by Jeannette Haley
When was the last time you sang a hymn and felt your heart stirred to faith and love for God? Does the church you attend even have hymnals? Sadly, in many churches today a person cannot even so much as find a hymnal!
There is a growing tendency within modern Christendom to completely do away with the old hymns of the church. Why is this so when the old hymns for centuries have upheld the faith once delivered to the saints; exalted God in spirit and truth; proclaimed the Gospel; challenged the backslider; convicted the sinner; stirred the complacent; edified the weary soldier; comforted the sorrowful; exalted Christ and glorified our sovereign living God?
The one book that A.W. Tozer faithfully read besides his Bible was the hymnal. Why? Because down through the centuries the old hymns of the church helped lay a solid foundation of biblical truth that the modern church has drifted away from. Those old hymns point to the cross, the blood, the atoning work of Christ, the resurrection and heaven whereas most of the shallow choruses of today exalt the church. Think about it.
Multitudes of Christians are becoming addicted to fleshly “worship” songs that exalt the “kingdom.” Many of these choruses are militant and thoroughly unscriptural. But the beat is catchy, the rhythm hypnotic, the words self-exalting and the experience entertaining.
One of the reasons the old hymns and so many of today’s popular choruses are worlds apart is the price paid by those who wrote the hymns. Whenever a great price is paid through personal suffering or loss, one can always detect the anointing of God.
For example, Fanny J. Crosby who was born in 1823 and blinded at the age of six weeks by improper medical treatment, maintained a radiant heart towards God. Every one of the more than 8,000 hymns this faithful saint wrote (beginning while in her forties) were preceded by prayer. While she wrote on a variety of subjects, her favorite themes were of heaven and the Lord’s return. God greatly used her songs to bring conviction of repentance to many. When was the last time you heard or sung “All The Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue The Perishing” or “Saved By Grace”?
Consider Horatio G. Spafford who, in 1873 lost all four of his daughters at sea. Out of this unspeakable tragedy Spafford penned the words for the beloved, anointed hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
We have all heard the hymn, “Just As I Am” written by Charlotte Elliott who was born in 1789. But did you know that by the time she reached thirty years of age her health had declined to the point that she became a bedridden invalid for the remaining years of her life? In all, Charlotte Elliott wrote approximately 150 hymns. After her death more than a thousand letters were found among her papers from people around the world expressing testimonials for what the hymn, “Just As I Am” had meant in their lives.
The writer of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” Joseph Scriven, knew the pain of heartache and loneliness. His bride-to-be drowned the evening before their wedding. Later a second fiancee died, dashing his hopes for marriage. Yet he was sustained by the friendship of Christ.
Did you know that Charles Wesley wrote over 6,500 hymns? Of Wesley’s finest hymn, Henry Ward Beecher, noted American preacher of the past century, once wrote,
“I would rather have written that hymn of Wesley’s than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on earth; it is more glorious, it has more power in it. I would rather be the author of that hymn than to hold the wealth of the richest man in New York. He will die after a little while, pass out of men’s thoughts, what will there be to speak of him? But people will go on singing that hymn until the last trump brings forth the angel band; and then I think it will mount upon some lips to the very presence of God.”
What would these great men of God have to say about the majority of our so-called worship services today?
One of the most popular hymns of all time, “The Old Rugged Cross” came forth because of an extremely trying experience in the life of it’s author, Pastor George Bennard. As Bennard contemplated the significance of the cross one day in 1913 and what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, he became convinced that the cross was more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.
As with so many of God’s faithful and gifted servants, Frances R. Havergal, (1836-1879), suffered ill health. In spite of physical challenges, however, she accomplished much in her short life including writing such hymns as “I Gave My Life For Thee” and “Take My Life And Let It Be.” Frances was an avid student, writer and composer who at the age of four began reading and memorizing the Bible. She learned several modern languages as well as Greek and Hebrew. When told that she did not have long to live by her physician, at the age of forth-two, Miss Havergal replied, “If I am really going, it is too good to be true.”
We are living in perilous times where strange winds of doctrine are blowing throughout the world. Riding upon these strange and subtle winds are new ear-tickling lyrics and sounds that excite the senses, stir carnal emotions and entertain dull minds. These beguiling siren calls tantalize fallen man’s desire for godhood, power and self-exaltation. The church as a whole has fallen into a “feel-good” mentality that refuses to crucify the flesh, carnal lusts and pride. While flesh and emotions are stirred and aroused by a substitute & anointing,” that which is truly spiritual is squelched and subdued. True worship is being replaced by shallow, worldly experiences.
Beloved friends, as the church drifts farther and farther from the shore of truth and godliness upon the restless sea of worldliness and compromise, we who love Jesus must remain upon the Solid Rock. We must not forsake that which God has established by His Word and through the lives of countless numbers of faithful witnesses who have gone before us. Let us watch and pray, remaining alert to the incessant erosion of all of those Christian values and truths our predecessors paid a high price for.
My prayer for all of us is that God will give us discernment that we will not become mesmerized by the ecumenical, unholy, man-exalting spirit of this age that is infiltrating the church of Christ with the intent of laying new foundations. Be not deceived. If new foundations are to be laid, it only follows that “new” music must replace traditional, biblical music; and a different spirit must replace the Spirit of God. May God grant us all hearts that long for that which is true, holy and pure in every aspect of our Christian lives.
Many, many thanks to all of you who support this ministry with your giving, prayers and words of encouragement. May God abundantly bless you!