“That’s the real religion which sets the saints to singing. ... Song has always been inseparably associated with the advancement of God’s Word. You’ll find when religion is at low ebb the song will cease” (Billy Sunday).
“There has never been any great religious movement without the use of sacred song. Luther set all Germany ablaze with religious enthusiasm as he sang his magnificent hymn, ‘Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott,’ [‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’] in which Melanchthon and multitudes of Christian soldiers joined” (Ira Sankey, My Life and the Story of Gospel Hymns).
God wants His people to be hymn-singing people. The largest book of the Bible is a hymn-book. Christ sang hymns with His little flock (Mt. 26:30). Paul and Silas sang praises to God in prison (Ac. 16:25). Paul said he sang with the spirit and with the understanding (1 Co. 14:15). Twice in the New Testament Epistles the Lord’s people and the churches are commanded to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Those who are merry are enjoined to “sing psalms” (Jas. 5:13). Before the throne of God, the redeemed sing new songs (Re. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3).
When God’s people are revived spiritually, they write and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
The First Great Awakening (1720s-1760s) was a hymn-singing movement. The preeminent hymn writer of that era was Charles Wesley, who wrote more than 6,000 hymns. They are filled with strong biblical doctrine and feature majestic, lovely, memorable tunes. Many of Charles Wesley’s famous hymns which are still sung widely today are “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “And Can It Be That I Should Gain,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “Rejoice, the Lord is King,” and “Jesu, Lover of My Soul.” Other hymn writers of that era were Philip Doddridge (“Grace! tis a Charming Sound,” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World”), John Newton (“Amazing Grace”), and Samuel Stennett (“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand”).
The Second Great Awakening was a hymn-singing movement. It is said to have lasted from 1790, following the establishment of America as a nation, to about 1840. It occurred as the American nation spread westward and its population increased dramatically, from 5 million in 1800 to 31 million in 1860. The closing years of the 18th century found America in deep spiritual decline, but many were praying, and God sent revivals that swept across all parts of the nation. Large numbers of churches were spiritually revived. Multitudes were saved and thousands of new churches were founded. Methodist and Baptist churches, in particular, multiplied rapidly. Before 1800, most churches in America were Congregationalist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian. During the Second Great Awakening, the Methodists and Baptists surpassed them. In 1784, there were only about 35,000 Baptist church members. This increased to 172,000 in 1810, 350,000 in 1845, 2.5 million in 1880, and 3.7 million in 1890 (William Sweet, The Story of Religion in America). Methodist churches increased from 65 in 1776 to more than 13,300 in 1850, with a membership of 2.6 million (Methodist Centennial Yearbook, 1884).
Some of the well-known hymns written during the Second Great Awakening were the following:
- “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord” by Timothy Dwight (1801)
- “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber (1826)
- “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” by R. Heber (1829)
- “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Toplady (tune by Thomas Hastings) (1830)
- "My Faith Looks Up to Thee” by Ray Palmer (music by Lowell Mason) (1830)
- “O, Worship the King” by R. Grant (1833)
- “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” (“On Christ, the Solid Rock”) by Edward Mole (music by William Bradbury (1834)
- “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven” by Henry Lyte (1834)
- “Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliot (music by William Bradbury) (1845)
- “What Wondrous Love Is This” (1835)
- “Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us” by Dorothy Thrupp (music by William Bradbury) (1836)
- “Come Christian, Join to Sing” by Christian Bateman (1843)
- “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” by H. Alford (1844)
- “Sweet Hour of Prayer” by W.W. Walford (music by William Bradbury) (1845)
- “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” by John Fawcett (1845)
- “Fairest Lord Jesus” (1850)
- “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” by Edmund Sears (1850)
- “Crown Him with Many Crowns” by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring (1851)
- “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by F.W. Faber (1854)
- “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scriven (1855)
