Posted by: rcottrill | December 22, 2014

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A rose has sprung up), author unknown; the English version comes from various translators, including Theodore Baker (b. June 3, 1851; d. Oct. 13, 1934) and Harriet Reynolds Krauth Spaeth (b. Sept. 21, 1845; d. May 5, 1925)
Music: Es Ist Ein Ros, from Alte Catholische Geistliche Kirchengesäng, 1599; harmonization in 1609, by Michael Praetorius (b. Feb. 15, 1571; d. Feb. 15, 1621)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Theodore Baker)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The earliest source of this early and unusual Christmas carol, with its tune that resembles a Renaissance madrigal, is a manuscript dating between 1582 and 1588. Some believe it is much older than that. The song had nearly two dozen verses originally. The original German version begins:

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, aus einer Wurzel zart,
Wie uns die Alten sungen, von Jesse kam die Art,
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

The carol uses the blooming of a rose to represent the coming of Christ. In the Song of Solomon 2:1, the king’s bride refers to herself as “the rose of Sharon.” Only there, and in Isaiah 35:7 is the flower spoken of. Neither is a reference to Christ, but the imagery is sometimes applied to Him. For centuries before the song appeared, the rose had been used as a symbol for Christ (and sometimes for Mary).

Though this hymn is of Roman Catholic origin, there is little in it to which Protestants will object. The possible exception is the third line of CH-2, “To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Saviour.” The initiative for the incarnation was, of course, not Mary’s but God’s (Matt. 1:20; Lk. 1:35; cf. Jn. 3:16). Mary’s most direct motivation was willing obedience to God (Lk. 1:38). Better to say, “God showed His love aright, when Mary bore the Saviour.”

The first line of CH-5, “O Saviour, Child of Mary,” is not meant to glorify her so much as it is to emphasize the humanity of Christ, contrasting His deity in line two, with “O Saviour, King of glory” (cf. CH-4, “True Man, yet Very God;” and see Ps. 24:9-10).

For the most part, the song is rooted in Scripture, and the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20. Through His human birth, Christ is connected to the family of King David, “a Rod from the stem of Jesse,” David’s father (Isa. 11:1; cf. Matt. 1:1).

CH-1) Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

CH-2) Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.

The hymn then reflects upon the joy of the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem, as they heard the angelic message that first Christmas night. “They came with haste” (Lk. 2:16) to see for themselves what the angels had announced.

CH-3) The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

There are a couple of things about roses that we all enjoy. First is the incredible beauty of the flower, and second the lovely fragrance they give off. The rose, therefore, is a fitting picture of the beauty of character revealed in our Saviour. And of the latter, the Bible says, “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2)

CH-4) This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendour the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

Christ is declared to be the one (and only) Mediator we need (I Tim. 2:5). In that He is God the Son, He can perfectly represent God and His purposes. In that He is also perfect Man, He fully understands the weakness of His creatures and our struggles (cf. Heb. 4:15-15), and by His saving work He can bring us safely to heaven in the end.

CH-5) O Saviour, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Saviour, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of heaven,
And to the endless day!

Questions:
1) What are some things about our Saviour to which this song calls our attention?

2) Is this a carol you would use in your church? (Why? Or why not?)

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 19, 2014

Only Believe

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Daniel Paul Rader (b. _____, 1878; d. July 19, 1938)
Music: Daniel Paul Rader

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This gospel song was first published in 1921. For another note on this remarkable servant of Christ, see the Wordwise Hymns note on Paul Rader.

One day Pastor Rader was walking across one of Chicago’s busiest streets, holding the hand of his four-year-old daughter. In the midst of the traffic he asked her, “Aren’t you afraid to cross the street, Harriet?” But she instantly replied, “No, not when you’re with me. Why should I be afraid?” It was that incident that led her father to write this song.

The key phrase in this lovely little hymn, “only believe,” comes from the words of the Lord Jesus to Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, whose daughter had just died. “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Lk. 8:50). And indeed she was (vs. 54-55). The opening line of the first stanza also comes from the words of Jesus.

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).

