Posted by: rcottrill | January 28, 2015

O Sing a Song of Bethlehem

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: Louis Fitzgerald Benson (b. July 22, 1855; d. Oct. 10, 1930)
Music: Kingsfold, a traditional English tune arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Oct. 12, 1872; d. Aug. 26, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Dr. Benson studied and practised law for seven years. He later served as a pastor. But his major contribution to the Christian community lay in his scholarly study of hymns and their history. On the Wordwise Hymns link you can learn a bit more about him, and see his description of what makes a good hymn.

Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Vaughan Williams was a central figure in British classical music in the early twentieth century, he wrote symphonies, chamber music, operas, choral music and film scores, and was a collector of English folk music. Though either an atheist or agnostic, he wrote or arranged a number of hymn tunes, and also helped edit two hymnals and The Oxford Book of Carols.

There are a number of our hymns and gospel songs that speak of the birth of Christ at the beginning, but which are not actually Christmas carols. They take in the broader scope of Christ’s life, sometimes stretching from eternity to eternity (as Wilbur Chapman’s One Day does). Other examples: Benjamin Hanby’s Who Is He in Yonder Stall?, Fanny Crosby’s Tell Me the Story of Jesus, and That Beautiful Name, by Jean Perry.

Benson framed the present 1899 hymn to relate to four geographical locations significant to the life of Christ: Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, and Calvary.

Bethlehem was a small town in Jesus’ day, overshadowed by Jerusalem nearby. But God chose it for an unparalleled event, the virgin birth of Jesus. That event stamps little Bethlehem with special importance (cf. Mic. 5:2). There the Light of the World was born.

CH-1) O sing a song of Bethlehem, of shepherds watching there,
And of the news that came to them from angels in the air.
The light that shone on Bethlehem fills all the world today;
Of Jesus’ birth and peace on earth the angels sing alway.

We know little of the early life of Christ. There is the once incident described by Luke when, at twelve years of age (Lk. 2:41-50), He was taken to Jerusalem, where Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, interacting with the elders, who were “astonished at His understanding and answers” (vs. 47). Other than that, Luke gives us two general statements.

“The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:40). “He was subject [submissive, obedient] to them [Mary and Joseph]…and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Lk. 2:51, 52).

CH-2) O sing a song of Nazareth, of sunny days of joy;
O sing of fragrant flowers’ breath, and of the sinless Boy.
For now the flowers of Nazareth in every heart may grow;
Now spreads the fame of His dear name on all the winds that blow.

In the time of Christ, Israel was divided into three provinces: Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. The author chooses Galilee (cf. Mk. 1:28) to show something of His years of ministry, from His introduction by John the Baptist, to the night of His arrest in Gethsemane. As with each stanza Benson describes how, what began so long ago, now touches lives all over the world.

CH-3) O sing a song of Galilee, of lake and woods and hill,
Of Him who walked upon the sea and bade the waves be still.
For though like waves on Galilee, dark seas of trouble roll,
When faith has heard the Master’s word, falls peace upon the soul.

What happened at Calvary has elements of both “glory and dismay.” For the disciples, it seemed the end of everything. The One they thought would begin His righteous reign immediately was dead. They were understandably filled with fear that they would suffer the same fate, as the Lord’s followers. But the glory of Calvary is that there Christ paid our debt of sin. Then He triumphed over the grave on Easter morning, and His resurrection guarantees our own, when we put our faith in Him.

“Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:20-21).

CH- 4) O sing a song of Calvary, its glory and dismay,
Of Him who hung upon the tree, and took our sins away.
For He who died on Calvary is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by heaven adored, is mighty now to save.

Questions:
1) If you could add one more stanza to Dr. Benson’s hymn, what would it be about?

