What’s on the Praise Menu?

Examining the legacy of the gospel song

James S. Martin - Scurry, TX


Food pyramid

Many churches today are facing the pressure of dealing with the world’s music trying to get into the church. Some of it is coming in the back door, but some of it is also being introduced in the front door by leaders who have come to the conclusion that the way to win the world is to imitate the world.

This article takes a somewhat different approach to the issue of contemporary music. The author moves back a few steps and takes a wide look, not at this generation’s choice of music, but at what happened starting two centuries ago. From there, he follows the choices up to the present.

There are a couple of points to make before reading this article to help in understanding it. First, this article is actually an overview of a topic given at a hymn conference. Thus, it contains a certain amount of talk that assumes the reader understands basic music terminology.

The main term to grasp is what the author calls the “gospel song.” This refers to a music genre that developed in the 1800s, which he explains below. The important thing to remember is that he doesn’t use the term “gospel song” in a general way, but to a genre of music. As well, he uses the term “concert gospel” to talk about a style of music developed in the early 1900s.

Next, this topic was given in the context of American Anabaptism. The author traces the history of church music in that context, which may or may not be the same context that you as the reader are in. The context given here is a kingdom Christianity that had solid spiritual hymns and songs, in German, as the “music menu” in its beginning. With the move from the German language to English, a decision had to be made: What songs would they use in their hymnals?

Read the following article in that light, and watch a progression happen. The author ends with some observations that are pertinent to all of us, regardless of our spiritual legacy.

Note that the endnotes are the author’s notes, but all footnotes are by The Heartbeat of the Remnant. Also note that commas have been removed from song titles to prevent confusion when listed in a series.

Finally, take note of the food pyramid pictured on this page. Notice the foundation of what is considered a balanced diet, and then notice what the little peak consists of. And think of music while you look ...

“What shall we sing?” has long been a dependable hot-button question in the church. From chants to psalms to hymns to choruses, the changes in worship music have seldom gone smoothly. In some ways, Anabaptist groups have been less vulnerable to worship fads. They have historically kept a strong hold on their worship traditions. But the switch from German to English in the late 19th century broke that continuity and left the Anabaptists scrambling to borrow worship materials from the nearest Protestant sources. The gospel song was one such acquirement that became surprisingly entrenched in Anabaptist worship, considering how poorly it fit their theological motifs.

First-generation gospel songs: Sunday schools and revivalism (1860-1900)

The origins of the gospel song are usually traced back to the camp meeting songs of the early 1800s. Out of Appalachian folk traditions came “white spirituals” such as Give Me That Old-Time Religion and On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand. In this era, blacks and whites often attended camp meetings together, and may have shared their heritage of simple praise songs. Black spirituals of that day included songs like Go Tell It on the Mountain, We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, and Were You There?[A]

The Sunday school movement, which sprang to life in the mid-1800s, created a demand for simple spiritual songs for children. William Bradbury led the way in the 1860s with fresh tunes, many of which we still sing: Jesus Loves Me, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, and Just As I Am.

During the same period, Robert Lowry composed lively tunes such as Marching to Zion and All the Way My Savior Leads Me. He wrote both words and music for Shall We Gather at the River. More memorably, the blind poetess Fanny Crosby supplied around 8,000 new song texts,[1] frequently collaborating with the composer William Doane.[B] Some of her best known songs include To God Be the Glory, Blessed Assurance, Rescue the Perishing, and I Am Thine O Lord. Other favorites born in this era were What a Friend We Have in Jesus, I Will Sing of My Redeemer, and He Hideth My Soul. Of course, these examples represent the “gold” of the gospel song style; the “chaff,” or the 99%, has drifted away.

Although this type of song was first designed for Sunday schools, it also proved to be the perfect tool for the mass urban revivalism that began in the 1870s. Dwight L. Moody and his song leader Ira D. Sankey held dynamic evangelistic rallies in large urban venues, creating a new model for parachurch ministry. With solos and choir support, Sankey could quickly teach these new repetitive songs to large crowds without songbooks.