In the context, the Lord had been teaching His disciples about the problem of worry and anxiety (Lk. 12:22-31)–teaching that is also recorded in Matthew, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:25-34). The disciples were like a little flock of defenseless sheep who’d be sent out into a hostile world to serve the Lord. But they could (and we can) trust in the Lord’s provision and protection, and seek to live by the values and principles of His kingdom. Then comes the promise of vs. 32.

CH-1) Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.

Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe,
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

In a real sense, fear and faith are polar opposites. Fear often tends to smoother faith, while trust in the Lord quiets our fears. We know that. Yet (speaking for myself) fear sometimes seems to get me in its icy grip. It’s then I pray, with another man the Lord dealt with, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

One reason we, as His sheep, need not fear, is that He is our Shepherd. That’s an image the Bible uses many times, Old Testament and New. As David declares with confidence in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (vs. 1). The Bible in Basic English paraphrases the verse this way: “The Lord takes care of me as His sheep; I will not be without any good thing.”

In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus describes Himself, in a kind of parable, as “the good shepherd,” who knows His sheep (vs. 14), and willingly gives His life for them (vs. 11). “When he brings out his own sheep [i.e. to find pasture], he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (vs. 4).

In his second stanza Paul Rader combines this lovely picture with an allusion to an Old Testament incident (Exod. 15:22-27). After the Israelites are delivered from Egyptian bondage by the power of God, they find themselves in a hostile wilderness. There, the huge multitude has difficulty finding water, and what they do find is bitter and undrinkable. But the Lord miraculously sweetened the water for them. The hymn writer makes this a picture of the condemnation of sin that Jesus took willingly upon Himself (Matt. 26:39).

CH-2) Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

Finally, Pastor Rader draws another illustration from the time the resurrected Christ appeared in the upper room to His disciples, apparently passing into their presence even though the doors remained closed (Jn. 20:26). To the hymn writer it becomes an assurance that, no matter what situation we face, no barrier can keep the Lord from meeting us there (cf. Matt. 28:20).

CH-3) Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, “the doors being shut,”
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

Questions:
1) What is the most reassuring thing to you, knowing the Lord is your Shepherd?

2) What other shepherd hymns do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 17, 2014

All Will Be Well

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Mary Bowly Peters (b. _____, 1813; d. July 29, 1856)
Music: Ar Hyd Y Nos (Through the Night), a traditional Welsh melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The author married an English clergyman, and wrote fifty-eight hymns, as well as a massive work of history (in seven volumes) entitled, The World’s History from Creation to the Accession of Queen Victoria (i.e. 1837). Mrs. Peters published this hymn in 1847.

As to the Welsh melody, it has been found in print dating 1784, and it was used by John Gay in The Beggar’s Opera (1728). Hymnary.org has a hymn book using the tune for the hymn in 1880, so its connection with the hymn also goes back a long way.

It is most unfortunate that more hymnals haven’t carried this simply but effective hymn, and that it is less familiar than it should be.

The Bible uses the word “well,” occasionally in the sense of well-being and soundness of health, particularly in a spiritual sense. For example, “I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him” (Ecc. 8:12).

“Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you” (Jer. 7:23). “Jeremiah said, ‘…Please, obey the voice of the LORD which I speak to you. So it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live’” (Jer. 38:20).

In Third John 1:2, the English Standard Version renders the word “prosper” (in the NKJV) as “well.” “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

Wellness of soul and spirit for the Christian depend on a number of things that are alluded to in this lovely hymn.

CH-1. We are objects of the love of God our Saviour (Tit. 3:3-5), recipients of our heavenly Father’s tender care (CH-3). His favour is “free” (gracious) and changeless toward us who have experienced spiritual healing through faith in the shed blood of Christ (I Pet. 2:24). In grace we have been sealed by the Spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself becoming the God’s mark of ownership on us (Eph. 1:13-14). The hand of the Lord is mighty to defend us (Ps. 89:13).

CH-1) Through the love of God our Saviour,
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favour;
All, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us;
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched out to shield us;
All must be well.

