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Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you as you teach and exhort one another with all wisdom, and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Several months ago I started using my old 1956 Baptist hymn as part of my devotions. I started at the very beginning and I progress little by little. I just read the text – singing if I know the melody, which I do most often – and let God speak to me through the words.

It was a wonderful experience. Many of these hymns have inspirational and incredibly insightful lyrics. It’s a shame we don’t sing them more.

In the preface to the hymn, then Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the SBC Sunday School Board, James L. Sullivan, wrote, “In this music we find expressed all the feelings and emotions, all the truths and all the doctrines of our Christian faith. By singing, we not only express what is in our hearts, but we grow in Christian character and are strengthened in our faith.

This certainly held true for me as I revisited hymns I first heard and sang as a child.

My experience sparked a new feature on my Facebook page that I decided to call “Hooray for the Hymnal!” Occasionally (not every day) I highlight an anthem and draw attention to a portion of the text. I might include a comment or two, but for the most part I just let the anthems speak for themselves.

As many will remember, No. 1 in the Baptist hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. It begins the General Worship section and is specifically labeled as a hymn of worship and praise. The lyrics were written by Reginald Heber and the melody by John Dykes. I have always been a believer in verse three:

Holy, holy, holy! That darkness hides you,
Let not the eye of sinful man see your glory;
You alone are holy; there is no one next to you,
Perfect in power, love and purity.

As someone who has more earth life behind me than ahead, I resonated with, and was encouraged by, the last verse of #29, “Day Is Dying in the West” (lyrics by Mary A. Lathbury, aria by William F. Sherwin):

When forever from our sight
The stars pass, day, night,
Lord of angels, upon our eyes
Let the eternal morning rise,
And the shadows end

Verse two of No. 54, “God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand” (lyrics by Daniel C. Roberts, aria by George W. Warren) gave me a new way to think about and pray for my country:

Your divine love has led us into the past,
In this land freed by you, our fate is cast;
Be our ruler, guardian, guide and abode,
Your word our law, your paths our chosen way.

And I’ve always loved number 59, “This Is My Father’s World” (lyrics by Maltbie B. Babcock, tune by Franklin Sheppard). Verse three of this beautiful hymn reminds me that even when it seems the whole world has gone astray, God is still in control:

This is my Father’s world, oh never let me forget,
That though evil often seems so strong,
God is still sovereign.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not over;
Jesus who died will be satisfied,
And earth and sky are one.

With 553 entries (including the Amens!) I have a long way to go, but the journey has already been rewarding and has brought new ideas and great memories. And the response has been wonderful. I’ve had messages from people who have dug up their own copies, found copies owned by relatives, and even bought copies on eBay.

So hooray for the anthem! I invite you to find a copy, join me in this adventure, and let these great songs of faith speak to you the same way they speak to me – again.

David Garrard

David Garrard is a professional magician who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a longtime minister to children at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville until his recent retirement.

Related Articles:

Yes, I also like the “old” anthems, but not the ones you think | Opinion of John Cotton

Hymns for a Lifetime: Poetry Added to Music Creates Not Only Hymns, But Memories

Rediscovering the songs of lamentation would wake us up | Review by Greg Jarrell


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