It Is Not Death to Die

Hymnology: It Is Not Death to Die

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
~
Philippians 1:21

Hymn Story

Henri Abraham César Malan was a prolific composer of hymns in the early 19th century, as well as an ardent evangelist who traveled throughout the European continent preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though few of his hymns have been translated and popularized in English, his impact on the French and Swiss churches of his era has been compared to that of Isaac Watts in England a generation earlier. Continue reading

Immovable Our Hope Remains

Hymnology: Immovable Our Hope Remains

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

~Philippians 1:6

Hymn Story

Though he is known today as the author of one of the most beloved hymns of all times (Rock of Ages), Augustus Montague Toplady was despised by most of his contemporaries… even members of his own family! He was known as “sick and neurotic” by his friends, and as “impulsive, rash-spoken, reckless in misjudgment” by early biographers. When he publicly attacked John Wesley (calling him “the most rancorous hater of the gospel-system that ever appeared on this island,” among other choice insults), Wesley responded dismissively, saying, “I do not fight with chimney sweeps!”

Yet God can use even the most caustic individuals for His glory. Continue reading

How Firm a Foundation

Hymnology: How Firm a Foundation

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”
~ 1 Corinthians 3:11

Hymn Story

Not a whole lot is known about the exact origin of this hymn. The text was first published under the title “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises” in 1787 in the hymnbook A Selection of Hymns, compiled by British pastor John Rippon. This title comes from 2 Peter 1:3-4.

John Rippon was a Baptist minister in London, who collected, edited, and published several collections of hymns throughout his life. Unfortunately, he frequently neglected to list the authors of the hymns he published, and would often make changes to the text without acknowledging which of the words were by the original authors and which were his alterations. This has been a source of frustration for historians and hymnologists! Continue reading