David R. Breed published The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn Tunes in 1903 (New York: Revell). While he offered the following collection of comments on the gospel song, it should be noted that he took a definitely harder line, at one point concluding that with these, "Reverence degenerates into familiarity, and solemn worship is displaced by musical harangue. The best effects of these songs were therefore local and temporary."
There has been much debate concerning the character and place of these Gospel Songs. Some hold that they have done great mischief in vitiating the taste and corrupting the manners of worshiping congregations. Others insist as strenuously that they have been mightily influential in promoting true praise and positive devotion. The best judges seem to take a middle ground. Humphreys, in his Evolution of Church Music, says: “The character of piety they cultivate is somewhat superficial, not to say hysterical; but it cannot be denied that they stir the heart of the common throng. The refrains which are generally attached to them are readily caught by the ear; and that wave of emotional sympathy, easily started in large audiences, soon sweeps over the meeting and choir and congregation are at once drawn into close accord . . . No doubt the participants are moved by profound and genuine feeling, yet was are unable to approve of the introduction of such melodies into church services.” Curwen says, in his Studies in Worship Music (second series): “After the musician has vented his spleen upon this degenerate psalmody, an important fact remains: music in worship is a means, not an end, and we are bound to consider how far these tunes serve their end in mission work, which, after all, has not musical training for its object, so much as the kindling of the diving spark in the hearts of the worshipers. Without doubt these songs touch the common throng; they match the words to which they are sung and carry them.” Professor Dickinson, in his Music in the History of the Western Church, takes somewhat different ground. He says: “Those churches which rely mainly upon the Gospel Songs should soberly consider if it is profitable in the long run to maintain a standard of religious melody and verse far below that which prevails in secular music and literature . . . The church cannot afford to keep its spiritual culture out of harmony with the higher intellectual movements of the age. One whose taste is fed by the poetry of such masters as Milton and Tennyson, but the music of such as Handel and Beethoven, and whose appreciations are sharpened by the best examples of performance in the modern concert-hall, cannot drop his taste and critical habit when he enters the church door. The same is true in a modified degree in respect to those who have had less educational advantages. It is a fallacy to assert that the masses of the people are responsive only to that which is trivial and sensational.” Yet he adds: “In all this discussion I have had in mind the steady and more moral work of the church. Forms of song which, to the musician, lie outside the pale of art may have a legitimate place in seasons of special religious quickening. . . . . The revival hymn may be effective in soul-winning; it is inadequate when treated as an element in the large task of spiritual development.”*
David R. Breed, The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn Tunes (New York:Revell, 1903), 333-334. You can see a copy of the chapter here.