Saturday, August 27, 2011

Can He Depend on You?

Praise for the Lord #88

Words & Music: Wilkin B. Bacon, 1943

Wilkin B. Bacon (1908-1981) was a rising star in the early gospel music recording industry before turning to full-time preaching in the Churches of Christ, and remained an influential song leader and teacher in Oklahoma, Texas, and the surrounding states. He has always been an interesting figure to me, not least because he represents an important part of the history of my home state, Oklahoma. Though my family were pioneer settlers, arriving well before statehood, Bacon's family was there considerably earlier!

In the less politically correct days of the early 20th century, Wilkin Bacon was sometimes called by the stage name "Chief" Bacon (not to be confused with his colorful contemporary, Chief Bacon Rind of Oklahoma's Osage Nation). Wilkin Bacon was not related, as far as I can tell, to any family of chiefs; but the Bacon families are well known among the Choctaws of southeast Oklahoma and are also found in the original Choctaw lands in northern Mississippi. Wilkin's father was Colton Bacon (b. 1882?), who is listed in the 1885 census of the Choctaw Nation. The family lived in what was then Wade County (today divided between LeFlore and Pushmataha counties). The census lists Colton Bacon, his father Reuben Bacon (b. 1845), and grandfather (presumably) Thomas Bacon, age 75, all of mixed Choctaw heritage. Colton's mother, Cornelia, was full Choctaw.(1885 Census) Thomas Bacon would have been 20 years old at the time of the Trail of Tears, when the U.S. government forced the Five Tribes off their lands in the southeast and sent them on a forced march to eastern Oklahoma.

Wilkin Bacon appears in official records for the first time in the 1910 U.S. Census. The family lived in LeFlore County, probably in or near Talihina where they are listed in the 1930 census, and very likely where the Bacon family was listed in 1885. Talihina is located in a valley between the picturesque Kiamichi Mountains to the south and Winding Stair Mountains to the north, just east of the prominent Buffalo Mountain. Wilkin's mother, Josephine, passed away sometime before he was 12 years old, and the 1920 census shows that his father had remarried to Minnie A. Bohanan. Wilkin had an older brother Richard (b. 1906), a half-sister Luvina Thompson (b. 1897), and a younger brother Thomas (b. 1911).

On 23 May 1931, Wilkin Bacon married the love of his life, Mary Sue Painter, a schoolteacher from the town of Albion just down the road from Talihina. They were together 50 years, until parted by death. Sister Bacon passed from this life just a month ago, on 20 July 2011, at the age of 103.(Obituary)

I have not discovered the religious background of the Bacon family, but Wilkin was baptized into Christ in 1937 at Sherman, Texas by Burton Coffman.(Finley, 35) He had begun singing in quartets and attending singing schools in his youth, and by this time was well on his way to a professional career. His first major success was as the baritone in the Lone Star Quartet, first heard on station KWFT in Wichita Falls, Texas. The quartet was sponsored by the influential Stamps-Baxter Music company of Dallas, Texas, which placed quartets with radio stations and in live performances throughout the south to promote their songbooks. The Lone Star Quartet became known outside of Texas through an extended engagement on station WPTF in Raleigh, North Carolina.(Slaughter)

An undated advertisement card from station KRLD in Dallas pictures Wilkin Bacon in the "Frank Stamps Quartet," along with Walter Rippetoe and Bob Bacon. In keeping with the emerging commercial Southern Gospel tradition, they performed with a piano player, listed as Mrs. Stamps.(This and That) The names and personnel of these quartets are confusing because of the ad hoc nature of live performances and the fact that the Stamps-Baxter company managed numerous quartets, any of which might use a variation on the well-recognized name. The "Frank Stamps Quartet" in the KRLD photograph, for example, has Rippetoe and Robert Bacon, who sang with Virgil Stamps in the "Stamps Old Original Quartet" on KRLD in the late 1930s. Wilkin Bacon also sang with Frank Stamps in a quartet called the "Frank Stamps All-Stars," but with Roy Wheeler, Lawrence Ivey, and Eiland Davis. By the end of the 1940s the Stamps company (now distinct from the original Stamps-Baxter company) sponsored more than 40 quartets across the country, many of which used some variation on the company name.(Goff, 122) Even the picture of the Lone Star Quartet that accompanies gospel musician Frank Slaughter's reminiscences about Wilkin Bacon (and others) does not appear to include Wilkin Bacon!(Slaughter)

According to one source, Bacon became increasingly conflicted within himself during this period of commercial success. His singing career demanded a great deal of travel, which kept him from his family and from the fellowship of a local congregation. He desired to do more for His Lord. "Can He depend on you?" was written in 1943 and may be a direct result of this crisis.(McFarland) By 1945 Bacon had left the Stamps organization to work for full time for the church as a preacher and song leader.(Finley, 35) The southern gospel star Henry Slaughter, recently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, praised Bacon's work with the Lone Star Quartet and remembered distinctly that Wilkin "returned to Texas and became a minister of the gospel."(Slaughter) His decision did not go unnoticed!

Bacon preached in Arlington, Texas; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Corsicana, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Duncan, Oklahoma. His last full-time preaching work before retiring was back home in Talihina, Oklahoma.(Finley, 37) He also led singing for meetings, and taught in the West Texas Music Normal with Lloyd O. Sanderson, Paul H. Epps, Texas Stevens, and Palmer Wheeler.(Gospel Guardian) Though his professional performing days were over, he still sometimes sang with the Gospel Hour Quartet on the International Gospel Hour hosted by Vernon E. Howard.(Howard)

Bacon is reported to have written between eight and ten songs.(Finley, 37) A copyright registration by Brentwood-Benson Music of Nashville shows the following titles:

"Can he depend on you?"
"He's looking for someone like you"
"I am happy with Him now"
"Just above the shadows" with Robert E. Bacon
"The sweetest consolation" with R. H. Cunningham.(U.S. Copyright Office)

A search of also reveals the song "My loved ones wait" in Gospel Bells (Dallas: Stamps-Baxter, 1947), and a 1940s recording of "Can He depend on you" by the popular Blackwood Brothers Quartet. This seems to have been his one great success as a songwriter, and is certainly a worthy one.

"Can He depend on you?" is plain in it language, and the music is pretty but without pretension. The entire weight of the song, and the reason it has lasted, is in the haunting power of its message. One can only wonder to what extent this derived from the spiritual struggle the author was engaged in at the time of writing; it would not be the first time that a fine hymn emerged from such a crisis.

The three stanzas are neatly arranged around the crucifixion, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel in brief: "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."(1 Corinthians 15:3-4) In reflecting on these elements of the gospel, Bacon turns to the impact each should have on a Christian's sense of duty and gratitude, and on our sense of urgency in the work of the kingdom.

Stanza 1:
Jesus the Savior came down from above,
Came to bring mercy and love;
"Crucify Him," the mob scornfully cried,
So He on Calvary died.

While on the cross He prayed, "Father, forgive,
For they know not what they do;"
For us He died that for Him we might live,
Can He depend on you?

Here the focus is on the atoning death of Christ and His longsuffering mercy. One of the great characteristics of God is His patience and mercy. I cannot think of a better summary of this theme than what is found in the 86th Psalm, verse 15--"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." (The stately language of the King James Version is necessary for such poetry!) The verse is full of beautiful words--"compassion," "gracious," "longsuffering," "mercy," "truth"--and all of these are "plenteous!"

It was this longsuffering mercy, compassion, and grace that caused God to set a plan in motion to redeem a world that had turned its back on Him. It is this mercy, compassion, and grace that is behind the famous passage found in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world--" (How much did He love us? Here is how much: just read on.) "that He gave His only begotten Son--" (We could stop here, and understand as much as we ever will about the depth of God's mercy. But the verse continues--He gave, to what purpose?) "that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

We have spoken of God's mercy toward the world as a whole, but we are the personal, individual recipients of this mercy as well:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:6-8)
Paul understood this longsuffering of Christ to be personal in his own case: "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life."(1 Timothy 1:16)

Wilkin Bacon calls this mercy to mind, then turns to a specific conclusion we must draw--"for us He died, that for Him we might live." This is expressed many times in the letters of the apostles:
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him."(Romans 6:8)

"He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."(2 Corinthians 5:15)

"For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him."(2 Timothy 2:11)

"[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed."(1 Peter 2:24)
But now, as the the old saying goes, Brother Wilkin is about to leave off preaching and start meddling.