2) Why do you think the Bible tells us so little about Jesus until He was around thirty years of age?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 26, 2015

The Son of God Goes Forth to War

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: Reginald Heber (b. Apr. 21, 1783; d. Apr. 3, 1826)
Music: All Saints New, by Henry Stephen Cutler (b. Oct. 13, 1825; d. Dec. 5, 1902)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This great hymn by Bishop Heber was published posthumously in 1827. Henry Cutler was an accomplished church organist and choir director. His tune was composed for the text. The hymn was written for use on St. Stephen’s Day, December 26th in the formal church calendar.

A number of times the New Testament speaks of the Christian life involving spiritual warfare against Satan and his hosts.

“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).

Who will triumph in this great war? It is the one who, in the words of Heber, “patient bears his cross below,” in other words, those who are committed fully to Christ.

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3-4).

CH-1) The Son of God goes forth to war, a kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar: who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe, triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below, he follows in His train.

The hymn writer pictures a great and triumphal procession, with the Lord Jesus Christ at its head. Then comes the church’s first martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). He was privileged to see the glorified Christ in heaven, perhaps rising to welcome him home (vs. 55). And, even “in midst of mortal pain” he prayed for those who “did the wrong” (vs. 60).

CH-2) That martyr first, whose eagle eye could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky, and called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue, in midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong: who follows in his train?

Attention is then turned to the twelve apostles, “a glorious band, the chosen few.” It is likely that each of them eventually was slain as a Christian martyr, with the possible exception of John (who was exiled to Patmos for his faith, Rev. 1:9).

CH-3) A glorious band, the chosen few on whom the Spirit came;
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew, and mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their heads the death to feel: who follows in their train?

Twice repeated, we have the penetrating question: “Who follows in their train?” And it is a “noble army” that does so. Multitudes of believers who are now in heaven, and many who continue the battle in our own day. The fact is many more have died for their faith in Christ in the twentieth and young twenty-first centuries than in all the centuries since Pentecost put together.

CH-4) A noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour’s throne rejoice, in robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n, through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be giv’n, to follow in their train.

Billy Graham, in writing about this hymn in Crusade Hymn Stories (published in 1966), makes this interesting observation:

“But what kind of an army can this be, following in the train of Jesus Christ? It would seem that they are all casualties of war who have lost their lives in battle. Can this be a victorious group?” (p. 56).

The answer, of course, is yes! Indeed they are victorious and triumphant. Tertullian in AD 197 wrote against the church’s persecutors, “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” (This has often been paraphrased as “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.) Out of seeming defeat has come great victory, again and again.

When Saul set out to persecute believers, they were scattered abroad (Acts 8:1-3), but we read, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (vs. 4). It’s like trying to stamp out a small fire, and finding the sparks fly off and start new fires! Only a short-range view sees the persecution of the saints as a defeat. In eternal terms, it is definitely not (cf. Rev. 7:9-14).

Questions:
1) How is the oppression and persecution of Christians able, by the grace of God, to cause the church to flourish?

2) Have you read Foxes Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe, published in 1563? What thoughts and feelings did you have when doing so?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 23, 2015

Brethren, We Have Met to Worship

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 Atkins (b. Apr. 16, 1793; d. Aug. 29, 1827)
Music: Holy Manna, likely by William Moore (details unknown)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: George Atkins was a Methodist pastor. Not much is known of William Moore, except that he was a contemporary of Atkins. He published a book in 1825 called The Columbian Harmony, which contained this tune. It’s believed he was likely the composer. The hymn text originally had eight stanzas, including ones about praying for family members, and praying for backsliders. Today, hymn books commonly use only four stanzas.

This revival hymn from the early nineteenth century draws on several passages of Scripture. The reference to holy manna recalls God’s provision for the Israelites all their years in the wilderness. It was called “bread from heaven” (Exod. 16:35; Ps. 78:24). Pastor Atkins uses it as a symbol of the blessing of God, in this case His blessing, through the Holy Spirit, on the ministry of the Word.

