The New Psalms and hymns - Internet Archive

The New Psalms and Hymns: Published by Authority of the.

The New Psalms and Hymns: Published by Authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, A. D. 1901 (Classic Reprint)

Humor can be a very effective teaching tool. It can illumine even a controversial point in a way that is not confrontational or threatening. Consider the following two amusing pieces about music for worship services.

First I have read in several email posts that have arrived at our seminary. It goes like this: “An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. ‘Well,’ said the farmer, 'it was good. They did something different however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.’

He leadeth me; O blessed thought!
O words with heav'nly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me;
By his own hand he leadeth me:
His faithful follower I would be,
For by his hand he leadeth me.

This hymn actually illustrates elements of both of the humorous stories above. The hymn has archaic language: “fraught.” But it also is very repetitive and rather shallow: the phrase “leadeth me” recurs six times in one verse! Clearly this kind of hymn is transitional from the old Protestant hymnody which was rich in doctrine, to the new praise chorus. “He leadeth me” represents the revivalistic hymns that did pave the way for praise choruses, which differ from them primarily in the tunes to which they are set.

Why is it, then, that those who defend “traditional” hymns are content to sing “He leadeth me,” but oppose praise songs? The answer is that “He leadeth me” is familiar. No serious issue of content or style separates the one from the other.

Many who like praise songs like them because they are familiar, just as many who like hymns like them for the same reason. This fact should cause all sides to step back and ask, “Should we determine what we sing in church simply on the basis of what is familiar to us, that is, what we like? Or are there biblical principles that must guide what we sing?”