Most Christians appreciate singing contemporary praise songs in a corporate setting, but in neglecting historic hymns, many times critical teaching and admonishment is missing.
Many hymns clearly express a deep knowledge of God and define in rich doctrinal detail the person of who it is we worship. Much of the content is still so relevant today that even if you have bad memories of stodgy, monotone singing and dissonant organ notes from your past, there is enough treasure in the material to merit carrying it into this century. By simply contemporizing the styles or adding an occasional hymn to your list of more modern praise songs, new life can emerge from these gems of yesterday.
Many of you enjoyed the previous post: Top 10 Most Popular Hymns of All Time and Their History, which was not meant to be directive but merely informative. So too, this list is just a reminder of the type of hymns that can be used. If you don’t like hymns (no way, no how) that’s okay. For those of you who do appreciate them, here are three more hymns that stand the test of time. The list is not exhaustive and undoubtedly, some will lament that their favorite hymn was excluded, but here goes…
1. My Jesus I Love Thee
This sweet hymn of gratitude started out as a poem written by William Ralph Featherston (circa1864). We can only speculate as to the details of his life since not much has been written about him. We do know he attended a Methodist Church in Montreal, Canada and that he wrote these heart-felt words as a love letter to God shortly after his conversion (somewhere between 12 and16 years of age). He included this poem in a letter to his Aunt in Los Angeles, which she later had published.
Young William must have had a relationship with God beyond his years to have such sweet insight into the matchless love of Christ. The following stanzas were realized at his untimely death at the age of 27:
“I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”
Several years after Featherston had passed away, Adoniram Judson Gordon, a Baptist minister, composed the tune that completes this sweet song as one of the most dearly loved hymns. “My Jesus I Love Thee” has been included in nearly every evangelical hymnal published from 1876 to the present.
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2. It is Well with My Soul
It is hard to fathom how Horatio G. Spafford was able to write the faith-filled words of the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” after experiencing such profound sorrow and grief. It is further astounding that he penned the lyrics while sailing over the very spot where his four precious daughters were lost at sea. It might be understandable to write such magnificent poetry in times of great blessing; but it was after many trials that he was moved to write the stirring words of this hymn. It is immensely humbling to hear his response. “…though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul. It is well…”
3. Before The Throne
This hymn, written by Charitie L. Bancroft in 1863, had faded into obscurity until song writer and vocalist Vikki Cook took the hymn and set the words to an entirely new melody in 1997.
“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see HIM there who made an end to all my sin.”
This is a perfect example of the depth of riches that can be mined in an old hymn. Cook’s original tune reignited the flame behind this amazing composition and made it accessible to a whole new generation of believers. This hymn has spread like wild fire around the globe and encouraged Christians that we have a Great High Priest, whose name is Love and He has taken our place.
“Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God”
Hymns have a unique way of expressing the richness of biblical theology, lacking in some contemporary songs. Hymns tell a story and walk us through the Gospel. They can lay the foundation of what we know about God and serve as a launch pad for praising Him. Many are not only still applicable and relevant, but they are also teaming with life and give freedom to express old words with new passion.