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The new Christian Hymns

July 2004 | by Gareth Crossley

According to the Lord Jesus Christ a well-informed Christian teacher ‘brings out of his treasure things new and old’ (Matthew 13:52). The difficulty comes in determining what should be retained that is old and what should be introduced that is new. When composing a hymnbook for the worship of Almighty God opinions will differ on these two basic criteria.

The most controversial issue for a reader of ET is likely to be the new hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that have been introduced. These have been chosen with careful attention to doctrinal content.

The additional psalms (traditional and modern) are valuable, with language that flows well in song. Many of the spiritual songs will already be familiar to those congregations who are not restricted to the singing of hymns composed in the style of the 18th century or earlier.

Some of the old hymns have been adjusted – at times almost imperceptibly. Helpful word changes have been made such as: laud to praise (All glory, praise and honour), peculiar to especial (High in the heavens, eternal God) and aweful/dreadful to awesome (Before Jehovah’s awesome throne). But why leave words like ‘ineffable’ (Eternal Light! Eternal Light!) and ‘Ebenezer’ (Come Thou fount of every blessing)?

It will no longer be necessary to explain to the congregation the meaning of, ‘I fain would take my stand’ and ‘O trysting place’ (Beneath the cross of Jesus) as these have been very tastefully changed.

At times the old language of ‘thou’, ‘doth’ and ‘regardest’ has been updated; at other times it has been retained. The basis on which these changes have been made appears rather arbitrary. A number of traditional hymns are untouched and no attempt has been made to introduce inclusive language.

The CD format in which the new hymnbook is presented provides many highly valuable aids for the preacher/hymn chooser:

1. Although hymn numbers are not included on this pre-release CD there is an easy-to-use bookmark system familiar to those who use computers. There are categories, sub-categories and individual hymns (in alphabetical order) at the click of a mouse.

2. Music scores are included and usually a midi file provides the set tune (where copyright permits). This is invaluable for those who are unable to read music.

3. A search facility enables a hymn or song to be found, not simply by the first line of the first verse, or first line of any verse, but by any word in any verse. A one-word search produces a list of all occurrences.

Some chur-ches use their own supplement alongside a traditional hymnbook. Others, not wanting to exclude all recently composed songs, provide songbooks that include many unhelpful, heretical or vacuous compositions. Here is a hymn/song selection where doctrine and dignity combine in the choice of things old and new – in one book.

This CD would prove very beneficial as a resource, even if the new Christian Hymnbook were not also purchased.

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