Posted by: rcottrill | March 30, 2015

He Who Safely Keepeth

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

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

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As to Ira Sankey’s tune, Alfred Smith, in Living Hymns, provides an altered version that I think is perhaps more singable.

Hymn books sometimes list the author of this hymn as Lyman G. Cuyler, but this is one of an astonishing 204 pen names used by Fanny Crosby! Others used pen names too, but no one came even close to adopting this many. Here are a few of Fanny’s, listed in Bernard Ruffin’s biography of the great gospel song writer, called simply Fanny Crosby (p. 105).

Fanny Van Alstyne (her married name), Carrie Hawthorne, Carrie Bell, Louise W. Tilden, Lillian G. Frances, Grace Frances, Leah Carleton, Mr. Edna Forest, Mrs. Kate Smiling, Mrs. L. C. Prentice, Maud Marion, Cora Adrienne, Minnie B. Lowry, Ryan A. Dykes, Alice Armstrong, Alice Monteith, H. N. Lincoln, Frank Gould, Catherine Bethune, Sallie Martin, Rose Atherton, Eleanor Craddock, Flora Dayton.

The question may well be raised as to why she did this. Was it simply a humorous whim? Maybe. Was it a matter of modesty–since she wrote about 8,500 hymns. Maybe that. But I think there may have been a practical reason why publishers (subtly guileful) encouraged this practice. Some song books that were published contained so many of Miss Crosby’s creations it looked as though they had no other source for their songs. But seeing a hymn by Lyman Cuyler, and others attributed to those listed above, helped to avoid that.

The present song was likely inspired by the words of Psalm 121.

“Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Ps. 121:4-8).

CH-1) He, who safely keepeth, slumbers not, nor sleepeth;
Though by all the world forsaken, wherefore should I fear?
That which He hath spoken never can be broken;
Who shall harm the trusting heart when He is near?

Various forms of the word “keep” are found in the book of Psalms some 62 times, in our English Bibles. Sometimes it refers to keeping God’s commandments. But in many of the psalms, the speaker (David or another) is going through some severe trial, or facing some threatening danger. The keeping power of the Lord is a great assurance in such times.

The Hebrew word used (shamar) has the sense of guard, protect, and preserve. Here are a few examples.

¤ “Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep [guard, protect and preserve] me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings (Ps. 17:7-8).

¤ “Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You” (Ps. 25:19-20).

¤ “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:9-11).

¤ “Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble” (Ps. 140:4).

¤ “My eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 141:8-9).

CH-2) He will keep me ever, where no pow’r can sever
From my heart, the love that hides me, in His secret place.
There in faith abiding, all to Him confiding,
Through His spirit I am sealed an heir of grace.

CH-3 He will keep me ever; like a gentle river
Peace from Him, my Lord and Saviour, comes with joy to me;
In its quiet flowing, life and health bestowing,
Till within the gates of pearl the King I see!

Questions:
1) What are some things from which you need the Lord’s protection, today?

2) What are some important ways you can arm yourself against these dangers or difficulties?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 27, 2015

God That Madest Earth and Heaven

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; Frederick Lucian Hosmer (b. Oct. 16, 1840; d. June 7, 1929); William Mercer (b. _____, 1811; d. Aug. 21, 1873; Richard Whately (b. Feb. 1, 1787; d. Oct. 6, 1863)
Music: Ar Hyd Y Nos (meaning Through the Night), a traditional Welsh melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Reginald Heber)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The remarkable thing about this hymn is that it took four men to write the words, as described below. The Welsh melody has been found in print dating 1784, and it was used by John Gay in The Beggar’s Opera (1728).

There can be a cooperative effort in relation to producing the hymns we sing. Sometimes the same person has given us both the words and the music. But often the author of the text, and the composer of the tune, are two different people. If the original song was written in another language, the work of a translator is involved too. Then comes the hymn book editor, who selects the song, and may alter it (or abbreviate it) to suit his need.

Nor does the cooperative process end there. How does the song become known and loved? Sometimes, popular musicians will sing it and record it, or a well-known evangelist will use it in his meetings, or on television. That may bring it to the attention of a local congregation, and they begin to use it, to the blessing of many.