CH-1) Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Prayer in this connection is so important. The pastor himself should pray, of course, both in the preparation of his sermon, and before it is preached. The story is told of Charles Spurgeon one Sunday morning. It was time for him to make his way to the platform, but he did not appear. Finally, a deacon when to seek him. Opening the door of his study, the deacon found him, prostrate on the floor, pounding it and crying out to God, “I will not go in alone, I will not go in alone!” He craved some sense of the presence of God with him, and was determined to pray until he got it.

Others should be praying as well. Does your church follow the excellent practice of having some believers gather before the service to pray? It’s a wonderful idea. Then, it’s also possible to offer up short (silent) prayers during the service–and especially during the pastor’s sermon. Just be sure you don’t always use a shovel, but sometimes use a rake. What I mean by that is this. Don’t simply pray, “Lord, this is for her [shovel], this is for him [shovel], help them to receive it.” Also pray, “Lord, this is for me [rake, rake], help me to accept and apply it.”

CH-2) Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Perhaps George Atkins was ahead of his time, given that many (in fact most of our older hymns) deal mainly with men (brethren, he, him, his). But the author specifically includes women, using Miriam as an illustration. Miriam is given a prominent ministry role in Israel, after the people were delivered from bondage (cf. Mic. 6:4). Called a prophetess, she led in the music of worship, after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exod. 15:20-21).

CH-3) Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Saviour, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

The final stanza of the hymn pleads for Christian love, and a concern for others who need God’s salvation, picturing a day of rejoicing at what is called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

“‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’” (Rev. 19:7-9).

This will be a time of great rejoicing, as the church (the bride of Christ) is gathered to Him, redeemed, glorified and rewarded. Will manna–or something like it–be served at that time. I’m not sure. But it is mentioned earlier in Revelation (Rev. 2:17). Further, there is a startling description in one of the parables of the Lord Jesus that suggests He may actually take the role of a servant on that occasion, and “gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.” Who would not love such a Master supremely, and be humbled by the experience?

“You yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Lk. 12:36-37).

CH-5) Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

Questions:
1) If this parable of Jesus is actually fulfilled at the marriage supper, how will you feel?

2) Are there ways you can support your pastor more with prayer, especially as it relates to the preaching of the Word?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 21, 2015

O Thou Joyful, O Thou Wonderful

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: Johannes Daniel Falk (b. Oct. 28, 1768; d. Feb. 14, 1826)
Music: Sicilian Mariners Hymn, composer unknown

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

Note: Falk wrote the first stanza (O du fröhliche, o du selige) in 1816, to go with two others of his own. But for the present English hymn, only his first stanza is used, and two anonymous ones have been added. The tune, also called O Sanctissima (O most holy) is of unknown origin. German poet Johann Herder heard it on a trip to Italy, 1788-89, linked to a Catholic hymn in praise of Mary. It’s first use with an English hymn followed, several years later.

Falk gives us an example of one who turned early hardship into a ministry as an adult. His family was exceedingly poor. At the age of ten he left school to work with his father who was a wig maker. But Falk was a keen student, and he continued studying on his own. He was eventually awarded a scholarship to university, and distinguished himself as a author.

During the Napoleonic Wars, he worked in army field hospitals. He later turned his attention to various philanthropic efforts, particularly among poor and destitute children. Before his death at the age of fifty-eight, he founded the Society of Friends in Need, and a centre to care for poor children. He is known in English hymnody for this one hymn.

The lovely carol celebrates Christmas as the time when God’s grace, love, and peace were revealed, or were extended to man, through the coming of Christ. Once, in the Bible, all three qualities are mentioned in a single verse.

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (II Jn. 1:3).

Consider, first, the grace of God.

The Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:14-17).

Grace, God’s unearned and unmerited favour, was poured out abundantly in and through Christ. For vs. 16, the Amplified Bible has, “Out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favour upon favour and gift upon gift.”

CH-1) O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Grace revealing Christmastide!
Jesus came to win us
From all sin within us;
Glorify, glorify the Holy Child!