The shape-note singing movement began at the turn of the 19th century at the dawn of the Second Great Awakening and spread rapidly (though shape notes themselves were developed much earlier). It got a new impetus after the Civil War. Musical notes are given different shapes, and congregations could more quickly learn how to read music by this method. There was a four-note system (fasola) and a seven-note system. The four-note system predominated until the establishment of a seven-note publishing company Ruebush & Kieffer in 1866. It was founded by two Civil War veterans (one Confederate and one Union). Their most popular songbook, The Temple Star, sold more than half a million copies. The seven-shape notation “anticipated the melodic and harmonic developments that would come to define twentieth-century white gospel.” An experiment conducted in the 1950s by George Kyme found that “students taught with shape notes learned to sight read significantly better than those taught without them.” Many new hymnbooks were published using shaped notes, and shape-note singing schools were held in churches and camp meetings. They were led by a traveling singing master who would stay in one location for weeks. The focus was on sight singing, music theory, harmony, and song leading. “A singing school would be a large social event for a town; sometimes nearly everyone in the town would attend and people would come for miles. ... In this way, singing schools resembled tent revivals” (“Singing School,” Wikipedia). In These Happy Golden Years, the famous American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder described attending a singing school as a young woman and being courted there by her future husband. It was a tradition that a photo would be taken of the participants of the singing school at the end of the program. Many churches in the South still use shape-note hymnals and some still have singing schools (e.g., Church of God, Primitive Baptist, Missionary Baptist, and rural Southern Baptist and Methodist).
The revivalist/fundamentalist movement of the second quarter of the 19th century and early part of the 20th was also hymn-singing movement.
Influential hymn writers of this era included Philip Bliss, Fanny Crosby, Ira Sankey, Frances Havergal, Charles Gabriel, Daniel Whittle, Charles Converse, Robert Lowry, Homer Rodeheaver, and James McGranahan. William Kirkpatrick, William Bradbury, William Doane, and George Stebbins wrote the tunes to many of the popular hymns.
IRA DAVID SANKEY (1840-1908) was the music leader for D.L. Moody’s evangelistic crusades. Moody’s crusades would not have been what they were without Sankey.
Moody met Sankey in 1870 at a YMCA convention. Sankey was working for a tax office and attended the meeting just to hear Moody preach. He had no thought of working for him.
“When Mr. Sankey entered, the singing was being led by a man who was dragging through a long metre hymn in the slow old-fashioned way. Mr. Sankey was scarcely seated when some one touched his elbow, and turning around, he discovered that he was sitting beside the Rev. Robert McMillen, with whom he happened to be well acquainted. Mr. McMillen whispered to Mr. Sankey that nobody present seemed able to put any life into the singing, adding, ‘When that man who is praying gets through, I wish you would start up something.’ Without waiting for any further invitation, Mr. Sankey arose and sang with wonderful feeling,
There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.
“The power and fervor of the singer's voice was such that the congregation forgot to join in the chorus, and Mr. Sankey finished the hymn by himself.
“The effect of this song was not missed by Mr. Moody. At the close of the service, when Mr. McMillen brought Mr. Sankey forward, Mr. Moody stepped to one side and took the singer by the hand. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked. ‘Pennsylvania,’ replied Mr. Sankey. ‘Are you married or single?’ ‘Married; I have a wife and one child.’ ‘What business are you in?’ ‘I am a government official connected with the Internal Revenue service,’ answered Mr. Sankey, not realizing what motive was subjecting him to such cross-examination.
‘Well,’ said Mr. Moody, decidedly, ‘you will have to give that up; I have been looking for you for eight years.’ Mr. Sankey stood amazed and was at a loss to understand just what Mr. Moody meant by telling him that he would have to give up a comfortable position, and he was so taken aback for a few seconds that he could scarcely reply. At last, however, recovering from his astonishment, he asked the evangelist what he meant. Mr. Moody promptly explained. ‘You will have to give up your government position and come with me. You are just the man I have been looking for, for a long time. I want you to come with me; you can do the singing, and I will do the talking’” (J. Wilbur Chapman, The Life and Work of Dwight Lyman Moody).
It took several more months for Moody to persuade Sankey to join his ministry, but when the commitment was made, it was permanent. Sankey worked with Moody until the evangelist’s death in 1899.
