A Hymn Book

To my way of thinking, a hymn book is for congregational use. The ‘congregational use’ defines the genre and has several implications:

A bit trivial, but symptomatic, is the mere size of a hymnal..a three inch thick, massive tome is not made for congregational use. A good hymnal will fit in one’s hand easily while still having both words and music, and indexes thereunto. Furthermore, this ‘use’ is not just for looking up a particular song, so it will not be organized alphabetically; rather, it will be organized theologically and systematically so as to aid the congregation in their understanding of the Christian faith.

In order to be useful for the entire congregation, the lyrics of the hymns will be both detailed and extensive in doctrine and the related music, while having tunes broadly singable, will support multiple voices in harmony.  A hymnal is to congregational singing as a book of Gregorian chant is to monastic singing.

It also needs to be in print, and actively supported by its publisher 🙂

The hymnal in my booklist is The Methodist Hymn-book – with tunes (1933) available for 13 pounds sterling from the Methodist Publishing House in Britain.

The black hardback is 21cm x 14cm and 3cm thick (ie 1.2 inches) and about 1050 pages of thin, opaque paper.

Adoration and Worship 1-35
The hymnal begins with thirty five songs of adoration and worship, starting with Charles Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues’, set to both Richmond and Lydia tunes. The next two hymns are Kethe’s ‘All people that on earth do dwell’ and Watts’ ‘Before Jehovah’s awful throne’ from the 16th and 17th centuries respectively.

Next, an extensive section on

God: Father (36-81), Son (82-272), Holy Spirit (273-301)
One of my favorites in this section is #49, ‘Thy ceaseless, unexhausted love’ by Charles Wesley. Also, #51, George Herbert’s ‘The God of love my shepherd is’.
The section on the Lord Jesus Christ has the following subsections:

  • His Glory, Name, and Praise
  • His Incarnation
  • His life, teaching and example
  • His suffering and death
  • His resurrectiona dna ascension
  • His priesthood and sympathy
  • His kingdom, present and future

(See also the later, extensive section on ‘The Church’)

Next, A section on

The Holy Scriptures (302-310)
follows. Not much needs to be said here, as the Scriptures speak for themselves.Then, the most distinctive classical, Wesleyan section

The Gospel Call
Distinctive to this section are hymns such as ‘Sinners, turn, why will you die?’ – such songs are difficult to sing and may sound hypocritical UNLESS one profoundly recognizes one’s own state as a sinner, saved by Grace.Next, an extensive section on

The Christian Life (339-658)
with subsections on

  • Repentance and Forgiveness
  • Faith and Regeneration
  • Dedication
  • Joy and Thanksgiving
  • Temptation and Conflict
  • Trustfulness and Peace
  • Prayer
  • Christian Holiness
  • Service and Influence
  • Pilgrimage, Guidance, Perservance
  • Death, Judgment, The future life

followed by another extensive section on

The Church (659-833)
with subsections:

  • The Lord’s Day
  • Worship in the Sanctuary
  • Privileges and security of Christ’s Church
  • The Communion of Saints
    • Christian Fellowship
    • The Church in Prayer
    • Lovefeast and Covenant Services
  • The Sacraments
    • Baptism
    • The Lord’s supper
    • Marriage
    • Ministers and Teachers
    • Missions at home and abroad
    • The Church militant and triumpant

(Of course, being Catholic, I have significant disagreements with this section on the Church.)

The hymnal concludes with sections:

For little children
(834-866)School and work (867-872)Home and family worship (873-877)National and social life (878-923)

Times and Seasons (924-984)

to which are appended various indexes, passages of scripture and also
significant sections on
Ancient Hymns and CanticlesPsalms
The psalms have, rather than Gregorian chant notation, four part ‘Anglican’ chant

The long, distinctively Wesleyan section on ‘The Christian Life’ deserves further comment, of course. However, since the various Wesleyan ecclesial bodies are, in my opinion, separated religious orders with impaired connection with the Church Catholic and which try to live ‘the Christian Life’ apart from ‘The Church’  it will be a good while before I get back to that. First, there needs to be extensive consideration of the Church and her history.

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