Posted by: rcottrill | April 24, 2015

Where the Gates Swing Outward Never

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: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Charles Gabriel was one of the best known and most prolific writers of sacred song of the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the beginning of the twentieth. Around 1917, he faced a difficult and painful parting. His son had been called up to serve in the First World War, and the day of his embarkment for France was at hand. Perhaps dad would never see his son again.

They stood together at the waiting area in New York harbour, saying their last goodbyes. Young Charlie gave his father a hug, and the gates swung open so the soldiers could get on board ship. Then the son was struck by a sudden thought. “Dad,” he said, “if I never see you again here, I’ll meet you where the gates never swing outward.”

It was a way of saying that the blessings of heaven will never end. And on the train back to Chicago the hymn writer turned it into a song. A song that speaks of the brief time between now and eternity.

CH-1) Just a few more days to be filled with praise,
And to tell the old, old story;
Then, when twilight falls, and my Saviour calls,
I shall go to Him in glory.

I’ll exchange my cross for a starry crown,
Where the gates swing outward never;
At His feet I’ll lay every burden down,
And with Jesus reign forever.

CH-2) Just a few more years with their toil and tears,
And the journey will be ended;
Then I’ll be with Him, where the tide of time
With eternity is blended.

We expect time to pass in a steady and consistent way. Seconds, minutes, hours, and so on, click by at a dependable pace. However, our means of measuring time is not always so reliable.

For the ancients, time was estimated by the position of the sun. Then, mechanical devices provided more exactitude–though early clocks had to be adjusted frequently. Battery-powered time pieces are more accurate. And most precise of all are the atomic clocks used today. An atomic clock can be expected to be no more than a second off after twenty million years!

All of this being said of scientific advancement, it remains true that our experience of time is another matter. Sitting in a classroom, a student may feel that a boring lecture has gone on for hours. But when an appointment is made for root canal work at some time in the future, the time between seems to fly by in a blur. The day comes all too quickly.

Our Creator invented time and space as a framework within which His creatures would live. But the Bible says He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15). He exists outside of time. It’s not surprising then that the Lord does not think of the experience of time as we do. The Bible tries to convey this by saying that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (II Pet. 3:8). “A thousand years in [His] sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4).

For ourselves, times of suffering we experience can seem drawn out, and even feel as though they may never end. But the Bible assures us that, in relative terms, and in contrast to eternity up ahead, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment [by comparison], is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).

The return of Christ is another of these matters of time in which our perceptions are not necessarily in keeping with reality. When He was on earth, the Lord Jesus promised that He would come back and conduct His children to heavenly dwelling places that He would prepare for us (Jn. 14:2-3). He even said He was coming “quickly” (Rev. 22:12, 20). Yet nearly two thousand years have passed since then. That doesn’t seem “quick” to our finite and often distorted experience of time! But in God’s sight it is.

CH-4) What a joy ’twill be when I wake to see
Him for whom my heart is burning!
Nevermore to sigh, nevermore to die,
For that day my heart is yearning.

Questions:
1) What does the Lord expect of us, as we wait for His return?

2) Other than meeting the Lord Jesus, who are you looking forward to greeting in heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 22, 2015

The Voice That Breathed O’er Eden

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 Keble (b. Apr. 25, 1792; d. Mar. 29, 1866)
Music: Matrimony, by John Stainer (b. June 6, 1840; d. Mar. 31, 1901)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (John Keble)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This wedding hymn was written in 1857, by request, for the Salisbury Hymn Book. The Wordwise Hymns link provides some biographical information on Keble, and a note on his more familiar hymn, Sun of My Soul.

The Cyber Hymnal gives the interesting historical note that this hymn was used at the wedding of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books. The Cyber Hymnal offers several possible tunes for the song.

The opening line in CH-2, in Keble’s original was “Be present awful Father…” Perfectly fine if one understands the word to mean One who fills us with awe. But modern readers have so altered or misused the term that hymn editors substitute “heav’nly.”

CH-1) The voice that breathed o’er Eden, that earliest wedding day,
The primal wedding blessing, it hath not passed away.
Still in the pure espousal of Christian man and maid
The Holy Three are with us, the threefold grace is said.

CH-2) Be present, heav’nly Father, to give away this bride
As Thou gav’st Eve to Adam, a helpmate at his side.
Be present, Son of Mary, to join their loving hands
As Thou didst bind two natures in Thine eternal bands.

