My favourite hymns

I am tempted to list my fifty or even one hundred hymns. There are so many hymns which I enjoy singing. Surprisingly to some perhaps, I have not included any modern ‘songs’, for most of them are like paper tissues which wear out with use! So, I have stuck to hymns and have limited myself to my ten favourite hymns.

First, a hymn of praise which I have chosen so many times to begin a Sunday morning worship service: ‘Praise my soul the King of Heaven, to his feet your tribute bring’ by Henry Lyte, an Anglican clergyman.

Secondly, a hymn which I would have liked at my baptism had I not been baptised in the Baptist church in Zurich: ‘O Jesus I have promised to serve you to the end’ by John Ernest Bode, a distinguished Anglican academic.

Thirdly, and linked with my time in Switzerland is a wonderful Anabaptist hymn which  is not known beyond Baptist circles and sadly is for the most part no longer sung even by Baptists : ‘’Our Father God thy name we praise, to thee our hymns addressing, and joyfully our voices raise they faithfulness confessing’. Translated by Ernest Payne, a former eminent Baptist General Secretary, it is stirring stuff.

Fourthly, another great Baptist hymn, ‘Who would true valour see, let him come hither’, with John Bunyan’s reminder that as Christians we are pilgrims heading for our eternal home. This is one of the hymns I have chosen for my funeral.

Fifthly, a hymn which we had at our wedding and which I have also requested for my funeral: ‘For all the love which from our earliest days has gladdened life, and guarded all our ways… Alleluia’ by Egerton Smith, a Baptist minister trained at Spurgeon’s College.

Sixthly, a hymn which I had at my ordination  prior to our sailing for the Congo: ‘O Thou who camest from above, the pure celestial fire to impart, kindle a flame of sacred love on the mean altar of my heart’. In my judgement it is one of the best hymns written by Charles Wesley, the celebrated Methodist who wrote 6,500 hymns!

Seventhly, another Wesley hymn, which we sang time and again at the many baptismal services I conducted, ‘And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?’ With its five verses it gave me and the baptismal candidates just about time to change before we returned for the laying of hands which always was part of my baptismal services.

Eighthly, along with a baptismal hymn I have also chosen a communion hymn: ‘Bread of the world, in mercy broken, wine of the soul, in mercy shed’ by High Churchman Reginald Heber.

Ninthly, a modern hymn by former Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, which is another hymn I have chosen for my funeral ‘I love you O  Lord you alone’. It is a beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 18, and in the final verse it begins: ‘My hope is the promise he give, my life is secure in his hand; I shall not be lost, for he lives! He comes to my aid – I shall stand.

Tenthly, ‘Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me’, which reminds me that I am as much in need of God’s saving grace as John Newton, who for many years was engaged in the slave trade.

Finally, a hymn of resurrection, ‘Yours be the glory! Risen conquering Son; endless is the victory over death you won’. This is the final hymn in my funeral repertoire. We Christians can face dying and death with confidence, because we know that he will ‘bring us safe through Jordon’ to his ‘home above’.

Where would we be without the singing of hymns? As St Augustine said, in worship we anticipate the day when “we shall do nothing other than ceaselessly repeat Amen and Alleluia, with insatiable satisfaction”. It is in worship that heaven invades our world, and we discover ourselves in the presence of Almighty God. What an experience! What a privilege!


  1. Paul strangely before I became a Christian in my mid teens I never sang the hymns in church , then suddenly it became the best part of the service ! Unless the preacher was good!
    However, I will say I did like your choices, except number 8 which I am not aware of….though I do have problems when i choose these and a few other similar favourites …like Begone unbelief- a KB so by John Newton
    People moan they want modern!
    Often with less theology—- though I do like How great the chasm , and what gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer.
    So good to read your top ten
    Perhaps we will be in the same church in heaven?

  2. What a moving selection of hymns, and how wise to have chosen your funeral hymns! We have just attended the most moving funeral which included John Bunyan’s hymn -it was particularly moving as his pilgrimage was cut short (he was just 60).

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