Searching for the Truth in the King James Bible;
Finding it, and passing it on to you.




EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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Christmass Carols:
Sound Doctrine, Or Catholic Tradition?

 

Evaluation of Christmas Selections in the LIVING HYMNS Hymnal

...The LIVING HYMNS Hymnal was used as a base for this evaluation because it is the one used by the church of the evaluator, not because it is worse than others. In fact, this hymnal has much better hymn selections than those produced by the major publishers of evangelical hymnals...

...Considerations which influenced our evaluation of the "Christmas Section" of the LIVING HYMNS Hymnal include: (1) Each of the foundational passages related to music/singing in the local church (Eph. 5:18-19 and Col. 3:16) indicate that our singing is to be done unto the Lord; (2) That which is offered to the Lord ought to be well-pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16; etc.).

To please the Lord, an offering should be correct according to His Word and come from sincerity of heart, among other things. It then becomes doubtful that God is well-pleased with doctrinal and factual error in the texts or that He is pleased by the efforts of those who have rejected the finished work of His Dear Son on the Cross of Calvary as their only means of salvation...

#102 -- O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL

Text: 12th cent. Latin

Tune: Processionale, 15th cent.; adapt. Thomas Helmore, 1854

This song was introduced into Protestant Christianity by John M. Neale of the Oxford Movement. It comes from medieval Roman Catholicism. Only verses 1 & 2 are useable (pertaining to Jewish expectations). Verses 3 and 4 are so weak as to be misleading. In verse 4, Emmanuel is called "The Key of David." The Messiah has the key; in Scripture, He is not called the "key" (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7). Also, the wording implies that one travels a journey to heaven. This kind of language usually signifies a type of works salvation and acceptance that one might lose salvation along the way.


#103 -- THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE

Text: Emily E. S. Elliott, 1864

Tune: Timothy R. Matthews, 1876

"O come to my heart" is confusing. Directed to saved or unsaved? Christ is already in the heart of the saved! As an Anglican, Miss Elliott was caught up in "Advent" liturgy. The Christian is to yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit so that his life/heart (Eph. 3:16-17) is increasingly a "home" to the Lord Jesus. But the believer does not need to keep requesting the Savior to come. There is the imagery in Rev. 3:20, where Christ appeals to responsive believers in a local church that has become lukewarm, but that figure does not seem to be used by Miss Elliott here.


#104 -- JOY TO THE WORLD

Text: Isaac Watts, 1719

Tune: George Frederick Handel, 1742; arr. Lowell Mason, 1839

Based on Psalm 98, it is descriptive of the Millennium. Ironically, this song does not directly relate to the First Advent at all! Why not sing it all year round?


 

#105 -- O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL

Text: Latin hymn, attrib. John F. Wade, 1743; trans. Frederick Oakeley, 1841

Tune: John F. Wade, 1743

The song's introduction into Protestantism is attributed to Frederick Oakeley, who became so enamored by the Oxford Movement that he was suspended by the Anglican Church and he joined the Roman Catholic Church. Note the strange expressions: "born the King of angels" (v. 1) and "born this happy morning" (v. 3). (Jesus was born to be King of Israel and most likely was born in the evening.) "King of angels" is not a Scriptural title. Surely He created them all, but His birth enabled Him to be born "King of the Jews" (a title that appears 18 times in Scripture). The advisability of encouraging people to think in terms of adoring a newborn baby is questionable.


#106 -- HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Text: Charles Wesley, 1739

Tune: Felix Mendelssohn, 1840; arr. William H. Cummings, 1856

Probably the best of the Christmas hymns as it is generally filled with Scriptural allusions. One error: the "herald angels" did not sing "Glory to the newborn King" (v. 1 & chorus; see Luke 2:14). Wesley's wording was changed by a later editor because his correct expression seemed quaint: "Hark how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of kings. ..." It is of interest to note that the music was written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the printing press.


#107 -- ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Text & Tune: French, 18th cent.; trans. in "Crown of Jesus Music," 1862

Stretches "poetic license" to invite listeners to visit the manger scene and to call upon Mary and Joseph to join in singing! Also, calls on the audience to adore the newborn Infant (He's our crucified, risen, and ascended Redeemer!). The song describes the shepherds as singing--something not found in Scripture.  Refrain is in Latin, while languages of Biblical times included Hebrew, Aramaic, and common Greek, and we are English speakers! The use of Latin is objectionable because it reflects the ecclesiastical language of dark Christendom, used for centuries to keep ordinary folks ignorant of God's Word. The expression "Gloria in excelsis Deo" has not become ordinary English.


