Posted by: rcottrill | July 6, 2015

God Calling, Yet

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: Gerhard Tersteegen (b. Nov. 25, 1697; d. Apr. 3, 1769); English translation of the German by Sarah Borthwick Findlater (b. Nov. 26, 1823; d. Dec. 25, 1907).
Music: Federal Street, by Henry Kemble Oliver (b. Nov. 24, 1800; d. Aug. 12, 1885)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This lovely hymn was published in 1625. Though the Cyber Hymnal offers several possible tunes for it, I’m most familiar with Federal Street, which is also used with Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be? Translator, Sarah Findlater, was the sister of Jane Borthwick, another prominent translator of German hymns.

It often happens around the supper hour. The phone rings, and answering it brings the automated voice of “Amy” promising us a free cruise, or some other supposed bargain. In Canada, adding our phone number to the National Do Not Call List has certainly helped, but some annoying calls still slip through to interrupt our evening meals. I hang up within seconds.

But what of the call of God? Through His Word, the Bible, God has issued a number of urgent and important calls. Before we look together at the life of a remarkable man who answered God’s call, let’s take a moment to consider the nature of those divine calls.

There’s a call to accept God’s eternal salvation, through Christ. When we listen to the gospel preached, we are hearing it. As Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians, “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 2:14). We are “called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:9), and “called…out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). Christians are referred to as “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6).

As God’s called ones, believers are to live in a way that’s pleasing to Him. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (I Pet. 1:15). We are “to walk worthy of the calling with which [we] were called” (Eph. 4:1). The Christian life also involves a call to service. We are to be God’s instruments, summoning others to put their faith in Him. “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20).

Gerhard Tersteegen wrote a touching hymn about God’s call and his struggle with responding to it, more than two centuries ago. Translated into English, it says:

CH-1) God calling yet; shall I not hear?
Earth’s pleasures shall I still hold dear?
Shall life’s swift passing years all fly,
And still my soul in slumber lie?

CH-2) God calling yet; shall I not rise?
Can I His loving voice despise,
And basely His kind care repay?
He calls me still–can I delay?

Mr. Tersteegen had himself responded to that call. As a teen-ager, while walking through a forest alone, he was suddenly seized with intense pains. He believed he was going to die, and he cried out to God, asking that he be spared, promising to commit himself to the Lord. God answered his prayer and delivered him.

Gerhard’s father was dead and, when only fifteen years old, he had started a small business to support himself and his widowed mother. But when he saw how business duties interfered with his new commitment to Christ, he abandoned it, and found another that gave him more freedom to serve the Lord. Later, to give himself even more time for Christian service, he took on a partner and divided the responsibilities. Still later, to devote himself full-time to the work of the Lord, he gave up the business completely.

Christian friends supported his ministry, establishing a house called “The Pilgrims’ Cottage” as a retreat centre where he could assist others. It became a refuge for hundreds of poor and sick people. There they were given medicine, food and clothing. Tersteegen also traveled as an evangelist, carried on an enormous correspondence, and wrote over one hundred hymns. Biographers described him as “a gentle, heaven-inspired soul.” His influence spread through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and even on to America.

Gerhard Tersteegen witnesses to his answer to God’s call in the final stanzas of the present hymn. May that willing submission be so of each of us. May our response be, as Samuel’s was, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (I Sam. 3:9).

CH-5) God calling yet; and shall I give
No heed, but still in bondage live?
I wait, but He does not forsake;
He calls me still–my heart, awake!

CH-6) God calling yet; I cannot stay;
My heart I yield without delay;
Vain world, farewell! from thee I part;
The voice of God hath reached my heart.

Questions:
1) Where are you, in your own spiritual pilgrimage? Is there a call of God to which you need to respond?

2) If we are called of God to some kind of service, what can we be assured of as being provided by the Lord?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 3, 2015

Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love

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: Peter Philip Bilhorn (b. July 22, 1865; d. Dec. 13, 1936)
Music: Peter Philip Bilhorn

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Bilhorn wrote this song at the suggestion of hymn writer Daniel Whittle, who was traveling with him on the train. Early publications credited the words to P. H. Roblin. This was a pen name of Bilhorn’s, formed by rearranging the letters of P. Bilhorn. Irene Durfee was another pen name he sometimes used.

American evangelist and hymn writer Peter Philip Bilhorn had a remarkable and varied career in many respects. With his older brother, he established the Eureka Wagon and Carriage Works, in Chicago. He also had a marvelous singing voice and, in his early years, he entertained in the concert halls and beer gardens in the city. But when he came to Christ, he determined to use his gifts in the service of the Lord.

