Posted by: rcottrill | July 27, 2015

Jesus Only, Let Me See

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: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: It seems this 1913 hymn was the first of many that Oswald Smith wrote. His own two-word title for the song was Jesus Only.

We have a number of expressions to indicate that someone is extra special, or that some accomplishment is extremely rare. While it may exaggerate the case a little, we’re trying to describe something that reaches the rarefied atmosphere of being virtually unparalleled, and beyond compare.

“She’s one in a million,” we might say. Or, “When they made him they threw away the mold.” Or we might describe a particular person as being “the one and only.” Whether it’s because of Wayne Gretzky’s record-breaking hockey career, or William Shakespeare’s masterful writing, calling them “the one and only,” says both are in a class by themselves, in many ways superior and incomparable to others.

That kind of description, “the one and only,” might be applied also to a remarkable Canadian named Oswald Jeffrey Smith (1889-1986). Oswald Smith was a pastor, and the founder of the large People’s Church, in Toronto. He preached some twelve thousand sermons, in about eighty countries of the world. He authored thirty-five books, many of which were translated into other languages.

The present writer sang at the People’s Church with a visiting choir about fifty years ago. By then, Dr. Smith was in his mid-eighties. His son Paul had become the senior pastor, while the father continued to give leadership to the many missionary projects dear to his heart. He had become a respected missionary statesman with a worldwide influence.

As an author, Smith produced over a thousand poems as well. A hundred of these were set to music, many becoming familiar gospel songs. It’s for these that he is most widely known today. Deeper and Deeper, God Understands, Joy in Serving Jesus, and Then Jesus Came are a few of them. The hymn we’re considering now was written when he was still a student at seminary in Chicago, and he was facing some painful difficulties. He describes it as “a time of uncertainty, doubt, and disappointment.”

It was as though his personal resources had failed him, the things that had been propping up his life had been kicked from underneath him. In his distress, he turned in a more earnest and urgent way to the Lord. Walking down the street one day, he pondered the many resources we have in Christ, and a new hymn began to form itself in his mind, line by line. He called it Jesus Only, perhaps thinking of the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration who, at the last, and appropriately, “saw no one but Jesus only” (Matt. 17:8).

In each succeeding stanza of the hymn, the author presents things that give us some key areas of Christ’s superiority. Stanza one: He is the only source of salvation. Stanza two: He’s the only infallible Guide through life.

CH-1) For salvation full and free,
Purchased once on Calvary,
Christ alone shall be my plea—
Jesus! Jesus only.

Jesus only, let me see,
Jesus only, none save He,
Then my song shall ever be–
Jesus! Jesus only!

CH-2) He my Guide from day to day,
As I journey on life’s way;
Close beside Him let me stay–
Jesus! Jesus only.

The Guinness Book of World Records is packed with examples of the kind of superlatives mentioned earlier. But the fact that the book has gone through many editions since it was published sixty years ago is a testament to the fact that often those records have been broken. New champions have been crowned. But there’s one Person in all the universe for whom that will never happen, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever measure that can be applied, He will always and infinitely be adjudged above all, “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” Jesus says (Matt. 28:18). “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22:13). “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).

CH-4) He shall reign from shore to shore,
His the glory evermore–
Heav’n and earth shall bow before
Jesus! Jesus only.

Questions:
1) Have you had an experience similar to Dr. Smith’s in which other resources failed and you cast yourself on the Lord Jesus alone?

2) Can you make a list of several things beginning: “The Lord Jesus is my only _______”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 24, 2015

I With Thee Would Begin

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: Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg, aka Lina Sandell (b. Oct. 3, 1832; d. July 27, 1903); English translation by A. Samuel Wallgren (b. June 27, 1885; d. Aug. 6, 1940)
Music: Wilhelm Theodor Söderberg (b. Oct. 6, 1845; d. Nov. 1, 1922)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The author was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor in Sweden. Not physically strong as a child, she often stayed inside in her father’s study, while friends were out playing. Her poetic gift appeared early. Lina published her first book of poems when she was only fifteen.

In 1867, she married Stockholm merchant C. O. Berg, and used a hyphenated last name afterwards. Known to some as the Fanny Crosby of Sweden, she wrote over six hundred hymns–some created while she was still in her teens. A number of these have been translated into English, including her song about how to begin the day. The hymn was published in 1884.

