Words: William Augustine Ogden (b. Oct. 10, 1841; d. Oct. 14, 1897)
Music: William Augustine Ogden
Note: It is sometimes supposed that because our gospel songs are often simple in their teaching, and make use of a repeated refrain to emphasize the main theme, that they must have been written by those who have little understanding of music. Of course this is occasionally the case. However, many of the prominent gospel song writers of the nineteenth century were gifted and well-trained musicians.
William Ogden is a case in point. He studied under a number of excellent musicians, including Dr. Lowell Mason and B. F. Baker–the latter being president of the old Boston Music School. Under Mr. Baker, one of the most prominent teachers of his day, he studied voice, counterpoint, fugue, and complex harmony. Ogden taught music classes in the United States and Canada, and eventually became Superintendent of Music in the public schools of Toledo, Ohio. He wrote and published many songs, and a couple of cantatas, as well as two comic operas.
The gospel songs written by Ogden and others were generally kept simple for a reason. Without photo copiers and video projectors and other modern aids, they needed to teach their songs quickly, so people could go home singing the truths being taught. This purpose precisely suited the work of the Sunday School. Indeed the common term for gospel songs in that era was “Sunday School songs.” Mr. Ogden published the present song in 1887, in Triumphant Songs for Sunday Schools and Gospel Meetings.
Simple though it is, this song presents several important truths, and there is a logical flow to the message stanza by stanza.
CH-1. There’s “a message from the Lord…recorded in His Word”–which means it’s an authentic and important message. The Bible is God’s inspired infallible Word. Something like 3,800 times, the writers specifically tell us they’re delivering a message from the Lord. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16). “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).
Refrain. “Look and live!” The promise is drawn from an incident in the book of Numbers. On one occasion, when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, their camp was infested with poisonous snakes. The Lord told Moses to erect a bronze replica of the snake, and promised that all who looked upon it would live (Num. 21:8). The Lord Jesus applied that to Himself and to having faith in His Calvary work (Jn. 3:14-15).
CH-2. It’s “a message full of love.” The offer of forgiveness and of eternal salvation to lost mankind demonstrates God’s great love for us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [gave Him to die on a cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Now, “the love of Christ compels us,” as His ambassadors, to share the message of the gospel with others (II Cor. 5:14, 20).
CH-3. “Life is offered unto you.” The Bible teaches us that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Spiritually speaking, each of us comes into this world stillborn, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son….These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:11, 13).
CH-4. “I will tell you how I came.” Personal testimony is of little worth without God’s Word behind it. But when the two are put together the effect can be powerful indeed. Three times, in the book of Acts, we are told of Paul’s conversion. Once in narrative form, by the author, Luke (Acts 9:1-16), and twice on occasions when Paul bore witness to what the Lord had done for him, once before a hostile mob (22:1-16), and then before Agrippa (26:1-23). Twenty times in the book of Acts we read of the “witness” of the apostles (cf. Acts 1:8; cf. I Pet. 3:15).
CH-1) I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
The message unto you I’ll give;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”
Look and live, my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now and live;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
1) Clearly, we can’t look at Christ now in a physical way, as the disciples did. What does it mean to “look,” as the word is used in the song?
2) What are some of the qualities of the “life” God offers us through faith in Christ?