CH-2. We certainly face various trials in this life. But, even in these things, “all will be well.” The Lord will either deliver us from them, or give us the grace to endure them and glorify Him in them. Christians have a salvation that is “full,” both in its depth and eternal effects. The Lord Jesus exhorts us to “abide” in Him (Jn. 15:4). (As this term is used in John’s Gospel, in means to maintain a vital fellowship with Him.) Abiding is the secret of fruit bearing (Jn. 15:5). Also, God invites us to pray for what we need to live for Him (Phil. 4:6; Heb. 4:15-16). Added to these things, believers have the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13-14; Rom. 8:14).

CH-2) Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation;
All, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding,
Fruitful, if in Christ abiding,
Holy through the Spirit’s guiding,
All must be well.

CH-3. The “bright tomorrow” for the Christian encompasses both time and eternity. Whether “in living or in dying, all must be well.” We have this confidence: “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Paul’s testimony is, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Through Christ, we have all we need to do either to the glory of God (Phil. 4:13, 19).

CH-3) We expect a bright tomorrow;
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
Or in living, or in dying,
All must be well.

Questions:
1) What is the most comforting or encouraging truth covered in this hymn?

2) If your church doesn’t know and use this hymn, is there a way you could introduce it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 15, 2014

Praise Ye the Triune God

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Elizabeth Rundle Charles (b. Jan. 2, 1828; d. Mar. 28, 1896)
Music: Flemming, by Friedrich Ferdinand Flemming (b. Feb. 28, 1778; d. May 27, 1813)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Friedrich Flemming)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This fine Trinitarian hymn was published in 1858. It is notable for the fact that, though the metre suits the tune, none of the lines rhyme in the common way. (In CH-1, lovingkindness, children, heavens, and Jehovah are nowhere close to doing so.)

There are many hymns that present the Trinity. The Cyber Hymnal lists fifty-five here. Among them are Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, and Reginal Heber’s Holy, Holy, Holy. But there are others that use the triune structure. For example: Come Thou Almighty King, William Whiting’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save, and Fanny Crosby’s Be Thou Exalted.

CH-1) Praise ye the Father for His lovingkindness;
Tenderly cares He for His erring children;
Praise Him, ye angels, praise Him in the heavens,
Praise ye Jehovah!

Though it never once uses the actual word “Trinity” (our technical short-form for this aspect of the nature of God), the Bible is loaded with Trinitarian truth. There is simply no legitimate way to deny either the deity of Christ (claiming that He is only a Man) or the personhood of the Holy Spirit (suggesting that He is an impersonal force, like the force of gravity or magnetism),

Each Person of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is seen to have the nature of deity, and is given honour as deity (Jn. 5:23; Acts 5:3-4). Further, there are references to the three Persons of the Godhead working together.

CH-2) Praise ye the Saviour–great is His compassion;
Graciously cares He for His chosen people;
Young men and maidens, older folks and children,
Praise ye the Saviour!

¤ At creation, we see God [the Father], the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:1-2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 148:5;), and the Son of God (Jn. 1:1, 3; Col. 1:16-19) at work. Even the words of the Lord, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26) suggest this cooperative work.

¤ At the baptism of Jesus, we see all three Persons involved (Matt. 3:16-17). The water baptism of believers is also to be performed in the authority of all three (Matt. 28:19).

¤ When the Lord Jesus teaches, in the upper room, about coming of the Spirit to begin His Church Age ministry, both the Father and the Son are said to send Him (Jn. 14:26; 15:26).

¤ All three are involved in Christ’s resurrection, the Father (I Cor. 6:14), the Lord Jesus (Jn. 2:19; 10:17-18), and the Holy Spirit (I Pet. 3:18).

¤ All three had a part in producing the Scriptures (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 6:17; Col. 3:16; II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; II Pet. 1:21).

¤ All three are involved in the coming of Christ, and the work of salvation (Gal. 4:4-6; cf. I Jn. 3:3, 6; I Jn. 4:14). We are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:2; cf. II Thess. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-6).

¤ All three are involved in giving spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:3-6), and gifted men to the church (Acts 13:2; 20:28; Eph. 4:11).

¤ Paul commends the Corinthian believers to the care of the triune God, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Cor. 13:14; cf. Jude 1:20-21).

¤ All three are involved when believers pray. “For through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 2:18).

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which the three Persons of the Godhead are active in our world and in our lives.