Perhaps there’s a wedding in your past. If so, it may have taken place quite recently. Or, like mine, it may be an event that occurred many years ago. In any case, memories linger, of a sacred time when vows were made, and of a time of romance and of hope, blended with fits of nervousness, and also moments of hilarity and fun.

It’s sobering to consider that this uniting of husband and wife has been taking place for thousands of years. Though precise traditions may differ, millions of wedding ceremonies have taken place down through history, all over the world.

Who officiated at the very first wedding? God did. The Lord realized that man (Adam) needed a companion. One like him in some ways, yet also compatible and complementary to him (Gen. 2:18, 20). So, from a part of Adam’s own body, God formed a woman (Eve), “a helper comparable [suited] to him” (vs. 20). Then we read, “He brought her to the man” (vs. 22).

In a real sense, that was the first marriage. And the Word of God declares that, in such future unions, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (vs. 24). In this union there is both a leaving and a “cleaving” (the latter word is used by the King James Version of 1611). There’s a departure from the former family unit to begin a whole new family unit.

The Hebrew word for “cleave” (be joined or united) is dabaq. It indicates a bonding that is so powerful it cannot be broken apart without serious damage to both parts–like two pieces of wood fastened together with some kind of super glue. In the book of Job, the word is used to describe the scales of a sea monster called Leviathan. His scales “are joined [dabaq] one to another, they stick together and cannot be parted” (Job 41:17).

In the Bible, the marriage union of a man and a woman is presented as a permanent relationship–in the words of the traditional ceremony, “as long as they both shall live” (cf. Mk. 19:8-9). Death certainly breaks the bond, and sadly, so does divorce. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16); it’s not His ideal. Yet, through marital unfaithfulness, spousal abuse, or desertion, it is sometimes considered to be the best of two painful options.

Divorce is hurtful because it is destructive of the family unit, tearing apart that which God has joined together. The Bible accommodates these destructive effects of sin, in allowing for a marriage break-up in certain cases (cf. Matt. 19:7-9; I Cor. 7:12, 15). Even so, the couple should make every attempt to restore a loving relationship and a happy home.

John Keble, though a brilliant scholar, and an Oxford professor, was a humble and unassuming man. Keble authored several hymns that are still in use. But in 1857 he created this beautiful Trinitarian wedding hymn that is virtually unknown today. In it he unites past, present, and future, summoning the three Persons of the Trinity to bless a marriage.

The hymn carries us from the past, in Eden, through a current marriage ceremony, and on into eternity, referring to the time when Christ, the Lamb of God and the heavenly Bridegroom, will be united with His Bride, the church, in heaven, an event called “the Marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9; cf. II Cor. 11:2).

CH-3) Be present, Holy Spirit, to bless them as they kneel,
As Thou for Christ, the Bridegroom, the heav’nly Spouse dost seal.
O spread Thy pure wing o’er them, let no ill power find place
When onward to Thine altar their hallowed path they trace.

CH-4) To cast their crowns before Thee in perfect sacrifice,
Till to the home of gladness with Christ’s own Bride they rise.
To Father, Son, and Spirit, eternal One and Three,
And was and is forever, all praise and glory be.

Questions:
1) What are several factors that should be considered as foundational to a successful marriage?

2) Are there other hymns that you feel are appropriate to a wedding service?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Keble)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 20, 2015

Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

[Apr. 20]
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

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: Johann Rist (b. Mar. 8, 1607; d. Aug. 31, 1667); translated by John Troutbeck (b. Nov. 12, 1832; d. Oct. 11:1899)
Music: Ermuntre Dich, by Johann Schop (b. circa 1590; d. _____, 1664); harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750)

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

Note: Rist wrote a nine-stanza hymn in German which he called (in English translation) “Bestir Thyself, My Feeble Soul.” The first of these nine was translated by Troutbeck around 1885. A second was added by Arthur Tozer Russell (1806-1874). English pastor, Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), wrote an entirely new version for the United Methodist Hymnal. The version used here is the two stanzas of Troutbeck and Russell.

Bach arranged Schop’s tune and used it in his choral setting of the hymn in the second part of his Christmas Oratorio (1737).

Isaiah declares, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1). The hymn is based on–or inspired by–another text from Isaiah.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined…..For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:2, 6-7).

