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CHAPTER XII

HOW TO USE THE HYMNAL

PREPARATION-FUNCTION OF HYMNS-OMITTING VERSES THE CHOIR—GOSPEL HYMNS-HYMN STUDY

CLASSES-PRACTICAL PLANS OUTLINED

THE most essential condition for success in the intelligent use of the Hymnal in worship is preparation. Formal worship cannot reach its highest effectiveness when a pastor habitually neglects to prepare his hymns. And the first step toward preparation should be a thorough general familiarity with the Hymnal. It is a Methodistic axiom that every pastor should know his Bible, his Hymnal, and his Discipline; and yet it is often taken for granted that the hasty search for six hymns on Saturday night is sufficient for a knowledge of the Hymnal. In more than one theological school it is urged that the students form the habit of spending at least one solid hour each week in the study of hymns and tunes, a habit to be profitably continued during active pastoral days. Only by earnest study can be gained a practical familiarity with the hymns, their theology, their meaning, their music, and their relative effectiveness in varied forms of worship. Later paragraphs in this chapter suggest some methods of study for the individual student, as well as for class study. This educational preparation once thoroughly ac

complished, the choosing of hymns for particular services becomes something of the art which it deserves to be. In the more highly liturgical churches supreme attention is applied, as a rule, to the congregational hymns, the anthems, and the chants, and their appropriateness to the central thought of the occasion. This is made the more imperative because of the rigid regularity of the Church calendar of the Christian Year. But even where there is greater freedom in the forms of worship, as in Methodism, worshipers have a right to expect that the guidance of their spiritual thought throughout the service has been prepared beforehand with great care, and especially in the matter of hymnsinging.

A spiritual unity can be produced throughout a service of worship by a careful and prayerful choice of hymns, each fitting the occasion and performing some definite function in the office of worship and instruction.

Where there is carelessness or rude spontaneity in the choice of hymns, the fatal fitness of the hymn to the situation is sometimes painfully ludicrous. At Ossining, New York, during one meeting when the church was very cold, and it was deemed wise to shorten the service to protect the shivering congregation, some one inadvertently started this hymn,

My all is on the altar,

I'm waiting for the fire.

A prominent member of the New Jersey Conference,

upon his return from his honeymoon, gave out from his pulpit the hymn containing the verse.

O that I could forever sit
With Mary at the Master's feet!

Be this my happy choice,
To hear the Bridegroom's voice.

His wife's name was Mary; and, of course, had he read the hymn through before choosing it, he would have spared himself the jests of his friends for years. Many such instances could be multiplied, were it not so unwise to load our hymns with these humorous associations.

In contrast to all this, however, the very psychological principle of association that sometimes awakens the sense of humor can be and should be employed to intensify the spiritual thought and feeling of every service. This does not mean that each hymn should be an epitome of the sermon or its central ideas (though at least one such hymn is often very effective), but, rather, that a unity of purpose and feeling should be sustained throughout the service, and that each hymn should be chosen to reenforce the dominant theme.

Each hymn in the order of worship has a different psychological duty to perform. The function of the first hymn is clearly to create a spiritual atmosphere of reverence and a sense of Christian unity. Were each worshiper prepared for the service of the sanctuary by private devotions at home, the spirit of reverence would be more intense at the very beginning of the service. But this is rarely the case. The

congregation usually assemble from their homes, where, perhaps, the last thoughts were of more careful dress, or the Sunday dinner, or some other household care. In passing through the streets a hundred worldly thoughts throng upon the mind, each insisting upon being borne into the place of worship. In fact, the writer has actually seen in the church in Concord, Massachusetts, where Emerson used to preach, men and women bearing their Sunday newspapers and mail into the sanctuary, there to peruse them during the fore part of the service. The first opening hymn should be an antidote to the irrelevant, irreverent, worldly atmosphere that often enshrouds the spirit of the churchgoer. Worship should usually be the theme of this hymn. Furthermore, the social sense of Christian fellowship and unity in worship should be awakened by the first hymn. Such hymns as "All people that on earth do dwell” (16), “Come, ye that love the Lord” (22), "Now thank we all our God" (30), and "Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim” (11) tend to express and arouse this idea.

The second hymn should usually be in the nature of a preparation for the thought of the sermon. It should be intense rather than exciting, quiet rather than animating. In a peculiar sense it tills the ground, preparing it for the seed of the Word. If ministers could realize how greatly the attention of the congregation varies on successive Sabbaths as a result of the second hymn, it would be regarded as an integral part of the sermon itself.

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