Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Christ Redeemed, in Christ Restored

Praise for the Lord #86

Words: George Rawson, 1858
Music: Arthur H.D. Troyte, 1860

In a reversal of our oft-told tale of the man who left the practice of law for a career in church music, George Rawson (1807-1889) was a lawyer who took a significant interest in hymn-writing and the editing of hymnals. In the year 1858 he was assisting with the editing of two different hymnals, the Leeds Hymn Book for his own Congregational brethren, and the Psalms and Hymns for the local Baptists. Julian says of his work that, "His hymns are distinguished by refinement of thought, and delicacy and propriety of language; and if they do not attain the first rank among the songs of the Christian Church, many are of great excellence."(Julian, 951) This is certainly true of "By Christ redeemed;" it is not perhaps the first communion hymn one thinks of, but when it is brought to our attention it is hard to say why any other communion hymn is any better. Sometimes less is more, and Rawson's restrained, thoughtful wording combines wonderfully with Troyte's chant.

This hymn was first published in the English Baptist hymnal Psalms and Hymns (1858). Julian says of this text, "It is a hymn of more than usual excellence, and has attained to a greater position in modern hymnals than any other of the author's numerous compositions."(Julian, 198) It originally had six stanzas, but has been altered many times and by many hands. Rawson revised it himself for publication in his own hymnal of 1876.(Julian, 198)

"By Christ redeemed" was introduced to the Churches of Christ in the U.S., as were so many other great hymns, by Elmer Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church. Wayne Walker identifies its first appearance in the 1922 supplement to that hymnal.(Walker) This version has the first four stanzas of Rawson's original six, with alterations to the 3rd stanza, 1st line ("unknown agony" instead of "drops of agony") and the 4th stanza, 3rd line ("bright chain" instead of "blest chain"). These changes seem to occur only in context of hymnals of the Churches of Christ. This version was also printed in traditional chant notation (see "About the music," below).

From there it was next picked up by the Gospel Advocate's Christian Hymns of 1935. But in Christian Hymns no. 2 (1948), the second and third stanzas are condensed into one, and the music is written out in standard rhythmic notation. I agree with Wayne Walker that this must have been done by Lloyd O. Sanderson, who was a junior partner on the 1935 hymnal but was sole editor in 1948.(Walker) This version was used in Christian Hymns III (1966), and was picked up in Ellis Crum's Sacred Selections (1956) and by the Howard Publishing hymnals Songs of the Church (1971) and Songs of Faith and Praise (1994). These hymnals have been hugely influential throughout the southern U.S., and many of my brethren might be surprised to encounter the other version of this hymn. Other hymnals among the Churches of Christ continued to use the four-stanza version in chant notation, however, including Majestic Hymnal (Firm Foundation, 1959), Christian Hymnal (Nelson Slater & William Banowsky, 1963), and Great Christian Hymnal no. 2 (Tillit S. Teddlie, 1965). The text alterations in these two different versions are addressed below.

Stanza 1:
By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the memory adored,
And show the death of our dear Lord,
Until He come!

The first line of this stanza contains two powerful words (after the obviously most powerful Word!), "redeemed" and "restored." In looking for possible Scripture inspirations behind hymn lyrics, I usually search for instances of key words, and though these may not be what the author had in mind, they are worth considering.
You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.(Exodus 15:13)

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.(Deuteronomy 15:15)
The passage from Exodus uses the Hebrew word ga'al, which is used in speaking of the legal transaction of redemption, as in buying back a field, or a slave, and also for the act of the kinsman-redeemer who married a relative's widow in order to keep the family name and land from being lost.(Blue Letter Bible, "Strong's 1350") The Deuteronomy passage uses the Hebrew padah, which derives from the idea of "cutting loose," releasing someone from bonds or danger. By extension, then, it applied to redeeming a captive from slavery.(Blue Letter Bible, "Strong's 6299)

The former word is used in a more poetic sense by Isaiah to speak of God's spiritual redemption of Israel: "I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you."(Isaiah 44:22) Though ga'al did not of itself necessarily imply any fault on the part of the redeemed (as in the case of Ruth), here it is used to illustrate the helplessness of the sinner. The field was powerless as to its ownership, and under the legal code of the day a woman and a slave were just about as powerless as inanimate property to determine their own fates. In the same way, we are powerless to free ourselves from sin, apart from the grace of God.