Compared to singing hymns in the Lowell Mason style, this was heady stuff. It was a brand new sound for Christian worship, modeled closely on the popular music of the day—parlor tunes and folk ballads. The fresh personal testimony of the lyrics, the lively rhythms, and the easy tunes made these songs custom-tailored for the excitement of the whole revivalistic project. Moody knew that mass evangelism depended heavily on the emotional momentum created by large crowds singing sensational songs together. He said, “I believe that music is one of the most powerful agents for good or evil.”[C]

The spirit of revivalism stirred among the Mennonites too. As they began borrowing both the methods and materials of the Protestant Awakening, the more cautious segment of brothers withdrew to form the Old Order groups. Today, we forget how threatening these bouncy new English jingles must have sounded to ears accustomed to slow German hymns.

The first wave of these new gospel songs entered the Mennonite churches through the Church and Sunday School Hymnal, 1902. A few decades later, the 1927 Church Hymnal (Mennonite) attempted to reign in the zeal for gospel songs by limiting the number of gospel songs to 20%.[2] The book that has spread gospel songs across a wide segment of conservative Anabaptist churches to this day was the 1959 Christian Hymnal, produced by the Churches of God in Christ, Mennonite.

Characteristics: Identifying gospel songs of the Sunday school era

Classifying worship songs is always complicated by the exceptions. For example, the gospel song When Peace Like a River is quite hymnlike. Compared to hymns, however, gospel songs had a distinctly new flavor.

General Features

1. Song form. In the hymn tradition, tunes and texts were conceived of independently. Hymn writers wrote poems in standard meters that could be matched to any number of existing tunes—or interchanged for variety. The gospel song writers and composers collaborated to create a single work. Like the secular vocal songs of the day, the tunes were specifically composed for the lyrics, or vice versa. This enabled a unified expression that often communicated effectively.

2. Spontaneity. Many pieces, both words and music, were written in very little time and put into circulation. Hence, the endlessly romanticized folklore in the collections of “hymn stories.” One gets the impression from these books that the average gospel song flowed out on the back of an envelope in 20 minutes, in response to some personal crisis. The tunes were jaunty, but not especially creative. The texts were not intended as studied theological statements. Often the language was only tangentially scriptural and the biblical allusions ambiguous. The spontaneous response of the songwriter’s experience made the songs at once intimate and ephemeral.

Consider these familiar lines:

I am trusting in my Savior, with a calm and steady light;
Hope is shining on my pathway, making all things fair and bright.
I am trusting, trusting, trusting, I am trusting day by day,
I am trusting in my Savior to go with me all the way.

This is a perfectly valid expression for the disciple of Jesus. But the poetry is fluffy; it uses a lot of syllables to say very little—a mark of hastily composed verse. Contrast this to the densely packed lines of a hymn like When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

3. Commercialism. The revivalism of the late 1800s kicked off an overwhelmingly popular market for these new songs. Publishing houses sprang up to fill the demand. Millions of paperback collections of the latest songs were snapped up for use in Sunday schools and urban ministries, as well for singing in the home. (In this pre-iPod era, if people wanted music, they had to make it.)

Musical Characteristics

1. The refrain. The most obvious feature of gospel songs was the repetition of a refrain, or chorus, after each verse. As everyone piled into the familiar repetitions, it lent a forward momentum to the singing, even if many singers did not know the song well.

2. Motor rhythms. Where hymns moved along sedately at a pace set by quarter and half notes, the gospel tunes stepped along a brisk eighth note trot. The net result was more syllables of text per minute. I Am So Glad That Our Father in Heaven is a good example. One can almost hear in these staccato rhythms the steam engine dynamism of the Industrial Age in which the music was born. The social gospel reformers had progressive agendas, and this was their beat. Meditative music it was not; it was the gospel on the move.

3. Dance rhythms. The skipping effect of a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note brought a toe-tapping exuberance into the church that shocked the hymn singers of that day no less than if “praise and worship” choruses were brought into our Anabaptist assemblies today. Sing to yourself the classic hymn Holy, Holy, Holy with music by John B. Dykes [Hymns of the Church #113], and then sing William B. Bradbury’s music as used in Holy Is the Lord [Hymns of the Church #119]. The first is meditative; the second is jiggy. Songs like Standing on the Promises are an odd choice of musical expression for a people who have traditionally opposed clapping and dancing in worship.

A century of over-dependence on major key, “happy-clappy” praise songs has dulled our senses to the more serious expressiveness of minor key songs.
Jerusalem, my happy home (Hymn)

Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me!
When shall my labors have an end
In joy and peace and thee?
When shall these eyes thy heav’n-built walls
And pearly gates behold?
Thy bulwarks with salvation strong,
And streets of shining gold?

