The 18th Century—the age of personal piety—marked the explosion of contemporary hymns in English and American churches. Charles Wesley, renowned poet and Methodist evangelist extraordinaire, wrote 8,989 hymns during his lifetime. Isaac Watts, author of over 1,000 hymns, reformed congregational singing with his educational and entertaining tunes.
Eighteenth-century hymnbooks were usually only collections of texts – they did not include musical notes. The first American hymnal to join tunes with texts was not published until 1831. The usual method of singing in church was by “lining out” – having a leader say one line, and the congregation repeat it. This was done because hymnbooks were expensive, and many worshipers could not read. People did not sing one line immediately after another, as they do now.
The singing of hymns was not officially approved in the Church of England until 1820.
Hymn writers took on the challenge to invigorate Christian worship services with catchy melodies and thoroughly scriptural lyrics.
And aren’t you glad they weren’t content to just continue singing the “same old hymns”? If so, you would not have some of your favorite hymns; hymns such as:
– While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks 1700
– When I Survey the Wondrous Cross 1707
– Come, We That Love the Lord 1707
– Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed? 1707
– O God, Our Help in Ages Past 1714
– Christ Receiveth Sinful Men 1718
– Joy to the World! 1719
– O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing 1739
– Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 1739
– Christ the Lord Is Risen Today 1739
– Rejoice, the Lord is King! 1744
– Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus 1744
– Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah 1745
– Love Divine, All Loves Excelling 1747
– Lord, I Want to Be a Christian 1754
– O Happy Day 1755
– Come, Thou Almighty King 1757
– Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing 1758
– Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy 1759
– There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood 1772
– Rock of Ages 1776
– Amazing Grace 1779
– All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name 1779
– Blest Be the Tie That Binds 1782
– On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand 1787
– How Firm a Foundation 1787
One of those hymns may be your favorite hymn. Aren’t you glad churches back then were willing… even eager… to sing new songs?