Ira Sankey was converted at age 16 at a revivalist meeting and was a member of a Methodist Episcopal Church. He married a choir member, Fanny Victoria Edwards, and they had two sons. In his autobiography he said, “She has been a blessing and a helpmate to me throughout my life and in all my work” (Sankey, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns).
Sankey was one of the pioneers of the “revivalist gospel song” that was used throughout the revivalist era that began with Moody and lasted until after World War II and that remains popular to this day. I grew up with these songs in the Southern Baptist Convention, and I found them again among fundamental Baptists after my conversion at age 23.
The revivalist gospel song is chiefly an evangelistic song designed to reach the emotions and move the will, though revivalist songs also include hymns of edification for the saints. “Sankey’s songs were simple and direct, appealing to the heart and leading to a decision.” Many of the songs emphasize the return of Christ. Typically, a revivalist gospel song is shallow in theological depth and breadth, because it is designed for mixed multitude meetings, though this isn’t always the case. The music is designed to create a lively, excited atmosphere, not a sober, meditative one.
Many of the revival hymns were written especially for the gospel invitation system. Examples are “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” by Fanny Crosby, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” by Will Thompson, and “Come Every Soul by Sin Oppressed” (“Only Trust Him”) by John Stockton.
“Moody, having made his usual plea for those who were willing to be saved to rise in their seats and then to come forward to the inquiry rooms, would motion to Sankey; Sankey would gently sound a chord on the organ, and the choir would sing ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,’ or ‘Only trust him, only trust him, he will save you now,’ as the penitents walked down the aisles” (McLoughlin, pp. 238, 239).
Sankey believed that his singing ministry was a preaching ministry. He had only a few months of formal music training, but he had a good baritone voice and he studied and practiced singing and made it a passionate pursuit. He said,
“Before I sing, I must feel, and the hymn must be of such kind as I know I can send home what I feel into the hearts of those who listen” (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music).
He used “the clearest possible enunciation, with careful use of pauses for dramatic effect.” He said, “You’ve got to make them hear every word and see every picture. ... Then you’ll get that silence of death, that quiet before God.”
Sankey wrote and selected tunes that were easy to learn and sing, catchy, memorable. He composed many tunes for poems. His famous song “The Ninety and Nine” was a poem by Elizabeth Clephane that he found in a newspaper in Scotland. At the meeting that evening, Moody asked Sankey to sing. He described what happened: “I lifted my heart in prayer, asking God to help me so to sing that the people might hear and understand. Laying my hands upon the organ I struck the chord of A flat and began to sing. Note by note the tune was given, which has not changed from that day to this. As the singing ceased a great sigh seemed to go up from the meeting, and I knew that my song had reached the hearts of my Scottish audience.”
Sankey was at the forefront of a great hymn-singing movement that continued through much of the 20th century.
In 1873, Sankey published his first collection of gospel songs called Sacred Songs and Solos. By 1894, there were six collections which were published in one volume containing 794 songs. Eventually there were 1,200.
After Ira Sankey returned from the Moody/Sankey crusades in England in 1875, his songbook was combined with that of Philip Bliss to form Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs.
Neither Sankey nor Bliss enriched themselves from the sale of hymns as some did after them. Bliss devoted the entire $30,000 profit of his Gospel Songs hymnbook to evangelism. Sankey “turned over a fortune in royalties on books of song to charitable and religious purposes” (Chapman, The Life and Work of Dwight Lyman Moody).
The immense popularity of the Sankey collections helped popularize not only his songs but also those of Fanny Crosby, Philip Bliss, Philip Doddridge, Lyman Cuyler, A.M. Toplady, Francis Havergal, Elizabeth Clephane, Julia Sterling, John Yates, W.O. Cushing, and many others. In 1895, Sankey became president of Biglow & Main, the leading publisher of Sunday School music in America.
