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THE GOSPEL HYMN
by E. S. Lorenz
The age-old feud between ecclesiastical and popular hymnody has broken out afresh. There is an organized propaganda against the gospel hymn which has captured the reorganized Sunday-school work. Appeal is being made to literary and musical pride, to the more or less laudable ambition to be strictly up to date, to the desire to conform to ostensibly high authority and to loyalty to the attitude of the general organization. In much of this propaganda there is a partisanship, even a fanaticism, that is not conducive to clear thinking. There is a failure to appreciate that while the standard hymns are the winnowed product of two centuries, the gospel hymn as we know it is still in the process of making after only about sixty years of development, the winnowing having been barely begun.
The less than a thousand hymns generally accepted as standard are the residue left out of over a hundred thousand written during the period. The tens of thousands of dull, weak, banal, mechanical, and even vulgar hymns are forgotten. Who remembers that Watts published such lines as:
Tame heifers have their thirst allay; And for the stream wild asses bray?
In spite of John Wesley's stern criticism of his brother Charles' hymns the following lines appeared in one of their many hymn books:
Idle men and boys are found Standing on the devil's ground; He will give them work to do, He will pay their wages too.
What other like material might be found among the four thousand of his hymns mercifully left unpublished, is open
"Copyright 1929, Christian Century Foundation. Reprinted by permission from The Christian Century, Vol. 46, No. 50, December