Did Herbert W. Armstrong
Change Words to Sacred Hymns?
(Examples from his early Bible Hymnal in Radio Church of God)
When Herbert Armstrong introduced The Bible Hymnal to the Radio Church of God1, he admitted to "having to change words in a few instances" in some of the Protestant hymns which were included in his earlier hymnals.2 In examining his early gray hymnal entitled, Bible Hymnal3 one can clearly see that he was indeed engaging in word-changing of sacred hymns. We have included only a few samples.
|HWA's Bible Hymnal words:||Original words:|
|Title: Come, Thou Almighty King||Title: Come, Thou Almighty King|
|2. Come, Thou Incarnate Word, Gird on Thy mighty sword, And us defend, Come and Thy people bless, And give Thy word success! Spirit of holiness, Our prayer attend||2. Come, Thou incarnate Word, Gird on Thy mighty sword, Our prayer attend: Come, and Thy people bless, And give Thy Word success, Spirit of holiness, On us descend!|
|3. Come, Holy Advocate, A pure heart in us create In this glad hour: Thou who almighty art, Rule in our every heart, And ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power||3. Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear In this glad hour. Thou Who almighty art, Now rule in every heart, And ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power!|
|4. Stanza 4 omitted||4. To Thee, great One in Three, Eternal praises be, hence, evermore. Thy sovereign majesty May we in glory see, And to eternity love and adore!|
|Title: I am Thine O Lord||Title: I am Thine O Lord|
|4. There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I have immortality; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.||4. There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.|
|Chorus: Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, To the way that Thou has shown; Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, To Thy ever ruling throne.||Chorus: Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.|
|Title: Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus||Title: Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus|
|1. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the word Lift high His royal banner, and send it 'round the world From vict'ry unto vict'ry His army shall he lead, Till ev'ry foe is vanquished, And Christ is Lord indeed.||1. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished And Christ is Lord indeed.|
|Title: Onward Christian Soldiers||Title: Onward Christian Soldiers|
|1. Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, With the word of Jesus Going on before; Christ the royal Master, Leads against the foe; Forward into battle, See His banners go!||1. Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before. Christ, the royal Master, Leads against the foe; Forward into battle, See His banners go.|
|Title: Jesus, I Come||Title: Jesus, I Come|
|1. Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come, Savior, I come; Into Thy freedom, gladness and light, Master, I come to Thee; Out of my sickness into Thy health, Out of my want and into Thy wealth, Out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus, I come to Thee.
2. Stanza 2 omitted (Note: Every stanza with the 2nd "Jesus I come" is replaced with "Savior, I come" and "Master, I come." Example above.)
|1. Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus I come; Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus, I come to Thee. Out of my sickness into Thy health, Out of my need and into Thy wealth, Our of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus I come to Thee.
2. Out of my shameful failure and loss, Jesus I come, Jesus I come; Into the glorious gain of Thy cross, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Knowing how much Herbert Armstrong spoke against Protestant churches as being "Satan's churches," one can easily surmise that few of the sacred hymns listed in his earliest hymnals were ever sang, or soon ceased to be sung. (Read some of the letters ESN posted concerning this.) For instance, can we picture members (who knew nothing about the true meaning of saving grace and freedom in Christ) singing the 3rd stanza in "Standing on the Promises" (p. 3)? It reads, "Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free." And how about the hymn, "Blessed Assurance"? Here are some of the words: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood." Can we picture any members in the 1950s (or afterwards) humming that song? Members never experienced an "assurance" of their salvation through Armstrong's doctrines.
Furthermore, if WCG excluded some of the Protestant hymns in their 1993 hymnal that were originally listed in HWA's Bible Hymnal, such as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "In the Garden," "Just When I Need Him Most" and "Tell Me the Old, Old Story," how much do you think members sang, or continued to sing, those hymns in the earliest years of "God's one true Church"? The reality is that no one who spent any length of time in the Worldwide Church of God, hearing HWA continually deriding Protestant churches and their teachings, would even feel comfortable singing many of those old sacred hymns. Former members must admit that they never heard HWA, or his ministers, ever teach about Jesus in the way these hymns portray Him. This is clearly seen by checking some of the early issues of The Good News and Plain Truth.
One of the first things many former members noticed when they exited WCG (or certain of its totalistic offshoots) and were able to sing (or read) some of these sacred hymns is the overwhelming emphasis that the words place on Jesus and His grace. To experience this is to come out of the dryness of Dwight L. Armstrong's law-based, sin-focused songs, and into the light of the love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
December 9, 2005
Comfort in Music (Reading through the words of sacred hymns can speak to us of Jesus and His love. Let these words comfort you.)
1 The Radio Church of God changed its name on January 5, 1968 to Worldwide Church of God.
2 The Bible Hymnal, "How This Hymnal Came to Be" by Herbert W. Armstrong.
3 The words on the cover of this early, gray hymnal say: Bible Hymnal, Radio Church of God, Pasadena, California. There is no introduction and no copyright date; however, the songs by Dwight L. Armstrong have copyrighted dates of 1952, 1958 and 1963 (one was 1948). (See our note on Dwight Armstrong.)
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