Then, we have God’s great expression of love through Christ, a giving, infinitely self-sacrificing love.

“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). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Indeed, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (I Jn. 4:9).

CH-2) O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Love revealing Christmastide!
Loud hosannas singing,
And all praises bringing,
May Thy love, may Thy love with us abide.

Finally, there is the subject of peace to consider. In our sin-darkened world, there is very little peace. No settled peace between nations, nor a reigning tranquility and serenity in many human hearts. However, God has promised two kinds of peace through Christ that can be ours now, plus a final peace throughout the world, when Christ returns to reign (cf. Isa. 9:6-7).

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

“Peace with God,” a reconciliation where once there was enmity (vs. 10) is ours when we trust in Christ as Saviour. A peace He purchased through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20).

Then, we can have inner peace, even in the face of troubles and trials, as we commit such things to the Lord in prayer, trusting Him to work out what is best. That is “the peace of God.”

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

CH-3) O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Peace revealing Christmastide!
Darkness disappeareth,
God’s own light now neareth,
Peace and joy, peace and joy to all betide.

Questions:
1) How are these three key qualities linked to one another?

2) What can you do at the Christmas season to help others see what God has done for them in Christ?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 19, 2015

When All Thy Mercies, O My 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: Joseph Addison (b. May 1, 1672; d. June 17, 1719)
Music: Belmont, adapted by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Addison was one of England’s greatest writers. He and a former schoolboy chum, Richard Steele, founded a daily newspaper called The Spectator. They determined to give it a higher moral tone that the other papers of the day. Addison appended the text of this hymn to an article he wrote on gratitude. It was published in The Spectator on August 9th, 1712. The original has thirteen wonderful stanzas, which you can read on the Cyber Hymnal. Hymn books today usually use only four or five of these, but all are worth reading and meditating on. In my view this is one of the finest hymns in the English language.

The Cyber Hymnal lists five possible tunes that can be used with this hymn. I’m more familiar with yet another, Belmont. The source of this lovely tune is uncertain. Most trace its origin to Gardiner’s collection of classic melodies that he adapted for use as hymn tunes. His book has this impressive title: Sacred Melodies from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Adapted to the Best English Poets and Appropriated to the Use of the British Church (London: 1812-15)

In his essay on gratitude, Addison says, ““If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker.” Then, he proceeds to describe the blessing of God on a life, all the way from the womb (CH-3), on into eternity (CH-11). In every circumstance and situation of life, he sees the hand of God and work.

CH-1) When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.

CH-10) Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.

His description of the Lord’s loving care of him when a helpless infant is beautiful, though CH-3 and 4 are seldom used in hymnals (cf. Ps. 22:9-11; Jer. 1:4-5).

CH-3) Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redressed,
While in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast.

CH-4) To all my weak complaints and cries
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learned
To form themselves in prayer.

CH-5) Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.

Then, we have him navigating “the slippery paths of youth” (graphic phrase!) (cf. Ecc. 12:1; II Tim. 3:14-15).

CH-6) When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe,
And led me up to man.

CH-7) Through hidden dangers, toils, and deaths,
It gently cleared my way;
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be feared than they.

Times of trial and trouble, both physical and spiritual, are times when he experiences the special ministrations of grace (cf. Ps. 27:5; Heb. 4:14-16).

CH-8) When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou
With health renewed my face;
And, when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.

Addison’s three stanzas on eternity are too good to miss, though hymn books often use only CH-11). Everything’s summed up with, “Oh, eternity’s too short / To utter all Thy praise!” With David, the author would say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 16:11; 23:6).

CH-11) Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

CH-12) When nature fails, and day and night
Divide Thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, O Lord,
Thy mercy shall adore.

CH-13) Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!

Questions:
1) What in this long hymn is the greatest blessing to you today?

