Posted by: rcottrill | May 26, 2014

Golden Harps Are Sounding

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.

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

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Hermas, by Frances Ridley Havergal

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In 1871, Frances Havergal provided both words and music for this fine hymn, calling it “Ascension Song,” and referencing Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high.”

The occasion for its creation was as follows. The hymn writer was visiting a boys’ school with a friend (Charles Snepp, editor of Miss Havergal’s book Songs of Grace and Glory) While he went inside to attend to some business, she leaned against a wall adjacent to the playground, feeling very tired. But ten minutes later he came out to find her at work. Miss Havergal had taken an old envelope and was scribbling on it the words of a new hymn about Christ’s ascension. Later, she would compose the tune for it as well.

There can be little doubt either of Frances Havergal’s deep piety, or her considerable scholarship. She mastered languages with ease–among them Hebrew and Greek, Latin, French, German and Italian. (She even learned enough Welsh to take part in services in that tongue.) Added to this was her skill as a musician, both as a vocalist, pianist and a composer. But it was her spirituality that shaped her life and ministered to others. She said, “‘Thy will be done’ is not a sigh, but only a song!” Inscribed on her tombstone, at her request, was” “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” [I Jn. 1:7].

Of interest may be her comments on her method of writing hymns.

“Writing is praying with me, for I never seem to write even a verse by myself, and feel like a little child writing. You know a child would look up at every sentence and say, ‘What shall I say next?’ That is just what I do. I ask that at every line He would give me–not merely thoughts and power, but also every word, even the very rhymes. Very often I have a most distinct and happy consciousness of direct answers.”

T he ascension of Christ is described by Mark and Luke in the Gospels (Mk. 16:19-20; Lk. 24:49-53). That latter writer reviews the event at the beginning of Acts (Acts 1:9-11). After that, Christ’s place in heaven at the Father’s right hand, and His continuing ministry to the saints from there, are mentioned more than two dozen times in the New Testament. “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33; cf. Rom. 8:34; Phil. 3:20; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3, 13; 4:14; 6:19-20; 8:1, etc.).

CH-1) Golden harps are sounding, angels voices ring,
Pearly gates are opened, opened for the King;
Christ the King of glory, Jesus, King of love,
Is gone up in triumph, to His throne above.

All His work is ended, joyfully we sing,
Jesus hath ascended! Glory to our King!

CH-2) He who came to save us, He who bled and died,
Now is crowned with glory at His Father’s side.
Nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die;
Jesus, King of glory, is gone up on high.

Consider the significance of the Lord’s ascension, both for Him and for us. It marked the end of His earthly redemptive work. His cry from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) says it–literally meaning “Paid in full!” speaking of His payment for sin (cf. I Jn. 2:2). That is what Miss Havergal means in her refrain when she says, “All His work is ended.”

The earthly companionship enjoyed by His followers was ended too. Though He has pledged always to be with us in His spiritual presence (Matt. 28:20), we will not see Him face to face until we are called into His presence, either by death (II Cor. 5:8); Phil. 1:23), or at the rapture of the church (I Thess. 4:13-18).

Christ’s entry into heaven was a “Triumphal Entry” far more magnificent and universally praised than was His entry into Jerusalem just before His death (cf. Jn. 12:12-16). In heaven once more, Christ assumed His actual and visible glory, a glory that was almost always veiled on earth (with only a glimpse given to Peter, James, and John, at His transfiguration, Matt. 17:1-2; cf. Rev. 1:12-18).

Seated at the Father’s right hand, on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21), Christ began His work as Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:11-12), and as great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) and Advocate for His own (I Jn. 2:1-2). It is from there that He will return at His second coming to take up His earthly messianic throne, the throne of David (Lk. 1:31-33).

CH-3) Pleading for His children in that blessèd place,
Calling them to glory, sending them His grace;
His bright home preparing, faithful ones, for you;
Jesus ever liveth, ever loveth, too.

Questions:
1) What is, to you, the greatest value of Christ’s place in heaven?

2) Does your church teach clearly about Christ’s ascension and His present ministry?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 2014

Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

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.