O when, thou city of my God,
Shall I thy courts ascend,
Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end?
There happier bow’rs than Eden’s bloom,
Nor sin nor sorrow know;
Blest seats! thru rude and stormy scenes
I onward press to you.

I love to think of my home above (Gospel Song)

I love to think of my home above,
In glorious realms of light,
Of the pearly gates and the golden streets,
In that land where there is no night.

Home, sweet home!
Happy home, sweet home!
O! say will you meet me there,
In that home above,
where all is love,
And joy beyond compare.

I’ll fly away (Concert Gospel Song)

Some bright morning when this life is over,
I’ll fly away
To a land on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory,
I’ll fly away (in the morning).
When I die, hallelujah by and by,
I’ll fly away.

Comparing the lyrics above, one can easily see the differences in quality and depth of the words. There is, to be sure, no clear, distinct line between what is called a hymn, a gospel song, and a concert gospel song. However, the three samples given (which are not the complete lyrics, but only a verse or two from each selection) show a general pattern.

First, note the difference in the depth of the words. The hymn, although the wording is from the late 1700s and uses a couple of words unfamiliar to us, has a rich supply of metaphors describing various aspects of the New Jerusalem. The gospel song has some of the same richness, but then the chorus gets some repetition and uses phrases that are clichés. Next comes the concert gospel song, which upon evaluation has a lot of repetition of one theme. Five times in eight lines one sings, “I’ll fly away ...”

Notice next the closeness to biblical language in the hymn, and the almost total lack thereof in the concert gospel song. Although not as obvious as the absence of biblical language, the concert gospel song leans heavily toward glorifying “my experience,” while the hymn speaks more of the glory of the destination.

Again it is to be noted that the analysis given is not always as easy to be discerned as in the three samples used here. Yet, these three selections do give us food for thought concerning our worship diet.

The call to our generation could be seen as that of replacing some of the rich old hymns of former times—whose wording is that of another era and thus not as “fresh”—with rich hymns that speak the same message in 21st-century English. We do ourselves a big disfavor to replace a meaty but archaicly worded hymn with a flippant and fluffy song in modern English—steaks for cotton candy! We can have rich singing even in our modern dialect.

Let’s sing nourishingly! ~MA

4. Harmonic simplicity. The story of a song’s harmony is told in the bass line. Many gospel tunes are “three-chord specials.” That is, the bass notes are primarily DO, FA, and SOL—corresponding to the three primary chords I, IV, and V. A side-by-side comparison illustrates this readily. Compare The Whole World Was Lost to In Heavenly Love Abiding [Hymns of the Church #625 and #626]. In the first, the gospel tune, the bass notes have little movement; in the second tune, the bass moves about constantly, in a melody of its own. This makes gospel tunes great for singers learning to sing parts. It also makes them less interesting musically, which is why they wear out sooner.

5. Major key. Where are the minor key gospel songs? Without exploring the psychology of taste and tonality, we should at least ponder the dislike for minor key music that seems to linger in the conservative Anabaptist ear. Perhaps a century of overdependence on major key, “happy-clappy” praise songs has dulled our senses to the more serious expressiveness of minor key songs.

Textual Characteristics

1. Focus on personal experience. This doesn’t mean that gospel songs used “I” and “my” and hymns do not. But the gospel song, almost by definition, majored on the personal testimony of salvation. A side-by-side comparison in the Christian Hymnal of the two selections I Will Sing of My Redeemer and Oh Worship the King [# 8 & 9] illustrates the general difference in tone and expression between gospel songs and hymns.

2. Superficial content. As noted earlier, the very nature of spontaneity precludes a profound development of the theme. Gospel songwriters tended to pad their verses with trite repetitions of salvation lingo. Consider this popular refrain that was added to Isaac Watts’ timeless hymn Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed [Christian Hymnal #311]:

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.

This can certainly be the newborn believer’s genuine testimony. However, it has a breezy—almost flippant—air about it that seems to laugh at the serious words of Watts. Read through the song and feel the contrast in both attitude and literary quality as you move from the verses to the refrain.

