I quote Michael Horton on three particularly bad hymns from the article Singing Christ into Our Hearts.
“In The Garden:”
The words of “In the Garden,” by C. Austin Miles (1868–1946), reflect a Romantic—even Gnostic—image of Christ. The believer is alone with Jesus in the garden, “while the dew is still on the roses,” experiencing an utterly unique rapture that “none other has ever known.” “He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet that the birds hush their singing. And the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing.” There is nothing about Christ’s person and work; everything turns on the saving impression of his personality. This was a common emphasis in the liberal evangelical (pietist) circles of Germany, England, and America. Although the poetry and melody are not as good, the sentimentality reflects the Romantic era. With all of these songs, a good question to ask is “Could a Unitarian sing these?” In some cases, Unitarians wrote them.
Many of the gospel songs that arose in the nineteenth century are more evangelical (in the positive sense), but hail from the revivalistic heritage—especially as it was shaped by the Holiness tradition. Fanny Crosby’s 1873 hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” is one of the most popular examples. First published in Phoebe Palmer’s Guide to Holiness and Revival Miscellany, the hymn reflects theology of the Holiness movement, with its Wesleyan doctrine of perfection (the “second blessing”). According to this view, one may be justified yet not baptized with the Spirit. In order to enter into this second stage of “victory,” one must become “fully surrendered.” In this condition, one may live above all known sin, in perfect love. So verses 2 and 3 of “Blessed Assurance” sing,
Perfect submission, perfect delight!
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest!
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with his goodness, lost in His love.
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic:”
[The Battle Hymn of the Republic] blasphemously raises the Union’s triumph in the Civil War to the level of Christ’s last judgment. Machen quite properly wonders how those seeking refuge from the tumult of violence between the clashing armies of this age could be served by such a confusion of Christ and culture. The late eighteenth century in both Britain and the United States saw a profusion of romantic hymns to empire and nation that have no place in the public service where Christ is gathering a remnant from all peoples and nations. There is nothing more dangerous than arousing religious emotion for national causes.