This volume is not just a history of individual hymns. Unlike the other volumes, in the first portion the author paints a panoramic overview that stretches back 4,000 years through the development of hymns in each of the ages through the present and extending forward to the very throne of God in heaven. He divides hymnody into 7 segments: Biblical, Ancient, Medieval, German, English, Gospel & American, and Contemporary. He urges us to be aware of the great cloud of witnesses who have preceded us and to know their victories and legacies that can enrich our faith today. And if there’s ever a generation of Christians who don’t write their own music, Christianity is dead. Every generation needs to compose its own praise.
In the second portion, the author discusses the history and stories behind individual hymns from each of the segments, and another section of 6 hymn stories that he loves to tell. In a previous volume, he shared the story for “It Is Well with My Soul”, but in this volume he tells the author’s entire story, an ending that I had not heard (and probably with good reason because the outcome is rather disappointing).
In the third portion, my favorite, he shares the practical use of hymns in devotional time and everyday life. We draw strength from songs and hymns which can serve as a sort of therapy. He encourages us to read the hymns, memorize them, meditate, play, pray, sing, and proclaim them. He insists that they are as powerful when quoted as when they are sung. We should start each day with them, lean on them, and pass them down to our children.
I have a renewed appreciation for my church homes of present and past that were able to weave hymns into worship every week, sometimes the old words with new melodies or twists that brought a new freshness of their meaning to my heart. When I sing the Doxology, I’m joining in an exercise of praise with my grandparents and ancestors, and when I sing the new hymns with a band, I’m joining voices with my children, and someday my grandchildren. After reading this book, I think I am in love with hymns even more and will start using a hymn book during my devotional time.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publisher in exchange for my honest review.