The Bible often speaks of the glory of God. Frequently that “glory” was a visible light that represented both the presence of God, and His majesty and splendour. When Jehovah God appeared on Mount Sinai to give the Law to Moses, we read, “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exod. 24:17). A “consuming,” devouring fire that filled the people with fear. When the glory filled the tabernacle of worship, and later the temple in Jerusalem, we read that no one dared to enter for fear of it.

The brilliance of it also seemed to have a dangerous aura almost like atomic radiation. The brightness of that light blinded Paul when he met the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:10-11). Yet it is a glory shared by the angels of heaven, and a glory that will one day be revealed in the saints. And it is important to note that the visible display is only representative of something far richer. It stands for all God is, in the majesty of His Person, and for the beauty of His holy character–that is also to be reflected in us (Col. 1:27; 3:4).

The glory light of God was seen by the shepherds of Bethlehem. When an angel appeared to announce the birth of Christ, we read, “The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Lk. 2:9). An understandable reaction! Yet they were encouraged by the angel that his presence was wholly benevolent, that he came with “good tidings of great joy” (vs. 10). God’s Deliverer had come, the Saviour who would, in the words of Genesis, crush the serpent’s (Satan’s) head (Gen. 3:15).

In 1641 the present carol was published describing this angelic encounter and its meaning. The author, Johann Rist, was the son of a pastor, who became a teacher and hymn writer. He was highly honoured by the German government. In 1653 the emperor Ferdinand II made him a member of the nobility. His hymn–one of many he wrote–speaks of the heavenly light described above that appeared to the shepherds.

Though the context is different, the author hymn seems to echo the promise of God to Israel that if they would turn back to Him and repent a new and glorious day would dawn for them (Isa. 58:8). Rist made it analogous to the new day dawning for needy sinners

CH-1) Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

2) Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
To herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth–the God of might,
Our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
Our God with us, Immanuel;
The night of darkness ending,
Our fallen race befriending.

Questions:
1) What is it about the character of the Lord that is particularly “glorious” to you?

2) What, to you, are the most meaningful and inspiring Christmas hymns?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 17, 2015

How Big Is 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: Carl Stuart Hamblen (b. Oct. 20, 1908; d. Mar. 8, 1989)
Music: Carl Stuart Hamblen

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Stuart Hamblen born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Stuart Hamblen)
Hymnary.org

Note: Hamblen acted in cowboy movies with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and was a friend of actor John Wayne. He was a singing cowboy on the radio, with considerable popularity, especially on the west coast of America. But one important thing was missing in his life.

A thousand years before the time of Christ, a hulking Philistine warrior named Goliath seemed big enough to beat anyone. When the two armies were arrayed against each other, Goliath boldly issued a challenge to Israel. He called for them to select a man to fight him. “If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (I Sam. 17:9).

But we read that all the army of Israel was “dismayed and greatly afraid” (vs. 11). Even King Saul was terrified, though the Bible says was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the nation (I Sam. 9:2). It took a young shepherd boy named David to face the challenge. We learn that he was an expert with a slingshot. But even that might not have been enough against an experienced warrior who towered about a metre above him.

The confidence of the boy was not simply in his own skill. Since Israel was the chosen people of God, he realized the reputation of the Lord was at stake. When he stood before the giant, he declared that it was his intention to kill him. “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (I Sam. 17:47). God was clearly bigger than Goliath!

The word “big” is used in our English Bibles (NKJV) in only one application: strangely, it’s to describe the “big toe” of the high priest (Lev. 8:23). Rather, it is the word “great” that is found, dozens of times in reference to the Lord God.

He has great power–on earth and in the heavens (Exod. 32:11; Jer. 32:17); great mercy and kindness (II Chron. 1:8; Ps. 117:2); great honour, majesty, and glory (Ps. 104:1; Ps. 138:5). He is a great King (Ps. 47:2), and is often described as “great and awesome” (Deut. 7:21). He is so great in these and other ways that His greatness is described as “unsearchable,” or immeasurable (Ps. 145:3). Such an infinitely great God should inspire in us great fear and reverence (Ps. 89:7), and great praise (Ps. 48:1).