The New Testament speaks of Jesus in just the same fashion:
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.(Galatians 4:3-5)
But Jesus came to do more than free us from captivity to sin and Satan; He came to make us into something entirely different. There was a purity and wholeness lost when we sinned, that Jesus came to restore. Even in His miracles of a purely physical nature, there is an underlying theme of this restoration:
Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.(Matthew 12:13)

Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.(Mark 8:25)
The restoration of our souls to a right relationship with God is a far greater miracle. Like the man with the withered hand, our souls were withered and twisted, but Jesus restored them to what He intended them to be; like the man cured of blindness, we were "darkened in our understanding, alienated from the life of God," but now are "renewed in the spirit of our minds."(Ephesians 4:18,23)

The Sanderson three-stanza revision reads "We keep the supper of the Word" in the second line. I cannot imagine any objection to "memory adored," which obviously refers to Christ's command in Luke 22:19 (cf. 1 Cor. 11:24), "do this in remembrance of Me." The third line comes from a later verse in the 1 Corinthians passage, which is almost certainly the inspiration for the fourth line as well: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."(1 Corinthians 11:26)

The Greek term for "proclaim" is more commonly rendered "preach" in other New Testament passages, as in the very public announcement of the gospel by the Apostles in the book of Acts.(Blue Letter Bible, "Strong's G2605") We think primarily of "receiving" communion, and rightly so, for it is the symbol of God's greatest gift; yet in this supper we also "proclaim" our belief in Christ, our faith in His saving work, and our ongoing communion with Him.

"Until He come" is a phrase so time-honored in our church language that it is easy to overlook its peculiarity. Shouldn't that be "until He comes?" When we look at various English translations, it is often rendered that way (NKJV, ESV, NIV). The phrase "until He come" is in the subjunctive mood, implying a degree of uncertainty, but this needs careful examination. Our modern use of the subjunctive is almost exclusively for expressing doubt about the action involved, e.g. "if I were" instead of "I was." In the older English of the King James Version, however (and still in some poetic uses today), the use of a subjunctive "until He come" could mean an uncertainty only in the amount of time implied in "until."

An almost identical English usage that has come down to us from the same era is, "Until death do us part." There is no implication that the parting is in doubt, but only of the time that will elapse in the "until." In the same fashion, when we sing, "until He come," we are acknowledging that the time may be long or short, and we are committing ourselves to continue this weekly remembrance of Him until that time should arrive.

Stanza 2:
His body, given in our stead,
Is seen in this memorial bread;
And so our feeble love is fed,
Until He come!

Christ's simple statement at the Last Supper, "Take, eat, this is My body,"(Matthew 26:26) had a history. He had used such language before, in a teaching moment that shocked and amazed both friend and foe:
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me."(John 6:52-57)
Here, perhaps, is the root of the wild charges of cannibalism that dogged the early Christians. It is shocking even to our jaded age, and certainly scandalized Christ's Jewish audience, whose law strictly forbade such actions. But Jesus shocked in order to provoke thought.

Essential to our forgiveness is the atoning sacrifice of Christ's perfect life: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness."(1 Peter 2:24) Our only access to grace, therefore, is through that body and blood; and "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?"(1 Corinthians 10:16) But there is another and perhaps more basic symbolism here as well. In John 6:56 Jesus says that the purpose of consuming His flesh and blood is that He may abide in us. He could use no more vivid picture to show this. We need to get Him inside us, to let His image grow within our hearts.

Finally, we need to be reminded of this often, to have our "feeble love" increased by receiving the emblems of His body and blood, remembering our helpless spiritual state without Him. Without this remembrance, we too easily lose touch with this reality. Paul said that even those who partake, yet do so without thinking, are not receiving the blessing God would give them: "That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have fallen asleep."(1 Corinthians 11:30)

Stanza 3:
His fearful unknown agony,
His life-blood shed for us we see;
The wine shall tell the mystery,
Until He come!

The original first line reads "fearful drops of agony," and I suppose the alteration came from Jorgenson, since I have not found it outside of hymnals used in the American Churches of Christ. Rawson seems to refer to the Lord's agony in Gethsemane, when "His sweat became like great drops of blood."(Luke 22:44) There has been much discussion of whether the sweat was only like drops of blood, or was actually bloody. If the latter, then Gethsemane was the beginning of the shedding of Christ's blood for us; but the point is not certain, and Jorgenson may have decided to avoid it through a more neutral wording.

Certainly the agony in Gethsemane is a part of all those events that we contemplate when we think of the sacrifice of Jesus. "Unknown agony" is singularly appropriate, for just as Jesus lived a perfect life, He died a perfect death. "Perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die," says Romans 5:7, but even that most noble of human acts is colored by several facts of our humanity. "It is appointed to man once to die,"(Hebrews 9:27) and though we instinctively put that appointment off as long as possible, when making that mental transaction of sacrificing one's life for another, it is after all an exchange of one date for another.