Sankey’s collections include some exceptionally beautiful gospel songs and hymns, including
- “There Is a Foundation”
- “Tell Me the Old Old Story”
- “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”
- “Hiding in Thee”
- “A Shelter in the Time of Storm”
- “There’ll Be No Dark Valley”
- “Throw out the Life Line”
- “Wonderful Words of Life”
- “I Need Thee Every Hour”
- “The Lily of the Valley”
- “Room at the Cross”
- “Oh, What a Saviour!”
- “Under His Wings”
- “Faith Is the Victory”
- “Trusting Jesus”
Sankey’s publication of Fanny Crosby’s hymns was a major reason for their vast popularity. Crosby knew Moody and Sankey personally. At the end of his life, when he was blind, Sankey visited the elderly poet one last time.
The Sword of the Lord’s Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns is in the Sankey revivalist tradition.
The Sankey-style hymns filled England and America of that day. They were translated into countless languages and continued to be used by the evangelists of the 20th century. It is impossible to calculate the fruit from these hymns.
“In Scotland, especially, the masses were moved by him. With an indescribable impulse, the cautious, distrustful followers of John Knox, worshippers who for generations had been accustomed to reject as uninspired all other services of praise than their own rude version of the Psalms, now listened with delight to the music which fell like a blessing from the lips of the most gifted Christian singer of the time. ...
“The wave of sacred song has spread over Ireland and is now sweeping through England, but indeed it is not being confined to the United Kingdom alone. Far away on the shores of India, and in many other lands, these sweet songs of the Saviour’s love are being sung. ...
“During the great revival in Scotland, a certain writer said, Perhaps not a week has passed during the last year in which we have not had evidence that the Lord had directly used a line of one of these hymns in the salvation of some soul” (Chapman, The Life and Work of Dwight Lyman Moody).
When some of the crowds began to applaud Sankey’s solos, “Moody quickly put a stop to that sacrilege” (McLoughlin, Modern Revivalism, p. 234).
A year before Moody died, Sankey traveled to Egypt and Palestine, and in Jerusalem he climbed the Tower of David and sang Psalm 121 in the presence of “a bemused Ottoman guard.”
Sankey wrote his last hymn for Moody’s memorial service in 1899. For the last five years of his life Sankey was blind from glaucoma. He died in 1908.
FRANCIS JANE “FANNY” CROSBY (1820-1915) was one of the most prolific hymn writers in church history. She was known as “the Queen of Gospel Song Writers.” Ira Sankey attributed part of the success of the Moody/Sankey crusades to Crosby’s hymns. She wrote the words to over 9,000 hymns and gospel songs, and an estimated 100 million have been printed. She defined a hymn as “a song of the heart addressed to God.” She became blind at age six weeks when a medical quack used a poultice of hot mustard as a cure for eye inflammation and then skipped town. When her father died and her mother sought domestic work in another town and remarried, Fanny was often left in the care of her maternal grandmother, Eunice, who determined that Fanny would grow up as independently as possible. She said, “I will be her eyes.” She described everything to her and taught her about such things as colors, the intricate details of birds and flowers, the beauty of a sunset. She helped her memorize large portions of the Bible and other books and taught her music. Fanny memorized the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, and many Psalms. Laster Fanny wrote, “My grandmother was more to me than I can ever express by word or pen.” Fanny had an excellent attitude toward her handicap, even at a very young age. At age eight, when she was called “the poor little blind girl,” she wrote her first poem:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world,
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
That other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot and I won’t!
At age 15, she attended the newly-opened New York Institute for the Blind, where she flourished. Her subjects included English, grammar, science, music, history, philosophy and astronomy. She learned to play the guitar, the piano, the organ, and the harp. She became a teacher at the Institute at age 22. Her talent carried her into the acquaintance of presidents and generals, the rich and famous. She was the first woman to speak to the U.S. Congress, and she made visits at to the White House. In 1850, at age 30, she was converted at a revival at a Methodist Episcopal church. She said it occurred through the last line of Isaac Watts’ “Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed?” -- “But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe; here, Lord, I give myself away; ’tis all that I can do.” She said, “I surrendered myself to the Saviour, and my very soul was flooded with celestial light.” In 1858, she married Alexander van Alystyne, a blind musician 11 years her junior, and they had one child that died at birth. Alexander was considered one of New York’s best organists and wrote the tunes to some of Fanny's poems, but he became largely a recluse after the death of the child. Two of her main tune-writers were William Bradbury and William Doane, who collaborated on 1,500 of her hymns. She also composed her own tunes to some of her hymns, including “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” Since some hymnal publishers were hesitant to include so many hymns by one person, Crosby used nearly 200 pseudonyms. She made very little money on her hymns, sometimes a couple dollars payment, but all royalties went to the publisher.