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

Words: Henry Hart Milman (b. Feb. 10, 1791; d. Sept. 24, 1868)
Music: Hebron, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Though it was written in 1820, Milman’s hymn was first published in 1827, in Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year. The hymns in the book were gathered by another hymn writer, Reginald Heber (1783-1826), and the volume was published after his death. (Bishop Heber gave us such hymns as Holy, Holy, Holy, and From Greenland’s Icy Mountains; and The Son of God Goes Forth to War.)

Reginald Heber was deeply impressed with the brilliance and effectiveness of Henry Milman’s hymn poem. He had approached other poets for a contribution, and received nothing. He wrote to Dr. Milman:

“You have indeed sent me a most powerful reinforcement to my projected hymn book. A few more such and I shall neither need nor wait for the aid of [Sir Walter] Scott and [Robert] Southey.”

This is a Palm Sunday hymn, describing in an ironic way the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-9; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:28-38; Jn. 12:12-18). That constituted the official presentation of Jesus to Israel, as her Messiah-King (cf. Zech. 9:9). But after a brief flurry of excitement, He was rejected and crucified. In the hymn, we see both what the scene looked like, and something of what was actually happening, unknown to many.

The power of the hymn lies in the way the first line of each stanza contrasts with what follows. “Ride on, ride on, in majesty!” sounds a great note of triumph. But set against that is something quite different. It is hinted at in CH-1 with the words, “O Saviour meek, pursue Thy road–meaning the road to Calvary and the agonies of the cross. It should be noted that the latter was not Milman’s original line. Line three in CH-1 was changed from, “Thine humble beast pursues his road” (referring to the donkey Jesus rode, Mk. 11:7). I believe the change, in this case, has merit.

CH-1) Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue Thy road
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

The next stanza gets more explicit, with its “In lowly pomp ride on to die!” And a second important note is introduced. Though death awaits the Saviour, it’s recognized that this will lead, in a humanly unforeseen and dramatic way, to the triumph of redemption, a conquest over sin and death.

CH-2) Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die!
O Christ! Thy triumph now begin
Over captive death and conquered sin.

In CH-3 there is a striking picture of the holy angels looking down upon the scene “with sad and wondering eyes.” Even they did not fully understand the work of salvation, or its motivation. These are “things which angels desire to look into” (I Pet. 1:12). Or as Weymouth puts it: “Angels long to stoop and look into these things.”

CH-3) Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
The wingèd squadrons of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see th’approaching sacrifice.

Of the original five stanzas, CH-4 is usually omitted–perhaps because the meaning of the last line is not clear. Does Milman mean that God the Father confidently anticipates that His Son will fulfil the mission on which He was sent, to give His life a ransom for sin? Or does He mean that the Father looks forward to the triumphant return of His Son to heaven, after He has completed His redemptive work? Either or both would do.

CH-4) Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father, on His sapphire throne,
Expects His own anointed Son.

The first two lines of CH-5 repeat what we have at the beginning of CH-2. But the last two lines provide a stirring climax to the hymn. The deity of Christ is clearly proclaimed. He is God incarnate. And the author fully understands that His death was not a defeat, but an incalculable victory. After His death (and resurrection), after His anticipated ascension to the Father’s right hand, Christ will return, claim His kingly power, and reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords.

CH-5) Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy power, and reign.

Questions:
1) It is impossible to fully comprehend the thoughts Christ must have had at the time of His entry into the city. But what emotions do you imagine He may have been feeling?

2) Can you think of any other hymns that so powerfully combine the tragedy and triumph of the cross?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 21, 2014

Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore 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.

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

Words: Stanzas 1 and 2 by an unknown author; stanza 3 by Edward Osler (b. Jan. 31, 1798; d. Mar. 7, 1863)
Music: Hyfrydol, by Roland Huw Prichard (b. Jan. 14, 1811; d. Jan. 25, 1887)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Edward Osler)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The first two stanzas of the hymn (author unknown) were written around 1801. They appeared in a four-page tract, containing five hymns, that was pasted in the back of a hymn book published for use by London’s Foundling Hospital (an orphanage for abandoned children). Dr. Edward Osler added the third stanza in 1836, maybe thinking it needed to be a bit longer, or needed a fitting climax.

The Cyber Hymnal lists no less than five possible tunes used with this hymn. (One of them, called Gotha, or Albert, was composed by Prince Albert, beloved husband of Queen Victoria.) However, I believe the rousing Welsh tune Hyfrydol suits the text of this great hymn best of all. (Hyfrydol is commonly used with the hymn Our Great Saviour.)

