[Today’s post is by John H.Parker, co-author of the newly released book, Abide With Me, published by New Leaf Press. This account is from the travels of John and his co-author/photographer, Paul Seawright.]

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” receives a 39 on our ranking of hymns. It is written by Isaac Watts, along with Charles Wesley, the greatest of the English hymn writers. Four times a day the chimes from a tower in the center of Southampton, Watts’ home city, ring out the tune of this great hymn. Even a cursory glance at the lyrics reveals why it is successful.

First, they are stately and dignified. Second, they are composed of simple words: most are one or two syllables. Third, the lyrics follow a logical order: they begin with praise (verses 1-2) and then proceed in the following verses to an account of the order of God’s creation. Finally, there is a return to praise for God’s care of his saints.

The rhythm of the hymn is also simple and easy to follow. Each verse consists of four parts, each part beginning and ending in an obvious and clear fashion. Further, the final word of parts one and three of each verse always rhyme, as do the final words of parts two and four of each verse.

So one of the two most-often-printed hymns of the decade covered is one of the simplest, but one of the grandest and most profound. Often it takes genius to produce that which is simple and profound.

[Abide With Me will be released by New Leaf Press in April 2009.] 

In the past 300 years, no other collection of poetry and music has been voiced or loved as consistently as have British hymns. Every week during those centuries, worshippers in churches throughout Britian, Europe, and America have read and sung such verses as “Rock of Ages” and “Abide With Me.” Whether celebrations of joy or in times of sadness, these hymns have become staples of our culture, and this book will become a classic family favorite as well.

Combining internationally acclaimed Paul Seawright‘s breathtaking photographs and John Parker‘s descriptive text, Abide With Me is a gorgeous collection of images from the sites, sounds, and history that gave birth to some of Christianity’s most poignant and revered hymns. You are familiar with these songs, but do you know about:
  • The hymn specially written for a sister’s wedding in 30 minutes
  • The privileged poet and hymnist who would die ministering in India
  • The first British hymn ever written and its original language
  • The song of comfort written by the daughter of a newspaper editor; a song associated with the funerals of three American presidents

Now readers can view the homes, churches, communities and universities of 24 beloved hymnists, share the stories of faith behind over 25 beloved hymns- John Newton, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and more.

Abide With Me features over 230 photographs from throughout Wales and England. This casebound book is ideal as a gift or treasured in libraries and personal collections.

[Note: The release date on this book is April 2009. Order now for 20% off the cover price at New Leaf Publishing Group.]