Simply put, the hero knows that he or she will not live forever; but Jesus had the option not to place Himself under that fate. And even the heroes among us are tainted with sin; the best of them, in fact, are the first to admit their faults. They are likely to say that it might as well be them rather than the other fellow. When Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine in place of another man in A Tale of Two Cities, we know that Darnay is after all the better man and deserves to live, and that this is Carton's attempt to atone for a wasted life. But Jesus alone of humanity could truly say that He did not deserve to die, and that He was morally pure when those for whom He sacrificed Himself were not.

I have wondered, as perhaps you have, whether Jesus could have made any other choice. That is, did He have the ability to reject the plan and refuse to be the sacrifice for our sins? I think the answer must be in the affirmative. What else could He have meant when He told Peter during His arrest, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?"(Matthew 26:53-54) Jesus addressed this question more directly in John 10:17-18,
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father."
What would have happened if He refused? What would it have meant for the nature of the Trinity? It is a subject that bumps against the outer limits of our ability to comprehend, because it touches on the infinite nature of God; but one question is not in doubt. We would have been eternally lost.

There are two senses of "mystery," then, that the supper reveals. One is the more common sense of "mystery" as used in the New Testament: as Thayer put it, "the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly."(Blue Letter Bible, "Strong's G3466") This mystery is one we can understand--that the body and blood are represented in these elements, giving us forgiveness and life. But there is the other sense of mystery as well, as we attempt to picture the magnitude of what Christ did, how He must have felt, and what it means.

Those familiar with the Sanderson revision of this hymn have no doubt recognized that he rewrote parts of the second and third stanzas of Rawson's original into the following:

His body, given in our stead
Is seen in this memorial bread;
And as we drink we see the blood,
Until He come.

It is adequate, but loses some of the richness of the original. The obvious impulse for this change would seem to be the reference to wine in the original; the Churches of Christ in the U.S., like many other conservative Christian groups in this country, use grape juice instead of fermented wine in the communion. If we understand "wine" here in a very generic sense (as it was actually used in the Greek of the New Testament), I see no problem with the original wording. For more on this question of communion wine, I recommend Wayne Jackson's very sensible article in the Christian Courier:

Stanza 4:
And thus that dark betrayal night
With the last advent we unite,
By one bright chain of loving rite,
Until He come!

This is one of the simplest, best constructed, and most moving hymn stanzas to be found in any communion hymn. It is an excellent reminder of the value of reading hymns carefully; the best of them have nuggets of truth that are well worth our study. The first three stanzas have reenacted the Lord's Supper, with reference back to His suffering and the promise to remember it "Until He come." Now the two ideas are tied together in a final statement of our commitment.

Jesus instituted the communion on "that dark betrayal night," and there gave us our standing orders thus to remember His sacrifice. Faithful Christians have continued to honor and obey Him from that time forward, and will until He comes again--His "last advent." Though persecution and apostasy thin the ranks of the faithful from age to age, somewhere, we trust, there have been faithful Christians fulfilling His command. From week to week, around the world, we know there are faithful Christians still doing so. By faith we look forward and see that others will "enter into our labors" and continue to honor Him in this supper, "Until He come." This is the "bright chain of loving rite," shared by brothers and sisters in Christ of all races, nations, and generations.

This stanza brings the hymn to a fitting end, but it originally served as a transition to two further stanzas:

Until the trump of God be heard,
Until the ancient graves be stirred,
And, with the great commanding word,
The Lord shall come.

O blessed hope! with this elate
Let not our hearts be desolate,
But, strong in faith, in patience wait
Until He come.

The fifth stanza calls forth the dramatic images of the last trumpet and the resurrection: "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."(1 Corinthians 15:52) It is a fine, powerful stanza, but almost seems to be starting another hymn (a hymn that I wish Rawson had written). The real weakness here, however, is the sixth stanza, though it is not really Rawson's fault. I believe "elate" is used here in its adjectival sense "of high spirits, exultant,"(Oxford Universal Dictionary) modifying "hearts" in the next line. This is an unusual usage today, however, and sounds awkward (though fans of Jane Eyre may recognize the line, "First, I smiled to myself and felt elate . . ."). Many hymnals reduce the hymn to just the first four stanzas, and the strength of the fourth stanza gives it a fine ending.