CH-3) Praise ye the Spirit, Comforter of Israel,
Sent of the Father and the Son to bless us;
Praise ye the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Praise ye the Triune God!

Questions:
1) Why is it important to believe and teach the doctrine of the Trinity?

2) What is the importance of the deity of Christ (that He is not simply a Man)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Friedrich Flemming)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 12, 2014

The Nail-scarred Hand

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Baylus Benjamin McKinney (b. July 22, 1886; d. Sept. 7, 1952)
Music: Baylus Benjamin McKinney

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Baylus McKinney)
Hymnary.org

Graphic Benjamin McKinneyNote: B. B. McKinney was an American singer, song writer, teacher, and music editor. Of his many compositions, he wrote the present gospel song in 1924. He was killed in his sixty-sixth year, in an automobile accident, when returning home from a Music Conference in North Carolina. In Gospel Song Writers Biography, published in 1971, he is described this way:

“The radiant and gentle life of B. B. McKinney exemplified his Christianity as he lived and walked among men. As one of our foremost and very meaningful song writers and singers, he was always so modest, never wanting any credit for his ability, but just ever trying to use the talent God had given him” (p. 50).

As to the origin of the present song, Mr. McKinney was teaching at Southwestern Seminary at the time, and came to Allen, Texas (fifty miles from Fort Worth) for a Sunday School Conference. In an evening session the speaker gave a strong evangelistic appeal, urging his listeners, “Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. B. B. McKinney says he was gripped by the words, and jotted them down.

He had planned to head back to Fort Worth after that evening session, but was prevented from doing so by a severe storm. He stayed overnight in a home, and the storm raged on, even endangering the little town. The musician wrote the song during the storm, and sang it at the conference the next day.

The hands of the Lord are mentioned quite a number of times. In a psalm of David’s that has a secondary application to Christ, we read, “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). Then, in the Gospels we read the Jesus using His hands to bless (Mk. 10:16) and to heal (Lk. 4:40).

When He was arrested, the Lord Jesus was cruelly struck by the hands of others (Jn. 19:3). And when Pilate, against his better judgment, condemned Him to be crucified, the weak Roman ruler washed his hands as a sign that he was no longer responsible for what was done to the Saviour (Matt. 27:24)–which, of course, he still was!

After Christ’s resurrection, His glorified body still bore the marks of the nails driven into His hands. He showed His hands to the disciples, as a means of confirming who He was (Lk. 24:39-40; Jn. 20:20). However, Thomas was absent during this initial meeting, and refused to believe that Christ had indeed risen from the dead.

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (Jn. 20:25-29).

It appears that the marks of His supreme sacrifice will still be evident in heaven. John, in a vision of the glories of that future days says, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6), clearly a reference to Christ, the Lamb of God.

The marks of Calvary that our living Saviour bears are, of course, an evidence that our debt of sin has been paid. But they are something else. They are an evidence of His compassion and sacrificial love for us. To place our hand in the hand of the Lord is to place the things that fret and trouble us there. It’s to trust His care and to appropriate His grace and mercy.

1) Have you failed in your plan of your storm-tossed life?
Place you hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Are you weary and worn from its toil and strife?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
He will keep to the end, He’s your dearest Friend,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

2) Are you walking alone through the shadows dim?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Christ will comfort your heart, put your trust in Him.
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

4) Is your soul burdened down with its load of sin?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Throw your heart open wide, let the Saviour in.
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

Questions:
1) Who is there in your circle (family, friend, acquaintance) who needs to place himself/herself in the hands of Christ today?

2) What do you think will be our response to viewing the hands of Christ in heaven?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 10, 2014

What Wondrous Love Is This

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Southern Folk Hymn (author unknown)
Music: (composer unknown)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Graphic Camp_meetingNote: This hymn is sometimes called a White Spiritual. It has its origins in the American South, in the revivalist camp meetings of the early nineteenth century (depicted in the drawing). Most agree the author is unknown, but The Hesperian Harp, printed in 1848, attributes the song to Alexander Means, a Methodist preacher in Oxford, Georgia.

As to the tune, it was printed in 1835, in The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, by William Walker (1809-1875). The modern arrangement was written by hymn historian William Reynolds (1920-2009).