Whether or not young David was big enough to slay Goliath became irrelevant. God was! The power of Almighty God was arrayed against puny, insignificant human strength that day, and the outcome was inevitable. And the Lord can do far more than that. He can cleanse a sinner’s heart, and transform his life by the power of His Holy Spirit. “Though your sins are like scarlet,” God says, “they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18).

That happened to a wild rebel cowboy, a Country-western singer song-writer named Stuart Hamblen. His father was a preacher, so we know he’d had an early Christian influence, but he turned his back on it. He became a hard-drinking, foul talking reprobate. But his wife Suzie was a believer, and when evangelist Billy Graham was planning a series of meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, Suzie was heavily involved in the organizing.

Stuart’s wife encouraged him to attend. He did, and the message of the gospel stirred his heart. Back home, he found he was unable to sleep, thinking about his sinful life, and where he was heading in the end. About four in the morning, he called the hotel where the Graham team was staying, and asked to see Dr. Graham. He arrived at the hotel an hour later, and there he made a decision to trust Christ as his Saviour.

Hamblen called his mother, and she shed tears of joy, at the news. The power of God changed his life completely, and he became an effective ambassador for the Lord Jesus. Overwhelmed at what God had done, he wrote a song especially for Billy Graham’s soloist George Beverly Shea to sing. The song is How Big Is God. The refrain says:

How big is God!
How big and wide His vast domain!
To try to tell these lips can only start;
He’s big enough to rule His mighty universe,
Yet, small enough to live within my heart.

That is big enough indeed!

Questions:
1) What aspect of the bigness (greatness) of God has been especially meaningful to you lately?

2) What other hymns do you know and use that celebrate the greatness of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Stuart Hamblen born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Stuart Hamblen)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 15, 2015

From Heaven Above to Earth

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: Martin Luther (b. Nov. 10, 1483; d. Feb. 18, 1546); English translation, Catherine Winkworth (b. Sept. 13, 1827; d. July 1, 1878)
Music: Von Himmel Hoch from Geistliche Lieder, by Valentin Schumann; harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This Christmas carol was written in 1531. The Cyber Hymnal includes fifteen stanzas, but most hymnals use only six to eight of them (e.g. CH-1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 13, 15). The full version originally formed a framework for Luther’s family to put on a kind of Christmas pageant in their home. It should be noted here that this is Luther’s carol, not Away in a Manger, a nineteenth century American carol which has been incorrectly been ascribed to him.

The incarnation was a pivotal event. It has been said the hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable. “The Word [God the Son] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). How did it happen? And more importantly for us, why did it happen? Christ came because of a plan made long ago–even before the creation of the world. God in His omniscience knew that fallen sinners would one day need a Saviour, and His Son was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

Mary and Joseph learned a little about this in the beginning, but many things awakened wonder in them as events unfolded. “Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him” (Lk. 2:33). And “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). It is quite possible that Luke, a careful historian, got much of the information found in the opening chapters of his Gospel from Mary. And just as she pondered these events over the years, so should we, refreshing our minds as to the details, and their eternal significance.

One way to do that is through the Christmas programs we share year by year. Such presentations are not new. In fact some credit Francis of Assisi with producing the first nativity scene–complete with live animals–about eight hundred years ago. Community people brought candles and torches to illumine the scene, and hymns of praise were sung. He did it, he said, “To set before our bodily eyes…how He lay in a manger.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546) did something similar, in his home, with his wife and children. Let’s get a rough idea of it, using a few of the stanzas. To begin the program, a man dressed as an angel would enter and sing:

CH-1) From heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.

CH-2) To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This little Child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

CH-3) ’Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

CH-5) These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By whom the heavens and earth were made.

Then the family would go with the shepherds to the manger, as the children sang:

CH-6) Now let us all, with gladsome cheer
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous gift of God,
Who hath His only Son bestowed.

CH-8) Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom e’en wicked men are blest!
Thou com’st to share our misery,
What can we render, Lord, to Thee!

Finally, there was the spiritual application and worship, as all rejoiced in Christ’s coming. And notice the reference to the “New Year.” I read somewhere that, in Medieval times, Christmas Day marked (very appropriately, I think) the beginning of the new year.

CH-13) Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

CH-15) Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given!
While angels sing, with pious mirth,
A glad New Year to all the earth.

Questions:
1) Do you traditionally read the Christmas story with your family, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? (If you don’t have that tradition, how about starting it?)

