Posted by: rcottrill | March 4, 2015

I Will Pilot Thee

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: Emily Divine Wilson (b. May 24, 1865; d. June 23, 1942)
Music: Emily Divine Wilson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Emily Wilson)
Hymnary.org

Note: Emily Divine married John G. Wilson, a Methodist clergyman. She and her husband frequently attended the camp meetings at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. He also served as District Superintendent of the Philadelphia Conference of the Methodist Church, and ministered at Wharton Memorial Methodist Church, in Philadelphia. Mrs. Wilson had a gift both for music and for drama. She got to know Eliza Hewitt at the camp meetings, and the two women combined to give us the gospel song When We All Get to Heaven, with Wilson providing the tune.

I Will Pilot Thee, a beautiful song from 1927, is one of many that uses a nautical theme. This is surely understandable, particularly in the days before airplanes. Ships were the means of intercontinental travel, and the voyages were often fraught with danger. For poets and hymn writers, stormy seas easily became an analogy for the storms of life, the trials we face on our pilgrimage. You can see a list of over a hundred hymns using that theme on the Cyber Hymnal, here.

1) Sometimes, when my faith would falter
And no sunlight I can see,
I just lift mine eyes to Jesus
And I whisper, “Pilot me.”

“Fear thou not for I’ll be with thee,
I will still thy pilot be;
Never mind the tossing billows,
Take my hand and trust in Me.”

2) Often, when my soul is weary
And the days seem, oh, so long,
I just look up to my Pilot
And I hear this blessed song:

Checking the dictionary definition of the word “pilot,” I noticed a repeated expression. He or she is: a person who is qualified to steer or guide a ship or a plane. Qualified. We have right to expect that the one taking us to our destination has the proper knowledge and skill to do so safely and efficiently.

In the spiritual realm, we also need someone who can lead and guide us safely, someone who’s qualified to do so. The Bible makes it clear that the Lord is infinitely able to do that. “He leads me,” says the psalmist twice, in Psalm 23 (vs 2-3). And He can do things an ordinary human pilot cannot. He is the sovereign Ruler of life’s storms. Nothing happens that is beyond His control. “Even the wind and the sea obey Him” (Mk. 4:41).

3) When temptations ’round me gather
And I almost lose my way,
Somehow, in the raving tempest,
I can hear my Saviour say,

Little wonder that the people of God appeal to Him for guidance. The psalmist David prays, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness [i.e. on to smooth ground]” (Ps. 143:10). And the Lord promises, in another place, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (Ps. 32:8).

Perhaps, in the hymn writer’s mind, was the time when the disciples were caught in a storm, and Christ came to them, walking on the sea (Matt. 14:24-25). Inspired by that amazing miracle, brash Peter asked if the Lord would allow him to walk on the sea too, and Christ said, “Come” (vs. 28-29). “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (vs. 30-31).

We too are prone to doubt, as we see a stormy sea of trouble rising around us. But as we study the Word of God, we see what the Lord has done for His people, down the centuries. In the light of these things, our faith in Him can grow. But, in our weak humanity, we’re prone to get our eyes off the Lord and on the threatening waves. So many times we have “little faith.” It’s then the Lord can use the message of hymns such as this to encourage us to look, once again, to our abundantly able Pilot. He is not only sufficient for today, but for the day when we face eternity.

4) When I come to Jordan’s river
And its troubled waters see,
On the brink I’ll see my Saviour,
And I know He’ll pilot me.

Questions:
1) What are some helpful comparisons between storms at sea and the storms of life?

2) Can you think of other hymns and gospel songs on this theme that you know and love?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Emily Wilson)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 2, 2015

How Gentle God’s Commands

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: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Dennis, by Hans Georg Nägeli (b. May 26, 1773; d. Dec. 26, 1836)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Philip Doddridge was a pastor, an educator, and a hymn writer. He packed a great deal into a short life (of 49 years). An example of his diligence: He rose at five each morning and, while he was shaving, he had one of the students of his academy read to him, so that not a moment was wasted! It’s a measure of the charity and inclusiveness of his theology that he was a friend of two of our greatest hymn writers, Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. He wrote more than four hundred hymns himself.