The stirring hymn owes much to its hauntingly beautiful melody. Once heard, it’s hard to forget. Some have contended that it is a melody used in an old ballad about the pirate Captain Kidd. Others reject the idea, though as to the text, the structure is similar. William Kidd, a Scottish pirate, was hanged on May 23, 1701. The ballad about him says:

My name was William Kidd, as I sailed, as I sailed,
My name was William Kidd, when I sailed,
My name was William Kidd; God’s laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did, as I sailed.

The version of the present hymn given in the Cyber Hymnal is derived from the earliest form known, but as of this time, the actual third and fourth stanzas first printed in 1811 are missing. They are:

(3) Ye wingèd seraphs fly, bear the news, bear the news!
Ye wingèd seraphs fly bear the news!–
Ye wingèd seraphs fly, like comets through the sky,
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity with the news!

(4) Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, with hearts and voices sing,
And strike each tuneful string in His praise, in His praise!
And strike each tuneful string in His praise!

Then follow CH-3 and CH-4. But American Hymns Old and New, published by Columbia University Press in 1980, includes a final stanza I’ve not seen elsewhere. It says:

(7?) Yes, when to that bright world we arise, we arise,
Yes, when to that bright world we arise;
When to that world we go, free from all pain and woe,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on, and sing on,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on.

Taken together, those stanzas provide a simple (and biblical) expression of the Christian gospel. It was love that caused the Lord to come to this earth and bear sin’s punishment for us (Jn. 3:16; Gal. 2:20). For this we can and should praise Him now (cf. Exod. 15:2; Ps. 62:7; Hab. 3:18). And our song of praise will echo and re-echo down the endless ages of eternity (Rev. 5:8-14; 19:5).

CH-1) What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

CH-3) To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

CH-4) And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Questions:
1) What are some of the wonderful blessings that are a part of God’s salvation?

2) What, in your view, are the greatest hymns on the theme of salvation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 8, 2014

He Will Hide Me

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Mary Elizabeth Servoss (b. Aug. 22, 1849; d. _____, 1906)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James McGranahan born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This pretty hymn, with its lilting melody, was published in 1878. James McGanahan was a major figure in gospel music at the end of the nineteenth century, but of Mary Servoss we know only a little.

Mary Servoss was an admirer of Fanny Crosby, whose hymns inspired her to write her own. (Five of these are listed in the Cyber Hymnal.) There is also the touching note there that she seems to have been a lifelong care giver, first to her disabled grandmother, then nursing her mother through a lengthy illness, and finally caring for her father until he died.

Though this is sparse information, it is telling. That she should write about God’s unfailing care, with the burdens she herself carried, is significant. There is another of her hymns, called Jesus All the Way, that represents the same trusting heart. Think of what we know of Mary Servoss as you read the words. They have the ring of a personal testimony. Anyone who has been a long term care giver will understand. The song says in part:

‘Tis Jesus when the burdened heart
Is sinking ‘neath the load;
And Jesus when the trembling steps
Can hardly keep the road;
And Jesus when the sun of joy
Has set in sorrow’s night,
For He alone can soothe the pain,
Or guide the steps aright.

The present hymn (certainly the refrain) seems to have been drawn from the beginning of the ninety-first psalm, or possibly the words of Isaiah.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2).

“In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me….I have covered you with the shadow of My hand” (Isa. 49:2; 51:16).

The use of storm imagery, and the need for “a place of refuge” is also familiar from Scripture–and from many of our hymns. In the days before air travel, many journeyed by sea through sudden squalls and fearful tempests. Psalm 107 is graphic.

“They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.” (Ps. 107:26-30)

CH-1) When the storms of life are raging,
Tempests wild on sea and land,
I will seek a place of refuge,
In the shadow of God’s hand.

He will hide me, He will hide me,
Where no harm can e’er betide me;
He will hide me, safely hide me,
In the shadow of His hand.

In CH-2 there are two helpful insights about the trials Christians face. Sometimes–though definitely not in every case–we suffer as a consequence of personal sin. Sometimes it is a natural consequence of the person’s actions. Other times the Lord intervenes in another way to discipline His child. But Scripture is clear that this is done in love, for a good and constructive purpose (Heb. 12:5-11).

