The Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018)

Ligon Duncan

Congratulations to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and United Reformed Churches (URCNA) and Great Commission Publications on the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018). I have only had my copy for a couple of weeks or so, but I want to offer a few quick notes and observations on what I've seen so far.

The Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018) contains versions of all 150 Psalms in metrical form, but fewer hymns than either the old "Blue" Trinity Hymnal (1961) or the new "Red" Trinity Hymnal (1990). Having used two editions (1927 and 1973) of the Scottish Psalter and Church Hymnary during my time in Edinburgh (1987-1991), I was thrilled to see a Psalter Hymnal produced for North American churches, especially considering that both hymns and metrical psalms have generally fallen upon hard times in our circles.

As a Presbyterian pastor who wanted my people to know as many solid hymns and metrical Psalms as possible, I utilized the Trinity Psalter (1994), which was a joint project of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), as well as the Book of Psalms for Singing (1998) and more recently the Book of Psalms for Worship (2009), both by the RPCNA, as well as the more than fifty Psalm selections in the new Trinity Hymnal (1990) and many other resources. So, the very idea of a Psalter Hymnal being produced with our theological constituency in mind was very encouraging.

I have not had time yet to work through the Psalm choices (texts and tunes), but I have had a chance to glance briefly at the hymns. Here's what I've seen. Whereas the new Trinity Hymnal (1990) has 742 numbered hymns and songs, and the Trinity Psalter Hymnal has 424. I don't view this as a negative. The key is keeping the best of the best. Along those lines, I note that it retains most of the 100 hymns that I recommend that every congregation know.

Among those hymns on the list I created in the above article (chosen as durable, singable, substantial, texts and tunes) that the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal omits are: "Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord," "A Few More Years Shall Roll," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," "Trust and Obey," "We Have Heard the Joyful Sound (Jesus Saves! Jesus Saves!)," "Who Is On the Lord's Side?," and, "From All that Dwell below the Skies" (Watts, based on Psalm 117). These are, I think, among the biggest losses hymn-wise. The alphabetical index of hymns in the back omits "A Debtor to Mercy Alone" (Toplady's great hymn), but thankfully that hymn is retained (434).