This is a great hymn of praise. As the original heading indicates, it is based on Psalm 148. The heading reads: Hymn from Psalm CXLVIII, Haydn. (The reference to composer Franz Josef Haydn perhaps suggests the use of his tune, composed in 1797, and sometimes called Haydn. We commonly use it for the hymn Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.)

The Psalm that inspired the hymn says:

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:1-5).

Perhaps it’s fitting that most of this wonderful hymn is anonymous. For that reason we are less distracted by human personalities and can focus our full attention on the praise of God.

We can certainly see how human beings and angels can praise the Lord. We are able to think about what He has done, and what it means to us and others, and put our expressions of worship and thanksgiving into words. According to the psalm, even the highest members of society (vs. 11), both old and young (vs. 12) have reason to praise the Lord.

But, Psalm 148 speaks of praise extending far beyond that, summoning the following to praise God: the sun, moon and stars (vs. 3); the waters above the earth (vs. 4); animals, and the elements (vs. 7-8, 10); as well as mountains and trees (vs. 9). Even nursing infants can praise God (cf. Ps. 8:2). Without verbalizing it as we can, these all bring honour and glory to God:

¤ By fulfilling the purpose for which God created them. For example, when the trees produce fruit for man and beast to eat, that glorifies God (cf. Ps. 104:14).

¤ Through the scientific discoveries of man. When we look at nature with clear and unbiased vision, we see there the wonderful handiwork of God, and we are moved to praise Him for it (cf. Ps. 19:1).

CH-1) Praise the Lord: ye heavens, adore Him;
Praise Him, angels in the height.
Sun and moon, rejoice before Him;
Praise Him, all ye stars of light.
Praise the Lord, for He hath spoken;
Worlds His mighty voice obeyed.
Laws which never shall be broken
For their guidance He hath made.

Beyond the world of nature, believers have reason to praise and worship God for His wonderful salvation. He has promised that, through faith in Christ, sinners can have their sins forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16). He has promised that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord in faith will be saved (Rom. 10:13). And “never shall His promise fail” (CH-2).

CH-2) Praise the Lord, for He is glorious;
Never shall His promise fail.
God hath made His saints victorious;
Sin and death shall not prevail.
Praise the God of our salvation;
Hosts on high, His power proclaim.
Heaven and earth and all creation,
Laud and magnify His name.

“Every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” (Rev. 5:13).

CH-3) Worship, honour, glory, blessing,
Lord, we offer unto Thee.
Young and old, Thy praise expressing,
In glad homage bend the knee.
All the saints in heaven adore Thee;
We would bow before Thy throne.
As Thine angels serve before Thee,
So on earth Thy will be done.

Questions:
1) How does even the wrath of man (Ps. 76:10) bring praise to God?

2) Will you encourage your church to learn and sing this great hymn, if they don’t do so already?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Edward Osler)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 19, 2014

O It Is Wonderful

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

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

Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: this gospel song was first published in 1898.

Wonderful! It’s a word that’s found many, many times in our hymnody. Even Charles Gabriel’s fine hymn, My Saviour’s Love, says in the refrain, “How marvelous! How wonderful!…Is my Saviour’s love to me!” But here’s a short list where the word is found in a number of song titles.

My God, How Wonderful Thou Art
‘Tis Marvelous and Wonderful
What a Wonderful Saviour
Wonderful (Ackley)
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Wonderful Peace (Haldor Lillenas)
Wonderful Peace (Warren Cornell)
Wonderful Story of Love
Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus
Wonderful Words of Life

In the Word of God, the word “wonderful” is found 22 times. It refers to what is extraordinary and marvelous, something that is difficult to do or to understand. Not surprisingly, the Bible often refers to “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11), or to the works of the Lord Jesus, while He was on earth (e.g. Matt. 7:27; 21:15). The word “wonders” almost always is applied to the miraculous (cf. Acts 2:22; II Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4; Rev. 13:13).

But the subject of Charles Gabriel’s song is not physical miracles. It has to do with the heart of God. His theme is stated clearly in the refrain: “It is wonderful [extraordinary and marvelous] that He should care for me, enough to die for me!”

