Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
~ Psalm 148:3-5
Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, more commonly known as St. Francis of Assisi, was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, and grew up in a life of affluence. Still, he was known for his charity toward the poor, something for which his father scolded him.
Eventually, after a short career as a soldier (including a year which he spent as a captive), he returned home and began to voluntarily lead a life of poverty. He claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ commanding him to restore the Church, and gave himself over to serving the poor, sick, and lonely. When his father became angry and tried to persuade him (even going so far as beating him) to give up his religious calling and take up the family trade, Francis renounced his father and his inheritance, and became a beggar himself. Continue reading
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
~ Psalm 19:1
Maltbie Babcock was a true Renaissance man. As a gifted athlete, talented musician, and dynamic preacher, it would have been easy for him to achieve acclaim no matter what interests he chose to pursue, yet he never ceased to give God the glory for the fruits of his many talents.
While serving as pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in northwest New York state, Dr. Babcock would frequently go for a run through the beautiful Niagara escarpment to strengthen his body, mind, and spirit. It was during this period that he penned a poem titled This Is My Father’s World, reflecting on God’s sovereignty over every aspect of the world He had created. Continue reading
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
~ Galatians 2:20
As one of the most prolific hymn writers of all time (with well over 6000 hymns to his credit!), it will be the rare Christian who has never sung a hymn written by Charles Wesley. Most people know him as the author of such greats as And Can It Be and Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, or as one of the founders of Methodism. What may be less commonly known is that, like his brother John, Charles was ordained as a minister in the Anglican church before his conversion. Continue reading
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Born and raised in the home of a school teacher, Isaac Watts had a knack for language at a very young age. He began studying Latin at age four, with Greek and Hebrew following soon after. He put these gifts to good use, becoming one of the most prolific writers of hymns in the history of the Church. Continue reading
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
The best songs written by men for the corporate worship of God are those based on the words of Scripture itself. For thousands of years, hymn writers have mined the depths of God’s Word, and continue to unearth new treasures all the time. Such is the immeasurable richness of our Lord and of the Bible! Yet few recent songwriters have chosen to draw from the first song ever recorded in Scripture: the Song of Moses from Exodus 15. Continue reading
Tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
When our hymnals are so filled with great hymns written by British, Irish, Scottish, and American composers, it can be easy to think that God has specially blessed the English-speaking Church with all the best hymnists. But the reality, of course, is that there is a vast treasure trove of hymns written in other languages, and only a small percentage of those are translated into English. To our benefit, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” is one of those English language imports. Continue reading
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
In 1744, the famed Methodist evangelist John Wesley compiled and published A Collection of Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (available for your perusal here). This collection featured 18 carols composed by his brother Charles, the most famous of which is Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. This beloved hymn found such universal appeal that it was even included in a hymn-book published by Augustus Toplady, whose infamous disputes with the Wesleys are well documented. Continue reading
“Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
Sometimes, when we talk about singing the “old hymns,” we mean the hymns we used to sing when we were young. But every so often we get to sing a hymn that’s REALLY old, from the days when Christianity itself was young. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence gives us the opportunity to connect with our past while we ponder our future. Continue reading
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
When Presbyterian pastor J. Wilbur Chapman wanted to introduce his stodgy congregation to new hymns written to stir Christians to missionary effort, his Consistory refused to allow it. Distraught, the young minister sought the advice of famed evangelist D.L. Moody, who told him to “print one or two Gospel Hymns on cards and slip them into pews; then have your choir or soloist sing one of them.” The result brought even the most vehemently opposed elder to tears, and the congregation adopted new hymnals—and a new evangelistic fervor—at once. It was the start of one of the most successful evangelistic campaigns in American history. Continue reading
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Reginald Heber was an ardent missionary and hymn-writer during the early 19th century. He wanted to compile a hymnal organized around the church calendar, with hymns assigned to particular services and paired with complementary Scripture readings. He wrote the lyrics to Holy, Holy, Holy for Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost; a day devoted to celebrating the Christian doctrine of the trinity. The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer prescribed the reading of Revelation 4 for this day, which became the basis for Huber’s words.
Unfortunately, at the young age of 43 — just three years after accepting the post of Bishop of Calcutta, India — he died without ever seeing his desired hymnbook come to fruition. After his death, his wife found the lyrics to “Holy, Holy, Holy” scrawled among his papers. She published it a year later, along with 56 other hymn texts. Continue reading