About the music:

Arthur Henry Dyke (Acland) Troyte (1811-1857) came from the noble Acland family of Devon, though he adopted the surname Troyte in 1852 through a peculiar requirement of an inheritance arrangement.(Acland, 193). He was a Renaissance man of the first order who pursued scientific and artistic endeavors with an almost manic intensity; but he was also noted for his ability to see how each of these things ultimately related to our Creator. In a set of tide tables, for example, he reminded the reader that although science made it possible to predict such things as tides, we should remember the uncertainty of life and commit ourselves to God's protection before starting a voyage.(Acland, 5) He never took a formal religious office, but was as ardent a worker for his church as any could ask.

It is ironically appropriate, then, that he is more universally remembered for something so slight as this chant formula. His son said of this,
Nothing pleased Arthur Acland more than to be able to devote to the good of the Church any one of his many remarkable talents, and perhaps the one product of his active brain which is most widely known is a simple piece of Church music of only a few bars' length. It would be no exaggeration to say that wherever English-speaking people meet together and sing English hymns, " Troyte's Chant," as it is called, is frequently used and appreciated. . . As a musical composition this might be considered an almost trivial contribution to the boundless store of sacred music, but it serves as an illustration of the fact that even a little matter may attain popularity if well adapted to its purpose.
(Acland, 71) It was composed in 1848, along with several others, for the Salisbury Hymn Book.

"Chant" (also called "plainchant" or "plainsong") might be defined as singing with defined pitches, yet without defined rhythm. But within this style of music there are also two broad categories to consider: there are chants that are melodically elaborate, sometimes with many notes to a syllable of text, and there are chants that repeat the same note of melody for several syllables of text without moving. The historic Gregorian chant of Medieval Europe contained both styles, though the latter type was used only for reciting prayers and scriptures; most of the Gregorian chants one hears in recordings are of the more elaborate first type, unless it is a recording of an entire mass including all the spoken and recited elements.

This latter category of chant is, however, much older, having its roots at least partially in the ancient Jewish tradition of reciting Scriptures and prayers to simple musical formulas. It seems likely that much the music of the early Christian church was of this sort as well. It has been a part of most Christian musical traditions throughout the centuries, though at times it has been out of favor in the Protestant world as being "too ritualistic" (or "too Catholic," if they were honest about it). But though chanting has seen its ups and downs, congregational chants such as Troyte's chants have remained, at least around the fringes, in most of the English-speaking Christian world.

The common elements of this form of chant, from ancient times to the present, are these:
  • A short introductory melodic formula (sometimes omitted).
  • The "recitation note" on which the majority of the text is sung, using the natural rhythms of speech.
  • The "mediation," a short melodic formula that varies from the recitation note, accentuating the punctuation of the text.
  • A concluding melodic formula.
In English chanting there are usually two lines of text per stanza, corresponding to this structure; but sometimes, as in the case of "By Christ redeemed," it is doubled. In this case there are three mediations, one at the end of each line. Also typical of modern English chanting (which took shape during the English Reformation, in the Book of Common Prayer) is the rhythmic notation of the mediations and conclusion, so that the singers transition from singing in speech rhythms to measured notes with a beat. In the style of notation used in many hymnals, the recitation notes are written as whole notes with double braces, and the measured portions are written in standard notation, set off by bar lines. There is an excellent introduction to the practice of congregational chanting at:

Chant has not held a large place in the singing of the American Churches of Christ, but it is not unknown. A mainstream Restoration Movement hymnal from the late 19th century, Fillmore's New Christian Hymn Book (Cincinatti, 1882), contained a small section of chants, and even one of the early Gospel Advocate hymnals, the New Christian Hymn Book (1907), contained the chant "May the words of my mouth." Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church did much to reintroduce this style in the 1920s, with 17 chants present in the classic "no. 2" edition of the 1930s. Almost all the hymnals of the Churches of Christ in the U.S. include "By Christ redeemed" set to Troyte's chant, and many also have "May the words of my mouth" or William Bradbury's chant setting of "O God our help in ages past." Praise for the Lord, which used Great Songs of the Church as its point of departure, includes several chants.


Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology New York: Scribner, 1892.

Walker, Wayne S. "By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored." Hymn Studies, 2008.

Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, "Strong's 1350."

Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, "Strong's 6299."

Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, "Strong's G2605."

Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, "Strong's G3466."

Oxford Universal Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955.

