At the close of Adoniram Judson's commissioning service, just before he and Ann set sail for India in 1812, those in attendance sang a hymn written especially for the occasion by the minister:

Go, ye heralds of salvation;
Go, and preach in heathen lands;
Publish loud to every nation,
What the Lord of life commands.

The congregation, "weeping unashamedly" as they sang, had resolved to support foreign missions in general and to stand behind this first group of missionaries in particular. Above all else, the hymn reflected a firm belief in the providence of God and the inevitable worldwide reign of Christ:

To his grace we now resign you,
To him only you belong,
You with every Christian Hindoo,
Join at last th' angelic throng.

This hymn and many others in the late 18th and early 19th centuries expressed the necessity and urgency of foreign mission. The words were commanding. The tunes were easy to sing and capable of stirring the soul. The lyrics reflected a Calvinist theology of the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of mankind, the blood atonement of Christ, and the Lamb's universal reign of peace and justice. These missionary hymns were a powerful means of rallying support for early American missionaries and also inspiring those men and women already active on the mission field.

"Jesus shall reign"

As evangelistic fervor heated up in the first few decades of the 19th century, a kind of canon of missionary hymns emerged, reprinted again and again in American hymnals. Such hymns were sung at ordination ceremonies, missionary commissioning ceremonies, annual meetings of missions organizations, and monthly "concerts of prayer" for missions—encouraging people to go, to provide financially for those who did go, and to pray ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.