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Friday November 26 2021

Looking Back: Revised Church Hymnary

An introduction to the newly-published second edition of the Church Hymnary, from November 1927.

From the Church Tower

AN event of great interest to the Church of Scotland and to most of the other English-speaking Presbyterian Churches took place on 29th September, when the Revised Edition of The Church Hymnary was published by the Oxford University Press.

The issue on that date was in five forms – the Standard Staff Edition (4s. net), the Standard Sol-fa Edition (4s. net), the Melody Edition (2s. 6d net), words only in longprimer type (2s. net), and words only in nonpareil type (paper cover, 6d.; limp cloth, 9d.; cloth boards, 1s. 2d.). These various forms may also be had in stronger bindings at higher prices, including copies stamped “Choir” or “For Use of Visitors,” while the “Melody” and “Words Only” editions can be supplied bound up with the Metrical Psalms.

The variety is to meet many types of needs and tastes, and further needs, ranging from Sunday School equipment to organists’ requirements, will be met by the various issues that are to follow.

The average church member is specially recommended to obtain the “Melody Edition” which gives the unharmonised tune both in staff and sol-fa: the widespread use of this form will greatly help congregational singing, especially if unison singing is to be developed.

The various forms in clearness of type and general get-up reflect the greatest credit on the publisher, Mr. Humphrey Milford (Oxford University Press).


The music of this Revised Edition was discussed, with ample knowledge, by the Rev. Dr. Wanchope Stewart in our last issue. With regard to the letterpress it may now be noted that the work contains 728 items, while the Draft that was before the Church two years ago contained 694. The criticisms passed and the suggestions offered at that time have resulted in the exclusion of half a dozen hymns and the addition of forty, mostly well known, which did not find a place in the Draft.

The hymns now omitted include Ebenezer Elliott’s “When wilt Thou save the people?” and, more remarkably, Keble’s popular “The voice that breathed o’er Eden”; while among the hymns admitted on re-consideration are the much-discussed “There is a fountain filled with blood,” the baptismal “Blessèd Jesus, here we stand,” other familiar pieces like “Christ is coming!” and “I love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” and more of the children’s favourites like “Children of Jerusalem,” “Do no sinful action,” “God is always near me,” “Work, for the night is coming,” and “Yield not to temptation.”

The hymns specially suitable for children and adolescents are, as in the Draft, scattered throughout the book, but an Index gives a guide to them: it is a method which will lead to greater variety of choice.

On the whole, this collection of hymns is, both for congregational use and for devotional reading, the best now procurable.

The Revised edition (or CH2) replaced the original Church Hymnary, published in 1898; and was the main Church of Scotland hymn book for nearly 50 years. The third edition (CH3) was released in 1973, and the fourth (CH4) in 2005.

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