The Hymn Question
Dear Rev. H. Hoeksema:
Permit me, in accordance with your request, to write a few lines in regard to the hymn question. I think there is room and ample reason to introduce some New Testament hymns—not the hymns that are sting in most of the American churches, they are too superficial and often sickening.
No, but I mean hymns that are true versifications of Scripture, and that shall not be sung in the churches until the synod has set its stamp of approval upon them, In our Psalter nothing can be found on the resurrection of Christ that can be sung on Easter Sunday, nor can anything be found on the Holy Spirit that can property be sung on the day of Pentecost. And what about the virgin birth of Christ, and what about ascension? I know that we have in our Psalter words on the ascension of Christ Psalm 24:7, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” But in the New Testament He is in. We now must also sing what we read in Acts 1:9, “He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Or what we read in Ephesians 4:10, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens.”
And what too, about holy communion, based on John 6:55, I Cor. 11:26, Luke 22:19; or holy baptism, Matt. 28:19, Titus 3:5,Mark 10:14. For all those occasions we could have New Testament hymns that are true versifications of the Scripture.
I love to sing the Psalters. We need them. They are beautiful. But fact is that they were written in the old dispensation. Theirs were the shadows; ours the fulfillment of those shadows. The early church understood this very clearly, and therefore in the years 1700 and 1800 many psalms or hymns were composed that are based on versification of the New Testament Scriptures. Hymns or psalms on advent, on lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, on communion, baptism, etc. And let me say, there are hymns of this kind. And some of these hymns are a true versification of Scripture. Let me enumerate some of them. I have them. Hymns on advent: based on Heb. 12:26, by P. Heber, 1827; Luke 1:68, by P. Doddridge, 1785; Rev. 22:20, by H. Bonar, 1845; Hymns on Lent: based on Luke 4:1, 2:11, I Cor. 9:15; Col. 4:14; Matt. 26:40; I Peter 1:19. Hymns on the virgin birth, Christmas: based on Luke 2:13; Luke 2:10; Luke 2:15; I Tim. 2:16; John 1:14. Hymns on Pentecost: based anActs 2:41; John 15:26, 27; Rom. 8:14; John 14:26; John 14:17; I Cor. 6:11. And many more.
Also in the year 1800 there were hymns composed for children, based on the versification of the New Testament Scripture. They too could be, sung in the church, in the Sunday School and Christian Schools. Let me produce just one of these hymns for children, written in the year 1842 by Jane E. Leeson, tune by I. Stainer, 1840. Based on the text of John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Savior, teach me day by day,
Love’s sweet lesson to obey;
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.
With a child’s glad heart of love,
At thy bidding may I move;
Prompt to serve and follow thee,
Loving him who first loved me.
Teach me thus thy steps to trace,
Strong to follow in thy grace;
Learning how to love from thee;
Loving Him who first loved me,
Love in loving finds employ,
In obedience all her joy;
Ever now that joy will be,
Loving Him who first loved me.
Thus may I rejoice to show
That I feel the love I owe;
Singing, till thy face I see,
Of His love who first loved me.
If songs like these were approved by the church, And why not? Here is sovereign love revealed, is it not? Based on the versification of the New Testament Scriptures. For children. Would you want to sing it with your children, O church of God? O yes you do. We must sing Psalters of the old and songs of the new. Songs for children also. And that to His glory and to the edification of His church.
The Hymn Question
Dear Rev. H. Hoeksema:
The reason I am writing this letter concerning the Hymn Question is two fold. First, because Rev. Vanden Berg stated in the article, “The Hymn Question,” that by not expressing themselves on this question, he or she is in agreement. He referred to Article 69 of the Church Order and its being changed. To this I heartily agree. As yet I am not in favor of the change, so therefore I am compelled to write.