The words of this hymn have been amended slightly over the years, but its beauty and simple message remain. Lowell Mason (1792-1872) provided the arrangement of the hymn tune that is customarily used (also used with Blest Be the Tie That Binds).

CH-1) How gentle God’s commands,
How kind His precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord,
And trust His constant care.

CH-2) While Providence supports,
Let saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guide His children well.

When David and Bathsheba succumbed to temptation, their adulterous relationship began a trail of misery and death that cast a dark shadow over the years to come (II Sam. 11:1-24; 12:1-12). And think of the folly of Judas Iscariot, turning his back on his dearest Friend, for a bit of cash, betraying the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16). Money he returned to the scheming Jewish leaders, before he committed suicide in black despair (Matt. 27:3-5).

These and many other examples illustrate bad trades, foolish bargains that brought disaster and ruin. But what of the opposite? Surely, God’s plan of salvation involves the greatest trade in all the universe. The Word of God tells us that the Lord Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

Our sins were all laid on Christ. He died as our Substitute, paying our debt of sin to a holy God. When we trust Him as Saviour, we are credited, in heaven, with the perfect righteousness of Christ. “For He [God the Father] He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). That’s some trade!

Prayer involves a great exchange, too. We come to God’s throne of grace with our burdens, and lay them down (I Pet. 5:7; cf. Ps. 55:22). In exchange, we receive mercy and grace [God’s strength and enablement] for the asking (Heb. 5:14-16). And when we make our requests known to the Lord, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Another great trade!

Doddridge’s hymn suggests the blessings of prayer. He based it on First Peter 5:7, “casting all your care [worries] upon Him, for He cares [is concerned] for you.” Dodderidge called his song, “God’s Care a Remedy for Ours,” but we now know it by the opening line. The beautiful couplet at the end of the hymn suggests the exchange I’ve described. It’s also an example of the editing of the original mentioned earlier. Doddridge wrote:

Then drop your burdens at His feet,
And bear a song away.

That is an invitation–which certainly suits the way in which First Peter 5:7 is framed. But newer hymn books state it as a determined commitment:

I’ll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.

Both versions have merit, in my view.

CH-3) Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your heavenly Father’s throne,
And sweet refreshment find.

CH-4) His goodness stands approved,
Down to the present day;
I’ll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.

Questions:
1) Have you recently had an experience like that described in the last two lines of the hymn?

2) How do you deal with our tendency to carry our burdens away with us, when we leave the place of prayer?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 27, 2015

Glory to His Name

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: Elisha Albright Hoffman (b. May 7, 1839; d. Nov. 25, 1929)
Music: John Hart Stockton (b. Apr. 19, 1813; d. Mar. 25, 1877)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Elisha Hoffman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Elisha Hoffman was an American pastor who also wrote many gospel songs. (Over eleven hundred of them are listed on the Cyber Hymnal.) John Stockton was an evangelist with the Methodist Episcopal church. He also wrote the tune for The Great Physician, and words and music for Only Trust Him.

A different version of this hymn was first published in 1878 with a tune by John Sweney, but the next year it appeared in the format we know today, with Stockton’s tune. You can see both versions on Hymnary.org.

There is no doubt about Pastor Hoffman’s passion to proclaim the message of salvation. It can be seen in so many of his hymns–What a Wonderful Saviour, and Are You Washed in the Blood? for example. Even more direct is a lesser known song, Where Will You Spend Eternity?

The present song is deceptively simple. Only one word (wondrously) has more than two syllables. And while the hymn does use imagery to portray a spiritual transaction, it is largely biblical imagery, and easily understood.

