When Christian churchgoers attend service at their Church this Sunday morning, they may not hear the straightforward melodies of the hymns they knew from childhood. These days, many churches have turned to "praise choruses" -- songs that employ simple, repeated words of praise rather than the more poetic, penitent language of vintage hymns.
I have watched hymn-singing decline over the past several years. It is a big loss. The difference between the hymns and the praise songs is the difference between a sonnet and a greeting card. They don't have the depth and the poetic language that a song would have from the old hymnal.
A couple of birthday's ago, my friend, Norma, gave me the book, "Then Sings My Soul," 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan. It truly is an amazing book. If you are an old Church-goer who loves the hymns of yore, then you know what I mean when I say that singing the old hymns lifts my soul in song. During a recent tent revival my Church had, one of the songs the choir sang was I Want To Know More About My Jesus, and you could feel the warm spirit that filled the inside of that tent as we sang it. And it wasn't just me. I know this because I did not say anything about it, yet we sang that one song 4 times that week. So, it was obvious that I wasn't the only one who felt it.
I yearn to go back to those Sunday mornng services of bulletins shuffling, babies crying, fans waving all over the building, people shouting - not one or two but several - and those good, old-fashioned hymns.
I grew up at Clear Fork Baptist Church and 'my seat' was on the right side, three rows back behind Kate Owens. She was one of my Sunday School teachers. I would listen to her sing those old hymns and oh how she would sing them. And, I would watch her and the very reason I would watch her was because I could tell she loved to sing those songs. And, the more I watched and listened to her singing, the more I got into it. So many times from my childhood, I can remember those sweet spirit-filled moments standing behind Miss Kate and singing - and listening - as hard as I could. It was the late 1960's and even then, I realized the hymns were old. but watching her, and listening to her, I realized how great those old hymns were, and I loved to sing them. I mean, I really loved it. Great to say, I have been hooked ever since. Today, whenever I get the chance to sing those old hymns, it never fails to take me back to those days.
I wish I could write a book about the old hymns and their stories, but it has been done so many times already. One thing I have always had trouble with is this: I believe the King James Version of the Bible is THE TRUE BIBLE. I believe it is THE inspired word of God. I believe everything else is man-inspired. So, why is it that we do not have that same belief in the old hymn book? Check out the new hymn books and, if you are able to find an old song in there, look at the verses, read the words, and notice how verses are left out, and notice how many words have been changed or substituted for something else. Sound familiar?
What we need is an old-time gospel song revolution. You've heard the expression "They don't make 'em like that anymore!" Well I say, "We don't sing 'em like that anymore!"
Oh,those great songwriters like Fanny Crosby, who wrote over 8,000 hymns! My all-time Fanny Crosby song is "Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour." I left Church one Sunday morning with that song heavy on my heart. Once home, I sat down at the computer, typed the words out, and e-mailed them to about 50 or so people. One by one, the replies came, and that afternoon I sat at my computer and watched as person after person told me what a blessing they had received by reading those words. My brother, Mark, was stunned. While I was at my home typing the words, he was at his home wishing he could remember to the words to that song. And, then he suddenly received my e-mail!
Hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by
Charles Wesley wrote over 6,500 hymns. Isaac Watts was twenty years old sitting at home writing great hymns! John Newton - you remember him, he wrote a song entitled, "Amazing Grace?" Ira Sankey's songs were so popular that his hymns, selling for six cents each, produced profits of $388,000 for his publisher. He wrote Faith is the Victory and A Shelter in the Time of Storm. Helen Lemmel wrote "Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus." One day, in 1918, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled Focused. The pamphlet contained these words: "So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness." She said, "Almost instantly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and heard inside me, the chorus to that song." William Ralph Featherstone was 16 when he wrote, "My Jesus, I Love Thee". Anna L. Coghill was 18, when she wrote "Work, for the Night Is Coming."
The great writer, John Wesley, said...(1) Learn the tune (2) Sing it as it is printed (3) Sing all. “If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.” (4) Sing lustily and with a good courage (5) Sing modestly (6) Sing in time (7) Above all, sing spiritually. He said, "Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually." Wow! Give me the strength to do all that, Lord!
Songwriter Matt Redman said, "In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you're pretending or putting on. It's got to be an overflow of your heart. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God."
I like what I read at The Old Time Gospel: "Why the old time gospel, what's wrong with todays gospel? What's the difference anyway? Well, the simple truth is, todays gospel, for the most part, is another gospel altogether. Paul wrote, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" Galatians 1:6
What Paul said, was that the Galatians had removed themselves from the truth, to a strange and altered gospel, unfamiliar with the teachings of Christ. Brass had replaced the gold. There is a lot of brass in the Church today, sadly most professing christians don't know the difference, they don't know the God they have come to worship. We have self proclaimed prophets and apostles that live by their own wisdom and are directed by their own greed.
I love this next part.....
The old time gospel worked, when people got saved, they stayed saved, they stayed holy, they stayed humble, giving all the glory to God. "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" Jeremiah 6:16.
The short story below, is a good example of the new modern thinking of religion verses the old time gospel that is alive in a man's heart.
At the University of Chicago Divinity School each year they have what is called Baptist Day. It is a day when all the Baptists in the area are invited to the school because they want the Baptist dollars to keep coming in. On this day each one is to bring a sack lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. Every Baptist Day the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education center.
One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for two and one-half hours proving that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions.
After about thirty seconds, an old, dark skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped, woolly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium. "Docta Tillich, I got one question," he said as all eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it. "Docta Tillich..." CRUNCH, MUNCH... "My question is a simple question," CRUNCH, CUNCH... "Now I ain't never read them books you read..." CRUNCH, MUNCH... "and I can't recite the Scriptures in the original Greek..." CRUNCH, MUNCH... "I don't know nothin' about Niebuhr and Heidegger..." CRUNCH, MUNCH... He finished the apple. "All I wanna know is: This apple I just ate-was it bitter or sweet?"
Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: "I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven't tasted your apple."
The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus."
The one thousand plus in attendance could not contain themselves. The auditorium erupted with applause and cheers. Dr. Tillich thanked his audience and promptly left the platform. — Source unknown
I end this 'not so short' story with this beautiful refrain by Fanny Crosby.......
Are you walking in the light
In the blessed, blessed light
Is it shining in your soul today
With a firm abiding faith
That will triumph over death
Are you walking in the old, old way