As to where one should begin, we have the comic wisdom in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning,” the king said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” (Any preacher who tends to ramble on and on should consider that advice!)

As to the importance of beginning a task, we learn that from Mary Poppins, who said, “Well begun is half done”–though the saying didn’t originate with her. Aristotle said it, about three centuries before the time of Christ. Even earlier, Pythagoras expressed it this way: “The beginning is half of the whole.” In other words, to make a good start is to be well on the way to achieving the end result.

When we turn to the word of God, we find a great deal said about beginnings. Some form of the word is used 133 times, Old Testament and New, from the first verse of the Bible, to near the end of the last chapter of Revelation, where the Lord Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22:13)

The Bible opens with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). In connection with that, John affirms the deity of Christ, whom he calls the Word. “ In the beginning was the Word [i.e. He already existed at the beginning of creation], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1; cf. vs. 14).

Four times, in the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (e.g. Rev. 1:8). These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is as though the One called “the Word” is declaring that all words–all truth–is wrapped up in Him. So if we are to begin at the beginning we must begin with Him. No wonder Proverbs tells us, “The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).

Christians sometimes refer to having daily devotions, or a daily quiet time. It’s a wonderful way to start the day. To open the Scriptures and read what God has to teach us there, and to spend time in prayer before Him. Some use a devotional book or magazine as a guide. That’s fine. But make sure you keep the focus on the inspired Word of God. Follow a system that you find helpful. The important thing is to get into the Scriptures. To the extent we do that, in thoughtful sincerity, we are beginning the day with Him.

Lina Sandell wrote a hymn about that. It says:

CH-1) I with Thee would begin, O my Saviour so dear,
On the way that I still must pursue;
I with Thee would begin every day granted here,
As my earnest resolve I renew
To be and remain Thine forever.

CH-3) Let Thy Word all divine be my lamp in whose light
I may constantly keep to Thy way;
And each day wouldst Thou cleanse me anew, make me white
In the blood shed for me on that day
The cross Thou didst suffer, Lord Jesus.

As a final thought, the author recognizes that the Lord Jesus was not only the “Alpha,” where to begin each day, but He is also the “Omega,” the wisest way to end it. With that in mind, she writes:

CH-4) I with Thee would begin–yea, and hear one more prayer,
I would close with Thee, too, my brief day,
And when daylight has failed, let me sleep in Thy care,
Until waking Thy child Thou dost say,
“Come, live with Me ever in heaven.”

Questions:
1) What method of daily devotions have you found particularly effective?

2) Is there someone you could share this method with, encouraging them to do the same?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 22, 2015

I Will Praise Him

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

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

Words: Margaret Jenkins Harris (b. July 31, 1865; d. Jan. 13, 1919)
Music: Margaret Jenkins Harris

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mrs. Harris and her husband John were both active in the American revival and camp meeting scene of their day. Both were able speakers, and both were musicians and song writers as well. Margaret Harris frequently played the organ to accompany herself and her husband as they sang duets in meetings. This song of praise dates from 1898. It had five stanzas, but many hymn books only use the first four. The original fifth stanza said:

In the crowning day soon coming,
May I see my glorious King;
Join the mighty swelling chorus,
Make His highest praises ring.

But early on this was replaced with a Trinitarian closing (perhaps by the author herself). Though many books omit it, this doxology does seem to be a fitting conclusion to the song which refers to the Holy Spirit (CH-1); to Christ (CH-4), and perhaps to the God the Father (CH-3), though the focus seems to be especially on the Lord Jesus Christ.

CH-5) Glory, glory to the Father!
Glory, glory to the Son!
Glory, glory to the Spirit!
Glory to the Three in One!

The word “praise” means: to express admiration, gratitude, or honour. When it is directed toward another human being it’s sometimes qualified in some way–usually with the word “but.” For example, a coach might say to a hockey goalie, “You played a good game, but you let in that winning goal.” Or the patron of a restaurant might say to the cook, “That was an excellent meal, but the roast beef was a little overdone.” That kind of halfway congratulation can be disappointing and deflating.

If we truly want to encourage someone with our praise, it’s best to leave the qualifier for another time. But we know it’s there. No person is perfect; no task a person undertakes will be done perfectly. The exception to that is the Lord and what He does. Moses says of Him, “His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32:4), and the psalmist tells us, “There is no unrighteousness in Him” (Ps. 92:15).

