Among the two main vehicles of teaching that have shaped Evangelical theology have been the Scriptures obviously and then the hymns that they have sung. This is why great care must be taken in choosing what a congregation will sing. What it sings sinks deep into the soul and informs the theological perspective of the singer. For example, read the following hymn by Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795), which was entitled “Prayer for Ministers” when it was first published [Hymns adapted to Public Worship, or Family Devotion (London, 1818), #700], and consider what it conveys about the nature of pastoral ministry.
Beddome is one of my favourite hymn-writers. Yes, his hymns are not as consistently good as those of Watts or Wesley or Cowper. But they are solid in their Bible teaching, usually pursuing one main idea. Many of his hymns were written to accompany a specific sermon, thus the single-eyed focus of his hymns.
1 Father of mercies, bow thine ear, Attentive to our earnest prayer; We plead for those who plead for thee, Successful pleaders may they be!
2 How great their work, how vast their charge, Do thou their anxious souls enlarge; Their best acquirements are our gain, We share the blessings they obtain.
3 Clothe thou with energy divine Their words, and let those words be thine; To them thy sacred truth reveal, Suppress their fear, enflame their zeal.
4 Teach them aright to sow the seed, Teach them thy chosen flock to feed Teach them immortal souls to gain, Nor let them labour, Lord, in vain.
5 Let thronging multitudes around, Hear from their lips the joyful sound; In humble strains thy grace adore, And feel thy new-creating power.
6 Let sinners break their massy chains, Distressed souls forget their pains, And light thro’ distant realms be spread, Till Zion rears her drooping head.