Acland, John E. A Layman's Life in the Days of the Tractarian Movement :  in Memoriam Arthur (Acland) Troyte. Oxford: James Parker, 1904.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Hymns and Hymn Books" by J. W. McGarvey (I)

In the interest of increasing access to the writings of Restoration Movement leaders on the subject of church music, I recently transcribed J.W. McGarvey's article "Hymns and Hymn Books," and will review it here. It was published in Lard's Quarterly in March of 1864, and is the only work of his I have found so far on the subject of church music other than his well-known writings on the instrumental music question. It was available at one time through the Restoration Texts project at the University of Newfoundland, but the link has been broken for some time. I am pleased to make this available to the public again. The text is located here:

John William McGarvey (1829-1911) was a giant of the American Restoration Movement, and is still a household name within the Churches of Christ and the more conservative of the Christian Churches. He was not the most famous preacher of his day, or the most influential editor of a paper, but instead left behind a mountain of deep, thoughtful, and clearly expressed scholarship. In memory of the centennial of his death, I have also been posting MP3 recordings of some of his works, eventually to include (God willing) his entire book of sermons, at

McGarvey's article did not appear out of the blue; there was a major hymnal revision in the offing, and he was contributing to the discussions that would influence its outcome. Because of the interesting complexity of these events and the men behind them, I will cover the context of his article in one post, and will review his article more closely for content in a later post.

The 1865 Revision of The Christian Hymn Book

There was never an official hymnal for the Restoration Movement, because there was no human authority higher than the local congregation to make such a decision. The Churches of Christ and the conservative Christian Churches still maintain this to be the case, though the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) created a formal denominational organization in the 1960s. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), however, had published the hymnals titled Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs from 1828, and his towering influence as a preacher, educator, and editor made this the de facto hymnal of the American Restoration Movement during his lifetime.(Holloway) Campbell had strong opinions about church music, and had decided by the 1830s that his hymnal needed no changes at all.("Stone-Campbell Movement Hymnals")

But by the time of McGarvey's writing, Campbell's health was failing, and it became apparent that any new revision of the hymnal would have to be carried out by others. In October 1863, Isaac Errett, a co-editor of Campbell's Millennial Harbinger, formed a committee to broach this subject with Campbell. By the fall of 1864, Errett had secured Campbell's permission to go forward. Campbell donated his rights to the hymnal to the American Christian Missionary Society, with all proceeds from sales to support the work of that institution; a hymnal committee would be selected, with his input, at the October convention of the Society.(Errett, "Hymn Book") Thus McGarvey's article, in the spring of 1864, came at a time when change was already afoot and the topic was very much on the minds of his readers.

The impetus for this change was probably twofold. First, the fact that Campbell's hymnal had been in use for over three decades without major revision had given ample opportunity for its faults to be discovered. McGarvey mentions specifically the need for hymns on a greater variety of subjects and the need for revision of the topical arrangement and indexes. But perhaps equally important is the fact that American church music of the 1860s was a different world from that of the 1820s and 1830s, when Campbell's hymnal took shape.

The Campbell hymnal came from a world in which the Midwest was still a frontier and hymnody meant Watts, Wesley, and the rough-and-ready products of the colonial-era singing schools and the camp meetings of the Great Awakening. By the 1860s, however, Lowell Mason's mission to "elevate public taste" in church music was spreading out from Boston, popularizing the classical hymn style of Europe.(Reynolds, 109) A more settled and increasingly urban-industrial Midwest felt this pull. At the same time, the growing Sunday School movement brought its own kind of songs, closely tied to the popular music styles of the day, exemplified in the works of Mason's associate William Bradbury.(Reynolds, 117) These would help give rise to the full-blown gospel style after the Civil War.

Many religious bodies in the United States were going through a similar process of hymnal revision during this same period. The Baptists used a number of different hymnals in the first half of the century, typically adaptations of Watts's hymns expanded by additions of other authors. The Psalmist, published in Boston in 1843 and revised to accommodate Southern tastes in 1850, was a first step in the direction of something different.(Reynolds, 122) This is one of the hymnals to which McGarvey makes comparison. By 1862 the Episcopalians had an American edition of the hugely influential new Anglican book, Hymns Ancient and Modern.(Reynolds, 124) And American Methodists, always in the forefront of hymnody, published no fewer than five major new hymnals between 1829 and 1871.(Reynolds, 125ff.)