Here we are, weak, sinful, fallen creatures, living and dying on a tiny dot of a planet hanging in the immensity of space. And the God who created it all, and continues to oversee its operation, the God who has hosts of angels ready to do His will, that Almighty God is concerned about the welfare of you and me! Imagine: “For me, a sinner, He [Christ] suffered, and bled, and died” (CH-1). That is the very essence of the gospel.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17). “I declare to you the gospel….that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:1, 3).

CH-1) I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;
I tremble to know that for me He was crucified—
That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled, and died.

Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me!
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

We can have little conception of the condescension of Christ, in coming from heaven’s glory to this sin-cursed earth. Then for Him to be rejected and crucified by His own creatures (Jn. 1:11; Matt. 27:22-23). “He humbled Himself and became obedient [to His heavenly Father] to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). All “to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine” (CH-2).

And not only did He assume my debt, and pay the debt of sin I owed (redemption), His own righteousness was credited to my account (justification). What an amazing exchange (II Cor. 5:21).

CH-2) I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine,
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine;
That He should extend His great love unto such as I–
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

As Christians, we need to keep the sacrifice of Christ in view. That’s one reason we are to participate in the Lord’s Supper (the Communion Service) “till He comes” (I Cor. 11:26). We must not forget the cross. For now, “we praise and adore at the mercy seat” (CH-3). The mercy seat was found in the Old Testament tabernacle, and later the temple. It was where the high priest brought the sacrifice for sin, on the annual Day of Atonement. “At the throne of grace” might have been a better New Testament reference (cf. Heb. 4:16), but we know what is meant.

In the future, we can gather at “the glorified throne” of God in heaven, there to worship and praise Him eternally.

3) I think of His hands, pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no! I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at His feet.

Questions:
1) What is the most wonderful thing about the cross to you?

2) What other things that God is doing in your life today are “wonderful”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 16, 2014

Not What These Hands Have Done

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.

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

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: St. Andrew, by Joseph Barnby (b. Aug. 12, 1838; d. Jan. 28, 1896)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The original hymn, called “Salvation Through Christ Alone,” was published in 1861, in twelve, four-line stanzas. The Cyber Hymnal has combined each pair of stanzas in one, and has give us five of these. The combination given there of stanzas 2 and 3 (producing CH-2) is somewhat different from Bonar’s version which was:

Thy grace alone, O God, to me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone, O Son of God, can this sore bondage break.
No other work save Thine, no meaner blood will do:
No strength, save that which is divine, can bear me safely through.

Also, Bonar’s final stanza is missing from the Cyber Hymnal.

My life with Him is hid,
My death has passed away,
My clouds have melted into light,
My midnight into day.

The Cyber Hymnal suggests two tunes. St. Andrew (or Barnby) fits the shorter stanza version, while Leominster works beautifully with the longer combined stanzas, as the Cyber Hymnal has them.

The life of Horatius Bonar was a busy one. In fact, if ever there was a man who deserved to get to heaven on the basis of a multiplicity of good works, he is that man. He served as a pastor in two churches for a total of fifty years. Those who observed his ministry said he seemed to be always visiting, always preaching, always writing, always praying!

For twenty-five years he edited the Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, and also The Border Watch, a periodical that had a great influence in the birth of the Free Church of Scotland. He wrote many books and tracts, and over 600 hymns. In his later years he also served as moderator of his denomination’s General Assembly.

Yet all of that he set aside as not deserving of any saving merit.

CH-1) Not what these hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

CH-3) Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, and set my spirit free.

It is the insistent testimony of the Word of God that salvation is not a reward for human effort or good works. It is by grace, God’s unearned, unmerited favour and blessing. In other words, it is a free gift. If we paid anything for it, it would cease to be a gift.

“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5).

“If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Rom. 11:6). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Tit. 3:5).

“[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (II Tim. 1:9).

The other side of the grace “coin” is worship and service, not in order to be saved, but after we’re saved. Since it is true that our salvation is all of God, He, and He alone, deserves the glory and praise for it. “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation….Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev. 5:9, 12).

We serve the Lord not to gain salvation, but to express our appreciation for it. That is why Ephesians 2:10 follows verses 8 and 9. And why Titus 3:8 comes after verse 5.

“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus [i.e. saved] for good works” (Eph. 2:10). “Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8).