Before 1864, she wrote secular poems and songs, including political and patriotic. Her first book of poems in 1844 was titled The Blind Girl, and Other Poems. During the Civil War she was a staunch supporter of the Union and kept an American flag pinned to her blouse. After being challenged by William Bradbury in 1864 to devote her talent to Christ, she stopped writing secular songs (“Fanny J. Crosby,” paperlesshymnal.com). Her first popular hymn was “Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour” in 1868. The tune was by Doane.
In her forties, she worked with gospel missions in the Bowery district slums of New York City, and it was there that she wrote “Rescue the Perishing.” She gave away most of her earnings to the poor and lived frugally in the Bowery slums. When a Scottish minister told her it was too bad that God did not give her the gift of sight, she responded, “If I had been given a choice at birth I would have asked to be blind, for when I get to Heaven, the first face I will see will be the One who died for me.” She always prayed before writing her poems.
She had no bitterness toward God for her blindness, the death of her only child, or for anything else. At age 85, she wrote, “In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against Him, for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do.”
She continued to write poems until she died a month before her 95th birthday. When old and “bent nearly double,” she wrote to a friend, “I am so busy I hardly know my name.” At her request, she had a small, simple tombstone inscribed with the words, “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”
PHILIP P. BLISS (1838-1876) might have been the most prolific hymn writer of that era had he not died young. He grew up in a log cabin in Pennsylvania and was saved at age 12. He married Lucy Young in 1859. They shared a love for music and sang duets together. He loved music from childhood but had no opportunity for formal training until 1860 when Lucy’s grandmother donated $30 so he could attend a six-week program at the Normal Academy of Music of New York. From 1865 to 1873, he worked with the Root and Cady Musical Publishers in Chicago, conducting music conventions, singing schools, and concerts.
In 1874 he surrendered his music talents totally to the Lord’s service. “Mr. Bliss made a formal surrender of his life to Jesus Christ. He gave up everything, his musical conventions, his writing of secular songs, his business position, his work at the church, so that he would be free to devote full time to the singing of sacred music in evangelism” (Ed Reese, Philip P. Bliss). Bliss was the song leader for evangelist Daniel Whittle from 1874 to 1876. They had 25 campaigns in eight states in the east, south, and midwest. He published his first book of Gospel Songs and devoted the entire profit of $30,000 to evangelism. After Ira Sankey returned from the Moody crusades in England in 1875, the Bliss/Sankey songbooks were combined into Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs. In November 1876, Bliss conducted a service for the 800 inmates of the Michigan State Prison and saw the fruit of genuine repentance in many. There he sang “Hallelujah, What a Saviour” and another of his own, “Eternity.”
Agreeing to begin work with D.L. Moody in late 1876, Bliss and his wife traveled to Rome, Pennsylvania, for Christmas holidays with Bliss’s mother and sister, and immediately afterwards booked seats on a train back to Chicago for meetings that were to begin the Sunday following Christmas. As the train neared Ashtabula, Ohio, a bridge collapsed and the cars plunged 75 feet into the icy river below. “Five minutes after the train fell, fire broke out. Fanned by gale like winds, the wooden coaches were ablaze. Mr. Bliss succeeded in extricating himself and crawling to safety through a window. Finding his wife was pinned under the ironwork of the seats, he returned into the car, and bravely remained at her side, trying to extricate her as the flames took their toll. All that remained was a charred mass. No trace of their bodies was ever discovered” (Reese). Together with the remains of other passengers whose bodies could not be recognized, that of Philip and Lucy Bliss were buried in a mass grave that was marked with a large monument.