Bilhorn became a much traveled evangelist, also serving as a song leader in the early ministry of Billy Sunday. At the World’s Christian Endeavour Convention in London’s Crystal Palace, he conducted a choir of 4,000 voices. On the invitation of Queen Victoria, he sang several of his own songs in the chapel at Buckingham Palace.He wrote around two thousand gospel songs, and provided tunes for those written by others. Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love is one for which he provided both words and music.

Seeing the need for a small portable pump organ that could be used in street meetings and on the mission field, Peter Bilhorn designed and built one himself. The small but powerful instrument folded down into a unit about the size of a large suitcase. The Bilhorn Brothers Organ Company grew from this, and they sold a variety of models worldwide. The inventor turned all his profits from their sale back into the Lord’s work.

I’ve told the following story on the Wordwise Hymns link, but I’ll include it here, as an indicator of the nature of the man. Mr. Bilhorn was one of those servants of God that could minister in unusual ways. If others tried the same thing, it might seem forced, or obnoxious, but Peter was just being himself, and people accepted it.

One time, while conducting meetings in Wisconsin, the evangelist retired to his hotel room to sleep, but sleep would not come. Instead, he felt compelled to take his folding organ out into the bitter cold night. Walking down a street, he saw a gleam of light in a basement window. When he knocked, he was admitted to a room where a group of men were gambling. He set up his organ and began to sing Christian songs. As a result of this bold ministry, six men trusted in the Saviour that night.

When we hear the word “peace” today, it’s often in the context international affairs. When a conflict of nations develops, efforts are made to bring peace between warring factions. The Bible certainly talks about that kind of peace, but at the personal level God’s Word focuses on two other kinds.

First, there is the need for peace with God. Whether he knows it or not, the sinner is at enmity with His Creator, and separated from God by sin. But Christ “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). Through faith in Christ, Christians can say, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

CH-1) There comes to my heart one sweet strain,
A glad and a joyous refrain,
I sing it again and again,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

Peace, peace, sweet peace,
Wonderful gift from above,
Oh, wonderful, wonderful peace,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

CH-2) Through Christ on the cross peace was made,
My debt by His death was all paid,
No other foundation is laid.
For peace, the gift of God’s love.

Through Christ, we have peace with God. But “the gift of God’s love,” as Peter Bilhorn’s song describes it, is not only peace with God, but the peace of God in the heart. A settled confidence, as the believer trusts in the Lord day by day, in every circumstance. We are invited to commit those things that bring us anxious care to Him (Phil. 4:6) and, when we do, we’re assured that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (vs. 7).

CH-3) When Jesus as Lord I had crowned,
My heart with this peace did abound,
In Him the rich blessing I found,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

CH-4) In Jesus for peace I abide,
And as I keep close to His side,
There’s nothing but peace doth betide.
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

Questions:
1) What kinds of things can disturb the Christian’s inner peace?

2) What do you do to regain a sense of peace, when such things happen to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 1, 2015

Only One Life

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: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen (b. Oct. 11, 1895; d. Jan. 14, 1985)
Music: Merrill Everett Dunlop (b. May 9, 1905; d. June 15, 2002)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Avis Christiansen)
Hymnary.org

Note: Encouraged by her grandmother, Avis began writing poetry at ten years of age. In 1916 she started writing the texts for hymns, something she did in collaboration with many gospel composers, for decades afterward. This gospel song was published in 1937.

A cat has nine lives, so the old saying goes–though I’m not sure who first said that. It may have come down to us all the way from ancient Egypt, where the cat was especially revered. But why nine lives, in particular? Some have speculated that nine is a trinity of trinities (three times three) and thus is supposed to be a lucky number.

Or perhaps the idea may have originated simply from the cat’s great balance, agility, and reflexes, which enable it to survive falls and other dangers. But we all know the saying’s not literally true. Cats do get injured sometimes. And though they may live a surprisingly long time, they have only one life to live, and they all eventually die.

It’s the same for human beings. Some religious groups teach the possibility of reincarnation–a word derived from Latin and meaning, literally, “entering the flesh again.” The idea is that the soul or spirit, after death, begins life in a new body. It may be a human body, or an animal’s, depending, so it’s supposed, on whether the previous life was well lived or not.

But as sincerely as this notion may be clung to by some, it’s simply not true. Almighty God has given each of us but one life to live. After that, we have an appointment with our Maker. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). “For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (II Sam. 14:14).

