Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hymns I really like

I don't mean to suggest that these are my favorite hymns, but rather that they are hymns I have discovered that I really like. I wasn't an actual discoverer — either I had been oblivious to them before or they were genuinely new to me. I tend to pay more attention to words than music, partly because I don't read music well, but also because Christian hymns need to be Christian. The words are important and as a worship leader they are what I notice first. I think in each of these the words are good and the words and music compliment each other well. [Clicking on the images will bring forth a readable enlarged version.]

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need is a version of the 23rd Psalm. There are many paraphrased versions of that psalm and I like others very much, especially the one often set to Crimond. The words for this one are by Isaac Watts [1674-1748] and the setting for them that I particularly like is one of those "folk hymns" collected in Southern Harmony. I am particularly fond of the words of the last verse which paraphrases KJV's "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" as:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

The Sands of Time Are Sinking is a 19th century hymn that I discovered on the 9 Marks site, although it doesn't seem to be there now. It was originally there because Mark Dever's wife, Constance Dever, had written a new setting for the hymn as a present for him. Dever had indicated to her that he wanted it sung at his funeral. I think her music fits the words much better than older efforts. A performance of this version can be found on YouTube. The first verse:
The sands of time are sinking, 
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

When I Can Read My Title Clear is another great Isaac Watts hymn with a theme not unrelated to Sands of Time. It is about the assurance of Heaven and the confidence that assurance brings as we face the vicissitudes of this life. "I bid farewell to every fear." The first two verses:
When I can read my title clear 
to mansions in the skies,
I bid farewell to every fear, 
and wipe my weeping eyes.
And wipe my weeping eyes, 
and wipe my weeping eyes
I bid farewell to every fear, 
and wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage,
and hellish darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage,
and face a frowning world.
And face a frowning world,
and face a frowning world,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage,
and face a frowning world.

My Song is Love Unknown is a hymn I discovered at Ray Ortlund's site where he posted a beautiful YouTube performance. The hymn is from the 17th century, the music I like best is from the 20th. The first verse asks "O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?" and the last verse

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean I found while planning a worship service that fell near St David's Day. I was looking for Welsh hymns and essentially stumbled across this one. It was written and composed in the late 19th century but became very popular in Wales during the great Welsh revival early in the 20th. I had never heard it before but choose it fairly often now when it appropriately fits the theme of a service. The last two verses:

Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

The words for Firmly I Believe and Truly are taken from John Henry Newman's poem "The Dream of Ge­ron­ti­us" and the music is by Ralph Vaughan Williams, my favorite 20th century composer who wrote settings for many hymns and much else besides. The words are a credo:

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Finally for now, Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, another great hymn from the shape-note tradition, like my first selection, from Southern Harmony. A good performance can be found here.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.


Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.


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