A Collection of Divine Songs,

BERRIDGE John (1760)


Designed chiefly for the Religious Societies of Churchmen in the Neighbourhood of Everton and Bedfordshire. By John Berridge, M.A, Fellow of Clare Hall, in Cambridge, and Vicar of Everton. 


First & Only Edition. 12mo in 6s. (165 x 100mm). [14 (of 24; without the half-title and with four leaves [A7-11, p. xv-xxii] roughly removed from the Preface by the author)], 376 (of 384; final four text leaves [Kk3-6, p. 377-84] roughly removed by the author) pp. Browned and stained in places, tearing and some creasing to a few leaves (K4 with a closed tear across the centre of the leaf), numerous passages heavily deleted in ink and with many manuscript annotations throughout.  18th-century calf-backed boards, spine ruled in gilt, old red edges (rather worn and bumped at the edges and corners, upper board re-attached, carefully refurbished).


London: [no printer] Printed in the YEAR 1760 [MS note added by the author: "For Mr. Tho. Merrill, Bookseller, in Cambridge"]

Rare. Suppressed, with many copies apparently destroyed, by the author. ESTC records 3 copies at the BL (one with the half-title mutilated, another with "With MS. songs and music at end, utilizing the half-title. MS. index of titles" and another "Imperfect; wanting pp.xxiii-xxiv, 183-190, 373-384") only in the UK; Duke University (imperfect: title-page replaced in MS facsimilie), Emory University (Pitts Theology Library) and Lilly Library Indiana only. Copac adds the Cambridge Theological Federation - Westminster College ("title page wanting; preface compied (?copied) in ms.; pp. 384; MS. notes at end"). The British Library copy reproduced online on Historical Texts has a note on the flyleaf: "This rare volume was burnt by the author whenever he met with it."


Thomas Merrill (d. 1781), whose name has been added to the imprint, was a leading bookseller, in Cambridge, from c. 1747. The firm became Thomas & John Merrill, and after Thomas's death, John & Joseph Merrill.


John Berridge's first collection of hymns - the author's own copy: marked-up, annotated, defaced, mutilated and later suppressed entirely by the author after his own religious revelation. With an additional MS "Evening Hymn" on the rear flyleaf.


John Berridge (1717-1793), a popular "field preacher", was born in Nottinghamshire and later educated at Cambridge where he matriculated on 12 June 1735 from Clare College as a Lord Exeter scholar (1735-9). He graduated BA in 1739 and proceeded MA in 1742. He was elected as an Exeter Fellow of Clare in 1740 and a Diggons Fellow in 1743. He remained at Clare until 1757 - "riding out from college" (ODNB) to undertake his curacy at Stapleford (1750-55). From 1755 he was instituted as vicar at Everton, Bedfordshire (as he states on the the title-page of this book).


In December 1757, "while reading his Bible, Berridge had a vivid experience of spiritual rebirth, which amounted to a classic ‘evangelical’ conversion. The altered emphases of his sermons soon bore fruit locally and by 1759 Berridge was itinerating widely in surrounding villages, preaching effectively to country people in field and barn, regardless of parochial boundaries, and sometimes inducing physical convulsions among his hearers. With Berridge emphasizing justification by faith alone, not only in rural but in university sermons" (ODNB).


A Collection of Divine Sings (1760): 


In the preface, Berridge has removed four leaves of text (p. xv-xxii) which describe his most stringent and personal views around 1760 (the preface is dated from Everton, 12 June 1760). The text missing from this volume begins with Berridge's thoughts on various theological subjects but he begins by discussing the relationship between Minister and congregation:


As an indication of what Berridge found intolerable in his own preface the section of excised text begins (para. 2): "Let me now give you a Word of Advice in Regard to your own Ministers. Behave with all due respect towards them; ... Are your Ministers alarmed and disquieted? Perhaps you have given them some Reason; by going often to hear strange Doctrines."