“[Man’s] days are determined, the number of his months is with You [God]; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). “The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). Then, each of us must give an account to the Lord.“For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14).

One life, not two or twenty. If my mathematics are correct, a life of 70 years will contain 25,568 days, or 613,632 hours, or 36,817,920 minutes. When we’re young, that may seem to stretch out before us almost forever. But as the years mount up, the limitations of time begin to seem more serious. Another day gone, in a flash. Was it well spent?

C. T. Studd (1860-1931), a missionary to China, famously wrote:

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

There are so many things in which we might get involved, during the time allotted to us, so many goals that might be set. Some are worthy. Some are not. But it’s well for us to maintain an eternal perspective when we establish our values and priorities. What will truly “last.”

Studd’s telling Christian axiom seems to have become the inspiration for a gospel song, written around 1936, by Chicago resident Avis Christiansen. The song, entitled Only One Life, ponders the significance of the days and hours God has allotted each of us, and the importance of being good stewards of them.

When we trust Christ as Saviour, we become part of His forever family. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). It is then, in a loving response to what He has done for us, that we determine to serve Him. As the song says:

Only one life to offer–Jesus, my Lord and King;
Only one tongue to praise Thee and of Thy mercies sing;
Only one heart’s devotion–Saviour, O may it be
Consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.”

Part of living that life will involve reflecting the character of Christ, as the Spirit of God develops the fruit of the Spirit within us (Gal. 5:22-23).

It will also involve a life of witness and service, telling others the good news of forgiveness and eternal life found in Christ. Like Paul, can we say: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)?

On that theme, the song continues:

Only this hour is mine, Lord–may it be used for Thee;
May ev’ry passing moment count for eternity;
Souls all about are dying, dying in sin and shame;
Help me bring them the message of Calv’ry’s redemption
In Thy glorious name.”

Questions:
1) What is the most important decision you have made, or action you have taken, today?

2) What things do you plan to be involved in this week that have the prospect of bearing eternal fruit?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Avis Christiansen)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 29, 2015

Sunshine in My Soul

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: Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (b. June 28, 1851; d. Apr. 24, 1920)
Music: John Robson Sweney (b. Dec. 31, 1837; d. Apr. 10, 1899)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This hymn was written in 1887. The words are intimately connected to a personal experience of the author’s.

There’s a saying that behind the clouds, the sun is always shining. But that may not be much comfort to a life that is overcome with dark clouds of pain and trouble. Is it possible to avoid being overwhelmed by despair, when buried in a deluge of disaster? Possible to find sunshine in the storm? That is what this story is about.

The central character is Eliza Hewitt. Miss Hewitt lived her whole life in the city of Philadelphia, where she was a public school teacher, until something happened one dreadful day. She had attempted to correct a rebellious student, but when she turned away he struck her across the back with a heavy slate, severely injuring her spine.

Suddenly, her whole life changed. She never fully recovered from the damage done, was often bedridden for long periods, and had trouble getting around for the rest of her days. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, she was placed in a body cast for six long months. Her painful confinement could have been a breeding ground for depression and bitter cynicism, but it wasn’t.

She’d put her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He sustained her. The One whom the prophet Malachi calls “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2) had entered her life and brought the radiance of His love. Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (Jn. 12:46). Then, He bids believers to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

Light is used in Scripture as a symbol of truth and purity. It also depicts the abundant life the Lord can give to those who trust in Him. The Bible describes salvation this way:

“God who commanded light to shine out of darkness [at creation]…has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6).

“He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,” said the Lord Jesus (Jn. 8:12). After receiving God’s gift of eternal life, we are to “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

Eliza Hewitt did just that. She was the good friend of another prolific hymn writer, Fanny Crosby and, like her friend, she concentrated on that ministry. Though hindered from moving about, she began writing gospel songs, and eventually produced many hundreds of them. Some of these were written under the pen name Lidie H. Edmunds. Brightly joyous songs of faith and hope, they include: More About Jesus; My Faith Has Found a Resting Place; Since the Fullness of His Love Came In; Singing I Go; Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; and Stepping in the Light.

Six months after her back injury, the body cast was removed, and she was later able to take her first faltering steps outside. Eliza went for a short walk in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. She loved the beauty of nature, particularly flowers. What a delight to feel the breeze again, and the warm sunshine! Though brief, it was an energizing outing.

The experience inspired her to write a song she called Sunshine in My Soul. In it she applies the exhilaration of stepping out into the sunshine to the joy she found in fellowship with Christ.