CH-1. The Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary to pay our debt of sin (I Cor. 15:3). When we come to the cross, in faith and call upon the Lord for cleansing, the saving power of the blood is applied to us and we are redeemed (Jn. 3:16; I Pet. 1:18-19). In that assurance, we “give unto the Lord the glory [honour] due to His name” (Ps. 29:2; cf. Eph. 1:12).

CH-1) Down at the cross where my Saviour died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His name!

Glory to His name, glory to His name:
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His name!

CH-2. Faith brings a confident testimony. Not only am I saved eternally, but I have the Saviour abiding within, through His Spirit, and the knowledge that “He took me in, and I’ve become His child, a part of His forever family (Gal. 3:26; I Jn. 3:1-2).

CH-2) I am so wondrously saved from sin,
Jesus so sweetly abides within;
There at the cross where He took me in;
Glory to His name!

CH-3. The saving power of the cross is more than a point-in-time thing. Through His Holy Spirit, and by the application of the Word of God, the Lord not only saves me but “keeps me clean” (Eph. 5:26; I Jn. 1:7, 9). As we ponder what God has done for us, it is a source of abiding joy and gladness (Isa. 61:10).

CH-3) Oh, precious fountain that saves from sin,
I am so glad I have entered in;
There Jesus saves me and keeps me clean;
Glory to His name!

CH-4. Will we not, in the growing realization of what God has done for us, want others to share in this wonderful salvation (I Pet. 3:15)? Hoffman issues an invitation to others, assuring them of completeness in Christ. This is a new thought. Not only is the sinner lost and hell-bound because of his sin, he is incomplete. He is not all that God wants Him to be and can make him. Positionally, he lacks a righteous standing with God (Rom. 3:23). Conditionally he is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), insensitive to the Spirit, and powerless to please God. Through Christ, all of that changes (Col. 2:9-10; Eph. 1:13-14).

4) Come to this fountain so rich and sweet,
Cast thy poor soul at the Saviour’s feet;
Plunge in today, and be made complete;
Glory to His name!

Questions:
1) Are you a Christian? If so, how do you know it?

2) What other hymns make a clear presentation of the gospel?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Elisha Hoffman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 25, 2015

Christ Returneth

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: H. L. Turner
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

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

Note: This hymn first appeared in 1878, but we know nothing about the author. Likely he was a contemporary of McGranahan’s, and the Cyber Hymnal says he was a co-editor of a songbook called Crowning Jewels No. 4.

Notice that the Cyber Hymnal follows some early publications of this hymn in putting “His own” in quotation marks in each stanza. Not all books do this, but it’s a way of emphasizing that believers belong to Christ, as His special treasure. He loves “His own” (Jn. 13:1). We have other examples of the Bible using this phrase. We are:

¤ “His own elect [chosen ones]” (Lk. 18:7)
¤ “His own sheep” (Jn. 10:3-4)
¤ “His own special people” (Tit. 2:14; I Pet. 2:9)
¤ “His own house [dwelling place]” (Heb. 3:6)

As such, it’s not surprising that the Lord Jesus expresses the desire that we be with Him for all eternity. Jesus said: “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). And to God the Father: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory” (Jn. 17:24). In beholding His heavenly glory, we will be led to worship and praise Him, and have the privilege of fellowship with Him, and of serving Him (Rev. 22:3).

As to the hymn itself, the first two stanzas seem to take their inspiration from a parable in Matthew 24:36-44). However, it is well to keep in mind that these words were spoken to a Jewish audience, and they concern the Lord’s coming in judgment to sweep away unbelievers. This can be seen in the comparison made to the flood of Noah’s day (vs. 37-39).

This is the climax of the Tribulation period described in Revelation chapters 6–18. However, I believe the church will be raptured seven years prior to this end-time judgment. If you’d like to see some of the evidence for a pretribulation rapture of the church, check out my article on Pretribulationism.

