Topical Pages

In addition to the daily almanac about the history of our hymns and their authors, and my reflections on our hymns, I’ve included a number of articles on various aspects of sacred music. They offer personal opinions, but opinions with some thought and experience behind them.

12 Keys to Choosing Good Music
Since music is such a pervasive (and, at times, invasive!) part of our lives, we need some tools for assessing was is best. Here are some principles to consider.

30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing
Are you in a church that frets because the congregational singing isn’t “contemporary” enough? Or one that argues nobody understands those old songs any more? Here are more than 80 ideas to help turn the tide of opinion and enrich your hymn singing immensely.

A New Language
Suppose we think of the language of those old-fashioned hymns in a little different way. This article shows why it’s important to learn the “new” language of our old hymns.

A Singing Lesson
It’s not often I recommend a secular song (or its performance) on this blog, but I will here, for several reasons. If you are a gospel singer, there may be some useful things here to learn from a pop idol of a generation ago.

About That “Metrical Index”
In the back of many hymnals are a series of indices to help us find what we want. Often this includes what is called a Metrical Index. What’s it for? Is it of any use, or just wasted space?

Advantages of Hymn Books
For an article listing more than three dozen advantages of a church using hymn books, rather than projecting the words on a screen or the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books, below.

Are You a Soloist…or Not?
Are too many singing solos who don’t know what they’re doing? Is there too much mediocre monotony or carnal bedlam in sacred music? This article will give you some tips on singing for the Lord.

Bad People, Good Music
There are several reasons why it is possible for bad people to produce good (and God-honouring) music–though this certainly does not excuse their sin.

Barroom Tunes…Again!
It is sometimes asserted that the tunes found in our hymn books today used to be “barroom tunes,” wedded to songs sung in rowdy bars and taverns. Is this assertion true? This article reveals the facts of the case.

Blessings in the Titles
This may sound a little odd–until you try it! There’s a great treasure store of blessings waiting for you, in the Index of your hymn book.

Canadian Hymns
For the size of our country (whose population is one tenth that of our neighbour to the south), we have made a commendable contribution to our English hymnody. Here are a few examples.

Caught Between Two Worlds
Maybe it’s just me, and a sign of the advancing years, but I greatly miss the Christian music of former times. See if you agree, as we take a trip down memory lane.

Champions of Gospel Song
What are “gospel songs”? Where did they come from? And what is their purpose? Much maligned in some circles, these songs have had a unique ministry over the years–and they still can have.

Choosing a Hymn Book for Your Church
In spite of the modern trend, there is still a place for hymn books in the pews. Is your church considering the purchase of a new one? You will find these suggestions very helpful.

Community Hymn Sings
This can be an exciting and wonderful time of fellowship. And here is how to plan a program of hymn singing that could well draw in people from all around. Why not give it a try. For awhile, in our church, it became a monthly event.

Confessions of a Male Chauvinist (Or maybe not!)
Is it legitimate to remove all male references from our hymns (sons of God, brotherhood, and so on)? Or are there some good reasons to leave things as they are?

Demons and Music
Does playing praise music in our homes or cars keep the demons out? I was asked this question some time ago, and was dismayed at the implications behind it. Here is my answer–which I believe is the biblical answer.

Divided Loyalties
What about the idea of churches using both, the traditional hymns of the church, and Christian contemporary music–the one to bless the saints, and the other to attract the unsaved? I believe it depends very much on what we mean by the latter. Some of it is fine, other songs (and music styles) may be neither truly Christian nor God-pleasing.

Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home?
This is a difficult issue, and not all will arrive at the same conclusion. It concerns the place of the family in Christian ministry. Particularly, I’m thinking of a husband and father’s responsibility to his family, and how this relates to ministry responsibilities that draw him away from home a great deal of the time.

Drums in Worship–Appropriate or Not?
This is a subject of great debate in the Christian community. I realize I’m sticking my proverbial neck out to offer an opinion, but I hope you will find this article thought-provoking (and not simply provoking!). I believe there are reasons why we should use great caution and restraint in introducing this instrument into the services of the church.

