If Our Church Could Sing Only Ten Hymns

Thankfully, there is no such limit. English hymnody truly has no shortage of fantastic hymns! But if, for example, I were to have to narrow down choices for a custom hymnal to make it less expensive to print and easier to carry, I would choose these ten (today, anyway; ask me again tomorrow):

10. How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

Otherwise known by its original name, “How Sweet and Aweful Is the Place” (“Aweful” is sometimes written as “Awe-ful”), this hymn correctly describes the place of the assembled saints as one full of awe–awe for God’s grace and mercy to gather a people for his own possession.

The first stanzas focus on God’s gracious salvation of the elect, and the last beautifully state the proper results of a heart changed by the Spirit: grief for the lost who perish in their sin, and a desire to see the church grow.

9. Joy to the World

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found

Through this hymn is typically reserved for the Christmas season, it’s really a hymn about the second coming of Jesus Christ. This uplifting piece deserves to be sung loudly by believers year-round, as it encourages us to go to work for the Kingdom.

8. Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall;
And so to Him I leave it all,
And so to Him I leave it all

This could be considered a lament, likely inspired by those dark passages in the Psalms that give us a language to express ourselves to God when trials and tragedies would seek to overwhelm us.

But like those songs of lament from David and others, this hymn gives us poetic words to express our hope and trust in God. The modern tune by Matt Merker is a lovely means for this expression.

7. The Solid Rock (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)

His oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay

This is one of the most upbeat 3/4 hymns from which to choose, but it is the words and message that make “The Solid Rock” stand out. In it we sing of things that pass away–that upon which we cannot rely–and contrast those with Christ and what he has done for us. Christ and his righteousness are ground that will never be moved.

6. Come Thou Fount

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above

The hints of archaic language really link the present assembly to saints of a bygone era who sang this hymn when it was brand new. I love to reflect on that connection–the catholicity of the Church joined across not only space, but time. And there are no better words penned by a human to join together to sing such blessed truth.

5. Before the Throne of God Above

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me

This hymn is among the best in its use of biblical language to express the lengths to which Christ went to express his love for us (“My name is graven on his hands” … “Behold him there, the risen Lamb/My perfect, spotless Righteousness”) and its modern tune fits perfectly.

4. Be Thou My Vision

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all

This is not only one of the most beautiful tunes ever composed, it also contains what are the oldest lyrics in this ten-song hymnal. Originally written in the 6th or 8th century, the words we have now were expertly translated and put to verse by Mary Elizabeth Byrne and Eleanor Hull, respectively. This is also one of three hymns in this selection I would consider a prayer.

3. His Mercy Is More

What riches of kindness He lavished on us
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

This is by far the newest selection, and is absolutely worthy of inclusion. The title, stanza tag, and refrain were inspired by a sermon and letter written by John Newton. Poetically expressed here are the truths of our wretched state and wonderful Savior.

This song is a worthy expansion on other famous words by Newton: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

2. How Firm a Foundation

“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply
The flame shall not hurt you, I only design
Your dross to consume and the gold to refine”

This hymn stands out in encouraging our fellow believers with the powerful promises of God to preserve his own. He is the sure and steadfast Foundation on which we stand. He has given us his Word (the Bible) and his word (the promise that he will never leave nor forsake us). Sing this loudly to your soul and fellow saints!

1. And Can it Be

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee

In my opinion, no other hymn combines such wondrous lyrics and soaring melodies. The themes of sinfulness, grace, sacrifice, salvation, and freedom in Christ paint a vivid picture of the story of redemption. How could one not belt it out?

Amazing love, how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Honorable Mention:

A Mighty Fortress
How Great Thou Art
Jesus Paid it All
Nothing but the Blood
There Is a Fountain
Crown Him with Many Crowns
Just As I Am
Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
I Stand Amazed in the Presence
We Have Heard the Joyful Sound
Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery
He Will Hold Me Fast
In Christ Alone
Holy, Holy, Holy
(and everybody knows Amazing Grace, so why take up the space?!)

