Who Stole Your Hymns?

You love the hymns, right? Every service you listen to the familiar melodies and the lines of rhyme that reach into the very depths of the soul. But are they authentic? Are the words accurate from the pen of the writer? In most hymnals they are often altered. Someone stole the hymn. Charles Spurgeon, in his preface to Our Own Hymnbook said it thus:

The hymns have been drawn from the original works of the authors, and are given as far as practicable just as they were written. This is so unusual a practice as to be almost a novelty, while the mangling of hymns has grown into a system – a system, however, to be most heartily deprecated. The very few alterations which we have made are either grammatical corrections or emendations which seemed to be imperatively demanded by the interests of truth, or were necessary in order to change the metre into such as could be sung.

Those who followed in his footsteps failed to heed this admonition, however, and hymnals have been compiled with a cavalier pen, ready to edit the slightest perceived imperfection or nuisance. At times, this occurred even before the author's demise, as John Wesley noted in 1779.
Many Gentlemen have done my Brother and me (though without naming us) the honour to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire, they would not attempt to mend them: for really they are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense, or the verse. Therefore I must beg of them one of these two favours: either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse: or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.

At Melody Publications, we love the hymns and we believe the only authority able to correct them is the Holy Scriptures. All else should defer to the quill of the author, for it is there you will find the perfecting richness of the rhyme.