However, the present hymn is somewhat unique, in that it involved a cooperative effort to write the text, the words being provided by four different people, separated by many years. I’ll give them here in the order they were added to the hymn, noting also their present order in it, as posted by the Cyber Hymnal.

CH-1. In 1827, the first stanza, by Reginald Heber, was published posthumously. It’s a beautiful prayer that our Creator would protect and care for us through the night. If the Almighty had wisdom and power enough to call worlds into being at the dawn of creation, then surely He is able to do that. Even in a time of distress, King David said, “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me” (Ps. 3:5). Another psalm says, “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).

CH-1) God, that madest earth and heaven, darkness and light;
Who the day for toil hast given, for rest the night;
May Thine angel guards defend us,
Slumber sweet Thy mercy send us;
Holy dreams and hopes attend us, all through the night.

In 1838, Richard Whately made his contribution (CH-4), asking that the God who faithfully keeps His own through each night, continue to keep us through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4).

CH-4) Guard us waking, guard us sleeping, and when we die,
May we in Thy mighty keeping all peaceful lie;
When the last dread call shall wake us,
Do not Thou, our God, forsake us,
But to reign in glory take us with Thee on high.

That sounds like a good ending for the hymn, and it is. But there actually were two more additions to come in between. In 1864 we get CH-3, by William Mercer, providing a prayer for help and guidance each day, as we waken from sleep.

CH-3) And when morn again shall call us, to run life’s way,
May we still, whatever befall us, Thy will obey.
From the power of evil hide us,
In the narrow pathway guide us,
Nor Thy smile be e’er denied us all through the day.

CH-2 is by Frederick Hosmer, written in 1914. Hosmer was an American, and a Unitarian. He was also a recognized expert on the hymns of the church and taught the subject at Harvard.

CH-2) When the constant sun returning unseals our eyes,
May we, born anew like morning, to labour rise;
Gird us for the task that calls us,
Let not ease and self enthrall us,
Strong through Thee whate’er befall us, O God most wise!

Doesn’t that make a fine prayer for each day of our lives? “When I am awake, I am still with You” (Ps. 139:18). Lord, help me to do Your will, and protect me from Satan and his wiles. There are echoes there of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….Deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6:10, 13). Guide us in the narrow way the Lord Jesus spoke of (Matt. 7:13-14), and may we enjoy rich fellowship with You (I Jn. 1:7).

Questions:
1) When you pray each morning–as I hope you do–what petitions do you make relating to the coming day?

2) What other prayer hymns provide inspiration for our prayers?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Reginald Heber)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 25, 2015

Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

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: Unknown author, from the 6th to 9th century; English translation from the Latin original by John Mason Neale (b. Jan. 24, 1818; d. Aug. 6, 1886)
Music: Regent Square, by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

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

Note: The dating of the original is uncertain, and its authorship unknown. Neale’s 1851 English hymn comes from a longer Latin hymn entitled Urba Beata Hierusalem (Beautiful City, Jerusalem), with reference to the city of God, New Jerusalem, the heavenly city where the throne of God is. The opening line of the original was, “Blessed city, heavenly Salem [an early name for Jerusalem, Ps. 76:2].” Neale chose to begin with the fifth stanza (of nine) in the Latin version.

Henry Smart’s tune, Regent Square, is the one we traditionally use with the carol, Angels from the Realms of Glory.

CH-1) Christ is made the sure Foundation,
Christ the Head and Cornerstone;
Chosen of the Lord, and precious,
Binding all the church in one,
Holy Zion’s help forever,
And her confidence alone.

The opening stanza of the hymn brings together a number of titles and descriptions of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Foundation (I Cor. 3:11), the Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), and the Cornerstone (Acts 4:11; cf. Matt. 21:42-44.) The entire church, including the saints in heaven and on earth, are bound together in Christ (Eph. 3:14-15).

It is in and through Christ that the heavenly Zion, also called “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22-23), and “the holy city, New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2), is being prepared as a dwelling place for the saints (Jn. 14:2-3). What all this preparation will include, we aren’t told. But we know the city will be precisely fitted for us in every respect.

CH-2) All that dedicated city,
Dearly loved of God on high,
In exultant jubilation,
Pours perpetual melody,
God the One in Three adoring
In glad hymns eternally.

