More than twenty-five years ago, when the first edition of Christian Hymns was published, the editors hardly anticipated that all these years later they would be involved in a revision of that volume. It has been the remarkably wide acceptance of that book, not only in the UK but in many other countries of the English-speaking world, that has led to this present publication.
As with the original book, we have sought the co-operation of a good number of churches from widely representative backgrounds. This has assisted us in discovering those hymns that have not been greatly used, and also in identifying the sort of compositions that are being sung with acceptance in many of our churches. The result has been the addition of well over 200 new items and the omission of about 190 little-used hymns from the first edition.
The last quarter of a century has seen many changes in worship style and practices, not least in the sung praise of God. Consequently we have included quite a number of more modern compositions, as well as rediscovering a few hymns from former generations that have either lingered in undeserved obscurity, or whose non-inclusion in the earlier edition created perhaps justifiable disappointment amongst many.
not been an easy task, not least because historically music has been
such a powerful medium amongst the people of God. The hymns that
poured from the pen of Charles Wesley had a powerful effect upon the
Methodists. They learned their theology and had it confirmed to them
very largely through the biblical truth often expressed in memorable
poetic forms in his hymns.
A veritable torrent of material continues to pour forth, both from
pens and keyboards, no doubt assisted, if not occasioned, by the
technological revolution that has transformed the contemporary
musical scene. Inevitably, a substantial amount that has come has
already gone; of the rest, time will tell how much is ephemeral and
what is of lasting value. It is the lot of editors to attempt some
assessment of available material, and this we have tried to do -
with how much success others must judge.
As with the first edition, and following the principle which
determined C. H. Spurgeon's selection of hymns, we have resolutely
refused to adopt a sectarian agenda and have considered each hymn on
its biblical, spiritual and poetic merit, irrespective of the
background of the author.
A new section of 'Songs and Choruses' has been included for those
who like to make use of these items, and the number of Psalm
versions and hymns based on Psalms has been considerably increased.
As in the first edition, these are distributed throughout the book
according to their appropriate classification. A separate index of
these is provided to facilitate their selection.
With regard to tunes, we have aimed at a policy of flexibility that
will accommodate the preferences of a wide variety of congregations.
Such flexibility has been achieved in a number of cases by printing
more than one tune to a hymn, and in others by providing
cross-references to other suitable tunes found elsewhere in the
book. Often a perceptive accompanist will be able to adapt to a
particular spiritual mood by varying the tune to be chosen for a
We recognize that many tunes are 'wedded' to certain words and that
it would be needlessly offensive to ride roughshod over such
established usage. But sometimes a new or alternative tune can add
freshness and new vigour to a hymn whose very familiarity has
brought with it a tiredness that limits its usefulness. It is also
true that within the wider context of evangelicalism there are a
number of 'families', each of which connects certain tunes with
particular words. A measure of cross-fertilization can be helpful
and we have endeavoured to achieve this.Many readers will
immediately notice one of the major differences between this book
and its predecessor, namely that we have attempted a measure of
modernization of the linguistic forms in which the hymns are
expressed. This will be seen in the general adoption of 'You' in
place of 'Thou', with the accompanying changes in verbal
inflections. This has only been done if such substitutions have not
played havoc with the author's original rhyming scheme, nor involved
us attempting to replace poetry with our doggerel, even if the
latter rhymes and scans. It has not been followed in a slavish
manner, and in several hymns that justifiably could be regarded as
'classics' we have retained the older forms. We understand the
arguments put forward on both sides of this contentious divide, and
some might judge us to have adopted something of amediating
The Christian Hymns Committee (Left to Right - Robert Strivens,
Graham Harrison, David Clark, Paul Cook)
The section of hymns and songs for children has been considerably reduced. In part this is a reflection of the changes that have come about in this area and which have resulted in many churches ceasing to use such hymns. Children can be helped to learn and sing some of the great hymns of the church, many of which express exalted truth in quite simple language.
The committee which compiled this selection has been greatly assisted from the musical side by Philip Watson (who was involved in the original publication) together with Brian Freer and Peter Moss. We are much in debt to them for their advice and expertise, although final responsibility for the selection of tunes rests with the editors. We would wish also to express our deep gratitude for the invaluable help given us on the technical and administrative side by Mrs Pat Goodrich, Mr Peter Goodrich, Mr James Gosling, Mrs Joyce Walkey Morais and Mrs Jeannette Watson. Their contribution has been invaluable.
We send forth this revised edition of Christian Hymns with the earnest prayer that the Lord will condescend to bless it, and with the hope that an even wider range of His people will find it of help as they engage in the greatest activity open to us on earth - the worship of the true and living God.
Paul E. G. Cook, Graham Harrison, David Clark, Robert Strivens,