Let There Be Light

“Let there be light,” the Maker speaks
And darkness runs away
The morn is new as grace descends
Benighted heart sees day

The faintest gleam of Gospel truth
Outshines man’s brightest light
Though shadow-dimmed, it strikes the dark
From blindness, grants new sight

What gladness fills the joyful eye
As dawn of mercy breaks
From deathly slumber unto life
The ransomed soul awakes

The oil burned in heaven’s lamp
Which cut sin’s black night thick
Flowed freely from the Savior’s veins
Himself, the fired wick

Yea, trimmed and soaked, the off’ring lit
By heat of holy wrath:
The perfect sacrifice aflame
Reveals the righteous path

The pilgrim treads on glowing ground
For Christ in radiance beamed
Illuminating Heaven’s way
To all who stand redeemed

The light cast from the Savior’s face
Who purchased life to give
Lets mortals God’s great glory know
To look upon, and live

And on that visage few may find
The born-again shall gaze
Once lost and darksome, now alight
Beheld for endless days

So blazes Life amidst the gloom
To bless the former cursed
The Grave is sting-less, Death is dead
And darkness now dispersed

Ryan Cornett, 2022
(Based on 2 Corinthians 4:6 and sundry passages of the Holy Bible)

O God, Arise to Do Your Will

S1
O God, arise to do your will
Put all your foes to shame
Raise up Your servant-warriors
The Gospel to proclaim
Establish all the holy ones
By Jesus, clothed in white
Delivered from the dark domain (Colossians 1:13)
Now heirs and saints in light (Colossians 1:12)

As stars by Your decree burn bright
And summer flow’rs you dress
May we, Your church, in darkness shine
Adorned with righteousness
S2
Bring peace within our borders, Lord (Psalm 147:14)
The wicked, cast them low (Psalm 147:6)
Tread down the serpent where our feet (Romans 16:20)
In mission boldly go
Oppose the rulers of this world (Ephesians 6:12)
Their power overwhelm
Call forth those in Your covenant
To plunder Satan’s realm

Upheld by Your almighty hand
Your saving grace to tell
With You we shall do valiantly
Your people shall prevail
S3
Sent out as lambs amidst the wolves (Luke 10:3)
Yet, in Your hand we trust
That all rebellious hearts shall know
In all things, You are just
Though adversaries rise, Your Kingdom
They may never shake
For God the Son has won a Bride
His love shall not forsake

Though nations rage, with confidence
We make this bold address:
“O God, arise to do Your will
And reign in righteousness!”

From Death to Life

V1
Between the wrath of God and me
Once stood His Son, my shield
He, in my stead on Calvary
Bore ev'ry blow my sin would yield 

V2
Such sacrifice: a crimson flood
For hopeless sinners spilled
By this dear fount, His precious blood
The work is done, the law fulfilled
C
But for His love and might to save
Lost, I would perish in the strife
My sin had plunged me to the grave
In Christ I'm raised from death to life
V3
As barren bones in desserts dry
I'd naught but death within
Yet life's own Maker, born to die
Exchanged His righteousness for sin

V4
Because the great, immortal King
In mortals' place was slain
This song of hope, I now may sing:
"To live is Christ; to die is gain!"

To Glory, Spring

Progeny of fall, dying toil
Beneath each day’s more sunlit skies
A kernel lone within the soil
Unless it dies; unless it dies

Frost, winter ground and coat has burst
Tomb and linen strips have faltered
The root must plunge in effort first
Further downward; further downward

What life warmth doth now awaken!
From Firstfruit’s death and crimson earth
Rises that sweet yield of heaven
The second birth; the second birth

In heat of day, dry winds are spun
With worm upon and thorn beside
Yet brightly shines the giving sun
To eventide; to eventide

And in the storm, this Providence:
Drink of rain and nourishing flood
Pest washed away, day-fire relents
From trial, good; from trial, good

My body, seed, shall root where pressed
And work until bloom of blessing
From the grave, I, my Lord’s harvest
To Glory, spring; to Glory, spring

Ryan Cornett, 2022

I Will Rest

V1
Are you not good? Do I not have your favor?
Is all my hope in vain that I have such a Savior:
A Lord who’s near, near to the brokenhearted
Who hears the righteous cry and saves the crushed in Spirit?
When all other ground gives way
Still my breaking voice will say