Bliss had sent their trunk ahead to Chicago, and it arrived safely. In it was “I Will Sing of My Redeemer,” which was later set to music by James McGranaham. Also in the trunk was the last song that he wrote the music for, a poem by Mary Brainard entitled “He Knows.”
I know not what awaits me,
God kindly veils mine eyes,
And o’er each step of my onward way
He makes new scenes to rise;
And every joy He sends me, comes
A sweet and glad surprise.
Where He may lead me I’ll follow,
My trust in Him repose,
And every hour in perfect peace
I’ll sing, He knows, He knows.
One step I see before me,
’Tis all I need to see,
The light of Heav’n more brightly shines,
When earth’s illusions flee;
And sweetly through the silence, came
His loving ‘Follow Me.’
Oh, blissful lack of wisdom,
’Tis blessed not to know;
He holds me with His own right hand,
And will not let me go,
And lulls my troubled soul to rest
In Him Who loves me so.
So on I go not knowing,
I would not if I might;
I’d rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light;
I’d rather walk in faith with Him
Than go alone by sight.
The music to “He Knows” is available online.
Following are just a few of the popular hymns that were published in this amazing era:
- “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scriven (1855)
- “I Gave My Life for Thee” Frances Havergal’s first poem, 1859 (music written later by Philip Bliss)
- “Eternal Father Strong to Save” by William Whiting (1860)
- “Abide with Me” by Henry Lyte (1861)
- “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber (1861)
- “He Leadeth Me” by Joseph Gilmore (music by William Bradbury) (1862)
- “Jesus Loves Me” music by William Bradbury (1862)
- “My Jesus, I Love Thee” by William Featherston (music by A.J. Gordon) (1862)
- “Revive Us Again” by William Mackay (1863)
- “Work for the Night Is Coming” by Harry Coghill (music by Lowell Mason) (1864)
- “Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina Hall (1865)
- “The Church’s One Foundation” by Samuel Stone (1866)
- “I’ve Found a Friend, O Such a Friend” by James Small (music by George Stebbins) (1866)
- “Immortal Invisible” by Walter Smith (1867)
- “Here Am I, Send Me” by Daniel March (1868)
- “Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour” by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1868)
- “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross” by Fanny Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1869)
- “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, Our Blessed Redeemer” by F. Crosby/Chester Allen (1869)
- “Rescue the Perishing” by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1869)
- “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1870)
- “Jesus Loves Even Me” by Philip Bliss (1870)
- “Whosoever Heareth” by Philip Bliss (1870)
- “Take the Name of Jesus with You” by Lydia Baxter (1870)
- “Dare to Be a Daniel” by Philip Bliss (c. 1870)
- “Have You Any Room for Jesus?” by Daniel Whittle (1871)
- “Onward Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould (music by A. Sullivan) (1871)
- “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” by Philip Bliss (1871)
- “Almost Persuaded” by Philip Bliss (1871)
- “Something for Jesus” by Sylvanus Phelps (1871)
- “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” by Elizabeth Clephane (1872)
- “I Need Thee Every Hour” by Annie Hawkes and Robert Lowry (1872)
- “Blessed Assurance” by F. Crosby/Phoebe Knapp (1873)
- “I Know Not the Hour When My Lord Will Come” by Philip Bliss (1873)
- “Free from the Law” by Philip Bliss (1873)
- “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow” by Philip Bliss (1874)
- “I Love to Tell the Story” by Arabella Hankey (1874)
- “The Ninety and Nine” by Elizabeth Clephane and Ira Sankey (1874)
- “Hallelujah, ‘Tis Done!” by Philip Bliss (1874)
- “Wonderful Words of Life” by Philip Bliss (1874)
- “Take My Life and Let It Be” by Frances Havergal (1874)
- “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” by Mary A. Baker (1874)
- “Come Every Soul by Sin Oppressed” (“Only Trust Him”) by John Stockton (1874)
- “Pull for the Shore” by Philip Bliss (1875)
- “I Am Thine, O Lord” (“Draw Me Nearer”) by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1875)
- “The Light of the World” by Philip Bliss (1875)
- “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me” by F. Crosby/Robert Lowry (1875)