Can He depend on you,
His blessed will to do?
Will you be crowned with the faithful and true?
Can He depend on you?

The chorus of this song turns from what Christ did, to what we do in grateful response. Paul makes the same kind of transition midway through the letter to the Ephesians; having established the grand theme of God's eternal plan for our redemption, he then turns to the question of how we ought to live our lives in view of that truth: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called."(Ephesians 4:1) A similar structure is found in the letter to the Colossians: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."(Colossians 3:1) The first letter of Peter has a similar statement at the beginning of the fourth chapter: "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God."(v.1-2) In Peter's second letter, following a stern discussion of the coming end of time, he concludes, "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?"(2 Peter 3:11)

Our response to Christ's gift, then, is a life of holiness, but there is more to holiness than simply being free from impurity. The tabernacle, temple, and all the vessels and utensils necessary to Old Testament worship are a great example of this; they were "holy" in the sense of being pure, set apart, and made according to God's will, and they were also "holy" in the sense of being dedicated to use in God's service. We are also instruments in God's house:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work.(2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Christians must be holy "vessels" in God's service, not because of any merit of our own, but because, "we have this treasure in jars of clay."(2 Corinthians 4:7) God has no "plan B" for spreading His message of mercy.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"(Romans 10:13-14)
It was God's choice, in His infinite wisdom, to use saved sinners to save other sinners. All through the book of Acts we see this happening; despite all the miraculous events that take place, in the end there is a preacher, there is a message, and there is a hearer who responds. Even Paul, who was called to repentance by a miraculous vision of Jesus Himself, had to hear the rest of God's plan of salvation from a mere mortal, Ananias: "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name."(Acts 22:16)

There is also a crown mentioned in this chorus, waiting for us at the end of our earthly service. Some other songs about heaven speak rather lightly of crowns, as though they will be fashion statements; but the New Testament imagery used here is that of the laurel wreath granted to the winner of an athletic competition. Like the medals given in the modern Olympics, it is not the intrinsic value of the object that matters, it is the accomplishment it represents. The aged apostle Paul, knowing he was near his end, looked forward to this crowning:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."(2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Stanza 2:
He from the grave on the third day arose,
Missions of man to disclose;
Go preach the gospel, all who will may hear,
Through Him be free from all fear.

Bid them believe, to repent and obey,
Walk in the newness of life;
Keep the light glowing to show them the way,
Leading from sin and strife.


The second great point of the gospel is "that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."(1 Corinthians 15:4) Paul explains further,
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead.(1 Corinthians 15:14,19-21)
His physical resurrection is paralleled in our resurrection from a spiritually dead condition, to emerge from the "grave" of baptism in a new spiritual life:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.(Romans 6:3-5)
Christ's resurrection is a promise, then, not only of a physical resurrection to eternal life in the future, but of a far more important resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life, attained right here and now. This was the gospel to which Jesus appointed His followers, saying,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."(Matthew 28:19-20)
This was the gospel Peter preached at Pentecost, saying, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."(Acts 2:38) It is that same gospel people need today; the problems of this world have not changed, and neither has the answer to those problems.

Peter was privileged to preach the gospel the first time (Acts 2), and to preach it for the first time to the Gentiles (Acts 10). But it was the Lord's intention that every Christian be a proclaimer of the gospel, and that is what the early church did. When persecution disrupted the first congregation of the church at Jerusalem, "those who were scattered went about preaching the word."(Acts 8:4) Within a fairly short number of years, opponents of the gospel would call them, as did Paul's opponents in Thessalonica said of him, "these men who have turned the world upside down."(Acts 17:6) This description was on the right track, but had it the wrong way around: the early Christians were trying to turn the world right-side up, one person at a time.

Our world is just as mixed-up and upside-down in its thinking as it was back then. The things that are fleeting and superficial are foremost in people's attention, and the things that are eternal are an afterthought or given no thought at all. Our world needs turning right-side up too, and nothing short of the power of the gospel can do it. Can Christ depend on us to do what He clearly commanded, what the early Christians did in spite of prison and death?

Stanza 3:
He is preparing in heaven a home,
For all His faithful and own;
Are you preparing to stand by His side,
Or in that day be denied?

Have you told others the story of love,
Showing them what they should do?
These are the precepts that come from above,
Can He depend on you?


Not long before His crucifixion, as He faced the rising opposition of the religious leadership of His own nation, Jesus told the following parable:
What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, "Son, go and work in the vineyard today." And he answered, "I will not," but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, "I go, sir," but did not go.(Matthew 21:28-30)
He then asked the application question, "Which of the two did the will of his father?" Obviously the first son was lacking in obedience and respect at first, but his actions proved his repentance. The second son answers prettily enough, but his actions are disobedient and call into question the sincerity of his original statement--did he ever intend to go, or was he lying all along?

This parable was applied, of course, to the Pharisees. They paid lip service to obedience to God but instead had created a religion more to their liking, the keeping of which they equated with righteousness. There is always a danger of this among God's people, that we will follow some, but not all, of the Lord's commands. As Jesus told the Pharisees in another rebuke, "These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."(Matthew 23:23)

When it comes to sharing the gospel, have we tended to excuse ourselves somehow from obedience to this command? I am haunted by the words of God to Ezekiel, "If . . . you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand."(Ezekiel 33:8) God help us to be more diligent to spread the good news! And thank you, Brother Wilkin, for asking your question: "Can He depend on you?"

About the music:

It is hard to gauge Wilkin Bacon's ability as a songwriter without a larger sample to examine; I have never seen any of his other songs. "Can He depend on you?" is quite well-written, and judged against other songs in its style is at least equal to many of the songs written by better-known writers such as Tillit S. Teddlie and Albert E. Brumley.

The music for the stanza is in a straightforward AABA form with eight-measure phrases, common to the popular songs of the first part of the 20th century. The most notable melodic feature, of course, is the upward leap of a 6th in the phrase, "Can He DE-PEND on you?" This is the title of the song, the key idea of the text, and the melodic "hook" (the part of the song you would still remember after forgetting everything else). Achieving this kind of memorable moment is still the aim of popular songwriters today, because it increases recognition and retention, which boost sales. Wilkin Bacon turned these skills to the propogation of an urgently needed message in the church, then and now.

One thing to keep in mind about this song is that it was doubtless written for male quartet, in which case the soprano part would have been sung down an octave. It is effective in a congregational setting with mixed voices, but when sung as originally conceived, it is easier to observed the tight harmony between the lead and alto voices, and the effective use of contrary motion Bacon achieved.

One case in point illustrates a skillful bit of voice-leading that suggests Bacon was actually quite a good songwriter (or else exceptionally lucky). At the end of the tenth measure, going into the 11th measure (1st stanza text: "for-GIVE, FOR"), Bacon has written himself into a corner with the melody and harmony (assuming he conceived the melody first). The melody rises from A-flat to B-flat on the syllables "-GIVE" and "FOR," and the harmony changes from a D-flat tonic chord to an E-flat 7th chord (secondary dominant to the A-flat dominant on "do" in the 12th measure). If he uses root-position chords (root of chord in the bass), he will create parallel 5ths between the bass and soprano (D-flat bass/A-flat soprano, moving to E-flat bass/B-flat soprano).

Any freshman music student can tell you this is a no-no (why it is a no-no is another question!), but most could not solve it as neatly as Bacon does here. On the last 8th note of the 10th measure the bass slips up to an F, and the alto moves in parallel 3rds with the bass (which are okay) to an A-flat. The root position D-flat chord is now a 1st inversion D-flat chord. The motion into the next measure now has contrary motion between the soprano and bass, and the alto is in position to get to the G-natural in the next chord from a half-step above, a much more natural approach than moving up from F (which somewhat implies a whole-tone scale, D-flat/E-flat/F/G-natural). Whether Bacon thought this problem through, just had good instincts, or a bit of both, it is a nice bit of part-writing!


National Archives Records Administration. Dawes: Index to the Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914.

1885 Census of the Choctaw Nation. Wade County.

"Mary Sue Bacon." Obituaries. Talihina Funeral Home.

Finley, Gene C., editor. Our garden of song: a book of biography of song writers of the Church of Christ. West Monroe, La.: Howard Publishing, 1980.

Goff, James R. Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel. Durham, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Slaughter, Henry. "The Lone Star Quartet." I Remember...

This and That Newsletter v.12, issue 595 (19 June 2008)."