3. Cheap grace. Unfortunately, too much of revivalism was founded on cheap grace theology. Just pray the sinner’s prayer and you’re home free! Naturally the songs used by revivalists reflect this thinking. A line from Oh Why Not Tonight? captures it well: “Believe, obey, the work is done, be saved, oh, tonight.” Or consider the bouncy little chorus, I had so many sins and he took them all away.

4. Overused metaphors. While the language of gospel songs was often cast in fresh images from contemporary life, certain themes got more mileage than others. For example, seafaring images were popular. Jesus Saviour Pilot Me, Love Lifted Me, and The Haven of Rest are typical examples. “Roaming” is another common image, no doubt taken from the “lost sheep” figure. Many songs mention wandering out in the world and finding one’s way back home.

In general contrast to hymns then, gospel songs tend to be big on joy, salvation, personal experience, and spontaneity. They tend to be weak on scriptural theology and the wider scope of the Christian journey, as in themes of discipleship, brotherhood, and suffering. The tunes are rhythmically more dancelike and melodically more up-beat and predictable.

Second-generation gospel songs: Concert gospel (1900-1950)

The revivalists and singers that followed Moody and Sankey leaned even harder in the direction of popular music and shallow lyrics. Charles Alexander and Homer Rodeheaver were two gifted song leaders of the early 1900s who borrowed entertainment tactics to get the crowds singing. With bold conducting, trombone solos, and showy vocals, they blurred the lines between an evangelistic meeting and a gospel concert.[D]

Gospel songs written in this era are noticeably different from the Sunday-school-era gospel songs. Rodeheaver himself admitted the shift toward show business:

It was never intended for a Sunday morning service, not for a devotional meeting—its purpose was to bridge the gap between the popular song of the day and the great hymns and gospel songs.[E]

An example of the evolution of songs about the heavenly Jerusalem could illustrate the shift (see right):

Hymn: “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”

Sunday school song: “I Love to Think of My Home Above”

Concert gospel song: “I’ll Fly Away”

Additional characteristics of “concert gospel” songs

1. Soloistic tunes. Vocal soloists with choir support became a standard feature in these days. A flood of new songs was written to provide soloistic material. The Old Rugged Cross, I Come to the Garden Alone, and I’d Rather Have Jesus are a few classic examples.

2. Syncopation. The Sunday school tunes brought a new bounce into Christian singing; the concert gospel tunes upped the tension with syncopation. The fourth phrase of Stepping in the Light [Christian Hymnal #561] illustrates this daring new rhythmic technique. Today we scarcely notice it. Two other songs of the period that use extensive syncopation are Living for Jesus and Since Jesus Came into My Heart.

Soloistic tunes, syncopation, “call and response,” and “feel-good” lyrics all pushed in the direction of performances and away from congregational singing.

3. Call and response. An innovation in form was to have the upper and lower parts repeat phrases after each other, such as in Send the Light [Christian Hymnal #212]. This became a stock feature of 1940s-era gospel song, with whole songs composed on this model. Each Day I’ll Do a Golden Deed comes to mind. These gospel hits were popularized by gospel performers like the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Blackwood Brothers, and the Happy Goodmans. In one of history’s little ironies, these groups were later imitated by an amazing variety of aspiring Amish and Mennonite singing groups, minus the instruments.

4. Feel-good lyrics. The concert gospel message became a lot more comfortable with general and sentimental references to salvation. Consider the song Way Down:

I have a feeling in my soul,
since the Savior made me whole;
Way down, way down, way down,
away down deep in my soul.

The plaintive soloistic lament, as in “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…” blurred the lines between gospel and country and western music. In fact, country music has some of its origins in gospel music. One can still hear exactly these kinds of gospel songs on country music radio, especially in the southern Bible Belt.

Understanding Syncopation

Syncopation means, literally, “a cutting off.” In music it refers to cutting the length of a musical note shorter than normal, thus disrupting the beat of the music from the expected flow. To illustrate, we have the familiar lyrics of Jesus Loves Me with the normal spoken accents marked above the text. Note the “accented-unaccented” pattern of the syllables:

Now let’s look at the melody these words are normally sung to, with the words put underneath. Above the music, the beats normally accented in a 4/4 score are marked. Note how the accents of the words match the accents of the music score.

Jesus Loves Me

Now let’s look at a piece of syncopated music on a very similar tune. You will notice that some of the notes have been tied across the bar line as well as other tied notes. The first note after a bar is supposed to get the most emphasis, but since the first note is either shortened (as in the first measure below) or tied to a note in the preceding measure (as in the third measure below), the accent gets “offbeat.” It creates the same atmosphere as when you clap between beats.


