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What hymnal would Baptists have been using in 1814?

Ben Steelman
StarNews
Pastor Jim Herchenhahn is leading the flock at Riley’s Creek Baptist Church after ‘retiring’ from Wilmington’s Grace Baptist Church. He was profiled in the Aug. 7 Living Local section of the StarNews. Photo by Paul Stephen.

Pastor Jim Herchenhahn is leading the flock at Riley’s Creek Baptist Church after ‘retiring’ from Wilmington’s Grace Baptist Church. He was profiled in the Aug. 7 Living Local section of the StarNews. Photo by Paul Stephen.

Riley’s Creek Baptist Church of Rocky Point is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial next year. In preparation, some church members were wondering which hymnal Baptists might have been using in the year 1814.

We checked with the library at Southeastern Baptist The0logical Seminary in Wake Forest. Doug Nalley of the seminary’s staff, who is also a hymnal collector, said there were no printed Baptist hymnals as such by the early 1810s. (The first Baptist convention in the United States was not organized until 1814, when Baptists gathered for a meeting in Philadelphia; the Southern Baptist Convention would not be founded until 1845.)

Nalley did suggest, however. that many Baptist congregations in that period were using some version of “The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts,” of which many editions appeared in the 1700s.

Watts (1674-1748), a Nonconformist pastor in England, was a prolific hymn writer. Among his many hymns still sung today are “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and the Christmas carol “Joy to the World.”

Many of Watts’ hymns are reprinted in contemporary Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Mormon and Christian Science hymnals.

If church members would like to find an authentic period copy of Watts’ hymns, Nalley suggests consulting the website www.Worldcat.org. Amazon.com offers reprint editions of “The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts” in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions.

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User-contributed question by:
Richard Beacham

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