In this third article of the series analyzing the Hymn Proposal [HP], I will look at some of the hymns of the blue Psalter [PH] that have been drastically changed in the HP. The title of the cover page of the HP is: “The Hymn Proposal presented by The Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee of the United Reformed Churches of North America July 2010.” What follows is an examination of some of the major revisions proposed.
One song that has been completely rewritten is “Our Father, Clothed with Majesty.” Only about thirty-five of the original 400 words are the same in both the PH and the HP and/or appear in the same place within the same verse. Compare verse 4:
In the following list, the title of the song is not given, only the page numbers. The list gives some of the lines where one theological/Biblical word has been changed for another. Please note that this is not nearly a comprehensive list of such changes within the HP.
In the section below, the three columns [A B C] tally the approximate number of changes per song. It is sometimes difficult to categorize each change specifically, since often a phrase change becomes an actual sentence change due to the nature of songs and poetic writing. Below each column is the page number and title of the song; then the approximate number of changes per song per category. In brackets after each song is one example of each change, with the original words of the PH in italics and the words of the HP following the = sign. Comments and/or questions by the writer regarding some of the changes are in bold.
A words B phrases C sentences
385 “Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee 95 A 39 B 4–7 C 4–7
There are about 100 words in the entire song; more than a third of them are changed
B [before Thee=above You] C [’Twas sovereign mercy called me=Unless Your grace had called me]
Why change mercy to grace? Is grace more biblical than mercy? Why eliminate this wonderful word: sovereign?
432 I Greet Thee Who My Sure… 89 A 66 B 5–7 C 7–9
B [upon Thy promise free=on every promise, Lord] C [Our hope is in no other save in Thee=Our hope is founded on Your holy Word]
The PH words put the emphasis on the fact that God is our hope. That is so true. The HP words declare that hope is founded on God’s Word. That is also true. But why change the meaning and emphasis in the song?
332 My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord 119 A 49 B 3–4 C 5–7
B [to me=for me] C [And smote the rich with poverty=but empty sent the rich away]
334 Now May Thy Servant, Lord 120 A 50% This song has only two verses; the entire second verse has been changed; it is no longer recognizable.
347 Thine Arm O Lord in Days of Old 130 A 50 B 6–7 C 5
B [great Deliverer=mighty healer] C [Give wisdom’s heavenly lore=Your healing wisdom pour]
The Bible clearly teaches that God is our great Deliverer. We know He is our Healer. But why must the Name Deliverer be eliminated? God often speaks of the fact that He saved His people with His arm; that is what we sing with the words of this PH song. But the HP uses the words Your hands. Why the substitution?
474 Hours and Days and Years 75 A 113 B 6 C 10–14
B [our fatherland=everlasting peace] C [Faithful will our God remain=God our Father will remain]
The PH words stress that our God remains faithful, which is so comforting to God’s people. The HP words mean that God is eternal. That is true. But why is it necessary to take away the emphasis re God’s faithfulness as per the PH song? Note: the third verse is completely rewritten, and most of the second and fourth verses.
369 Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus 159 A 63 B C 10
C [Thou didst free salvation bring=hope and joy and peace to bring]
Jesus did bring free salvation to us. What a wondrous fact, stressed by the PH words. So why change those words? Yes, Of course He did bring hope, joy and peace. They are included in His free salvation. Why delete free salvation in the song when God clearly teaches that concept?
464 Christian, Dost Thou See Them 215 A 6 B 5–7 C 8
C [Christian, dost thou see them=Christian do you struggle]
Note: all three stanzas begin with questions; the questions of the HP song are totally different from those in the PH.
481 O Perfect Love 225 A 55 B 4–6 C 4–9
B [O perfect Love=O gracious Lord] C [Lowly we kneel=we humbly come]
471 Jerusalem the Golden 258 A 58 B 5–7 C 5–7
B [The pastures of the blessed=where tree of life and healing] C [Who art, with God the Father and Spirit ever blest=where Father, Son, and Spirit are worshiped evermore]
Many times the Bible speaks of the pastures where God feeds His people. That concept is contained in the PH song, but taken out in the HP. Nor does the HP call God’s people the blessed. The Bible commands the people of God to bless the Lord. It also tells us to worship Him. Does the change of words in the HP song imply that it is better for God to be worshiped than to be blest?
I will end this article by asking some general questions:
When word and/or phrase and/or sentence changes are made, will those changes edify us when we will sing these songs? Were those changes made because the PH songs are not biblical and so require such significant changes? However, if the original words in the PH songs are indeed biblical and Reformed, should there be all these changes? Do the many and major changes within the HP, such as the changes presented in this article, make the HP far more biblically correct and theologically sound than the PH? Will the HP be much more God-glorifying than is the PH?
I encourage you to ask your consistory to participate in the process of sending feedback through your classis to the HP committee. It is my sincere prayer that our Synod will thoroughly examine the HP before a decision is made regarding it.
Mrs. Sheila Ypma is a graduate of Dordt College and former school teacher. She is a member of the Trinity Reformed Church (URC) in Lethbridge, Alberta.