CH-1) There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there’s sunshine, blessèd sunshine,
When the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

CH-2) There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus, listening, can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

After several years, her physical condition improved somewhat, and she served as a Sunday School Superintendent, for several decades, at the Northern Home for Friendless Children, and later at the Calvin Presbyterian Church. Miss Hewitt was also a regular contributor to Sunday School Helps.

CH-3) There is springtime in my soul today,
For, when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

CH-4) There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys “laid up” above.

Questions:
1) What experience have you had that at least is a small picture of the joy you experience in knowing and fellowshiping with Christ?

2) What reason(s) can you think of for great rejoicing in our fellowship with Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 26, 2015

Springs of Living Water

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 Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Note: John Peterson was a prolific and influential gospel song writer, during the latter half of the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first. He not only produced books of songs for church congregations, but choral works as well. The present song was published in 1950.

Conflicts in other parts of the world have driven multitudes from their homes into crowded and verminous refugee camps. We see these tragedies played out in the news. Makeshift shelters, overcrowded and unsanitary communities, filled with worried, fearful people. One of their greatest needs is a continuing supply of clean water.

We live on a watery planet. Nearly three-quarters of the earth is covered with it. Yet in a given location, drinkable water may be in short supply. Stagnant, stinking ponds there may be, brackish water, fetid swamps, foul pools polluted by human or animal waste, or poisoned by industrial chemicals, all will be consumed by human beings at great peril.

Fresh, clean water–the Bible has a term for it, used a number of times. It’s called “living water.” The phrase suggests both movement and superior quality. Living water comes from flowing streams and spring-fed pools (also called “running water,” Gen. 26:19). It is fresh and sparkling, refreshing and life sustaining. And since it is flowing, there is also the promise of continuance and abundance, providing all the water that anyone could need.

When the prophet Zechariah speaks of the second coming of Christ (Zech. 14:3-4), he describes a dramatic change in the topography of the land of Israel: “In that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur” (vs. 8).

Several times the Bible uses our phrase as poetic imagery. In the Song of Solomon, the bridegroom speaks of his beloved as “a well of living waters” (S.S. 4:15). And in Jeremiah the Lord uses the phrase of Himself, saying:

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

Many in Israel had turned away from the living Lord to go after false gods. They had forsaken the One who is the source of life, and embraced impotent, lifeless idols.

In the Gospel of John, the work of the Spirit of God in bringing new life and salvation to the soul is described to a Samaritan woman by the Lord Jesus:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water….The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:10, 14).

Later, the Lord declared: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And John comments, “This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (Jn. 7:38-39).

The Samaritan woman had had five husbands, and was now living with another man (Jn. 4:18). It’s clear there was no lasting satisfaction in these relationships. She was a thirsty soul, ready to listen to the message of the gospel. And here, indeed was One who seemed to know all about her. His prophetic insight suggested to her that here might be the long expected Messiah. She went with that message to others (vs. 29). They came to Jesus too, and many believed on Him (vs. 39, 42).

Published over sixty years ago, Peterson’s gospel song Springs of Living Water celebrates the revitalizing work of God in the soul. It echoes the words of Christ to the woman of Samaria, that He could give her “living water, and she would “never thirst.”The life-changing message of the gospel has had a similar affect many times, down through the years. Dry emptiness of soul has been transformed by living water. The hymn says:

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
And nothing satisfying there I found;
But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
Where springs of living water did abound.

In the words of Christ, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Those who put their faith in Him are reborn and renewed by the Spirit, who comes like refreshing waters to the soul.

Questions:
1) What are some things about pure, fresh water that parallel the spiritual life given by the Spirit of God to the seeking sinner?

2) Jeremiah speaks of “broken cisterns” (Jer. 2:13). They seem to hold water for awhile, but it soon seeps away. What are some things in which the world seeks, but fails to find, true and lasting satisfaction?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 24, 2015

Rest for the Weary

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: Samuel Young Harmer (b. Dec. 9, 1809; d. Apr. 26, 1884)
Music: John William Dadmun (b. Dec. 20, 1819; d. Aug. 6, 1890)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Hymnary.org lists William Hunter as a co-author of the words, but I could find no confirmation of that, in early copies of the song. Samuel Harmer was the son of a Quaker father and Presbyterian mother, and he later was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination. He wrote a number of gospel songs.

