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to conjecture. At any rate, for every weak, shallow, vul­gar, mechanical gospel hymn, an equally offensive hymn can be found in these tens of thousands of hymns that have fallen by the way. Moreover, these accepted standard hymns have been altered, expurgated, condensed, and even rewritten by three generations of hymnal editors, until the original writers would hardly recognize many of them.
This is no depreciation of the resultant standard hymns —quite the reverse! It does make clear the utter unfairness of comparing with them the very worst of the current gospel hymns. To salvage the unquestionably useful gospel songs, some of the opponents of the type incline to claim that there was a golden age when these older specimens were written and to set an approximate date after which, not "gospel hymns" but undesirable "gospel songs" were written. They ignore or are ignorant of the terrible stuff that appeared in Horace Waters' "S. S. Bell, Nos. 1 and 2" and in Bradbury's earlier Sunday school song books during that hypothetical golden age.
Another phase of this zeal without knowledge is an ap­parent blindness to the varied song needs of an active con­gregation. The only need recognized is that of the regular Sunday morning service, in which dignity and reverence are generally accepted as essential characteristics. The needs of the popular evening service intended to attract the general public, of the Sunday school, of the prayer meeting, of the young people's meeting, of evangelistic services and campaigns, are all overlooked or misunderstood. For these the sedate hymns, and frequently dull and uninspiring tunes, are not at all fitted, as the slightest study of their psychological reaction in such work would make plain to an open mind.
Condemned by Formalists
It is noteworthy that the most of the leaders in this re­cent movement against the gospel hymn are organists and choir directors in city churches of a formal type, to whom classical music is alpha and omega, pastors of like churches in which aggressive evangelistic activities are conspicuously absent, professors, teachers, editors out of touch with prac­tical church work—all good, intelligent people, presumably
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III