Sunday, May 26, 2024

Why Do We Still Sing Old Hymns?

by Brad Bailey

All the songs in our hymnals were once new. Thus, being new is not itself a proper objection to using a hymn. However, the content and design of older hymns have not been improved on. Without question, many of the Southern Gospel songs have lovely, spiritual lyrics and can be used in our worship without biblical objection. Some of them will eventually find their way into our hymnals and become a permanent part of our body of hymns. Those that have unscriptural sentiments should be weeded out and cast aside. Those that are trivial should not be introduced as songs of worship at all. While popular music is generally on the charts only for a few weeks, or at best for one generation, some Christian hymns have been popular with saints for a hundred years or more. It is arrogant for a new generation to declare such spiritual treasures obsolete or boring and insist on replacing them with their “new” songs.

When someone writes a song that is as good, or better than the old hymns, our church will pick up that song and begin using it in worship. When today’s music reaches the level of clarity and doctrinal accuracy that the old hymns possess, they should be added to the list of songs used in worship.

Even some of the old songs have their fair share of doctrinal aberrations. The old Julia Ward Howe hymn “Battle Hymn of the Republic” starts off with “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”. The coming of the Lord refers either to Jesus taking all of his believers out of the world through the rapture or His return to the earth and the end of the seven year tribulation. Neither of these have happened yet and obviously, the writer did not see this. Also, Fanny Crosby’s “Draw Me Nearer,” ends the chorus with, “Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.” This again is an impossibility seeing that Christ Jesus bled and died and He is not bleeding anymore. He suffered and died for our sins and rose again. His suffering is complete (Heb. 10:12, Rom. 6:9-10, Heb. 9:28). Other old hymns share doctrinal errors as well, and it proves that any human seeking to articulate the limitless attributes of God is indeed limited in vocabulary. This makes all gospel music vulnerable to doctrinal error.

One point of contrast between the old songs of the hymn book and modern music is that the old hymns had multiple verses. Some of them even had a half-dozen verses, or even more in their original versions. There have been nearly a dozen verses of Amazing Grace discovered. The point is that many of the old hymns resembled sermons with multiple doctrinal points being made with each verse. Also, in many of the hymns, I’ve noticed that at least one of the verses was evangelistic. It effectively warned the listening sinner that the greatest need of their life was the new birth and that God had made the way of salvation accessible for them.

In conclusion, it is critical to understand that church music is not intended to be pleasing for us, but rather, it is intended to minister to the needs that God has for worship and that sinners have for evangelism. Church music is for the Lord. With that concept in mind, three things are important: the message of the event, the men behind the event and the music of the event. Church songs must have the right doctrinal message, that message has to be written by sanctified men and those songs must have God-honoring tunes.

It has been said that unfortunately, “Music in many churches is no different than what you hear in the honky-tonk. It is sensual, fleshly, hyper-emotional and shallow. The message has been taken out of the lyrics, the beat is dominant, and the philosophy behind it is unscriptural. Music is an expression of the heart. Music was not created to be a form of entertainment; It is a gift whereby we can express our heart to God. When a church begins to compromise, one of the very first areas they will change is the music. And when their music begins to adopt worldly styles, that church is on the way to apostasy . . . Worldly music will never produce a spiritual thought in your mind, and godly music holds no appeal for carnal believers.”5

We praise the Lord for all Christian music, Southern or otherwise, which doesn’t sound like the world, which has scriptural lyrics, which seeks solely to glorify Jesus Christ and edify the saints, and which is produced by faithful Christians. Sadly, though, much Southern Gospel Music incorporates worldly pop, country, jazz, boogie-woogie, and rock rhythms, and is oriented toward entertainment. It is closely akin to Contemporary Christian Music.

by Brad Bailey

Original article can be found at

Related Articles


  1. “In conclusion, it is critical to understand that church music is not intended to be pleasing for us, but rather, it is intended to minister to the needs that God has for worship…”
    This line jumped out at me. God has a need for worship? Where is this thought based?

  2. I agree with most of this, especially that music is often questionable. As far as entertainment goes, if a group of people travel to sing gospel it won’t be long before their appearances are nothing more than entertainment to the group, and not of the heart. Think about it. Also, a good Christian worship song is just that, worship. It can be repetitive, it is from the heart. A lot of yesteryear a songs were written in a time of war and slavery; bondage in fact. They will be different than today’s. not saying all of today’s are good as I myself am selective. But I’m am tired of preachers bashing “today’s” music as worldly with that blanket statement. I think the “Red book” is worldly for having patriotic songs in it; what’s any of that got to do with the gospel? The songs should be for all believers, not just patriotic Americans. Just saying.

  3. Good article. This is one reason I love Casting Crowns music. It is not there for entertainment but for ministry and is also filled with doctrine and issues of our day.

    I have been to many church services where a GREAT biblical message was preached, but unfortunately many of the people didn’t hear it because they were put to sleep because of the delivery. On the other hand, I have seen the same biblical message delivered almost word for word with a man beating the pulpit and running in circles. This message was met with open ears and “amens!”

    Now….with all that being said, as a freshman at HAC and a member of Bible Clubs, I and a soul-winning partner knocked on the door of a house in 1994. A young man with bleeding arms came to the door. In one arm the name “Kurt” was carved and the other arm bled of the last name “Cobain.” That young man got saved that afternoon and came to church the following morning. That morning, Jack Hyles had preached a sermon where he ran around and kicked over a few microphones. I still remember his comment when church was done. He stated, “Wow, I liked that preacher. It was like I was at a rock concert.”

    Now, I have a question about the entertainment value of music and a personal thought. Why do we preach so hard about drums or entertainment in music, but glory in the preachers that yell, scream and act like idiots on stage? Aren’t the “amens” to be aimed at the message of the preacher and not the performance? I personally believe that the issue at hand is not whether a song is old or new or is upbeat or slow, but is whether or not the person that is worshipping through song (whether singing or listening) has their heart right with God. An unrepentant adulterer can sing “I Surrender All” while a man struggling with drug addiction and enrolled in RU sings “Stained Glass Masquerade”, and we can both agree that God’s ears are plugged to the voice of Mr. Adulterer’s words.

  4. Since most of us, if we care to be honest, will admit that the doctrine that we hear from the pulpit have been solidified in our souls by the hymns that we have repetitively sung over and over again, we must understand that if we sing UN-scriptural songs over and over again we will ingest wrong doctrine the same way.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Articles For You...