McFarland, Bill. "The Kind of Faithfulness God Wants from His People." Sermon at Water Mill Church of Christ (Springfield, Missouri), 18 September 2005. Transcript at

"News." Gospel Guardian v.3, n.6 (7 June 1951), pp. 13-14a.

Howard, V. E. International Gospel Hour Broadcasts.

U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright registration by "Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc. d.b.a. Stamps-Baxter Music." and "Bridge Building Music, Inc." Document numbers V3432D859-V3432D899. Online version at Wikisource.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Children of the Heavenly King

Praise for the Lord #87

Words: John Cennick, 1742
Music: PLEYEL'S HYMN, Ignaz Josef Pleyel, 1788

John Cennick (1718-1755), a surveyor from Reading, England, became acquainted with the Wesleys in his early twenties and took up a course of ministry that would occupy the remainder of his brief life. He served first as headmaster of John Wesley's new school for the coal mining community of Kingswood near Bristol.(Julian, 215) Cennick differed with Wesley, however, on the outward manifestations of the Spirit that accompanied the latter's revival services, and eventually rejected the Wesleyan doctrine of "second grace" or "Christian perfection." For a time he worked alongside George Whitefield in the growing evangelical wing of the Church of England, undertaking preaching tours through Wiltshire that faced sometimes violent opposition. He eventually found kindred spirits among the Moravian Brethren in London, and spent the remainder of his ministry in that fellowship.(Hutton, bk.2, ch.11) In addition to his theological tracts and books of sermons, he published four hymn collections and contributed several hymns to the Moravian Hymnal. Besides the present hymn, he is remembered today for "Lo, He cometh, countless trumpets," better known in its altered version, "Lo! He comes with clouds descending" (PFTL #406).(Julian, 216)

"Children of the Heavenly King" appeared first in Cennick's 1742 collection Sacred Hymns for the Children of God, with twelve stanzas. George Whitefield reduced it to six stanzas in his hymnal of 1753, and this is the form in which it has been passed down.(Julian, 219)

Stanza 1:
Children of the heav'nly King,
As ye journey, sweetly sing;
Sing your Savior's worthy praise,
Glorious in His works and ways.

Millions of people throughout Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and a surprising number of us in the States, were glued to their television sets to watch the wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. It is surely an oddity of history that Americans, whose ancestors fought for independence from the British royals, are so enamored of them today. (And they do seem like such nice young people!) But the thing that brought them to our attention at all, of course, is that Prince William is second in line to a throne.

The child of a king (or grandchild of a queen in this case) is someone special. From the moment he was born, Prince William was different from all the other boys his age. There are certain privileges, to be sure, that the rest of us do not enjoy. There are also responsibilities of the office--the tradition of military service, and of support of charitable works--as well as the concern not to bring criticism upon the family. It is the life to which he was born.

You and I, of course, cannot become a part of the Windsor family, any more than Prince William could choose not to be. But in the ancient cultures of Bible times, it was not unheard of for an individual to adopt an heir, who could indeed inherit a property, a title, or even a kingdom. The emperors of Rome sometimes followed this pattern, in fact, and headed off potential disputes over succession by adopting their chosen successors as their "children" even when they were near the same age! I think this understanding of adoption lies behind the language of Ephesians 1:5-6, "In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved." Adoption in Western culture today is also motivated by love, and perhaps to some extent through a desire for heirs; but this is an adoption into the "royal family" of God Himself, with all the privileges and responsibilities of such a change of station.

How do we become "children of the heavenly King," adopted into this family of privilege? It begins with faith: "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them."(John 12:36) But it is a certain kind of faith, a faith that follows through: "For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."(Galatians 3:26-27) We are brought into the family by this active faith in Christ, a faith that is put into action when we are baptized into Christ.

I can never forget when my brother- and sister-in-law were going through the procedures to adopt two children who were in the custody of the state. The state officials said yes, it looks good, we do not anticipate any problems, etc.; but we were all praying and holding our breath until the day came when a judge pronounced the adoption final, and all the legal papers were signed. It was a very definite process--up to a certain point, they were not their legal children, but after that point, they were. We should not be surprised that there is also a definite point at which we enter into the family of God, marked by the ritual of baptism.

Once we have come into the royal family, how should we act? In Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, two nearly identical boys, one the son of the king and the other a street urchin, switch places as a prank. The "fish out of water" humor that follows has inspired films and television comedies ever since! We are much the same as that pauper, coming into the family of God; the Lord has a lot of reforming yet to do even after He has taken us into His family. The Bible gives us plenty of guidance, of course, to tell us how to get started:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him."(Romans 8:14-17)
So we are "led by the Spirit" to act like the children of God we have become. The Spirit reveals in this passage that the children of God are characterized by confidence in their Father's love--a great reassurance, as we find ourselves so often falling short of the calling we have received.

We also learn that suffering may be part of our lot as children of God, because not only has our relationship to God changed, but our relationship to the world. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."(Matthew 5:9) He did not have to point out, of course, that peacemakers necessarily exist in the midst of conflict. He set the bar even higher later in the same discussion:
"But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."(Matthew 5:44-45)
Being "children of the heavenly King" is a serious responsibility and a high calling--but Cennick's opening stanza rightly calls on us to rejoice. Paul's theme of rejoicing is so well known, and so abundant throughout his writings, that it needs no illustration. Very often his rejoicing was in spite of considerable suffering and persecution; but in this he simply followed the example of Christ who said, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."(Matthew 5:12)

I think two things are at work here. First, there is a joy in knowing that you have done the right thing, and often the surest proof of that is the criticism and even persecution it brings from those who resent righteousness. Not that we are self-righteously pleased with ourselves; rather, we rejoice that by God's grace we have passed another test. But Jesus points to an even greater joy as well--our reward in heaven. He taught the disciples this lesson in sharp relief when they were feeling a bit smug about having the ability to cast out demons: "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."(Luke 10:20) All joys of this life, and all its sorrows too, fade in comparison to the joy of knowing that we will find that "Sabbath rest for the people of God."(Hebrews 4:9)

And contrary to the opinions of some who misrepresent the Christian's hope of heaven, it is not all about mansions and golden streets. Listen to the thrill of joy in John's voice, reaching across the centuries: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." It is a joyous hope of fulfillment, of revelation, of perfection of all good things. No wonder Christianity is a singing religion!

Whitefield's reduced version of this hymn included two more stanzas here, omitted in Praise for the Lord:

We are traveling home to God,
In the way the fathers trod;
They are happy now, and we
Soon their happiness shall see.

The "sojourner," a foreigner living temporarily in another land, has often been viewed unkindly. The societies in which they live often say, "They are different from us. They speak differently, and they have different ways. They are not committed to our society--they do not have the same stake in it as do we." All of this is true of the Christian living in this world!

Abraham is our great example of a godly sojourner:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.(Hebrews 11:8-10)
As time has passed, archaeology has learned much about the ancient city of Ur, and we have a better idea now of what Abraham sacrificed. This was one of the great cities of ancient times; Abraham's move was equivalent to leaving an apartment in New York City to live in a mobile home on the Great Plains (not that there is anything wrong with the latter, which is where I spent much of my early adult life). Perhaps this explains Lot's weakness for the high life, seen in his fatal decision to move into Sodom. But Abraham gave up all the world had to offer, because he was focused on something far higher: obedience to his God. He could give up a permanent home, becaue he knew that he had no home apart from God. There is something here, too, of relinquishing too close ties with this world and its affairs.

Cennick's stanza reminds us of the examples of those who have gone before us: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."(Romans 15:4) We can take courage from the examples of those great sojourners written of in Scripture, and we can also take courage from examples we have known in our own lives, who kept their focus on that heavenly city to the very end.

Another of the "lost stanzas" of Cennick's hymn is the following:

O, ye banished seed, be glad!
Christ our advocate is made;
Us to save, our flesh assumes--
Brother to our souls becomes.

This contains several noble thoughts, but is a bit of a failure in wording. John Julian said of Cennick's writing that "some of the stanzas of his hymns are very fine, but the hymns taken as a whole are most unequal."(Julian, 216) "Banished seed" jumps from the page, demanding explanation. Now, there is a sense in which an odd turn of phrase may take us by surprise, but then we see its point and say, "Aha!", and its message becomes all the more memorable. There is another kind of odd turn of phrase, however, that is simply awkward, and I have to place "banished seed" in that category. I suppose it refers to the Gentile world apart from Christ, "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."(Ephesians 2:12) But I am not really sure.