2) Would it be possible to put on some kind of Christmas pageant with the family, as the Luther family did–perhaps using some of the song he wrote?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 13, 2015

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand

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 Stennett (b. June 1, 1727; d. Aug. 24, 1795)
Music: Promised Land, by Matilda T. Durham (b. Jan. 17, 1815; d. July 30, 1901)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Ten years after young Sam was born, his father became the pastor of a Baptist church, in London, England. In later years, Samuel Stennett became his father’s assistant, and finally succeeded his father as pastor, a ministry he continued until his death in 1795. He was considered a fine scholar, and was a friend of King George III.

The hymn was first published in John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns (1787), under the heading “Heaven Anticipated.” The refrain was added later. The tune now most familiarly used with the song was published in America, in William Walker’s Southern Harmony, in 1835. It is attributed there to a Miss M. Durham, but we know no more about her. The tune was written in a minor key, in vogue at the time. But in 1895 Rigdon McIntosh changed this to a major key and added the refrain.

Ira Sankey tells us, in My Life, and the Story of the Gospel Hymns that, while visiting the Holy Land, he sang this hymn from the spot near the Jordan River from which Moses viewed the land of Canaan. He says that, since the area is not generally “stormy,” the word “rugged” was commonly substituted in the first line.

CH-1) On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

In the Bible, we’re told how the people of Israel, delivered from years of bondage in Egypt, were poised on the eastern shore of the Jordan River, ready to cross over and claim the land of Canaan as their own. Referred to as “the land of promise” (Heb. 11:9), God had pledged it as a permanent possession to the descendants of Abraham centuries before (Gen. 12:1-2, 7; 13:15; 17:8). Now it was time to conquer in the name of the Lord.

The miracles of God attending the physical crossing of the Jordan (Josh. 3), and the conquest of the city of Jericho (Josh. 6), provide an illustration in the spiritual realm of what God does in saving lost sinners, through faith in Christ. Moses had said to the people, “He [the Lord] brought us out from there [Egyptian bondage] that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which he swore to our fathers” (Deut. 6:23).

Similarly, of the individual Christian, we can say that the Lord brought us out of sin’s darkness and bondage, that he might bring us in to the light of His love and to new and abundant life (Jn. 10:10). He has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

Life didn’t become perfect for the Israelites in the land of Canaan. There were still challenges to face and victories to be won. And it’s the same with the Christian life. Trusting Christ as Saviour doesn’t suddenly make us sinless, or the life we live perfect. But through God’s daily grace we have the resources available to deal with what lies ahead (cf. Phil. 4:19; Heb. 4:14-16).

Canaan thus provides a picture of the abundant Christian life–a life enriched by God’s daily provision, but one in which there are still battles to be fought in the name of the Lord. However, having said that, you will find that a few of our hymns use the Jordan River as a symbol of physical death, and Canaan as a picture of our future home in heaven.

I don’t think the application works as well that way. In heaven, our long war with Satan will be over (Rev. 20:10), and all that hurts and harms us will be gone forever (Rev. 21:4). But, imperfect as the imagery is, there is a sense in which the heavenly kingdom is the Christian’s Promised Land, our future and eternal home.

CH-3) There generous fruits that never fail,
On trees immortal grow;
There rocks and hills, and brooks and vales,
With milk and honey flow.

CH-4) O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

CH-5) No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.

Questions:
1) What gives you certainty that you are bound, on day, for the promised land of heaven?

2) What are your favourite hymns about heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 10, 2015

No, Not One

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: Johnson Oatman, Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: George Crawford Hugg (b. May 23, 1848; d. Oct. 13, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Johnson Oatman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Johnson Oatman was a busy man. He was an ordained clergyman, a Christian business man, and the author of about 5,000 gospel songs. George Hugg served as the choirmaster of a number of churches in the eastern United States. He wrote a great many hymns and gospel songs, both words and music, and was a frequent collaborator of Johnson Oatman’s, providing tunes for the latter’s texts.

Here is another nineteenth century gospel song (from 1895), with many repetitions of a single phrase–reminding us that there’s “no not one” friend like the Lord Jesus (thirty times, counting the refrains). I’m sure this repetition in songs was done purposely, many times, to make them easy to learn and remember, even when singers had no words or music in front of them. (No overhead projectors, power point, or even photo copiers, in those days.)