The other thought applies to any and all suffering. For the believer, “‘Twill but make me long for home.” “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (II Cor. 5:2).

CH-2) Though He may send some affliction,
’Twill but make me long for home;
For in love and not in anger,
All His chastenings will come.

Attacks of the devil are meant to harm and hinder, but God is able to turn them to our advantage and to His greater glory (CH-3). In the ultimate sense, because “Jesus for my soul is caring, / Naught can harm His Father’s child” (CH-4).

Questions:
1) How has a look at this hymn brought you comfort and encouragement?

2) Do you know of someone (perhaps a burdened care giver) whom you can encourage today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James McGranahan born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 5, 2014

Great Shepherd of Thy Chosen Flock

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807)
Music: Mainzer, by Joseph Mainzer (b. Oct. 21, 1801; d. Nov. 10, 1851)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The early history of John Newton as a profane slave trader, his conversion to Christ, and subsequent pastoral ministry are among the better known stories in our hymnody. That he is the author of many hymns, including the best known of all, Amazing Grace, is also familiar. But for some reason this lovely little 1779 hymn, only twelve lines long, is not well known and seldom published. Even Hymnary.org, that sometimes gives dozens of books where a hymn is found, this time has none. However it is found in Choice Hymns of the Faith (1946), and in The Believers Hymn Book, used for years by Brethren assemblies,

I  encourage you to retrieve and use Newton’s hymn. It is a gem, and deserves wide use–perhaps at the beginning of a prayer meeting, or a worship service. The song is in the public domain, so can be copied freely. The Cyber Hymnal will play the tune for you, and give you a printable copy of it. The words could be printed in the church bulletin.

CH-1) Great Shepherd of Thy chosen flock,
Thy people’s shield, their shadowing rock,
Once more we meet to hear Thy voice,
Once more before Thee to rejoice.

Shepherd imagery is used of the Lord in both the Old Testament and the New (cf. Ps. 23:1-2; Isa. 40:11; Jn. 10:11; I Pet. 2:25). The Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as “that great Shepherd of the sheep” in Hebrews 13:20, and we are His chosen ones, His flock (cf. I Pet. 5:2). We are”chosen by God and precious [to Him]” (I Pet. 2:4). Because of that, believers can be assured that our Shepherd will care for us in all circumstances.

The shield is suggestive of a battle. Many times in the Psalms, God is praised as the believer’s Shield (e.g. Ps. 3:3; 5:12; 18:2, 30; 28:7). Satan, the enemy of our souls, seeks to do us harm. To stand against “the wiles of the devil” we need “the whole armour of God” (Eph. 6:11), including “the shield of [the] faith” (vs. 16).

The “shadowing Rock” pictures a cool and refreshing place of shelter in a barren land. This poetic image was especially meaningful to those in Bible times who had to travel, often on foot, through areas of barren wilderness. Finding temporary shade beneath a great rocky prominence was a wonderful blessing. “Nor is there any rock like our God” (I Sam. 2:2). How wonderful that we can find refuge in the Lord. He is like “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa. 32:2).

We gather with God’s people to hear His voice, through the Scriptures (cf. II Cor. 1:19; Col. 1:28; II Tim. 4:2), and to rejoice in Him with prayers (cf. Rom. 15:30; I Cor. 14:15; I Tim. 2:1, 8) and songs of praise (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13).

CH-2) Now may Thy Spirit, by the Word,
Refresh each wearied heart, O Lord,
Wearied of earth’s vain strife and woe,
And longing more Thyself to know.

We sometimes grow weary on the journey of life, not just in body, but weary of heart and soul, weary of the conflict and sorrows around us. We can’t insist on quick answers to all our problems but, as we walk with the Lord, we come to realize that more lasting answers are found in a deepening relationship with Him, and we long to know more of Him, through His Spirit-inspired Word. As the psalmist puts it, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1).

CH-3) Thine is the heart our griefs to feel,
And Thine the love each wound to heal;
Home Thou art gone for us to care,
Returning soon to take us there.

