NEW TESTAMENT HYMNS


In spite of what our brethren who will only sing the Scottish Metrical Version of Psalms of David say, there is a very good indication in the New Testament that hymns, other than Davidic Psalms, were sung. Many preachers and writers will use hymns to illustrate or emphasis a point, and this has been done throughout the Christian testimony. In fact the following lines from Scripture may be, probably are, samples of, or extracts from, New Testament hymns and chants;-

Who is the blessed and only Potentate
          the King of kings and Lord of Lords.
Who alone hath immortality,
          dwelling in light unapproachable.
Whom no man hath seen, nor can see,
          To whom be honour
          and power eternal. Amen                                         1Tim.6;15-16

This is a trustworthy saying;
If we have died together with Him
          we shall also reign together with Him;
If we deny Him then
          He Himself will then deny us;
If we are unfaithful to Him
          He Himself will also deny us;
If we are unfaithful to Him
          He Himself will remain faithful;
          For He cannot deny Himself.                               2Tim.2;11-13

Who being in the very form of God,
          did not consider it an object of rapine
To be on equality with God
          but emptying Himself
Taking on a Bondman’s form
          taking His place in likeness figure of man
He humbled Himself
          and became obedient unto death
          and even the death of the cross
Wherefore also God highly exalted Him
          and granted Him a Name
          that is above every name
That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow
          of heavenly and earthly and infernal
          and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
To God the Father’s glory.                                                   Philip. 2;6-11.

Great and marvellous are Thy works,
          O Lord God Almighty;
Righteous and true are Thy ways,
          Thou King of the ages,
Who shall not fear, O Lord,
          and glorify Thy Name?
          For Thou only art holy;
For all the nations shall come
          and worship before Thee;
For Thy righteous acts have been revealed.                     Rev.15;3-4

He was revealed in the flesh
          was vindicated by the Spirit
          was seen by angels;
Preached among the Gentiles
          believed on in the world
          and taken up into glory.                                         1Tim.3;16

For other examples of first century poetry, hymns and spiritual songs, which were, most probably, sung congregationally, see, Col.1;15-20, Titus.34-7, and Heb.1;3-4, Other doxologies can be seen in the following;- Rev.1;6-8, 4;11, 5;9-13, 11;15-18, 12;10-12.

It must be born in mind that modern rhythmic and metrical arrangements were unknown in New Testament times therefore the musical arrangements would be quite different to anything used among English speaking Christians. However, believers from the sixteenth to the twentieth century have become enslaved to a poetical arrangement which sometimes distorts the truth contained, or implied, in the hymn in order to fit a rigid modern metrical and rhyming arrangement. There is certainly a case for ‘turning the calendar back’ in order to recover Scriptural truth in our service of song.

“ So late as the ninth century Walafrid Strabo explains that by hymns he does not mean only metrical compositions such as those of Hilary, Ambrose, Prudentius and Bede, but such other acts of praise as is offered in fitting words and with musical sounds. And Augustine lays down the same rule, that any composition of a rhythmic character, whether in verse or not, which is capable of being sung, must be reckoned a hymn.”
The Story of The Church’s Song. Dr, Millar Patrick, p.21.
Ch. of Scot. and United Free Ch. of Scot. 1927

Also, there are several other problems among Christian Congregations, which adversely affect collective praise to the Godhead and two of these are very subtle. First, there are those who discard good old hymns, because they are old, for inferior new hymns because they are new. Second, there are those who retain poor old hymns, because they are old, and reject good new hymns, because they are new. Both of these factors should be a concern to all who are concerned for the service of God, and should be addressed in sincere prayer. In the first the great contribution of our Godly forefathers is discarded. In the second instance our forebears, however Godly, are elevated above the present working the Holy Spirit and their poetry is given a status that only belongs to Holy Scripture.