“The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Exod. 15:2).

It is proper for us to offer to the Lord unqualified praise. Not surprisingly, that word is used in our Bibles hundreds of times, from Genesis to Revelation. Most of these are found in the book of Psalms, the hymn book of Israel, and of the early church. As David declares, the Lord is “worthy to be praised” (Ps. 18:3). That thought is echoed in the book of Revelation: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Around the throne of God in heaven, praise is particularly directed to Christ, God’s sacrificial Lamb: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). He is “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us” (Tit. 2:13-14), “Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever” (Heb. 13:21).

John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). We praise Him because, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). We praise Him because, “Jesus…delivers us from the wrath to come” I Thess. 1:10). We praise Him because, “He is also able to save to the uttermost [completely and forever] those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).

The Bible says, the blood of Jesus Christ His [the Father’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7). And the hymn echoes that truth with:

CH-1) When I saw the cleansing fountain
Open wide for all my sin,
I obeyed the Spirit’s wooing,
When He said, “Wilt thou be clean?”

I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people,
For His blood can wash away each stain.

It’s through faith in Christ, accepting Him as personal Saviour, that we’re born again into the family of God (Jn. 1:12-13). What a privilege to be able to say, “Now we are children of God” (I Jn. 3:2). In the words of the hymn:

CH- 4) Blessèd be the name of Jesus!
I’m so glad He took me in;
He’s forgiven my transgressions,
He has cleansed my heart from sin.

Questions:
1) For what things are you especially praising the Lord today?

2) What are some other hymns of praise you love to sing?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 20, 2015

I Know Not What the Future Hath

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 Greenleaf Whittier (b. Dec. 17, 1807; d. Sept. 7, 1892)
Music: Cooling, by Alonzo Judson Abbey (b. Mar. 1, 1825; d. Mar. 24, 1887)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This 1867 hymn was taken from a longer poem of Mr. Whittier’s called The Eternal Goodness. Author and editor, and for a time a member of the Massachusetts legislature, Whittier was also influential in the anti-slavery movement. Known as the Quaker Poet, nearly a hundred of his poems were turned into hymns.

One time a friend of ours handed my father a postage stamp, saying, “Write everything you know on the back.” It was just a silly joke of course. My father had been to college, and he was, at the time this happened, the foreman in a steel mill. As a Christian layman, he was the choir director at our church, as well as playing the organ. Bottom line: He knew a great deal!

Back in the 1920’s and 30’s it was common in some circles to invent rhyming slang. And there’s an old catch phrase about knowing. In 1939 the Andrews sisters recorded a song with the line, “Hello Joe, what do you know?” Whether that’s the origin of the query, it certainly popularized “Whadya know, Joe? An interesting question. Just how much do we know?

What we learn in school is just the beginning. We gain skills and gather information with regard to our employment, and our hobbies. We get to know many things about family members and friends. And we learn about life in general. But there’s an area of knowledge that far too many are lacking, at least in any depth. I’m speaking of Bible knowledge, but knowledge of a particular kind, what we might call experiential knowledge.

Perhaps that level of knowing can be illustrated by thinking about poverty. It would be possible to study the subject of poverty, to gather copious statistics, to hold discussion groups about it, to propose and plan what must be done to alleviate it, and still not know poverty. It is quite different to live, yourself, day by day, year after year, in grinding poverty, to experience hunger and privation, and maybe, in the extreme, to be homeless.

Similarly, simply knowing Bible facts is quite different from knowing and personally experiencing the truth of God’s Word. Knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. The Scriptures invite us into a relationship with Him, in which He speaks to us through His Word, and we commune with Him in prayer. Christians are “called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (I Cor. 1:9), and He promises to be with us forever (Matt. 28:20).

There are many things about the future that we don’t know. Choices and changes, gains and losses that will checker the days to come. But if we know that a merciful and loving Lord will be with us through it all, giving us grace even to bear “the valley of the shadow” up ahead, that can make a wonderful difference.

The Lord has given us strong assurance. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). Even in death, when His children are called into His presence, we have the assuring word, “thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17), there to be eternal recipients of “the exceeding riches of His grace” (Eph. 27).