The Revision Committee for the 1865 Hymnal

The preface to the 1865 Christian Hymn Book lists a committee consisting of Isaac Errett, William K. Pendleton (1817-1899), William T. Moore, Thomas M. Allen, and Amos Sutton Hayden. This was a prominent group of men:
  • Errett, the leader of the group, would shortly afterward launch his own paper, the Christian Standard. This journal, along with the Standard Publishing Company, remains a leading voice among the conservative Christian Churches.
  • Pendleton was Campbell's son-in-law and right-hand man in both his major enterprises, Bethany College and the journal Millennial Harbinger.(Harp)
  • William T. Moore, a prominent preacher in Cincinnati, was known for his literary bona fides, even dabbling in verse himself.(Pinkerton) Soon after the time of this article, he served alongside McGarvey among the earliest faculty of the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky.("Catalogue," 8)
  • Thomas M. Allen, perhaps the most prominent evangelist in Missouri, presided over the first board of directors of the University of Missouri, as well as the founding board of directors of the Christian Female College (today Columbia College).(Columbia College, 5)
  • Amos Sutton Hayden (1813-1880) was the founding principal of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (today Hiram College), and was a successful hymnal publisher.(Moore, "Hayden") Hayden was the first hymnal publisher in the Restoration Movement to print music along with lyrics, and was especially known for his Sacred Melodeon (1849), which used the relatively new seven-shape notation.("Hymnal Writers") He must have been the de facto "music editor" of the project.

It is uncertain whether McGarvey's article was a bid to be included in this committee or simply an attempt to influence its outcome. Perhaps McGarvey wrote it, considered that he had contributed his bit, and moved on to his next project without a further thought. But the likelihood of his inclusion in the decision-making was colored by his relationships with the men who were eventually selected.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, McGarvey, then in Missouri, like David Lipscomb in Tennessee, took the position that Christians should not participate in armed conflict. As a pacifist who was "against secession, and also against coercion,"(Autobiography, 23) he placed himself in a perilous position in the violently partisan atmosphere of Missouri; this ultimately led both McGarvey and Moses Lard to emigrate to the calmer environs of Kentucky.(Autobiography, 37) McGarvey had appealed to Errett to join him in calling on Christians to eschew participation in the war, but to no avail;(Miles) Errett was a staunch Unionist, and had a brother and a son serving in uniform.(Errett, Memoirs, I:256) In 1863, Errett presided over the meeting at which the American Christian Missionary Society passed a resolution of loyalty to the Union, further separating him from the pacifists.(Errett, Memoirs, I:270ff.)

McGarvey's relationship with Errett was also complicated by the fact that Errett had in 1862 published a pamphlet titled "A Synopsis of the Faith and Practices of the Church of Christ." This was attacked by conservatives as an attempt at writing a creed, drawing the fire in particular of two of McGarvey's close associates, Ben Franklin and Moses Lard.(Miles) This was unfair, considering the document contained the statement that: "This declaration of faith and aims is not to be taken as a creed."(Errett, Memoirs, I:266ff.) McGarvey himself spoke well of Errett in his autobiography,(pp. 108-111) and Errett later gave McGarvey a regular column on Biblical Criticism in the Christian Standard;(McGarvey, Autobiography, 44) but in 1864 Errett's feelings toward McGarvey may have been rather mixed.

McGarvey maintained a deep respect for Pendleton, who was his mentor at Bethany College and had baptized him into Christ.(McGarvey, Autobiography, 9) Likewise he spoke well of fellow Missouri preacher Thomas M. Allen, who along with Alexander Proctor laid hands on McGarvey at his initial commissioning to preach.(McGarvey, Autobiography, 18) McGarvey always appreciated the interest that Allen had taken in his development as a young preacher.(Autobiography, 99ff.)

His relationship with William T. Moore is less clear. Moore once described McGarvey's preaching and writing style as follows: "He has very little imagination, and relies almost exclusively on facts for effect."(Moore, "McGarvey") This may be the most outstanding example of a back-handed compliment I have ever encountered; McGarvey was probably satisfied to be so described, but coming from a 19th-century man of literary pretensions, it is hard to see this as anything but condescension. When Pendleton and Moore later joined forces for the Christian Quarterly, it was a journal that Tucker and McAllister, the Disciples historians, call "scholarly and progressive."(223) Moore was not progressing in directions of which McGarvey would approve; he eventually advocated "open membership" to the unimmersed.(Tucker & McAllister, 377)

I am not aware of the beginning of McGarvey's acquaintance with Amos Hayden, but they were certainly aware of each other by the end of 1864. In November McGarvey published an article in the Millennial Harbinger against the use of instrumental music in worship, closing with an invitation for criticism of his argument. Hayden, who was on record as opposed to the use of instruments in worship, nonetheless took up the challenge and critiqued McGarvey's bases for objection to the practice. The exchange that took place in the pages of the Millennial Harbinger during 1864-1865 was perhaps the earliest such debate on this topic within the Restoration Movement. The full text is available here:

The hymn book committee was apparently selected in October 1864, before this discussion began, but the sharpness of the disagreement--though both men remained within the bounds of courtesy--could not help but have affected Hayden's thinking about McGarvey, at the very time when the hymn book project was just underway.