Notice the reference to the Trinity in CH-2 (a theme that will be taken up more boldly in the final stanza). God is declared to be “the One in Three.” This was a direct contradiction of Arian heresy that troubled the early post-apostolic church. Arius (circa AD 250–336) contended that Christ is not God, but rather a creation of God, and thus inferior to Him. Athanasius ably defended Trinitarian doctrine and Arius was declared a heretic.

At this point, the hymn writer turns from his contemplation of the heavenly city, and represents the congregation of a local church calling upon the Lord for His blessing–“fullest blessing” now, followed by eternal blessing, reigning with Christ (cf. Rev. 5:9-10).

CH-3) To this temple, where we call Thee,
Come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
With Thy wonted lovingkindness
Hear Thy servants as they pray.
And Thy fullest benediction
Shed within its walls alway.

CH-4) Here vouchsafe to all Thy servants
What they ask of Thee to gain;
What they gain from Thee forever
With the blessèd to retain,
And hereafter in Thy glory
Evermore with Thee to reign.

Finally there is a benediction, reflecting in brief the declaration of the lengthy Athanasian Creed, which says, in part:

“We worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity; neither confusing the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost; but the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost; the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Ghost uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Ghost infinite…”

CH-5) Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son,
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three and ever One;
Consubstantial, co-eternal,
While unending ages run.

“Consubstantial” is a theological term meaning that each Person of the one Triune Godhead has the same essence or nature. No Person of the Three is inferior to the others, but each is fully God and has all the attributes of deity.

Questions:
1) Why would Satan raise up men such as Arius to deny the deity of Christ?

2) What is lost Christ is not fully Man and fully God?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 23, 2015

All Things Work Out for Good

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

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

Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: Ortonville, by Thomas Hastings (b. Oct. 15, 1784; d. May 15, 1872)

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

Note: John Peterson was perhaps the major sacred music composer of the twentieth century. You can see a short biography on the Wordwise Hymns link. He was as adept at writing clear, biblical lyrics as he was in composing melodious and singable tunes.

In 1961, Peterson published a hymn that is basically a meditation on Romans 8:28. It begins with a reference to the text.

All things work out for God, we know–
Such is God’s great design;
He orders all our steps below
For purposes divine.

Recently I talked with a senior citizen, asking her how she was doing. “I feel really good today, she said. Of course, my father once had a horse that was in the pink of condition–and the next day it fell down dead!” Likely my friend was joking. But it did remind me of the many things in life that are uncertain or doubtful. For many things we have no real guarantees.

Yes, it’s necessary to make some plans for future events and circumstances, whether we are looking forward to a picnic on the week-end, or preparing for our years of retirement in the more distant future. But we mustn’t treat our plans, as if they were absolute certainties. The Apostle James warns against that.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (Jas. 4:13-14).

The Lord Jesus told a parable about an arrogant farmer whose growing wealth gave him a false sense of security. Things were going well, and he thought he could see a golden future ahead. One day he said to himself, “You have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But it was not to be. “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you’ (Lk. 12:19-20).

And there is the key–in Peterson’s words, “God’s great design.” Almighty God on His throne rules over all things, including what will come tomorrow (Ps. 24:1). In recognition of this, James counsels us, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (Jas. 4:15). The sovereignty of God calls for us to make our plans tentatively and provisionally. To plan well and wisely, but not to assume that we can unfailingly prophesy future events.

But there is another side to this. The fact that God is in control, and that He knows the future, can give assurance where our own limited foresight cannot. The Bible says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). And there are three important parts to that verse. Taking them in reverse order, they tell us:

1) The Subjects of the Promise. It is for those who love God, and are ones He has called into a personal relationship with Himself. The calling of Romans 8:28 is God’s part; the loving of God is our response. In short, these are Christians, ones who’ve become the children of God through faith in Christ (Jn. 1:12-13).

2) The Substance of the Promise. It’s God’s pledge to us that He will take everything that happens to us, everything that touches our lives, and turn it to His good purpose and our blessing. Nothing is outside the sphere of this. It includes the difficult and painful things as well as pleasant ones. And as the third stanza of the hymn puts it, “Mortals are immortal here until their work is done.”

3) The Certainty of the Promise. This is something “we know,” on the basis of God’s faithful Word. There is no “I think so…maybe” here. How do we know? Because God has promised it. He is a God of truth, and if He says it, He will do it.

