After James White’s initial attempts to introduce a hymn book that emphasized the distinctly Adventist gospel and doctrines, a number of other hymn books were released over the next century. These were:
- 1869 – Hymns and Tunes for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus
- 1886 – The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book (Hymns and Tunes)
- 1908 – Christ in Song
- 1941 – The Church Hymnal
But the work and direction that James White initiated was lost. With each new hymn book there were very few new songs written specifically to make prominent and clear the messages that God had given to Adventists. Instead there was more and more reliance on, or borrowing from, modern Protestant hymnals of the day.
One of the more talented Adventist composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Franklin Edson Belden (1858-1945). He was born to the sister of Ellen White, and therefore was Mrs. White’s nephew. He settled in Battle Creek in the early 1880′s and served as one of the music editors for the 1886 Hymns and Tunes. He also worked together with his cousin, James Edson White, on several projects, such as The Song Anchor for Sabbath School and Praise Service, an oblong songbook of 164 pages, as well as publishing a non-denominational book of songs for children in 1892, Bible Object Lessons and Songs for Little Ones.
His last hymn book, Christ in Song, was first printed in 1900, and then a revised version was released in 1908. The songbook was used by Seventh-day Adventists for decades after that.
Although he unquestionably was talented, we have to ask, did he contribute to making the unique Adventist message more clear? Did he, through the ministry of song, set the particular testing truths for the time plainly before the people?
We have to say, no. He did not clearly distinguish between the “everlasting gospel” as contained in the Three Angel’s messages of Revelation 14, and the Protestant “gospel” that was popular in that time. This is shown by his work of:
- writing songs for Protestant evangelists, like Billy Sunday;
- publishing non-denominational songbooks for children;
- borrowing many songs from the fallen churches;
- writing songs which lacked the clear emphasis needed to show the difference between the true and false gospel.
The Protestant churches had rejected the “everlasting gospel” in William Miller’s time, about 40 years earlier. So if they rejected it, then they couldn’t also have it. In fact, the prophetic word indicated that they had become “Babylon”, churches that have the vessels or form of truth, but put in those vessels their own “wine”, which are teachings or interpretations which confuse people, and make them think they are safe in Jesus’ care when in fact they are still in their sins.