For some time I have been contemplating posting something on this topic. I am regularly reminded of the great value of good, rich songs in corporate worship. We have such a treasure of them. I admit I have a bias for grand, old hymns, but there are also some new ones I really like. The point though is to give our people songs that nourish their souls. The songs we sing shape our thoughts and lives perhaps even more than sermons, because we sing them regularly. Let us then give them really good ones that capture and explain the message we are preaching. Great hymns are gospel songs which deal explicitly with sin, the cross & resurrection and the hope of heaven. They move us away from the glib assertions that all is well right now to the reality of our struggle with sin and death, all the while anchoring us in the hope of the gospel. This is real world stuff, and I know how much I need it, how much it ministers to my soul. I am so blessed to be in a church which uses them.
So, love your people, aid them, teach them, cherish them, protect them, encourage them, support them, fight for their souls by giving them good, gospel-centered songs.
I will list here just one example (of hundreds). I mention this one because we sang it again yesterday and it always means so much to me.
“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still mine own.
Let the world despise and leave me,
they have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
show Thy face and all is bright.
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, “Abba, Father”;
I have set my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
all must work for good to me.
Man may trouble and distress me,
’twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Take, my soul, thy full salvation;
rise o’er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station
something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee;
what a Father’s smile is thine;
What a Savior died to win thee,
child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?
Haste then on from grace to glory,
armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
faith to sight, and prayer to praise.
- Henry F. Lyte, 1824, revised 1833
(and, yes, we sing all the verses!)