2) What blessings of the Lord can you thank the Lord for today (Ps. 103:2)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 16, 2015

O Perfect 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: Dorothy Frances Blomfield Gurney (b. Oct. 4, 1858; d. June 15, 1932)
Music: Perfect Love, by Joseph Barnby (b. Aug. 12, 1838; d. Jan. 28, 1896)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Dorothy Gurney herself has given us an account (below) of how she came to write this beautiful wedding prayer, when she was twenty-five. The “favourite tune” spoken of was one by John Dykes, and you can here it played on the Cyber Hymnal. However, in less than ten years, Joseph Barnby’s tune–which I believe is superior–replaced it. When Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was married in 1889, Joseph Barnby wrote his tune specifically for the hymn–which has been used with it ever since.

“It was Sunday evening [in 1883], and we were enjoying a time of hymn singing. A song that was particularly enjoyed by all of us was O Strength and Stay, the tune to which was a favourite of my sister. As we finished singing this hymn, someone remarked, ‘What a pity the words of this beautiful song should be unsuitable for a wedding!’ My sister turned to me and challenged, ‘What is the use of a sister who composes poetry if she cannot write new words to a favourite tune? I would like to use the tune at my wedding.’ I picked up a hymn book and said, ‘If no one will disturb me, I will go into the library and see what I can do.’ Within fifteen minutes I was back with the group and reading the words I had jotted down.”

Life and love are dominant in God’s nature, and in His dealings with us.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (I Jn. 4:9).

The author decided to make those same qualities central in her hymn. It personifies God as “perfect Love.”

The Bible tells us that sacrificial, self-giving love is such a fundamental quality of God’s character that it’s possible to say that “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8). We cannot expect to attain the infinite perfection of the love revealed in God. “As for God, His way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30). But “whoever keeps [believes and obeys] His word, truly the love of God is perfected [meaning it’s brought to maturity] in him” (I Jn. 2:15).

CH-1) O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

Mrs. Gurney’s hymn goes on to personify God as “perfect Life” as He’s the source of all life. “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). Since this is so, it’s not surprising that life, too, is almost synonymous with Him, “This is the true God and eternal life” (I Jn. 5:20)–life that He gives freely to all who put their faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 5:11-12).

CH-2) O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

CH-3) Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
Grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
And to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow
That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Some couples today may feel that this song is “too old-fashioned” to use at their wedding. But it ought to be given a closer look. It would even work as a prayer that is read, rather than sung. Many of the things in it are worthy of meditation, not only by the bride and groom, but by all those present.

The hymn concludes with a Trinitarian benediction, though many hymn books seem to omit it. The form is precisely biblical. “For through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:18). (The “both” mentioned refers to the equal access to God, through Christ, provided for both Jews and Gentiles–cf. vs. 11-13).

CH-4) Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy co-eternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.

Questions:
1) What are some things in this hymn that are worthy of being emphasized as couples anticipate marriage?

2) Is this a hymn you would encourage a couple to use at their wedding?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 14, 2015

The Regions Beyond

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: Albert Benjamin Simpson (b. Dec. 15, 1843; d. Oct. 29, 1919)
Music: Margaret Mae Simpson (b. April ___, 1878; d. Oct. 9, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Simpson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Pastor Simpson’s fine missionary hymn was published in 1904. His daughter Margaret supplied the tune.

T he phrase that dominates this hymn, “to the regions beyond,” is taken from the words of Paul in Second Corinthians.

Having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (II Cor. 10:15-17).

Or, as J. B. Philips has it, “Our hope is that your growing faith will mean the expansion of our proper sphere of action, so that before long we shall be preaching the gospel in districts beyond you.”

Particularly in the Christian missionary work of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, that phrase, “the regions beyond,” came to represent the goal and passion of many servants of Christ. One of these was Canadian pastor and missionary statesman Albert Simpson.

CH-1) To the regions beyond I must go, I must go
Where the story has never been told;
To the millions that never have heard of His love,
I must tell the sweet story of old.

To the regions beyond I must go, I must go,
Till the world, all the world, His salvation shall know.

