What About Unscriptural Hymns?

In the previous post, we pointed out the need for scriptural lyrics. The question for our consideration on this subject is, what do we do about unscriptural lyrics when we find them? There are some basic approaches, which we will consider in more detail below:

  • Keep the lyric, but “reinterpret” or “qualify” its meaning.
  • Alter the lyric to be scriptural
  • Remove the offending verse or don’t sing the song at all

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Must Hymns Be Scriptural?

I sometimes wonder if song/worship leaders should be giving the same disclaimer as preachers: “Compare the songs we sing to the Scriptures. You’d be my friend if you let me know if anything we’ve sung is out of harmony with the word of God.”  Continue reading

Higher Ground

There are many songs in our repertoire that are favorites of individuals and congregations because they contain the magic combination of an upbeat tempo, a positive message and generally memorable lyrics. “Higher Ground” is one such song. In fact, it is so well-liked that we have two versions in circulation, the original version and a more recent version that changes the musical time signature from 3/4 to 4/4 and has the male voices singing a counter-melody. The original is a staple of hymnals, while the variation appears in Hymns for Worship (Supplement) and some “home-made” church supplements. The overall message of the song is the Christian’s desire to continue to move toward the goal of heaven. Continue reading

In the Hour of Trial (4)

So far, we have looked at the first three verses of James Montgomery’s “In the Hour of Trial.” To recap:

  • In verse 1, we were taken to the scene of Peter’s denial; we implored that when we face temptation, Jesus would keep us from falling because of it.
  • In verse 2, we used Jesus’ willingness to turn aside from the pleasures and treasures of the world in obedience to the Father as encouragement and an example to do the same.
  • In verse 3, we resolved to face life’s struggles in the proper way, understanding that they are for our ultimate benefit.

Now, as we arrive at the final verse, we look at the hope we have as we face the end of life. Continue reading

In the Hour of Trial (3)

Having tackled the first and second verses of the James Montgomery hymn, “In the Hour of Trial,” we turn our attention to the third verse. As was mentioned at the outset of this series, the third and fourth verses of our common versions are substantially altered from Montgomery’s original. In fact, verse three of what we typically sing bears only a basic thematic connection to Montgomery’s text. We will be presenting both texts in due course. Montgomery’s text has the more direct biblical connection, with several clear references. Continue reading

In the Hour of Trial (2)

In our previous post, we began looking at the hymn, “In the Hour of Trial.” There, we considered the first verse, and its references back to Peter’s “hour of trial” during Jesus’ trial, as well as the application to our own hours of trial. Now, we turn our attention to the second verse. With this verse, Montgomery meditates on how Jesus can “with a look recall.” Continue reading

In the Hour of Trial (1)

James Montgomery (1771–1854) is considered by many to have been one of the foremost hymnists of the first half of the 19th century. He was both a lyricist and an editor of hymnals, perhaps best known on the latter front for The Christian Psalmist (1825), wherein he penned an essay that offered a commentary on quality in the writing of sacred verse. He is generally credited for some 400 texts; some sources list more than 650, but in scanning the list, many appear to be variations of the same base text.

There are several of Montgomery’s texts which endured in the repertoire of God’s people. One such is the hymn, “In the Hour of Trial.” The title itself comes from Revelation 3.10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (NKJV). The focus of the text, especially in the first verse, is Peter’s denial of Jesus at the latter’s trial. Thus, the title takes on a double meaning. On one hand, it can refer to the literal hour in which Jesus was being tried by the Jews. On the other, the primary meaning is our own “hour of trial,” when we face temptation. Continue reading