Book Review: Then Sings My Soul

As he did in Then Sings My Soul 1 and 2, Robert J. Morgan’s Then Sings My Soul Special Edition
collects the stories behind 150 of the most popular songs sung on Christmas, Easter and other occasions throughout the year.

Written in a devotional style, Morgan dedicates one page to each hymn’s origin and the personal biographies and testimonies of those responsible for either creating, popularizing or introducing the hymns to the church. Sheet music also accompanies each entry.

Beginning with stories about hymns sung at Christmas, Morgan recounts the often tragic circumstances, challenges and providential God moments that led to the penning of hymns those of us raised in the church (and certainly those of who have attended a Camp Meeting or two) need only to hear the title to get us humming.

In a particularly moving passage, we learn that the writer of the lyrics for “I Will Sing of My Redeemer” was killed trying to rescue his wife from the wreckage of a train crash in Ohio – the words to the song were found in his trunk when it arrived in Chicago. We also learn that “Because He Lives” (one of the most recently written songs in the collection) was written as a response to the fears and doubts of a young couple unsure of bringing a baby into the turmoil and uncertainty of the 1970s.

There’s also plenty of material for trivia buffs, like the factoid that the term often used for prehistoric man, Neanderthal, traces its roots to the writer of “Praise Ye The Lord, the Almighty.” Or that the original title for the hymn we know and love as “Amazing Grace” was the rather pedestrian “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”

Another story particularly interesting to we Wesleyans is the one behind “Rock of Ages” and its writer, John Wesley hater Augustus Montague Toplady. According to Morgan’s research, the words to “Rock of Ages” first appeared in an article on God’s forgiveness Toplady intended as a slap to Wesley, but were remarkably similar to words Wesley had 30 years earlier in a preface of a book of hymns for the Lord’s Supper. Wesley’s words: “O Rock of Salvation, Rock struck and cleft for me, let those two Streams of Blood and Water which gushed from thy side, bring down Pardon and Holiness into my soul.”

I was very fascinated to learn of all the hymns with ties to New Jersey. I was aware of the Pitman Camp Meeting connection to C. Austin Mile’s “In the Garden” but was unaware that the writer of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Living For Jesus” and “O To Be Like Thee” lived in New Jersey. Or that “Beulah Land” composer Edgar Stites was born in Cape May and the composer of “No, Not One” and thousands of other hymns (including “Count Your Blessings”) was born in Medford and sold insurance in Mt. Holly.

Whether you are a fan of the organ or prefer a more contemporary approach to Sunday morning worship, this book will illuminate your understanding and appreciation for the power of song and the way God has used poetry set to music for many generations to open hearts to the Gospel, to comfort the mourning and to share the beauty and the hope that comes from knowing Jesus.

Please Note: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson

Click HERE to purchase a copy of this book (a portion of the sale will benefit Delanco Camp).

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