C
I will rest on who You are
For who You are is sure
Eternal and Unchanging One
Your promises endure
When all I have is this
On who You are, God, I will rest

V2
Should I have doubt? My faith is greatly shaken
My feet can scarcely stand on Christ, the sure foundation
In my own strength, I’d fall in but a moment
So hold fast to me now for, Jesus, I am broken
When all other ground gives way
Though this weary heart you slay

V3
Are you not love? Do you not have compassion
Are you not moved that I, your child, feel so abandoned?
I know you hear; I am not lost in silence
In my heart hides your Word, a well of deep assurance
When all other ground gives way
You remain my hope and stay

Follow Me

V1
Lord above all mere existence
Condescended King who crossed
That impassable sin-distance
To restore what man had lost
Christ departed Heaven’s glory
When my heart would ever roam
To fulfill redemption’s story
And to bring this wand’rer home

C
The Lamb and Lion of the tribe of Judah
Went to the cross and won the victory
I cannot keep from singing, “Hallelujah!”
His sacrifice and triumph set me free
So, I will heed His call: “Follow me”

V2
My companion on this journey
To the Sovereign’s holy throne:
My High Priest, has gone before me
Not a step I walk alone
When the passage leads through valleys
In this dark and weary land
This His promise: never shall these
Separate me from His hand

V3
All the days of my sojourning
He shall lead me t’ward the goal
Through my wavering and turning
For His praise, preserves my soul
Until death, that final portal
I traverse the trail He blazed
What assurance mine! Though mortal
Unto life I shall be raised

B
From the grave to glory
From the tomb to triumph
From the darkness to the dawn
I’ll follow Christ who bids me come

My Help and My Hope

V1
My Help and my Hope: high above, ever near 
Unto Your servant incline now Your ear 
Though fleeting this breath You have given to me 
Poured out like water, a drop in the sea 

Yes brief are my days, but Yours without end 
Still my voice You hear; to my cry You attend 
What wonderful joy! What marvelous peace! 
Your aid shall not fail me, Your grace never cease
V2
O, be my salvation, my ark on the wave 
When storms of sin would sink me to the grave 
For darkness appears and the clouds hasten night 
Fix my eyes firmly on Your dawning light 

If not for the Lamb, torn that I be whole 
The thorn of the curse would lie cut through my soul 
What favor abounds! What riches untold! 
Yourself, my possession; Your Word mine to hold
V3
What debt must be settled? What more could You give? 
Love’s work is finished; by death now I live 
So plant me to grow and then prune me to bear 
In Christ abiding, upheld by Your care 

To stranger and kin will I testify– 
Till all breath is spent and to my gain I die– 
That You hear and have regarded my plea 
My Help and my Hope You forever shall be

No Other Name Under Heaven

Listen to, learn, and download the lead sheet for my original praise song based on Acts 4:10-13.

No Other Name Under Heaven

V1
No other name under heaven 1
Lifts up the sin-cursed soul
As God raised Him, He raises us 2
With Christ, the Cornerstone 3

V2
No other name under heaven
Stands firm, a tower strong 4
With feet of faith, the righteous run
In Christ, the Cornerstone

C
“Alleluia, alleluia!”
All who thirst no more, sing forever
From the Solid Rock, salvation flows 5
O, there’s no other name under heaven

V3
No other name under heaven
Remains when all else folds 6
Though earth may fall, secure we stand
On Christ, the Cornerstone

V4
No other name under heaven 7
Above all names is known
Confess, all tongues! Bow, ev’ry knee
To Christ, the Cornerstone!

“as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans‬ ‭9:33‬ ‭ESV

1 Acts 4:10-13
2 Romans 4:24-25 & 8:11; 2 Corinthians 4:14
3 Ephesians 2:20
4 Proverbs 18:10
5 Exodus 17:6, 1 Corinthians 10:4
6 Isaiah 28:16
7 Philippians 2:9-11

Praise the Lord All Nations (Psalm 117)

Listen to, learn, and download the sheet music for my original setting of Psalm 117 ESV verbatim.

Lyrics derived from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.