Syncopation creates a certain “tension” in the music. Used occasionally, it can be likened to a strong spice. But what happens if it is used constantly, like in jazz, rock, and other pop music? It pulls the attention to the beat. It makes great music to make people clap their hands, wiggle, or dance!

An example of a gospel song that uses a form of syncopation is Trying to Walk in the Steps of the Saviour. The syncopated notes give a snappy, happy twang to the words, “Happy, how happy, the songs that we bring.” In this case, it is used to spice the feel of singing jubilantly. Notice that the first note is an eighth note, which makes the “-py” syllable of the word “happy” get more emphasis. Normally we stress the first syllable of the word “happy.”


What happens when syncopation is used more than occasionally? Well, it is like potato chips. They make an acceptable occasional snack, but they really have way too much oil and salt for a healthy diet! Raise your child on potato chips and he will groan about baked potatoes! And that is besides having to deal with the effects of music with a strong beat. A strong beat stimulates fleshly senses ... as one famous blues/jazz musician said about his music ... “I like it because it makes the women wiggle!” ~MA

In conclusion, these features all pushed in the direction of concerts and away from congregational singing. It was “sanctified” entertainment. Mercifully, most of this genre has stayed out of Anabaptist songbook racks.

Should we sing gospel songs in our assemblies?

This is like asking, “Should we eat cookies?” A dietary fanatic might say no, but most of us feel life is richer with cookies and milk. Yet no one would advocate a total diet of cookies and milk. Paul speaks of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ep. 5:19), which clearly implies variety in our expressions of praise. Think of hymns as steak and salad. Then gospel songs are the milk and cookies, and concert gospel songs … they might be Coke and Twinkies.

Junk food provides instant gratification, but not lasting satisfaction and good health. Only the immature eat it all the time. We have to help our children make good dietary choices, because their instincts are not trustworthy. Just so, we ought to maintain a healthy distrust of our natural inclinations in music. Our taste must always be subject to the scrutiny of the biblical standard.

Treats do have their time and place. A bag of Snickers makes a poor dinner, but one Snickers bar is great on a cold afternoon. I’ll Fly Away makes a poor worship song in church, but it can still cheer up a laborer’s dull afternoon.

We should sing the best gospel songs for the sake of our little children. They love to chime in on the simple refrains. These songs were, after all, originally developed for Sunday school. The apostle acknowledged the need for both milk and meat. Sing Them Over Again to Me is quality milk.

Following the Davidic precedent, gospel songs provide a needful outlet for singing our personal testimony. The basic theme of gospel songs is I will sing of my Redeemer. Feel the deeply personal tone of these familiar lines:

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long …

With the latent pietistic stream running through Anabaptist spirituality, it is not surprising that Anabaptists felt comfortable borrowing gospel songs. On the other hand, “me-centered” expression runs contrary to the stronger Anabaptist emphases of brotherhood and self-effacement. Have gospel songs eroded our sense of collective adoration in worship?

Finally, Gospel songs balance out what hymns do for our worship. Worship should engage the whole person—body, soul, and spirit. Too much rhythm appeals only to the body. Sentimental and personal lyrics primarily stir the soul. Theologically profound hymns may gratify only the intellect.

Challenges for our day

Let’s be brave enough to be scriptural! “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” indicates a variety of expressions that spring from the Word of God and the work of God and the person of Jesus. There must always be room for simple joy in our public worship. However, we may need to wean ourselves away from a sentimental attachment to a popular music fad that sprang out of 19th-century revivalism. There are, after all, other alternatives to hymns that have centuries of Christian tradition behind them. Where are the Scripture songs? What about chants, prayers, or antiphons? Are we singing any Psalms?

There are other alternatives to hymns that have centuries of Christian tradition behind them. Where are the Scripture songs, chants, prayers, antiphons, and Psalms?

As with mission concepts, the Anabaptist attachment to gospel songs is another example of indiscriminate borrowing from Protestantism. “Indiscriminate” does not mean “bad”; it means not thinking carefully before you choose. If we do not show scriptural discrimination before we borrow, or if we are unwilling to examine our choices in the bright light of the Word, we are vulnerable to becoming something we don’t want to be.