We may not see how certain experiences can result in our good, but that is not the issue. They will. And the “good” that is assured is further explained in the next verse in Romans. It’s that Christians “be conformed to the image of His Son” (vs. 29). All that the Lord allows to touch our lives is designed to further that goal.

What is so often unclear to us now will possibly be revealed when we get to heaven. Whether it is nor not, we’ll be satisfied that God knew best, in “all things.” In the words of the hymn, “In heaven’s clearer light I’ll see all things worked out for good.”

Questions:
1) Is there something in your life that you are struggling to trust God with, as He works all things for good?

2) Will you trust Him today to continue that work?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | March 20, 2015

The Birthday of a King

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: William Harold Neidlinger (b. July 20, 1863; d. Dec. 5, 1924)
Music: William Harold Neidlinger

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Wordwise Hymns link has a short (but interesting) biographical note on Neidlinger. He wrote both the words and music of the carol, and it was published in 1890.

Often our appreciation of something, can be enhanced when it is contrasted with other things. That applies to the Christmas story. Think of the contrast between Jerusalem and little Bethlehem. One would think that the King would be born in Jerusalem, the bustling capital. That’s what the wise men must have concluded (Matt. 2:1-2). But though Bethlehem was a relatively obscure village, God had long ago chosen it as the place of His Son’s birth (Mic. 5:2).

Think of the contrast between a warm bed in the inn, where Joseph and Mary hoped to cradle the newborn Child, and the manger of hay where He was laid, when there was “no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:7). Think of Christ being lauded by angels and hated by deceitful Herod (Lk. 2:11, 14; Matt. 2:13). Think of homage being paid to Him not by kings and princes, but by shepherds and wise men (Lk. 2:16, 20; Matt. 2:11). (The wise men were magi, or astrologers, not “kings,” as the carol We Three Kings suggests.)

Finally, think of the Son of God stooping in profound humility to become Man, and the One born to be King of kings being rejected and crucified. And think of One born in relative obscurity whose gospel of salvation is now proclaimed to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The Bible sums up the gospel this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

In old time photography, a picture produced by a chemical reaction on sensitive film begins as a negative that had to go through a further step to become a positive image. In a negative, all the parts of the picture that will eventually become dark appear to be light, and all the parts of the picture that will ultimately be light appear to be dark. So it is with the first coming of Christ. The darkness of evil in the hearts of His enemies led them to call for His crucifixion. But the head that once was crowned with thorns will one day wear a diadem of honour, shining in the glory light of heaven.

Concerning His kingly reign, Christ is now, in a sense, the King in waiting. In that character He resembles His human ancestor, David. It was several years after young David was anointed by Samuel (I Sam. 16:1, 13), before he ascended the throne of Israel. Christ’s messianic reign over the kingdoms of earth has been prophesied, but He was rejected at His first coming. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, awaiting the day when He returns in triumph to reign (cf. Acts 2:32-36).

Consider what the Bible says about Christ the King:

¤ Matthew begins his Gospel by proclaiming “Jesus Christ [as] the Son [descendant] of David,” Israel’s greatest king (Matt. 1:1).

¤ Mary was told about His coming reign, even before His miraculous conception (Lk. 1:31-33).

¤ Some time after His birth, the wise men came to pay homage to Him as “King of the Jews,” whom they desired to worship (Matt. 2:2, 11).

¤ Nathanael addressed Him as “the King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49).

¤ The people proclaimed Him “King of the Jews” at His triumphal entry, which was itself a fulfilment of prophecy about the King (Jn. 12:13; cf. Zech. 9:9).

¤ Jesus Himself acknowledged that He was indeed the King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11).

¤ Even when He was crowned with thorns and crucified, Pilate stubbornly insisted that the inscription above His cross read, “the King of the Jews” Jn. 19:19-22).

¤ After His ascension, the apostles identified Him as King, and anticipated His future reign (I Tim. 6:14-15; Heb. 10:12-13; cf. Rev. 19:11-16).

Meanwhile, individual believers can recognize Him as Lord of their lives, and look forward to the great day of triumph yet to come. And it is certainly true that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was the birth of a King.

CH-1) In the little village of Bethlehem,
There lay a child one day;
And the sky was bright with a holy light
O’er the place where Jesus lay.