However, there’s also truth in this song. Read through the lines, omitting the repeated phrase, and you will see it. Each line says something important about our Saviour. Even in writing this review, having just come from my morning prayer time, I was deeply touched by the reminder that “Jesus knows all about our struggles.”

This is a joyful, encouraging song, reflected in Mr. Hugg’s lively tune. A congregation should enjoy singing it. If you are leading the service, in order to make the repetition work for you, rather than becoming tedious, you might try assigning the alternate lines to one half of the group and the other–either those sitting on either side of the sanctuary, or perhaps men and women.

Depending on the understanding of the audience, it might be helpful for the service leader to comment on the statement in CH-5, “Will He refuse us a home in heaven? / No, not one!” That is certainly not true of the unregenerate. But judging from what comes before, the song was written for believers to sing.  And Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me [in faith] I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37).

CH-1) There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!
None else could heal all our soul’s diseases,
No, not one! No, not one!

Jesus knows all about our struggles,
He will guide till the day is done;
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!

There’s only one Person in all the universe who is infinitely and eternally great. That is God. The record of who His is and what He’s done is found in the Bible. He declares, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (Isa. 45:5). Take a few moments to explore the nature of God, in order to see what makes Him unique, especially as these things relate to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, there is God’s eternity. Through faith, we are said to receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16), but we all had a beginning. Jesus is different. When His birth in Bethlehem is prophesied, He is described as One “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2). And Christ was able to say to His hearers, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn. 8:58).

Next, think of the Lord’s immutability (that His essential nature is unchanging). God says, “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6). But no created thing is unchanging. Creation is described as something that will grow old, like a garment (Heb. 1:10-11). “They will be changed, but You [Lord] are the same, and Your years will not fail” (vs. 12). In the context, the writer is speaking of Christ (vs. 4-9).

Then, we are told that the Lord is omnipresent (fully present everywhere). Christ is said to “fill all in all” (Eph. 1:23)–filling everything in every way. So He was able to say to His followers, before departing to His place in heaven at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3), “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

As to His omnipotence, Christ describes Himself as “the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8), the One who is able to “subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). As to omniscience, Christ is said to “know all things” (Jn. 21:17 cf. 10:15).

Yet it was this One who humbled Himself to become Man, and live among us as the compassionate “Friend” of any and all who came to Him (Jn. 15:15). One who was willing to go to the cross to pay our debt of sin (I Cor. 15:3). As well as being incomparable in the attributes of deity, He was incomparable in His condescension. He “became poor” for us (II Cor. 8:9; cf. Phil. 2:8).

CH-2) No friend like Him is so high and holy,
No, not one! No, not one!
And yet no friend is so meek and lowly,
No, not one! No, not one!

Questions:
1) What truths in this song particularly impress you today?

2) What other songs about the “friendship” of Christ do you know and sing?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Johnson Oatman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 8, 2015

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

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: a traditional Spiritual, author unknown
Music: composer unknown

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

Note: Back in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, anonymous song writers created what we now know as Traditional Spirituals (in former times, “Negro Spirituals”). These songs of faith created by slaves in America were not written down, and technology did not exist to record them. They were passed on by word of mouth, as this one has been–which is now sung by Christians of every ethnicity, and recorded by many different gospel soloists.

Stanzas of the song vary, from book to book, sometimes including “He’s got you and me, sister, in His hands,” or “He’s got everybody in His hands.” But I was shocked and disturbed one day, visiting a seniors home. The pastor of a local church was concluding a service, and she had those present alternating, stanza by stanza, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” with “She’s got the wind and the rain in her hands.” I thought maybe I wasn’t hearing it right, so I looked at the song sheet, and there it was. Utterly unbiblical, if not blasphemous! Our heavenly Father is not a she!

Many times, the Bible mentions the hands of God. We know that God is a spirit Being (Jn. 4:24) and, in His essential nature, doesn’t have physical hands. But the metaphor is used to depict the activity of God and His abundant power in a way we can understand.

CH-1) He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

CH-2) He’s got wind and the rain in His hands,
He’s got wind and the rain in His hands,
He’s got wind and the rain in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Sometimes, the Scriptures speak of the hand of God bringing judgment. When the Israelites refused to obey Him, they were condemned to spend forty years in the wilderness, until the rebellious generation had died off. “The hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the midst of the camp until they were consumed” (Deut. 2:15).

