At my church we sing hymns, specifically those found in the Trinity Hymnal (Baptist Edition). The original edition was published by a Presbyterian church in 1961. The Baptist edition was published in 1995 as a collaborative effort of several Reformed Baptist churches to make minor revisions in order to accommodate Baptist congregations. Having been a member at my church for about 25 years (not to mention my husband being the pianist and the one primarily responsible for making the weekly song selection), I am very familiar with its contents. I think it is really sad that in so many churches, hymns have fallen by the wayside, being replaced with praise songs and trite, repetitive ditties.
If you want hymns that contain solid doctrine, this is the hymnal for you. The Baptist edition contains 774 hymns, each one with a scripture printed in the heading. It also includes the full text of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (which replaced the Westminster Confession of Faith that was in the original edition). There are many classics and tunes that will be very familiar to those who have been in evangelical churches for any amount of time, but some not so much, and some, to be honest, are not easy or “catchy” tunes. But the purpose of singing hymns is primarily to worship and praise our God, to extol His person, word, and works, and to instruct us in his truths. Of course for the most part, hymns began as poems, then had a tune added to them. Some of the most well-known hymn writers are found here: John Newton, Isaac Watts, Charles & John Wesley, Martin Luther, William Cowper, Fanny Crosby, Frances Havergal, and Augustus Toplady.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good repute, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
I’m not what I would call an avid poetry-lover, but with my education in literature, I do appreciate and enjoy it, and I have some favorite poets. This book was recommended by a friend, and I liked the idea of reading about the things of God written in verse form. This volume provides exactly what the sub-title states: a short poetry reading accompanied by some devotional commentary for each day of the year. The writers often include some background about the poet and some interpretive help (particularly for those older works which use more archaic language). They then draw a connection between the ideas and emotions expressed in the poem to the related ideas or doctrinal teachings found in Scripture, and end with a word of application to the reader and a relevant scripture passage.
This past Sunday at church we sang a hymn that we don’t sing on a regular basis (#621 in the Baptist Trinity Hymnal) that was so appropriate given that this is the week of our national and local elections. There are several key thoughts and truths conveyed in the lyrics that I believe are important for people living in any country to be mindful of as they find themselves concerned about the current political state of their nation or face the uncertainty of an upcoming election. The lyrics are written as a prayer to God:
Great King of nations, hear our prayer,
While at thy feet we fall,
And humbly, with united cry,
To thee for mercy call.
The guilt is ours, but grace is thine,
O turn us not away;
But hear us from thy lofty throne,
And help us when we pray.
Our fathers' sins were manifold,
And ours no less we own,
Yet wondrously from age to age,
Thy goodness hath been shown.
When dangers, like a stormy sea,
Beset our country round,
To thee we looked, to thee we cried,
And help in thee was found.
With one consent we meekly bow,
Beneath thy chastening hand,
And, pouring forth confession meet,
Mourn with our mourning land.
With pitying eye behold our need,
As thus we lift our prayer;
Correct us with thy judgments, Lord,
Then let thy mercy spare.- John H. Gurney, 1838
Notice the following ideas in this prayer offered to God by His people:
As we come to the end of 2016 and look ahead to 2017, I thought I’d share this poetic prayer from The Valley of Vision.
O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE,
Thou art good when thou givest, ++when thou takest away, ++when the sun shines upon me, ++when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world, ++and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still, ++in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year, ++leading me through a twisting wilderness, ++in retreat helping me to advance, ++when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor, ++with thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation, ++thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, ++I shall not drown;
If I am to die, ++I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot, ++grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, ++I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, ++as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.
Most of the New Year messages we see offer wishes for health, success and prosperity, and that there be no troubles or sorrows in the year to come. This poem reminds me that, no matter what “If’s” I may anticipate in the coming year, my sovereign, loving Father has ordained it for my good, to sanctify me, and will take me through it for His glory. I pray that if you are His child, this will serve to comfort you as well.
I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate, +be crucified, dead, and buried.
The sepulchre calls forth my adoring wonder, +for it is empty and thou art risen; +the four-fold gospel attests it, +the living witnesses prove it, +my heart’s experience knows it.
Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life, +for I wish to be as dead and buried +to sin, to selfishness, to the world; +that I might not hear the voice of the charmer, +and might be delivered from his lusts.
O Lord, there is much ill about me — crucify it, +much flesh within me — mortify it.
Purge me from selfishness, +the fear of man, the love of approbation, +the shame of being thought old-fashioned, +the desire to be cultivated or modern.
Let me reckon my old life dead +because of crucifixion, +and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour, +to be content to be rejected, +to be willing to take up unpopular truths, +and to hold fast despised teachings until death.
Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained.
Never let me wander from the path of obedience to thy will.
Strengthen me for the battles ahead.
Give me courage for all the trials, +and grace for all the joys.
Help me to be a holy, happy person, +free from every wrong desire, +from everything contrary to thy mind.
Grant me more and more of the resurrection life: +may it rule me, +may I walk in its power, +and be strengthened through its influence.
“The soul learns to pray by praying; for prayer is communion with a transcendent and immanent God who on the ground of his nature and attributes calls forth all the powers of the redeemed soul in acts of total adoration and dedication.”