Can You Guess These Hymns From a Lyric?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Hymns: They can be beautiful, inspirational, rousing or somber. A few are famous, known even to non-Christians -- "Amazing Grace" is probably the best example. Many others are obscure, written in the 19th century by ardent believers and added to the hymnals of a certain denomination, after which they gradually fell out of favor with church music directors. 

You might have noticed, if you read the notes at the bottom of the page, that often the lyrics will be written by a particular person, but the music is just attributed as "traditional" or "folk tune." It was fairly common in the 18th and 19th century for hymns to be religious poetry which was later set to melodies that a congregation would know. Occasionally, a hymn will be set to one tune in Europe, while North Americans or Australians sing it to entirely another. Then there's "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," which is set to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," part of his Ninth Symphony. This might be the most auspicious choice for music that we can think of!

If you love church music, we've created a quiz for you! Some are classic and traditional hymns, like "Amazing Grace." A few land in the African-American tradition of spirituals, and you might consider a few as "Sunday School" songs! So keep an open mind as you take this tour of beloved Christian hymns!

"I once was lost, but now am found."

This might be the best-known hymn in the English language. Even its origin story, in which slave trader John Newton called out to God during a storm at sea, and found faith thereafter, is fairly well-known.


"Then sings my soul, my savior God, to Thee ..."

If you've ever read the notes in a hymnal, and seen the words "Traditional melody" to explain the origin of the music (as opposed to the lyrics), this is one such song. The lyrics were written to go with a traditional Swedish song. When Stuart Hine translated it into English, he added two extra verses.


"Sing, choirs of angels/Sing in exultation."

"O Come All Ye Faithful" is a Christmas hymn. Some hymnals also print its Latin lyrics, with the title "Adeste Fideles."


"That flows by the throne of God."

"Shall We Gather By the River" was written in 1864. It refers to Revelation 22:2, which describes a clear crystal river flowing through heaven.


"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

For some reason, Americans tend to see the Confederacy as more romantic and interesting than the Union. But the Union had the far cooler anthem, in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," one of the most stirring martial hymns ever composed. It was like the "Eye of the Tiger" of the 19th century!


"While the snow lay round about/Deep and crisp and even."

This Christmas hymn, set to a Finnish tune, does not mention the nativity. It tells of an act of charity performed by a king on a frigid winter night.


"That Jesus Christ is born."

This song is an African-American spiritual, and also a Christmas song (though you'll rarely hear it on the overhead at the shopping mall). Mahalia Jackson and Bobby Darin have both recorded it.


"Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping."

The writer, Knowles Shaw, was referring to Psalm 126:6. It reads, "Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves."


"Joyful all ye nations rise."

Charles Wesley, one of the founding figures of Methodism, wrote the lyrics for this hymn. The melody is one by classic composer Felix Mendelsohn.


"Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

This song is most often sung by children in Sunday schools. It is probably based on Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your great works and give glory to your Father in heaven."


"All our sins and griefs to bear."

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is one of those hymns that borders on the category of "Sunday School song," but is also found in hymnals. Versions of it have been recorded by Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald.


"With the cross of Jesus, going on before."

Like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," this song has a distinctly martial feel. Winston Churchill chose it for a religious service on board the HMS Wales during WWII.


"And exchange it some day for a crown."

"The Old Rugged Cross" is a classic of the country gospel tradition. It's been recorded by a who's who of country artists.


"Let me hide myself in Thee."

This is one of the older hymns in our quiz, written in 1763. Jesus is the rock, as the capitalization of "Thee" indicates, and the "cleft" seems to refer to the wound in His side.


"When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound/And time shall be no more."

James Milton Black wrote this hymn in the late 19th century, when a child was not present for his Sunday School class. It was very popular throughout the 20th century.


"Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine."

This hymn was a collaboration between composer Phoebe Knapp and lyricist Fanny Crosby. It was published in 1873.


" ... great things he hath done."

The word "great" isn't capitalized, above, because this is the second half of the lyric which opens the hymn: "To God be the Glory, great things he hath done." Blind lyricist Fanny Crosby, who also wrote "Blessed Assurance," wrote the words.


"One by one, we'll gain the portals."

"When They Ring the Golden Bells" is another hymn about the joys awaiting the faithful in heaven. Hymns like these aren't as popular anymore, as modern Christianity has shifted to an emphasis on how much a relationship with God improves life on earth -- think of the ministry of Joel Osteen.


"In spite of dungeon, fire and sword ..."

This was originally a Catholic hymn. Protestants alter one of the lyrics to remove a reference to "Mary's prayers."


"Calling 'O sinner, come home'."

"Softly and Tenderly" is sometimes listed as "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling." Will Thompson wrote it in 1880, and it has been beloved ever since.


"We shall meet on that beautiful shore."

Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson have all performed this hymn. (We're not even going to talk about the Three Stooges film, "In the Sweet Pie and Pie."


"Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee."

"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" is famously set to the "Ode to Joy" in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The lyrics live up to Beethoven's music, too; the hymn contains some of the most vivid and appealing imagery in Christian song.


"That calls me from a world of care."

The hymn begins "Sweet hour! Sweet hour of prayer" and continues to the line above, "That calls me from a world of care." It's a song about the respite from the day's worries that prayer provides.


"Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away."

This hymn, like the song "Get Happy," focuses on the inevitability of death. "When other helpers fail, and comforts flee/Help of the helpless, abide with me," the singer asks.


"Early in the morning, our song shall rise to Thee."

This gets our vote for one of the most lovely hymns in the Christian tradition, in terms of its imagery. Another lyric goes, "Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee/Casting down their golden crowns along the glassy sea."


"Well the morning's so bright/And the lamp is alight."

This song was written for gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Other performers who have recorded include Elvis Presley.


"By his counsels guide, uphold you/With His sheep in love uphold you."

We should probably explain that "sheep" had a different meaning to Christians of earlier times than it does today. Present-day secular people think of "sheep" as an insult, meaning people who do not think for themselves. In the Christian sense, it means one of Jesus's faithful "flock," protected by him.


"It satisfies my longings/As nothing else can do."

"I Love to Tell the Story" was first a poem. It was written by an English missionary, Katherine Harkey, who was ill during her service in Africa and wrote it during her convalescence.


"It is good enough for me."

This is probably the simplest hymn in this quiz. Sample verse: "Oh! This old-time religion/This old-time religion/This old-time religion/It is good enough for me." (Any questions?)


"Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do."

This hymn is about the importance of small acts, and affirms that every person is important. Its encouraging tone reminds us of the secular song, "Accentuate the Positive."


"E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me."

This hymn is said to be the final song the band on the Titanic played as the ship went down. There are three melodies that the lyrics can be sung to, with the most popular one being the tune "Bethany."


"I've got a home in glory-land that outshines the sun."

This is a folksy hymn whose lyrics consist of one line repeated three times, and then the conclusion, "Way beyond the blue." It was recorded by the Man in Black, Johnny Cash.


"O sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."

This hymn is believed to have been composed by African slaves in America, which puts it in the "spiritual" tradition. It relies heavily on repetition of key words and phrases.


"Glory to God, and praise and love/Be ever, ever given."

This hymn in unusual in that the key line, "O for a thousand tongues ..." does not appear until the seventh stanza. To put this in perspective, a number of hymns don't even reach seven stanzas.


"Thou, my soul's glory, joy and crown."

"Fairest Lord Jesus" is also known as "Beautiful Savior." These two phrases, respectively, open the first and second verse of the hymn.


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