The pages of secular history are dotted with the names of intrepid explorers who dared to reach beyond the confines of the European continent to the shores of what was to them a New World. Leif Erickson was apparently the first, at the end of the first millennium, followed by Columbus (1492), Cabot (1497), Magellan (1520), and many more.

These reached beyond the seas that bounded their own lands. Then others, later, dreamed of even grander things. Hot air balloons enabled man to reach beyond the bounds of earth, and Wilbur and Orville Wright pioneered flight in heavier-than-air machines. Though it took half a century more, it was only “one small step for a man” to climb beyond the confines of earth’s atmosphere and eventually reach the moon in 1969.

When it comes to biblical history we can see the same thing. During the three years He was on earth, only once did the Lord Jesus step briefly beyond the borders of the Holy Land. But after His death and resurrection, and before He ascended back to God the Father, Christ commissioned His followers to carry the message of the gospel much further. “You shall be witnesses to Me,” He said, “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The book of Acts is the record of how dedicated believers began to do that. Even opposition didn’t stop the spread of the gospel. In fact, the devil rather outsmarted himself in that. If his intention was to stir up the enemies of the cross to stamp out Christianity, it worked in completely the opposite way. The Bible says:

“A great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4).

It was like trying to stamp out a fire, and having the glowing sparks fly off and start new fires elsewhere. One of the missionaries, a converted Jewish Pharisee named Saul (later, Paul), went on three journeys (and likely a fourth, after the end of Acts) preaching the gospel and founding new churches around the Mediterranean world. The hardships and cruelty he faced are graphically reported (II Cor. 11:23-28).

Acts chapter 18 records his early ministry in the city of Corinth. Then, when problems later developed in the church there, he wrote letters to them giving further instruction and calling for corrective measures (the first and second epistles to the Corinthians). It’s near the end of the second letter that Paul speaks of his hope to get things settled in the Corinthian church so he can move on elsewhere, “to preach the gospel in the regions [or lands] beyond you” (II Cor. 10:16)–likely referring to western Greece, Italy and Spain.

CH-2) To the hardest of places He calls me to go,
Never thinking of comfort or ease;
The world may pronounce me a dreamer, a fool,
Enough if the Master I please.

CH-3) Oh, you that are spending your leisure and powers
In those pleasures so foolish and fond;
Awake from your selfishness, folly and sin,
And go to the regions beyond.

Questions:
1) In what areas are missionaries serving who are supported by your church?

2) Can you think of three or four ways you can encourage and help these servants of Christ (either as a church, or personally)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Margaret Simpson)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 12, 2015

Since the Fullness of His Love Came In

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: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1858)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Eliza Hewitt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This 1916 gospel song is listed in the Cyber Hymnal under its opening line. In its biographical sketch of Miss Hewitt, it lists no less that 1,748 of her songs! She sometimes wrote under the pen name Lidie H. Edmunds.

You can’t travel in two opposite directions at once. There’s point when you make a 180-degree turn and start heading the opposite way. The Bible refers to the spiritual reality as being born again (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3). There is a moment in time when the individual puts his faith in Christ, and since then he is a born again Christian.

That’s not to say, of course, that the person is zapped with instant maturity–any more than an infant born physically is suddenly all he or she can or will be. The Apostle Peter calls those who’ve put their faith in Christ “newborn babes,” who need to study the Word of God and “grow thereby” (I Pet. 1:23; 2:2). We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 5:18).

Christian growth is a process, but conversion itself, certainly from God’s perspective, is a dividing line that marks a dramatic before and since. As the Lord Jesus puts it, the person “has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24); “he has already passed over out of death into life” (Amplified Bible). Things that were not at all true of the individual before, are suddenly and irrevocably a reality for him.

One of these concerns the experience of the love of God. The Bible says of new converts, “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts [flooding our hearts, to the point of overflowing] by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). And there are two points in that verse deserving of our attention.

