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The Complete Book of Hymns

The Complete Book of Hymns

by William Petersen, Ardythe Petersen

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The Complete Book of Hymns brings to life the stories behind more than 600 hymns and worship songs. With background on the composer, the inspiration behind the lyrics, scriptural references for devotional consideration, and a sampling of the song lyrics, this book brings forth the message of these great songs of the faith like never before!


The Complete Book of Hymns brings to life the stories behind more than 600 hymns and worship songs. With background on the composer, the inspiration behind the lyrics, scriptural references for devotional consideration, and a sampling of the song lyrics, this book brings forth the message of these great songs of the faith like never before!

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Complete Book Series
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.50(d)

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Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 William J. Petersen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4143-0933-3

Chapter One


The Venerable Bede was not called Venerable because he was so old but because he was so wise and brilliant in many different areas. Living thirteen hundred years ago, he was one of the earliest historians and theologians in the English church. He wrote books on science, nature, and grammar. He is revered as "The Father of English History" because of his book Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.

In the book he describes how the Christian faith came to England. It came, he says, with singing. The early missionaries to England brought a simple lifestyle, and new converts believed, "admiring the simplicity of their innocent life, and the sweetness of their heavenly doctrine." In one city, he wrote, the Christians came together to "meet, to sing, and to pray," and soon the king and ten thousand citizens were baptized.

Bede wrote and sang his hymns accompanied by his Saxon harp. And when he was dying in the year 735, he asked his friends to carry him to the room where he usually prayed. There he sang the "Gloria Patri." When he uttered his last words on earth, he continued his song in thepresence of the triune God. Adoration and Praise

Scriptures: Acts 2:32-33; Philippians 2:8-10; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2 Themes: Praise, Eternity, Ascension

A hymn of glory let us sing, New hymns throughout the world shall ring; By a new way none ever trod Christ takes His place-the throne of God. You are a present joy, O Lord; You will be ever our reward; And great the light in You we see To guide us to eternity. O risen Christ, ascended Lord, All praise to You let earth accord, Who are, while endless ages run, With Father and with Spirit, One.

THE VENERABLE BEDE (673-735) Stanzas 1-2 translated by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1828-1896), altered. Stanza 3 translated by Benjamin Webb (1819-1885), altered.


Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps best known as a nature lover. You may recall the painting in which the Italian artist Giotto depicts him feeding the birds. One writer spoke of him this way: "With smiles he met the friendless, fed the poor, freed a trapped bird, led home a child. Although he spoke no word, his text, God's love, the town did not forget."

A soldier in his early years, Francis resolved to imitate the life of Christ. So he renounced his wealth and founded the Franciscan Order of Friars. He and those who followed him became itinerant evangelists, preaching and helping the poor of Italy. He wrote sixty hymns of praise and worship and encouraged church music in every way he could.

The original text of this hymn was probably written by Francis during the last months of his life when he was suffering intense pain and was almost blind.

Scriptures: Psalm 145:10-11; Psalm 148:1, 7-13; Romans 11:36 Themes: Praise, Worship, Adoration

All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia! Alleluia! Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam! O praise Him, O praise Him! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Thou rushing wind that art so strong, Ye clouds that sail in heaven along, O praise Him! Alleluia! Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice, Ye lights of evening, find a voice! Thou flowing water, pure and clear, Make music for thy Lord to hear, Alleluia! Alleluia! Thou fire so masterful and bright, Thou givest man both warmth and light! And thou, most kind and gentle death, Waiting to hush our latest breath, O praise Him! Alleluia! Thou leadest home the child of God, And Christ our Lord the way hath trod. Let all things their Creator bless, And worship Him in humbleness, O praise Him! Alleluia! Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, Three in One! FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1182-1226) Translated by William H. Draper (1855-1933)


When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, a hopeful crowd filled the streets, waving palm branches and praising God. The people believed that the Messiah had finally come to lead a revolt against the Romans. Less than a week later, the same crowd demanded his crucifixion.

