Saturday, March 16, 2013

Christian Hymns 1889

In 1889, the Gospel Advocate Company of Nashville, Tennessee, produced the first hymnal compiled specifically by and for members of the more conservative wing of the American Restoration Movement, the a cappella Churches of Christ. Though the division that became apparent at the beginning of the following century was not yet come to a head, even the production of this hymnal was a symptom of the troubles brewing during the closing two decades of the 1800s.

At one time there was at least in theory a common hymnal among the churches: Alexander Campbell's Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, later also known as The Christian Hymn Book. This went through several editions, but by 1865 there was a desire on the part of many to give it a complete revision. Isaac Errett, editor of the Christian Standard and owner of the prominent Standard Publishing Company in Cincinnati, led a group of leaders of the American Christian Missionary Society to persuade Campbell to turn over the hymnal to that organization. An editorial team was appointed, and all proceeds were to go to missions (McCann, 30-31).

This might have seemed ideal to them, but concerns were expressed from several quarters. J. W. McGarvey, a supporter of the ACMS and cautiously in favor of the revision, was concerned that the book would become far too large for practical purposes (see "Hymns and Hymn Books"). One of the effects of this expansion was a rise in price; in 1843 the old edition sold for 37½ cents, but the new edition was 90 cents (McCann, 29-31). Much of this change, of course, was the result of inflation during the Civil War. Using a Consumer Price Index comparison (from, the 1843 hymnal cost $11.80 in 2013 dollars, about the median cost of the hymnals advertised in the Gospel Advocate catalog today. The 1866 hymnal was $13.20 in 2013 dollars, which would place it among the more expensive hymnals, yet hardly at the top. But to brethren facing a difficult post-war environment, especially in the ruined economy of the Southern states, the increase in price was hard to accept.

A far more serious objection, to many conservatives, was the use of the proceeds to support the ACMS. Some argued that the Missionary Society was in fact an unscriptural innovation, creating a level of church organization beyond that outlined in the Bible; others considered it a matter of expediency in itself but believed it would tend toward the same result in loss of local autonomy. Of course each congregation decided for itself whether to participate in the Missionary Society, but when purchasing the hymnal meant giving de facto funding, it seemed to some as though the "Society brethren" were coercing support through what had been a symbol of unity for many years. The fact that the revision committee included no representatives from the Southern states, where opposition to the Society was strongest, also did not help.

David Lipscomb of the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the most influential voices among these objectors. On 24 April 1866 he wrote, "In my judgement the church had better do without a hymn book for the next fifty years, than fasten upon herself the fatal and corrupting influence of a political organization" (quoted in Bowman 57). ("Political" may here refer to the ACMS's partisan statements during the Civil War, which rankled Lipscomb, who was a determined pacifist. Several prominent politicians did in fact emerge from the ACMS, most notably President James Garfield.) Lipscomb and Errett ended up on opposite sides of this and many other controversies in the following decades, and I will not attempt to detail this "hymnbook controversy" until I have had access to more of the primary sources; but the obvious result of this disagreement was that Lipscomb saw no future in the "common hymnal" and began to promote alternatives.

There had always been other hymnals used within the Restoration movement. Most notable during this period were the publications of the Fillmore Brothers in Cincinnati, who may have been the most influential songwriters of all among the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, as far as their impact on the gospel music genre is concerned. Another very prominent hymnal was Popular Hymns, compiled by C. C. Cline and published by Guide Publishing in Louisville, Kentucky. In its revised edition of 1883 this little book offered 332 hymns in a cheap paperback binding for 30 cents a copy, which made it appealing to Southern congregations (see back cover of the digital copy linked above). But when Guide Publishing merged with Errett's Standard Publishing, the price went up and Lipscomb stopped advertising it. In 1884 he instead opened a dialogue with Cline about compiling a new hymnal to be published by the Gospel Advocate. According to Lipscomb, Cline suggested they also bring on board Rigdon McIntosh, the music editor of the Southern Methodist Publishing House in Nashville (Gospel Advocate 24 Nov 1892, quoted in Bowman 62-63).

