The Hymnody Of Foreign Missions -- By: James H. Ross

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 051:202 (Apr 1894)
Article: The Hymnody Of Foreign Missions
Author: James H. Ross


The Hymnody Of Foreign Missions

Rev. James H. Ross

An English Baptist editor of hymnals for churches and Sabbath-schools, Rev. W. R. Stevenson, has truly said that “the hymnody of foreign missions is, as a whole, practically unknown… . Few have ever thought how much has been done by Christian missionaries in the translation and composition of hymns, the preparation of hymn-books, and in general, in the introduction of Christian hymnody among the various nations.” There is but one allusion to the subject in the “Encyclopaedia of Missions’’ (Funk and Wagnalls), and that relates to Japan.1 It is due to the missionaries and to the subject, to the churches at home and to the missions in foreign lands, that the facts should be stated; for the hymn-book ranks next to the Bible or the Prayer-book in the services of the churches of all denominations, in importance and in common and constant uses. A new history and science of hymnology demand that the general theme, in all its departments, should receive more attention than it has received hitherto.

Something has been done to translate English hymns into the continental languages and to reproduce English hymnals. The “Gospel Hymns “of Moody and Sankey have been translated into many languages, and have had a history second only to their history in English-speaking countries. Rev. Lyman Abbott, D. D., in the historical introduction (p. xii) to his “Plymouth Hymnal,” 1894, says: “I desire to put on record my profound sense of the obligation of the

Christian church to those whose musical service has been rendered through what are known as ‘The Gospel Songs.’”

The noticeable fact is that all who have been without the gospel, or who have known it only in corrupted and perverted forms, are fond of hymns. The marriage of sacred poetry to sacred music, in praise of God, in expression and promotion of religious experience, and in the advancement of the kingdom of God, appeals to universal human nature. It is a subject which admits only of partial and imperfect treatment, because no known library contains a complete collection of the hymnals.

Moravian hymnody and hymnody in North America require attention first. The Moravian has been the pioneer missionary church. Moravian missions on the west coast of Greenland began in 1721. The Greenlanders obtained their hymn-book in their own language in 1772. They have had a history of hymnody for one hundred and twenty-two years. They sing well in their homes, and churches, and on their fishing-voyages. In 1770, a Moravian missionary from Greenland, Jans Haven, crossed Davis Strait to Labrador...

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