In all my short years upon this earth, I’m actually astonished how often I’ve heard these words, “Why don’t we sing the good, old hymns anymore?!”
If you’re ever blessed to hear someone voice a question like that be sure to follow up with a question like this, “What do you mean by good, old hymns? What songs do you have in mind?”
The responses I usually get are…”You know, songs like…’The Old Rugged Cross’, ‘Living for Jesus’, ‘In the Garden’, ‘Because He Lives’.”
Most often, the majority of these old songs turn out to be not quite that old after all. In my experience when people complain about the church not singing the good old songs anymore they usually are referring the songs that they grew up singing and they usually date from about 1880-1980. Hardly old.
My point in this post is not to debate the merits of the so-called “Gospel-Hymn” movement, but to just simply remind ourselves that this is not a new struggle. (I love hymns!!! I just find these not quite as God-centered, Christ-exalting, and truth saturated as some of the OLDER hymns of Watts, Newton, and Wesley.)
117 years ago, Basil Manly, argued that we can’t afford to lose the old hymns. Here’s a quote from an 1891 hymnal in which he says,
For some years it has been apparent that the rage for novelties in singing, especially in our Sunday-schools has been driving out of use the old, precious, standard hymns. They are not memorized as of old. They are scarcely sung at all. They are not even contained in the undenominational song-books which in many churches have usurped the place of our hymn books.
We cannot afford to lose these old hymns. They are full of the Gospel; they breathe the deepest emotions of pious hearts in the noblest strains of poetry; they have been tested and approved by successive generations of those that loved the Lord; they are the surviving fittest ones from thousands of inferior productions; they are hallowed by abundant usefulness and tenderest memories. But the young people of to-day are unfamiliar with them, and will seldom hear many of them, if the present tendency goes on unchecked.
Thanks to Chip Stam, over at Worship Quote of the Week for this fantastic quote yesterday. Basil is right on, “the young people of to-day are unfamiliar with [old hymns], and will seldom hear many of them, if the present tendency goes on unchecked.” But surely this generation needs to much further back than merely the hymns of the previous generation, and much further back than the songs of Bill Gaither (please!!!!). That’s why I thank God for Indelible Grace Music. If you’re not familiar with this ministry, check their website out. Their newly arranged hymns have been a great tool in reviving many old (and even unknown and forgotten) songs.
Soli Deo Gloria!