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The Story of Our Hymns   By:

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E text prepared by Stephen Hutcheson




Pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church St. Paul, Minnesota

Augustana Book Concern Rock Island, Illinois

Copyright 1930 by Augustana Book Concern

First Edition, December, 1930 Second Edition, April, 1931

Augustana Book Concern Rock Island, Illinois

To the Sweet Memory of Our Bonnie Boy Richard Edward Ryden Who at the Age of Ten Years Went Home to Sing with the Angels.

He is not dead: he only sleeps, Safe in the arms of Him who keeps His lambs secure from earth's alarm, From grief and sin and foes that harm.

He is not dead: he is at rest, Content upon his Saviour's breast; Dear little child, we loved you so, But Jesus loved you more, we know.

He is not dead: the Shepherd came To call His little lamb by name; The gentle Shepherd watch will keep, While His beloved child doth sleep.

He is not dead: by angel bands Now welcomed to the heavenly lands, With theirs a childish voice shall sing Hosannas to the children's King.

He is not dead: though tears may flow, Faith whispers: "It is better so." With joy we'll meet on that fair shore, Where God's own children weep no more.


The hymn lore of the Christian Church offers a fascinating field for profitable research and study. To know the hymns of the Church is to know something of the spiritual strivings and achievements of the people of God throughout the centuries. Henry Ward Beecher has well said: "Hymns are the jewels which the Church has worn, the pearls, the diamonds, the precious stones, formed into amulets more potent against sorrow and sadness than the most famous charm of the wizard or the magician. And he who knows the way that hymns flowed, knows where the blood of true piety ran, and can trace its veins and arteries to the very heart."

This volume has been inspired by a desire on the part of the author to create deeper love for the great lyrics of the Christian Church. In pursuing this purpose an effort has been made to present such facts and circumstances surrounding their authorship and composition as will result in a better understanding and appreciation of the hymns themselves.

A hymn is a child of the age in which it was written. For this reason the author has followed a chronological arrangement in an endeavor, not only to set forth the historical background of the hymns, but also to trace the spiritual movements within the Church that gave them birth.

The materials contained in this volume have been gathered from sources too numerous to mention here. The author feels a special sense of gratitude for information drawn from David R. Breed's "The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn Tunes," Edward S. Ninde's "The Story of the American Hymn," and John Julian's monumental work, "Dictionary of Hymnology." No claim is made to originality, except in the manner of presentation and interpretation. A popular style has been adopted in order to appeal to the lay reader.

Thus we send forth this book with the earnest prayer that it may inspire many hearts to sing with greater devotion the praises of Him who redeemed us with His blood and made us to be kings and priests unto God.

Ernest Edwin Ryden.

St. Paul, Minnesota, November 14, 1930.


PART I: EARLY CHRISTIAN HYMNODY The Early Christian Chants 13 Greek and Syriac Hymns 19 The Rise of Latin Hymnody 25 An Ancient Singer Who Glorified the Cross 31 The Golden Age of... Continue reading book >>

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