David J. Beattie

Chapter 1 Early Days of Sacred Song

In these days, when the hymn book plays so important a part in every place of worship, stories of hymns and their writers is a subject of perennial interest. Nor is it difficult to understand how the memory retains the words and tunes of hymns which were learned at a mother’s knee or at the Sunday School. Who is there amongst us who has not at some time or other experienced the strange and subtle influence of sacred song, an influence which compelled the tears to come unbidden; burning tea...

Chapter 3 Some Lady Hymn Writers

Some of the sweetest hymns in the language are the production of women. In this chapter an attempt will only be made to include a few writers whose names are familiar to the average reader. Elsewhere in this volume mention is made of many of the sweet singers in the ranks of women, whom God has inspired to pen messages of song, it may be in the quietude of the sick chamber, or amid the cares of their daily household duties. Among such hymns few hold so high a place in our affections as Charl...

Chapter 4 How Some Famous Hymns were Written

How often we join in the singing of the old hymns we love, hymns which are indelibly imprinted on the heart, and have become blessedly precious to us in the many vicissitudes of life’s chequered pathway. Hymns which have radiated like a beacon light, piercing the gloom and brightening the way; soul-breathings which, all unconsciously draw us nearer and still nearer to Him, the source of all our song. And yet, familiar though we may be with the hymn book, it is seldom we are able to glance ...

Chapter 5 The Power of Sacred Song

Among the divinely ordained instrumentalities for the conversion and sanctification of the soul that God has given, surely one of the greatest is the singing of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Pages might be filled with interesting facts in connection with the use of hymns in the public worship of the House of God. How often have vast audiences been melted and swayed by a simple hymn, when they have been unmoved by a powerful presentation of the Gospel from pulpit and platform. ...

Chapter 6 Hymns Sung in Tragic Moments

Strange indeed are the places in which hymns have been sung. In divers perils, and under tragic circumstances, have people derived consolation and courage in times of need by lifting up their hearts in sacred song. A few hours before the heroic Nurse Cavell was executed, she was visited by Mr. Gahan, the British chaplain. Having read to her a portion of Scripture, and commended the brave woman into God’s gracious keeping, she joined him in repeating Lyte’s hymn, “Abide with me.” A...

Chapter 2 Pioneers of English Hymnody

Isaac Watts, the author of the immortal hymn, “O God, our help in ages past,” is rightly regarded as the father of English hymnody, for, prior to his time, hymns were rarely sung in public worship. Up to that period practically the only vehicle of praise in the English and Scottish churches took the form of very crude versions of the Psalms, while in some nonconformist congregations there was no singing at all. A story is told of young Watts, on coming home from chapel one Sunday, compla...

Chapter 12 Hymns That Have Helped

Wanderers across the wilderness of life have told how they have been helped and cheered, at one time or another, by some almost forgotten hymn, which has been to them a well of refreshing, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Such remarkable incidents are indeed worthy of recounting, testifying as they do, to the experience of the deeper matters of the soul. How the singing of “Saviour, breathe an evening blessing,” not only helped but stimulated confidence, was told by one...

Chapter 8 How we got our Popular Gospel Song

While psalms and hymns stretch far back across the centuries, one department of it is of fairly recent origin. Gospel singing, as has already been observed, is a modern institution, and America can rightly be claimed as its birth-place. In the days of long ago the negroes of the Southern States chanted their own simple melodies, and in their own crude way were expressing the feelings and aspirations of the heart toward God. This particular type of negro is naturally a lover of song, and when...

Chapter 10 Sacred Song Composers

Eloquent tribute deserves to be paid to the various composers who contributed in no small measure to the immense popularity and usefulness of Gospel song. As has already been observed, Luther, more than three centuries before, was one of the first to fully realise the great truth that the tune was of equal importance with the words. As a matter of fact, with him the tune was first, the words second. But though Luther did not scruple in some degree, to to do violence to the language to fit it...
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