Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Requiem Aeternam - Hugh McElrath

One of the best hymn scholars in Baptist life passed away last week. I got an email letting me know that Hugh T. McElrath passed away from a massive stroke. Along with Harry Eskew, McElrath was the co-author of Sing with Understanding, published by Broadman Press and used by many protestant hymnology students ... Baptist and others. I used Eskew & McElrath at SBTS under Paul Richardson (I took hymnology while McElrath was on sabbatical ... but Richardson studied under, then alongside McElrath).

McElrath was the author of We Praise You with Our Minds, O Lord ... known for years as the Seminary Hymn ... used at opening convocation and at graduation every semester at SBTS. I hope it still is, but much has changed at Southern since I finished there in 1986. The text, written to be sung to the hymn tune CLONMEL, was based primarily on Mark 12:30 but rife with many other scriptural allusions In his memory, I include the text here as it is rendered in the 1991 Baptist Hymnal:

We praise You with our minds, O Lord,
Kept sharp to think Your thought;
Come, Holy Ghost with grace outpoured,
To teach what Christ has taught.
In all our learning may we seek
That wisdom from above
Which comes to all: the brave, the meek,
Who ask in faith and love.

We praise You through our bodies, Lord,
Kept strong to do Your will;
Your Spirit's temples, which afford
A means to praise You still.
We give ourselves, a sacrifice,
To live our lives for You;
For You alone have paid the price
To bring salvation true.

We praise You in our hearts, O King,
Kept pure to know Your ways;
And raise to You a hymn to sing
Eternally Your praise.
Although adoring hearts will bow
As age on ages roll;
We praise You in our beings now,
Mind, body, heart, and soul.

The original, written in 1962, used the King James pronouns for God. There is one place where that makes a big difference to my mind. In order to preserve the rhyme scheme, the last line of the second stanza now ends "... salvation true." rather than "... salvation free." The latter (original) reads better to me from a soteriology standpoint. Salvation true is one thing ... salvation free is so much bigger. But the change was made either by McElrath himself, or with his approval since he was one the editorial team for TBH91.


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