One thing that has often struck me about this song is that it seems to have two refrains. The last four lines of the eight-line refrain simply reuse the tune of the first four, and together it becomes a bit cumbersome. I think if I were using it I might try using the first half of the refrain with stanzas 1 and 3, and the second half with stanzas 2 and 4.

On a compilation of hymns on CD called Come Ye Faithful, there is a recording of this hymn sung by the great operatic baritone John Charles Thomas (1891-1960). I notice he does not use the full refrain each time, but does include both halves overall. Mr. Thomas’s father was a preacher, and he grew up loving the old hymns. He had a weekly radio program that featured them, and there are recordings available of some of these. A music critic declared that Thomas’s was one of the four greatest voices of the twentieth century. Agree or not, if you enjoy straightforward singing, with crisp diction, give him a try. Gospel singer George Beverly Shea knew him, and received some vocal coaching from him.

Football is a game with millions of fans. A close fought battle on the field can be exciting. But there’s quite a difference between being a player and a spectator. Some wit has described the game as “a bunch of people on the field needing rest, and a bunch in the stands needing exercise! A bit unfair to the fans, perhaps. We all can get weary in the duties of our day-to-day lives, and times of rest and recreation are essential to us.

That’s true in our service for Christ as well. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples one day, “‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.’ For [says Mark], there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31). Serving the Lord is not easy. No job is, of course, if we are determined to do it well. But there is a spiritual dimension to Christian service that adds to the burden.

We are dealing with the eternal destiny of others, while we struggle with our own weakness and waywardness. We have an enemy, Satan and his hosts, arrayed against us. Sometimes there’s opposition and even danger, from a world that does not know the Lord or love Him. The persecution suffered by Christians in the early church (cf. II Cor. 11:24-28) is repeated daily in many countries around the world today.

The servants of Christ need rest, and the Lord understands that. Sometimes, as described above, it involves a break from the duties we have assumed, and from dealing with people’s troubles. Other times, it is simply the rest of faith, trusting in Him to provide in the midst of our service. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). Even as we bear the yoke of service for Christ, we can experience His rest.

As well as that, there is an ultimate rest from earthly service yet to come, the heavenly rest of the saints. The Apostle John writes of it, “I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them’” (Rev. 14:13). Heaven will not be a rest from every kind of duty. Even there, “His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3; Gal. 6:9). But the frustrations, dangers, and painful trials of labour for the Lord in a fallen world will be forever behind us.

CH-1) In the Christian’s home in glory
There remains a land of rest;
There my Saviour’s gone before me,
To fulfill my soul’s request.

There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for you.
On the other side of Jordan,
In the sweet fields of Eden,
Where the tree of life is blooming,
There is rest for you.

In the Bible the Lord Jesus promises:

“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).

CH-2) He is fitting up my mansion,
Which eternally shall stand,
For my stay shall not be transient,
In that holy, happy land.

The book of Revelation declares that there, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

CH-3) Pain and sickness ne’er shall enter,
Grief nor woe my lot shall share;
But, in that celestial center,
I a crown of life shall wear.

CH-4) Death itself shall then be vanquished,
And his sting shall be withdrawn;
Shout for gladness, O ye ransomed!
Hail with joy the rising morn.

Questions:
1) What are your favourite hymns about heaven?

2) In this present life, how do you find a measure of spiritual rest?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 22, 2015

Our Best

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: Salathial Cleaver Kirk (b. circa 1847; d. circa 1917)
Music: Grant Colfax Tullar (b. Aug. 5, 1869; d. May 20, 1950)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Grant Tullar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This gospel song was published in 1912. It’s interesting that Kirk, who lived in the Philadelphia area, has remained so obscure. The Cyber Hymnal lists 75 of his songs, yet we know little about him. Only that he was one of a number of writers who sent poetry to Grant Tullar to be set to music. Interestingly, Mr. Kirk’s first name is actually found in the Bible (sometimes written as Shealtiel), and it means asked of God. The biblical Shealtiel is found in the earthly family line of Jesus (Matt. 1:12).

CH-1) Hear ye the Master’s call, “Give Me thy best!”
For, be it great or small, that is His test.
Do then the best you can, not for reward,
Not for the praise of men, but for the Lord.

Every work for Jesus will be blest,
But He asks from everyone his best.
Our talents may be few, these may be small,
But unto Him is due our best, our all.

We live in a competitive society. What is deemed to be “the best” is praised, and sought after. The best movie, the best football team, the best student, the best pizza. Top Ten lists abound, marking the biggest, the fastest, the most expensive, and so on.