“Gospel songs” have probably done more to shape our concepts of salvation and conversion than all our preaching put together.

Songs do not merely preach; they change our thinking in ways we are not aware of. Gospel songs have probably done more to shape our concepts of salvation and conversion than all our preaching put together.[3] The cheap grace theology, the high-pressure altar calls, the once-and-done view of salvation—the ideas that once sounded so foreign to the Anabaptist mind, have lodged themselves within our subconscious to a degree that 21st-century Anabaptism has yet to understand.

Cross-bearing, suffering, discipleship, yieldedness—the gospel themes which defined Anabaptism—are ironically too dissonant for the chirpy tone of many gospel songs. Our songs can become “pacifiers”—comforting without being nutritious. We must honestly evaluate the singing diet in our churches.

Contemporary Christian music

The gospel song eventually gave way to another worship fad—the praise and worship music of the 1960s and 70s—the popular performance of which became known as Contemporary Christian music (CCM). This music, which borrowed the sounds of rock music to carry a Christian message, has made overwhelming invasions into the musical tastes and values of Anabaptist youth in the past several decades. But until the hand-wringing parents deal honestly with their own attachment to the gospel song, they have little foundation from which to direct their children. Gospel music and CCM both came out of renewal movements in the church. Both borrowed the styles of contemporary pop music to reenergize worship, and both had close ties to show business. And both compromised a biblical approach to worship, because the showman’s song is not the people’s song. To our confusion, some of the current tension between the generations is simply a tension between yesterday’s fad and today’s fad. But the language of the debate is too often generalized as “Christian music versus worldly music,” when neither side is honestly measuring the styles against a biblical standard.

Now some have defended gospel songs for their simplicity. They do fit us well, in one sense, for conservative Anabaptists are generally not highly educated in music. But our collective singing is a gift offered to God. This neglected concept colors how and what we sing. Our “sacrifice of praise” is the New Testament answer to “the finest of the flock.” We do not preach shortcuts in the Christian journey in other areas; we preach about the cost of discipleship. How could we promote a whatever-is-easiest approach to worship?

This is not musical snobbishness; it is biblical. The Law allowed the poor to bring turtledoves, and God certainly honors the saint who brings Wonderful Story of Love. At some level, we are all musically poor. Our finest hymns are humble little offerings compared to the music of heaven. Jesus taught a powerful lesson from the lady who gave two mites, but He did not teach that we should all give two mites so that no one feels left out.

Let the best gospel songs continue to ring in our chapels and schools and homes. We need them. Which ones are the best? Just flip through a half dozen major denominational hymnals from recent years and see which ones have survived. You will find a consensus that will probably look familiar.

What’s on your praise menu? ~

The Early Church: Let the World Keep Its Music!

For if people occupy their time with pipes, and psalteries, and choirs, and dances, and Egyptian clapping of hands, and such disorderly frivolities, they become quite immodest and difficult to handle. They beat on cymbals and drums and make a noise on instruments of delusion. For plainly such a party, as it seems to me, is a theatre of drunkenness. ...

For temperate harmonies are to be admitted [in the church]; but we are to banish as far as possible from our healthy mind those liquid harmonies, which through pernicious manipulations in the changes of tones, train a person to effeminacy and vulgarity. But sober and modest tunes say “Farewell!” to the turbulence of drunkenness. Colorful harmonies are therefore to be abandoned to immodest parties, and to complicated and vulgarly attractive music.

~Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Bk II, Ch. 4


[A] Donald P. Hustad, Jubilate II (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1993) p. 226.

[B] Eskew and McElrath, Sing With Understanding (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980) p. 277.

[C] Hustad, p. 240.

[D] Eskew and McElrath, p. 180

[E] Ibid., p. 180


[1] Fanny was certainly good with poetry, but it is to be noted that she was paid to produce song texts, which resulted in many of them actually being of mediocre quality. Less than 1% of her texts have endured to our day … This should remind us that writing poetry or prose for the money does not produce an anointing.

[2] This was the same criteria that John D. Martin used in his recent Hymns of the Church.

[3] Oh, so true! Think about it … how many sermons have you memorized? How many sermons have you listened to over and over again. Now, compare that to how many songs you know by heart and have sung dozens of times. The hymnal your congregation uses has more influence than you probably think!

PDF Click the icon to download or print this article.