The other factor that runs to excess here is the reordering of sentence structure. In a more normal order, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines would run something like this: "Christ is made our Advocate, assumes our flesh to save us, [and] becomes Brother to our souls." These are fine, Scriptural thoughts, but the hymn's bumptious word order all but obscures them, especially in the 3rd line where not only is word order inverted within the clauses, but the normal order of the clauses themselves is reversed.

Stanza 2:
Shout, ye ransomed ones and blest!
You on Jesus' throne shall rest;
There your seat is now prepared,
There your glory and reward.

This stanza has undergone revision over the years, and not necessarily for the better. The first line was originally, "Shout, ye little flock, and blest;" the last line was, "There your kingdom and reward."(Cyberhymnal, "Children") Where does the expression "little flock" derive? Is it just another example of Cennick's sometimes peculiar imagination? The answer is found in Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

The context of this stanza, then, is Jesus' discourse in Luke 12:13-34 on the proper way of thinking about material possessions. This is very similar to Matthew 6:19-34 from the Sermon on the Mount, even to the repetition of exact phrases (like most speakers, Jesus had catchphrases that appear in more than one speech). The Luke 12 passage begins with someone in the crowd demanding Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute, which He makes an opportunity for warning against covetousness and materialism (v. 13-15). The parable of the rich fool follows (v. 16-21), then verses 22-31 are a close restatement of Matthew 6:25-33, with the same images of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Luke 12:31, "Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you," is an obvious parallel to the better known Matthew 6:33; this is the introduction to Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

We might quibble with Cennick as to whether it is appropriate to speak of receiving the kingdom when we reach heaven, for Jesus also said, "The kingdom of God is within you,"(Luke 17:21) and clearly taught that the kingdom would come into real existence in that generation. But the one certain thing is that the alterations to this stanza totally obscured his sources and his meaning. In context of the Lord's teaching in Luke 12, this is not just a generic stanza about the glories to come, but is a call for Christians to rejoice in their choice to seek first the kingdom of God, forsaking covetousness and greed. And if we cannot rejoice in that, let us look again at what Jesus taught here about materialism!
And He said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."(Luke 12:15)

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
God help us, in this land of plenty, to take Jesus at His word and obey Him. We are without excuse to do otherwise.

Stanza 3:
Lift your eyes, ye sons of light!
Zion's city is in sight:
There our endless home shall be,
There our Lord we soon shall see.

This stanza suggests the ancient Hebrew practice of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so beautifully illustrated in the "Psalms of Ascents" (Psalms 120-134), at least according to one common interpretation. One cannot help but think of Psalm 121, verses 1-2,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
The meaning of the first verse is debated--does help come from the hills, or are the hills a place of danger where one needs help? But regardless of the interpretation, two facts are clear: the ancient pilgrim faced dangers on the journey up into the hills where Jerusalem was, and yet the joy of arriving in that city was worth any risk. We see that jubilant arrival in the very next Psalm, where the writer says in a tone almost of disbelief, "Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!"(Psalm 122:2) The Mishna claims that this Psalm was sung by pilgrims coming to the Feast of Firstfruits, upon their arrival at the city gates.(Cheyne, 329) One can only imagine the joy of the Hebrew pilgrims, when they made that last turn in the road, or topped the last hill, and the holy city came into view. It might be some time yet before they arrived, but I doubt if anyone wanted to stop to rest; no doubt even the oldest and tiredest among the group would quicken the pace, anxious to reach the goal.

We cannot physically see the City of God to which we are journeying, any more than could Abraham.(Hebrews 11:10) But like Abraham, we know that "here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."(Hebrews 13:14) And if the ancient Hebrew pilgrims excitedly anticipated reaching the earthly Jerusalem, we surely need to remember that,
You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.(Hebrews 12:22-23)
We have not reached that last turn in the road yet, but by faith we anticipate the sight and keep to the road that leads us home.

Stanza 4:
Fear not, brethren, joyful stand
On the borders of your land;
Jesus Christ, your Father's Son,
Bids you undismayed go on.

No matter how prepared we are for a change, there is often a sense of apprehension when we finally cross that border from the familiar to the unfamiliar. When I moved to Texas for graduate school, there was something vaguely unsettling about crossing that bridge over the Red River separating Oklahoma from the state that was to be my home for the next several years. I wondered if I would ever move "back home" again--and with good reason, because so far I have not.

The final crossing of a border has significance in the Bible as well. The signature event in God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt was crossing the seemingly impossible barrier of the Red Sea, which separated Egypt proper from the Sinai. A generation later Israel would stand at the edge of the Jordan, and God's miracle would be repeated as the waters receded from the feet of the advancing priests. It is a moving scene to read, as a group of people who had grown to maturity in the years of desert wandering see the fulfillment of God's plans laid centuries before their birth.

Most poignant of all, of course, is the thought of Moses standing on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 32), able to finally see the land toward which he had faithfully led God's people for so many years, yet unable to enter. No one had desired more earnestly to see it; no one had worked harder and sacrificed more to bring the people there; but God's will was otherwise. And though we understand that God's will was just and right, we cannot help but hurt for Moses as he sees, but cannot reach, the promised land.

There is a greater crossing than all, however, that Moses has already achieved. Denied though he was in his desire to cross the Jordan, we have no doubt that ever since he crossed over the dividing line between this life and the next, he has been and is now safe in the paradise of God. Whatever regrets he felt on Mount Nebo were long ago forgotten in that place where he is "at Abraham's side."(Luke 16:22)

We cannot help having apprehension about death; it is an unknown, perhaps the last great unknown of human existence. But a Christian can face it with even greater assurance than Moses had, because we follow Jesus who blazed the trail for us, through death to everlasting life: "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him."(Romans 6:9) Realizing this, we can say with Paul, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"(1 Corinthians 15:55) In this stanza, Cennick pictures Jesus as standing on the other side, beckoning us on, just as parents encourage their toddlers to take those first faltering steps unsupported. We have not crossed that divide yet, but we can and will make it, through the grace and help of our Savior.

Stanza 5:
Lord, obediently we go,
Gladly leaving all below:
Only, Lord, our Leader be,
That we still may follow Thee.

Jesus said "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."(Matthew 11:30) But in fact the greatest challenge He presented many of His disciples was not the burdens they were called to bear, but those they were told to give up. The final stanza in this version of Cennick's hymn reminds us that we will have to leave many things of this world behind to follow Jesus. Ultimately, of course, we will leave it all behind.

It is fascinating to look at the reactions of those to whom the Lord gave the simple command, "Follow Me." He said this to Peter and Andrew, and Matthew says of those faithful men, "Immediately they left their nets and followed Him."(Matthew 4:20) He gave the same challenge to James and John, and, "Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."(Matthew 4:22) We should not assume that it was just a case of the fishing being poor that day! They were small business owners, with nets and boats to care for, and at least in Peter's case, with mouths to feed at home. When they walked away from their jobs for the next few years (or at the very least worked only on an intermittent basis), it was a decision with real consequences.

But not all were ready to give up so much to follow Him. An unnamed disciple responded to the call, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."(Matthew 8:21) We are not certain, but might suppose, that he meant to delay his discipleship until his elderly father had passed away. Jesus knew his heart and said sternly, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."(Matthew 8:22) Luke tells us that another said, "I will follow You, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."(Luke 9:61-62) Probably the saddest of such occasions was that involving the rich young ruler:
And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.(Mark 10:17-22)

We often think of the Christian's struggle against "worldliness" as a struggle against overt and obvious carnality, but these examples prove that the lure of the world is often more subtle. In the parable of the sower, Jesus interpreted the meaning of the seed that grew up in thorny ground as follows: "but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful."(Mark 4:19) There certainly is the possibility of being captivated by "desires" ("lusts," KJV), but the "deceitfulness of riches" will probably bring as many to eternal loss as the lust of the flesh! This was the sad case of the rich young ruler, a conscientious and upright young man to whom Jesus immediately took a liking. There is no question the man loved God and desired to be pleasing to Him; but he loved his possessions just a little more.

The "cares of the world" are even more tricky snares, because they can come disguised as virtues. The Greek word used here, merimna, comes from a verb meaning "to draw in two different directions,"("Merimna") and in this case both directions may be virtuous in themselves. Jesus told the two would-be disciples in Luke chapter 9 that following Him must come before family and friends. Not that Jesus excused anyone from the legitimate obligations to care for one's own; He sharply criticized the Pharisees' practice of Corban, by which the financial support owed to one's elderly parents was instead given to the temple. Paul declares this general principle in 1 Timothy 5:8, "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

But Jesus comes first, before our obligations to parents, relatives, friends, or even to spouse and children. The secret is, of course, that when we do put Jesus first and truly follow His teachings, we will be even better to our spouses, parents, children, and friends than before. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."(Matthew 6:33) Then we will put these "cares of the world" into their proper relationship to our Christian walk, and will draw these relationships and their obligations into a heavenly realm.

