We Need More Hymns
- October 24, 2017
- Sage Blalock
I don’t always connect with worship music. A fair amount of the time, I find my mind wandering while I’m trying to lift up my voice in praise to the tune of modern worship songs. I have a few theories for why this happens to me, but I don’t want to knock today’s songwriters. Instead, I’d like to draw some attention to those songs that almost always hold my attention…HYMNS!
Due in part to my background in the Southern Baptist church and also to my own introversion, I have always been more of an internal worshipper. I don’t dance, raise my hands, or belt out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I do, however, sometimes feel led to close my eyes while I sing. As a result, I try to immerse myself not into the sights and sounds, but into the lyrics of the songs.
The lyrics. That’s where hymns hold their power. More so than today, in my opinion, classic hymns have deep, gospel-centered theology. Because music hadn’t become what it is today with its laser lightshows, smoke machines, power chords, and endlessly repeated choruses, classic hymns writer were tasked with making biblical theology rhyme. When we sing these songs we don’t just say “God loves me, and I love Him” a hundred different ways. We articulate the substitutionary atonement or other similar theological concepts in a way that actually makes us love God more while teaching us how much He loves us.
There are a ton of hymns that I could break down here as an example (“Rock of Ages”, “Jesus Paid It All”, “Just As I Am”, etc.). But I’d like to take my personal favorite: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Here is the original version in its entirety:
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
As a fan of high-minded words, I enjoy singing “interposed” and “constrained” in my hymns. Beyond that, the song tells us not just to love God because He’s super nice to us, but it explains why God is worthy of all the praise and adoration that this universe can muster. God is the “Fount of every blessing”. He is the one who rescues us from danger. And He is the one who has sealed our hearts for His courts above.
I don’t think we should put an embargo on worship songs written after 1880 (although I have made that joke before). However, I do believe that it’s necessary for us to continually go back to the wealth of theologically-rich music that our forefathers (and foremothers) wrote for our edification long ago. That’s one of the many great things about our faith, we have this great cloud of witnesses that all stood, stand, and will stand under the greatest banner of all: Jesus. For us to continue to reach forward to the day when all of us will be in one perfect city together we should also reach back to those that came before us.