Theodulf, who wrote this hymn, had a somewhat similar experience. King Charlemagne had made him Bishop of Orleans in the late 700s, and all the people, as well as the king, praised Theodulf. He was the king's theologian as well as a beloved pastor. But when Charlemagne died, rumors were spread against him. Charlemagne's son charged him with conspiracy and put him in prison. And yet it was while he was in a dark prison that he wrote this hymn, which is still sung more than a thousand years later. It is a favorite Palm Sunday hymn in churches of many denominations.

Scriptures: Psalm 118:25-26; Mark 11:7-10; John 12:12-13 Themes: Palm Sunday, Praise

All glory, laud, and honor To Thee, Redeemer, King, To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring: Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David's royal Son, Who in the Lord's name comest, The King and blessed One! The company of angels Are praising Thee on high, And mortal men and all things Created make reply: The people of the Hebrews With palms before Thee went; Our praise and prayer and anthems Before Thee we present. To Thee, before Thy passion, They sang their hymns of praise; To Thee, now high exalted, Our melody we raise: Thou didst accept their praises- Accept the praise we bring, Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King! THEODULF OF ORLEANS (CA. 750-821) Translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)


In 1977, David Moody was giving piano lessons in Vancouver, British Columbia. His students came for their lessons after school was dismissed around 3:30, and on this particular day David had some free time before they were due to arrive. "So," he said, "I went downstairs and began to play and just worship the Lord."

He said that he wasn't really trying to write a song; "I simply wanted to spend time in the presence of the Lord." Then, "quite suddenly, I began to develop a melody that was coming to me-something I had never played before. And just as quickly came some words that I began to sing."

"All Hail, King Jesus" is really a song about the second coming of Christ. David Moody said, "I could just imagine believers all over the world singing this song as Christ returned to earth." Once the song was published, it didn't take long before reports of Christians singing it in Israel, in Russia, in Hungary, and elsewhere were coming back.

Scriptures: Isaiah 7:14; Revelation 19:16; Revelation 22:16-17 Themes: Jesus Christ, Return of Christ, Worship

All hail, King Jesus! All hail, Emmanuel, King of kings, Lord of lords, Bright Morning star. And throughout eternity I'll sing Your praises, And I'll reign with You throughout eternity. DAVID MOODY (B. 1949) 1978 Dayspring Music LLC All rights reserved. Used by permission.


E. P. Scott, a missionary to India, saw an unusual-looking tribesman on the street, and he asked where the man came from. He was told that the man was from a mountain tribe and came only once a year to the major city to trade. Scott also discovered that the gospel had never been taken to that tribe.

After praying about it, he packed up his bags and violin and started in the direction of the mountain village. When Scott told senior missionaries where he was going, they told him, "We will never see you again. It is madness for you to go." But he went anyway.

He traveled for two days and finally found himself in the mountains. Suddenly he was surrounded by spear-carrying tribesmen, and every spear was pointed at him.

Not knowing what else to do, Scott got out his violin and sang and played "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," including the verse, "Let every kindred, ev'ry tribe, / On this terrestrial ball, / To Him all majesty ascribe, / And crown Him Lord of all."

The spears had now dropped from the men's hands, and he could see tears in their eyes. He spent the next two-and-a-half years telling them about Jesus and his love for them. When Scott had to leave them because of his health, the tribespeople escorted him forty miles to where he could get other transportation.

Scriptures: Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Revelation 5:11-13; Revelation 19:11-13, 16 Themes: Praise, Jesus as Lord, God's Majesty

All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all! Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all; Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all! Let ev'ry kindred, ev'ry tribe, On this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all; To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all! O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall! We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all; We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all! EDWARD PERRONET (1726-1792) Altered by John Rippon (17510-1836)


All nature continously praises God-only humans require reminders to do so. When Henry Ware's church in Boston prepared to dedicate its new organ, they asked Henry to write a dedicatory hymn. As he wrote, he made sure that he did not speak of the greatness of the instrument. Instead, he emphasized the organ's purpose: to assist Christians in the praise of God. In a way, the hymn is reminiscent of Psalm 150, which speaks of seven or eight different musical instruments, united in the praise of God. Thirteen times that psalm urges us to join in praise. We, too, are created for this purpose, to sing of God's glory.