About the music:

This is from Pleyel's String Quartet B.349, the fourth quartet from a set of six that was first published in Paris in 1788 (I believe the 1791 date usually given for this hymn is incorrect, and probably refers to his next set of quartets). The set was dedicated to the Prince of Wales, and is also known through its London publication as op. 20.(IMSLP) I have not found a recording of this quartet, but I have provided a score of this movement.

Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), from Ruppersthal, Austria, was a contemporary of Mozart and a student of Joseph Haydn. After a period of apprenticeship, he served the court of the Count Erdödy (to whom Haydn would dedicate a famous set of quartets), and eventually settled in Strasbourg, France. His writing is well-crafted, very much in the character of the earlier works Mozart or Haydn. By the late 1780s when this quartet appeared, however, Haydn had driven the genre well past such light pleasantries, giving the quartet genre the artistic depth and seriousness of a symphony. In 1785 Mozart had published his "Haydn quartets," dedicated to his friend and mentor, showing what a first-rate composer of great melodic felicity could do with the expanded form.

Pleyel had the misfortune, in a sense, of living in an era of giants. He even managed to schedule a concert series in London at the same time Haydn was there premiering his "London symphonies," with the result that Pleyel's music was thoroughly overshadowed by these monumental works. His biggest impact was instead as a manufacturer of pianos. His instruments were considered among the very finest in the world, and the Pleyel company was an industry leader by the late 1800s. It is still in existence in spirit today, though the name itself has been absorbed through corporate mergers in the 20th century.(Cranmer, 6-8)

The hymn setting is taken with very little change from the theme used in the second movement of the quartet, where it becomes the subject of a set of variations in which the different instruments take turns in elaborating on its ideas. I have not discovered when this tune was made into a hymn, but it has another association that highlights an interesting feature of the Classical music world of the late 18th century: Pleyel, like Mozart and Haydn, was a Freemason, and this hymn tune has been used in Masonic ceremonial music for many years.(Music of Freemasonry)

Coincidentally, another famous hymn tune was also the subject of a theme-and-variations movement in a Classical string quartet. The "AUSTRIAN HYMN" by Joseph Haydn was the basis of the second movement of his "Kaiser Quartet," op. 76, no. 3. This tune, however, was already in existence, since Haydn originally wrote it as the Austrian anthem "God save Emperor Franz." (The same tune is used today for the national anthem of Germany.) This hymn is perhaps best known to English-speakers with the text "Glorious things of thee are spoken" (PFTL #165).


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

Hutton, J. E. A History of the Moravian Church, second edition. 1909. Online edition by the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

"Children of the Heavenly King." Cyberhymnal.

Cheyne, T.K. Book of Psalms. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, 1888.

"Merimna." Strong's Concordance & Thayer's Lexicon. Blueletterbible.

"6 String Quartets, B.346-351 (Pleyel, Ignaz)." International Music Score Library Project.,_B.346-351_(Pleyel,_Ignaz)

Cranmer, Margaret. "Pleyel." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 20 volumes. London: Macmillan, 1980, v.15, pp. 6-12.

"Pleyel's Hymn." Music of Freemasonry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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

In a previous post I set the context of John W. McGarvey's 1864 article about the revision of the Christian Hymn Book. This post will discuss what he said specifically, and what it might help us understand about church music in the Restoration Movement, both then and now.

Using a Common Hymnal: Past and Present

McGarvey was strongly of the opinion that the churches of the Restoration Movement should continue to use a common hymnal:
The circulation and use of several different hymn books would not imply a schism among the churches; for use of the same hymn book is not made an element of church unity by the word of God. Still, the inconvenience of such an arrangement would be very great, and the tendency of it would be towards evil.
The concept of an "official hymnal" is of course foreign to the nature of the case; the Churches of Christ are united, as McGarvey rightly points out, around those things that are presented as marks of unity in the Scriptures. There is no room in the margin for adding to Ephesians 4:5-6, "and one hymnal." I have never known anyone to attempt to do so with the hymnal; we may all have our preferences, but I dare not make something so obviously a matter of judgment into a test of fellowship.

Having grown up without any official hymnal, then, I am anxious to see whether the dire consequences of which McGarvey warns actually developed. He groups these in the following points:

1. "It would be inconvenient to preachers in passing from one church to another, and still more so to assemblages of brethren from churches where different books were in use."

There is a cultural difference here to keep in mind: it was not the universal practice at the time, as it is today, for hymnals to be kept at the meeting house for the use of all comers. That practice probably developed as mass production techniques in the printing industry lowered the per-copy cost during the late part of the 19th century. In the earlier era, families bought their own hymnals, sang from them at home, read from them in private devotions, and brought them to worship on Sunday. Under these circumstances, a gathering of different congregations could bring in a variety of hymnals.

But how inconvenient is it in practice? Since we are now in an era when congregations either provide the hymnals or project the hymns on a screen, there is no particular difficulty in singing together even if we know somewhat different versions of the words or music. The song leader who has grown up under these circumstances knows, if he is leading at another congregation and must use a different hymnal, that he should check his hymns ahead of time to be sure that he is aware of any differences. (Experience will teach him which ones to watch out for!)

A particularly painful example of this problem occurred in Howard Publishing's Songs of the Church. In the version copyrighted 1977, the editors replaced a few dozen songs from the older version, with no edition statement to distinguish this change. I know of at least one congregation that used the older edition and bought a few boxes of the new 1977 books as replacements for their more worn-out copies. Whenever the song leader called one of the hymn numbers that had been changed, about a quarter of the congregation had a different hymn from the rest!

2. "It would also be likely to engender strife in some of the churches, parties being formed in favor of the different books."

Sadly, this has probably happened. The list of things over which congregations have divided includes matters of far less significance. But it should not be so; it is really hard to imagine a situation in which the selection of a hymnal would reflect anything worse than simple poor judgment.

If there are objections that a hymnal contains many hymns that are doctrinally questionable, that is a serious matter that should be examined, but you are unlikely to find a hymnal that is completely free of such problems. If the selection of a hymnal (or system of projected music) seems to reflect a shift from one style of church music toward another, against the wishes of some in the congregation, that should be discussed and dealt with in a fair and diplomatic manner, but is no legitimate cause for division. I have heard some brethren object to buying hymnals from a particular publisher, because they object to other publications from that source; but we often buy Bibles, concordances, and other materials from publishers that are run by denominations with which we have significant doctrinal disagreements. There was even a time when some Churches of Christ could be found singing from the old Broadman Hymnal, a Southern Baptist publication.

This is not to say that those things are not important; obviously I believe in employing hymnals that are as free as possible from hymns that contradict the doctrines I believe; I would refrain from making a hymnal choice that forced a change of musical style, when there are good alternatives; and I would prefer to give my patronage to publishers whose overall aims I support. But none of these things should be allowed to create serious strife in a congregation.

Above all, I strongly counsel anyone who is involved in such decisions to practice transparency and inclusiveness. If a decision is a matter of opinion, but will have a significant and long-lasting effect on the worshiping life of the congregation, be as open as possible about the fact that the decision is being considered; get all the relevant information necessary to the decision, and make that information available; and make every effort to seek the "advice and consent" of the congregation, with particular attention to those who are knowledgeable in the subject. The selection of a hymnal should be not be made on the superficial impressions of one or two people, any more than the selection of Bible class curriculum or a translation of the Bible.

I know of one congregation that had differences of opinion about the selection of a new hymnal, and arrived at a solution unique in my experience. They had used Great Songs of the Church, no. 2 for many years, and some preferred to stay with it, but many wanted to get Songs of the Church when it appeared in the 1970s. They bought the new books, but kept the old ones as well; the hymnal racks contained one of each. The song leaders would identify "red book" or "blue book" as necessary at the beginning of the service, or might even switch between them!

3. "[It is] likely to engender an unpleasant rivalry, if not downright jealousy, among the different publishers and proprietors."

