Found in the Old Hymnals
I am always amazed that some of the old hymns are still relevant for today’s world. In looking through some old resources, I found several hymns by Anne Steele (1716-1778). She lived in Broughton, England and was the daughter of a timber merchant who also served as lay pastor of the local Baptist Church. She was one of the few women hymn writers published in the early hymnals of the Baptist and Methodist hymnals. She wrote 144 hymns and was considered by some to be the most distinguished female writer of sacred song of the 18th century.
“Ye Wretched Hungry, Starving Poor” first appeared in a 1780 hymnal. This hymn is an invitation to the Christian life, an invitation to communion, and also illustrative of the use of the metaphor “banquet/feast” that Isaiah and Jesus use to talk of the kingdom of God.
Ye wretched, starving poor,
Behold a royal feast!
Where mercy spreads her bounteous store
For every humble guest.
See, Christ, with open arms,
Invites and bids you come;
O stay not back, though fear alarms;
For yet there still is room.
O come, and with us taste
The blessings of his love;
While hope expects the sweet repast
Of nobler joys above.
The invitation is still available and open to all to join in the work of kingdom building in today’s world.
Another hymn by Miss Steele that is still relevant today was written in 1760. “”And Is the Gospel Peace and Love” speaks of peace and justice. The first stanza addresses the need of one’s conversation to be centered in wisdom, simplicity, and love. In the second stanza human passions that lead to conflict are the focus and in the third stanza forgiveness and kindness are sought.
And is the gospel peace and love!
Such let our conversation be;
the serpent blended with the dove,
wisdom and meek simplicity.
Whene’er the angry passions rise,
and tempt our thoughts and tongues to strife,
to Jesus let us lift our eyes,
bright pattern of the Christian life.
Oh, how benevolent and kind,
how mild! how ready to forgive!
Be this the temper of our mind,
and these the rule by which we live.
The language may be archaic, but the understanding of the need for peace, love and justice is part of the universal language of the Gospel. Take a look at an old hymnal – you will be amazed at what you find.
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.