I learned the gospel from hymns

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Blogger and author Tim Challies asked this question on Twitter today:

If there was one song you had to sing at every Sunday morning service from now until the day you die, which would it be and why?

This evening Mr. Challies tweeted that hymns outpaced non-hymns 25 to 1 in the 250 plus responses he got to his question. My response was a hymn also: Great Is Thy Faithfulness.

Singing hymns growing up is one of the reasons I heard the gospel. I grew up in a church that doctrinally had it wrong. Their emphasis was on works, not faith in Christ as a gift of God’s grace. But despite the wrong teaching I heard from the pulpit, before each sermon I sang with my church from a book of hymns where I heard:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure,
save from wrath and make me pure.

(Augustus Montague Toplady, 1763)


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

(Thomas Chisholm, 1923)

The seeds of the truth of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone were planted in my ears from toddlerhood.

Despite the depression and toxic atmosphere that so often permeated the home I grew up in, despite my parents divorce and sinfulness, the sound of my mom singing It Is Well With My Soul and the words she sang while tears poured from her brokenness pierced my angry teenage heart.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so—it is well with my soul.

(Horatio G. Spafford, 1876)

And when I was lost and deep in darkness, trying to make a name for myself with The Cure and “mod” clothes as my motif, I found myself in a sea of youth singing Amazing Grace at a conference in Sacramento, California. And there the grace of God appeared to me.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

(John Newton, 1779)

I am so grateful for the men and women who wrote the hymns of old.  Their songs were used by God to awaken me to the beauty of Christ. What a treasure!


  1. Evan McNeff says:

    Amen Sheila – a beautiful reminder of how faithful so many hymns are to Scripture and God’s character. You’ve really got me reflecting now. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  2. Jana Carlson says:

    Before I read your response, my song choice was also “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” It’s the first song that comes to mind when my heart is filled with praise. He truly has been faithful ALWAYS – even in the deepest of valleys and the most painful woundings. I, too, would have to say that hymns were instrumental in shaping my faith and cultivating a heart of worship.

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