Alleluia! O how the angels sang.
Alleluia! How it rang!
And the sky was bright with a holy light
’Twas the birthday of a King.

CH-2) ’Twas a humble birthplace, but O how much
God gave to us that day,
From the manger bed what a path has led,
What a perfect, holy way.

Questions:
1) If the Lord Jesus is truly recognized as Lord and King of our lives, what difference will that make in how we live?

2) What hymns do you know that proclaim the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 18, 2015

Not I, but 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: Ada Anne Fitzgerald Whiddington (b. _____, 1855; Mar. 14, 1933)
Music: Albert Benjamin Simpson (b. Dec. 15, 1843; d. Oct. 29, 1919)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives a date of 1891 for this hymn, though it may have appeared as much as a decade earlier. Whiddington wrote six stanzas, but most hymnals include only four (CH-1, 2, 3, and 6). Hymns of the Christian Life, the hymnal of Simpson’s own Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, also has CH-4.

As to the tune, some books use the one written by Simpson. But others have a tune named Exaltation, by C. H. Forrest (of whom nothing is known). In my view, the latter is the superior tune. There are others as well, some using the refrain, others omitting it.

CH-1) Not I, but Christ, be honoured, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

O to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
O to be lost in Thee,
O that it might be no more I,
But Christ, that lives in me.

CH-2) Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow,
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

This is a powerful hymn expressing the believer’s aspiration that Christ be more and more revealed in and through him. Several key Bible texts relate to the theme.

¤ The words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Though he likely meant this in terms of public prominence and influence in ministry, it stands as a simple expression that can be applied more widely. In our lives, we should desire that more of Christ be seen.

¤ God’s stated purpose for us is this: “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

¤ The ministry of the Holy Spirit reproduces in us the “fruit” of Christlike character: “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18; cf. Gal. 5:22-23).

¤ Paul’s testimony was: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The hymn uses the precise phrase, “not I, but Christ,” as it’s found in the King James Version.

¤ In yet another passage, Paul expresses the hope, “That the life of Jesus also [should] be manifested in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:11).

It’s not that we become mere robots, manipulated by God, with no identity of our own. Rather, as we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit seeks to produce in us the holy and loving character of Christ. Through our meditation on the Word of God, we learn to think God’s thoughts after Him. We are “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Rom. 12:2). Sometimes the goal is referred to as Christlikeness. The Bible describes it as bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

CH-5) Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying,
Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;
Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit,
Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.

In this life, we’ll never reach perfection. We are a work in progress, under the hand of God. But when others see us responding to life’s situations, they should be able to say, “That must be what Jesus is like.” Then, when we are caught up into the presence of the Lord, His design for us will finally be fulfilled. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I Jn. 3:2). We look expectantly to the time when:

CH-6) Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see–
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling–
Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.

Questions:
1) What does the refrain mean by the expression, “oh to be saved from myself”?

2) In your own life, what area do you believe is the least Christlike, and most needing daily grace?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 16, 2015

Sleep, Holy Babe

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: Edward Caswall (b. July 15, 1814; d. Jan. 2, 1878)
Music: John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edward Caswall)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This gentle carol, a kind of lullaby, sometimes called Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, was published by Caswall in 1850. Though he wrote some texts of his own, he is best know for his translation of hymns from other languages. (When Morning Guilds the Skies, and Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee are two examples of his translation work.) His carol, Sleep, Holy Babe, was an original poem from his pen.

I’ve been unable to find a specific name for Dykes’s tune (other than “Sleep Holy Babe”) which is unusual. If you spot one, please let me know.

CH-1) Sleep! Holy Babe! upon Thy mother’s breast;
Great Lord of earth and sea and sky,
How sweet it is to see Thee lie
In such a place of rest, in such a place of rest.

CH-2) Sleep! Holy Babe! Thine angels watch around,
All bending low with folded wings,
Before th’incarnate King of kings,
In reverent awe profound, in reverent awe profound.

Great oaks from little acorns grow, they say. That’s been a proverbial expression for at least six centuries, describing how great things can come from relatively small beginnings.

Since the discoveries that have been made in genetics, we can offer even more dramatic comparisons. Microscopic DNA molecules store all the necessary information to reproduce a particular plant or animal, or a human being. When an acorn is produced, or a baby is conceived, each contains the recipe for what it will one day become. They are bundles of potentiality yet to be realized.