Even though this seems to be the basis for Turner’s imagery in the first two stanzas, it remains true that the catching away of the church could occur unexpectedly, at any moment, morning (CH-1), noon, or night (CH-2).

CH-1) It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness and shadow is breaking
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory
To receive from the world “His own.”

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Amen.

The rapture of the church is described in Scripture as a catching away of the living to meet the Lord and join those in Christ who have died previously.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:14-17).

CH-3) While its hosts cry Hosanna, from heaven descending,
With glorified saints and the angels attending,
With grace on His brow, like a halo of glory,
Will Jesus receive “His own.”

CH-4) Oh, joy! oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives “His own.

Questions:
1) If we are expecting the Lord’s return at any time, how will this affect our behaviour and our priorities?

2) What other second coming hymns do you know and love?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 23, 2015

All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night

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: Thomas Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Tallis’ Canon, by Thomas Tallis (b. circa 1505; d. Nov. 23, 1585)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In his boyhood, Bishop Ken had attended Winchester College in England–a school, still going strong today. It has been educating young men for over six hundred years. It was for the college of his boyhood that Bishop Ken wrote several hymns, three centuries ago. Each of three of them, to be used at different times of day, ended with the now-familiar Doxology.

In that era, the Anglican church did not allow congregational hymn singing. Only the Psalms were to be sung in churches. Anything new was looked upon as trying to add something to the Bible! Not everyone agreed with this restriction, of course. It was about this time that the great hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748) began to produce some wonderful new congregational hymns. But to comply with the view of the organized church, Thomas Ken instructed the boys only to use his hymns in private, saying, “Be sure to sing the morning and evening hymns in your chamber devoutly.”

CH-1) All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

CH-2) Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Night time means different things to different people. For some it brings rest, and peaceful slumber. But for others that’s all too often not the case. Without the diversion of activity, a sleepless night can seem endless. Shakespeare speaks, in Henry V, of “the foul womb of night,” the time that gives birth to loneliness and fear, and a sense of lurking dangers.

The Bible’s more than three hundred uses of the term are likewise diverse. On the first day of creation God called Night into being as a counterpoint to Day (Gen. 1:5). In the night, the starry heavens “declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1-2). Many of the animals spend the night foraging for food (Ps. 104:19-23), while it is often the time when man’s workday ends in rest–though not for all (Jn. 9:4; cf. Lk. 5:5).

The Word of God also recognizes that, for others, the night brings restlessness and disquieting dreams. That was so for Job, in his time of suffering. The nighttime brought no easing of his severe and painful physical condition. “Wearisome nights have been appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn” (Job 7:3-4).

CH-4) O may my soul on Thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

CH-5) When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.

Blessedly, there’s divine help for the struggles we face in the night. God is not only the God of Day, but of Night. As the psalmist says, “darkness and light are both alike to You” (Ps. 139:12). And Elihu was right: “God…gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10). Two missionaries, Paul and Silas, proved that to be true. By His grace they were able to sing hymns of praise to God, at midnight, in a prison cell (Acts 16:25).

Many of God’s people have found likewise the nearness of God, and His loving care, a relief in those long hours between dusk and dawn. In faith they’ve found, “the night shines as the day” (Ps. 139:12), claiming the Lord’s promise that “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).

CH-6) O when shall I, in endless day,
For ever chase dark sleep away,
And hymns divine with angels sing,
All praise to thee, eternal King?

CH-7) Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Questions:
1) What practical wisdom or spiritual help from this hymn particularly impresses you?

2) Is there someone who has trouble sleeping with whom you can share these thoughts?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 20, 2015

He Included Me

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

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

Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: Hampton Haygood Sewell (b. Jan. 7, 1875; d. May 11, 1938)

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

Note: Johnson Oatman has given us a number of songs that are still found in our hymn books. Count Your Blessings and Higher Ground are two of them. Hampton Sewell was a busy gospel musician in the early years of the twentieth century.