Something of that truth was captured in Whittier’s poem called The Eternal Goodness, part of which became the present hymn. It balances the many things about the future that remain unknown, with the constancy of God’s care. The poet’s contention is, “I may not know that, but I can be sure of this.” (Dora Greenwell’s hymn, I Am Not Skilled to Understand, and Daniel Whittle’s I Know Whom I Have Believed, both make a similar argument.)

CH-1) I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
God’s mercy underlies.

CH-2) And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.

The author speaks of death and heaven with the poetic imagery of traveling by boat to some as yet unknown shore. The “muffled oar” relates to the practice of wrapping with cloth those parts of the oar and the oar lock that rub together and make a noise. It enabled a virtually silent approach. Whittier is saying that death can come without warning, when we least expect it. But if we are in God’s care, we need not fear.

CH-4) And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.

CH-5) I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.

Questions:
1) What are some things you do not know that you wish you did know?

2) What are three things you know for certain, based on the promises of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 17, 2015

How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours

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 Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807)
Music: Green Fields, by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750), a melody taken from The Pleasant Cantata

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives us Bach’s Green Fields, a tune frequently used with this hymn. The timing is rendered correctly there, by I do find the emphasis on the first beat odd. It simply does not suit the text. Take a look at the first stanza and you’ll see what I mean. (I’ve capitalized the first word to show the odd emphasis of the tune.)

CH-1) HOW tedious and tasteless the hours
WHEN Jesus no longer I see;
SWEET prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
HAVE all lost their sweetness to me;
THE midsummer sun shines but dim,
THE fields strive in vain to look gay.
BUT when I am happy in Him,
DE-cember’s as pleasant as May.

If the timing is smoothed out, instead, it allows for a much more natural reading of the word–TE-dious, JE-sus, PROS-pects, De-CEM-ber, and so on.

In the Canadian West, we call people who escape the winter’s blast by flying down to the southern States for some weeks or months “snowbirds.” I now understand them better. As a senior citizen, there’s much about winter that I find difficult. Yes, the winter scenery can be beautiful, a fairyland of billowing snow and glittering ice. And for those hardy souls that enjoy winter sports, there are many opportunities for fun. But there is a downside to winter too.

Shakespeare realized it. A character in one of his plays says, “After summer evermore succeeds barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold.” We also get King Richard speaking of “the winter of our discontent.” Hymn writer Christina Rossetti, in a Christmas carol, refers to a “bleak midwinter,” when “earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.”

For seniors, in our climate, the ice and snow make driving stressful, and walking often a peril to fragile bones. Then, there’s the prolonged darkness. Where my wife and I live, we go from about seventeen hours of daylight in June to a mere seven and a half in December. Some of us can hardly wait for that December day when the declining hours of daylight take the first minute step toward the hours of summer sunshine. Yes, I understand why those who can afford it head to warmer climes for the coldest months of the year.

Winters in the Holy Land are not as severe as those we face, so the Bible does not speak of them in the same way. But there’s relief in the words of Solomon’s betrothed, at the turning of the seasons. She exults joyfully, “Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (S.S. 2:11-12).

English hymn writer John Newton thought of the contrasting seasons as a metaphor for our spiritual condition. Pastor Newton is best known today for his hymn, Amazing Grace. But he wrote many more. In 1779 he published a hymn book in which 280 songs were of his own creation. One of these he headed with the words of Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.” Against such an urgency for him to be aware of the presence of the Lord, he finds His apparent absence to be an agony of soul.

CH-2) His name yields the richest perfume,
And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom,
And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear;
No mortal as happy as I,
My summer would last all the year.

Of course the Lord is always present with His children. His promise is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). As Christ put it, just before His ascension, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). As believers, it isn’t God’s presence we lack, but a perception of that presence. Our sensitivity to it, and the warmth of His fellowship in a “soul cheering” revelation of Himself. Whether because of sin and worldliness, or simply human weakness, there are times when He seems distant.

When that happens, like the snow birds, we need to go where the warmth is–the warmth of His loving fellowship. In Newton’s words:

CH-4) Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine,
If Thou art my sun and my song,
Say, why do I languish and pine?
And why are my winters so long?
O drive these dark clouds from the sky,
Thy soul cheering presence restore;
Or take me to Thee up on high,
Where winter and clouds are no more.

Questions:
1) When was the last time you felt a painful lack of the fellowship of the Lord?