CH-4) I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

CH-5) I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

Questions:
1) Why is it that human nature seems to want to find something to do for God, to earn His favour and acceptance?

2) What other hymn(s) do you know that clearly show salvation to be by God’s grace?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 14, 2014

Meet Me There

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.

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 11, 1915)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn was first published in 1885, and credited–until well into the twentieth century–to someone named Henrietta E. Blair. But that was simply one of dozens of pen names used by Fanny Crosby.

The incident that led to the writing of this hymn is telling. It illustrates how songs often grew out of particular circumstances and encounters in the lives of the hymn writers. Their minds are tuned to see such things as illustrations of spiritual truth, and turn them into songs to share.

Gospel musician William Kirkpatrick (“Kirkie” to his friends) dropped in to see Fanny Crosby one day. After staying only a few minutes, he got up to take his leave. To which Fanny responded in disappointment, “Oh, dear, it’s nothing but meeting and parting in the is world, isn’t it?” The smiling Kirkpatrick replied, “Well, I will not say, as Bliss did, ‘Meet me at the fountain.’” (He was referring to one of Philip Bliss’s lesser known songs, “Will you meet me at the fountain, / When I reach the glory land?”) “But,” continued Kirkpatrick, “I will say, ‘Where the tree of life is blooming,’ meet me there.”

The latter may possible be an allusion to a lovely song called Rest for the Weary, by Samuel Young Harmer (1809-1884), which was published in 1856. In any event, the comment inspired Fanny to write her own song about heaven, and later Mr. Kirkpatrick supplied the tune.

CH-1) On the happy, golden shore,
Where the faithful part no more,
When the storms of life are o’er, meet me there;
Where the night dissolves away
Into pure and perfect day,
I am going home to stay–meet me there.

Meet me there, meet me there,
Where the tree of life is blooming, meet me there;
When the storms of life are o’er,
On the happy golden shore,
Where the faithful part no more, meet me there.

The phrase, “where the faithful part no more” is found in CH-1, then picked up in the refrain. In the heavenly kingdom “there shall be no more death” (Rev. 21:4), so the most painful parting of all will no longer sever loving ties. When we are caught up into the presence of our glorified Saviour, “we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:17). As Fanny puts it, “I am going home to stay.” It’s a wonderful word of “comfort” (vs. 18).

CH-2) Here our fondest hopes are vain,
Dearest links are rent in twain,
But in heav’n no throb of pain–meet me there;
By the river sparkling bright
In the city of delight,
Where our faith is lost in sight, meet me there.

Things such as disappointed hopes, and the rending of dear relationships (CH-2) are an all too common thing. But in heaven there will be “no throb of pain.” It’s put forcefully in Revelation, so there’s no mistaking it: “There shall be no more pain” (Rev. 21:4). As Philips’ paraphrase has it: “Never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain” (italics mine).

Here on earth, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). But, in heaven, what has been long hoped for will be realized. “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12). There is “where our faith is lost in sight” (CH-2).

CH-3) Where the harps of angels ring,
And the blest forever sing,
In the palace of the King, meet me there;
Where in sweet communion blend
Heart with heart and friend with friend,
In a world that ne’er shall end, meet me there.

Two things catch our attention in the final stanza. The heavenly city will be filled with beautiful music, and with warm fellowship. Likely we have all heard some gloriously beautiful music here on earth, but the chorus of united praise in heaven will surpass it all. As to the “sweet communion” there, we will enjoy a richness of fellowship based on a greater understanding of ourselves and of others. And there will be a special joy in meeting those in heaven whom we had some part in bringing to Christ. The Apostle Paul writes of this:

“What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (I Thess. 2:19-20).

It’s my hope and prayer that you, the reader, with “meet me there, where the tree of life is blooming” (Rev. 22:2-3).

Questions:
1) What parting in recent months has given you particular pain?

2) In addition to the Lord Jesus, whom are you looking forward to meeting in heaven?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 12, 2014

Let Us Break Bread Together

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.

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

Words: a traditional Spiritual
Music: (origin unknown)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (no added information)

Note: As with many spirituals created by slaves in America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this one was passed on orally, and its origin has been lost to us. Hence there is little on that score that I can share with you. Yet I believe the song is worth preserving.

