Our Own Hymn Book Versus God’s Own Hymn Book by Rev. Angus Stewart

Our Own Hymn Book Versus God’s Own Hymn Book:
A Critique of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster Hymnal

Rev. Angus Stewart


Churches today usually sing three or four songs in their worship services. Every use of a “hymn” (an uninspired composition) displaces a Psalm. Each time this happens,

  • a God-breathed Psalm (II Tim. 3:16) is replaced by that which is not God-breathed
  • an infallible and inerrant Psalm (John 10:35) is replaced by that which is liable to error and, in many instances, errant
  • a Psalm written by a “holy man of God” who was “moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21) is replaced by a production of a man (or woman) who may or may not be holy and who certainly was not “moved by the Holy Ghost”
  • a divinely authorized Psalm (Ps. 95:2; James 5:13) is replaced by that which is not divinely authorized

Consider too the differences between God’s 150 Psalms and the collections of man’s “hymns.” We can be sure that

  • when we sing the Psalms we are singing God-centred revelation with profound depth born of God’s infinite wisdom, while at very best man-made hymn books are imperfectly orientated
  • when we sing the Psalms we are singing an inerrant portrayal by the Holy Spirit of authentic spiritual experience, while man-made hymn books only provide fallible human reflection on spiritual experience
  • when we sing the Psalms we are singing material totally free of bias, while man-made hymn books are conditioned by the doctrinal beliefs and ecclesiastical connections of their authors or authoresses
  • when we sing the Psalms we are singing material sung by God’s church for between 2,500-3,500 years and which now is in fixed canonical form, while most man-made hymns are of relatively recent origin and hymn books usually change with each generation (or less) and with the beliefs of the group

The Scriptures tell us that the psalmists were “holy men of God” who “were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21). All were orthodox men and members in good standing of a true church. All of them were not only believers but also prophets such as David; Solomon; Moses (Ps. 90 title); Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun (I Chron. 25:1-3, 5); etc. We are told that King David, the author of the majority of the Psalms and “the man after God’s own heart” (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22), was “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1). He was appointed to and equipped for this office as one “raised up on high” and “anointed of the God of Jacob” (II Sam. 23:1). We are even told of the original occasion or setting of various Psalms (e.g., the titles of Ps. 3, 7, 18, 30, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142). Psalms 120-134, the songs of degrees or ascents, were sung by the pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. The Lord has told us in His Word much regarding His hymn writers and His hymn book, the 150 Psalms, evidently deeming it of service to His church in singing His praises (cf., e.g., William Binnie, The Psalms: Their History, Teachings, and Use [London: Hodder and Stoughton, rev. 1886]).

But what of the “hymn writers” whose works displace the Psalms which God gave to the church? What of their background, ecclesiastical connections, doctrinal views, etc.? What about their “hymns” which displace the Psalms which God gave to the church? What of their doctrine, purpose, original occasion, setting and use? These things are important, for Scripture says that we must “sing … with understanding” (Ps. 47:7).

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster Hymnal

Sadly many in our day (including Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster members and ministers) are critical of the Psalter (“Boring!” “How can you sing the imprecations?” “Where is Christ in the Psalms?”). In this they are seriously out of step with the historic Christian and Reformed church (cf. “The Glory and Sufficiency of the Psalms,” “The Historical Use of the Psalms,” “A Puritan Preface to the Scottish Metrical Psalter” and “The Scottish Metrical Version, a Faithful Psalter“). But what about modern hymnals? How should they be evaluated?

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster hymnal, Our Own Hymn Book (first published 1989, second impression 1998), contains the 150 inspired Psalms in metre, 67 biblical paraphrases and 671 uninspired compositions, which we will call “hymns” according to popular parlance. The Free Presbyterian Church’s Sunday services include four songs. Of the eight hymns on a Sunday (counting morning and evening services and not counting any pieces performed by soloists, etc.) some churches would include one Psalm. Other churches typically do not sing any Psalms on the Lord’s Day. Sometimes more than one Psalm may be sung. Thus the Free Presbyterian Church is a hymn-singing church with the odd Psalm thrown in.

The Free Presbyterian Church professes to hold to the Westminster Standards, namely the Westminster Confession, theWestminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. How do her hymn writers, hymns and hymn book stand up to the standard of biblical and Reformed teaching summarized in the Westminster Standards (cf. also “The Westminster Assembly and Psalm-singing“)?

It is on the basis of the truth of the Word of God, as summed in the confessions of the great Protestant Reformation, especially the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt), that this critique of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster hymnal proceeds.

As a minister in a Reformed church, I am willingly bound to “refute and contradict” false doctrine and especially Arminianism in the following Formula of Subscription:

We … do hereby sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord, declare by this, our subscription, that we heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine, contained in the … [Three Forms of Unity], do fully agree with the Word of God. We promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by our public preaching or writing. We declare, moreover, that we not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine and particularly those [Arminian heresies] which were condemned by the above mentioned synod [in the Canons of Dordt], but that we are disposed to refute and contradict these, and to exert ourselves in keeping the church free from such errors.

Heretical hymn-writers and uninspired hymns with their false doctrine are not exempt from analysis, refutation and condemnation in the light of God’s holy Word (I John 4:1).

We should note, first, that 33 of the 761 hymns are anonymous (59, 60, 75, 79, 84, 122, 208, 214, 230, 284, 299, 309, 372, 394, 396, 428, 459, 486, 491, 493, 526, 558, 563, 570: “‘K’ in Rippon’s Selection,” 579, 584, 603, 699, 708, 757, plus the UK National Anthem [758] and two graces [760-761]). This leaves us with the authors or authoresses of 728 hymns. Other hymns are written by obscure authors, about whom it is difficult to obtain information, such as Katherina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (1697-1770) who penned “Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side” (443). Nevertheless, there is more than enough material to show that the Free Presbyterian hymn book contains heretical doctrines and a surprisingly large number of hymns written by false teachers and heretics. The inspired, infallible and inerrant Psalms are replaced in the Free Presbyterian Church’s worship by uninspired, fallible and (even) errant hymns. In place of “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1), the Free Presbyterian General Presbytery through its Hymn Book Committee has included hymns by Romanists, ecumenists, Unitarians, Quakers, Seventh Day sabbatarians, anti-sabbatarians, higher critics, liberals, modernists (who denied the infallibility of Scripture, the biblical miracles, the general resurrection, original sin, etc.), advocates of the social gospel, universalists, evolutionists, mystics, lay preachers, women preachers, hyper-Calvinists, Arminians, second blessing advocates, perfectionists, healers, Pentecostals and Charismatics, as well as a cultist, a spiritualist, a drug seller, a drug addict, a jumper, an abbot who later embraced Zionism and British Israelitism, an advisor to Billy Graham, men who were unsound on the Person of Christ, “The Archbishop of Deaconesses” and a woman reckoned to be a lesbian. Amongst the errors taught in Our Own Hymn Book are various Romish corruptions (including the bodily presence of Christ in the eucharist), Arminianism (with its heresies of free will; universal, ineffectual atonement; resistible grace; etc.), the second blessing, perfectionism and faith healing. Others will be mentioned later.

If, as Henry Cooke (1788-1868)—the greatest son of Irish Presbyterianism and champion of Trinitarianism against Unitarianism—said, “The most pious productions of uninspired men are a shallow stream; the Psalms an unfathomable and shoreless ocean,” what can be said of erroneous hymns and those penned by false teachers? As one critic of uninspired hymnody remarked, “Why should we lay on God’s altar the halt, the lame, the sick, when we can present to Him an offering that is without spot or blemish?”—the God-breathed Psalms. Maybe in laying aside the commandment of God to sing Psalms (Ps. 105:2), God gives a church over to singing the songs of its professed enemies (Romanists, ecumenists, Unitarians, modernists, higher critics, cultists, etc.)? The very first verse of the Psalter proclaims, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinner, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1). Should we then be singing the songs of the ungodly in God’s public worship?

Although this is a study of one particular hymn book, this article has obvious implications for other hymnals (many of which are worse). Thus I have (usually) provided the first line of each hymn and not merely its number in the Free Presbyterian hymn book.

Now is an especially good time for many to rethink the issue of the the material sung in the church’s public worship, as more and more the older hymn books are discarded for newer, less theological hymnals. In have come the “lighter” song books, likeMission Praise and worse, and the repetitious choruses. Highly objectionable and usually charismatic-style worship songs are being presented (often via overhead projectors) in Lord’s Day services, even in what used to be considered the more conservative and better sort of churches. Many are distressed at the evident down-grade and dumbing-down of the church’s worship for “contemporary,” i.e., fleshly and worldly, praise, designed to please and so “keep” the young people. It is time to reconsider and return to God’s own hymn book, the Psalms, loved and used by the church in all ages, and maintained and promoted especially in the Reformed churches since the sixteenth century.

Roman Catholics

The Free Presbyterian Church opposes Roman Catholic theology as “the antithesis of evangelical Protestantism.” Free Presbyterian theologian Alan Cairns states that “her theology is not Christian, or even sub-Christian, but anti-Christian” (Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms [Canada: Ambassador-Emerald International, rev. 1998], pp. 315, 316). The Free Presbyterian Church even includes the following song (757) in its hymnal:

Our Fathers knew thee, Rome of old,
And evil is thy fame;
Thy fond embrace, the galling chain;
Thy kiss, the blazing flame.

Thy blessing, fierce anathema;
Thy honeyed words, deceit;
Thy worship, base idolatry;
Thy sacrament, a cheat.

The Mystery of Wickedness,
Right surely is thy name.
The Harlot in the Bride’s attire,
As all thy ways proclaim.

No peace with Rome shall be our cry,
While Rome abides the same;
We’ll let her know that Protestants
Will not disgrace their name.

Our martyred Fathers’ dying words
As at the stake they stood
Bid us resist thee to the end,
Words written in their blood.

Long hast thou sat in Queen’s attire,
Of purple, pearls and gold;
O soon shalt thou be stripped of all—
Thrown down be thy stronghold.

Thy sentence dread is now pronounced,
Soon shalt thou pass away.
O soon shall earth have rest and peace—
Good Lord, haste Thou that day.

However, a number of songs in the Free Presbyterian Church hymnal were written by members and priests of the Roman communion, which the Westminster Confession teaches is one of those churches that “have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan” (25:5; cf. 25:6). Rome’s heresies abound: free will, baptismal regeneration, Mariolatry, purgatory, etc. Transubstantiation “hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries” (Westminster Confession 29:6) and “the Popish sacrifice of the mass … is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect” (29:2). Thus the Westminster Confession asserts that Christians “should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters” (24:3). However, though the Free Presbyterian Church teaches that believers must shun Rome’s idolatries and not marry Papists, it places in Our Own Hymn Book songs written by those who perform and partake of the blasphemous mass, and calls Free Presbyterians to sing the hymns of Romanists in the public worship of the Almighty on the Lord’s Day. Thus the inspired Psalms of holy men of God like David (II Peter 1:21) are replaced by man-made hymns written by unholy members and priests of the Roman synagogue of Satan.

Thomas Joseph Potter (1828 [not 1827]-1873) joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1847 and became a Roman priest in 1857. For many years, he taught at the Roman Catholic Foreign Missionary College in Dublin. He expressed his ardent desire for the conversion of England in his hymns (John Julian [ed.], A Dictionary of Hymnology [DOH] [London: John Murray, rev. 1908], p. 1688). The Free Presbyterian Hymnal contains his “Brightly gleams our banner” (554), omitting such lines in the original as “Mary, Mother, Ave! // Israel’s lily hail!” and “Whither shall we flee // Save, O stainless Virgin, // Mother, unto thee?” and “Jesus! Mary! Joseph! // Sweet and holy Three!” (DOH, p. 183). For Roman Catholic Potter, Christ’s banner gleams through the Vatican flag with its two keys symbolizing papal government over the church and over the nations of the world. The Christian sings about a very different banner in Psalm 60:4: “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth.” Over against the Roman Catholic banner of Potter, we sing, “We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners” (Ps. 20:5). Potter writes of “Christ’s soldiers” walking in “the narrow way,” meaning Roman Catholics following the pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Free Presbyterians believe that Roman Catholics are on the “broad … way that leadeth to destruction” (Matt. 7:13) but sing Potter’s ode in a sense directly opposite to what he meant. Potter’s hymn is in the “Christian Life” section but are the hymns of Romanists the food to strengthen believers in their Christian life?

Potter’s “Brightly gleams our banner” (554) was dropped from the 1904 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern on “theological grounds” as it was “thought to suggest too easy a passage to heaven for certain souls in contradiction of the doctrine of general resurrection” (Ian Bradley, Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymnody [Britain: SCM Press, 1997], p. 221).

Roman Catholic, Jane Eliza Leeson ’s (1809-1881) “Loving Shepherd of Thy sheep” (582) is in the section “Perseverance and Security,” though Rome believes that it is impossible for anyone to know that they are saved except by direct revelation from God.

Dorothy Frances Blomfield Gurney (1858-1932), author of “O perfect Love, all human thought transcending” (744) left the Church of England to join the Roman Catholic Church in which she thought that love was most manifested. “O perfect Love, all human thought transcending” (744) is frequently sung at the weddings of professed Protestants.

Edward Caswall (1814-1878) converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism and became a Roman Catholic priest (1852). He joined John Henry Newman, another Anglican convert (later made a cardinal by the pope), at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Edgbaston, Birmingham (1850). Caswall died 2 January, 1878, and was buried near “his leader and friend” Cardinal Newman at Rednal, Warwickshire (DOH, p. 214).

Caswall produced Lyra Catholica, containing the Hymns at Vespers, Compline and Benediction, with those in the Office of the Blessed Virgin and in the Missal with “its strongly Romish flavour” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 23). He translated “Jesus, the very thought of Thee” (59) and wrote “See! in yonder manger low” (81) with its chorus “Hail, thou ever-blessèd morn!”

J. R. Watson writes the following concerning Roman Catholic Caswall’s “See! in yonder manger low” (81),

[It] was published in The Masque of Mary, and Other Poems (1858), [and] entitled “Christmas,” because it is a Christian tradition to pray for the intercession of the Christ child and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Protestant Churches [including the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster] have tended to omit the final verse) (J. R. Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology of Hymns [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002], p. 294).

The final stanza reads,

Virgin Mother, Mary blest,
By the joys that fill thy breast,
Pray for us that we may prove
Worthy of the Saviour’s love.

No wonder that it is widely recognized that “Most of his original hymns are so Romish in doctrinal teaching as to make them unfit for use in Protestant hymnals” (

Roman Catholic Caswall had a settled “dislike of the evangelical attention to the soul and its salvation.” He wrote that his hymns “utterly differ from the hymn-books of modern heretical bodies, which, dwelling as they do, almost entirely on the state and emotions of the individual, tend to inculcate the worst of all egotisms” (quoted in J. R. Watson, The English Hymn[Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997], p. 370). Clearly, Caswell would have had no time for the Free Presbyterian Church or its hymnal that uses his hymns.

Like Caswall, Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) converted to Roman Catholicism through the Tractarians or Oxford Movement (1848). His “Crown Him with many crowns, // The Lamb upon His throne” (138) sings of Christ’s “sceptre” (stanza 5) and is placed in the section on Christ’s “Dominion and Power.” But Bridges, as a Romanist, believed that Christ’s sceptre, dominion and power are exercised through the pope, Christ’s (alleged) vicar on earth. Our Own Hymn Book omits a stanza from Bridges’ original version of “Crown Him with many crowns” (138) which speaks of Mary as the “mystic Rose.”

Like Caswall and Bridges, Frederick Oakley (1802-1880), a long-time friend of John Henry Newman and translator of “O come, all ye faithful” (79), also passed through the Oxford Movement of the Church of England into the Church of Rome. Oakley shortened the preaching (his sermons were always less than 20 minutes) and eliminated metrical psalmody in his charge, Margaret Chapel, Marylebone, London. In came trained choirs robed or surpliced and a whole raft of Anglo-Catholic liturgical corruptions. Ian Bradley records that “Oakley was hounded out of the Church of England for his ritualistic practices and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845” (Bradley, Abide with Me, pp. 30-31). To paraphrase part of his first stanza: “To Rome he hastened now with glad accord.” Sadly, his apostasy left its mark on the congregation he left behind. “The Margaret Chapel, re-built as All Saints, Margaret Street, remained a centre of Anglo-Catholic worship” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 31).

The Psalm singer sings against the idolatry of pagans, including the mass: “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten afteranother god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer” (Ps. 16:4). All unbiblical sacrifices are consecrated to “devils” (Ps. 106:37). Roman Catholics worship and bow down to the wafer. The Psalms exhort, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Ps. 95:6). If the ungodly shall not stand in God’s presence (Ps. 1:4-5), why then should Free Presbyterians use their hymns to come into His courts? The Psalmist sings, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Ps. 95:2).

Romanizing Episcopalians and High Churchmen

Thomas Ken (1637-1711 [not 1710]), the ascetic Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, is author of “Awake, my soul, and with the sun // Thy daily stage of duty run” (21). He was of the Laudian (Arminian and Romanizing) tradition and a leading Nonjuror. (The Nonjurors were those members of the Church of England who after the Revolution of 1688-1689 “scrupled to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy to William and Mary on the grounds that by so doing they would break their previous oaths to James II and his successors” [quoted in Kenneth Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship in the Church of England{Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993}, p. 71].) Hylson-Smith describes the beliefs of Ken and the Nonjurors. They were “the supreme upholders of the Anglican doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.” They taught “the crucial importance of episcopacy, even to the extent that non-episcopal churches were no churches, their ministers were laymen and their sacraments no sacraments” (Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship, p. 73). Ken held to the use of “the mixed chalice, prayers for the dead, a prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the elements and an Oblatory prayer” in the Communion Service (Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship, p. 72). Hylson-Smith lists further instances of the “stress on the external forms of worship” for Ken and his associates:

They referred to the authority of the early Church as the highest standard next to the Bible; emphasised the importance of the priestly office; had an institutional conception of the Church; showed a preference for the first Prayer Book of Edward VI with its somewhat richer liturgy compared with that used officially in the English Church … and had a view of the Eucharist which at least approximated closely to the Sacrifice of the Mass (Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship, p. 73).

We shall allow the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to fill in several key elements in Ken’s life (H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison [eds.], Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [ODNB], 60 vols. [Oxford: OUP, 2004]). After his father’s death in 1651, Ken lived with his half-sister, Ann, whose husband, Isaak Walton (1593-1683), “a literary figure of pronounced Laudian views, doubtless had a great influence on the young Ken’s spiritual and literary development” (ODNB, vol. 31, pp. 193-194). “In 1675 he went on a tour of Europe … In Rome, where it was jubilee year, papal grandeur was at its zenith. This was enough to alert him to the imperfections of Rome and to confirm him to his adherence to Anglicanism as the purest form of the church catholic, albeit that on his return some said that he was ‘tinged with popery’” (ODNB, vol. 31, p. 194). Late in 1679 Ken was appointed as chaplain to Mary, wife of Dutchman William of Orange, the future William III. His “role was to protect Mary’s Anglicanism from William’s … Calvinism.” When the Bishop of London “asked Ken to enquire into the possibility of Anglican union with Dutch protestants, Ken advised against proceeding further, because of the questionable validity of Dutch ordination” (ODNB, vol. 31, p. 194). Of course! For Ken held that the non-episcopal Dutch Reformed Churches “were no churches, their ministers were laymen and their sacraments no sacraments” (Hylson-Smith, High Churchmanship, p. 73). Ken would likewise deny that the Free Presbyterian Church was a church or had ministers or sacraments.

George Washington Doane (1799-1859) was a bishop in the American Episcopal Church. “He was closely in sympathy with the [Romanizing] Tractarian Movement in England. He edited in 1834 the first American reprint of [leading Tractarian] Keble’sChristian Year” (John M. Barkley [ed.], Handbook to the Church Hymnary, third edition [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979], p. 253) and provided it with a laudatory introduction. Doane is the author of “Thou art the Way; to Thee alone” (73).

Hymns Ancient and Modern, identified by many as “a Tractarian manifesto,” was published in 1861. Ian Bradley cites instances of the many criticisms it received as being “too Romish:”

… a tract by James Ormiston, Vicar of Old Hill, near Dudley, [was] published by the Church Association. Entitled “Hymns Ancient and Modern and Their Romanizing Tendency,” it accused the book of teaching mariolatry, idolatry, transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, prayer for the dead and salvation by human works. Numerous popish phrases were identified, including “octaves,” “introit,” “altar” and “penitential tears” and the author detected behind the book a “Jesuitical stratagem,” seeing its successive editions as a “progressive scheme for Romanizing the congregations of our land” … The Archdeacon of Shrewsbury was concerned that some of the material proposed for the 1868 appendix “exceeds in many particulars the teaching of our church and is even startling to very high churchmen,” and the Archdeacon of Bedford wrote to [Sir Henry Williams] Baker: “May I ask you to take care that the new edition shall be very carefully examined in regard to doctrine. A letter of ‘Anglicanus’ in the Churchman of January 2 1868 has drawn attention to four lines which are very likely to be interpreted in a Romish sense” … The Accusation that [Hymns Ancient and Modern] was a popish plot was not helped when one of the proprietors, W. H. Lyall, seceded from the Church of England to Rome in 1878 and refused to resign (Bradley,Abide with Me, pp. 64-65).

Anglican rector, Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877)—mentioned in the above quotation—was the “chairman” and “real head” of the committee that compiled Hymns Ancient and Modern (Robert Maude Moorsom [ed.], A Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern [London: Parker and Co., 1889], p. 287). He was also the “chief promoter” of this Tractarian hymnal. Sir Henry Williams Baker wrote four songs in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal: “Lord, Thy Word abideth” (191), “The King of love my shepherd is” (342), “God made me for Himself, to serve Him there” (521) and “We love the place, O God” (with William Bullock; 621).

Anglo-Catholic Baker intended stanza 5 of his “The King of love my shepherd is” (342) to be understood according to the sacramentalism of his “High Churchism.”

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

J. R. Watson observes that “the spreading of the table becomes a recognition of the power of the Sacraments. The ‘unction,’ or anointing with oil, bestows grace, and the chalice at Holy Communion gives a pure ‘transport’ of delight” (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 313).

Anglican minister, Samuel John Stone (1839-1900), who wrote “The church’s one foundation” (615), was a member of the committee of Hymns Ancient and Modern in the latter stages (Barkley [ed.], Handbook to the Church Hymnary, p. 354), along with Roman Catholic convert, W. H. Lyall.

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), the pen woman of 16 hymns in Our Own Hymn Book (24, 163, 239, 361, 376, 466, 490, 492, 495, 507, 509, 548, 620, 703, 726, 727), “wrote to express her delight that her work had been taken up in a High Church hymnal” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 64). Always friendly to her Anglo-Catholic brother Francis, she requested the sacrament from his hand just before her death (3 June, 1879)” (Timothy Larsen [ed.], Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals[Leicester: IVP, 2003], p. 295).

William Bright (1824-1901), author of “Once, only once, and once for all” (132) was another Anglo-Catholic and devotee to the Eucharist. His pro-Roman Catholic and anti-Protestant views caused him to lose two teaching positions in Scotland. J. R. Watson explains: “As theological tutor at Trinity College, Glenalmond, and as Bell Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History, his views on the Reformation caused offence to the Bishop of Glasgow, who ejected him from both offices” (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 349). “After returning to Oxford in 1858, Bright resumed his tutorship at University College in 1859, and became a colleague of Pusey,” a leading Tractarian (ODNB, vol. 7, p. 644).

Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), author of “Onward! Christian soldiers” (546) and “Now the day is over” (723), was another Anglo-Catholic cleric “attracted by the Tractarian movement” (ODNB, vol. 23, p. 79). His Origin and Development of Religious Belief (1869-1870) “was suggested by Darwin’s [evolutionary] theories” (ODNB, vol. 23, p. 79).

Baring-Gould’s “Onward! Christian soldiers” (546) “was published in the Church Times on 15 October, 1864, with the title ‘Hymn for Procession with Cross and Banners.’ It was designed to be sung as the children processed on Whit Monday” (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 318). Ian Bradley declares it a “fact” that “it was never intended for use in church” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 100).

Think of the procession of children waving their “banners” in the wind (stanza 1), “With the Cross of Jesus // Going on before” (stanza 1, in the original). The Reformation purified the church of these papal and pagan practices. But Anglo-Catholic Baring-Gould wanted to promote Romish processions behind an ornate cross, so he wrote this hymn for the children of Horbury Bridge, his parish in Yorkshire, exhorting them, “Brothers, lift your voices; // Loud your anthem raise” (stanza 2). Others are urged to unite with them in their superstitious procession in stanza 5:

Onward, then, ye people!
Join our happy throng;
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song:

The third stanza states, “Brothers, we are treading // Where the saints have trod.” But which “saints?” Those of the dark ages or of the Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic churches, but not the saints of God who are faithful to the truth of Holy Scripture proclaimed with such power at the Reformation!

The third stanza continues, “We are not divided, // All one body we, // One in hope and doctrine, // One in charity.” But are Free Presbyterians “one body” united in eschatology, doctrine and love with Anglo-Catholic Baring-Gould and those who march in Romish processions?

The Free Presbyterian hymnal has Matthew 16:18 at the top of this popish hymn: “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” But what has this to do with Anglo-Catholic Baring-Gould and his Romish procession?

In Baring-Gould’s manual of devotion, Golden Gate, he gives directions regarding the dead, involving a crucifix and “holy water:” “The body is then decently laid out, and a light placed before it. A small Crucifix is put in the hands of the deceased upon his breast, while the body is sprinkled with Holy Water” (quoted in Walter Walsh, The Secret History of the Oxford Movement [London: Church Association, 1899], p. 62). This is not faith in Christ overcoming the gates of hell, just vain superstitious rites. How empty are Baring-Gould’s words about the bodily resurrection in the fifth stanza of “Now the day is over,” number 723 in the Free Presbyterian hymnal!

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless
In Thy holy eyes.

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898), who penned “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” (13) and “As with gladness men of old” (83), was another Anglo-Catholic. His “several collections of religious poetry” all indicate his “predilection for ‘High Church’ ritual” (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 311). Moreover, “He published a tiny book, Altar Songs, subtitled ‘Verses on the Holy Eucharist’ in 1867, intended ‘for the use of those who believe in, revere and love the Doctrine of the Real Presence’” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 403).

Anglo-Catholic Dix’s hymn “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” (13) was first published in his Altar Songs (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, pp. 310-311). John Julian notes that Dix’s “design [in writing “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” was] to assist in supplying … a lack of Eucharistic hymns [i.e., hymns which teach and support the Romanist doctrine of the literal bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper] in Church of England hymnals” (DOH).

Watson rightly states that “The Eucharistic theme is evident in verse 3” of “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” (13) (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 311). Here we quote the first half of the third stanza as it appears in Our Own Hymn Book:

Alleluia! Bread of heaven,
Thou on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! here the sinful
Flee to Thee from day to day.

According to Anglo-Catholic Dix, Christ’s body, blood and sinews are physically present in the wafer at the Eucharist as the “Bread of heaven” (line 1) which serves as “our food, our stay” (line 2). Christ is bodily present “on earth” (line 2) or, more specifically, “here” (line 3) on the altar. “Here” (line 3), as Dix puts it, “those who believe in, revere and love the Doctrine of the Real Presence” may “flee” to the Eucharist “from day to day” (line 4), a reference to the daily offering of the Mass. Do Free Presbyterians realise what they are saying when they sing “Alleluia!” with Anglo-Catholic Dix’s eucharistic hymn?

Ian Bradley explains the purpose of the Tractarians (and their successors) with their writing of hymns:

For [the Tractarians], metrical psalms were an unappealing product of the Reformation … It was as a vehicle for catholicizing Anglican worship that Tractarians seized on hymnody and made it a key element in their crusade to sweep away everything modern and reformed … the effect of the work of these men, and of others who followed in their wake, was to make available to the growing Catholic wing of the Church of England a body of hymnody with impeccably Catholic credential for liturgical use (Bradley, Abide with Me, pp. 22-23).

The Tractarian hymns are even “available” and “used,” though with much of the Anglo-Catholic element removed or sung in ignorance, by Free Presbyterians.

There are, of course, various motivations for writing hymns. Reginald Heber (1783-1826), Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, and author of “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (33), “The Son of God goes forth to war” (541), “By cool Siloam’s shady rill” (666) and “From Greenland’s icy mountains” (673), wrote hymns and gathered songs of his own school in order to counter the hymnic propaganda of other churches. Heber writes,

Every clergyman [of the Church of England] finds that, if he does not furnish his singers with hymns, they are continually favouring him with some of their own selection; their use has been always the principal engine of popularity with the dissenters [i.e., Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, etc.], and with those who are called the “Evangelical” party [in the Church of England] (quoted in Watson, The English Hymn, p. 302).

William Walsham How (1823-1897) penned 5 hymns in Our Own Hymn Book (30, 52, 192, 713, 754). “Although not a disciple of the Tractarians, he acknowledged their beneficial influence in the parishes, and in an important speech on church ceremonial, at the church congress of 1867, restated the Catholicity of the Anglican church” (ODNB, vol. 28, pp. 308-309). J. R. Watson observes the use of a mystical, envisioning “technique” or “meditative practice” in stanza 4 of his hymn, “It is a thing most wonderful” (713): “I sometimes think about the cross, // And shut my eyes, and try to see …” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 406).

Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), who adapted “He who would valiant be” (550), converted to Tractarianism while a student at Oxford University (1886-1869) where he formed a friendship with Charles Gore, a lifelong Anglo-Catholic. Dearmer’s corruption of the church’s worship came especially through the abuse of art, including ornate church “altars:” “He saw art as not merely decoration but an essential and integral component of the worship offered to God by the church” (ODNB, vol. 15, p. 652).

Irish hymn-writer, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) wrote 5 hymns in Our Own Hymn Book: “Once in royal David’s city” (80), “There is a green hill far away” (98), “The golden gates are lifted up” (124), “Jesus calls us! o’er the tumult” (516) and “All things bright and beautiful” (697). Ian Bradley writes that Cecil Frances “was touched and excited by the Oxford Movement” and that “her sympathies probably lay with moderate Tractarianism.” She “married a moderate Tractarian clergyman, William Alexander, who was to end his dazzling ecclesiastical career as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland” (Bradley, Abide with Me, pp. 94-95). The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states, “The influence of the Tractarians remained deep and constant throughout Cecil’s life, and was evident both in her literary endeavours and in her parish work. She had the opportunity to meet some of the movement’s leaders, including Edward Pusey, Henry Manning, and John Keble” (ODNB, vol. 1, p. 661).

Laurence Tuttiett (1825-1897), who penned “Father, let me dedicate” (728), was another Tractarian. “At the beginning of his ministry he was under the influence of Charles Kingsley and F. D. Maurice [both prominent liberals], but in later life he adopted the high church principles of E. B. Pusey” (ODNB, vol. 55, p. 712). Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), Bishop of Lincoln (1869-1885) and author of “O Lord of heaven, and earth, and sea” (22) and “O day of rest and gladness” (29), was another high churchman. “His sympathy for the Greek church inclined him towards membership in the Eastern Church Association, founded in 1853 by John Mason Neale” (ODNB, vol. 60, p. 306). “He grew close to the Old Catholics [i.e., Roman Catholics who did not accept the infallibility of the pope declared in 1870] on the continent, who found in him a learned figure who supported their views … Wordsworth attended the Old Catholic Congress in Cologne in September 1872” (ODNB, vol. 60, p. 307). The same high church ideas which led him into ecumenical relations with the Old Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox saw him also maintain that Methodist ministers should not be addressed as “Reverend,” since they were merely dissenters.

Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908) wrote “Let me come closer to thee Lord Jesus” (415). Also known as Brother Joseph or Father Ignatius, Lyne was a devoted advocate of Anglican monasticism, even wearing a monkish habit and becoming an abbot. With Tractarian, Benedictine, Roman Catholic and Old Catholic ideas swirling in his head, he was often in trouble with Anglican authorities and parishioners. Unable to become an Anglican priest, he was ordained by a Syrian archbishop and metropolitan for the Old Catholic church in America. Later in his life he also embraced enthusiastically the causes of Welsh culture, Zionism, British Israelitism and flat-earthism. We shall let the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography tell his bizarre story at greater length.

… Lyne also began to dream about establishing an order of Anglican monks … Lyne then found employment as a catechist in Inverness and Glen Urquhart, but his Roman Catholic teachings brought him into conflict with Bishop Eden and the parishioners … He soon became an unpaid curate under George Rundle Prynne, the Tractarian incumbent of St. Peter’s in Plymouth. Lyne’s fascination with monasticism continued, and he founded the Society of the Love of Jesus, based on monastic principles, and called himself Brother Joseph. At Plymouth he received encouragement in his monastic dreams from Priscilla Lydia Sellon, the founder of a community of nuns, and [Tractarian] Edward Bouverie Pusey. But the young idealist fell ill again and went to Belgium to recuperate. There he visited Roman Catholic monasteries and convents and studied their rules. While on the continent he adopted a monastic habit sent by Pusey and Sellon. In 1861 Lyne replaced A. H. Machonochie at St. George-in-the-East, London, and took charge of a mission church, St. Saviour’s. He refused to abandon his Benedictine habit as requested by his vicar, Charles Lowder, and resigned. He now called himself Father Ignatius, and in 1862 tried to establish a monastic community at Claydon, near Ipswich. Threatened by angry protesters and refused a license to preach by the Bishop of Norwich, John Thomas Pelham, he moved his small community to Elm Hill near Norwich in 1863. Problems continued with the bishop, and this forced Father Ignatius to appeal to the bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, who urged submission to Pelham. Father Ignatius even took his crusade to the floor of the Bristol church congress in 1863, but failed to win support. He continued to promote the revival of Anglican monasticism, and received some encouragement from interested Roman Catholics. In 1865 he asked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Thomas Longley, to ordain him a priest, but refused to abandon his association with Benedictinism and his monastic habit, two conditions demanded by Longley. Internal problems and financial difficulties marked his stay in Norwich; in 1866 he was dispossessed of his property and the community dispersed. While Father Ignatius searched for a permanent home for his brotherhood, he established a community of Anglican nuns at Feltham, and preached in a number of London churches until 1868, when the Bishop of London, Archibald Campbell Tait, prohibited him from preaching in the diocese. Supported by a wealthy benefactor, in 1869 Father Ignatius purchased a property at Capel-y-ffin in the Black Mountains, south Wales, and built Llanthony Abbey. He sought funds for his project by preaching engagements and by appealing to wealthy benefactors. As abbot he adopted monastic customs in an eclectic manner. There were even reports of miracles and heavenly visions. Because of his erratic personality, his frequent absences from the monastery, including a trip to Canada and America in 1890-91, and his questionable status within the Anglican church, this venture did not succeed. His convictions also brought some notoriety: in 1872 he publicly confronted Charles Bradlaught; in the following year vice-chancellor Sir Richard Malins ordered Father Ignatius to release a young man, a ward in chancery, from the monastery; religious differences with his father resulted in public denunciations; and he attacked the theological views of Charles Gore at the Birmingham church congress in 1889. Unable to receive orders in his own church, Father Ignatius was ordained a priest on 27 July, 1898, by Joseph Rene Vilatte, also known as Mar Timotheos, a Syrian archbishop and metropolitan for the Old Catholic church in America. For a time he dreamed of establishing a British Old Catholic church. Toward the end of his life he channeled his enthusiasm into the revival of Welsh culture; he also became a Zionist, British Israelite, and a believer in the flat-earth theory. Following a stroke, Father Ignatius died on 16 October, 1908, at his sister’s home at Darjeeling Castle Road, Camberley, Surrey, and was buried at his monastery in Wales on 23 October. This property passed into the hands of the Anglican Benedictines of Caldey Island, south Wales, in 1911 (ODNB, vol. 34, pp. 895-896).



A number of Free Presbyterian hymns were written by Unitarians—modernists who deny the truth of the Holy Trinity, the Deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, the blood atonement of Christ, eternal punishment, etc. I John 2:22 declares, “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” Apparently, the Psalms of David—a man who wrote by the Spirit of Christ (I Peter 1:11) and was a type of Christ—are not sufficient, so the Free Presbyterian hymnal includes several hymns by Unitarian antichrists who deny the Son and (thereby) the Father.

Unitarian Sir John Bowring (1792-1872) wrote “In the cross of Christ I glory” (112). The cross, however, is the revelation of the eternal Son in whom all the divine fullness dwells (Col. 1:19-20) but Sir John denied Him. Jesus taught that “all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23). Is it right to claim to honour the Son in singing the hymns of a Christ-dishonouring Unitarian?

As well as being a Unitarian, Sir John was a radical politician and a disciple of atheistic philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, a leading exponent of the anti-Christian ethic of utilitarianism. Bentham died in Bowring’s arms and requested Bowring to publish his collected works. Sir John’s long and eventful life included imprisonment in France, well-nigh bankruptcy, financial irregularities and charges of plagiarism and drug trading. (Not drug selling but drug taking was the problem for Dorothy Greenwell, authoress of “I am not skilled to understand” [461], for “towards the end of her life she became addicted to opium” [ODNB, vol. 23, p. 614].) As to his personal character, Bowring was “often accused of vanity, obsequiousness, and worse” (see ODNB, vol. 6, pp. 987-990).

Unitarian Sarah Fuller Adams (née Sarah Fuller Flower; 1805-1848) was an actress who “had to give up a career on the stage because of illness” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 429). Her “Nearer, my God, to Thee, // Nearer to Thee” (407) has an interesting publication history.

Together with twelve other hymns by Sarah Fuller Adams, it was published by W. J. Fox, a celebrated Unitarian minister, in Hymns and Anthems (1841), a book compiled for his congregation in South Place Chapel, Finsbury, London (Sarah Fuller Adams was a member of this congregation). It was common for Unitarian chapels to have their own individual hymn-book at this time (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 281).

J. R. Watson makes several remarks on the content of the hymn:

Its Unitarian origins are seen in its third line [of the first stanza], where the Cross is not the sign of the Atonement but the Cross of earthly trouble and suffering … the last verse [or stanza] describes a mystical flight, the soul transformed into rapture in its journey upward to God [“Or if on joyful wing // Cleaving the sky, // Sun, moon, and stars forgot, // Upward I fly”] (Watson [ed.], An Annotated Anthology, p. 282).

Though many have made more “Christian” alterations to this hymn, the Free Presbyterian hymnal has not made any changes “to alter its distinctive character as a hymn to the FATHER alone” excluding the Second and Third Persons (DOH, p. 792).

Unitarian John Page Hopps (1834-1912) wrote the moralisms of hymn 451: “Father, lead me, day by day, // Ever in Thine own sweet way.” However, God is the “Father” and leader only of those whom He has “predestinated … unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5), the One who is “Lord” and “God” (John 20:28). Hopps, however, did not believe in Christ, our Lord and our God, and he did not make this confession.

Hopps’ radical politics included his advocacy of Home Rule for Ireland, contrary to the unionists who argued that “Home Rule is Rome Rule.” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography continues,

[Hopps] moved on to new enthusiasms characteristic of a generation to whom traditional theological questions seemed increasingly irrelevant. Of these, the most remarkable was spiritualism, for which he was prepared by an early exposure to Swedenborgianism and by his mother’s spiritualist experiences and to which he turned during a mental crisis in the mid-1860s. His spiritualism was consistent with his all-embracing humanitarianism and expansive view of God as a spirit, not a person. Rejecting belief in the resurrection of the body, he was an early advocate of cremation (ODNB, vol. 28, p. 89).

Unitarian Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) is the authoress of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which begins “Mine eyes have seen the glory” (542). The hymn “was written in 1861 at the outbreak of the [American] Civil War, and was called forth by the sight of troups for the seat of war” (DOH, p. 1652). Evidently, the Lord was coming in the forces of the Union army! J. R. Watson writes,

The sheer zest of this hymn obscures its total commitment to war: Julia Ward Howe’s lines anchor the gospel of the coming of the kingdom to the troop review that she had just witnessed (from which come the burnished rows of steel, presumably the rifles or cannons of the Union regiments). He comes with a trumpet call:

He hath sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;—

And as he marches on there is trampling and crushing underfoot. The rapidity of the four-beat line has a tremendous momentum: the hymn was written at great speed, in the November dawn after the troop review, and its images contain an almost frenzied desire to overrun and destroy (“O be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant my feet!”) (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 477).

Unitarian Mrs. Howe’s hymn concludes “Our God is marching on!” but what God is being sung about? Not the Triune God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, but a Unitarian idol and a god of the “Union Cause.”

Interestingly all the Unitarian hymn-writers included in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal are “laypersons” penning their odes in the Victorian era (1837-1901). Ian Bradley’s thesis would seem to receive some support here: “Within the Victorian Free Churches hymn writing seems to have been more of a lay than a clerical activity. Perhaps the denomination in which it was most popular was Unitarianism” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 90; italics mine).

At the end of I John, the inspired apostle declares that God’s “Son Jesus Christ” is “the true God, and eternal life” (5:20). Then follows the exhortation, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (5:21). Is it appropriate to sing the hymns of idol-worshippers, who deny that Jesus Christ is “the true God,” in the church’s public worship? Why not sing the Psalms of holy David (a type of Christ) instead of the hymns of antichrists? Why not sing of the glory of the divine Messiah in the Psalms, such as, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness …” (Ps. 45:6-7; cf. Heb. 1:8-9)?


At least two Quakers feature in the Free Presbyterian hymn book. Quakerism is free-willist through and through. It casts aside the special offices of pastor or teacher, ruling elder and deacon which the ascended Christ has given to His church (Eph. 4:11; I Tim. 3; 5:17). It discards the two Christian sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the right administration of which constitute the second mark of a true church (Westminster Confession 25:4). One of the 33 chapters of the Westminster Confession (chapter 22, “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows”) was written especially with the Quakers (who forbid all oaths and vows) in mind. The Westminster Confession 22:3 states that “it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.” Various texts may be cited in this connection (Gen. 24:9; Ex. 20:7; Deut. 6:13; Isa. 65:16; Matt. 26:63-64; II Cor. 1:23; Heb. 6:13-14).

Bernard Barton (1748-1849), “commonly known as the ‘Quaker Poet’” (DOH, p. 116), features in Our Own Hymn Book in hymn 420. The first line of all six stanzas of the Quaker Poet’s hymn begins “Walk in the Light” in praise of the heretical Quaker notion of “Inner Light.” Alan Cairns notes that the Quaker belief in “Inner Light, or direct illumination from God” is “their chief feature” and that “they elevate [Inner Light] to a place of spiritual authority, superior even to the Bible” (Cairns,Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 289). The believer means something very different when he sings the Psalms: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). Thus we also sing, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104), including the false mysticism of Quaker “Inner Light,” the subject of hymn 420.

Quakeress Jenny Evelyn Hussey (1874-1958) is the author of “King of my life, I crown Thee now” (657) with its chorus, “Lest I forget Gethsemane, // Lest I forget Thine agony, // Lest I forget Thy love for me, // Lead me to Calvary.”

Horatio Spafford—Heretic, Schismatic, Charismatic, Cultic

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,” with its moving chorus “It is well with my soul” and catchy tune by P. P. Bliss—number 351 in Our Own Hymn Book —is very popular. However, its author Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888), despite the oft-repeated hagiography, can only be described, in the light of biblical and orthodox teaching, as a heretic. Spafford advocated an especially rabid form of Arminianism: God not only sent Christ to die for all head for head and loves and earnestly desires to save every human being, but He is merciful towards and wants to deliver all the fallen angels too! Indeed, the gospel according to Horatio is that God will actually save absolutely all of mankind and the whole of the angelic world, including Satan. No one has gone or will go to Hell, for it does not exist. Instead of divine punishment for unbelieving and impenitent men and demons, Spafford dreamt up a form of purgatory through which his universalist vision could be realised.

Horatio’s heresies led to schism and he engaged in, and led others, into charismatic and cultic activities. He also led a group to Jerusalem where they were to be the Lord’s personal welcoming committee at His return on the Mount of Olives in 1881 (cf. Matt. 24:36). This was just one of repeated false prophecies and failed predictions of Spafford and his “Overcomers.” Peace, like a river, did not attend Horatio’s way or those he led astray. (For more of the bizarre and sad story of the hymn writer, see Angus Stewart, “Horatio Spafford: Not Well With His Soul.”)


“Once I thought I walked with Jesus” (359), with its chorus “O the peace my Saviour gives, // Peace I never knew before,” was written by Francis Augustus Blackmer who belonged to the Seventh Day Adventist cult. This cult advocates various heresies such as free will, soul sleep (contrast Ps. 73:24; Luke 16:22-30; Phil. 1:23-24) and the annihilation of the wicked (after the final resurrection; contrast Matt. 25:46). Seventh Day Adventism teaches that Christ began his so-called “investigative judgment” in 1844 when He entered the heavenly sanctuary. It claims that Christ’s atonement is not complete. It will only be finished when He comes out of the heavenly sanctuary and lays the sins of His people on Satan(!), who is the scapegoat who bears them away (contrast Eph. 1:7; I Peter 1:18-19).

Seventh Day Sabbatarians and Anti-Sabbatarians

The Westminster Confession rightly states that “from the resurrection of Christ” we are to keep holy “the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day … to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath” (21:7). At least four authors included in the Free Presbyterian hymnal rejected this.

Two hymn writers observed Saturday, the Old Testament Sabbath. Francis Augustus Blackmer, who wrote “Once I thought I walked with Jesus” (359), belonged to the Seventh Day Adventists who believe that observing Sunday as the Lord’s Day is the mark of the beast (Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 343). Those singing his hymn on the first day of the week in church are thus (in Blackmer’s eyes) parading their “666” (Rev. 13:17-18).

Samuel Stennett (c.1727-1795), who penned “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand” (613), was a Seventh Day Baptist.

Norman Macleod (1812-1872), who wrote “Courage, brother! do not stumble” (553), was an anti-sabbatarian minister in the Church of Scotland.

It was in particular in regard to the Westminster doctrine of the Law of God and the Scottish practice as to how the Lord’s Day is to be observed that he did his worst disservice to his country. His outburst on this subject told more disastrously upon Scotland than did anything else of the age. He let loose forces that he could not control and that have wrought a revolution … in regard to the nature and obligations of law in its bearing on the Christian and his life he adopted and taught views that were in their real nature Antinomian. This came about in his effort to dislodge the obligation of the Fourth commandment as a part of the abiding code of the moral law from the place it held in the Confession of his Church and in the mind of his countrymen (John Macleod, Scottish Theology [Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland, 1943], p. 301).

The [Church of Scotland’s] Glasgow Presbytery instructed its ministers to read a pastoral letter on the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, but Norman Macleod (1812-1872) refused. He made a speech to his Presbytery justifying his refusal in which he propounded an alternate theology of Sunday, denying the obligation of the fourth commandment on Christians. Presbytery merely admonished him, but he had to endure a storm of popular abuse and clerical ostracism (Nigel M. de S. Cameron et al [eds.], Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993], p. 738).

Ian Bradley speaks of the “unmistakable echoes of this struggle” in the third and fourth stanzas of his hymn (as it is arranged in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal) (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 137).

Perish policy and cunning,
Perish all that fears the light!
Whether losing, whether winning,
Trust in God, and do the right.
Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight;
Cease from man, and look above thee:
Trust in God, and do the right.

Here we have the liberal Macleod writing and singing these stanzas of his hymn against those who maintained the teaching of the Bible and the Westminster Standards against his heterodox view of the Lord’s Day.

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), author of the first uninspired song in the Free Presbyterian hymn book, “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” (1), was another anti-sabbatarian. For this he was “censured but (to the dismay of conservatives) not deposed” by the Scottish Free Church Assembly in 1867 (Cameron et al [eds.], Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p. 738).

Despite including hymns by four anti-sabbatarians, the Free Presbyterian hymnal includes a section on “The Lord’s Day” (27-31).

Against such anti-sabbatarians (and others) who wish to break and cast away the bands and cords of God’s law—here the fourth commandment—we sing of God’s laughter and Christ’s reign as king in Psalm 2. Psalm 92 is explicitly entitled “A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.” In Psalm 118, we sing of the new day Christ has made by His resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (vv. 22-24). After Psalm 95 calls us to “make a joyful noise unto” the Lord in “psalms” (v. 2), it speaks of God’s “rest” (v. 11), which, as Hebrews 3-4 explains is given to believers in Jesus Christ—the final and perfect rest from our sins and our labours. Of this, the Lord’s Day is a taste, especially as we sing the inspired Psalms He has appointed for us.

Liberals, Modernists, etc.

Other liberals and modernists are covered under other subject headings. Here we simply mention a few.

The anti-sabbatarianism of Church of Scotland minister, Norman Macleod (1812-1872), author of “Courage, brother! do not stumble” (553), “reflected a more general departure from Westminster Calvinism in his teaching and practice” (Cameron et al [eds.], Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p. 533). “Macleod showed himself to be clearly on the side of the Broad party;” he came “under the spell of the followers and friends of [Matthew] Arnold and [Dean] Stanley in England and was responsive to the stimulus of the [liberalising] influences that emanated from the [British royal] court” (Macleod, Scottish Theology, p. 301).

Norman Macleod also fellowshipped with a notorious heretic. Macleod’s cousin, John Macleod Campbell, was deposed by an overwhelming majority at the 1831 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for his heretical views of a love of God for all men and a universal atonement. John Macleod elaborates on Campbell’s teaching as found in his work The Nature of the Atonement (1856):

[Campbell] sets forth and expounds one of the many Broad School perversions or evasions of the cardinal mystery of the Faith as a message of Redemption. He resolves the atoning work of our Lord into an adequate repentance such as no one but the sinless Saviour could render or bring forward. This view held implicit in its bosom the Deistic teaching that an adequate repentance is the only Atonement that is needed. The penal, the forensic, the judicial aspect of the great transaction was spirited away. It melted into the thinnest of thin air (Macleod, Scottish Theology, p. 258).

From 1833 to 1859, Campbell ministered to an independent congregation in Glasgow. In 1851 Macleod also ministered in a church in Glasgow. Despite Campbell’s deposition and heretical views Macleod was his “warm friend,” and “partly through [Macleod’s] intimacy with Campbell, his theological views were modified” (Kenneth Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries [USA: Harper & Brothers, 1959], vol. 2, p. 419). After Campbell’s “health gave way, many of his congregation joined that of Norman Macleod” (Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age, vol. 2, p. 408).

Totally opposite to this is the Psalmist David’s godly confession: “I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.  I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked” (Ps. 26:4-5). Thus God would have us sing, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2) instead of sitting or standing to sing the odes of the Christ-denying modernists and their friends.

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), author of “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” (1) was not only “censured” by the Scottish Free Church Assembly in 1867 as an anti-sabbatarian, but he “represented a somewhat liberal, post-Calvinist Evangelicalism, [even] supporting William Robertson Smith,” when the latter was arraigned on a heresy trial for his higher criticism of the Bible (Cameron et al [eds.], Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p. 782).

As the representative of a liberalizing tendency which surfaced even in the Free Church, Smith found himself involved in a heresy case when several of his sermons appeared to impugn the authority of Old Testament law. He was “affectionately admonished” (Dictionary of National Biography) at the general assembly of 1867 but again ran into trouble over his relaxed view of elders’ subscription to the confession of faith. Despite this, and his friendship and support for William Robertson Smith when the latter was attacked for his advanced views … (ODNB, vol. 51, p. 354).

George Matheson (1842-1906), who penned “O Love, that will not let me go” (498) and “Make me a captive Lord” (508), was an “influential liberal” Church of Scotland minister. “Dissatisfied with the Calvinism of his upbringing, he wrote sympathetically of [modernist] German theology” (Cameron et al [eds.], Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p. 552).

The article on Matheson in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography expands on this:

For a time he grew dissatisfied with the Calvinist theology in which he was brought up, and according to his own account was inclined to reject all religion. But a study of Hegelian philosophy saved him from agnosticism … In 1874 he published anonymously Aids to the Study of German Theology, in which he sought to show that German theology was positive and constructive. The work passed into a third edition within three years. In 1877 appeared The Growth of the Spirit of Christianity in two volumes, a philosophical presentation of the history of the church to the Reformation … In his Can the Old Faith Live with the New? or, The Problem of Evolution and Revelation (1885), he argued that the acceptance of evolution was calculated to strengthen belief in the Christian faith (ODNB, vol. 37, p. 281).

Matheson’s modernism is clearly revealed in his The Representative Men of the Bible: From Adam to Job. In his Preface, he states his motivation for writing:

I have been actuated … by the desire to find ground that is neutral to the two extremes—the Higher Criticism on the one hand and the Old Orthodoxy [to which he had sworn as a Presbyterian minister] on the other … Here, for the present, hands may be joined, here, for the time, views may be united (George Matheson, The Representative Men of the Bible: From Adam to Job [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909], p. vi).

In his Introduction, he continues, “I would leave historical questions in the background … it matters not even, to my present purpose, whether the events delineated on the canvas were reproduced from the actual life” (Matheson, Representative Men, p. 1). Such wicked agnosticism impugns the veracity of the Holy Spirit, who even asserts the truthfulness of the history of the Bible in the church’s songs (e.g., Ps. 78, 105, 106, etc.).

According to Matheson there was no literal Adam. He writes, “You ask if [“the Portrait of the child Adam”] is historical. I answer, It has been again and again historical; it has been repeated in your history and in mine” (pp. 28-29)—words hardly less subtle than those of the Old Serpent: “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1). Dark hints are made of evolution (pp. 30-31). In Psalm 8, however, we sing of Adam’s creation and headship over animals, birds and fish (vv. 5-8—this passage is also applied to Christ in Hebrews 2:6-9). Matheson’s modernism means that, despite his title The Representative Men of the Bible, he does not teach Adam’s representative role as the covenant head of the human race. Instead of the biblical and Reformed (Rom. 5:12-21; Westminster Confession 6) doctrine of original sin, we have Matheson’s puerile rationalizations (pp. 41-43) and his futile attack on Adam’s sin as being “disobedience” (pp. 36-43). Over against the hymns of modernist Matheson, the church should sing “Thy word is true from the beginning” (Ps. 119:60) and “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).

Matheson questions, rationalises or “explains away” the miracles, such as Enoch’s translation (Gen. 5; p. 3), the universal flood (Gen. 6-9; p. 91), the burning bush (Ex. 3; pp. 209-210), Elijah’s chariot (II Kings 2; p. 4) and the healing of Naaman (II Kings 5; pp. 343-346). Joshua 10 is a “legend” (p. 227), for the sun did not really stand still (p. 230). Modernist ethics are also to the fore, for Matheson assures us that the slaughters of the priests of Baal (I Kings 18) and of the mocking children (II Kings 2) were not at the behest of Elijah (pp. 318-319) and Elisha (p. 327) respectively. Matheson ascribes a very late date to the book of Job: the fifth or sixth century BC (p. 349). The Psalms, Matheson avers, lack “the message of a world beyond” (p. 86). Like the Sadducees of old, modernist Matheson obviously did not understand the Psalms (cf. Ps. 16:10-11; 17:15; 23:6; 49:15; 73:24-26; etc.).

Matheson’s “O Love, that will not let me go” (498) betrays a “radical anticipation of twentieth-century process theology in its conception of life beyond death” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 115). The soul is swallowed up in the divine “ocean depths” (stanza 1) and its light in the divine “sunshine blaze” (stanza 2). The “tendency to universalism” is unmistakable (Bradley,Abide with Me, p. 114). Ian Paisley has added a fifth stanza to modernist Matheson’s “O Love, that will not let me go” (498). Matheson’s “broad-minded inclusivism” is also revealed in his hymn “Gather us in, thou love that fillest all.” Ian Bradley continues, “It is possible to trace a general reaction on the part of Victorian [1837-1901] hymn writers against … limited atonement and eternal punishment … Hell featured less and less in successive hymn-books throughout the period” (Bradley,Abide with Me, p. 117).

Moving south from modernist hymn-writers in Scotland, we come to liberal hymn writers in England. Thomas Binney (1798-1874), who authored “Eternal Light! Eternal Light!” (26) despised the eternal light of the gospel of grace. “He rejected the idea that Christ’s death was the price paid for human sin as well as the concept of a substitutionary atonement. In fact, his thinking exemplifies the gradual disintegration of the traditional Calvinism of the Congregationalists” (ODNB, vol. 5, p. 769).

Edwin Paxton Hood (1820-1885), author of “I love to think, though I am young” (701), “sat at the feet of Thomas Binney at the King’s Weigh House Chapel: here he imbibed the romantic, liberalized theology later conspicuous in his own preaching.” Hood devoted himself to the “causes” of temperance and world peace on which he preached, lectured and wrote. “In 1840 became a full-time temperance worker” and “he was a delegate to the Paris peace conference in 1848” (ODNB, vol. 27, p. 923). In the late 1870s he fiercely attacked “Disraeli’s foreign policy from [his Manchester] pulpit. This so divided his flock that his health became impaired and he resigned in 1880, preaching to his supporters in Hulme town hall” (ODNB, vol. 27, p. 924).

Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), Dean of St Paul’s, who penned “Ride on, ride on in majesty” (99), was another modernist whose various historical works (including histories of the Jews and of the church) were “not based on a literal interpretation of scripture” (ODNB, vol. 38, p. 280). Milman’s History of the Jews (1830) was hailed by liberal divines as a masterly application of German critical methods of OT study” (John D. Douglas [ed.], The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church[NIDCC] [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974], p. 660). The book “created something of a sensation. To the distress of many of the orthodox, it treated the story [of Israel] as that of an Oriental tribe, sifted and classified the documentary evidence, and evaded or minimized the miraculous” (Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age, vol. 2, p. 263).

Like Milman, Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), author of “Breathe on me, Breath of God” (165), was a liberal Church of England theologian, who denied the biblical miracles. “His private difficulties with aspects of Christian belief—he had ceased to believe in miracles—are recorded in his poems Towards Fields of Light (1890) and in his privately printed Between Doubt and Prayer(1878)” (ODNB, vol. 25, p. 796).

The truth of the inspiration of the Bible (II Tim. 3:16; Westminster Confession 1) was jettisoned by Henry Alford (1810-1871), Dean of Canterbury, who wrote “‘Forward!’ be our watchword” (549) and “Come, ye thankful people, come” (737). “His theological standpoint included a liberal belief in inspiration; he dissociated himself from mechanical and verbal theory …” (ODNB, vol. 1, p. 716). “‘Forward!’ be our watchword” (549) is in the “Conflict and Victory” section of Our Own Hymn Book, but Alford succumbed to Satan’s temptation: “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1).

Anglican minister, John Ellerton (1826-1893), who penned “The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended” (722) and the wedding song “O Father all-creating” (743), was a universalist who sought to promote his “broad-minded inclusivism” through his hymns (Bradley, Abide with Me, pp. 116-117). Thus “The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended” (722) concludes, “Thy kingdom stands and grows for ever, // Till all thy creatures own Thy sway.”

Ellerton’s “God of the living, in whose eyes” was even removed from Hymns Ancient and Modern because of its “universalist implications” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 116). In his defence of this hymn, Ellerton advocated, in opposition to “the Protestant Mind,” the “possibility of mercy in the future life” for “all live with Him.” He wrote, “I do not deny Hell, or assert Purgatory; I merely say that the soul which departs the body does not depart from the range of God’s love” (quoted in Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 117; italics Ellerton’s).

It is no wonder that Ellerton “found a whole swathe of hymns unsuitable for worship.” He wrote,

The whole multitude of didactic and hortatory verses, the addresses to sinners and saints, the paraphrases of Scripture prophecies, promises, and warnings, the descriptions of heaven and hell, the elaborate elucidations of the anatomy and pathology of the soul; all these, whatever, be their value in the chamber, the study, or the pulpit, ought utterly and forever to be banished from the choir (quoted in Watson, The English Hymn, pp. 399-400).

Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), who adapted “He who would valiant be” (550) and served as the general editor of two hymn books (The English Hymnal and Songs of Praise), was “a liberal theologian and Christian socialist” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 523). “He threw himself into the work of first the Guild of St Matthew and then the Christian Social Union, of the London branch of which he was secretary from 1891-1912” (ODNB, vol. 15, p. 652). The Christian socialists, giving up the supernatural gospel of grace and blood atonement, turned to mere social activism to try to build an earthly kingdom of God.

Crossing the Atlantic from the modernists of Scotland and England, we come to New England Episcopalian Phillips Brooks(1835-1893) who penned the carol, “O little town of Bethlehem” (78). An eloquent advocate of the fashionable “New Theology” and “Progressive Orthodoxy,” Brooks was “deeply influenced by Horace Bushnell,” who laid the intellectual foundations for American Protestant modernism and the social gospel (Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965], p. 270). Compromising with Darwinian evolutionism and biblical criticism, and denying the verbal inerrancy and authority of Scripture, it is no surprise that Brooks’ doctrine of preaching was also grievously astray. His speeches on homiletics, delivered at the prestigious Beecher Lectures at Yale in 1877 and subsequently published in what came to be a very influential book, reveal that Brooks “departed a long way from the preaching of the classical Protestant Reformers” (Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, vol. 6 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007], p. 496). Brooks’ “undoctrinal” and topical preaching failed to expound the text of God’s Word and presented instead a romanticist-transcendentalist gospel of self-realization well suited to the “itching ears” (II Tim. 4:3) of the Boston Brahmins (cf. Old, The Reading and Preaching, pp. 487-500). Old concludes, “Brooks, figuring that the modern preacher could hardly discern what in Scripture is truth and what is not, finally has to leave it to the inspired personality of the minister to figure out what the gospel is. He becomes the master of Scripture rather than its servant” (Old, The Reading and Preaching, p. 500). In the Psalms, however, the church sings of the preaching of the clear, biblical good news of the righteousness, faithfulness, salvation, loving-kindness and truth of God (Ps. 40:9-10), which come through the incarnation, obedience and sacrifice of Christ (vv. 6-8).

According to Brooks’ “New Theology,” the gospel is that man and the world (and especially the United States) are morally good and not totally depraved. No wonder he preferred man-made hymns, for how could he possibly have sung the inspired Psalms (e.g., Ps. 7, 10, 12, 14, 28, 35, 38, 53, 58, etc.)! Brooks’ naive and radically anti-biblical anthropology led him to embrace not only false ecumenism but also “the friendship of the world” which is “enmity with God” (James 4:3). Sydney E. Ahlstrom writes,

The broadchurchmanship of Phillips Brooks is another example of ebullient confidence in liberal theology and American culture. “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,” Brooks never tired of telling the Boston congregation to whom he preached for a quarter of a century (1869-93). To him the whole of mankind was the family of God, and the goodness and nobility of men as the children of God was the essential article of his faith (A Religious History of the American People [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, rev. 2004], p. 739).

Winthrop S. Hudson even more clearly states Brooks’ attack on the antithesis between righteousness, light and the temple of God on the one hand and unrighteousness, darkness and idols on the other (II Cor. 6:14-16) and notes how this denies the cross of Christ:

The most impressive feature of American life, to Brooks, was the way in which men “outside the churches” were impelled by the spirit of America to do that which “the churches and Christianity” seek to do, being led to do “Christian work in the spirit of Christ” even when they “studiously” or “vehemently” disown him. By thus investing the culture with intrinsic redemptive power, scant room was left for any special redemptive work of Christ. The distinction between the Church and the world, between the Christian and the non-Christian, was largely obliterated (Hudson, Religion in America, p. 372).

To the dismay of the conservatives and “Suspicion of heresy notwithstanding, Brooks became the episcopal bishop of Massachusetts in 1891” (Ahlstrom, A Religious History, p. 740).

Understanding Brooks’ false doctrines and rereading the four stanzas of his carol, “O little town of Bethlehem” (78), one can see how it betrays this liberal preacher’s vague, sentimental romanticism.


William Williams (1717-1791), author of three songs in Our Own Hymn Book—”Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah” (431), “Shepherd of the chosen number” (566) and “Why should I sorrow more?” (578)—was a jumper. Below is the entry on “Jumpers” in Schaff-Herzog’s Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge (1891 edition):

JUMPERS, a designation applied to some Welsh religionists of the [eighteenth] century who introduced into their worship the practice of dancing and jumping … William Williams, the famous Welsh hymn-writer … advocated and adopted the practice. The jumping usually followed the sermon, and was preceded by the singing of a verse of some hymn, which was repeated again and again, sometimes forty or even more times. The jumping was accompanied with all kinds of gestures, and often lasted for hours (vol. 2, pp. 1214-1215).

Just think of William Williams and the people singing a stanza of “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah” up to forty times and more until they begin to jump up and down. The psalmist proclaims, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Ps. 89:7).

Billy Graham’s Advisor and Co-Preacher

James Edwin Orr (1912-), who wrote “Search me, O God, and know my heart today” (644), shared a platform with, and was an advisor to, Billy Graham, the Arminian revivalist who fraternized with Roman Catholics and modernists, etc. Rev. Ian Paisley, the moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church for over half a century, has (rightly) opposed Billy Graham and his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for decades. Paisley’s Billy Graham and the Church of Rome: A Startling Exposure(Belfast: Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, 1970) strongly denounces Graham for his apostasy and compromise with Romanists, liberals and followers of Judaism. Yet the Free Presbyterian hymnal includes material by Billy Graham’s fellow false ecumenist and advisor. Evidently, the songs of a church leader, who is “unequally yoked together with [these Romanist and modernist] unbelievers” (II Cor. 6:14) who betray Christ and His cross, is preferable to the God-breathed Psalms.

Lay Preachers

Our Own Hymn Book has many songs written by lay preachers, including John Bakewell (“Hail, Thou once despisèd Jesus” [68]), William Booth (“Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame” [168]), Ralph E. Hudson (contributions to “Alas! And did my Saviour bleed” [107], “I’m not ashamed to own my Lord” [306] and “O happy day that fixed my choice” [308]), Judson W. Van de Venter (“Some day we’ll stand before the judgment bar” [341], “The dear loving Saviour hath found me” [375] and “All to Jesus I surrender” [488]) and Gerhard Tersteegen (“Thou sweet belovèd will of God” [470]). John Cennick (1718-1755), author of “A good High Priest is come” (133), “Lo! He comes with clouds descending” (with Charles Wesley; 156) and “Children of the heavenly King” (456), “is sometimes claimed as the first Methodist lay preacher” (ODNB, vol. 10, p. 810).

Though lay preaching is a sin much excused today, the Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office” (A. 158).

Women Preachers

The Free Presbyterian hymnal contains many songs by women preachers, such as Mary Dagworthy James (“O this uttermost salvation” [207] and “All for Jesus! All for Jesus!” [501]), Phoebe Palmer (“O now I see the cleansing wave” [276]), Unitarian Julia Ward Howe (“Mine eyes have seen the glory” [542]) and “Archbishop of Deaconesses” Lucy Jane Rider Meyer (“‘He was not willing that any should perish’” [680]).

Jemima Luke, authoress of “I think, when I read that sweet story of old” (698), “strongly supported ‘female agency’ in church life and missions. After her mother’s death, and her father’s remarriage in 1839, she planned to go to India as a missionary for the [London Missionary Society], but was prevented by ill health” (ODNB, vol. 34, p. 735).

But there were also male advocates of women preachers and women office-bearers in the church. William Pennefather(1816-1873), who penned “Jesus! stand among us” (647), was an important figure in the rise of women missionaries and deaconesses in England. “In 1860 he began the training of women workers as overseas missionaries, many of whom were to serve with the Church Missionary Society and Church of England Zenana Missionary Society.” “The training home evolved into an institution for deaconesses, primarily preparing women for work as uniformed domestic missionaries” (ODNB, vol. 43, p. 577). Pennefather modeled the scheme on Lutheran patterns for training deaconesses (Kenneth Hylson-Smith,Evangelicals in the Church of England 1734-1984 [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988], p. 152). At first there was opposition to such novel and unbiblical practices but when it appeared to work most criticism died down. Another triumph for sheer pragmatism!

Such women preachers walked in disobedience to God, for they were not appointed by Christ to proclaim His Word: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence” (I Tim. 2:12). Apparently this continual, gross defiance of Christ and His headship over His church was not enough to disqualify them from writing hymns for the church to praise Him.

“The Archbishop of Deaconesses”

The authoress of “‘He was not willing that any should perish’” (680), Lucy Jane Rider Meyer (1849-1922) was a woman preacher and a biblical critic “even in the face of her husband’s objections” to the latter. She is also known as “The Archbishop of Deaconesses” for her leading role in the creation of the (unbiblical) office of deaconess in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1888), the first American denomination to succumb to this innovation. Mrs. Rider even designed a deaconess uniform. Inspired Scripture states, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own homes well” (I Tim. 3:12). For her various departures, she received much criticism from the fundamentalists. Thus John G. McEllhenney titles his article: “Lucy Rider Meyer: The ‘Archbishop of Deaconesses’ Who Took on the Fundamentalists, 1849-1922” (

Women Hymn Writers

According to the Word of God, women are not to hold any of the special offices in the church (pastor, elder or deacon; I Tim. 3; 5:17) or to preach the gospel (I Tim. 2:12) or to lead the church in prayer (I Tim. 2:1-8; cf. vv. 9-15). Why then should women be allowed to write the words of the songs that the whole congregation is called to take in their mouths to praise the Triune God in His public worship on the Lord’s Day?

Anne Steele (1717-1778), “the first major woman hymn-writer” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 191), is the authoress of “Father of mercies, in Thy Word” (189) and “Almighty God, before Thy throne” (755) in Our Own Hymn Book. In fact, at least 110 women wrote at least 200 of the songs in the Free Presbyterian hymnal (where we only have the initials of hymn writers, I assumed that they were men, unless I knew otherwise):

Ada R. Habershon (455, 599), Adelaide Addison Pollard (482), Alice Jane Janvrin (679), Amelia Matilda Hull (245), Anna Barlett Warner (692), Anna Hudson (390), Anna Laetitia Waring (360, 575), Anna Shipton (504), Anne M. Lloyd (173), Anne Ross Cousin (100, 595), Anne S. Murphy (403), Anne Shepherd (700), Anne Steele (189, 755), Annie Johnson Flint (458), Annie L. James (227), Annie Lousia Coghill (523), Annie Sherwood Hawks (469), Arabella Catherine Hankey (197, 370), Barbara B. Hart (747), C. H. Good (649), Caroline Maria Noel (145), Carrie E. Breck (505, 598), Catherine Pennefather (71), Catherine Johnson (677), Cecil Frances Alexander (80, 98, 124, 516, 697), Charitie Lees De Chenez (134), Charlotte Elliott (31, 289), Civilla Durfee Martin (568), Dorothy Frances Blomfield Gurney (744), Dorothy Greenwell (461), Edith Gilling Cherry (565), Edith Margaret Clarkson (681), Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (220, 254, 258, 316, 331, 350, 363, 374, 378, 384, 406, 444, 448, 513, 547, 601), Elizabeth Ann Head (640), Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane (217, 318), Elizabeth Codner (639), Elizabeth Mills (589), Ellen M. H. Gates (670), Ellen Thorneycroft Felkin (738), Elsie Duncan Yale (518), Elvina M. Hall (322), Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (85), Emily Huntington Miller (705), Fanny Crosby (5, 7, 20, 91, 155, 161, 164, 229, 237, 242, 279, 304, 310, 311, 395, 398, 412, 423, 430, 441, 450, 473, 500, 514, 517, 572, 576, 594, 596, 624, 628, 637, 704, 731), Frances Bevan (131), Frances Ridley Havergal (24, 163, 239, 361, 376, 466, 490, 492, 495, 507, 509, 548, 620, 703, 726, 727), Freda Hanbury Allen (552), Gladys Westcott Roberts (654), Grace Elizabeth Cobb (392), Hannah Kilham Burlingham (154), Harriet W. Re Qua (446), Harriot Burn McKeever (716), Hattie M. Conrey (425), Helen Howarth Lemmel (260), Henrietta E. Blair (181, 235), Henriette Auber (174), Hope Tryaway (314), Ina Duley Ogdon (357, 524), Jane E. Hall (210), Jane Eliza Leeson (582), Jean Sophia Pigott (405, 470), Jeannette Threlfall (685), Jeannie Wilson (348), Jemima Luke (698), Jenny Evelyn Hussey (657), Jessie Brown Pounds (293, 429), Julia Sterling (188, 320), Julia Ward Howe (542), Katherina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (443), Katherine O. Barker (522), Katherine Agnes May Kelly (485), Katie Barclay Wilkinson (419), Leila Naylor Morris (226, 336, 408, 502, 562), Lida Shivers Leech (325), Lidie H. Edmunds (312), Louisa M. R. Stead (462), Louise M. Rouse (496), Lucy Ann Bennett (294), Lucy Booth-Hellberg (557), Lucy Jane Rider Meyer (680), Lucy R. Minor (377), Lydia Baxter (67), Manie Payne Ferguson (65, 171), Margaret J. Harris (321, 385), Maria De Fleury (667), Martha Matilda Stockton (199), Mary Ann Sanderson Deck (719), Mary Artemisia Lathbury (182), Mary B. Wingate (198), Mary Bachelor (626), Mary Bowly Peters (658), Mary Dagworthy James (207, 501), Mary Duncan (693), Mary E. Maxwell (510), Mary Elizabeth Servoss (14, 574), Mary Jane Walker (471), Mary Shekleton (414), Mary Warburton Booth (373), Mathilda Betham Edwards (694), Nellie Talbot (686), Phoebe Palmer (276), Pricilla Jane Owens (305, 678), Ruth Caye Jones (261), Sarah Betts Rhodes (710), Sarah Doudney (454), Sarah Fuller Adams (407), Sarah Geraldina Stock (671), Susan Warner (690) and Virginia W. Moyer (232).



Anna Laetitia Waring (1823-1910) was “brought up as a Quaker but later [became] an Anglican” and “produced a stream of highly personal and subjective hymns” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 92). J. R. Watson, one of the world’s living authorities on hymns and hymn-writers and himself a lover of uninspired hymnody, suggests lesbianism in Waring, authoress of “My heart is resting, O my God” (360) and “In heavenly love abiding” (575):

In her personal life, she had some friendships “of singular depth and intensity,” and one in particular with a “gifted friend” (a woman). Waring destroyed most of the correspondence between them, and (in the words of the biographer) “of the few which remain, none are suitable for publication.” This suggests a relationship which in 1911 (when the memoir was written, in the year after Waring’s death) would have been thought shocking … a love between the two women that could not be revealed but which gave nothing but pleasure (Watson, The English Hymn, pp. 446-447, 448).



Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769), author of the first two stanzas of “Thou sweet belovèd will of God” (470), was a German mystic with a “profound” “apprehension of the idea of self-renunciation and a blessed loss of self in God” (McClintock and Strong [eds.], Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature [Grand Rapids: Baker, repr. 1981], vol. 10, p. 287).

In hymnody [Tersteegen] is the chief representative of the mystics, who attached little importance to the ordinary means of grace [i.e., the preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper] because they held that the soul may possess an inner light of its own, and enjoy without any mediation direct and immediate fellowship with God (Barkley [ed.], Handbook to the Church Hymnary, p. 358).

Compare this with the Westminster Larger Catechism:

That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation (A 153).

Tersteegen’s favourite authors were all mystics, including the fanatical Godfrey Arnold and the grossly heterodox Pierre Poiret, as well as the French Roman Catholic mystics Marquis de Renty (a big favourite of John Wesley) and Madame Guyon. Tersteegen translated some of Guyon’s works into German and he wrote of de Renty’s life “with great pleasure.”

Tersteegen published three volumes on the lives of various “saints” between 1733 and 1753. “The saints so commemorated belong altogether to the Roman Catholic communion … there is satisfactory proof that [Tersteegen] possessed an especial fondness for the peculiar piety cultivated by the mystical asceticism of the [Roman] Church.” However, sacred Scripture speaks of “the doctrine which is according to godliness” (I Tim. 6:3). What godliness is there amongst those who hold such gross false doctrine?

For all his serious departures, Tersteegen was not as bad as Count Nicolaus Ludwig van Zinzendorf (author of “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness” [302]) and the Moravian brethren (several of whom are in the Free Presbyterian hymnal). Tersteegen refused to work with them “because he believed their teachings to be erroneous. He charged them with identifying sanctification with justification and with misrepresenting the legal and the evangelical elements in religion. He found in them no earnest striving in the way of a progressive sanctification” (McClintock and Strong [eds.], Cyclopedia, vol. 10, pp. 286-287).

The mystical Tersteegen found an admirer in Frances Bevan (1827-1909), a Brethren lady who wrote “No more veil! God bids me enter” (131).

Shortly after her marriage Frances joined the Plymouth Brethren in Barnet. Her husband, however, remained Church of England. Frances withdrew from society. She was distant from family life, not giving her children toys but only ‘useful’ presents and not permitting them fiction—although she did take pleasure in the writings of Lewis Carroll. She dressed in black with no ornamentation (but paradoxically allowing cosmetics) … Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso and Others (2 vols., 1894-7) became her most widely known collection and works from it passed into various church hymnaries … Among her own compositions, ‘Midst the darkness, storm and sorrow,’ a Brethren standard, gave quintessential expression to her individualistic, otherworldly mysticism, and ‘Christ, the Son of God, hath sent me,’ was a missionary favourite. In addition she produced religious tracts and seven books, mainly sketches of individuals such as the medieval mystic Mechtild von Magdeburg, the pietist Gerhardt Tersteegen, and John Wesley … Tersteegen’s piety she found particularly congenial (ODNB, vol. 5, p. 577).


Supporter of Rebellion

James Montgomery (1771-1854) was a Moravian hymnist (writing some 400 odes) and an editor of Moravian hymnals, who spent some time in Gracehill, the Moravian settlement established by John Cennick near Ballymena, N. Ireland. Montgomery wrote “Stand up and bless the Lord” (17), “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” (141), “Sow in the morn thy seed” (531), “‘For ever with the Lord!’” (588), “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire” (631), “According to Thy gracious Word” (651) and “Pour out Thy Spirit from on high” (741). J. R. Watson writes, “Montgomery rescued hymnody from the ‘blood of the Lamb’ school; in its place, there is a sense of religion as practicing and promising happiness in a world of struggle and pain” (Watson, The English Hymn, p. 307).

Montgomery also praised the French Revolution. The first of his two imprisonments in York Castle was “for printing a song in celebration of the Fall of the Bastille [1789]” (Barkley [ed.], Handbook to the Church Hymnary, p. 316). Listen to the Word of God against rebellion against the God ordained authorities and remember that it accuses “not only [them that] do the same, but [also them that] have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32):

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (Rom. 13:1-7).

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king (I Peter 2:11-17).


John and Charles Wesley—Arminians

John Wesley (1703-1791), the translator of three songs in Our Own Hymn Book—”Commit thou all thy griefs” (49), “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness” (302) and “Give to the winds thy fears” (477)—was an Arminian who abhorred God’s sovereign grace (also known as “Calvinism”).

Calvinism, [John Wesley] said, was “not the gospel,” but “the greatest hindrance to the work of God,” “the antidote to Methodism—the most deadly and successful enemy it ever had,” and the worst device “Satan threw in the way” for it “strikes at the root of [Wesley’s doctrine of] salvation from sin” (quoted in Bill Langerak, “Giving the Arminian Babel a Shake [1],” British Reformed Journal, 38 [Summer, 2003], p. 7).

John Wesley was an ardent advocate of universal, ineffectual atonement who held a heretical doctrine of the blood of Christ. He declared,

What! Can the blood of Christ burn in hell? … I answer … one who was purchased by the blood of Christ may go thither. For he that was sanctified by the blood of Christ was purchased by the blood of Christ. But one who was sanctified by the blood of Christ may nevertheless go to hell; may fall under that fiery indignation which shall for ever devour the adversaries (The Works of John Wesley [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996], vol. 10, p. 297).

So opposed was John Wesley to Christ’s particular, effectual death on the cross for his elect that he repeatedly warned people against attending churches where this great gospel truth was taught!

John’s brother, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was another ardent Arminian. He is the second most popular author in Our Own Hymn Book with almost 30 songs:

“O for a thousand tongues to sing” (4), “Ye servants of God” (8), “Come, let us with our Lord arise” (27), “Jesus! the Name high over all” (58), “Hark! the herald angels sing” (76), “All ye that pass by” (108), “Hark! the voice of love and mercy” (110), “Christ, the Lord, is risen today” (114), “Arise, my soul, arise” (130), “Rejoice, the Lord is king” with its chorus “Lift up your heart, lift up your voice” (139), “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus” (146), “Lo! He comes with clouds descending” (156), “Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire” (167), “Come, Thou everlasting Spirit” (178), “Spirit of faith, come down” (179), “Come, O Thou Prophet of the Lord” (187), “Jesus, Lover of my soul” (196), “And can it be that I should gain” (263), “Depth of mercy! can there be” (287), “Love divine, all loves excelling” (386), “O for a heart to praise my God” (409), “Give me the faith which can remove” (512), “’Tis finished! the Messiah dies” (528), “A charge to keep I have” (530), “Soldiers of Christ, arise” (564), “All things are possible to him” (617), “Jesus, we Thy promise claim” (622), “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” (712), and “Blest be the dear uniting love” (721).

Charles Wesley speaks of the “poison of Calvin,” referring to the biblical and Reformed doctrines of sovereign particular grace, especially unconditional election and reprobation (Journal of Charles Wesley, Sunday 30 November 1740). In discussion with a Calvinist, Charles informs us, “I told him his predestination had got a millstone about its neck, and would infallibly be drowned, if he did not part it from reprobation” (Journal of Charles Wesley, Tuesday 19 May 1741). Thus he speaks of reprobation as “hellish blasphemy” and “wisdom from beneath” in his hymns “Oh Horrible Decree” and “God, ever merciful and just” respectively (see Appendix).

However, the Canons of Dordt state that the “decree [singular] of election and reprobation” is “revealed in the Word of God” and “though men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest [it] to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls [it] affords unspeakable consolation” (I:6). Where does this leave Wesley? Not with the “holy and pious souls,” but with the “men of perverse, impure and unstable minds” who “wrest” the truth of predestination “to their own destruction.” In its “Conclusion,” the Synod of Dordt “warns calumniators to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits them” (see Appendix).

Remember that Charles Wesley was not simply a church member but an office-bearer (in the Church of England) and that his church’s creed teaches election (article 17 of the Thirty-Nine Articles). With his faith in free will, the doctrines of total depravity, particular atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints had to go, contrary to articles 9, 15 and 17 of the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Charles Wesley was a sworn opponent of particular redemption and used his hymns to inculcate the heretical doctrine of universal, ineffectual atonement. Here is one of his songs (see Appendix):

The world He suffered to redeem:
For all He hath the atonement made;
For those that will not come to Him
The ransom of His life was paid!

According to Wesley, “atonement” and redemption were made and the “ransom”—the “life” and blood of Christ—was paid for absolutely everybody, including those who “will not come to Him” and perish! Thus Charles Wesley taught a heretical view of the blood of Christ, that it was shed for those who are punished forever in Hell fire!

Eric Stewart, himself a proponent of Wesleyan Arminianism, writes of Charles’ hymns: “Wesley’s addiction appears in a small word ‘all’ along with its synonyms ‘every’ and ‘whole’” (Eric Stewart, Streams of Life: Revival in the Age of Wesley [United Kingdom: Ambassador, 1988], p. 88). Wesley’s Arminian universal atonement comes through very clearly (as he intended it) in his odes, including those in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal. One only needs to look up the use of the words “all” and “world” in Charles’ hymn “’Tis finished! The Messiah dies” (528).

Hymns 108 and 110 are both listed in the section “God the Son, His Sufferings and Death.” The first hymn opens, “All ye that pass by, // To Jesus draw nigh; // To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?” This is clearly addressing unbelievers. The next few lines continue, “Your ransom and peace, // Your Surety He is” and “Your debt He hath paid, and your work He hath done.” Hymn 110 is similar. It tells “all … who pass by” and “sinners” that Christ “is crucified for me and you.” Those singing these hymns are telling the unconverted that Christ is the “ransom” and “surety” of everybody head for head. They are singing the heresy of universal atonement as worship to the true and living God!

The Wesley brothers’ heresy of universal atonement teaches that Christ died for Esau whom God “hated” (Rom. 9:13); Judas, “the son of perdition” (John 17:12); and Antichrist, the “man of sin” (II Thess. 2:3); as well as the whore, the false church (Rev. 17:1-2); those who commit the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:32); and those who never hear the Word (Ps. 147:19-20) or are already in Hell. This mocks the infinite power, wisdom and holiness of God! The Scriptures teach that Christ died for His “people” (Matt. 1:21) and His “friends” (John 15:13). He ransomed “his seed” (Isa. 53:10) and not the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15); His “sons,” “children” and “brethren” (Heb. 2:10-14) and not “bastards” (Heb. 12:8); His sheep (John 10:11) and not the goats (Matt. 25:33); His church (Eph. 5:25) and not the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9); and the “many” (Matt. 26:28) and not everybody head for head.

Charles Wesley’s heretical hymns in Our Own Hymn Book contradict the official standards of the Free Presbyterian Church. The Westminster Shorter Catechism confesses that Jesus Christ is the “only Redeemer of God’s elect” (A. 21). TheWestminster Confession states, “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ … but the elect only” (3.6; cf. 8:1; 11:4; 13:1). These articles were copied in Congregationalism’s Savoy Declaration (1658) and the Baptist Confession (1689).

B. B. Warfield writes that the Canons of Dordt—the most international assembly of Reformed Protestants ever—were “published authoritatively in 1619 as the finding of the [Dutch] Synod with the aid of a large body of foreign assessors, representative practically of the whole Reformed world. The Canons … therefore … [possess] the moral authority of the decrees of practically an Ecumenical Council throughout the whole body of Reformed Churches” (Warfield, Works of Benjamin B. Warfield [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996], vol. 9, p. 144). The Canons state that Christ redeemed the elect “and those only” (II:8) and that those who teach that He died for absolutely everybody speak “contemptuously of the death of Christ” and “bring again out of hell the Pelagian error” (II:R:3). Thus according to the biblical and Reformed faith those singing universal atonement hymns (written by Wesley and others in the Free Presbyterian hymn book) are speaking “contemptuously” of the crucified and victorious Christ and “bring[ing] again out of hell the Pelagian error!”

Not only are Holy Scripture and the Reformed confessions implacably opposed to the Wesleys and their Arminianism, but several of the hymn writers in the Free Presbyterian hymn book are as well. Martin Luther, author of “A mighty fortress is our God” (533), hated free will with all his heart and considered The Bondage of the Will, his diatribe against it, his greatest work. Calvinist Joseph Hart (1712-1768), author of “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy” (222) and “How good is the God we adore” (724), was an English Congregationalist minister one of whose published works was “a criticism of a sermon by John Wesley” (Barkley [ed.], Handbook to the Church Hymnary, p. 276).

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778), author of part of “Grace, ’tis a charming sound” (200), “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” (280), “From whence this fear and unbelief?” (297), “A debtor to mercy alone” (567), “A Sovereign Protector I have” (580) and “Blest is the man, O God” (583), wrote several works against John Wesley, including “Letter to the Rev. Mr. Wesley, relative to his abridgement of Zanchius on predestination,” “More work for Mr. Wesley, or, a vindication of the decrees and providences of God” and “An old fox tarred and feathered, occasioned by Mr. Wesley’s calm address to the American colonies” (The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady [Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1987]). Toplady declared, “Arminianism … is the gangrene of the Protestant Churches and the predominant evil of the day” (Toplady, Works, p. 312). He averred,

Arianism robs two of the divine persons. Arminianism robs all the three: [it] robs the Father of his sovereignty, decrees and providence: the Son of his efficacy as a Saviour: and the Spirit of his efficacy as a Sanctifier. An Arian represents the Son and Spirit as dependent on God the Father. An Arminian represents God the Father as dependent on the wills of men for the accomplishment of his desires, God the Son as dependent on the wills of men for the success of his mediation, and God the Spirit as dependent on the wills of men for the success of his agency (Toplady,Works, p. 757).

Calvinist Toplady now has his hymns bound with hymns by the Wesleys dishonouring God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit and promoting their evil Arminian gangrene in Free Presbyterian Churches.

John and Charles Wesley—Perfectionists

John and Charles Wesley not only attacked God’s sovereignty and the victory of Christ’s cross (Isa. 53:11), but they also taught the false doctrine of “perfect love” (also called perfectionism or entire sanctification)—the instantaneous deliverance of the believer from sin in this life. The Wesleys inculcated this doctrine repeatedly and emphatically, even believing it to be “the chief reason why the Methodists were raised up.” This doctrine is wholly at variance with sacred Scripture: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8); “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:10). The Westminster Confession sums up the teaching of God’s Word concerning sanctification:

This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part: whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (13:2).

In “O for a heart to praise my God” (409), Charles teaches the congregation to yearn for entire sanctification: “A heart from sin set free;” a heart that is “resigned, submissive, meek,” “humble, lowly, contrite,” “believing, true, clean,” “perfect and right and pure and good.” Wesley does not mean that the believer will be sinless in the world to come or that the believer is called to be perfect (Matt. 5:48) or that the believer is to strive earnestly for growth in grace (Phil. 3). Wesley believes (and is teaching here) that this heart “from sin set free” can be received instantaneously and in this life. This is false doctrine concerning “The Christian Life” and “Growth in Grace,” the section in which this hymn is found. So why is it presented to the people of God for “teaching and admonishing” one another (Col. 3:16)?

“All things are possible to him” (617) is another song by Charles Wesley about entire sanctification. Here are the second and third stanzas:

The most impossible of all
Is that I e’er from sin should cease;
Yet shall it be, I know it shall;
Jesus, I trust thy faithfulness.
If nothing is too hard for Thee,
All things are possible to me.

Though earth and hell the Word gainsay,
The Word of God can never fail;
The Lord can break sin’s iron sway;
’Tis certain, though impossible.
The thing impossible shall be,
All things are possible to me.

The people are here singing that perfectionism is God’s “truth” and to doubt it is to “blaspheme” (stanza 1) by questioning God’s omnipotence (“All things are possible to God”) and “Christ, the power of God” (stanza 4), as well as “the Word of God” (stanza 2). How could anyone who knows the Scriptures and who claims to hold to the Westminster Standards sing this hymn with understanding (cf. Ps. 47:7)? And why did the Hymn Book Committee include such heretical material?

There are more perfectionist hymns by Charles Wesley (and others) in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal. Charles’ “Love divine, all loves excelling” (386) is, as Stephen Tomkins notes, “a prayer for perfection” (John Wesley, A Biography [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003], p. 96). “Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire” (167), contrary to its inclusion in the section “God the Holy Spirit, His Person, Mission and Work,” misrepresents the Holy Spirit and His work by making Him the author of perfectionism. The perfectionist hymn “Jesus, we Thy promise claim” (622) is hardly going serve “The Church, Its Fellowship” because the perfectionist doctrine creates two tiers of Christians, the “ordinary” sort and the “entirely sanctified” ones, the “haves” and the “have nots.”

It is striking to note that several of Charles Wesley’s perfectionist hymns climax with reference to “perfect love” (perfectionism) in their last lines: “The depths of love divine” (167), “The new best Name of Love” (409) and “The sweet omnipotence of love” (617).

Someone might ask, But did Charles Wesley really intend his hymns as vehicles of his Arminian and perfectionist theology? The answer to this is emphatically, Yes! Charles penned between 4,000 and 10,000 hymns, and, as Eric Stewart has rightly said, “Charles Wesley’s medium of expressing theology was in song” (Stewart, Streams of Life, p. 89).

“Methodist hymnody,” declares Ian Bradley, “had an important educative purpose and a significant theological agenda. The Wesleys saw hymns as a vehicle for teaching … They wrote their verses to set out and explain the key articles of the faith, to counter what they saw as bad teaching (such as Calvinistic concepts of election and limited atonement) and to promote particular doctrines which they championed, such as the notion of [entire] sanctification” (Bradley, Abide with Me).

Timothy Dudley-Smith writes in a similar vein: “Charles [Wesley] would not have considered himself a theologian; but to that great company of believers who imbibe their theology from the hymns they sing, Charles has been [a guide] for 250 years” (in Alister E. McGrath [ed.], The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians [Great Britain: SPCK, 1998], p. 229). And what a guide he has been for two and a half centuries! Instead of leading people to the “green pastures” and “still waters” of God’s Word (Ps. 23:2), he has brought them to the blasted heaths and filthy sewers of Arminianism and perfectionism.

Tomkins states that the hymns of the Wesleys were “weapons in the war over predestination and perfection, and much of Charles’s sectarian propaganda survives in hymns sung all over the world today” (Tomkins, John Wesley, pp. 95-96; italics mine). One could add that “much of Charles’s sectarian propaganda survives” in the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster Hymnal. Tomkins continues: “John [Wesley] was not above stopping the congregation halfway through to ask them if they really meant what they were singing” (Tomkins, John Wesley, p. 96). What about that for a way of catching a congregation in an Arminian, perfectionist trap! Write “exuberant and emotional,” anti-Calvinist hymns (Tomkins, John Wesley, p. 95); lead those assembled in the singing; then explain the meaning of the hymns; and the people are snared. Rev. Ian Paisley, moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church for over 50 years, has stated that he could derive all five points of Calvinism from the hymns of the Wesleys. John and Charles would turn in their graves! (For more, see Angus Stewart, “John Wesley, False Apostle of Free Will.”)

William Booth and the Salvation Army

William Booth(1829-1912), founder of the Salvation Army and author of “Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame” (168), derived his Arminianism, his perfectionism and his use of hymns to promote these false doctrines, from John and Charles Wesley’s Methodism. As A. Morgan Denton states,

The doctrinal distinctives of the [Salvation] Army include an Arminian emphasis on free will and a “holiness” experience which can be subsequent to conversion—this is traceable to William Booth’s Methodist origins—and the nonobservance of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (NIDCC, p. 875)

He was confirmed and he developed in both Arminianism and perfectionism through the Pelagian arch-heretic, Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875). Inspired by Finney’s notorious Lectures of Revival, Booth held that conversions and revivals “would inevitably follow if the right means of evangelism were employed” (Jim Winter, William Booth: Founder and First General of the Salvation Army [Epsom, Surrey: Day One, 2003], p. 42) and so he adopted the penitent form or “anxious bench,” a row of seats placed in front of the preacher for those “seeking salvation” (so that they could be easier pressurized into “deciding for Christ”). As Jim Winter, a favourable biographer of Booth, puts it,

he was …committed to a form of evangelism shaped by the evangelist’s ability in using methods and means that work. William [Booth] had no doubts that it was the responsibility of the evangelist to capture the minds and hearts of the hearers. In doing so, all methods could be legitimately employed. For him, the key question was not, “Are they biblical?” but, “Are they effective?”(Winter, William Booth, p. 43; italics mine).

Booth’s anti-Christian pragmatism fits perfectly with his sensationalist and shallow preaching and his many (very obviously) spurious converts. Even the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in effect, condemns Booth’s preaching (and Booth himself) by complaining of its containing “little reference to religious doctrine, of which he was himself largely ignorant” (ODNB, vol. 6, p. 636).

Booth also stood in the Wesleyan and Finneyite development of false teaching as regards total abstinence from all alcohol and women preaching. Booth’s wife, Catherine, became a noted woman preacher and an even “more popular preacher than William” (Winter, William Booth, p. 75). Catherine wrote many letters and pamphlets on this subject and first “preached” in Gateshead at Pentecost in 1860. Evidently, the inerrant Holy Spirit on that day overturned what He had breathed forth in sacred Scripture (I Cor. 14:34-40)! It was also in Gateshead that Catherine had her experience of “sanctification;” she was so “perfect” that God’s clear Word could be overridden and explained away: “I suffer not a woman to teach” (I Tim. 2:12)!

The Salvation Army of “General” William and “Mother” Catherine Booth derived its peculiar terminology from the military. This parachurch’s offices and government involved military ranks, and the Army also had uniforms and bands. Mission stations were “corps,” prayer was “knee drill,” speeches were “bomb shells” and giving an offering was “firing a cartridge.”

Probably the most revealing incident in Booth’s life, as well as one of the most widely known, involves his reaction to two Calvinistic books he read in preparation for entering a Congregationalist seminary, Payne’s Divine Sovereignty and Reign of Grace. He threw the book against the wall in disgust! And resolved not to attend such a theological college! This is the measure of the man—an avowed enemy of the gracious gospel of Jesus Christ and a hater of the truth!

Yet Ian Paisley, in “A Personal Testimony” on the inside dustcover of Celebrating Our Golden Anniversary (published in N. Ireland for the 50th anniversary of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 2001), warmly remembers his desires and prayers as a boy to emulate the passionately Arminian Booth!

Over my bed there hung a picture of William Booth the Salvation Army General, with a blazing text under his pulpit desk “Salvation to the Uttermost.” When I said my prayers at night I prayed to be a preacher like him and I promised to display the same text. That promise I fulfilled when we opened Martyrs Memorial Church.

“Salvation to the Uttermost” was, of course, the battle cry of Booth’s immediate sanctification/second blessing doctrine, as it is the motto of its advocates today. Booth appears in the Free Presbyterian hymn book with his blatant propaganda for perfectionism: “Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame” (168). Twelve times in the four stanzas, the worshippers sing, “Send the fire!” with this stated purpose: “To burn up every trace of sin” (stanza 2). The usual perfectionist terminology is in evidence: the believer’s claiming and waiting for (stanza 1), crying out for (stanza 2), and wanting and pleading for (stanza 3) the second blessing. Stanza 4, and thus the hymn itself, ends with the imagery of the singers laying themselves as offerings upon the altar beseeching the “God of Elijah” “To burn up every trace of sin” (stanza 2):

Send the fire!
O see us on Thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the offering now, we pray,
Send the fire!

Booth’s hymn appears in the section of Our Own Hymn Book entitled “The Holy Spirit: His Person, Mission and Work” but it is not His mission and work to make people instantaneously perfect in this life, and so the Person of the Holy Spirit is not truly presented here. “We want another Pentecost” (stanza 1) is a foolish desire and prayer because Pentecost is as unrepeatable as Christ’s crucifixion and bodily resurrection, other key events in the history of redemption (cf. “The Baptism with the Holy Spirit“). Similarly the biblical Christ is not “Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame” as in the opening line of this perfectionist hymn, nor is the second blessing the good news of the Scripture. Thus the Free Presbyterian hymnal would have the congregation sing about and “bear with” “another Jesus,” “another spirit” and “another gospel” (II Cor. 11:4). Where is the discernment? Does not Scripture call us to “try the spirits” (I John 4:1)?

Our Own Hymn Book also includes songs by two of William and Catherine’s eight children, both of whom followed the teachings of the Salvation Army, though Herbert later left the organization (1902). Lucy Booth-Hellberg (1868-195) penned “When you feel weakest, dangers surround” (557). The two hymns of Herbert Howard Booth (1862-1926) both clearly teach his favourite doctrine, perfectionism: “Lord, through the Blood of the Lamb that was slain” (274), with its refrain “Cleansing for me” or “Cleansing from Thee” occurring 24 times in its 4 stanzas, and “From every sin made clean” (484). The latter hymn in its totality and in its beginning 4 lines is to be understood, as William Booth’s son intended, in a perfectionist sense:

From every sin made clean,
From every sin set free;
O blessed Lord, this is the gift
That Thou hast promised me.

Other Salvation Army songs in the Free Presbyterian hymnal include Charles William Fry’s (1837-1882) “I’ve found a friend in Jesus” (303), Frederick Arvid Blom’s (1867-1927) “Love divine so great and wondrous” (609), Edward Henry Joy’s (1871-1949) “Is there a heart o’erbound by sorrow?” (645) and Robert Johnson’s “Marching on in the Light of God” (545). The latter ode promotes the Wesleyan notion of “perfect love” (stanza 3).

Healer and Inventor of the “Fourfold Gospel”

A. B. Simpson (1843-1919), author of “O how sweet the glorious message” (90), “Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall” (94) and “I clasp the hand of love divine” (463), was the inventor of the so-called “Fourfold Gospel”—Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. Jesus as Saviour, for Simpson, is Arminianism; Jesus as Sanctifier is the “second blessing” or “crisis sanctification;” Jesus as Healer is miraculous bodily healing; and Jesus as Coming King is premillennialism, which the Reformed faith calls “Jewish dreams” (Second Helvetic Confession [1566] 11). We have already spoken of the false doctrines of Arminianism and crisis sanctification. These two errors spawned the third, faith healing.

B. B. Warfield speaks of the “extravagant mysticism” of Simpson (Warfield, Works, vol. 8, p. 597, n. 65), and proceeds to set forth Simpson’s doctrine of healing.

Dr. Simpson actually teaches this. You can “receive Christ” for your body’s welfare as well as for your soul’s; and when you do this, His body becomes your body. “His spirit is all that your spirit needs, and He just gives us Himself. His body possesses all that your body needs. He has a heart beating with the strength that your heart needs. He has organs and functions redundant with life, not for Himself but for humanity. He does not need strength for Himself. The energy which enabled Him to rise and ascend from the tomb, above all the forces of nature, was not for Himself. That marvelous body belongs to your body. You are a member of His body. Your heart has a right to draw from His heart all that it needs. Your physical life has a right to draw from his physical life its support and strength, and so it is not you, but it is just the precious life of the Son of God.” “Will you take Him thus to-day?” he therefore pleads. And he promises: “And then you will not be merely healed, but you will have a new life for all you need, a flood of life that will sweep disease away, and then remain a fountain of life for all your future need.” Dr. Simpson … gives an affecting account of how, learning the little secret of “Christ in you,” he took Him for His bodily health too—and got not merely relief from suffering, not merely “simple healing,” but Christ “so gave me Himself that I lost the painful consciousness of physical organs.” This is what “letting go and letting Christ” means, when it is taken “literally” (Warfield, Works, vol. 8, pp. 599-600).

Marty Robert notes that “Simpson’s healing changed the direction of his ministry, and he became an influential proponent of divine healing.” Simpson taught, “Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement and is the privilege of all believers,” appealing to Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:16-17 and James 5:14-16. (Dr. Simpson died in 1919.) Robert continues, “Simpson enjoyed the writings of the [French Roman Catholic] mystics like Madame Guyon and Fenelon, as well as being drawn to other Quietist literature. He also appreciated the discipline of listening prayer, a practice of opening to the Lord’s speaking while reading the word.” Simpson advocated the manifestation of all the spiritual gifts of the apostolic age, including tongue speaking ( /simpson/simpson7.htm).

In his article, “Rediscovering the Music of A. B. Simpson,” Eugene Rivard stresses repeatedly that Simpson used his hymns to promote his own erroneous teachings:

The hymns do effectively reflect the distinctive theology of Simpson and the [Christian and Missionary] Alliance [which he founded]: the Spirit-filled deeper life, world evangelization, and the gospel of Christ as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.

Lyrics of a general and inoffensive style certainly do not characterize Simpson’s songs. He assumed that those who sang his songs desired a deeper Spirit-filled life as much as he, and that by singing them, the singers would be able to testify to that desire.

Many of Simpson’s hymns were to encourage believers already living the deeper life [of instantaneous sanctification].

Simpson’s songs of healing are no less lacking in intensity or commitment. He desired to help Christians to realize the same truth he had experienced, and was sorrowed at the rejection of this trust by some and the inability of others to step out and claim Christ’s healing by faith.

He wrote hymns of the Fourfold Gospel, hymns that called for a filling of the Holy Spirit, hymns of healing and of missions.

The early Christian and Missionary Alliance sang their theology.

Rivard quotes May Agnew Stephens in the same vein: “[Simpson’s hymns] all came from a hidden fire and bore a definite message. And none ever satisfied him unless they expressed the full scope of the fourfold gospel” (

This is borne out in the hymns in Our Own Hymn Book. “I clasp the hand of love divine” (463) is a “claiming” hymn, claiming the benefits of Simpson’s fourfold (false) gospel. Notice the italicized words in the first stanza and chorus:

clasp the hand of Love divine,
claim the gracious promise mine,
Add to His my countersign;
take, He undertakes.

take Thee, blessed Lord,
give myself to Thee;
And Thou, according to Thy Word,
Dost undertake for me.