This 1909 offering is one of those incessantly repetitious songs which, to my mind, isn’t that well written either. The word “included” is used in four stanzas (and counting the refrains) 28 times! But, as I’ve noted with some other repetitious gospel songs, it does emphasize a truth that bears repeating.

CH-1) I am so happy in Christ today,
That I go singing along my way;
Yes, I’m so happy to know and say,
“Jesus included me, too.”

Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me;
Jesus included me, yes, He included me,
When the Lord said, “Whosoever,” He included me.

It was the determination of Branch Rickey, president and manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to integrate baseball in 1947. Until that time, all-white teams refused to hire any African American players. The “World” Series of baseball was a myth, as some of the best players were being excluded because of ethnicity or skin colour. It took the courage of Jackie Robinson to finally change things. Facing daily abuse, and even death threats, for daring to cross the line, he was included, and he’s a true twentieth century hero.

But how about the Christian gospel? Is it inclusive or exclusive? The answer is a paradox: it’s both. It’s exclusive in the sense that forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and a home in heaven are ours only through faith in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6)–“nor is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). That’s pretty restrictive!

“All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), and are condemned by a holy God. But there is a solution, a means of being delivered from the sin that shuts us out. By His grace, God the Father sent His Son to pay the price of our sin upon the cross. Through faith in Him, we can be saved (Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:30-31). “This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11-12).

Where, then, is the inclusiveness of the gospel? The inclusiveness is found in the offer of the gospel. It’s for all, of every national and ethnic group, men and women, old and young, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, no matter how sinful the person has been. A word that is used frequently to indicate this open invitation is whoever–or, in the longer form used by the King James Version, it’s whosoever.

Jesus promised, “Whoever believes in Me [will] not abide in darkness” (Jn. 12:46). “Whoever believes in Him [Christ] will receive remission [forgiveness] of sins” (Acts 10:43). God sent His Son to die in our place, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

That is the inclusiveness about which Johnson Oatman has written.

CH-2) Gladly I read, “Whosoever may
Come to the fountain of life today;”
But when I read it I always say,
“Jesus included me, too.”

The glorious invitation to avail ourselves of the gracious provision of God is a theme that can be found in both Old Testament and New.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isa. 55:1-2).

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water [a symbol of the new birth, through the regenerating work of the Spirit of God’” (Jn. 7:37-38).

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

CH-3) Ever God’s Spirit is saying, “Come!”
Hear the Bride saying, “No longer roam;”
But I am sure while they’re calling home,
Jesus included me, too.

Questions:
1) What are some reasons a person might think the gospel does not include him or her?

2) What is the advantage of a song being repetitious, as this one is?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | February 18, 2015

Saw You Never in the Twilight

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: Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander (b. Apr. ___, 1818; d. Oct. 12, 1895)
Music: Chartres, a 15th century French melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Cecil Alexander)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mrs. Alexander has given us a number of fine hymns. You can see a biography, also noting several of her hymns, on the Wordwise Hymns link. The tune I’m most familiar with for the present song, published in 1853, is not currently found on the Cyber Hymnal (though I’ve suggested the editor add it). It is included in one of the hymn books on Hymnary.org. (In The Sunday School Hymnal, of 1871, the tune is called The Adoration, and it’s attributed to Mozart.)

The tune Harwell, by Lowell Mason (also used with Hark, Ten Thousand Harps and Voices), is included as an option by the Cyber Hymnal, and it seems to work reasonably well.

The visit of the wise men is described in Matthew 2:1-11.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’….And behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11).

Tradition and fiction have coloured our understanding of this event. John Hopkins’ carol, We Three Kings has abetted this departure from history. We are never told how many there were. The fact that there were three gifts is hardly conclusive. There could have been two or ten. And they were not kings, as far as we know, but Persian magi, students of the stars.

