Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Five Greatest Hymns Ever (Plus One)

Since it is Sunday, let's talk about the five greatest hymns ever written.
In reverse order from five to one, here they are:
5. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
This song was originally written in 1905 by songwriters, lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabriel. The song is most associated with the late actress-singer Ethel Waters who used the title for her autobiography.
4. Just a Closer Walk With Thee
It was probably the favorite southern gospel song of the twentieth century and it is written by D.Gillis. It became known nationally in the 1930s, when African-American churches held huge musical conventions. In the 1940s, southern gospel quartets featured it in all-night gospel-singing rallies. It is probably the single most frequently played number in the hymn and dirge section of New Orleans "jazz funerals".
3. What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Originally written by Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada. Scriven originally published the poem anonymously, and only received full credit for it in the 1880s. The tune to the hymn was composed by Charles Croza Converse in 1868. William Bolcom composed a setting of the hymn. The hymn also has many versions with different lyrics in multiple languages
2. Amazing Grace
John Newton, the author of the lyrics to Amazing Grace, was born in 1725 in Wapping, England.
Despite the powerful message of "Amazing Grace," Newton's religious beliefs initially lacked conviction; his youth was marked by religious confusion and a lack of moral self-control and discipline.
After a brief time in the Royal Navy, Newton began his career in slave trading. The turning point in Newton's spiritual life was a violent storm that occurred one night while at sea. Moments after he left the deck, the crewman who had taken his place was swept overboard. Although he manned the vessel for the remainder of the tempest, he later commented that, throughout the tumult, he realized his helplessness and concluded that only the grace of God could save him. Prodded by what he had read in Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ, Newton took the first step toward accepting faith.
1. How Great Thou Art.
Surely the most melodic and inspiring hymn ever written, it has won universal praise and acceptance. Written by Carl Gustav Boberg in Sweden in 1885, translated into English by Stuart K. Hine. It was popularized by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during Billy Graham crusades.
This hymn was the title track of Elvis Presley's second gospel LP "How Great Thou Art", which was released in 1967. The song won him a Grammy Award for "Best Sacred Performance" in 1967, and another Grammy in 1974 for "Best Inspirational Performance (Non-Classical)".
Boberg wrote the hymn following a two mile walk through a thunderstorm from a church meeting.
It was voted the United Kingdom's favorite hymn by BBC's Songs of Praise.
To these five I would add Just As I Am. This well-known hymn was written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835 and first appearing in the Christian Remembrancer, of which Elliott became the editor in 1836. The final verse is taken from Elliott's Hours of Sorrow Cheered and Comforted (1836). Billy Graham was saved in 1934 in a revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina led by evangelist Mordecai Ham hearing  Just As I Am as the alter call. This song became an altar call song in the Billy Graham crusades in the latter half of the twentieth century. Graham used the title of the hymn as the title of his 1997 book - Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham
These six great hymns have been a source of comfort to me at various times in my life and I find that I return to the music and words of these hymns again and again.
I feel that each one of these hymns was touched by God -- inspired by the Lord himself.
On this earth, you can't get much closer to heaven than that.

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