 

#108 -- ANGELS, FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY

Text: James Montgomery, 1816

Tune: Henry T. Smart, 1867

Clear Scriptural allusions and the linguistic craft of the poet are marred by incorrect theology and factual error: Verse 1--No Biblical basis for angels to proclaim the message over all the earth. That's our job!; Verse 2--"Yonder shines the infant Light" is very questionable; Verse 4--While Montgomery was of the Moravian Brethren, his description of "saints, before the altar bending" certainly smacks of High Church Anglican tradition associated with Advent.

#109 -- IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Text: Edmund Sears, 1849

Tune: Richard S. Willis, 1850

Written by a Unitarian. None of the verses are true to Scripture. Does not even mention Christ! Reflects social gospel. Edmund Hamilton Sears spent most of his life as a Unitarian pastor in Wayland, Mass. His text clearly reflects the supposed social implications of the Gospel and then humanism of nineteenth century Unitarianism. Once again, please note that our Lord Jesus is not mentioned, and not one of the verses is correct to God's Word!  To read the text as truly expressive of God's people anticipating the Millennium is too great a stretch. The last verse as probably originally written, and as it appears in many hymnals, is: "When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling...." The same portion found in one of our hymnals from 1935, and in the Majesty Hymns (1996) hymnal, reads: "When the new heav'n and earth shall own The Prince of Peace their King...." We don't know who changed the text. There is still reason to be suspicious of Edmund Sears who was such an involved Unitarian. If he really stood for clear Biblical convictions (as some would claim today), it would seem that he would have been forced out of the Unitarian church. Also, it was common in Sears' day to appear favorable toward Christ by supposedly acknowledging His "divinity," yet at the same time, denying His true Deity.

VERSE USUALLY OMITTED:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not

The tidings which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife;

And hear the angels sing!


#110 -- LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, YE MIGHTY GATES

Text: Georg Weissel, 1642; trans. Catherine Winkworth, 1855

Tune: T. Williams' Psalmodia Evangelica

It is based on Psalm 24 and is by a Prussian pastor, Georg Weissel (1590-1635), who wrote the text for Advent. It was translated from German and introduced into England by the Anglican, Miss Catherine Winkworth (1827-78).

 

#111 -- SILENT NIGHT! HOLY NIGHT!

Text: "Father" Joseph Mohr, 1818 (Roman Catholic priest);

Tune: Franz Grüber, 1818 (Roman Catholic)

Unscriptural: Was it a "silent" night? (Angel proclamation, angels singing, birth of baby, shepherds visiting, shepherds reporting, etc.) Where in the Bible does one get "all is bright"? Where does it say that the angels sang "Alleluia"? Where does it say that light radiated from the Baby's face? There is no record that the star's light was a part of the scene. The Scripture does not call that evening "silent" or "holy." A few phrases meaningful to the true Bible believer deceive many who think they are pleasing God while they sing a hymn depicting Roman Catholic tradition.


#112 -- THERE'S A SONG IN THE AIR

Text: Josiah G. Holland, 1844

Tune: Karl P. Harrington (also to other tunes)

Strange expression: "star rains its fire"! Verse 3 is totally unscriptural and untrue to fact! Verse 4--Strange that we should greet our Savior in His cradle! How can one or two correct phrases sanctify an entire poem of mixed up, muddled poetry that is contrary to Scripture?


#113 -- GOD REST YOU MERRY GENTLEMEN

Text & Tune: English carol in "Christmas Carols Old and New"

Verse 1--It is historic fact that Christ was not born on "Christmas Day"!

Verse 4--"This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface" is completely contrary to New Testament teaching concerning "holy days" (see Gal. 4:9-11). The error still taints whatever may be good.


#114 -- THE FIRST NOEL

Text: traditional English carol

Tune: arr. John Stainer, 1871

"Noel" (from French) means birthday. Verse 1--"Cold winter's night" most unlikely. Verse 2-- Shepherds seeing the star, or the star shining in the daytime, is not Biblical. Omits wise men visiting Jerusalem. Verse 6--Expression "mankind hath bought" could be misconstrued to imply universal salvation.


#115 -- WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS

Text: Nahum Tate, 1700 (died a drunk, 1715)

Tune: George Frederick Handel, 1728; arr. in James Hewitt's Harmonia Sacra,

1812

Perhaps it is unfair to note Tate's sad end. This is more of a note of interest than a criticism of the song. First appeared in New Version psalter (of which Tate was co-publisher) along with 15 other "hymns." Because Tate's focus was on the Psalms, apparently he tended to strive to be more consistent with the Biblical text for a poem of his own.