Further, many carols and artful manger scenes insist on including the wise men among the shepherds, visiting the baby Jesus on that first Christmas night. However, it is likely the wise men lived in Persia. If the star they saw appeared on the night of Jesus’ birth, it was likely many weeks before they arrived in Bethlehem. By then, Mary and Joseph were living in a house, and Jesus is described as a “young Child” (vs. 11). The visit of the wise men is connected to Christmas by the star, but their arrival took place some time after.

Mrs. Alexander has avoided all of this, giving us the story as the Bible unfolds it, but also providing an invitation to meditate on its meaning.

CH-1) Saw you never, in the twilight,
When the sun had left the skies,
Up in heav’n the clear stars shining
Through the gloom, like silver eyes?
So of old the wise men, watching,
Saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given,
And they followed it from afar.

CH-2 Heard you never of the story
How they crossed the desert wild,
Journeyed on by plain and mountain,
Till they found the holy Child?
How they opened all their treasure,
Kneeling to that infant King;
Gave the gold and fragrant incense,
Gave the myrrh in offering?

Now comes the application. “The Bright and Morning Star” is the Lord Jesus’ own title for Himself (Rev. 22:16). His saving work was not only for His people Israel, but He was a light for all the world.

“Indeed He [God the Father] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You [God the Son] should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Isa. 49:6).

CH-3) Know ye not that lowly Baby
Was the Bright and Morning Star?
He who came to light the Gentiles,
And the darkened isles afar?
And we, too, may seek His cradle;
There our hearts’ best treasures bring;
Love, and faith, and true devotion
For our Saviour, God and King.

Questions:
1) What are some lessons we can learn from the wise men?

2) Given that this is a more accurate and meaningful carol about the wise men, would you use it at Christmas time?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Cecil Alexander)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 16, 2015

When I Can Read My Title Clear

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: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Pisgah, a religious folk tune of the early nineteenth century

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mount Pisgah, for which the tune is named, is a mountain on the east of the Jordan River, from which Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land (Deut. 34:1). The Cyber Hymnal says the tune is of Scottish origin, but it first appeared in 1816, in Kentucky Harmony, credited to Joseph Lowry–though he may simply have been the arranger.

Isaac Watts called the hymn “The Hope of Heaven Our Support Under Trials on Earth.” That reassures us that the opening line is not intended to cast doubt on the destiny of the child of God. It’s not as though Watts were saying that he hasn’t been able to “read his title clear” as yet. Rather, it’s, in effect, “Because I’m able to read my title clear in God’s Word, day by day…” The meaning of this beautiful hymn is further illuminated by a note in Nutter and Tillet’s book, The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church: An Annotated Edition of the Methodist Hymnal (p. 231)–a note you can find on the Cyber Hymnal link.

Throughout time God has used sacred music to convey truth and provide a means of worship and witness. Countless times our hymns have brought comfort in trials. “God…gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10). So it was for missionaries Paul and Silas.

“When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23-25).

An incident in the American Civil War shows again the power of a hymn to inspire faith and lift the spirit.

In the Battle of Shiloh, a Christian captain was shot through both thighs and lay dying on the battlefield, sodden by the falling rain. A little pool of muddy water formed nearby, and he tried desperately to reach it, to quench his burning thirst, but he was unable to. He said, “I never felt such disappointment before–so needy, so near, and yet so helpless.”

As time wore on, the clouds cleared and the stars shone brilliantly overhead. The wounded man says, “I began to think of the great God who had given His Son to die a death of agony for me, and that He was up there, above the scene of suffering, and above those glorious stars. I felt that I was going home to meet Him, and praise Him there.”

This meditation stirred his heart to try and sing, through parched lips, the present song:

CH-1) When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,
I bid farewell to every fear, and wipe my weeping eyes.
And wipe my weeping eyes, and wipe my weeping eyes
I bid farewell to every fear, and wipe my weeping eyes.

There was another soldier in the bush nearby who took up the strain, and beyond him another, and another, all over the battlefield. They made that place of suffering ring with hymns of praise to the Lord.