So what’s the Bible’s best? It comes not from us, but from the Lord. There we discover God and His saving work, worthy of many superlatives. A well known verse declares, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). That speaks of the best love of all, described this way in the expanded version of the Amplified Bible: “God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world.”

That is God’s best for us. As to this song’s use of the word “best,” I find myself of two minds. On the one hand, God’s gift of His best surely calls for our best in return. Not to earn our salvation, but in response to what God has done with “so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3). But when we try to line up Kirk’s thoughts with the Word of God, there is little that fits. In Psalms, the word starkly describes how very weak and limited we are. “Certainly every man at his best state is but vapour. Selah [Think of that!]” (Ps. 39:5).

The word “best” is actually used in the NKJV 41 times. But by far the most of those refer to those who are selfish and self-serving, keeping the best for themselves. Several times the Lord condemns the Jewish leaders for seeking the “best seats” at feasts, or in the synagogue (cf. Matt. 23:6; Lk. 11:43).

Where it is used in a way that perhaps is similar to what we find in the song is in the Lord’s instruction that the Israelites present the very best as an offering (Num. 18:12, 19; Ezek. 44:30). But again, these animals pictured Christ, not us. And they are external things that can be evaluated by a generally recognized standard. The best sheep, or the best wheat, after all, is something quite different from the best of my devotion, or the best of my mental powers. Who can objectively evaluate that? Not me.

And surely we must reject the claim in the final stanza that the blessed rest of heaven will be granted to “those who do their best.” Where is the Bible verse in which God “promises” this? Kirk seems to come close to offering a salvation by works–which would be heresy! Maybe a last line that said, “After we’ve given Him our very best” would be an improvement.

CH-3) Night soon comes on apace, day hastens by;
Workman and work must face testing on high.
Oh, may we in that day find rest, sweet rest,
Which God has promised those who do their best.

My place in the eternal kingdom is secure because heaven’s Best came to this earth to die for my sins (Jn. 3:16). On that I rest my eternal future. The prodigal son had not done his “best” to earn his father’s favour. It’s by his love and grace toward his son that the father (a picture, surely, of God the Father) called, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him” (Lk. 15:22).

As to Christian service, it’s perhaps a little easier to think of giving our all, rather than trying to evaluate whether it’s “best” or not. By God’s grace, and in grateful response to what He has done for us, we are to offer to Him all that we are and have (Rom. 12:1). Leave it to the Lord to evaluate its quality. Of the widow who put two small coins in the temple treasury (Mk. 12:42), Jesus said, “They all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (vs. 44). Of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly oil (Mk. 14:3), He said, “She has done what she could” (vs. 8). That is a clearer measure in my view.

Questions:
1) What is your own evaluation of this hymn? Is it one you would use?

2) By what standard do you evaluate your own Christian service?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Grant Tullar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 19, 2015

Only Trust Him

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 Hart Stockton (b. Apr. 19, 1813; d. Mar. 25, 1877)
Music: Stockton, by John Hart Stockton; refrain by Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: John Hart Stockton was a clergyman serving in New Jersey. The original refrain of this 1874 song of invitation was apparently:

Come to Jesus, come to Jesus,
Come to Jesus now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

There is also a fifth stanza that appears in early publications. Though it expresses a personal reception of the gospel, it has been dropped in modern hymn books.

CH-5) O Jesus, blessèd Jesus, dear,
I’m coming now to Thee;
Since Thou hast made the way so clear
And full salvation free.

It was Moody’s director of music who made the change in the refrain to what we have now. His version makes the only thing needed for salvation plain–faith in Christ. When using the hymn in London, Sankey asked those present to sing the refrain as, “I will trust Him.” He learned later that, for eight people that night, that expressed their new faith in the Saviour.

CH-1) Come, every soul by sin oppressed;
There’s mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His Word.

Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

The other day I was having persistent trouble with a computer program, and went hunting for a solution. I found it, but the dozen or so steps listed were so complicated and technical that I threw up my hands in despair. The procedure seemed so impossible for me. But then I discovered a wonderful alternative. I could call a number, and simply ask a technician to do it all for me!

He was at a computer in Ottawa, and I was in Saskatchewan, but the miles between made no difference at all. As he began to work on the unit, the steps were completed, one by one. In about ten minutes the problem was solved, and he wished me good evening. Inviting him to deal with the problem was the only thing I had to do.

That provides a weak illustration of how we are to appropriate the Christian gospel. How can we have our sins forgiven and be assured of a home in the heavenly kingdom? In the words of a man from long ago, in the city of Philippi: “What must I do to be saved [i.e. in order to receive God’s eternal salvation]?” (Acts 16:30). That question has been answered in different ways–not all of them helpful.

