The Hymnal

by Arnold Nelson

      Have you ever thought of the hymnal as a book of poetry?, or are you too busy singing to pay attention to the words you are singing? Most hymns started out as poems then someone put them to music. They are beautiful words. Open up the hymnal to any page and just read the words and think about what the poet is saying and what God is saying to you. Here are a few of my favorite poems and a little about the Authors.

     First one I want to talk about was the first song I fell in love with Beautiful Savior The first verse goes like this.

                          Beautiful Savior King of Creation

                            Son of God and Son of man

                                Truly, I'd love Thee

                               Truly, I'd serve Thee

                      Light of my soul my Joy my Crown

     That was written by Anonymous . It was written by German Jesuits about 300 years ago. This is the way it appears in the Lutheran Hymnals. In other hymnals it is call Fairest Lord Jesus and the first verse is different. When it was translated from the German it was translated both ways., either way the words are beautiful.

    Here is another very popular hymn that I love very much. It is called What a friend we have in Jesus'

                           What a friend we have in Jesus,

                            all our sins and grief's to bear!

                               What a privilege to carry

                             everything to God in prayer!

                            O what peace we often forfeit,

                            O what needless pain we bear,

                              all because we do not carry ,

                              everything to God in prayer.

      Isn't that beautiful, God wants to take our problems, our pain, and our sorrows all we have to do is pray and ask him to take them. Then we can forget them. That poem was written by Joseph M. Scriven. He was born in Ireland and the day before he was to get married his fiance drowned. Joseph was so distraught he left Ireland, never to return, and made his home in Canada. He lived a very simple life. He gave most of what he had to help others. This poem was written to help his mother in Ireland when she was dying. When Joseph was on his deathbed a friend found a copy of the poem and ask Joseph for permission to put it to music. It is now a favorite hymn among many people.

    Another beautiful poem was written by a sea captain . This sea captain was captain of a slave ship. Almost 300 years ago he sailed to Africa and bought slaves and took them to the United Sated and sold them. You can't get much lower then trafficking in human lives. After a very bad storm at sea he got scared and started calling out to God. God was there for him and he started believing . He retired a few years later and lived in England and studied under John Wesley founder of the Methodist church. His Poem is called Amazing Grace, and it goes like this.

                         Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound,

                              That save a wretch like me.

                         I once was lost but now I am found,

                              Was blind but now I see.

     That was written by John Newton. Aren't those words beautiful. If someone as low as John Newton can be saved think what he can do for you. God wants to save you. He sent his son Jesus to die for you so that you can be saved. All that you have to do is ask.

    There is one verse in that song that was not written by Newton it goes like this.

                               When we've been there

                                 ten thousand years

                              Bright shining as the sun.

                      We no less days to sing God's praise

                           Then when we just begun.

     Wow isn't that beautiful. That verse is listed as anonymous in the hymnals. In my research I found out it was one of about 50 to 70 verses of a song the slaves passed down from generation to generation called Jerusalem my happy home. It was first popularized by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her anti-slavery book Uncle Tom's cabin When Tom was at his lowest he sang Amazing Grace and she added that verse to it. It has been connected to the song ever since.

    Amazing Grace was sung using more tunes then any other song I know of. It seems that every group or person that wanted to sing it had to sing it with a different arrangement.

    Blessed Assurance another beautiful poem. This was written by Fanny Crosby. Fanny Crosby was blind she was not born blind but due to a Doctors mistake when she was about 6 months old she lost her sight. She is credited with writing over 8000 hymns and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for writing the most hymns. She often was working on two or three hymns at once and when she was satisfied her secretary wrote them down for her.

     You would think with all those hymns she would have lots of money but she was cheated out of some of it and most of the money she did have, she used to help the poor in New York City. She live in a small modest apartment with her husband . She owned very little because she gave most of it away.

                         Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

                        Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

                         Heir of salvation, purchased of God,

                        Born of his spirit washed in his blood.

                          This is my story, this is my song,

                          Praising my Savior all the day long;

                           This is my story, this is my song,

                          Praising my Savior all the day long.

     There is one more Hymn I would like to talk about it is probably one of the most recognized hymns of all. It is a Christmas hymn and is most beautiful when sung without instruments. It is called Silent Night. It was written by Father Joseph Mohr

                                 Silent Night, Holy Night

                                  all is calm, all is bright

                           Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

                              Holy infant so tender and mild

                                  Sleep in heavenly peace

                                  Sleep in heavenly peace

                                   Silent Night, Holy Night

                               Shepherds quake at the sight

                          Glories streams from heaven above

                                Heavenly host sing Alleluia!

                                  Christ the savior is born

                                  Christ the savior is born

                                   Silent Night, Holy Night

                                Son of God, love's pure light

                              Radiant beams from thy holy face

                             With the dawn of redeeming grace

                                  Jesus, Lord, at the birth

                                  Jesus, Lord, at the birth

    Wow! I mean wow it takes my breath away every time I read those words. What a beautiful picture he is creating. The story goes the Church organ was broken so Joseph got out this poem he wrote a couple of years earlier and asked his friend Father Frantz Xavier Gruber to write music for it so that it can be used at the mass. Since the only instrument they had was the guitar it was a simple melody written for the guitar. It is funny it is one of the few hymns I know of that is always sung with the same music. I have never heard of anyone changing the music.

     If you have a favorite hymn and would like to know more about it, Who wrote it, Why is was written and the thought behind the hymn there are several books written on the subject. Two I recommend are '101 Hymn Stories and 101 more Hymn Stories. Both written by Kenneth W. Osbeck, or you could just go to your computer and type the name of you favorite hymn and see what pops up. Sometimes you will not get much other times there are pages and pages. They are always updating so don't be afraid to go back from time to time. There may be new information or corrections.

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