Isaac Watts’ original text (CH-2) spoke of Satan’s “hellish darts.” This has been changed in most hymn books to “fiery darts,” in keeping with Ephesians 6:16. In either case, the armour of God can protect us from the devil’s malice. To see a detailed study of the Christian’s armour as described in Ephesians, click on Christian Armour.

CH-2) Should earth against my soul engage, and hellish darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world.
And face a frowning world, and face a frowning world,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world.

The third stanza seems to apply graphically to the soldiers at Shiloh in their pain and desperate need. And what a metaphor for heavenly blessing in CH-4, “There shall I bathe my weary soul in seas of heav’nly rest”!

CH-3) Let cares, like a wild deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall!
May I but safely reach my home, my God, my heav’n, my All.
My God, my heaven, my All, my God, my heave’, my All,
May I but safely reach my home, my God, my heaven, my All.

CH-4) There shall I bathe my weary soul in seas of heav’nly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll, across my peaceful breast.
Across my peaceful breast, across my peaceful breast,
And not a wave of trouble roll, across my peaceful breast.

Questions:
1) What hymns have been a special comfort and encouragement to you, in times of pain and distress?

2) Is there someone in need today with whom you could share this blessing?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 13, 2015

O Teach Me What It Meaneth

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

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

Words: Lucy Ann Bennett (b. Jan. 8, 1850; d. Mar. 10, 1927)
Music: Passion Chorale, tune by Hans Leo Hassler (b. Oct. 25, 1654; d. June 8, 1612); adapted and harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The author wrote this hymn in 1908. Miss Bennett produced many books of poetry, and a number of hymns. She is buried in Gloucestershire, in the churchyard of the Mount Pleasant Chapel, where her father served as music director. The six stanzas of this hymn explore the depths of the grace and love of God, in light of Bennett’s own confessed sinfulness. This is not superficial froth, but strong theological teaching, worthy of our careful meditation.

The tune given by the Cyber Hymnal is Passion Chorale. As an alternative to this, I’d suggest Aurelia, by Samuel Wesley (1810-1876)–a great tune to which we sing The Church’s One Foundation.

CH-1) O teach me what it meaneth,
That cross uplifted high,
With One, the Man of Sorrows,
Condemned to bleed and die!
O teach me what it cost Thee
To make a sinner whole;
And teach me, Saviour, teach me
The value of a soul!

The Bible makes it clear that becoming a child of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26) isn’t the end, but a new beginning. There is significant knowledge to be gained, and specific life-skills to be acquired, if believers are to please God, and go on to maturity.

One Bible book where this comes up again and again is Psalms. Many times the psalmists call upon God to teach them. “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God” (Ps. 143:10). Similar requests are found ten times in Psalm 119 (e.g. Ps. 119:12, 26, 33, etc.) This is especially appropriate since the whole psalm is about the Scriptures themselves, and it’s substantially from God’s Word that we learn what is needed.

CH-2) O teach me what it meaneth,
That sacred crimson tide,
The blood and water flowing
From Thine own wounded side.
Teach me that if none other
Had sinned, but I alone,
Yet still Thy blood, Lord Jesus,
Thine only, must atone.

For our Christian education, the whole Bible is before us. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (II Tim. 3:16). Though some things have changed on this side of the cross, “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Even in serving the Lord, we learn more about Him, and His ways (Matt. 11:29).

CH-3) O teach me what it meaneth,
Thy love beyond compare,
The love that reacheth deeper
Than depths of self-despair!
Yes, teach me, till there gloweth
In this cold heart of mine
Some feeble, pale reflection
Of that pure love of Thine.

As a follower of Christ, the Apostle Paul taught others to follow his example (Phil. 4:9), but only to the extent that he was faithful in his walk of faith and obedience to God (I Cor. 11:1). One of the things Paul gained was contentment. Whether he had much or little, he says, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11-12). And he urged young Timothy to, “continue in the things which you have learned” (II Tim. 3:14).

