The history of America might almost be called the Age of Hymns. Of course, wherever and whenever there have been Christians, there have been hymns written and sung to the glory of our God and Saviour. It is recorded during the last night before Jesus’ death that He and His disciples “when they had sung an hymn” went out into the mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). Hymns have always been, and will always be, a part of the Christian church.
But the overwhelming majority of hymns in our hymnal today, were written between Columbus’s discovery of America and the present. For this reason, hymns are a great supplemental tool to bring American history to life. In this series of posts, I am planning to take a look at the major periods of U.S. history, as well as some hymns which could have been sung by Christians living in those times. Not all of the hymns were written in America, not all were written in English, but they were in existence and use at the same time as the events which make up American history. They provide an intriguing link between us and the past.
American history stretches back before Columbus or the first European discoverers. The Native Americans had lived there for several thousand years before these events. But as they had no knowledge of the Gospel, the history of Christians in America, and thereby the history of hymns, cannot begin until much later.
The Vikings first landed on the coast of North America in 1000 when Leif Ericson landed in what he called Vinland. Very few of the hymns with which we are now familiar had been written when he sailed. But a small sector have come down to us, preserved not only by the efforts of scribes or antiquarians, but by their use by God’s people throughout the ages.
“All Glory, Laud and Honour” had been written by Theodulph of Orleans sometime around the year 820 A.D. Although the English translation we know today was only made in 1851, the original Latin had been in existence for almost two hundred years before the opening of European contact with the Americas. It is a hymn which has seen the entire span of American History, and which has endured a favourite to the present day.
All Glory Laud And Honour
All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the king of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.
The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.
To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.
A few other hymns which would have been available to Christians of this period, include:
“Lord Jesus Think On Me,” by Synesius of Cyrene, (circa 400).
“The Day of Resurrection,” by John of Damascus (700’s).
“Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain,” by John of Damascus (700’s).
“Of The Father’s Love Begotten,” by Aurelius Prudentius (400’s).
“Joy Dawned Again on Easter Day,” by Anon. (300’s or 400’s).
“O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright,” by Ambrose of Milan (300’s).
It is amazing to think of Christ’s people singing these songs, which we still sing today, since before they even knew of America’s existence!
If you know of any other hymns from the year 1000 or earlier, we would love to hear about them in the comments section below. I hope this post has given you a closer link to the earliest explorers of America.
For the next chapter of Hymns of American History please see the following:
More Hymns of American History:
- Perfect Eggs!