The earliest published version seems to be found in the 1927 volume, The Second Book of Negro Spirituals, by James Weldon Johnson. Johnson (1871-1938) was an African American poet, song writer, and anthologist. He was a self-taught lawyer, and the first black man to pass the bar examinations in Florida.

T here is an interesting theory–which indeed seems plausible–that the third verse was actually the original, and that it was known, in the years before the Civil War as a “gathering song.”

(CH-3) Let us praise God together on our knees;
Let us praise God together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees
With my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

When these words were sung, it was a secret signal of southern slaves (possibly in Virginia) to convene a meeting for worship. This was done, rather than using traditional drums for the purpose, which were forbidden by state law. Even the assembling of slaves to hold a church service was looked upon with suspicion. Believing that such meetings might involve plans for insurrection, this too was prohibited by slave owners.

It’s believed that the verses that relate to the Lord’s Supper were added after the Civil War, making it a hymn suitable for use on that occasion. I notice that sometimes the words “Let us drink wine” are changed to “Let us drink the cup.”–likely to suit those who do not use alcoholic wine for the service. This also matches the way Scripture speaks of this part of the ceremony (Matt. 26:27; I Cor. 11:25).

The question remains as to the significance of “the rising sun” in the song. Some have suggested it symbolizes a search for spiritual light. It might also indicate the longing and hope for a new day of freedom to dawn.

Personally, I wonder if the reference to “the rising sun” perhaps points to the second coming of Christ. The prophet Malachi describes Him as “the Sun of Righteousness [who] shall arise with healing in His wings [or sunbeams]” (Mal. 4:2). And “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (I Cor. 11:26).

CH-1) Let us break bread together on our knees;
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees
With my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

(CH-2) Let us drink wine together on our knees;
Let us drink wine together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees
With my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

Beyond what is known and surmised about the hymn, we can see it as a passionate call to fellowship for God’s people. Someone has defined “fellowship” as two fellows in one ship. That quaint description makes a point. There is a sense of shared experience involved (“We’re in this together!”), and an implied responsibility to look out for one another, whatever storms may come. That is surely what fellowship is about.

The word is found sixteen times in our English Bibles, mostly in the New Testament. The Greek word for it is koinonia, which speaks of something being held in common. There is a shared intimacy, and companionship suggested. The first time the term is used in the New Testament, it describes what life was like in the early days of the church.

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread [the Lord’s Supper], and in prayers….Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common [a word related to koinonia]” (Acts 2:42, 44).

Christians are “called into the fellowship of His [God’s] Son” (I Cor. 1:9). “And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I Jn. 1:3). That will include “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10), because, as we identify ourselves with the cause of Christ, we are bound to receive opposition from this sinful world (II Tim. 3:12). Christian service is called, “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) and, within the church it is a “fellowship of ministering to the saints” (II Cor. 8:4).

As to separation from that which displeases the Lord, we read, “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14). How can we say we are one with Christ and His people if our lives don’t show it? “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness [i.e. sin], we lie and do not practice the truth” (I Jn. 1:6).

Questions:
1) What are some important truths to remember about the Lord’s Supper?

2) What are biblical principles, and some misconceptions, regarding Christian fellowship?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (no added information)

Posted by: rcottrill | May 9, 2014

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam

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.

Words: Nellie Talbot (no information available)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec. 13, 1851; d. June 10, 1921)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Around the year 1900, a Sunday School teacher in Missouri named Nellie Talbot was wondering what she could share with the children in her class. She thought of the sunlight that brightens God’s creation, and she wrote a little song that draws a parallel between that and what our lives should do in a dark world. (Some books entitle the song I’ll Be a Sunbeam.) In my view, this is one of the better gospel songs for children, offering practical counsel and help.

The Companion to the Songbook of the Salvation Army has a slightly different account of the song’s origin–though the two may be compatible.

“Miss Talbot, visiting London as a delegate from her Sunday School, is said to have written these words at the special request of the children of the family with whom she stayed” (p. 264).

We know nothing more about the authoress. Likely she is destined to remain in obscurity. We do know that gospel song writer Edwin Excell supplied the tune, and he dedicated the song to his grandson, Edwin Junior.