2) What did you do about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 15, 2015

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions

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 Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: Merrill Everett Dunlop (b. May 9, 1905; d. June 15, 2002)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Thomas Chisholm)
Hymnary.org

Note: Over his long life, Chisholm worked as a school teacher, a newspaper editor, an insurance salesman, and a pastor. But it is as a hymn writer that he’s remembered today. More than eight hundred of his poems were published, and a number of these were set to music and have found their way into our hymn books. Great Is Thy Faithfulness is one of these.The Wordwise link about Mr. Chisholm is found on the blog for February 28th, 2010. Because that year was not a leap year, I included some items about February 29th–the date of Chisholm’s death–at the bottom of the notes for the 28th. The present hymn was published in 1941.

It happens sometimes in football or hockey. A player is injured, and a replacement is sent in. By his athletic skill and determination, the substitute might even be a major factor in the team winning the game. Sometimes a substitute can even accomplish more than the original did.

That’s the case when it comes to how God dealt with human sin. The issue arose very early. Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God (Gen. 2:17; 3:6). The record of history since is one of a steady litany of sins. The summary verdict is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and eternal separation from God.

But, in love, a gracious God offered a Substitute to take the punishment in the sinner’s place. That is exactly what the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was all about. The innocent dying in place of the guilty. In the book of Leviticus we read instructions for one offering the animal sacrifice, “He shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4). That was a way of the offerer identifying with the sacrifice, and saying, by faith, “This is me; this animal suffers death in my place.”

But there was a serious problem with that and, of course, the Lord was well aware of it. The death of some animal, is not of sufficient value to pay for the sins of a human being. The Bible says, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). When they were offered in faith, God accepted the sacrifices and forgave the sinner. But it could only be a temporary answer, pointing forward to something infinitely greater.

The Old Testament sacrifices provided a foreshadowing of what Christ would accomplish on the cross. He became the ultimate fulfilment of the symbol. He was announced as the perfect Substitute, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), the final, and fully sufficient, sacrificial Lamb. Many verses of Scripture point to how Christ on the cross of Calvary was fulfilling the death-of-the-innocent-substitute principle.

¤ “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

¤ “I declare to you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:1, 3).

¤ “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust” (I Pet. 3:18).

¤ “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were [spiritually] healed” (I Pet. 2:24).

That became the theme of this hymn by Thomas Chisholm. One of his lesser known creations, it’s based on Isaiah chapter 53. It didn’t actually begin as a hymn, but as a short chorus. He sent it to gospel musician Merrill Dunlop, asking if he could write a tune for it. But Dunlop saw potential in the song to become a full-fledged hymn, and asked the author to add some other stanzas. He did so, and Mr. Dunlop provided the tune. The hymn exalts Christ as our perfect Substitute, dying to pay our debt of sin.

He was wounded for our transgressions,
He bore our sins in His body on the tree;
For our guilt He gave us peace,
From our bondage gave release,
And with His stripes our souls are healed.

Questions:
1) In what ways is Christ, our heavenly Substitute, superior to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament?

2) What other hymns effectively speak of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Thomas Chisholm)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 13, 2015

He Is Coming Again

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: Mabel Johnston Camp (b. Nov. 25, 1871; d. May 25, 1937)
Music: Mabel Johnston Camp

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mabel Johnson Camp, a gifted pianist and soloist, wrote many hymns, often supplying both words and music.This gospel song was published in 1913.

Sometimes, why we do a thing is as important as what we do. Maybe more so. It’s possible, for example, that what seems to be a good deed may in fact have a selfish or malicious motive. A piece of candy offered to a child could be a kindness, or it might be a lure preparing the way for a hideous crime.

When we turn to the Bible, it’s illuminating to review not only the things God does, or has promised to do, but also the motivation behind them. One instance of this is an event the Word of God mentions often: the second coming of Christ, a dramatic event that could occur any day now. Writes Mrs. Camp:

CH-1) Lift up your heads, pilgrims aweary,
See day’s approach now crimson the sky;
Night shadows flee, and your Belovèd,
Awaited with longing, at last draweth nigh.

The Lord Jesus Himself promised, “I will come again” (Jn. 14:3). The Saviour’s return was also announced, after His resurrection, at the time of His ascension. “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). For the church, His return is called “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).

The fact of it is clear enough. But why? Why is the second coming of the Lord a part of God’s program? One reason is simply because He said it would be. A righteous God, a God of truth, must keep His word. Because God cannot lie, He must fulfil His promise (cf. Tit. 1:2).