What happened next certainly looks bad, at least from Lipscomb's account; I would very much like to hear Cline's side of the story. What is certain is that the project was at first delayed, and then fell through completely. According to Lipscomb, James A. Harding encountered Cline in 1888 at a gospel meeting in Missouri and asked him about the progress of the hymnal. Cline informed him that he had instead arranged to publish the new hymnal with Standard Publishing in Cincinnati (Bowman 63). In fact Cline brought out two new hymnals for Standard Publishing that year, the Standard Church Hymnal and the Standard Sunday School Hymnal. Once again, I would love to hear Cline's side of this; not that I believe Lipscomb misrepresented anything, but because there may have been more to the entire story.

Lipscomb in turn took Cline's advice recruited Rigdon McIntosh, the editor of several popular gospel songbooks from the Southern Methodist Publishing House. McIntosh's biography may be read in brief in Hall's Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. In addition to his connections through the Southern Methodist house, McIntosh was the surviving partner of the L.C. Everett Company, founded by his mentors L.C. and A.B. Everett, and thus held the copyrights of all their works. J. H. Hall described these men as the Lowell Masons of the South because of their thorough training in classical music (Hall 97). As lead editor, obviously in charge of reviewing texts for scripturalness, Lipscomb appointed his co-editor at Gospel Advocate, Elisha G. Sewell. The popular young songleader Leonard Daugherty was brought in as well, though it is hard to determine what role he played.

In recent weeks I have been able to examine a copy of the Gospel Advocate's 1889 Christian Hymns, and intend to write on it at more length, the Lord willing, in the future. From a preliminary examination, however, it appears that at least the following is true:
  • A huge proportion of the contents (as much as 80%) had previously appeared in hymnals edited by Rigdon McIntosh, most of them published by the Southern Methodist Publishing House. This is hardly surprising, since access to copyrights was a major financial hurdle.
  • Additionally, a large proportion (25%) were McIntosh's own musical settings. Ironically, the Churches of Christ sing relatively few of his songs today, most notably his setting of "Take my life and let it be" and his tune MCANALLY, sung to "Am I a soldier of the cross?" and "The gospel is for all."
  • McIntosh also included a good number of songs (16) by the Everetts, which have survived much better into the modern repertoire. Given their (and his) preference for the texts of Massachusetts poet Mary B. C. Slade, this means that her representation in the lyrics is enormous, almost 10% of the total hymnal and far more than any other author. Mary Slade & Asa B. Everett songs still sung today include: "There's a fountain free," "Who at my door is standing?," "Hark, the gentle voice of Jesus falleth," "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling," and "Beyond this land of parting."
  • Of the 32 older hymns included without music, most of the texts match closely to the form found in the old Campbell hymnal. Distinctive text variants, peculiar to the Restoration movement, are also found in hymns such as "O Thou Fount of every blessing."
  • A significant number of hymns are included from the leading lyricists and composers of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in that day, such as Jessie Brown Pounds, the Fillmores, Knowles Shaw, and even C. C. Cline himself.
  • About two thirds of the hymns had a living lyricist or composer at the time of publication. I would guess that probably the same proportion of hymns were written within thirty years of the date of publication. By comparison, this would be like a hymnal today in which two-thirds of the hymns had been written since 1983!
  • A surprising number of these songs have cues for a keyboard instrument; several of McIntosh's original compositions have a solo or duet in the stanza followed by SATB chorus, and have a keyboard accompaniment for the stanza. Considering that the Gospel Advocate was one of the era's strongest opponents of instrumental music in worship, this is puzzling to say the least! All of these songs could still be sung a cappella, of course, and they may not have been available in any other format.
In a future post I hope to look further into the contents of this hymnal, its relation to its competition, and its long-term impact on the repertoire of the Churches of Christ. For now, I hope readers will enjoy this look at a "virtual reconstruction" of the 1889 Christian Hymns.

Below is a transcription of the front cover, title page, and back cover of the copy of Christian Hymns located in the Music Library of the Mary Couts Burnett Library at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.