- “Fully Persuaded” by J.B. Atchinson (1875)
- “To God Be the Glory” by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1875)
- “Saviour, More Than Life to Me” by F. Crosby/W. Howard Doane (1875)
- “Man of Sorrows” by Philip Bliss (1875)
- “It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford (tune by Philip Bliss) (1876)
- “What Can Wash Away My Sin?” by Robert Lowry (1876)
- “God of Our Fathers” by Daniel Roberts (1876)
- “Trusting Jesus, That Is All” by Edgar Stites (1876)
- “Hiding in Thee” by William Cushing (music by Ira Sankey) (1877)
- “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?” by Charles Luther (1877)
- “I Will Sing of My Redeemer” by Philip Bliss and James McGranaham (1876)
- “Tell Me the Old, Old Story” by Arabella Hankey (1878)
- “Take the World, but Give Me Jesus” by F. Crosby/John Sweney (1879)
- “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” by Will Thompson (1880)
- “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” by F. Crosby/John Sweney (1880)
- “Tell It Out among the Nations” by Frances Havergal (1881)
- “Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It” by F. Crosby/William Kirkpatrick (1882)
- “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” by Louisa Stead (1882)
- “I Know Whom I Have Believed” (“I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace”) by Daniel Whittle (1883)
- “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling” By F. Crosby/George Stebbins (1883)
- “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing” by Daniel Whittle (1883)
- “The Banner of the Cross” by Daniel Whittle (1884)
- “How Great Thou Art” by Carl Gustav Boberg (1885)
- “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” by Francis Rowley (1886)
- “When We Walk with the Lord (“Trust and Obey”) by John Sammis and Daniel Towner (1887)
- “All for Jesus” by Mary James/John Stainer (1887)
- “Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet” by F. Crosby (1887)
- “Throw out the Lifeline” by Edward Ufford (1888)
- “Tenderly Calling” by F. Crosby (1890)
- “Trying to Walk in the Steps of the Saviour” by E.E. Hewitt (1890)
- “He Hideth My Soul” by F. Crosby/William Kirkpatrick (1890)
- “Send the Light” by Charles Gabriel (1890)
- “Loved with Everlasting Love” by Wade Robinson (1890)
- “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” by Mary Brown (1891)
- “Whosoever Will May Come” by A. Monieth (1891)
- “My Saviour First of All” by F. Crosby/John Sweney (1891)
- “Christ Liveth in Me” by Daniel Whittle (1891)
- “What a Wonderful Saviour” (“Christ Has For Sin Atonement Made”) by E.A. Hoffman (1891)
- “Moment by Moment” by Daniel Whittle (1893)
- “Saved by Grace” (“Some day the silver cord will break”) by F. Crosby/George Stebbins (1894)
- “Revive Thy Work, O Lord” by Albert Midlane and William Walter (1894)
- “All to Jesus I Surrender” by Judson Van de Venter (1896)
- “Face to Face” by Carie Breck (1898)
- “Heavenly Sunlight” by Henry Zelley (1899)
- “O That Will Be Glory for Me” by Charles Gabriel (1900)
- “In Loving Kindness Jesus Came” (“He Lifted Me”) by Charles Gabriel (1905)
- “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” by Adelaide Pollard (1906)
- “One Day” by J. Wilbur Chapman (1910)
- “Our Great Saviour” (“Jesus What a Friend for Sinners”) by J. Wilbur Chapman (1910)
- “Saved, Saved” by Jack Scofield (1910)
- “Old Rugged Cross” by George Bennard (1913)
- “When Jesus Came” by Homer Rodeheaver (1914)
- “Ivory Palaces” by Henry Barralough (1915)
- “Living for Jesus a Life That Is True” by Thomas Chisholm (1917)
- “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” by Haldor Lillenas (1918)
- “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” by Helen Lemmel (1922)
- “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” by Charles Weigle (1932)
- “I Serve a Risen Saviour” by A.H. Ackley (1933)
- “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go” by B.B. McKinney (1936)
- “Cleanse Me” by J. Edwin Orr (1936)
- “So Send I You” by Margaret Clarkson (1938)
These are still well-known and widely sung in “traditional” churches a century and more later. Many of them have been translated into multiple languages across the world. I was familiar with them growing up in a Southern Baptist church. We were singing songs of revival though we were not experiencing revival! Though I wasn’t saved in my youth, I loved the “old” hymns from my earliest memories.