In the present hymn, Mrs. Camp reminds us that Jesus must come back to claim His rightful place. At His first coming He was rejected and crucified. But Christ declared that one day the world “will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). The One who wore a crown of thorns will wear a diadem of glory, and be recognized as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). As the refrain puts it:

He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
With power and great glory, He is coming again!

Another reason for Christ’s return is that it will be the time when He will judge an unbelieving world. And “who can endure the day of His coming? For He is like a refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2). Many millennia ago, Enoch, in only the seventh generation after creation, prophesied it. “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly” (Jude 1:14-15). His righteous rule will bring the dark night of sin to an end.

CH-2) Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!

Finally, the return of Christ is necessary to deliver the saints from the effects and environs of sin, and reward their faithfulness. Since the fall, there has been a curse upon creation, that has brought trouble and weary toil upon the human family (Gen. 3:17-19). But, through Christ, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). The Lord promised, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:12).

With the return of Christ, comes the glorious dawning of eternity for the redeemed. In the words of Mabel Camp:

CH-3) O blessèd hope! O blissful promise!
Filling our hearts with rapture divine;
O day of days! Hail Thy appearing!
Thy transcendent glory forever shall shine.

CH-4) Even so, come, precious Lord Jesus;
Creation waits redemption to see;
Caught up in clouds, soon we shall meet Thee;
O blessèd assurance, forever with Thee!

Questions:
1) Can you think of other reasons why it is necessary or important that Christ come again?

2) Does your church faithfully preach about the second coming of Christ?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | July 10, 2015

Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

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: Germany, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This hymn was published posthumously, in 1755. Hymnary.org has an early version of it, published in 1789.

In spite of our many modern conveniences, it’s still possible to get in difficulty while driving. Perhaps we hit a deer on a lonely road, and the car can’t be driven. We belong to an auto club that promised to give us a tow. But when we try to use our cell phone to call for help, we discover we’re in a spot where the phone won’t work. The only solution seems to be a long wait–or a long walk!

That’s just one example of the difficulties and problems that can arise, not only in travel, but all through the journey of life. For some things there seems to be a ready remedy, but what about the rest? Even here believers can look to the Lord with confidence. No testing or trial entering our lives is beyond His infinite wisdom and power.

There’s an insurance company whose slogan used to tell those who purchased a policy that they were “in good hands.” Far more fully and reliably is that true of all who put themselves in God’s hands. In every circumstance of life, from the womb to the tomb–and for eternity beyond, God’s loving care is abundantly sufficient. As David says in Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vs. 6).

In the words of another psalm, “You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory….My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” Ps. 73:24, 26). All our days, and forever. “The mercy of the Lord [His loving kindness] is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear [reverence] Him” (Ps. 103:17).

One reason behind this perpetual attention given to the child of God is that He is committed to completing the work He’s begun in us. The Lord said to Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Gen. 28:15). David declares, “The Lord will perfect [bring to completion] that which concerns me” (Ps. 138:8). The Bible assures us we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Philip Doddridge knew about that. He lived in England three centuries ago, back when life tended to be short, and infant mortality was extremely high. Philip was one of a family of twenty children, of whom all but two died in infancy. Little Philip also was thought to be stillborn. The pathetic little mite was set to one side to be buried later. But one of those assisting with the birth thought she saw a feeble sign of life, and she began to work on the baby.

With her aid, he lived, though, as you can see from the dates above, he died before his fiftieth birthday. Even so, he packed those years the Lord gave him with dynamic Christian service. Doddridge became a pastor, and a seminary professor of recognized scholarship. He authored theological texts, and wrote hundreds of hymns, including O Happy Day.

Another of his hymns–lesser known perhaps–expresses his confidence in the loving care of the Lord all through the journey of life. It is a song Doddridge wrote specifically as a reassurance for the coming new year, heading it with the text Acts 26:22, which says, “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand.”

CH-1) Great God, we sing that mighty hand
By which supported, still we stand;
The opening year Thy mercy shows,
That mercy crowns it till its close.

CH-2) By day, by night, at home, abroad,
Still are we guarded by our God,
By His incessant bounty fed,
By His unerring counsel led.

Nor does the Lord’s tender care cease in heaven. “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). Amen to that!