Christ is our “great High Priest” in heaven, and He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. We can be assured of His touch of power, as we seek fresh mercy and grace from Him (Heb. 4:14-16). One of the things He is doing presently in heaven is preparing a place for His own, so we can dwell with Him eternally. One day soon He’s coming back to take us to our eternal home.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).

Questions:
1) What are some reasons hymns and gospel songs remain popular, though weak? And why do some great hymns fall by the wayside?

2) What does a congregation lose when leadership casts aside our treasury of great hymns and abandons the hymn book?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 3, 2014

Keep on Believing

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Lucy Booth-Hellberg (b. Apr. 28, 1868; d. July 18, 1953), and Mildred Duff (b. ____, 1862; d. Dec. 8, 1932)
Music: Lucy Booth-Hellberg

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Graphic Lucy Booth-HellbergNote: Years ago, I spotted this thoughtful gospel song in the Living Hymns hymnal. Editor Alfred Smith simply gave the author and composer as M.D. and L.M.B. respectively. For some time, I knew no more about the origin of the song. Gradually, I’ve picked up more information.

Smith edited the words and arranged the tune of the original. He changed a word in line three of the second stanza. Instead of “But in the hardness…” Smith has “But in the testings…” Better, I think, but less fortunate is his omission of a secondary chorus that goes with the second, third, and fourth stanzas. Rejoicing in the Lord is a great step of faith, and the original has:

Keep on rejoicing, Jesus is near,
Keep on rejoicing, there’s nothing to fear;
Keep on rejoicing, This is the way,
Songs in the night as well as the day.

Lucy Milward Booth (L.M.B.), pictured here, was the daughter of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. In her teens, Lucy developed some kind of serious lung infection. Those were the days before drugs to treat such things, and it was a great worry, especially to her mother. The doctor had been summoned to their home. It was an anxious time, but Lucy was determined to keep trusting in God.

While the doctor was speaking to her mother, Lucy went to the piano and apparently created the tune for this hymn. She also worked on the writing of the words. It was the first song she had ever written. Later, Commissioner Mildred Duff (M.D.) helped her with the rhyming of the words but, Lucy Booth says, “The thoughts contained in them was quite my own, and sprung from the incident [i.e. her illness].”

In October of 1894, Lucy married Salvation Army Colonel Emmanuel Daniel Hellberg. As was the custom of the Booth family in those days, they took a hyphenated last name, Booth-Hellberg. They went on to have five children. The Booth-Hellbergs were appointed to France and Switzerland, and ministered in India for a time. After the death of her husband in 1909, Lucy became the territorial commander for the Army, for Denmark, Norway, and South America.

In 1933, Lucy Booth-Hellberg was given the Salvation Army’s most prestigious award, the Order of the Founder, “for long and exceptional service under peculiarly difficult circumstances, together with her readiness at all times to answer to the call of duty.”

The song is honest about the struggles Christians go through in life. There’s nothing here that smacks of such false reassurance as, “Just trust in Jesus and all your troubles will be over.” When problems mount, our faith can sometimes waver. The feelings of the moment may cloud our spiritual sight. But even when we falter and feel we’ve lost our way, the Lord has not. The Bible says, “If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (I Jn. 3:20).

What are some certainties the believer can cling to in times of trial? One is that God answers prayer (Heb. 4:15-16), and we can trust Him either to deliver us from the trouble, or give us the grace needed to sustain us through it (II Cor. 12:9).

A second confidence we can have is that God will bring good from our difficulty in some way. The Lord is the supreme master of turning seeming disasters into blessing (Rom. 8:28). The cross of Christ is the perfect example of how God can turn a seeming tragedy into a triumph.

Third, we can be assured that no trial we face will last forever. There is no pain or death in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 21:4), and with the dawning of eternity we’ll also see our troubles in a clearer light (II Cor. 4:17), and praise the Lord for what He did through them.

Finally, we can keep on believing these things because God is God. “A God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deut 32:4; Jn. 17:17).

1) When you feel weakest, dangers surround,
Subtle temptations, troubles abound;
Nothing seems hopeful, nothing seems glad,
All is despairing, often-time sad.

Keep on believing, Jesus is near,
Keep on believing, there’s nothing to fear;
Keep on believing, this is the way,
Faith in the night, as well as the day.