#116 -- AS WITH GLADNESS MEN OF OLD

Text: William C. Dix, 1858

Tune: Conrad Kocher, 1838

The text was written for Epiphany (January 6) by an Anglican layman (insurance company manager). Connects star and wise men's gifts with manger, while the Bible says that the Child and Mary were in a house (Matt. 2:11). There may also be a danger with emphasis on bringing gifts to God. In a significant sense, we have nothing to offer Him. We present ourselves as living sacrifices. Only as He produces His fruit in us will there be anything of value to Him.


#117 -- O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

Text: Phillips Brooks (Episcopal), 1868

Tune: Lewis H. Redner, 1868

Verses 1 and 2 may be "okay," but Verses 3 and 4 reflect dark Christendom tradition of the birth of Christ in human hearts at the time of Advent celebration. Verse 3 describes the time of Christ's birth as "silently giv'n." Events described that evening were not particularly silent. Guye Johnson, in Treasury of Great Hymns and Their Stories, describes Brooks' theology as: "rather weak, for he had a low view of biblical inspiration. Though he spoke warmly of Christ and often sounded evangelical, his dislike of precise doctrinal statements and his emphasis on the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man put him in the moderate camp of his day." The concept of the holy Child of Bethlehem coming and being born in people on Christmas can be traced to the tradition developed and perpetuated in the Roman Catholic Church.


#118 -- WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Text: William Chatterton Dix, 1865

Tune: "Greensleeves," 16th cent. English folk song

Verse 1--No record of angels greeting the Infant. Verse 2--The second line is illogical. Verse 3-- calls for "loving hearts" to enthrone Him, when the real need is for sinful hearts to repent and receive Him (the adult, risen Lord and Savior). Chorus--No indication that the shepherds "guarded" the Infant. It is not just that there is not much of a message in this hymn--it is the falsehood. What sense can you make of "for sinners here the silent Word is pleading"? Why call to "peasants" to "bring Him incense, gold and myrrh"?


#119 -- GENTLE MARY LAID HER CHILD

Text: Joseph S. Cook, 1919

Tune: "Piae Cantiones," 1582; arr. Ernest C. MacMillan, 1930

Verse 2--Wise men and shepherds out of chronological order, and light only described in Scripture as shining around the shepherds' location (Luke 2:8-15). Verse 3--Sadly, "no more a stranger" is not true in most of the world.


#120 -- COME WITH ME, YE CHILDREN

Text: Christian Schmidt

Tune: Karl F. Shulz

Verses 2 and 3--No indication in Scripture that the angels were to be found at the manger. While there may be value in trying to put oneself into the events described in the Bible, we certainly should not encourage children to see the manger as the ultimate location.


#121 -- AWAY IN A MANGER

Text: unknown, 1885 (wrongly attributed to Martin Luther)

Tune: James R. Murray, 1887, "Mueller" true name (another tune by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1895)

"But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes," undermines Jesus's manhood. Since Jesus did cry as a man, being fully human, he probably also cried as a baby.  Moreover, there is nothing in the Bible that mentions crying or not crying during this time; the hymn just adds something that's not there. "The little Lord Jesus," like other hymns of this nature, focus on the little baby Jesus and worshiping Him as such; the truth is that He is the risen, exalted Lord to whom we must bow. All the religionists would love to keep Jesus a little babe in the manger.


#122 -- WHO IS HE IN YONDER STALL?

Text & Tune: Benjamin R. Hanby, 1866

Verses 4 and 5 questionable. Note verse 4--Strictly speaking, Christ on the cross asked the Father to forgive them, He did not pronounce blessings. Verse 5 suggests an improper emphasis on healing.


#123 -- COME, ALL YE SHEPHERDS

Text & Tune: Bohemian folk song; trans. Mari Ruef Hofer and arr. E.S.B.

Message weak and misleading. No Scriptural basis for adoring a Baby in a stall. We are to exalt our Risen Savior! Verse 3 is worse than weak--"seeking this Savior from all earthly woe." People need to be worried about eternal woe. Christ does not deliver us from all earthly woe. We are brought through much tribulation for His Name's sake!


#124 -- WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE

Text & Tune: John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1857

Number of wise men unknown from the Bible, and there is no indication that they were kings. Who are the "us" in the chorus? Gifts of the wise men are presented as symbolic of royalty, Deity, and suffering. While this symbolism of the gifts is interesting, does that justify making this a standard hymn of the faith, with its distortion of the facts of Scripture? What does the refrain mean by the request, "Guide us to thy perfect light"? Was the star "perfect"? In what way?

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 3/98

 

 

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