Over a period of time the writers of metrical psalms turned to fashioning free paraphrases of psalm texts. Eventually, in the seventeenth century, several English authors began to write hymn texts independent of the specific words of Scripture. Nineteenth-century fervor for hymn singing culminated with the publication of the most famous and influential of all hymnbooks, Hymns Ancient and Modern. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed growth in the study of hymnology, which led, in turn, to a variety of carefully planned hymnals that have had great influence to the present day.
Joseph Hart, a Congregational minister in England, was born in 1712 to pious parents. He was well educated and was for many years a teacher of the classics. As a young man he renounced religion but, at the age of 40, began reading the Bible and found the peace he sought.