One wonders what potential was imagined in the baby Jesus by those who first saw Him. Some, of course, were aided in their understanding by supernatural revelations. Both Mary (Lk. 1:34-35) and Joseph (Matt. 1:20) learned in that way that the conception of Christ would be the result of a unique miracle. To the shepherds keeping watch near Bethlehem, it was revealed that the Babe was born to be both the Saviour and the Christ–meaning Messiah (Lk. 2:11). And both Mary and the wise men also learned that He was born to be King of the Jews (Lk. 1:31-33; Matt. 2:1-2, 11).

Yet, in spite of this information being given, it was only gradually that most, even people of faith, came to realize who Christ was and is–that He is God the Son incarnate, not only fully Man, but fully God. When the Lord calmed the stormy Sea of Galilee with a word, the disciples responded, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27). The Pharisees, rightly understanding that it was God’s prerogative to forgive sins, accused Christ of blasphemy when He did so (Lk. 5:20-21). People wondered at the unique authority with which He spoke (Matt. 7:29; Jn. 7:46).

Only after His resurrection from the dead did Thomas bow before the Saviour addressing Him as “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28). About thirty years later, the Apostle Paul wrote that “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). And further on, when John wrote his Gospel, He declared that Christ (whom he calls “the Word) “was with God, and the Word was God,” and He lived among us, revealing the Father’s glory (Jn. 1:1:14). The unidentified author of Hebrews quotes God the Father saying, “Let all the angels of God worship Him,” and “to the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Heb. 1:6, 8).

In 1850, Edward Caswell published this Christmas carol that describes something of the dramatic contrast between the sleeping Infant and who He is. It captures in a few words the identity of the slumbering Baby. Notice, “Thine angels” (CH-2). The hosts of heaven are His to command. We are told that at the second coming, “the Son of Man [Christ] will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend” (Matt. 13:41). Truly He is Lord of all in heaven and earth. In the Babe of Bethlehem resided a bundle of infinite potential that will continue being revealed to the saints throughout eternity.

CH-3) Sleep! Holy Babe! while I with Mary gaze
In joy upon that face awhile,
Upon the loving infant smile
Which there divinely plays, which there divinely plays.

CH-4) Sleep! Holy Babe! ah! take Thy brief repose;
Too quickly will Thy slumbers break,
And Thou to lengthened pains awake
That death alone shall close, that death alone shall close.

Questions:
1) For what reason(s) did the “Lord of earth and sea and sky” come to this earth?

2) In Your opinion, what carols most clearly tell who He is, and why He came?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edward Caswall)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 13, 2015

My Jesus, As Thou Wilt

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: Benjamin Schmolk (b. Dec. 21, 1672; d. Feb. 12, 1737); translated from German by Jane Borthwick (1813-1897)
Music: Jewett, by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (b. Nov. 18, 1786; d. June 5, 1826)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Weber was a German classical composer and pianist. The hymn tune Jewett was a musical theme adapted from his opera Der Freischütz (the Marksman).

This is a truly wonderful hymn. Unfortunately, most hymnals include only three of the seven stanzas (CH-1, 4, and 7). The practice is not that unusual. Editors often include only a few stanzas of longer hymns. This is done for one or more of several reasons.

¤ More space is needed on the page
¤ Some stanzas are deemed doctrinally inaccurate, or too sectarian
¤ Some stanzas are poetically inferior or awkward to sing
¤ The belief that congregations don’t like long hymns

Regarding the last point, there are service leaders who, when they see a hymn with even four stanzas, feel they must shorten it by skipping one. (Often, without a shred of logic, it is the third that is left out.) Frankly, I find this ridiculous. Some hymns and gospel songs have a logical flow that is missed if stanzas are omitted. (At Calvary is like that.) Other times each stanza presents worthwhile teaching–as the present one does. If it is a quality hymn, why not sing it all?

Or, there are alternatives.

You could use the hymn as a devotional reading (perhaps in unison). Or sing some stanzas and have the congregation read the others in unison. Or split the hymn, and sing the latter part of it later in the service. Occasionally, if I want to make a specific point, I will select stanzas to suit. But it is not an arbitrary skipping to shorten the hymn. And on another occasion I will use the whole hymn. For other ideas click on the link above to 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.