The Trinity Psalter Hymnal also includes a significant number (north of 65!) of old and new hymns, psalms, paraphrases, and songs that are not found in one or both of the previous editions of the Trinity Hymnal, including quite a few by relatively recent and perhaps unfamiliar writers, among them: "Praise God for Joy of Sabbath Blest" (Scott Finch, 2008), "You Who His Temple Throng," "Master, Speak! Thy Servant Heareth," "Speak, O Lord" (Getty and Townend, 2006), the first of a number of Getty and/or Townend hymns, "Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight" (Derrick and Debbie Vander Muelen, 2015), "Thus Saith the Mercy of the Lord," "O God, Great Father, Lord and King," "Come, Take By Faith the Body of the Lord," "Zion, to Thy Savior Singing," (a hymn by Thomas Aquinas on the Lord's Supper, pretty edgy for confessional Reformed Presbyterians!), "Forth in Your Name I Go," "We All Believe in One True God" (a setting of the Apostles' Creed), "Give Praise to God" (Boice, 1999), the first of several hymns by James Montgomery Boice, "O the Deep, Unbounded Riches" (2015), the first of several hymns by Jonathan Landry Cruse, "O Righteous, in the Lord Rejoice," All Glory Be to God" (Elisabeth Shafer, 2012), the first of several hymns by various Shafers, "Father, Long Before Creation" (1952), a text in translation but of Chinese provenance, "All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall," "In Christ Alone" (Getty/Townend, 2002), "Before the Throne of God Above" (the tune is from 1997, by Vikki Cook), "All Praise to Christ" (Boice, 1999), "Consider Well" (Russell St. John, 2006), "Song of Zechariah" (OPC/URCNA, 2016), "Song of Simeon" (Dewey Westra, 1931), "Song of Mary" (Lou Ann Shafer, 2015), "A Shoot Will Spring from Jesse's Stump" (OPC/URCNA, 2016), "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise," "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna," "Up to the Mountain, Went Our Lord" (Nancy Tischler and Mary Bahnfleth, 2005), the first of a couple by this team, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" (Townend, 1995), "Lamb, Precious Lamb" (Cruse, 2013), "Christ, above All Glory Seated," "How Great the Bright Angelic Host" (Bahnfleth and Tischler, 2004), "Eternal Spirit, God of Truth," "O Spirit, Fill Our Hearts" (Elisabeth Shafer, 2010), "Holy Spirit of Messiah" (OPC/URCNA, 2016), "Christian Hearts in Love United," a really nice addition for a confessional Reformed hymnal in the current climate, "In Christ There Is No East or West" (Michael Perry, 1982), "Salvation Unto Us Has Come," "How Marvelous, How Wise, How Great" (Boice, 1999), "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" (not to be confused with or mistaken for "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched," which is also in the TPH), "Come to the Waters" (Boice, 2000), "How Shall They Hear the Word of God," "Union with Thee" (Jeremiah Montgomery, 2014), "O Fountain of Unceasing Grace," "Cast Down, O God, the Idols" (Herman, Stuempfle, 1997), "Here From All Nations" (Christopher Idle, 1973), "I Have No Other Comfort," a 1937 text based on Heidelberg Catechism No. 1, "In Doubt and Temptation," a 1959 Psalter Hymnal version of Psalm 73, "On the Good and Faithful" (UP Psalter of 1912, Psalm 4), "Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord," "Behold, My Servant," a song based on Isaiah 42, 58 & 61 (OCP/URCNA, 2016), "If I Speak a Foreign Tongue" which is, of course, 1 Corinthians 13 (Bert Polman, 1986), "Thy Mercy Lord, Is What I Need" (Cruse, 2014), "More Than Conquerors," Romans 8:31-39 (Cruse, 2015), "Hallelujah!," one of my favorite Boice hymn texts, with the surprising and stirring refrain: "Nothing. Hallelujah!" (Boice, 1999), "I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow," made known in our time especially through Indelible Grace, and one of the best additions to the TPH in our estimation, (Newton), "The Lord's Prayer," based on the Heidelberg Catechism exposition (George van Popta, 2009), "Loving Shepherd of Your Sheep," "The Battle is the Lord's" (Margaret Clarkson, 1960), "God of the Prophets," "O Shine Upon These, Lord," "Oh, Blest the House," "Another Year Is Dawning," "The Lord's Prayer," a simple, beautiful, direct, faithful rendering by a missionary hero (Adoniram Judson), and "Praise Ye the Lord, Ye Hosts Above."

There are some interesting hymn title changes. The Trinity Psalter Hymnal goes with "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" rather than "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past," as it is found in the Trinity Hymnal (1990). The TPHchanges "Have You" back to "Hast Thou" in "Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard." "Who is He in Yonder Stall" is changed to "Who is He Born in the Stall" (which seems to go against the grain of the previous decision). "Rejoice All Ye Believers" becomes "Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers" (again, same point as before, we get rid of a "Ye" and reinsert a "Hast Thou" - wonder how that debate went in committee?). Then "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart" is changed to "Spirit of God, Dwell Thou Within My Heart" (which has to be some kind of a theological edit, because it doesn't make sense as an update). "As When the Hebrew Prophet Raised" is changed to "As When the Prophet Moses Raised" (I don't have a guess at all about that one--is that the way Watts originally wrote it?). "Come My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare" (which, of course, refers not to a lawsuit or a businessman's clothing, but to a petition or "suit"--however we don't use the word that way much anymore) is changed to "Come My Soul with Every Care" (which may be the best change we've seen so far, all though the sentimental side of me bears some regret).

I'm looking forward to studying the versions of the metrical Psalms that they have chosen. Shane Lems has already taken a quick glance at them. Thanks to all who worked on this Psalter Hymnal. As I continue to review it, I will report on it in more depth.