The lyrics have been quoted in countless sermons and books. The words of these great hymns have become an intimate part of Christian language.
The major themes were right out of the pages of the New Testament: redemption through Christ’s blood, Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s ascension and high priesthood, God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s power, God’s protection, eternal security, free from the law, holiness, trust, surrender, comfort, cheer, joy, patience, heaven, the harvest, Christ’s return, invitation to come to Christ.
There was a true holiness that characterized the music of that era. The music breathed of a heavenly world rather than of this world. This was not merely because the time was different. The world’s music was jazzy and sensual even in Fanny Crosby’s day, but the hymns did not partake of that spirit. Some of the revivalist tunes were lively, but they didn’t fit the dance halls and gambling dens of that day. They were spiritual rather than worldly. For a sample of how the hymns sounded, see the following samples from Homer Rodeheaver, Charles Alexander, and Ira Sankey, three of the most prominent revivalist song leaders:
We would warn that there was an unscriptural Higher Life theology in some of the popular hymns of the revivalist era. As a young Christian, I often wondered about the words of hymns, such as the following, that describe an experience I could not relate to: perfect happiness, perfect peace, not a shade of care, perfect submission, perfect delight, walking above the world and sin. These expressions puzzled me. What does this mean? Why don’t I have it? Could I have it? Does anyone have it? Should I seek it? How could I attain it?
Charles Wesley’s hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” says, “Let us find that second rest; take away our bent to sinning...” This is the second blessing, sinless perfection experience.
Frances Ridley Havergal has been called “Keswick’s hymnist.” She claimed to have come to the deeper life experience in 1873. Her beautiful hymn “Like a River Glorious” reflects deeper life theology. It speaks of “perfect peace” and being hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand, where “not a surge of worry, not a shade of care, not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.”
Phoebe Palmer’s “The Cleansing Wave” teaches entire holiness. “The cleansing stream I see! I see! I plunge, and oh, it cleanseth me! ... I see the new creation rise, I hear the speaking blood; it speaks, POLLUTED NATURE DIED, sinks ‘neath the cleansing flood. I rise to walk in Heavn’s own light, ABOVE THE WORLD AND SIN...”
Charle P. Jones’ “Come unto Me” (1908) teaches entire sanctification.” It says, “Have you by temptation often conquered been, has a sense of weakness brought distress within? CHRIST WILL SANCTIFY YOU, IF YOU’LL CLAIM HIS BEST; in the Holy Spirit, He will give you rest.”
Fanny Crosby was a Methodist who believed in perfectionist theology. She attended John Street Methodist Church in New York City, where Phoebe Knapp also attended. Phoebe was the daughter of the perfectionist preacher Phoebe Palmer. Fanny and Phoebe Knapp were best friends and they wrote “Blessed Assurance” together. One day in her room at the Savoy Hotel, Phoebe played a tune for Fanny on her personal pipe organ and asked, “What does this tune say?” Fanny replied, “Why, that says blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” and she wrote the words to the hymn right then and there (“Phoebe Palmer Knapp: Rich, Beautiful, Charitable,” June 2007, Christianity.com). The hymn “Blessed Assurance” teaches perfect holiness. “PERFECT SUBMISSION, PERFECT DELIGHT, visions of rapture now burst on my sight ... Perfect submission, ALL is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.”
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