First, “the Holy Spirit…was given to us.” It’s the universal testimony of the New Testament epistles that the Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 6:19; Eph. 1:12-14). One of the things the Spirit of God does within us is to produce that maturity of character that is God’s will for us (II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22-23). Another is that the Spirit gives us a new and growing sense of the love of God, “since the fullness of His love came in.”

CH-1) Once my way was dark and dreary,
For my heart was full of sin,
But the sky is bright and cheery,
Since the fullness of His love came in.

I can never tell how much I love Him,
I can never tell His love for me,
For it passeth human measure,
Like a deep, unfathomed sea;
’Tis redeeming love in Christ my Saviour,
In my soul the heav’nly joys begin;
And I live for Jesus only,
Since the fullness of His love came in.

In 1956, middleweight boxing legend Rocky Graziano produced his autobiography, calling it Somebody Up There Likes Me. But what God speaks of in His Word is nothing like that vague sentiment. There is, in the heart of the believer, a new and growing awareness of the infinite love of God, a love that caused Him to send His own Son to die in our place, paying the penalty for our sins (Jn. 3:16).

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And, when we trusted in the Lord Jesus as our Saviour from sin, we “received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father [meaning approximately dearest Father!]’” (Rom. 8:15). “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).

CH-2) There is grace for all the lowly,
Grace to keep the trusting soul:
Pow’r to cleanse and make me holy,
Jesus shall my yielded life control.

That exuberant outpouring of the love of God, that new awareness that we are beloved by the Almighty, transforms our attitude toward Him, toward ourselves, and toward others as well. “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11).

CH-3) Let me spread abroad the story,
Other souls to Jesus win;
For the cross is now my glory,
Since the fullness of His love came in.

Questions:
1) What should be the result, when the Spirit of God pours the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5)?

2) What other hymns about the love of God do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Eliza Hewitt)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 9, 2015

O Jesus, King Most Wonderful

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: Bernard of Clairvaux (b. _____, 1091; d. Aug. 21, 1153); English translation of the Latin, Jesu, Rex Admirabilis, by Edward Caswell (b. July 15, 1814; d. Jan. 2, 1878)
Music: Holy Cross, by James Clifft Wade (b. circa Feb. 1846; d. ?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Bernard of Clairvaux)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Most hymnals use four or five stanzas of this thoughtful hymn. However, I have seen hymnals that include a sixth, and even a seventh, stanza. These are:

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night,
And joy to all impart.

Thee, Lord, our grateful voices bless;
Thee, would we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

Little is known of James Wade. The Cyber Hymnal says he was a composer and editor of vocal music, and “as of 1881, he was a schoolmaster and organist in Bray, Berkshire.”

T his is a warm and worshipful hymn, typical of the writing of Bernard.

CH-1) O Jesus, King most wonderful,
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!

Christ is described as King and Conqueror, and “Sweetness most ineffable” (CH-1). Words such as sweet and sweetness are used in the Bible more than a hundred times. When they do not refer to sweetness of taste or aroma, they are used in a figurative sense to describe what is pleasant and delightful, or attractive and beautiful. Christ’s beauty is “ineffable”–meaning beyond words. Moses speaks of “the beauty of the LORD our God” (Ps. 90:17).

But Isaiah says of the coming Messiah, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). In the NASB, it’s “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” The NIV has, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” In His incarnation, apart from His glorious revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-2), it was not His physical appearance that impressed people, but His gracious words, kindly deeds, and beauty of character.

In CH-3, Bernard also speaks of Christ as the “Light of all below” (Jn. 8:12) and the Fount of life (Jn. 11:25). He is also merciful and loving (CH-4). Calling Him the “Fount…of fire” (CH-3) may speak of His purifying ministry in our lives and hearts, through the Holy Spirit. Or, it could indicate the way that knowing Him stirs up a holy zeal for the service of Christ.

CH-3) O Jesus, Light of all below,
Thou Fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

CH-4) Thy wondrous mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousand fold,
Whatever we can say.