4) Let us press on then; never despair,
Live above feeling, victory’s there;
Jesus can keep us so near to Him,
That nevermore shall our faith grow dim.

Questions:
1) Have you had the experience of deep discouragement and faltering faith? What did you do about it?

2) Check out the full hymn on Hymnary.org. What expressions in it are especially meaningful or helpful to you just now?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 1, 2014

“Are You Able?” Said the Master

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Earl Bowman Marlatt (b. May 24, 1892; d. June 13, 1976)
Music: Beacon Hill, by Harry Silverdale Mason (b. Oct. 17, 1891; d. Nov. 15, 1964)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Earl Marlatt joined the faculty of his alma mater, Boston University, in 1923. In 1926, a service of dedication was planned for the students of its School of Religious Education. Professor Marlatt had preached on Matthew 20:22 the Sunday before, and provided his hymn on the text, for the service a few days later. Printed in leaflet form, the six stanzas were simply entitled “Challenge.”

Harry Mason had been a graduate student at the school several years before. He had composed the tune Beacon Hill for a song he entered in a contest. The song didn’t win, but Marlatt remembered the melody, and used it for the new hymn. (Beacon Hill, in Boston, was at one time the location of the Boston University School of Theology.)

Earl Marlatt said that two experiences had inspired the writing of the hymn. One had been a series of lectures he had attended on the Gospel of John, in which the speaker, Marcus Buell, referred to the stirring question of the Lord in Matthew 20:22 (KJV), “Are ye able…?” The other, a couple of years later, was his attendance at the Passion Play at Oberammergau. He said:

“Somehow those two moments got together when I was asked to write a hymn of self-dedication for the School of Religious Education. The words came so spontaneously to the music of a tune Harry Mason had already written that the text seemed to write itself.”

The biblical incident, and the question on which the hymn is based is recorded by both Matthew and Mark.

“Then [Salome] the mother of Zebedee’s sons [James and John] came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.’” (Matt. 20:20-23; cf. Mk. 10:35-40)

The Lord Jesus had just described what awaited Him in Jerusalem–betrayal, scornful mockery, scourging, and crucifixion (vs. 18-19; cf. 26:39, 42). But, in their zeal, the brothers seem to be looking forward to the eternal glory to come, without considering the sacrifices they would have to make in the years ahead. They wanted the crown but had forgot the cross.

Would they be willing and able to face the kind of experiences that lay ahead for the Lord? The two hastily and naively say, “We are able.” But not long after, in Gethsemane, when Christ was betrayed and arrested, “All the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56).

The Lord declares that James and John will indeed follow Him on the path of suffering. The death of James is described in Acts 12:1-2. John may also have suffered a martyr’s death at the end of the first century. That is not certain, but we know that he suffered exile on the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). As to Salome’s request, Jesus simply tells her that those decisions will be made by His heavenly Father.

Dr. Marlatt’s hymn has been embraced and rejected a number of times over the years. There is definitely a problem with it. As I point out in the Wordwise Hymns link, Marlatt seems to have missed the irony in Jesus’ words. The thought behind the words seems to be, “You may think that you are able, but in yourselves, you are not.”

The proper answer to the Lord’s question is, “No. We are too weak. You must help us or we will miserably fail.” As Paul puts it, “Who is sufficient for these things?…Our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 2:16; 3:5). Christ says to us, “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Marlatt’s “sturdy dreamers” seem much too jolly and self-assured about what lies ahead.

If we are not daily conscious of our own weakness and fallibility, if we are not constantly appealing to the throne for “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), we are in grave danger of faltering, and of dishonouring the One we seek to serve. In my view, this hymn should not be used without careful teaching and explanation.

CH-1) “Are ye able,” said the Master,
“To be crucified with Me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“To the death we follow Thee.”

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.
  Remould them, make us, like Thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

CH-6) Are ye able? Still the Master
Whispers down eternity,
And heroic spirits answer,
Now as then in Galilee.

Questions:
1) Do you see the problem with this hymn? Is it enough, in your view, to refrain from using it?

2) Is there a place for self confidence, and a recognition of personal abilities, in the Christian life? (How would you keep that in balance with dependence on God?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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