[At top of cover, stamped: PROPERTY OF FT. WORTH CHRISTIAN CHURCH]



213 Union St., Nashvill, Tenn.

The J. M. Armstrong Co. Engs.

[Back cover:]

Christian Hymns.

Music Edition--Bound in Boards.
Single copy, postage prepaid...
Per dozen, by express, not prepaid...
"      "       , by mail, prepaid...
Per hundred, by express, not prepaid...

Music Edition--Cloth.
Single copy, postage prepaid...
Per dozen, by express, not prepaid...
"      "       , by mail, prepaid...
Per hundred, by express, not prepaid...

Word Edition--in Boards.
Single copy, postage prepaid...
Per dozen, by express, not prepaid...
"      "       , by mail, prepaid...
Per hundred, by express, not prepaid...

Word Edition--Cloth.
Single copy, postage prepaid...
Per dozen, by express, not prepaid...
"      "       , by mail, prepaid...
Per hundred, by express, not prepaid...

Specimen copy of Music Edition, either [illegible], by mail, prepaid...

Specimen copy of Word Edition, by mail, prepaid ...

213 Union Street,

[Title page:]














[Title page verso:]

[Copyright, 1889, by GOSPEL ADVOCATE PUB CO.]



     IN preparing this volume for the use both of regular worshiping assemblies and of the Lord's day school, we have earnestly striven to accomplish three important ends; first to get up a selection of hymns, the sentiment of which should be in harmony with the Word of God; and in the second place, such as should make song service instructive and edifying to all engaging therein; and thirdly, such a selection for the use of the Lord's day school as shall impart life and animation to the young, and at the same time to impress their young and tender hearts with the goodness and mercy of God and of Christ, and with the importance of an early surrender of the heart and life to the Lord. We appreciate the truth that if people would "sing with the Spirit, and with the understanding also," the songs they sing must in a good degree reflect the teaching of the Lord's word, so that they may not at any time sing sentiments that are not in agreement with revealed truth. We know moreover that deep and lasting impressions are made upon the young by the sentiment of the songs they sing; hence eternity alone can develop the extent of the good that may be done by the use of such hymns as shall impress Scripture sentiments. We have tried to include in the collection the best of the old standard hymns, giving such number and variety as will satisfy the lovers of the songs of by-gone days, and the choicest and best of the new, enough we trust to satisfy those who love the more recent style of sacred song. Song service will never cease to be impressive and instructive; not even when we sing the Song of Moses and the Lamb in the eternal home of the blest. We leave it with those who shall use this book to determine to what extent we have succeeded in our undertaking; humbly trusting that many hearts may be benefitted, elevated, purified and made glad thereby, and that sadness and gloom may be taken from many a sad and care-worn soul, and that in all the purposes for which it is intended, the blessing of the heavenly Father may rest upon it.


Music Typographers,
710 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, Penna.

[Inside cover: Donated by Mrs. Ida V. Jarvis, May 1916,
to Brite College of the Bible. Date written in pencil: 1892.]

[Page numbers begin with page 3, where there is a caption title before hymn #1: "CHRISTIAN HYMNS. FIRST PART." There is a second caption title on page 131 before hymn #151.: "CHRISTIAN HYMNS. SECOND PART." There are 276 numbered hymns on pages 3-282 (no. 38 is presented twice with different tunes, bringing the actual total to 277). An index of title and first lines is included on pages 283-288.]

Below is a list of the contents of Christian Hymns 1889, with links to images of these songs from other hymnals. A few could not be located; in the case of some well known texts listed as "not found," this means I could not find that text with the same music used. The copy of Christian Hymns I have examined is in round notes, but many of these images are in shape notes.

For a more detailed description of each hymn, with links to each hymn's page at when available, click here:


McCann, Forrest W. "The Hymnals Of The Restoration Movement." Restoration Quarterly 19.1 (1976): 23-38.

Bowman, John. Sweetly the tones are falling: a hymnal history of Churches of Christ. Brentwood, Tenn.: Penmann Press, 1984.

Hall, F. C. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Revell, 1914.

No comments:

Post a Comment