A. W. Tozer, in his Introduction* to his second series of sermons on the Attributes of God, had this to say back in 1961 about the current state of the hymns of the church in his era:

Think about the songs that are being sung now in so many places. Ah, the roster of the sweet singers. . . . Do you ever think about them? There’s Watts . . ., that little man nobody married because he was homely. I’ve seen some pretty homely ones get married, but Watts was too homely and a woman wouldn’t even marry him. . . . He didn’t get married so he wrote hymns. And what hymns he did write! We just sang one of them: “Our God our Help in Ages Past.” It’s not “O God our Help in Ages Past,” that’s an editor’s tinkering. Ah, these editors! God will have to judge the editors for tinkling with holy things.

Our God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.

. . . Anyway, Watts wrote that. Count Zinzendorf—think of that man. He was a count and he was rich and he got converted marvelously in the Moravian church and under his ministry there came the great revival; he wrote so many great hymns:Jesus, thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress.

You remember? He wrote that. Then there was Wesley; let’s skip Wesley, he wrote so many. There was Newton and there was Cowper, who wrote “There is a Fountain filled with Blood.” And Montgomery and the two Bernards, Bernard of Cluny and Bernard of Clarivaux. There was Paul Gerhardt and Tersteegen. There was Luther and Kelly and Addison and Toplady and . . . Doddridge and Tate and Brady and the Scotch Psalter, and the company of the littler stars that weren’t as big as these great stars, but taken together they made a Milky Way that circled their Protestant world, and we’ve sung them. I have, as I’ve said before, a Methodist hymnal, an old Methodist hymnal that goes back now 111 years. . . . And I found 49 hymns on the attributes of God in that old hymnbook. Somebody says, “Yeah, that’s all right, but people’s minds are different now; we think differently now.” Did you know that those Methodist hymns were sung mostly by uneducated people? Farmers and shepherds [etc] . . . and plain people all over this continent. They sang these songs. There are 1100 and some of them in that hymnbook of mine, 49 of them on the attributes of God, and there isn’t a cheap one in the whole business. So when they got together, those plain simple people, you’d of laugh at them if you’d seen them, the men had plain clothes on and there wasn’t a dab of paint on the faces of any of the women and they carried their little kids in on their hip and plopped them down and made them sit still while the preacher preached for an hour and forty-five minutes. Then they said, “Let’s sing so and so,” and they got up and sang a gorgeous old rolling hymn and the people sang them and they were plain people.

Nowdays, I won’t even talk about a lot of this stuff now because I just don’t want to do it, I don’t want to work myself up here; . . . but some of the terrible junk that we sing. I think of one called, “I’m in love with the lover of my soul.” Ever sing that one? “I’m in love with the lover of my soul.” Down in the old U. S. of A., we have a little one that goes like this, sung to the tune of “There’s a hot time in the old town tonight.” It runs like this:

1, 2, 3, the devil’s after me
4, 5, 6 he’s always throwing bricks
7, 8, 9, he misses every time
Hallelujah! Amen!

Now the saints of God sing that, mind you! The dear saints of God! Our fathers sang

Our God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.

And we sing junk.


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