Some suggest that the sinner must join the right church, if he is to have a hope of heaven. Others see it as a matter of accomplishing sufficient good works so that, when the good and bad are weighed by a heavenly Assessor, the good will tip the scales in the right direction. But neither of these answers gives much assurance.

Since none of our modern church denominations is named in the Bible, how can I know which is the right one to join? Or if good works will do it, how will I know when I’ve done enough? And what if I’m on my deathbed, and have no opportunity to change my behaviour?

The problem with these and other unbiblical answers to the question asked in Acts is that they have things in the wrong order. A proverbial expression, common five centuries ago, says it: We must not get the cart before the horse. Joining a church and associating with other Christians is a good thing to do (Heb. 10:23-25), as is doing good works (Gal. 6:10). But these things come after salvation. They are a worthy outcome, but not the means of salvation.

The answer give to the Philippian man zeroed in on the one requirement, the only thing he needed to do: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The Lord Himself gave a similar response when He was asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” He replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent [on Me, in other words]” (Jn. 6:28-29). Then come the other things: “Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8).

CH-2) For Jesus shed His precious blood
Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood
That washes white as snow.

CH-3) Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way,
That leads you into rest;
Believe in Him without delay
And you are fully blessed.

Questions:
1) Why is faith in Christ the only way of salvation? Why can’t our good works help?

2) What is your answer to the comment that this is “easy believism”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 17, 2015

No, Not Despairingly

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. Let me know if you have another idea that can be added to the list.

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Kedron, by Ann Baird Spratt (b. ___, 1829; d. ?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Horatius Bonar was an influential Scottish pastor and hymn writer. With more than six hundred hymns to his credit, he eventually became known as “the prince of Scottish hymn writers.” Ann Spratt was a contemporary of Bonar’s, and was thirty-seven when the present hymn was published. Nothing more is known of her.

As I write this, the disgraceful antics of the mayor of a certain city to the east have been in the news. For many, at home and abroad, it’s been entertaining, in a bizarre way. For others it’s been an outrage and a painful embarrassment.

It’s not only the drunken binges, the temper tantrums, and streams of profanity. There’s something more. He’s lied repeatedly, until the evidence has backed him into a corner. Then, he’s confessed that, yes, it’s true, but… First, he tried to blame the reporters. “You didn’t ask your question in the right way.” Then, it was a litany of other excuses. “I’m not perfect. I’m only human, I make mistakes. You do the same things.” Or, “It was the drink talking.” Or, “It’s my disease.”

It got me thinking: when is a confession of wrongdoing not a confession? When is it simply a thinly veiled self-justification? Or, in that man’s case, a piece of clever politicking, designed to win sympathy, and more votes. This is an important matter, because it applies to our own relationships with others, and with God.

Consider some weak or inadequate ways to deal with wrong. There can be the insincerity of false tears and feigned regret. Pharaoh was guilty of that (Exod. 9:27, 34-35). Or perhaps there’s genuine regret over being caught, or about the consequences, but not regarding the act itself. That was Cain (Gen. 4:13). There can also be an attempt to put the blame elsewhere: “I was foolish, but it was the booze’s fault.” Or, “I was wrong, but you were too.” Adam and Eve did that (Gen. 3:12-13).

There’s also the weak “If I was wrong, I apologize.” Come on, now, you know whether you were in the wrong or not. Drop the “if.” Come right out with it: “I was wrong when I did such-and-such.” And often, rather than rehearsing the details of some disgraceful conduct, it’s better to focus on the root problem. Is it something like greed, or lust, or pride? Is it a lack of love and kindness? Then, that is how we have not only wronged that other person, but we’ve sinned against the Lord.

The Bible says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance” (II Cor. 7:10). That is, the kind of regret that pleases God is heart-deep, and produces sincere confession and an appropriate change of conduct. King David repented like that. The Bible describes how he stole another man’s wife, then had the husband killed so he could legally marry the widow. His great sin bothered him for months, until he finally acknowledged it to God, and cast himself upon God’s mercy and grace (Ps. 32:3-5; Ps. 51:1-4, 10, 12).

Several of Bonar’s hymns remain in our hymnals, almost two centuries later. But this one–that he called “Confession and Peace”–is not commonly used today. Maybe because of its emotional power concerning a subject we’d rather not talk about or even face. Sin. The hymn says:

CH-1) No, not despairingly come I to Thee;
No, not distrustingly bend I the knee:
Sin hath gone over me, yet is this still my plea,
Jesus hath died.