I have no inside information on this, but I believe this has happened only fairly infrequently in the Churches of Christ. Our hymnals (at least here in the United States) have been published either by the major religious journals, or by single individuals. Gospel Advocate in Tennessee had the very influential Christian Hymns series (no. 1, 1935; no. 2, 1948; no. 3, 1966), and Firm Foundation in Texas had the Majestic Hymnal and others. More recently, Praise for the Lord appeared from Praise Press, a publishing company owned by Mark McInteer of 21st-Century Christian in Nashville.

Among the individual publishers, Jorgenson was by far the most influential with Great Songs of the Church, followed by Alton Howard, whose Songs of the Church and Songs of Faith and Praise have had a large impact in the South, and Ellis Crum, whose Sacred Selections is also widely used in that region. Tillit S. Teddlie, one of the most influential of our songwriters, also published hymnals, but I do not believe they received widespread adoption. It is naturally very difficult for a new hymnal to break into the market; but I believe Hymns for Worship, edited by Dane K. Shepard and R. J. Stevens, has reached that critical mass necessary to stay in use. W. D. Jeffcoat's Sacred Songs of the Church and Robert Taylor's Songs for Worship and Praise are two new hymnals from the last few years.

But I am not aware of any bad blood between these individuals or institutions over the sale of hymnals. If anything, I think I could argue that the existence of a single hymnal expected to be used by all the congregations, yet produced by a private company, would create a more tempting target for mercantile avarice. (This was in fact a charge leveled during the regrettable dispute between Isaac Errett and David Lipscomb.) In contrast to this, in fact, is the collaborative competition (as I would call it) between the publishers of the Paperless Hymnal and Taylor Publications, both of which are providing an excellent variety of PowerPoint resources suited to the Churches of Christ in this country.

I cannot see, then, that any of those problems that McGarvey anticipated have actually come about to a great degree. Perhaps the greatest area of negative impact was one that McGarvey did not anticipate: the loss of a common hymnal meant that regional preferences, changing musical fashions, and simple market forces would determine the success of hymnals at least as much, if not more, than thoughtful editorship. Many of the editors of the hymnals mentioned above came from fairly one-sided gospel music backgrounds, with little knowledge of the greater heritage of English hymnody, and their work reflected it. The success of Jorgenson in Great Songs of the Church has surely proven that the churches will sing many of the classical hymns, and would be much the poorer without them.

Of course, the technology now exists to dispense with hymnals altogether, projecting lyrics and music on a large screen, and selected from a large database of hymns. This is perhaps the final, furthest step away from a common hymnal. No longer, for example, will the number "728b" have the significance it did to a generation of the Churches of Christ in the southern United States ("Our God, He is alive" in Howard Publishing's Songs of the Church). But more than this, it allows each congregation to have its own customized collection of hymns. As the technology has become more accessible, it is now possible for any enterprising songwriter to produce PowerPoint presentations of original hymns. The possibilities are really quite exciting; if there is a great old hymn from the public domain era that you would like to sing, just put it in a PowerPoint and do it! I have even done custom edits of problem lyrics.

But is this ultimate fragmentation good? I do not believe it actually changes the situation as much as it might appear. I remember attending the services of an Assembly of God congregation with a friend, and I was (predictably) thumbing through the unfamiliar hymnal. I commented on the number of fine classical hymns in the first of the topical sections, "God the Father." My friend looked at them and said cheerily, "Oh, we don't ever sing those. We usually just sing the ones from the back of the book." My experience of the worship service confirmed that you cannot judge a congregation by its hymnal! In this sense, all non-liturgical congregations have their own hymnals, because their usage of the material provided is unique.

The Qualities of a Good Hymnal

The meat of McGarvey's article is devoted to a comparison of Alexander Campbell's hymnal, which was widely used in the American churches of the Restoration Movement, to contemporary publications from the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists. His framework was an interesting set of criteria, still well worth consideration.

1. "The first and most essential of these rules is this: A hymn book should be entirely free from unscriptural sentiments and phraseology."

McGarvey supports this assertion on two particulars: the hymnal is part of the universal language of the church, and its words have the added power of music to impress them on the mind and heart. On the first point, it is well to consider the place that singing has in our worship. Next to the Bible, there is no other book we use so much. Sunday school books come and go, prayers are uttered differently (presumably, though not always) from occasion to occasion, but a song is there from week to week, often from year to year, perhaps even throughout our lives. Elders know they should pay close attention to the words spoken from the pulpit, but there are messages in the hymnal as well, repeated through the years more often than any sermon, coming from the lips of the members themselves.

On the second point, music most definitely has a power over the mind and heart that words alone do not usually possess. I do not mean anything mystical here; I am shockingly unromantic about this issue. Answer this question, and you have the heart of the matter: why do so many of us need to sing a certain little song to remember the order of the books of the New Testament? Music engages a different portion of the brain from that of speech, and when both are engaged together, the memory is deepened in some fashion. Music also engages the emotions in a way different from that of speech; taken by itself, its meanings are less specific, and more open to our individual interpretations and associations.

Put these two together and you have a powerful vehicle for the verbal message, for good or bad. Dr. Jack Boyd of Abilene Christian University said in an article many years ago (which I regret I cannot find) that though we often have to take notes to remember the points of a sermon, most Christians who have been in the church for very many years could sing page after page of hymn lyrics. My niece, a registered nurse in an intensive care ward, has often been able to calm disoriented patients with a familiar hymn. I have seen this phenomenon myself when we have hymn singings at nursing homes; sometimes a resident who appears to be completely unaware of her surroundings, who would seem to be beyond the reach of human contact, will begin to mouth the words of a familiar hymn.

Basil of Caesarea, writing in the fourth century, summed up the relationship of music to words in Christian singing in one of the best statements I have ever read on the subject:
When, indeed the Holy Spirit saw that the human race was guided only with difficulty toward virtue, and that, because of our inclination toward pleasure, we were neglectful of an upright life, what did He do? The delight of melody He mingled with the doctrines so that by the pleasantness and softness of the sound heard we might receive without perceiving it the benefit of the words, just as wise physicians who, when giving the fastidious rather bitter drugs to drink, frequently smear the cup with honey. Therefore, He devised for us these harmonious melodies of the psalms, that they who are children in age or, even those who are youthful in disposition might to all appearances chant but, in reality, become trained in soul.(Basil, 152)
So this is a subject agreed upon almost universally, yet how seriously is it taken? McGarvey continues, "Better sacrifice taste and poetry and convenience and everything, than sacrifice truth and fidelity to the word of God." It was this ethic that guided the frequent editorial changes introduced by Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections, and though I do not always agree with his objections, or even necessarily understand them, I deeply respect his thorough-going care to make his hymnal true to the words of Scripture. I know of a congregation that has gone through its hymnals and marked objectionable hymns with the red-circle-and-slash of the universal "no" symbol, and though I doubtless would disagree with many of their decisions, I have to admit that I have done the same thing, mentally, with some hymns that trouble me.

2. "The second rule, in rank of importance, requires that the hymns possess the highest attainable degree of poetic excellence. No other hymns can remain permanently popular, or make a lasting impression on the soul."

Though a man of the frontier, the step-son of a small-town shopkeeper, McGarvey knew his classics; he had received a sound primary education from a college-educated teacher,(Autobiography, 5ff.) and graduated at the top of his class at Alexander Campbell's Bethany College. He was active in the college's literary society, and for the occasion of his graduation he delivered the customary Greek oration expected of the top student.(Autobiography, 14) His pursuit of poetic excellence in the hymnal, then, was coming from the perspective of a common man with uncommon talents. His admiration of literary quality was coupled with a deliberately common touch in his own writings; his sermons, far from the Victorian eloquence of the great orators of the age, are almost folksy in tenor. If there is a desire here to "elevate the public taste," as Lowell Mason once (in)famously said, it is not because McGarvey knows better than the unwashed masses, but because he knows the masses deserve better.