Drums Again
From time to time I get comments on the above article. Most are favourable. It’s not my purpose to belabour the point, so I usually refrain from writing further on the subject. But here are some comments from a critic, and my response.

Edification and Entertainment
What is the difference between the two? And why does entertainment tend to be antithetical to worship (or at least make true worship more difficult)?

Fit for the Occasion?
An unforgettable experience at a Memorial Service that left me wondering whether Christians have an understanding of the principles involved in selecting and performing music honouring to the Lord.

For Interested Publishers. If you are a publisher, or have contact with one, I would love to discuss with you the possibility of getting some of this material in print.

Funeral Hymns
Because of the suddenness of some deaths, choosing hymns for a funeral or memorial service can a last minute thing. But great truth can be conveyed by the right choice of songs. Here are some suggestions to consider.

God’s Plan of Salvation
I wanted to share with readers this most important information. All of us, as born into this world, are corrupted by sin and condemned to die. Apart from the intervention of a gracious God, we are condemned to an eternity apart from Him. This article explains what God has done to remedy this.

Golden Age of Hymnody
Great sacred songs have been written all through the Christian era, but the period from 1700 to 1900 saw more hymns and gospel songs of high quality produced than any other.

Hindrances to Making Good Music
Considering that God is the One who gave us music, why does so much of it dishonour Him, contradict His Word, and violate His righteous standard?

Historical Issues
What have been the major points of controversy in hymn history, down through the centuries, and how have they been dealt with?

Hold That Applause…Please
I know it is the custom in many churches, but here are a few thoughts on why applause may be inappropriate after a ministry in music.

How It All Started
This article is a bit of a departure, since it doesn’t deal directly with music. It does, however, deal with the origins of an agency of the church in which music plays a significant part.

Hymn Book Standard Page
What helpful information can we glean from the standard pages of our hymn book about the songs, the writers of the words, and the composers of the music?

Hymn Book: The Back of the Book
What information and other useful material is found at the back of the hymn book, and what use can be made of the various indices?

Hymns About Hell?
The Bible clearly teaches there’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. Many hymns have been written about heaven, but you won’t likely find any in your hymn book specifically about hell. Here are some thoughts on why that is.

Hymns and the Bible
We need to consider what the Bible has to say about hymn singing, and what is the crucial place of the Scriptures as a foundation for our hymnody.

Hymns and Gospel Songs
Though we often use the term “hymns” to describe all of the songs in our hymnals, there is a difference between a hymn and a gospel song.

If a pastor or church leader tells you he loves the old hymns, but they are rarely used in the services, something is surely wrong. Here are some things that should be happening in a church with a love for these traditional songs.

Ignorance…Blissful or Otherwise
Why is it that so many Christians today do not know the old hymns? Where does the responsibility for correcting this rest, and what can be done about it?

Integrating Hymns in a Service
What hymns will be used in the Sunday service? And why? What is the purpose of selecting a particular hymn? Does the service have a theme relating to the Bible message? (It should.) If so, how does each hymn fit the theme?

Is It Just Me?
What tune and what style of singing works best with the great hymns of the faith? Here is an article that’s actually a response to some comments by a reader. Agree or disagree, I hope it will give you food for thought.

Missing Verses
Older hymns often contain many stanzas not included in our hymn books. Some of these are gems worth reclaiming.

My Father and the Olive
Some things in life are an acquired taste–and a taste worth acquiring! That may be the case for you, or someone you know, in relation to our hymnody. This little story reminds us that there is hope.

“News” for the New Year
It’s a great thing to make resolutions for the New Year. But so often we don’t keep them. But when God begins to work in us, and for us, there are some new things that have significant and lasting value.

No Singing in Church
It may be difficult for many of us to imagine, but there have been Protestant churches that rejected any kind of congregational singing.

Planning a Church Service
The planning of a service of worship is a serious task, and it needs to be done with care. Though your service style may not be identical to mine, I think there are some tips and suggestions here you’ll find helpful.

Putting Away Childish Things
Have you ever heard anyone say of some hymn, “We used to sing that when I was a child”? What are the implications of such a statement? What has happened to our treasury of great hymns and gospel songs?