CH-2) Ah! mine iniquity crimson hath been,
Infinite, infinite–sin upon sin:
Sin of not loving Thee, sin of not trusting Thee–
Infinite sin.

Then, Dr. Bonar claims God’s promise to believers that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

CH-3) Lord, I confess to Thee sadly my sin;
All I am tell with Thee, all I have been:
Purge Thou my sin away, wash Thou my soul this day;
Lord, make me clean.

CH-4) Faithful and just art Thou, forgiving all;
Loving and kind art Thou when poor ones call:
Lord, let the cleansing blood, blood of the Lamb of God,
Pass o’er my soul.

Finally, there is the peace and restored fellowship with the Lord that comes when we deal with sin in our lives.

CH-5) Then all is peace and light this soul within;
Thus shall I walk with Thee, the loved Unseen;
Leaning on Thee, my God, guided along the road,
Nothing between.

Questions:
1) What are some of the practical consequences of sin, clung to and unconfessed, in the believer’s life?

2) What are the contrasting results when sin is dealt with sincerely before God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 15, 2015

My Soul, Be on Thy Guard

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: George Heath (b. Dec. 3, 1745; d. Feb. 23, 1822)
Music: Laban, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11:1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Little is known of George Heath, and what is know is uncertain. In English Hymns: Their Authors and History (1886), Samuel Duffield describes him as “long untraced and unknown.” Regarding the date of his birth, Dick Adams writes in the Cyber Hymnal, “The majority of evidence shows Heath was born December 3, 1745,” though hymn historian Robert McCutchan says he was born in 1750. The Cyber Hymnal gives the date of his death as February 23. In the Wordwise Hymns link, I have his death the day before.

His theological position is as uncertain as the rest. He seems to have begun as an Independent clergyman. He then became the pastor of a Presbyterian church in 1770, only to be dismissed “for cause.” He then joined the Unitarians (who deny the deity of Christ). Perhaps he had some Unitarian leanings from the beginning that made his ministry incompatible with the Presbyterians.

Duffield, however, offers a gracious possibility. Since this, the only hymn we have of his in current use, was published in 1781, the author suggests that perhaps “this was one of the fruits of true penitence,” showing that he began to think more biblically on some major issues. Heath called his hymn simply “Steadfastness.”

In fencing, “En garde” is a warning to protect oneself. It means, take a defensive position, be prepared for the attack of your opponent. A similar readiness is a valuable asset for all of life. For over a century the Scout Motto has been, “Be prepared.” Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), the founder of the movement, explained that this meant: “You are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” That is an excellent principle to live by.

Do you remember the little poem about the disaster that can occur when even minor details are neglected.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

During World War II, those lines were framed and hung on the wall of the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London

Being prepared is an asset in the spiritual realm as well. The prophet Amos delivers the stark warning, “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12). Do those things before the day of accounting comes that will enable you to face the day of judgment with confidence. In sad contrast, we read of King Rehoboam that “he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (II Chron. 12:14).

This implies that there is a window of opportunity for us to deal with our relationship with God. God’s grace and mercy are boundless, but not endless in the face of rejection. He will not leave the door open indefinitely. We are to “seek the LORD while He may be found, [and] call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).

The matter of such preparedness is logically connected many times with the return of Christ. The Lord Jesus warned, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect….”Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt. 24:44; 25:13).

Meanwhile, the Bible exhorts that spiritual preparation be made to ward off the devil’s malicious attacks. Satan and his demonic minions are constantly at work against the people and purposes of God. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Therefore, we are to “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11; cf. vs. 14-17).

CH-1) My soul, be on thy guard;
Ten thousand foes arise;
The hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.

CH-2) O watch, and fight, and pray;
The battle ne’er give o’er;
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore.

It is a cautionary word, a challenge to spiritual watchfulness and steadfastness that all of us would do well to heed. The words of the Lord Jesus come to mind: “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mk. 13:37). Be prepared!

CH-3) Ne’er think the victory won,
Nor lay thine armour down;
The work of faith will not be done,
Till thou obtain the crown.

CH-4) Fight on, my soul, till death
Shall bring thee to thy God;
He’ll take thee, at thy parting breath,
To His divine abode.

Questions:
1) Is the tone of this hymn encouraging or overly negative in your view?

2) Depending on the view you take, what truths would you clarify, or give more emphasis than the hymn does?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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