When the heathen Babylonian king Belshazzar dared to defy God, he was confronted by Daniel, the prophet of God, with these words. “God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23). No earthly monarch, no matter how powerful, can stand against the Almighty. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Prov. 21:1).

On the positive side, the Lord provides for the beasts of the field, by His powerful hand. “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:9-10).

Believers are in the double clasp of the hands of Father and Son, assuring our salvation and eternal safety (Jn. 10:28-29). And similar imagery is used to describe how God empowered His servants to do His work. As early Christian missionaries shared the gospel, we read, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).

He’s got the whole world in His hands. And the hand of God that put the stars and planets in place (Ps. 19:1), and keeps them on their courses (Col. 1:17), He graciously extends help to us, if we’ll trust in Him. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7).

One of those who recorded the present song was the late George Beverley Shea, associated for decades with evangelist Billy Graham. Bev’s own favourite soloist was opera and concert baritone, John Charles Thomas, who had one of the greatest voices of the first half of the twentieth century. On one occasion, Bev met Mr. Thomas in Baltimore, and told him how much he appreciated his rendition of this particular song–especially the warmth and tenderness he put into singing about “the tiny little baby.” At Mr. Thomas’s invitation, they went to a piano and the singer showed Bev how to put more expression into the song.

CH-3) He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands,
He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands,
He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Later, in Billy Graham’s London crusade in 1954, a man attended one of the meetings very reluctantly, to please his neighbour. During the meeting, he rudely (and loudly) criticized what was going on, to those seated around him. But when Bev Shea sang this song, and got to the “tiny little baby,” he slumped in his seat, overcome with emotion, as he was worried about a sick child at home. His criticism silenced, he listened attentively to Dr. Graham’s message, and later made a decision to receive Christ as Saviour. The hand of God had touched his heart, and transformed his life.

CH-4) He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands,
He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands,
He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to you today, that you are in the hands of God?

2) Is this a song you would use in a worship service? (Why? Or why not?)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | April 6, 2015

Loyalty to Christ

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: Elijah Taylor Cassel (b. Nov. 27, 1849; d. July 3, 1930)
Music: Flora Hamilton Cassel (b. Aug. 21, 1852; d. Nov. 17, 1911)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Elijah and Flora)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Elijah and Flora Cassel were husband and wife. Elijah Cassel was a medical doctor, who later served as a pastor. They also combined their talents on a song entitled The King’s Business (a better quality selection, in my view). The present one is another of those extremely repetitive gospel songs, with the word “loyalty” used some 37 times, counting the refrains. I suppose it does work as a rallying cry, but that seems a bit much!

The song was written in 1894 at the request of the Baptist Young People’s Union. It was sent to them, but not used, so Mr. Cassel asked for it to be returned. He then sent it to the Epworth League, a Methodist organization for young adults. They soon put it to use. Later, the BYPU thought the song had merit, and started using it themselves. That focus on a challenge to young people can be seen in the closing stanza.

CH-4) The strength of youth we lay at Jesus’ feet today,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
His gospel we’ll proclaim, throughout the world’s domain,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

On Hymnary.org you can see the original publication. Notice that the first line then was, “Upon the western plain / There comes the signal strain,” perhaps indicating the location of the convention for which it was initially intended. This opening remained for some time, but a 1902 book begins the broader form we have now.

CH-1) From over hill and plain there comes the signal strain,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Its music rolls along, the hills take up the song,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

“On to victory! On to victory!”
Cries our great commander, “On!”
We’ll move at His command,
We’ll soon possess the land,
Through loyalty, loyalty,
Yes, loyalty to Christ.

Loyalty. The dictionary defines it as faithfulness to one’s commitments, faithfulness to an individual or a group. Fidelity, trustworthiness and allegiance are possible synonyms. Disloyalty, when it relates to one’s country or rulers, is called treason, or being a traitor. Disloyalty to the Lord God, at least in its final form, is called apostasy–a departure from the faith.

In the Old Testament, King David’s son Solomon was blessed with many wonderful gifts. When he took the throne, his father prayed, “Give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes” (I Chron. 29:19). And David advised his son, “Let your heart therefore be loyal to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day” (I Kgs. 8:61).