Berridge continues by discussing his views on Predestination: "When the Lord first opened my Eyes, I was much visited by Predestinarians from far and near. I then took Notice that instead of desiring to join in Prayer, discoursing of the Love of God, or exhorting me to press forward and strive to enter in at the strait Gate, they made an endless clutter about Election and Reprobation; speaking the same Things an hundred Times over: so that after a Conference held with one, I knew what every other Person had to say. ... For my Part, I seek no strange Lord, not Predestination, but Jesus be my God! Thus being weary of disputers, I refused to converse any longer with them". 


Next, Berridge turns his attention to, "some Foreigners, who have entered our Land under the Name of Moravians" warning that "a nest of them is at Bedford." (p. xix). Berridge claims, "It is not only their Practice to ruin Souls, but get Money by Flattery."  Finally, the cautions them, "once more against the Plague of Disputing" and "against reading many Books; which would make you neglect the Bible." (p. xxii).


In the main body of the text Berridge has made significant alterations to the collection of hymns. The first hymn (including an additional line of manuscript text) and hymns 169, 182, 183, 190, 208, 214, 251, 283 have been completely deleted in ink. Of those remaining, two-thirds have at least one (and in many cases more) stanza deleted with many of these having replacement lines of manuscript text provided. Some verses have been boxed (presumably suggesting Berridge's satisfaction with them) a few have basic comments ("a good hymn", "to be sung by himself" etc) and many are marked with a cross in the margin. 


Taken together the manuscript additions and deletions amount to an entirely new version of the text but also provide evidence of Berridge's religious convictions in flux at the time, and after, the publication of this volume. Berridge did not publish another collection of hymns until 1785 when he produced Sion's songs where he remembered in the preface, "having published a collection myself", but feeling, "not wholly satisfied with the collection ... the bells, indeed, had been chiefly cast in a celebrated Foundery, and in ringing were tunable enough, none more so, but a clear gospel tone was not found in them at all."


A Collection of Divine Songs has been largely forgotten. The ODNB entry for Berridge does not mention it at all. It is omitted from the main account of his publications in The Whole Works of the Rev. John Berridge (1864) and appears only as a footnote:


"The Editor of the present Edition would correct this last paragraph by mentioning that, as stated in Mr. Berridge's own preface to his 'Sion's Songs' he had also and previously published a 'Collection of Divine Songs designed chiefly for the religious Societies of Churchmen in the neighbourhood of Everton, Bedfordshire,' 12mo, pp.384 which no doubt contained some originals, especially the two concluding Poems, which, as a sample, are republished in this volume. This Collection, which was published in 1760, is now very scarce, Mr. Berridge, after his change of sentiments, having diligently bought up and destroyed all he could procure. The Editor therefore prizes his copy very much for its extreme scarceness, though he may not for its essential worth..." (xxxiii).


It is clear that the editor of The Whole Works had access to the present copy: "This Evening Hymn is printed from the copy supplied by the Rev. Dr. Whittingham of the original in Mr. Berridge's hand writing, written on the fly-leaf of Dr. Whittingham's copy of Mr. Berridge's "Collection of Divine Songs" and which was previously Mr. Berridge's own copy. It is there said to have been written for Mr. Thomas Merrill, Bookseller, Cambridge" (The Whole Works of the Rev. John Berridge ... with a Memoir of His Life by Rev. Richard Whittingham (London, 1864), p.331. 


"Berridge was one of the more remarkable leaders of the evangelical revival. Not only was he among the most gifted intellectually; he was an effective teacher of the relatively uneducated, to whom he devoted his mature ministry. At the same time he was a friend of such notables as Henry Venn, John Wesley, George Whitefield, John Thornton, Lady Huntingdon, and Charles Simeon. Berridge's sense of humour, which occasionally seemed carried to excess, and his use of homely language, appealed to many hearers, not least to readers of his writings, and those who sang his hymns" (ODNB).


Provenance: John Berridge, signature on the upper pastedown "John Berridge / 1774". Presumably given to Richard Whittingham, who from 1782 was Berridge's curate at Everton. Whittingham died in 1845. Lot 3058 at Toovey's auctioneers March 2021. 


Stock Code: 243258

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