Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. Martin Luther
So there you have it, my friends.
Twenty-seven great hymns of the Christian faith. Twenty-seven classics, with the earliest hymn dating back to 750 A.D. and the latest from 1866. From Martin Luther to Isaac Watts, from John Newton to Charles Wesley, I certainly hope this journey through these Great Hymns of Faith have blessed you as much as I have been blessed.
If you recall, back at the beginning of our journey, we told you how we arrived at the list of twenty-seven hymns we used in this blog series. In March 2011, author Robert T. Coote published an article in Christianity Today entitled, The Hymns That Keep on Going: The 27 Worship Songs That Have Made The Hymnal Cut Time And Again.
So how in the world did Coote arrive at his list of twenty-seven hymns? Did he just pick his personal favorites and leave it at that?
The answer is a definitive “no.”
Coote was apparently as frustrated as I was when I began looking for an accurate list of the most popular hymns of all time. One quick search on-line and you’ll find a multitude of Top Ten Hymn lists, etc. etc., but if you look a bit deeper into many of these lists, the criteria for picking the hymns is fairly subjective at best. I mean, who doesn’t have a list of personal favorites…right?
So Robert Coote decided that his “favorite hymn” list had to be a scientific one. Thus, his first step was to gather the data from nearly all of the major hymnals from all of the major American Protestant denominations from 1878 to the present! That search alone was a major task, but at last, Coote had the following hymnals to work with: Anglican (4 editions, earliest 1892), Baptist (4 editions, earliest 1883), Congregational (5 editions, earliest 1897), Lutheran (5 editions, earliest 1899), Methodist (5 editions, earliest 1878), and Presbyterian (5 editions, earliest 1885).
So with these hymnals in hand (28 different ones!) ranging from 1878 to the present, Coote catalogued nearly 5,000 different hymns! That’s a lot of singing folks! So in order to narrow down his search, Coote decided to weed out his list by applying two important criteria…
- a hymn had to appear in at least 26 of the 28 different hymnals Coote had accumulated, which meant, of course, that the hymn would, a) have had to be written by 1878 in order to be included in the very earliest hymnals; and, b) had attained an “across-the-board” appeal since the 28 hymnals represented most of the major Protestant denominations across America.
- a hymn could not be a Christmas carol, a simple chorus, or a ‘service-type’ hymn (i.e. the Doxology, etc.).
Amazingly, just these two conditions alone reduced Coote’s list from a bulky 4,905 hymns to… voila!…twenty-seven timeless hymns! And as a refresher, here’s that list (in alphabetical order), once again…
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (M. Luther, 1529; tr. F. H. Hedge)
- Abide With Me: Fast Falls The Eventide (H. Lyte, 1847)*
- All Glory, Laud, And Honor (Theodulph, 820; tr. J. M. Neale)
- All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name (E. Perronet, 1779)*
- Christ The Lord Is Risen Today! (C. Wesley, 1739)
- Come, Thou Almighty King (C. Wesley, 1757)
- Come, Ye Thankful People Come (H. Alford, 1844)*
- Crown Him With Many Crowns (M. Bridges, 1851, alt. G. Thring)*
- Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken (J. Newton, 1779)*
- Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (W. Williams, 1745)*
- Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty (R. Heber, 1826)*
- How Firm A Foundation, Ye Saints (R. Keene, 1787)*
- In The Cross Of Christ I Glory (J. Bowring, 1825)*
- Jesus Shall Reign Where’er The Sun (I. Watts, 1719)*
- Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee (Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th; tr. E. Caswall)
- Just As I Am, Without One Plea (C. Elliott, 1836)
- Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (C. Wesley, 1747)*
- Now Thank We All Our God (M. Rinkart, 1636; tr. C. Winkworth)
- O, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing (C. Wesley, 1739)
- O God, Our Help In Ages Past (I. Watts, 1719)
- O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th; tr. Gerhardt & J. W. Alexander)*
- O, Worship The King All Glorious Above (R. Grant, 1833)
- Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us (D. Thrupp, 1836)
- The Day Of Resurrection (John of Damascus, ca. 750; tr. J. M. Neale)
- The Church’s One Foundation Is Jesus Christ, Her Lord (S. Stone, 1866)
- There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy (F. Faber, 1854)
- When I Survey The Wondrous Cross (I. Watts, 1707)*
* Indicates this hymn appeared in all 28 of Robert Coote’s hymnals. Only 13 hymns reached that golden standard! Those not marked with an asterisk (14) appeared in at least 26 of the 28 hymnals. (9 hymns appeared in 27 out of 28, while 5 hymns appeared in 26 of the 28). Summary: Only a total of 27 hymns (out of 4,905 hymns published in 28 major hymnals from 1878 to the present) met Coote’s high standard for on-going popularity.
But here’s the rub.
Coote received immediate kick-back when Christianity Today first published his list back in 2011, because, as everyone can see, his list of twenty-seven hymns leaves out the world’s most identifiable hymn, Amazing Grace. And what about The Old Rugged Cross, and … and…? (And on it goes!)
So wait, folks. Don’t close your hymnbooks too soon!
In order to honor both Coote’s list of twenty-seven classics while not insulting John Newton, composer of Amazing Grace, we’ve decided to round our list up to an even number (30), thus satisfying the author’s desire to not leave out some of my personal favorites as well! :0)
So join us next time as we ponder on the first of three classic hymns; three add-ons that sadly didn’t make the cut in Robert Coote’s scientific list of greatest hymns.
My prayer: Jesus, it’s true that every generation has found its’ voice in proclaiming You as Lord and Savior. Thank You for this amazing list of twenty-seven classic hymns that have been sung for generations. Now, let the music go on and on, forever and ever. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What songs of praise have become my personal favorites…songs that have touched my heart deeply and found a special place of honor in my journey with Jesus?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?
Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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