But over the years Solomon’s passion to serve the Lord began to fade. In disobedience to God (Deut. 17:14, 17), he acquired a huge harem, and many of the women were idol worshipers. It seemed almost inevitable that, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4).

The most infamous traitor in the New Testament, perhaps the greatest in all of human history, is Judas Iscariot. While he feigned loyalty to Christ and the other disciples, he stole from the common purse (Jn. 12:6). Later, for “thirty pieces of silver” (which some estimate as being worth about twenty dollars) he agreed to betray Christ to His enemies (Matt. 26:15).

The Lord Jesus declared plainly, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Matt. 6:24). Whether the temptation to turn away comes from money, or promised pleasures, or popularity and power, or something else, no disloyalty to God is ever worth what it will cost in the long run.

CH-2) O hear, ye brave, the sound that moves the earth around,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Arise to dare and do, ring out the watchword true,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

CH-3) Come, join our loyal throng, we’ll rout the giant wrong,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Where Satan’s banners float we’ll send the bugle note,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

Questions:
1) What will be the practical evidence of loyalty to Christ in one’s life?

2) What are some other things pressing for the loyalty of our young people today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Elijah and Flora)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 3, 2015

Jesus, Master, Whose I Am

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: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: St. Petersburg, attributed to Dmitri Stepanovich Bortniansky (b. Oct. 28, 1751; d. Oct. 10, 1825)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Here is another fine dedication hymn by Frances Havergal, written in 1865, for Miss Havergal’s nephew J. H. Shaw. Too many hymn book editors have chosen not to include it. And many that do use only the first three stanzas. The tune used by the Cyber Hymnal (St. Chrysostom) is a good one, but I’m more familiar with St. Petersburg (which the Cyber Hymnal page calls Wells).

The hymn is divided into two sections, originally of three stanzas each. inspired by the words of Paul, speaking of the Lord as “God, whose I am, and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23, KJV). The Bible in Basic English has, “God who is my Master and whose servant I am.” Stanzas CH-1 to 3 deal with “whose I am,” and CH-4 to 6 have to do with “whom I serve.”

There are two aspects to that right of ownership. The first is the right of creation. As the Creator of all in the universe, both material and spiritual, God has a right to do with it as He chooses. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Rightly then, “He does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Dan. 4:35).

But for the Christian there’s a second aspect of ownership. Not only the right of creation, but the right of redemption. To the believer God says, “You were…redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18-19). Purchased, as it were, out of the slave market of sin, “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19-20).

And there’s a definite link between salvation and service. Christ, “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14). God in love has saved us, through faith in Christ, and we respond in love, as willing bond-slaves of Christ (I Jn. 4:19). We have believed on–in essence, believed onto the side of, and into the employ of–the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 16:31). We are twice His, by creation and redemption, and therefore His to command.

CH-1) Jesus, Master, whose I am,
Purchased Thine alone to be,
By Thy blood, O spotless Lamb,
Shed so willingly for me,
Let my heart be all Thine own,
Let me live for Thee alone.

“Other lords have long held sway,” says CH-2. It’s a reminder of the many loyalties men and women may have that need to be subjected to the supreme Lordship of Christ.

CH-2) Other lords have long held sway;
Now Thy name alone to bear,
Thy dear voice alone obey,
Is my daily, hourly prayer;
Whom have I in heaven but Thee?
Nothing else my joy can be.

“Keep me faithful, keep me near” (CH3). We each face temptations and spiritual dangers, in our pilgrimage. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” says Robert Robinson in his hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

CH-3) Jesus, Master, I am Thine;
Keep me faithful, keep me near;
Let Thy presence in me shine
All my homeward way to cheer,
Jesus, at Thy feet I fall,
O be Thou my all in all.

Once establish we belong to the Lord, and He has the rights of ownership over us, and our availability to serve, according to His will, and by the resources He provides, is a given. The latter half of the hymn deals with that.

CH-4) Jesus, Master, whom I serve,
Though so feebly and so ill,
Strengthen hand and heart and nerve
All Thy bidding to fulfil;
Open Thou mine eyes to see
All the work Thou hast for me.

CH-5) Lord, Thou needest not, I know,
Service such as I can bring,
Yet I long to prove and show
Full allegiance to my King.
Thou an honour art to me;
Let me be a praise to Thee.

Questions:
1) What does the Lord’s ownership mean to you, in practical terms?

2) What service can you render to Him, today.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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