Posted by: rcottrill | June 19, 2011

A Thousand Hymn Stories

For the past two years, this blog has provided information on the history of our traditional hymns and gospel songs, explaining something of their meaning. In that time, I’ve covered something like a thousand hymns, and continue to add new material all the time.

The purpose of this labour of love is the help Christians have a new appreciation for, and a greater understanding of, our English hymnody. The Bible says we are to “sing praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:7; cf. I Cor. 14:15). This requires a growing knowledge both of God’s Word, and of our sacred songs.

We need fresh insights, if we are to direct our musical teaching and testimony to “one another,” and our musical praise and prayer “to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). If we’re simply content to sing words ritualistically that have no heartfelt meaning for us, we are using “vain repetitions as the heathen do” (Matt. 6:7), a practice that will neither please the Lord, nor benefit us!

I pray that you and your church will continue to make use of our great heritage of hymns. And to  help you with that, I encourage you to do several things:

1) Come to this site regularly, and take a few minutes to read the most recent posts.

2) If there is something that strikes you, or something you have a question about, add a comment to the page. I try my best to respond to comments that are posted.

3) Provide a link to this blog on your own blog or web site, so that those who visit you will be able to come for a visit here, as well.

4) Pass the word about the blog to your pastor, and your church’s worship leaders, so that they too can benefit from the content.

5) Consider purchasing a copy of my book, Discovering the Songs of Christmas (see the sidebar). Other books in this series are in the works. Discovering the Songs of Comfort is at the publishers, and the manuscript for Discovering the Songs of Calvary is virtually complete.

May the Lord bless you, and thanks so much for your partnership in the gospel.


  1. People say that many hymns were put to tavern tunes. Is there any truth to this?

    • This is one of those “old chestnuts” sometimes used to excuse the use of contemporary secular rock stylings in the music of the church. I’d love to hear from the “people” who actually say this, and have them give me a list of the “many hymns” that have barroom tunes. (They wouldn’t be able to do it.) This Sunday I’ll be posting an article called “Barroom Tunes…Again!” discussing the subject in more detail. You may be able to access it now, here. If not, check the blog on Sunday (June 26/11). Meanwhile, the short answer is that this is a myth. One time I actually went through a hymn book, song by song (about 500 hymns), and hunted up the origin of each tune. The article will explain what I discovered.


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