Sunlight has many uses. At the right time and place it can be a great benefit. It illuminates and warms, and fosters growth and restoration. It also can cleanse. American Justice Louis Brandeis, speaking of the importance of openness and transparency in social institutions as a preventative of corruption, famously said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Sunlight can also have a cheering effect. The patient in a hospital bed brightens with the coming of the dawn. And the prisoner can draw new hope from the sunbeams that flood through the bars of his cell window.

The song of Deborah, after the Lord gave the Israelites’ victory in battle, expresses the prayer, “Let those who love Him [the Lord] be like the sun when it comes out in full strength” (Jud. 5:31). Similarly, we have the words of Jesus, “You are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).

Christ is the primary light, the Source of the light of eternal life (Jn. 8:12). Before we trusted in Him we walked in darkness, but God’s salvation turns us from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). Now, through faith, “You are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). When believers obey Him and serve Him, we become reflectors, passing on His light, to the glory of God. In a “crooked and perverse generation,” we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast [or holding forth] the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).

CH-1) Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him,
At home, at school, at play.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.

We ought to be loving in our relationships, and reflect the joy of the Lord (CH-2). But human nature being what it is, we can sometimes have trouble doing that. With that weakness in view, Miss Talbot provides the answer. We can ask the Lord to help us (CH-3).

CH-3) I will ask Jesus to help me
To keep my heart from sin,
Ever reflecting His goodness,
And always shine for Him.

The final stanza of the song expresses an important truth. That Christians are in the service of the Lord, and there’s no “holiday” from that. We serve Him “moment by moment.” Our daily lives are to be a witness for Him, as we live our days for His glory.

CH-4) I’ll be a sunbeam for Jesus;
I can if I but try;
Serving Him moment by moment,
Then live with Him on high.

Questions:
1) What are some practical ways you can shine for Jesus, today?

2) How does a Christian’s light grow dim? And what can be done about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 7, 2014

Jesus, I Come

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.

Words: William True Sleeper (b. Feb. 9, 1819; d. Sept. 24, 1904)
Music: George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn was published in 1897. Pastor Sleeper also wrote the gospel song Ye Must Be Born Again, published ten years earlier. George Stebbins, who lived for nearly a century, provides a bridge between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. He knew many of the prominent hymn writers of a former time, and some of the newer ones as well. His book, Reminiscences and Gospel Hymn Stories, gives us a valuable firsthand look at a bygone day.

T his is a hymn of surrender and commitment, voicing the heartache of the sinner coming to Christ for salvation and spiritual restoration. The poetry is dense, perceptive, and often convicting. More than a dozen lines present the trials and troubles of a needy soul, seeking the Lord and His grace for the answer.

CH-1. Look at the words that describe the sinner’s condition: bondage, sorrow, night, sickness, want and sin. And I don’t think the reference to sickness and want has to do with the modern Prosperity Gospel, which lures the naive with a promise of unfailing health, wealth, and happiness. In this case the words are used to describe the soul-sickness of sin, and the spiritual poverty of one without God.

The contrasting condition of one who has put his faith in Christ is portrayed with the words: freedom, gladness, light, health and wealth (spiritually), and the wonderful assurance of being in Christ. This latter phrase, “in Christ,” or “in Him,” is used over and over by the Apostle Paul to indicate the Christian’s eternal standing or position. Legally, God sees us in His Son, and therefore having participated in His death and resurrection (Rom. 8:1; II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3, 6, 7; Col. 2:10, etc.).

CH-1) Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

CH-2. The list goes on: shameful failure and loss, sorrows, storms, distress. And the contrast is painted again: glorious gain, Thy [restorative] balm, Thy calm, and jubilant psalm–joyful songs arising from the hearts of the redeemed.

CH-3. More of the sinners plight: unrest, arrogant pride (self rule, and the attempt to live independently of God), and despair, contrasted with: delighting to do Thy blessed will, Thy love, raptures above, the latter perhaps indicating heavenly joy and a heavenly inheritance, claimed one day when we go to be with Christ.

CH-3) Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessèd will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

CH-4. Finally, the hymn faces us with the fear and dread of the tomb and the depths of ruin untold. It is as though there is nothing after this life to look forward to, until one comes to the Saviour. Then, we have joy and light, peace in His sheltering fold, and the Lord’s glorious presence forever.

