time to learn new hymns and tunes. It is most rewarding. By increasing our familiarity with worthy hymns, our resource of expression is increased, and our meetings and personal fellowship are enriched.

 19   We worship Him for His wonderful ways and thank Him for His mercy and grace that this work might be accomplished in this needful hour. We faithfully offer it to His blessing hand, earnestly expecting with much prayer, that He will use this little work to bless His saints and His churches for the expediting of the way of His recovery and the hastening of the coming of the day of glory.

The compilers and composers—
Witness Lee and the editorial section

Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
July, 1966