CH-4) In scenes exalted or depressed,
Thou art our joy, and Thou our rest;
Thy goodness all our hopes shall raise,
Adored through all our changing days.

CH-5) When death shall interrupt these songs,
And seal in silence mortal tongues,
Our helper God, in whom we trust,
In better worlds our souls shall boast.

Questions:
1) Looking back, what blessings of God have you enjoyed during the past year?

2) Looking ahead, what challenges (that are known) will you face in the new year?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 8, 2015

Gracious Saviour, Who Didst Honour

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 Anne Eliza Shirreff (b. Nov. 3, 1814; d. Mar. 20, 1897)
Music: Motherhood, by Lewis Meadows White (b. circa August, 1860; d. Dec. ___, 1950)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: It appears this hymn is little known, though the Cyber Hymnal does have some basic information on the author and composer. Miss Shirreff, with her sister Maria were active in promoting women’s education, and women’s suffrage. Lewis White, composer of the tune, was a pastor and concert organist. The song was apparently published in the late nineteenth century.Early publications of it add a fifth stanzas, said to be “suitable for Mother’s meetings.” It says:

Bless our union: through its members
Worldwide may Thy work be wrought;
Through the homes in every nation
Many to Thy fold be brought;
Fathers, mothers, children be
Led to live true life for Thee.

What thought first comes to your mind when you read the word “mother”? All of us except Adam and Eve have had one, and it’s not surprising that moms have significantly touched our lives at many points. Sometimes gloriously, sometimes shamefully.

Some mothers are known for their love and self sacrifice; others for their cruelty and hateful abuse. There is the mother lauded in the book of Proverbs, whose “children rise up and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28). But there is also the notorious Ma Barker (Arizona Clark Barker), reputed leader of a gang of vicious criminals in the first half of the twentieth century.

Far be it from me to deny the important role of pastors, but there’s an element of truth in the words of one who said, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” Foundations are laid in early family life that will have a powerful influence ever after. A saying that originated with Alexander Pope (in 1732) puts it this way: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

As to biblical history, mothers are mentioned in the Scriptures over three hundred times. Their spiritual influence for good or ill is apparent. The first one mentioned by name is Eve and, with amazing prescience, “Adam called his wife’s name Eve [meaning Life], because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). She was the mother of murderous Cain, but also of faithful Abel. A later mother named in Scripture is Eunice, the godly mother of Timothy. She is described as a woman of “genuine faith” who taught her son the Word of God (II Tim. 1:5; 3:15).

Other than Eve, the most famous mother in history is Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. Elizabeth correctly addresses her, before the birth of Christ, as “the mother of my Lord” (Lk. 1:43). But in spite of the privilege granted her, we know relatively little about Mary. She was a spiritually minded peasant girl, living in Nazareth, a descendant of the Davidic family line. But after the birth of Christ she enters the account only briefly.

Mary is spoken of in connection with the visit of the shepherds (Lk. 2:16, 19), at the circumcision of the Baby (Lk. 2:34), and the visit of the wise men later on (Matt. 2:11). She is also numbered among other women standing before the cross of Jesus. It’s then that Jesus commits her future care to the Apostle John (Jn. 19:25-27). The final reference to her comes with others in the upper room, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).

Through Mary’s significant role in the birth of Christ, in a real sense, all motherhood is sanctified. She carried in her womb the incarnate Son of God (Lk. 1:31-32, 35). It was this particular truth that impressed itself upon author and educator Emily Shirreff .

Emily Shirreff, the daughter of a British rear admiral, was far ahead of her time in promoting the education of women. She became a teacher of teachers, and helped to found a college for women. The titles of a couple of her books will give you some idea of her advanced thinking: Thoughts on Self-culture Addressed to Women (1850), and Intellectual Education and Its Influence on the Character and Happiness of Women (1858).

Her beautiful hymn exalting motherhood takes its title from the opening line. The song begins:

CH-1) Gracious Saviour, who didst honour
Womankind as woman’s Son;
Very Man, though God begotten,
And with God the Father One;
Grant our womanhood may be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

CH-2) Jesus, Son of human mother,
Bless our motherhood, we pray;
Give us grace to lead our children,
Draw them to Thee day by day;
May our sons and daughters be
Dedicated, Lord, to Thee.

Questions:
1) What, in your view, are the greatest dangers to godly motherhood in our day?

2) What can be done about these things?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 6, 2015

God Calling, Yet

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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