CH-4) Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

For some reason the Cyber Hymnal has, for stanza 4, line 3, “Into the joy and light of Thy throne.” But none of the hymn books I reviewed has that–including Gospel Hymns #5, where it was published originally in 1887. The contrast is between the fear of death and the grave, as opposed to the wonder of our heavenly “home,” our “sheltering fold.” That the throne of God will be there is not the issue in this case.

“Ever Thy glorious face to behold” is the climax of all. Over and over, the Scriptures picture heaven in terms of being with the Lord forever (cf. Jn. 14:3; 17:24; II Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; I Thess. 4:17; I Jn. 3:2). What a day that will be!

Questions:
1) Can you think of other significant contrasts between the lost sinner and the redeemed child of God?

2) Are you rejoicing today in all the blessings you have in Christ?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | May 5, 2014

In the Secret of His Presence

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.

Words: Ellen Lakshmi Goreh (b. Sept. 11, 1853; d. _____, 1937)
Music: George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Graphic Ellen GorehNote: This beautiful hymn of testimony was written in 1883. Miss Goreh entitled it, “My Refuge.” The story of its author is told in the Wordwise Hymns link, and on the Cyber Hymnal too. She carried on a correspondence with another hymn writer, Frances Havergal, who was able to be a great encouragement to her. Some of their letters are included in the preface to Ellen Goreh’s book, From India’s Coral Strand: Hymns of the Christian Faith. (The first part of the title is a line from Reginald Heber’s missionary hymn From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.)

T he theme of the hymn is based on Psalm 31:20, a text that is printed above the lines of verse in the author’s book. There David says:

“You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues [“accusing tongues,” NIV]” (Ps. 31:20).

The “secret place” (cether in Hebrew) represents a refuge, a place of shelter and protection. It is “secret” in the sense that the one who is there is concealed, preventing the enemy from discovering him or her. The expression is used several times in the Word of God.

“You are my hiding place [cether]; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah [Think of that!]” (Ps. 32:7).

“He who dwells in the secret place [cether] of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Ps. 91:1-2).

“You are my hiding place [cether] and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Ps. 119:114).

In some places in the Word of God, the word “presence” is capitalized (NKJV) and treated as a representing God Himself–as when the Lord says to Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (Exod. 33:14). It is a way of the Lord saying, “I will go with you.” In the original printing of her hymn, Miss Goreh has capitalized “His Presence” to indicate a reverence for God.

CH-1) In the secret of His Presence how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to the secret place I go.

CH-2) When my soul is faint and thirsty, ’neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Saviour rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter what He says when thus we meet.

Notice what a positive and pleasant experience is found in close fellowship with the Lord. Words such as delights, precious, pleasant, and sweet all indicate the blessings experienced. There is protection from the cares and trials of life, and from the devil’s attacks. But there is another side to this intimate communion.

Sometimes, the Lord must rebuke us for those things in our lives that are not pleasing to Him. He does this by His convicting Spirit, through the Word. Because the Lord loves us so much, He must administer discipline as a loving parent does. Though it is painful at the time, it has a wise and good purpose in our maturing.

“Whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?…Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:6-7, 11).

For the Lord to leave sins and carnal attitudes to fester in our hearts would not be loving. “What a false Friend He would be” (CH-3) if that were the case. It is at this point that Helen Goreh includes another stanza not found in the Cyber Hymnal. I’ve added it here, so you can see how it follows through on the theme of the stanza before.

CH-3) Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens! and my drooping soul He cheers:
Do you think He ne’er reproves me? What a false Friend He would be,
If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see.

Do you think that I could love Him half so well, or as I ought,
If He did not tell me plainly of each sinful deed and thought?
No, He is very faithful, and that makes me trust Him more:
For I know that He does love me, though He wounds me very sore.

The hymn, as used today, ends with CH-4, an appeal to us to find that “secret place” for ourselves. And she borrows from the experience of Moses. When he came down from Mount Sinai, having received the Law of Israel from the Lord, his face shone (Exod. 34:29). This was a physical manifestation, and it terrified the people (vs. 30). However, I think what the author has in mind is that our lives should reflect the likeness of Christ (II Cor. 3:18; cf. Acts 4:13).

CH-4) Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face.

Questions:
1) What particular blessing have you enjoyed recently, in your fellowship with the Lord?

2) What aspect of “the image of the Master” have you seen in another Christian recently?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers