I am a Holy Spirit filled believer in Jesus. I am still inspired by Romans 15:13: MAY THE GOD OF HOPE FILL YOU WITH ALL JOY AND PEACE AS YOU TRUST IN HIM, SO THAT YOU MAY OVERFLOW WITH HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. . God has a plan and He will be faithful to carry it out. Hallelujah !!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What about Church Music?

What about Church Music?
by Dr. Stanley M. Horton Th.d
(An update of a paper I wrote in 1943)

Over time people get stuck in particular ways of worship. 
In non-Christian religions the forms become sacred and the
ritual and music fixed.

Christianity, as it lost its spiritual power, fell into the same rut,
and produced such things as the Roman Catholic Mass.

But the spiritual power of the Christian Church could never
remain dormant.  It has constantly reasserted itself and brought
with it new expressions of worship in word and song.

Naturally, hymns that have blessed us in the past will be
cherished and newer music not always be appreciated.  I
imagine that lovers of Gregorian chant were horrified when
hymns became popular in worship.  And I feel quite certain
that many were sure that those "frivolous little ditties," as
they were called by his contemporaries, but which Watts (early
church song writer) and his friends called hymns, could never
replace their beloved metrical Psalms which were so stately
and worshipful.  We are seeing that the gospel hymn is
changing in the same way.

There is no doubt that change is the rule in the music of a
living Christian church.  I think there is a reason.   Real
Christianity can use the best from the past but it should never
become lost in the encrustments of time.  The power of the
Holy Spirit keeps it a living, vital thing, and keeps it a
religion of the heart instead of focusing on the externals.

Here, I think, we have the secret.  Whatever reaches the heart,
touches every part.  Christianity reaches into all of life and
becomes a part of everything we do.  And because Christianity
is so closely interwoven with experience, its expression
changes and is molded to fit the needs of the time even though
its basic Truth does not change.

Back in the eleventh and twelfth century came the type of song
called the discantus.  Two sets of words and tunes were
adapted to each other.  It created a pleasing effect and did much
to raise the interest in music.  In fact, it was so popular that
there weren't enough of the old religious tunes; so they took
folk songs, secular music, and set religious words to them. 
They did not bother to adapt the music of the secular piece to
the atmosphere of the church.  Due to their nature, they could
not last, and it would seem that they were merely a passing
blotch on the history of music. However, they were from the
experience and lives of the people, as folk music really is.
Once church music had touched the lives of the people, it was
hard for them to remain unmoved.  We owe much of the rapid
progress of measured and harmonic music from that time on
to this "secular" influence.

Church music will live only as it touches the lives and meets
the needs of the people.  There is some music that has come
out of a deep and timeless human experience.  That will
remain.  Much of the rest will only remain as it continues to
fill a need in the lives of the people.  Just what is permanent
of contemporary music would be extremely difficult to say.
John Wesley wrote hundreds of songs and set them to all kinds of
 music to share Bible truth and worship God.  Luther and Wesley
 could not have predicted which of their hymns would endure
(and they all wrote a lot of hymns that did not endure),
 and it is probable that those which did the greatest service
 in their day are now forgotten.

Today's choruses, which are sung because of the easy way to
learn a message and a catchy tune, fit in the lives of people
and are a part of the atmosphere of this age of speed and

We must use the best of today's music to reach and teach the
people.  We must use the best of the past and present for
heartfelt worship of God.

  ©2014 Dr Stanley M. Horton Th.d


  1. Amen, Bro. Horton. I love the "old" hymns, but a lot of the newer songs are good, too. By the way, I graduated from CBI 50 years ago. Sat in several of your classes. What a blessing you are.

  2. Very well said Dr. Horton! It's great to read an apologetic of not just the diversity of music (which is what is usually done) but of the progress of music. Most people don't know that old hymns were at times taken from secular music. Look at Psalm 22, even this psalm was..."For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David." I wonder if "The Dow of the Morning" was a popular song at the time?

    God's truth does not change and music can meet the needs of the people at the time it exists...and perhaps lives on for future generations. Well said, thank you!!

  3. God Bless you as Always Dr Stanley Horton, Thank you for the Years of Service - Thank you for the Books you wrote and we read at S.A.B.C.(Southern Arizona Bible College) 1980-83 You are a servant of the Most High God - Thank you for the Years of Mentoring people and never stopping till there is no more breath in your body to Reach us out here to go reach out for Souls!!! - Thank you for staying on Fire! Like" The Jeters" - Hugh & Gertrude Jeter...

  4. Dr. Horton has touched many lives for Christ, and even now, in his 90's, he is still touching lives. I LOVE the fact that he has progressed with technology, and is so accepting of changes!! How many people in the 90's know how to use a computer?? I hope I will be as accepting of change, and smart enough to be able to learn new technology when I am his age!! He is an amazing person and God continues to use him in powerful ministry.

  5. I respect Dr. Horton and his work, but am disappointed that he makes this statement: "Many of the Wesleyan hymns were set to popular drinking
    songs of his time." This is not true. Older hymn writers (Wesleys, etc.) never used "drinking songs" as the tunes for hymns. In fact, these hymn writers rarely used secular songs for hymns, and if they did, the secular songs were already held in high esteem (Bach and Handel, for example).

  6. Did the Wesleys Really Use Drinking Song Tunes for Their Hymns? by Dean McIntyre

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