Reasons Why I Don’t
Some have wondered why I don’t include comments on contemporary songs on my blog. Here are some of the reasons for my present focus on the traditional hymns and gospel songs of the church.

Sacred Music in the Old Testament
There is much we can learn from the temple music in ancient Israel. The principles of dedication to God, careful preparation, faithful service, and more, are illustrated in the ministry there.

Singers Needed
While we admire the skill of trained choirs, our hymn singing, when it comes from the heart, is pleasing to God, even when we are not polished and professional singers.

Singing in Harmony
There are great benefits and blessings available to the congregation that takes the time and effort to learn to sing in parts. What are they? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Singing Through the Alphabet
Have you ever trying singing through the alphabet–the first stanza of hymns starting with each letter in turn? It can be an enjoyable experience. Why not give it a try after you read the note on the subject?

Some of the Best
What hymns would you put on a list entitled “Some of the Best”? Here’s a composite of lists compiled by two men over a century ago. Are these ones you would include?

Something Different
Church music should be a sacred (holy, separated) music, distinctly different from what is heard elsewhere.

Something Missing
What are we missing when we fail to turn to God for help? Fail to open His Word, believe and apply it?  Fail to recall the great hymns of the faith written for our hope and comfort?

Strong Words About Music
Three famous men offer strong opinions that may have a bearing on the sacred music we produce and how we sing it.

Suffering Hymn Writers
An amazing number of hymn writers were disabled, or suffered difficult trials, suggesting that both devotion and suffering contributed to the depth of doctrine and insight in their songs.

Tempo of Congregational Hymns
Is there one correct pace at which to sing our hymns? No. And yet there are some significant guidelines to be considered in setting the tempo.

The First English Hymn
Many times I hear folks talk about loving “the old hymn such-and-such, when I know the song is of quite recent origin. What are some really old hymns? And what is the first even English hymn?

The New Song
What exactly does the Bible mean by the “new song”? This phrase has sometimes been used as an excuse to abandon the traditional hymnody of the church. Is this justified?

The S.P.T.H.S.
A slightly whimsical appeal for hymn sing festivals that will help revive the enjoyment of singing our traditional hymnody.

The “Total Message” of a Song
How is the message of our Christian songs conveyed? What factors influence whether the message is sent and received effectively? Consider these five elements.

The Value of Hymn Books
The current trend in some churches seems to be to settle for words projected on a wall. This can work. But there are many things hymn books can do that no projected image can. Here are about three dozen advantages to think about.

Top Hymns of 1899
What hymns were Christians singing a century ago? Take a look at Louis Benson’s list of the Top 32.  And see if any of your own favourites are found on the list.

Top 10 Hymns of 1953
Here is a list of favourite hymns garnered from a broad survey done in the United States over half a century ago.

Top 10 Hymns of 1990
Here is another list of favourites, from a poll taken nearly three decades after the one from 1953, highlighting key differences, and why they occurred.

Top 10 Hymns of Blog Visitors
For some weeks I ran a survey on this blog to see what readers’ “Top 10” hymns were. This article gives you the results, some of our favourite hymns, and a bit of explanation.

Tribute to My Dad
It is a great blessing to have parents that both teach and model godly Christian living. My father not only did this, but taught me to love great music and minister with music as well.

True Stories or Not
Though some quibble that the stories behind the writing of our hymns are inaccurate, or completely made up, it is contended that we have the facts more often than not.

Using Hymns with Children
Some wonder how they can interest teen-agers in the hymns of the church. There are ways to do this, but the best of all is to begin encouraging a love of hymns much earlier. Here are some ideas on that.

What Happened at Christmas
Christmas is one of the two great celebrations of the Christian year (the other being Easter). What happened on that first Christmas? And what does it mean to us, today?

What Makes a Good Hymn
What causes hymns to be enduring favourites is not always easy to ascertain, but here are five factors that contribute to the quality of our hymns and gospel songs (or the lack of it!).

What Makes a Hymn Popular?
What makes one hymn endure over the years, while others fall by the wayside? Sometimes it’s the quality of the song, but not always. Here are some factors that are involved.