CH-1) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Oh, may Thy will be mine!
Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign;
Through sorrow, or through joy, conduct me as Thine own,
And help me still to say, my Lord, Thy will be done!

CH-2) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! If needy here and poor,
Give me Thy people’s bread, their portion rich and sure.
The manna of Thy Word Let my soul feed upon;
And if all else should fail, my Lord, thy will be done!

CH-3) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! If among thorns I go,
Still sometimes, here and there, let a few roses blow.
But Thou on earth along the thorny path hast gone;
Then lead me after Thee; My Lord, Thy will be done!

Submission to the will of God is the relentless theme of this great hymn. “Thy will be done” is part of the Lord’s Prayer (in the King James Version).

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Just as the holy angels faithfully do the will of God in heaven, it should be our desire for that to happen on earth. And, when Christ comes to reign, it will. Meanwhile, it should be the commitment of each person’s heart to do that, day by day. With similar words, the Gospels record the submission of the Lord Jesus to His heavenly Father in Gethsemane: “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39; Mk. 14:36; Lk. 22:42).

CH-4) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Though seen through many a tear,
Let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear;
Since Thou on earth hast wept, and sorrowed oft alone,
If I must weep with Thee, my Lord, Thy will be done!

CH-5) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! If loved ones must depart,
Suffer not sorrow’s flood to overwhelm my heart;
For they are blest with Thee, their race and conflict won;
Let me but follow them, my Lord, Thy will be done!

Glance through the hymn and see the various circumstances in which the author pledges to seek only the will of God. Times of sorrow or joy, whatever comes his way (CH-1 and 7); times of pressing need (CH-2); times of “thorns,” or painful trials (CH-3); times of sorrowful loss of loved ones (CH-4 and 5); at the time of death (CH-6). What a great compendium this is, worthy of our careful meditation.

CH-6) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! When death itself draws nigh,
To Thy dear wounded side I would for refuge fly;
Leaning on Thee, to go where Thou before hast gone;
The rest as Thou shalt please; my Lord, Thy will be done!

CH-7) My Jesus, as Thou wilt! All shall be well for me;
Each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee:
Straight to my home above I travel calmly on,
And sing, in life or death, my Lord, Thy will be done!

Questions:
1) If you were able to add a stanza to this hymn, for what human circumstance would it call for the believer’s submission to God?

2) Do you use this hymn in your church? (If not, would it be possible to introduce it?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 11, 2015

Morning Has Broken

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: Eleanor Farjeon (b. Feb. 13, 1881; d. June 5, 1965)
Music: Bunessan, an old Gaelic melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Eleanor Farjeon born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Eleanor Farjeon)
Hymnary.org

Note: The story of how this 1931 hymn came to be written is told in the second Wordwise Hymns link. A new hymnal was in preparation in 1931. The editors wanted to make use of an old Gaelic melody, but could find no suitable words to fit. They turned to Eleanor Farjeon, asking her to write a poem of thankfulness for the new day. Miss Farjeon was the daughter of English novelist Benjamin Farjeon. She was a journalist, also writing poems, novels, plays (even an opera libretto), and children’s books. In 1959 she received the Regina Medal for her work with children.

On Christmas Eve, in 1968, the spacecraft Apollo 8 orbited the rocky surface of the moon. With the earth in view out of the porthole, a tiny bright gem in the blackness of space, the three astronauts on board read to us the opening verses of the book of Genesis, stirring words describing the dawn of creation.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:1-5).

Have you ever imagined what it would have been like to be there at creation? To watch and wonder as, first there was nothing, and then there was something? The Bible says God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17, ESV). “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). The Latin term for that is creation ex nihilo (out of nothing).

By His almighty word, the Lord called into being the elements that make up our material universe, fashioning and forming them, according to His will. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). To deny His eternal power and Godhead is utter folly (Ps. 14:1; cf. Rom. 1:20).

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Farjeon pondered the words of Genesis 1:5, which describes the first day of creation: “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” That’s how it started. And perhaps we capture something of the beginning of all things when we step outside into the warm morning sunshine and relish the shear joy of the dawning of a beautiful new day. Eleanor Farjeon seems to have felt that way, and she put an experience “like the first morning” into words.

1) Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

3) Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!