Two or three of the four lines of stanzas 2 through 5 begin “I take.” In stanza 1 the singer “takes” the “gracious promise;” in stanza 2: “I take salvation full and free;” in stanza 3: “I take Him as my holiness;” in stanza 4: “I take the promised Holy Ghost.” In these four stanzas the singer is basically taking the “gracious promise” (stanza 1) of “salvation full and free” (stanza 2) which includes “holiness” or instantaneous sanctification (stanza 3) by baptism with the “promised Holy Ghost” (stanza 4).

In stanza 5, the singer “takes” Christ for healing: “I take him for this mortal frame, // I take my healing through His Name, // And all His risen life I claim.” Remember B. B. Warfield’s lengthy quotation above detailing Simpson’s bizarre doctrine of divine healing.

The reader will also recollect May Agnew Stephens statement: “… none [of Simpson’s hymns] ever satisfied him unless they expressed the full scope of the fourfold gospel.” In hymn 463 of Our Own Hymn Book we have two or three of the four elements in Simpson’s (false) fourfold gospel: (Arminian) salvation, (instant) holiness and healing. Recall Eugene Rivard’s testimony about A. B. Simpson: “He assumed that those who sang his songs desired a deeper Spirit-filled life as much as he, and that by singing them, the singers would be able to testify to that desire.” Thus the sixth or last stanza reads,

I simply take Him at His Word,
I praise Him that my prayer is heard,
And claim my answer from the Lord;
I take, He undertakes.

Do Free Presbyterians know what their ministers lead them to sing? What about the scriptural injunction “sing ye praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:7)?

And what about the fourth stanza that is (with some minor changes) the formula used by the Free Presbyterian moderator and other ministers just before they preach?

I take the promised Holy Ghost,
I take the power of Pentecost
To fill me to the uttermost;
I take, He undertakes.

However, the Bible teaches that God’s elect are baptized by the Spirit into Christ in regeneration (Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 12:13), contrary to line 1, and that “Pentecost” is unrepeatable, contrary to line 2. If this fourth stanza is good enough to be used as the standard prayer of the Free Presbyterian Church’s founder and long-serving moderator and if the preceding and succeeding stanzas are good enough to be used in the congregation’s sung praise, will Rev. Paisley “take” in prayer instantaneous sanctification (stanzas 1-3) or physical healing (stanza 5)? Listen to stanza 5:

I take Him for this mortal frame,
I take my healing through His Name,
And all His risen life I claim;
I take, He undertakes.

This hymn by Simpson is in “The Christian Life” section, but what has instant sanctification and healing to do with the Christian life? These are pernicious errors to be warned against rather than sung about. This hymn is in the “Submission and Trust” subsection, but it teaches that not receiving crisis sanctification, not receiving the second blessing and not receiving healing shows lack of submission and trust. For this hymn proclaims that they all are “in Christ” for every believer simply to “claim” by faith on an “I take, He undertakes” basis. Those who do not submit and trust sinfully fail to “take Him at His Word” (stanza 6).

Hymn 90 of Our Own Hymn Book also teaches “faith healing.” Here is its first stanza:

O how sweet the glorious message
Simple faith may claim;
Yesterday, to-day, for ever,
Jesus is the same.
Still he loves to save the sinful,
Heal the sick and lame;
Cheer the mourner, still the tempest,
Glory to His Name!

Here Simpson and those who sing his hymn proclaim “the glorious message” of faith healing which “simple faith may claim:” “Still He loves to heal … the sick and lame.” Faith healing is (supposedly) grounded in the immutability of Christ: “Yesterday, to-day, for ever, // Jesus is the same.” Moreover, after each of the five stanzas the following chorus is sung:

Yesterday, to-day, for ever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!
Glory to His Name! Glory to His Name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!

In placing “Heb. 13:8” above the hymn, the Free Presbyterian Hymn Book Committee correctly identified the text appealed to in the chorus and first stanza. Hebrews 13:8 (“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”) is used (wrongly) by A. B. Simpson and Pentecostals and Charismatics after him. They argue that since Christ healed bodies in His public ministry, and since Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” then Christ heals people today (by faith healers). As one charismatic put it, “Jesus is still in the healing business.”

After sixteen years as a Presbyterian minister, Simpson resigned to establish an independent church. After a further sixteen years, he founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance based on Simpson’s fourfold gospel which contradicted Presbyterianism’s Westminster Standards on all four points, despite his early instruction in the Westminster Catechism and his Scottish covenanter ancestry.

Simpson is a key figure in the development from the “holiness” movement to the pentecostal movement and thus to charismaticism. “Various pioneers of the pentecostal movement acknowledged their connection with A. B. Simpson and the CMA” or Christian and Missionary Alliance, which he established, including Charles Parham (who first identified “tongue-speaking” as the “initial evidence” of “the baptism with the Holy Spirit” in Topeka, Kansas, 1901), Agnes Ozman (a student at Parham’s Bible college in Topeka who was the first person to speak in “tongues” as evidence of “the baptism with the Holy Spirit” in 1901), T. B. Barrett (the most prominent early European pentecostal), and many others.

[“Sister”] Aimee Semple McPherson’s “Foursquare Gospel” [Jesus as Saviour, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Physician and Healer, and Coming King], which she claimed was given directly to her by divine revelation, was noticeably similar to A. B. Simpson’s “fourfold Gospel” [Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King]. The emblem of the Foursquare movement, a cross, a laver (representing healing), a dove, and a crown, bore a marked resemblance to the already existing Alliance symbol, which included a cross, laver (representing sanctification), a pitcher of oil, and a crown (Burgess [ed.], The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002], p. 524).


False Teaching Regarding Christ’s birth

A number of songs in the Free Presbyterian Hymnal speak of Christ’s Incarnation and nativity, especially hymns 75-87. Several of these go beyond or contradict the sacred Scriptures.

Unitarian Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) writes in “Mine eyes have seen the glory” (542), “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, // With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.” It is hard to know what she means in either of these two lines. We know that Christ was “born across the sea” in Palestine and was laid in a manager in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-7). But what do “lilies” have to do with it? And what is the “glory” in Christ’s bosom that “transfigured” Unitarian Howe? And if all this is taken “poetically,” what could it mean?

Ian Bradley calls “Away in a manger” (75) “that particularly unscriptural American Christmas hymn” (Bradley, Abide with Me, p. 67). The second stanza reads, “The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, // But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” Recently, a Church of Ireland minister proclaimed in his sermon that this was heresy. A baby Jesus that does not cry is not human, and if Christ is not fully human, He cannot save us. As the Nicene Creed (325) puts it, “the only begotten Son of God … for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” Hebrews 2:13 reasons that since “the children are partakers of flesh and blood, [Christ] also himself likewise took part of the same.” Christ assumed “man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” (Westminster Confession 8:2). Thus another hymn correctly ascribes “tears” to the baby Jesus (“Once in royal David’s city” [80]).

“O little town of Bethlehem” (78) by modernist Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) presents Christ as being born at night (“The hopes and fears of all the years // Are met in thee tonight”). How do we know the time of Christ’s birth when Scripture does not tell us? How do we know that it was at night and not at morning or at evening or at midday?

At least four different hymns speak of the angels “singing” (Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The herald angels sing” [76] and Emily Elliott’s “Thou didst leave Thy throne” [85]) or their “song” (“O come all ye faithful” [79] and “While shepherds watched their flocks by night” [82]). However, Scripture describes the scene with the shepherds thus: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14). Frequently the (alleged) “singing” by the angels is (somehow) used as an argument for singing uninspired hymns in the church’s public worship. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that angels sing.

May One Sing Hymns in a Sense Different
from their Words and Intended Meaning?

Some may say, “But it doesn’t matter what the words of the hymns mean or what the authors or authoresses meant. I interpret and sing them in an orthodox sense.” This, however, will not do; words have meaning and authorial intent is important, especially since the hymn-writers wrote to promote their beliefs and to instill them into the hearts and minds of those who sing their songs.

Consider revisionist lawyers. They argue that it doesn’t really matter what an old conservative statute actually means. Authorial intent is likewise set aside. For them, the law must be interpreted to fit with modern liberal conceptions.

Something similar occurs with liberal, ecumenical and Arminian office-bearers in churches with orthodox creeds. When taking their vows they interpret the formula of subscription and the church’s confession in a loose form. “What does it matter what the creeds teach on this or that doctrine? It is no longer important what those who framed the confession meant by what they wrote. We live in a modern age,” they argue, “I will determine for myself what the confession means.”

To give one famous example, in February 1841, John Henry Newman (who later joined the Church of Rome) published Tract 90, the last and most infamous of the tracts of the Tractarians or Oxford Movement, an Anglo-Catholic or Romanizing faction in the Church of England. In Tract 90, Newman engaged in what he called “a hazardous experiment—like proving cannon,” namely, “inquiring” “how far the [Thirty-Nine Articles] were tolerant of a Catholic, or even a Roman interpretation.” John Carrick notes, “The first principle of all in Tract 90, Newman asserted, was ‘to take our reformed confessions in the most [Roman] Catholic sense they will have admit: we have no duties towards their framers’” (Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement [Bridgend: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1994], p. 27). Is it right to sing hymns containing various errors (e.g., Romanism, universalism, Arminianism, Perfectionism, faith healing, Quaker Inner Light, etc.) but interpret them differently from their words and the author’s or authoress’ intent, as if “we have no duties towards their framers?” Can the Christian do this with a good conscience?

Sing God’s Own Hymn Book!

In his Preface to the Genevan Psalter (1543), John Calvin (1509-1564) declared,

For what St. Augustine said is true, that one can sing nothing worthy of God save what one has received from Him. Wherefore though we look far and wide we will find no better songs nor songs more suitable to that purpose than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit made and imparted to him. Thus, singing them we may be sure that our words come from God just as if He were to sing in us for His own exaltation. Wherefore, Chrysostom exhorts men, women, and children alike to get used to singing them …

W. D. Ralston relates the following story:

As I trudged homewards, I stopped at an uncle’s, and spent the night there. In the evening I brought out my hymn book and had some singing with my cousins. After I laid it down, my uncle took it up, put on his glasses, and spent some time in looking through it. He was a firm believer in the exclusive use of the Psalms, and my book was the hymn book of another denomination. It gave the hymns, and the music, with the names of the composers of each as far as known. Uncle read a hymn, and, naming the author, said, “I know nothing of him. He read another,” and said, “I have read about the author of this one. He was a Roman Catholic priest.” He read another, and said, “I have often read of this author. He was a good man and an earnest Christian minister.” He then said, “Now John, if I were going to use one of these hymns in worship of God tonight, which do you think I had best choose, the one about whose author I know nothing, the one by the Roman Catholic priest, or the one by the earnest Christian minister?” I replied, “The one by the minister.” “True,” said he, “we should select the one written by the best man; and I see by looking through your book that it contains many hymns written by good men; but if I should find in it one composed by God Himself, would it not be better to sing that than one composed by any good man?” I replied, “It surely would.” After a little he said, “I have now carefully looked through your book, and I do not find one hymn in it marked—‘Composed by God:’ but I have here a little hymn-book, and God by His Holy Spirit has composed every hymn in it; for Peter says—‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’” As he spoke, he handed me one of our Psalm books, and the manner in which he presented his argument made an impression upon my mind that I never forgot.

The Scriptures tell us that all the psalmists were “holy men of God” who “were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21). Note the difference, therefore, between God’s Psalter and the Free Presbyterian hymnal (and other hymn books):

(1) All the Psalms were written by men; two hundred or more of the hymns were written by women.

(2) All the Psalms were written by “holy men of God” who were godly members of a true church; many of the hymns were written by unbelievers, heretics, apostates and those who were members of false or departing churches.

(3) All the Psalms were written by divine inspiration (literally, “God-breathed;” II Tim. 3:16) and are therefore, infallible and inerrant; none of the hymns are inspired or “God-breathed,” and so none of them are infallible and some of them are errant.

O that the Protestant churches would return to biblical and Reformed Psalm singing once again! Set aside Our Own Hymn Book and all human hymn books for God’s own hymn book, the God-breathed Psalter! This would honour Almighty God, reform worship, edify the saints and further church unity.

This article will be enlarged and developed from time to time (DV). A lot more is yet to be added, especially a treatment of the large number of Arminian or free-willist hymn writers included in the Free Presbyterian hymnal and the Arminianism of many of the hymns. We also plan to examine the second blessing advocates, perfectionists, healers, Pentecostals and Charismatics and the men who were unsound on the Person of Christ, etc.

(Click here for many more Psalm-singing Resources, including a 1-3/4 hour debate between Rev. Angus Stewart and Rev. Ivan Foster on video or audio.)

Appendix: Three blasphemous hymns by Charles Wesley with part of the “Conclusions” of theCanons of Dordt (1618-1619)

(1) A blasphemous hymn by Charles Wesley against God’s sovereign reprobation

Oh Horrible Decree
Worthy of whence it came!
Forgive their hellish blasphemy
Who charge it on the Lamb.

The righteous God consigned
Them over to their doom,
And sent the Saviour of mankind
To damn them from the womb;

To damn for falling short
Of what they could not do
For not believing the report
Of that which was not true.

(2) Another blasphemous hymn by Charles Wesley against God’s sovereign ‘#reprobation

God, ever merciful and just
With newborn babes did Tophet fill;
Down into endless torments thrust;
Merely to show His sovereign will.

This is that ‘Horrible Decree!’
This that wisdom from beneath!
God (O detect the blasphemy)
Hath pleasure in the sinner’s death.

(3) Another blasphemous hymn by Charles Wesley against Christ’s particular, efficacious atonement and the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit

The world He suffered to redeem:
For all He hath the atonement made;
For those that will not come to Him
The ransom of His life was paid!

O for a trumpet voice
On all the world to call!
To bid their hearts rejoice
In Him who died for all!
For all my Lord was crucified,
For all, for all my Saviour died!

O let Thy love my heart constrain,
Thy love for every sinner free,
That every fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me;
That all mankind with me may prove
Thy sovereign, everlasting love.

Part of the “Conclusion” of the Canons of Dordt (1618-1619):

And this is the perspicuous, simple, and ingenious declaration of the orthodox doctrine respecting the five articles which have been controverted in the [Dutch] churches; and the rejection of the errors, with which they have for some time been troubled. This doctrine, the Synod judges to be drawn from the Word of God, and to be agreeable to the confessions of the Reformed churches. Whence it clearly appears, that some whom such conduct by no means became, have violated all truth, equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public that … the same doctrine teaches, that God, by a mere arbitrary act of his will, without the least respect or view to sin, has predestinated the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation; and, has created them for this very purpose; that in the same manner in which the election is the fountain and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety; that many children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their mothers’ breasts, and tyrannically plunged into hell; so that, neither baptism, nor the prayers of the Church at their baptism, can at all profit by them;” and many other things of the same kind, which the Reformed Churches not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with their whole soul … Moreover, the Synod warns calumniators themselves, to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits them, for bearing false witness against the confessions of so many Churches, for distressing the consciences of the weak; and for labouring to render suspected the society of the truly faithful …