McGarvey's Influence on the 1865 Christian Hymn Book

If McGarvey was not a part of the inner circle revising the hymnal, then what became of the criticism made in his article? Did he have any impact at all? His suggestions fell under five main points, which are easily compared to the actual outcome.

1. Scripturalness of texts. Though McGarvey highly praised the previous editions of the Campbell hymnal, he objected to the inclusion of the following:
  • The Isaac Watts hymn, "Broad is the road that leads to death," for the stanza that says the backslider "Is but esteemed almost a saint." McGarvey reads this as implying that the Christian who "falls from grace" must never have been a saint to begin with, thus upholding the Calvinist doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. In the 1865 Christian Hymn Book this hymn appears as #283, with no alteration of the offending stanza.
  • Charles Wesley's communion hymn, "Happy the souls to Jesus joined," the second line of which is, "And saved by grace alone," which McGarvey reads as equivalent to "faith only" salvation. In the new hymn book this is #491, with the text altered to, "Happy the souls to Jesus joined, / And made in spirit one." Not exactly the height of English poetry, but they did take his--or someone's--advice. A quick search has not turned up any other examples of this hymn with this alteration.
  • "O turn you! O turn you! For why will you die?" by Josiah Hopkins. McGarvey objects to the lines, "If still you are doubting, make trial and see, / And prove that his mercy is boundless and free." He remarks, "Now this would suit very well as an invitation to the mourning bench, and for some such purpose it was originally composed; but it is most unscriptural to invite a sinner who is "still doubting" to come and make the confession." Despite his objection, the stanza remains unchanged in the new book, where this hymn is #329.

2. On the question of "poetic excellence," McGarvey suggested that of the 568 hymns in the old edition, there were at least 200 that "it could spare without any loss whatever to the people." (Haven't we all felt that way?) He recommended that the existing hymnal be heavily pruned of these, and a careful selection of about the same number of hymns be inserted in their place. He considered the Methodist and Baptist hymnals, with their 1000+ hymns, to have no more hymns of real merit than the much smaller Campbell hymnal, and thought a revision with 550-600 of the best hymns would be desirable.

In the actual event the new hymnal had over 1300 hymns, far larger than McGarvey had proposed. But in one sense his advice was followed almost to the letter--a comparison of the index of the 1865 hymnal to that of the preceding edition (accomplished with the valuable help of my volunteer research staff, Amelia and William) shows that exactly 200 titles from the earlier edition were dropped in the 1865 book! (In the interest of accuracy, it is probable that we missed a few, given the peculiarities of alphabetization in the two indexes and the fact that the same hymn might appear starting with a different stanza.)

A cursory look at the index of the revised hymnal reveals that the hymns by Alexander Campbell from the former edition are eliminated, and that among the additions are a few attributions to Hymns Ancient and Modern, the great Anglican hymnal, which was only four years off the presses at the time. Here again is evidence of the changing times, as a younger generation winnowed out the more rough-hewn poetry of the frontier and adopted a more cosmopolitan hymnody.

3. McGarvey found the earlier Campbell hymnal deficient in the variety of subjects addressed. It was arranged under 34 topical headings, with an adequate survey of the life of Christ but very few distinct categories addressing the nature of the Father, and virtually none regarding the Holy Spirit. Many categories relate not to subject but to function, such as morning hymns, evening hymns, and invitation hymns. Songs about the Christian life--in a marked contrast to today's hymnals!--were relatively few. In this area the new hymnal showed a significant improvement. The topical arrangement was expanded to 51 categories under eleven major headings, with a greatly expanded treatment of God the Father and of the Christian life (but still no category for the Holy Spirit). The overall arrangement is similar to that first popularized by the Methodist hymnals.

Additionally, the editors provide an eleven-page topical index showing off the specificity of subject matter available. Under the heading of "The Church," for example, there are songs on "Constitution," "Delight in," "Deliverance of," "Fellowship," "Growth and Triumphs," "God's dwelling," "Joining," "Ministry," "Organization of one," and "Permanency." Nearly every major subject is broken down in this fashion, showing an active concern for providing thorough coverage of topics.