This stands in sharp contrast to the philosophy of Jessie Pounds, whose essay "Concerning hymns" I examined in an earlier post. Jessie, who unlike McGarvey was a fine hymnwriter herself, spoke of the "limitation of form which the hymn imposes."(Pounds, 84) She explains that the mode of communication in a hymn,
. . . is gained by stress and recurrence rather than by cumulative thought. The form of verse must be simple, there must be but three or four stanzas, and the thought must lend itself to the repetition of the strain [i.e. the refrain] in each successive stanza.(Pounds, 85)
If there is something about this that strikes you as a bit condescending, you may be right. She says further,
Beyond the limitation of form, however, is the much more confining limitation of thought. The great poet speaks for himself and for a small circle of cultured minds. He does not expect the multitude to go with him. He is therefore free to express the high poetic mood, to speak that which comparatively few can understand. Not so the hymn-writer. He speaks for the great body of Christian worshippers. He must seek to lift them up to their highest spiritual possibilities, while never for a moment forgetting the intellectual limitations of the least among them all.
There is obvious truth in the second part of that statement. The hymn writer (and the person selecting songs for worship, for that matter) is beholden to the purposes of congregational worship in song, not to the artistic judgment of literary critics. In my working definition as a songleader, the "best hymns" are those with which the members of the congregation can and will teach and admonish one another, and give praise and thanksgiving to God. The style and sophistication of the lyrics and music that meet these purposes may vary from one congregation to the next, for a variety of reasons.

But Pounds's first point is really at the heart of the question at hand--is great poetry really just for the cultured few? McGarvey takes a very different line of argument:
Many persons imagine that the highest order of lyric poetry is adapted only to cultivated taste; but this involves a misconception of the nature of poetry. It is the peculiar glory of true poetry that it speaks with like effect to all ages, classes, and conditions of men. It speaks to the heart of man as man, and therefore overleaps all geographical lines, all national distinctions, and even the lapse of ages.
Does McGarvey mean that all people love great poetry, if only they have the opportunity to experience it? I'm not sure if he's right, but I love his optimism. Do we dare suggest, as does Pounds, that some people are simply not of the intellectual caliber to appreciate great hymns? I am often surprised at the number of young people--not a torrent of them, but at least a steady trickle--who express to me their appreciation of the old classical hymns. Some are actually rebels against contemporary church music, and want the challenging multi-stanza hymns of earlier generations.

It may be, however, that McGarvey means something a little broader. When he says "true poetry," does he necessarily mean poetry that the critics recognize as high art, or does he mean poetry that is meaningful and effective, regardless of the sophistication of its delivery? Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was not considered the crowning glory of 19th-century oratory, by contemporary standards; in fact, some thought it shockingly short and plain. But later generations have found it otherwise! Perhaps a hymn that is not particularly sophisticated in style, yet free from grievous poetic faults, can rise above itself through the quality of the message it communicates.

This interpretation of McGarvey's statements is borne out, I believe, through the examples he offers of great hymns that have found wide acceptance. He calls these "the very highest order of lyric poetry," though they are in fact not exceptional from a poetical standpoint, and are the works of authors scarce to be found in an anthology of English poetry. He singles out "O Thou Fount of every blessing," "Am I a soldier of the cross," and "Since I can read my title clear."

I cannot think of a hymn I love better than "O Thou Fount of every blessing." Its lyrics may not be the pinnacle of English verse, but each line is worthy of meditation, and a very good sermon outline could be constructed from its stanzas. McGarvey points out the special excellence of the third stanza:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind me closer still to Thee.

Our former condition of debt and bondage to sin is replaced with an everlasting debt and bondage to Christ, but one that we freely embrace and desire to experience more fully. It is full of the language of Romans chapter 6:
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience [leading] to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.(v.16-18)
The second of his picks, "Am I a soldier of the cross," is another great old hymn, and has some of the same quality of the former. At least part of the definition of a great hymn is that it gives you something that sticks with you, something to think about, and this hymn offers one such example in a particularly pithy stanza:

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must not I stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

When I am tempted to get comfortable in this world, to go along to get along, I hope I will always remember this message. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."(1 John 2:15) We love the people of the world, because they are fellow children of God, but we dare not forget that the greater part of them are fallen in sin and do not even seek to be free from it, revelling in it and expecting us to do likewise. This "world," in the sense of the culture of selfishness and sin, is no friend of ours and is certainly not going to help us in our efforts to please God.

The third of McGarvey's examples, however, gives me pause. I am aware that "When I can read my title clear" was a very popular hymn in his day, but I am struck by the fact that I cannot recall having sung it in worship even once. I checked McGarvey's three hymns in, and found about what I expected. Though all three were enormously popular in earlier generations, they have fared differently in the modern hymnals. "O Thou Fount" ("Come Thou Fount," if you prefer) is present in most of them, "Am I a soldier of the cross" appears about half as often, and "When I can read my title clear" occurred in only one of the modern hymnals indexed by this database.

To some extent this just shows the gradual winnowing process of time. Jessie Pounds did not fare any better when she said, "Those who come after us will sing, 'My Jesus, I Love Thee,' and 'O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,' and 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus.'" But this leads me to consider McGarvey's earlier assertion that, "true poetry . . . overleaps all geographical lines, all national distinctions, and even the lapse of ages." If this is true, it is odd that people are so often proven wrong in identifying those hymns that will last. In fact, I think it is easier to prove it false; I know many fine old hymns that have fallen out of use, and I see many mediocre ones that remain inexplicably popular. The key to McGarvey's assertion is that he is assuming time and sound judgment are the only factors. Perhaps if all the great heritage of hymnody were given a fair hearing, and all the people gave it their best considered judgment, a really fine repertoire of congregational hymnody--"treasures old and new"--would result. These ideal conditions are not how things actually happen; but don't people deserve the chance to reject the old hymns for themselves, instead of being denied the opportunity to hear them?

3. "In the third place, to answer well its purpose a hymn book must embody a great variety of topics. This is necessary in order that the singing of a congregation may be adapted to every different occasion, and to all the Scriptural subjects discussed in the pulpit."

The coverage of topics in our hymnals is difficult to assess, because it is hard to establish a standard by which to judge. I tend to notice the holes; it is rather embarrassing, for example, that many hymnals used by the Churches of Christ have topical headings for "God the Father" and for "Jesus Christ," but none for "Holy Spirit." This is perhaps the most obvious omission, but hardly the only one. I look in despair for a good variety of songs of a confessional nature, or on the subject of humility. Songs on the Christian family, or of our duties to the poor, are sorely lacking.

It seems that each generation of hymnwriters has had its strengths and weaknesses. The hymns of Watts, a Calvinist, are very strong on the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness of humanity. Wesley's hymns are, predictably, full of the theme of grace and stories of personal experience. The gospel songs of the 19th century reflect the evangelistic fervor of the campmeetings and the great urban revivals; the Southern gospel style coming into the early 20th century reflected the poverty of the times and the hope for a better life hereafter. The contemporary worship music, I believe, began as a desire to move away from this reflection on our earthly lives to a more outward-directed, praise-focused worship, though it also can fall into the "me-centered" trap.

These are generalizations (which, as I often reminded my students, means "a necessary half-truth"), but hopefully are illustrative of the varying tendencies of the different styles of church music we have inherited. It is far easier to find a gospel song about our anticipation of heaven than one that is directly addressing God in praise; it is equally difficult to find an evangelistic or "Christian worker" song in the contemporary style, as opposed to finding a song describing the majesty of God. (This is a good argument for "blended worship," in which the best aspects of the music of every generation are shared for the benefit of all.)

A key to improving this area of our church music is to expand the routes by which new songs come into use by a congregation. Songleaders can make a study of learning new songs, and expanding their own knowledge, paying particular attention to songs that fill needs in specific areas. Buy other hymnals, listen to recordings, and read books on the subject; a songleader is a kind of teacher in the church, and a teacher must first of all be a student.

McGarvey's observation about the size of the hymnal required is interesting. A friend once told me that he could not justify recommending his congregation buying a new hymnal when they would just continue using the same old eight or nine songs they always sang! I was rather amazed when I first looked through a hymnal and counted all the songs I had never sung in worship. (This was probably when I was a little boy, and should have been listening to Dad's sermon instead.) I was sure that at least half the songs were never used.

Looking at some data a friend collected over the period of about two years at another congregation, I find that this congregation (which has an excellent songleader who tries to be inclusive of different styles) had sung 601 out of the 990 hymns in its hymnal. A closer look, however, reveals that 446 of these songs had been sung only once or twice in the period recorded. A core of 155 songs made up the majority of the singing of the congregation.

This sounds as though it would mean a lot of repetition, but in practice it is not unreasonable. In the traditional style of worship services among the Churches of Christ in the U.S., a congregation will sing about 15 hymns every week. Over a year's time this means a congregation will sing around 700-750 hymns. A repertoire of only 200 songs could more than supply this need, with hymns repeated only once per quarter; and many good hymns will bear repeating more often than that! The technology now exists to easily produce a small print-on-demand hymnal made to order; I also wonder if the providers of PowerPoint hymns will someday sell their product on a per-song basis as popular music is now sold. Either could prove to be a less costly alternative for small or cash-strapped congregations.