First of all, the Old Testament is known as a historical book. It tells us how the children of God lived from the time of Adam to the birth of Christ how they sinned, repented, and again were restored into God’s favor. All this (the Old Testament) is there for our edification. We may not do away with it. It is part of the plan of God, a plan whereby we learn. Therefore, knowing that departure from the truth and introducing hymns into our church services go hand in hand, shall we say then that the Lord will not permit that to happen to us. I mean also the other half, the departing from the truth. He is the God of Gods, and not a respecter of persons, not even of the Prot. Ref. Church. If we introduce hymns into our church services, He will also cause us to depart from the truth we have and LOVE. The proof I have is the past history. Even though one of your contributors in The Standard Bearer of 1-1-’62 does not agree with this, I maintain it, because our God is an unchangeable God. This hymn question reminds me of a story my father told us (all who knew him) many times. And I think it fits the picture before us.
There was a queen that needed a driver for the carriage she was to ride in for a parade. Three drivers had applied for the job. That was quite an honor, to drive for the queen. And they were good drivers, so they all wanted the job very much. Now how was she going to choose the one best suited? She decided to ask them all the same question, hoping that from their answers she could decide which driver she wanted. The question was this: if I were in the carriage how close to the edge of the canal would you dare to drive? The first said, “Within a yard of it.” The second, “Within a foot of it.” The third one said, “I will drive as far from any danger to the queen as possible.” He got the job.
Let us be as the third driver, and stay away from endangering our truth as far as possible.
One thing more I would like to bring to mind at this time. To my mind, the playing of the organ or piano before the consistory takes its place in the church is also part of the services. Therefore I think hymns should be kept from being played then too. Some of our ministers and consistories speak against singing hymns in the church, and allow them to be played at this time. Let’s go all the way. If it’s wrong to sing them during our service, it’s wrong to play them.
I hope and believe this letter will be taken in the spirit of love as it was written.
Yours for the truth’s sake,
Hib Kuiper Hudsonville, Mich.
Proposed Change of Article 69
Lansing, Illinois, January 15, 1962
Permit me also a few lines on the proposed change of Article 69. Let me say at the outset that I would deplore any decision that we as Protestant Reformed Churches might make which would open the floodgates of Arminianism. But that the proposed revision of Article 69, D.K.O., would bring about such a situation, I fail to see. A careful perusal and study of all the material of the Acts from 1959 to 1961 surely shows that our Synods and Consistories of Classis East and Study Committees of Synod were very careful in their formulation of the proposed change exactly to avoid such a situation. To my mind the proposed revision is the better of the two, because of the two strong limitations contained in the article, namely, “faithful versifications” and “approved by the churches through Synod.”
Even as we have always maintained that the truth develops through the ages in the Church of Jesus Christ, so also we must not stifle any development in our book of praise, which would set forth more clearly and reflect the truth of the Word of God in song. Besides, as has been pointed out, we have never lived up to the present article, because we use the Doxologies “which are hymns” not included in its present form. The former Psalter Revision Committee which had done much labor also testified in its report that our present Psalter versifications are not faithful to Scripture. As evidence of this, one has only to turn to the last Standard Bearer, the one of January 1, 1962, and there will be found quoted these words from our present Psalter:
“While He proffers peace and pardon
Let us hear His voice today,
Lest, if we our hearts should harden,
We should perish in the way;”
Psalter No. 255:4 (Page 163 of Standard Bearer)
This is pure Arminianism and a corruption rather than a faithful versification of Psalm 95.
If the proposed revision would be finally adopted, I could easily visualize a song book in the future in our churches, if God permits, that would contain a revised Psalter with the present Choral Section along with a few songs for special days, and possibly even some new songs to be composed by our membership. I cannot possibly see the introduction of many hymns, for the simple reason that they are mostly corruptions of the truth, and ate not Theo-centered, and surely are not faithful versifications of Scripture.
This type of Book of Praise could certainly be used to the glory of God’s Name, to the edification of our spiritual well being until presently we can sing the songs of Zion in heavenly perfection and harmony in the new heaven and new earth.
Thanking you for the space,
Yours in the interest of the truth,
Peter A. Poortenga