4. The preceding features also tie in with McGarvey's fourth and most pointed complaint, the organization of the old book. Campbell had arranged his book quite literally into separate sections of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, even starting the numbering over at the beginning of each section. (This might have been something of a holdover from his Presbyterian background, in which psalms were viewed as the core of Christian singing, with hymns a rather late addition.) This arrangement was eliminated in the new book, and the indexing features just mentioned did much to improve the user-friendliness of the hymnal. McGarvey had insisted on "a careful distribution of the hymns under general headings, and, in addition to the index of first lines, and that of general subjects, another index to all the particular subjects treated in individual hymns." This is exactly what the hymnal committee did.

5. McGarvey advised that more attention be given to the physical format of the hymnal, making it durable without becoming expensive or gaudy. He also suggested the production of a large print edition and of a pocket edition. I have not been able to determine the quality of binding that was employed in the 1865 book, since I have only seen one or two of these over the years, and was not certain whether the binding were original. But they certainly produced pocket editions, fat little books only 11 cm tall! A more common size (based on a search of library holdings in was 14 cm, and there were a few 18-20 cm tall. Even this is only a little larger than the average paperback novel today, so it could hardly be considered "large print."

Overall, the influence of McGarvey's article seems to have been modest. The committee may have taken notice of one of his doctrinal objections to a specific hymn, and may have used his statements to support their decision to carry out a significant weeding and re-organizing of the old hymnal. Perhaps they even took his specific advice about subject arrangement and indexing, though this may simply have been a parallel development. But the resulting hymnal was not the sort of book McGarvey himself would have produced.

Postscript: The Later Controversy

The 1865 revision of the Christian Hymn Book later caused considerable controversy for an entirely different reason than any discussed here: the fact that it was owned by, and profited, the American Christian Missionary Society. McGarvey makes no mention of this, of course, because he was to the end of his life a participant in and defender of the ACMS; but many conservatives in the Restoration Movement objected to this body as a supra-congregational organization not authorized by Scripture.

In the years following the Civil War, tensions rose in particular between Isaac Errett, writing in the Christian Standard in Cincinatti, and David Lipscomb, the editor of the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tennessee. Lipscomb felt that the hymn book's ties to the missionary society were forcing conservative objectors to either forego the use of the common hymnal that had been shared by the brotherhood for generations, or buy it and be in implicit support of the ACMS. The "hymn book controversy" was a foreshadowing of the divisions that would fracture the fellowship of the Restoration Movement at the turn of the century.


Holloway, Gary. "Alexander Campbell as a Publisher." Restoration Quarterly 37/1 (1995).

"Pivotal Stone-Campbell Movement Hymnals of the 19th Century: A Description." Enos E. Dowling Hymnal Collection, Lincoln Christian University.

Errett, Isaac. "The Christian Hymn Book." Millennial Harbinger 7/11 (November 1864), 520.

Reynolds, William, Milburn Price and David Music. A Survey of Christian Hymnody, 4th ed. Carol Stream, Ill.: Hope Publishing Co., 1999.

Harp, Scott. "Biographical Sketch on the Life of W. K. Pendleton." Restoration History.,wk.htm

Pinkerton, L.L. "Biographical Sketch On The Life Of W.T. Moore." Biographies and Sermons Of Gospel Preachers, ed. B.C. Goodpasture & W. T. Moore, p. 537ff. Reproduced online in Scott Harp's Restoration History,,wt.htm

Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Kentucky University, 1869.

Columbia College Office of Alumni Relations. Gates of Change, a special sesquicentennial issue of Friends. Columbia, Mo.: Columbia College, 2001.

Moore, William T. "A.S. Hayden" Living Pulpit of the Christian Church R. W. Carroll & Co., 1871, 495ff. Online edition by Scott Harp, Restoration History.,as.htm

"Hymnal Writers, Compilers and Publishers." Enos E. Dowling Hymnal Collection, Lincoln Christian University.

McGarvey, John W. Autobiography of J. W. McGarvey, ed. Dwight E. Stevenson from MSS notes ca. 1905. Lexington, Ky.: College of the Bible, 1960.

Miles, Larry. "Isaac Errett and the Christian Standard." Reflections on the Restoration Movement. Dept. of Religious Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Lamar, James Sanford. Memoirs of Isaac Errett, 2 vols. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1893. Volume 1: - Volume 2:"

Moore, William T. "John William McGarvey." Living Pulpit of the Christian Church R. W. Carroll & Co., 1871, 325ff. Online edition © 1996, James L. McMillan.,jw.htm

Tucker, William, and Lester McAllister. Journey in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Saint Louis: Bethany Press, 1975.