CH-4) O teach me what it meaneth,
For I am full of sin,
And grace alone can reach me,
And love alone can win.
O teach me, for I need Thee,
I have no hope beside–
The chief of all the sinners
For whom the Saviour died!

There is a keen understanding here, not only of the purpose and efficacy of Christ’s death, but also of human need, and the limits of human understanding. In our sinfulness, our perception is clouded (CH-4). But in the light of Calvary, we learn “the value of a soul” (CH-1).

CH-6) O infinite Redeemer!
I bring no other plea;
Because Thou dost invite me
I cast myself on Thee.
Because Thou dost accept me
I love and I adore;
Because Thy love constraineth,
I’ll praise Thee evermore!

Questions:
1) What are some important truths this hymn presents?

2) Have you–or would you–use this great hymn at a Communion Service?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | February 11, 2015

The Unveiled 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: Noah Benjamin Herrell (b. Mar. 8, 1877; d. May 10, 1953)
Music: Noah Benjamin Herrell

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Noah Herrell was a pastor, until heart trouble led to his retirement. The Wordwise Hymns link will give you the story behind this 1916 hymn, for which Pastor Herrell wrote both words and music.

There has been a legal debate over whether Muslim women should be allowed to keep their faces covered with the hijab, when testifying in court. This veil is not mandated by the Quran, but it’s traditional to wear it as a sign of modesty. Opponents, while recognizing the principle of religious freedom, are concerned that there are times when seeing the woman’s face is important. Facial expressions in court, for example, can be one sign of truthfulness or deception.

The practice of women wearing veils is also found in the Scriptures. When Rebekah, was introduced to Isaac, her future husband, for the first time, “she took a veil and covered herself” (Gen. 24:65). But most times in the Old Testament the term is used of the curtain that separated the holy place from the holy of holies, in the tabernacle of worship, and later in the temple in Jerusalem.

In the holy of holies was the ark of the covenant. It was above the ark, between two golden cherubim, that the Lord revealed His presence in a blaze of glorious light (cf. Ps. 80:1). Admittance to that inner room was severely restricted. Only Israel’s high priest could enter, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. At that time, he brought blood from the altar of sacrifice in the courtyard, and applied it to the lid of the ark (Lev. 16:14, 17).

It was symbolic, of course–the death of an innocent substitute atoning for the sins of human beings. In the final sense, the shed blood of an animal could not pay for human sin (Heb. 10:4). However, when offered in faith, God accepted it at the time, as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ yet to come, the One called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

All of this provides important background for something that happened when the Lord Jesus hung on the cross. The Bible says that, when He died, “behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:50-51). Josephus says that huge woven veil was about three inches thick. No easy thing to tear! It is even significant how it was done. Not from the bottom up, as by someone standing below, but from top to bottom, as an act of God.

The veil represented a barrier between God and man, cut off from his Creator because of sin. But by the sacrifice of Christ, the shed blood of our Substitute, the way was opened for us to approach God. Through faith in His sacrifice, we are once more able to come before Him, in praise and prayer. And since we have this “new and living way,” God’s Word urges, “let us draw near” (Heb. 10:19-22).

CH-1) Once our blessèd Christ of beauty
Was veiled off from human view;
But through suffering, death and sorrow
He has rent the veil in two.

O behold the man of sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

CH-2) Now He is with God the Father,
Interceding there for you;
For He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

What a wonderful salvation, purchased for us by our Saviour. For our sake, He became poor (II Cor. 8:9). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (II Cor. 9:15). Now, ascended to the right hand of the Father, He intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25).

CH-3) Holy angels bow before Him,
Men of earth give praises due;
For He is the well belovèd
Since He rent the veil in two.

CH-4) Throughout time and endless ages,
Heights and depths of love so true;
He alone can be the Giver
Since He rent the veil in two.

Questions:
1) What is the only thing that can separate us from God today?

2) What can be done about that?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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