We can thank God for our church organs and the other instruments that lead us in worship. But how often during the week do we lift our souls to God in the unaccompanied exaltation of our glorious Lord?

Scriptures: Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 150; Romans 1:20 Themes: Creation, Nature, Praise

All nature's works His praise declare, To whom they all belong; There is a voice in every star, In every breeze, a song. Sweet music fills the world abroad With strains of love and power; The stormy sea sings praise to God, The thunder and the shower. To God the tribes of ocean cry, And birds upon the wing; To God the powers that dwell on high Their tuneful tribute bring. Like them, let man the throne surround, With them loud chorus raise, While instruments of loftier sound Assist his feeble praise. Great God, to Thee we consecrate Our voices and our skill; We bid the pealing organ wait To speak alone Thy will. Lord, while the music round us floats, May earthborn passions die; O grant its rich and swelling notes May lift our souls on high! HENRY WARE JR. (1794-1843)


This is often called "The Old Hundredth" because it is based on Psalm 100. It is probably the oldest hymn of praise in the English language. William Kethe, a Scotsman, was a minister of the Church of England. But during the reign of Queen Mary, which was a reign of terror for many English Protestants, Kethe fled to Germany and then to Geneva, Switzerland. In Geneva he was influenced by John Calvin. There he assisted in the translation of the Geneva Bible and helped to produce a complete English version of the metrical psalms. From this Psalter, now more than four hundred years old, "The Old Hundredth" is taken. The hymn was first published in London in 1561, shortly after Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne.

The music was written by John Calvin's choir director, and the hymn has never been set to any other but the original tune.

Scriptures: Psalm 100:1-4; John 10:11; Hebrews 13:15 Themes: Praise, Worship, Joy

All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice; Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell, Come ye before Him and rejoice. The Lord, ye know, is God indeed; Without our aid He did us make; We are His flock, He doth us feed, And for His sheep He doth us take. O enter then His gates with praise, Approach with joy His courts unto; Praise, laud, and bless His name always, For it is seemly so to do. For why? The Lord our God is good, His mercy is forever sure; His truth at all times firmly stood, And shall from age to age endure. To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, The God whom heaven and earth adore, From earth and from the angel host Be praise and glory evermore. WILLIAM KETHE (D. 1593)


William Barclay once wrote that a person needs to have three conversions: first, to God; second, to other Christians; and third, to the world. Certainly there are these three crucial aspects to our faith-worship, fellowship, and ministry. Charles Wesley, the prolific Methodist hymn-writer, wrote widely on all three sides of this sacred triangle.

Many churches emphasize one of these aspects and neglect one or two of the others. Some focus on personal growth or outreach but never develop a "body life" in which Christians get to know and love one another. Others are so absorbed in Christian fellowship that they never do anything to reach out to others.

As usual, Wesley's words are rooted in Scripture. The New Testament continually weaves these three threads of Christian life together.

Scriptures: Acts 4:23-24; Ephesians 4:7, 11-13; Hebrews 10:25 Themes: Redemption, Fellowship, Church

All praise to our redeeming Lord, Who joins us by His grace, And bids us, each to each restored, Together seek His face. The gift which He on one bestows, We all delight to prove, The grace through every vessel flows In purest streams of love. He bids us build each other up; And, gathered into one, To our high calling's glorious hope, We hand in hand go on. We all partake the joy of one; The common peace we feel: A peace to sensual minds unknown, A joy unspeakable. And if our fellowship below In Jesus be so sweet, What height of rapture shall we know When round His throne we meet! CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788)


Excerpted from THE COMPLETE BOOK OF HYMNS by WILLIAM J. PETERSEN ARDYTHE PETERSEN Copyright © 2006 by William J. Petersen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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