How, then, are we to respond to this wonderful Saviour and Lord? CH-5 and 6 tell us several ways.

¤ Confess Him–witness to others about what He’s done for us (Ps. 105:1-2; Mk. 5:19)
¤ Adore Him–exalt Him in our worship and praise (Ps. 29:2)
¤ Seek Him–make daily fellowship with the Lord our consistent habit (Ps. 105:3-4)
¤ Love Him–exclusively and sacrificially giving ourselves to Him and His service (Matt. 22:37; Rom. 12:1)
¤ Reflect Him–as the Spirit of God forms the image of God in us (II Cor. 3:18)

CH-5) May every heart confess Thy name;
And ever Thee adore;
And seeking Thee, itself inflame,
To seek Thee more and more.

CH-6) Thee may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

Questions:
1) What are the most important lessons of this hymn?

2) Is this a hymn you use–or would use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Bernard of Clairvaux)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 7, 2015

The Old Book and the Old Faith

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 H. Carr (no information available)
Music: George H. Carr

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Nothing more is known of Mr. Carr, even though both the Cyber Hymnal and Hymnary.org list many other songs he wrote in addition to the present one from 1914.

This is a simple gospel song, with an equally simple but important message. As developments in science, medicine and other fields seem to gallop along ever more swiftly, what was new a short time ago becomes old very fast. How many of us have joked that before we get that state-of-the-art computer home from the store it’s already been replaced by something with more amazing features to marvel at, driving what came before it into obsolescence.

But it’s all relative, isn’t it? How new is new? And how old is old? For example, I have a couple of old books on my desk as I write. One was published in 1941, and it’s likely long out of print. But there’s one beside it that was published in 1856, making the first one a century newer. And Gutenberg finished his publication of the Bible in 1455, four hundred years before the latter volume on my desk.

Sometimes we can be surprised, thinking a thing is relatively new when it’s not. We may think batteries that are able to store and produce an electric current were invented by Alessandro Volta, in 1800. But archeologists have discovered batteries used for electroplating in Ur, a city in Chaldea, four thousand years ago.

There is a kind of cult of newness that bothers me from time to time, a craving and obsession with the newest and latest. The other side of that coin is the rejection and disparagement of anything deemed to be old. But just because something is old is not reason in itself to cast it aside. This has its particular application to spiritual things.

The Bible is certainly an old book. It was written over a period of fourteen centuries, by about forty different authors, working under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The last of the New Testament was completed before AD 100. That makes it old indeed. But there’s an important difference between age and obsolescence. Because the Bible is the Word of the living God, it is as up-to-date and important to us today as when it was first written.

The testimony of the Scriptures is, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89), and the Lord Jesus said, “”Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35). “The word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (I Pet. 1:25). And the gospel is “that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14). There is no new way to be saved. We can only reach heaven through what Christ did for us on the cross (Jn. 3:16).

The Bible, and the faith it summons us to is old, but definitely not obsolete. That is the message of George Carr’s gospel song.

CH-1) ’Mid the storms of doubt and unbelief, we fear,
Stands a Book eternal that the saints hold dear;
Thro’ the restless ages it remains the same–
’Tis the Book of God, and the Bible is its name!

The old Book and the old faith are the rock on which I stand!
The old Book and the old faith are the bulwark of the land!
Thro’ storm and stress they stand the test
In every clime and nation blessed;
The old Book and the old faith are the hope of every land!

CH-2) ’Tis the Book that tells us of the Father’s love,
When He sent His Son to us from heav’n above,
Who by richest promise creates hope within,
For ’tis through His blood we are saved from every sin!

CH-5) Oh, the grand old Book and the dear old faith
Are the rock on which I stand!
Oh, the grand old Book and the dear old faith
Are the hope of every land!

Questions:
1) What are some things human beings are counting on that could soon be outdated and virtually useless?

2) What are some things we’re told in the Bible that are as up-to-date today as when they were written?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121 other followers