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?


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