Why Christians Sing
Two key reasons why believers sing, and why 20 centuries have seen the development of a rich heritage of song.

Why We Love Hymns
From the tens of thousands who have visited this blog, and the comments posted by many of them, it is clear that, across the world, there are multitudes who love our traditional hymns and gospel songs. Here are some reasons they give for doing so.

Worship in Song
Why do we sing hymns in church? What is our purpose? Though many perhaps have not bothered to define the reasons and articulate them, I’m sure sometimes the motivation is not biblical. Here is a scriptural pattern to consider.


  1. How cool to find you 😀

    • Glad to have you on board! Drop in any time. 🙂

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I shall post a reply. I’d have liked to e-mailed you directly but, as far as I can tell, I cannot do so.

    • Some blog posts seem to allow me to leave an e-mail address and some don’t. In any event, good to hear from you. E-mails will reach me at…

  3. Transposed Sheet Music
    I’d like to find transposed sheet music for “The Australian Hymnbook” (Our church has a regular piano and organ, not an electronic keyboard) has a couple of hundred hymns, but are there any other websites out there with sheet music in a key that is not too high ?

    • Interesting question. I’m not familiar with The Australian Hymnbook, so don’t know what hymns you need in a lower key. But a number of the newer hymnals print the songs in lower keys. Great Hymns of the Faith and The Celebration Hymnal are two that I have recommended. Also, the Cyber Hymnal has printable PDF files for thousands of hymns. These are sometimes in lower keys. For example, Higher Ground, which has traditionally been printed in Ab, is in G, as you can see here…

      Programs such as Noteworthy Composer enable you to type out the music of a hymn on the computer, and then put it in any key you like. This is a time-consuming job, but I have sometimes done it for solo music, when the only music I can find is too high for me.

      Hope those few suggestions are of some help. God bless.

  4. Hello,

    I recently began to read about Carrie Breck on line. I saw a Hymn first line: Though far you may stay, though you circle the earth’ Can anyone tell me where I may find all the lyrics to this hymn. Seems like such a beautiful poem? Thanks



    • Thanks for the question Andrew. I’m not familiar with the hymn, but it’s #202 in a book called Songs of Love and Praise, Number 2. Your misquoting of the first line threw me for a minute. It should be, “Though far you may stray, / Though you circle the earth…” The refrain begins “Your mother is praying…” So it’s clearly about a prodigal child, and the faithful prayers of a mother. I’ll check the books I have, but I’m pretty sure the above is not in my collection. I’ll do my best.

  5. I am searching for the music to a song by William Marion Runyan and Wendell Phillips Loveless entitled Oh What Love. I have the words but cannot find the music for it and have searched many sites including Moody Bible . Did not know if you have access to any information. Thank you

    • The gospel song Oh, What Love! was published in Favorites #1 back in the ’40’s. It was written in 1934. Seems to me I may have sung it as a solo many years ago, but the music is intended as a duet. According to, that seems to be the only place the song was published. I’ll try sending it to you by e-mail. Apologies if that doesn’t work. 🙂

  6. Dear Bro. Cottrill,

    Thank you for your informative and inspirational work. You are a blessing to me. I’m not good at blogging but have a sincere request.

    I’m looking for a gospel song I used in revivals back in the ’80s and ’90s. I’ve forgotten its name and most of the lyrics, but the first verse starts something like this:

    “A day will come when the mighty sun will cease to give its light,
    And the stars above will fall from out of there place,
    [The third line is missing from my memory, but the verse ends with 4th line:]
    And the clouds will part to show the Savior’s face.”

    The chorus includes these words: ” …no more time for praying… ”

    I will deeply appreciate any help with other information about this song.

    Thank you!


    • Thank you for your kind words. As to the song, sorry to say I couldn’t find it. Did several Net searches, and looked through a number of books. If it’s contemporary to that time, that may be one reason I’m not familiar with it. My blog focuses almost exclusively on the traditional hymns and gospel songs of the church. Hope you’re able to come across it elsewhere. God bless.

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