4. "Our fourth rule has reference to the arrangement of the hymns. It requires, in addition to the index of first lines, such an arrangement as will readily point out every hymn by its subject-matter."

There are two methods commonly used to achieve subject access in a hymnal: topical arrangement and a subject index. For whatever reason, most hymnals among the American Churches of Christ have not used topical arrangement; the only ones with which I am familiar are Great Songs of the Church, Revised from Abilene Christian University, and Songs of Faith and Praise and Songs of the Church, 21st-Century Edition from Howard Publishing. The great advantage of a topical arrangement is the ability to browse in detail a number of songs on the same topic.

Jorgenson's original Great Songs of the Church was arranged alphabetically, which would have been quite convenient except for his insistence on separate sections for "Gospel Songs" and "Hymns," each alphabetized separately. (This does however make for an interesting guessing game as one tries to anticipate the category in which Jorgenson placed a given song.) Praise for the Lord is almost, but not quite, alphabetical, the occasional departures apparently made for convenience of page layouts.

Topical indexes have been present in all of the major hymnals used among the Churches of Christ, but the quality has varied widely. The advantage of a topical index, as McGarvey points out, is that a hymn can be classified under several different applicable headings. I am sure this has not been done as thoroughly as it might have been. I usually find myself leafing through the entire hymnal when selecting songs for a worship service, just to be sure I haven't overlooked the perfect song.

A better solution might be to produce electronic databases in which a more thorough topical indexing is carried out. This is easy enough to start, and far easier to update and improve; but the real problem to be solved is establishing a thesaurus of topical terms to be applied as descriptors. I do not know of a standard thesaurus for describing hymn topics, and this would be a good collaborative project; a good start would be a compilation of topical terms from the existing topical indexes of a number of different hymnals.

Another excellent tool is a concordance of hymn lyrics, which allows the songleader to find hymns that use specific key words associated with a theme. This has been available for Howard Publishing's Songs of Faith and Praise for several years, in the form of SOFTPraise, a software suite of songleading tools. Given the number of resources online for finding hymn lyrics, however, it would be easy enough to construct a searchable database of lyrics for any hymnal.

5. "The fifth and last rule which we will prescribe is that a hymn book should be adapted to proper variety of taste, age, and usage."

McGarvey refers here to the actual physical format of a hymnal, including its durability, readability, and convenience. The durability (or lack thereof) of some hymnals is notorious, and if a congregation is investing in something that will be used for several years, it is worth paying a little more for one of the better-constructed hymnals. On the subject of readability, we are thankfully getting past the era of printing from plates, which sometimes gave us cheap hymnals that assaulted the eyes with three or more different styles of type and musical notation in the same book. The newer digitally-reproduced reprints of Howard Publishing's Songs of the Church are vastly improved over the original, simply by being set up in a consistent, readable type.

You have probably seen the new Clearview font on the Interstate highway signage, which is a direct result of an aging population; hymnals need to be designed with the same consideration. Readability is a common complaint with Praise for the Lord as well, and is my only significant complaint about what I consider the best hymnal in use among Churches of Christ today. The narrow sans serif font is just a little hard to read--and this was my opinion well before I reached the bifocals stage. Most of our hymnals are available in large print versions, and it is considerate for a congregation to purchase a few of these for those who need them most. I have also been impressed with the readability of the Paperless Hymnal PowerPoint product; in fact, I have heard some older Christians express their preference for reading from the screen instead of from print, simply because they found it easier on their eyes.

Excursus: A Point of Concern

One point that McGarvey introduces here gives me pause, and makes me wistful for an earlier era--he mentions the need for a "pocket edition" of the hymnal. One of my prized possessions, a gift from my wife, is an edition of Watts's psalms and hymns published in Boston in 1815. It is 12 cm tall, just the right size to fit in a pocket, and carries the name Mary Ann F. Stephenson, who probably carried it in her purse. This is not a particularly rare or expensive item, because (as it seems) it was a time when every person who could read had a copy of the King James Version Bible and of Watts's hymns. They were brought to church, but they were also used in family devotionals at home, and read in private meditation whether at home or on travels.

We didn't do as much of this in the later 20th century, perhaps because other things took up more of our free time, but it was still possible. I learned to sing bass at home, singing from the hymnal with my mother and sisters, where my mother was able to guide me onto the right pitches when I needed prompting. In my college years I improved my questionable piano skills by sight-reading unfamiliar hymns from Great Songs of the Church during my practice times. As an adult I have always had a hymnal at home, one at the office, and usually one in the car.

But the maturation of PowerPoint technology as a replacement for hymnals is bringing about a change, and it is one that I regret: no longer will there be a book in front of us, for perusal at our leisure, that holds much of the best of our heritage of English hymnody. We are losing the serendipity of discovering that great hymn just across the page, the hymn that may become a source of strength and comfort throughout our lives. Talented and curious youngsters will not know the thrill of exploring these treasures during long Sunday evenings when their attention to the sermon falters. In my experience of congregations singing from PowerPoint--and I will be glad to be corrected--the full repertoire of available songs is accessible only to a handful of leaders. This may just be my native Oklahoman populism talking, but that seems to be literally taking the music out of the hands of the congregation and reserving it to the few. I know this may not make much difference to the majority; but those people in the congregation who look at the hymnal on their own, who make comments, ask questions, and request songs, have been invaluable to me over the years.

I don't mean to come across as opposed to the use of projected hymns; I have used them myself and found them to have many positives. They allow easy supplementation to the existing repertoire, since with a little practice it is fairly easy to produce one's own presentations from a desktop music publishing program. They also have a tremendous potential, therefore, to encourage the writing of new hymns, because once the projection system is purchased they bypass the cost and inconvenience of making paper copies of a new song. But I strongly recommend keeping a good hymnal as well. (Maybe it is possible, or will be possible, to make the PowerPoint collection available to members of the congregation for viewing on their own computers. Will we all be singing from iPads and Kindles?)

To my thinking, the Wingate Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee has handled the use of PowerPoint almost ideally. The presentations are professional-looking but low-key, with title slides before each song giving the title and the number in the hymnal for those who may prefer to use it. Occasionally the songleader will use a song that is in the hymnal, but not in the PowerPoint collection, and occasionally he will use a song that is on PowerPoint but not in the hymnal. These ratios vary depending on the songleader, but most in the congregation seem happy with the compromise.

Part of the reason this went smoothly was that the introduction of PowerPoint was not accompanied by a drastic change in musical styles; the contemporary songs that were made available by the new technology are simply another layer added to the congregation's repertoire. As long as it is done thoughtfully, openly, and with respect to the differences between generations and cultures, there is no reason moving to the use of PowerPoint has to be any more traumatic than the purchasing of a new hymnal. But if a faction within the church is willing to force its own way (whatever side that faction may be!), the medium of print or projection will make little difference.


The remainder of McGarvey's article is spent in a comparison of the Campbell hymnal that was about to be revised, to contemporary hymnals from the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. His findings are thoughtful, and often amusing, but are more particular to individual hymns than to the general trends I want to discuss in this post. I am resisting the temptation to submit several of the hymnals in recent use by the Churches of Christ to the same kind of comparative scrutiny; it would be interesting but extremely time-consuming.

It is worth noting in passing, however, that he finds a great deal of Isaac Watts in the Presbyterian hymnal, and in Watts he finds a great deal of Calvinism--not surprising on either count. In the Methodist hymnal he finds a great deal of Charles Wesley, and in Wesley a great deal of faith-only salvation and confidence in personal spiritual experiences--also not surprising. Could the distinctive teachings of the Churches of Christ be observed from our hymnals in this fashion? It is a question worth pursuing.

McGarvey stands in a different relationship to the question of singing in worship than does Jessie Pounds. Pounds, an accomplished author, views the subject from the vantage point of the entire field of church music and sacred potry; McGarvey approaches it from the practical, local level on which he worked as a preacher, elder, and teacher. The tension that sometimes arises between the artistic elements of music and poetry, on the one side, and their spiritual application in worship, on the other, is to be expected. Both need to be heeded to an extent; but in the end, we must submit all our wisdom to the will of the God we seek to please in our songs.

References: Basil of Caesarea. Exegetic Homilies. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1963.

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

Pounds, Jessie Brown Hunter. "Concerning hymns." Memorial Selections. Chicago: Disciples Publication Society, 1921, pp. 84-90.