Throughout the years, many hundreds of songs have blessed the hearts of Christians as voices were blended in worship at churches throughout the world. More recently we have experienced “contemporary” Christian music, and sometimes forget that all songs were once contemporary. Think about it – even Amazing Grace was a contemporary Christian song in the 1830s!
It’s encouraging to know that in our times people are still being inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ and by the Word of God, and are writing new songs that encourage our hearts. But the rich theology and gospel message of the old hymns should never be altogether relegated to the past. They’re far too important in the history of the church for that to be allowed.
Take, for example, the hymn written by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873 titled “It Is Well With My Soul.” Spafford, a Chicago lawyer, planned a European trip for his family and, due to last minute business developments, remained in Chicago but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as planned on a ship. He expected to follow in a few days, but on November 22 the ship collided with another vessel at sea and, in 12 minutes, it sank.
On Dec. 1, the survivors landed at Wales where Spafford’s wife cabled her husband, “Saved alone” – their four daughters had drowned at sea. Shortly afterward, Spafford left by ship to meet his wife and on the high seas near the scene of the tragedy he wrote: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way / When sorrows like sea billows roll; / Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, / It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Or what about John Newton, the captain of a ship who was ashamed of his sins and misdeeds, and who after coming to Christ wrote: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, / That saved a wretch like me. / I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind, but now I see.”
So treasure these hymns – and the contemporary songs, too! There’s much that can be learned, and much encouragement to be gained from them all.