The first stanza ends with a recognition that the Lord Jesus Christ (“the Word,” cf. Jn. 1:1) created the morning to begin with. Then (stanza three) He, as a Person in the triune Godhead, sustains the orderly cycles of nature by His almighty power.

On the latter point, the Bible says of Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [they endure, or are held together]” (Col. 1:17). And He is “upholding [supporting, sustaining] all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). He continues to do these things.

Thus the very existence of all things depends on sustaining energy of the Son of God. So, in a sense, each new day is an echo of the dawn of creation, awakening fresh praise from our hearts. “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

Questions:
1) What elements of nature most often awaken praise and worship to God in your heart?

2) Some reject the Bible’s record of creation because it is not “scientific.” What is more likely the real reason for their denial of Bible truth?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Eleanor Farjeon born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Eleanor Farjeon)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | March 9, 2015

Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise 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: Francis Scott Key (b. Aug. 1, 1779; d. Jan. 11, 1843)
Music: Faben, by John Henry Wilcox (b. Oct. 6, 1827; June 29, 1875)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Francis Scott Key is known in American history chiefly as the author of The Star-Spangled Banner. However, he was a dedicated Christian who taught Sunday School in his church. Mr. Key wrote a number of hymns, including one that reminds us who is the Lighter of the flame of our devotion to God.

The Wordwise Hymns link includes a couple of cross links giving more information about Mr. Key and his hymns. The present hymn is a fine one, and it’s surprising that few current hymn books include it. The tune Faben works fine, as does Hyfrydol. In my opinion the unnamed tune written for the hymn by Alfred Smith, for Living Hymns fits the words better still.

Around the time of Christ, the Roman poet Ovid made a statement that still has relevance today. He said, “The end does not justify the means.” In other words, just because the result is good, that doesn’t mean you can use any method you like to get there. An immoral or unethical methodology isn’t somehow purified by what seems to be a beneficial outcome.

There are numerous examples of this in the Bible. When Satan tempted the Lord Jesus, he offered Him dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth, if only He’d bow down and worship him (Matt. 4:8-9). It was a valid goal, and we know that Christ will indeed reign one day as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). However, bowing to the evil one was not the right way to achieve that. Only God is to be worshipped (vs. 10). And it’s God the Father who will give His Son dominion over the kingdoms of men (Ps. 2:7-9; Dan. 7:13-14).

Another interesting example of this is found in Leviticus chapter 10. Two priests named Nadab and Abihu came to burn incense in the tabernacle of worship. The smoke of burning incense was a ceremonial picture of praise and prayer ascending to the Lord (cf. Lk. 1:9-10). But something was terribly wrong. It may seem like a small thing, but it wasn’t insignificant to God.

The Bible tells us that Nadab and Abihu “offered profane [unauthorized] fire before the Lord” (Lev. 10:1) and it cost them their lives (vs. 2). It seems that the burning coals to ignite the incense were to come from the altar of sacrifice, out in the tabernacle courtyard (cf. Lev. 16:11-12). But what’s the difference? Fire is fire, isn’t it? No, not in God’s sight. With their disobedience, the two men had spoiled an important biblical symbol.

Our right to come before God to offer our praise and prayer is based on the our cleansing from sin through the shed blood of the sacrifice (Christ). Then it’s the indwelling Holy Spirit who “ignites” our prayer and praise. Those Old Testament tabernacle ceremonies were simply a foreshadowing of what was to come. In the New Testament, we learn that final and ultimate Sacrifice was offered by Christ on the cross. It is through Christ that we may approach the throne of God in prayer.

There’s what may be a revealing postscript to the account in Leviticus, perhaps shedding light on a mitigating problem. After Nadab and Abihu were slain by God, the Lord told Aaron, “”Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting….that you may distinguish between holy and unholy” (Lev. 10:9-10). When judgment is fogged by drugs or alcohol, serious misjudgments can be made.

The lighting of the flame within the hearts of God’s people is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Through Him, we are equipped and empowered to approach God.

CH-1) Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee,
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavour;
This dull soul to rapture raise:
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.

CH-4) Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express.
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign Thy suppliant’s prayer to bless:
Let Thy grace, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise.

Questions:
1) What is substituted sometimes for the inner work of the Spirit as a motivator and generator of praise and worship?

2) What will be different about worship ignited by profane fire, and the spiritual fire of the Spirit of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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