Posted by: rcottrill | February 28, 2014

Christ Liveth in Me

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

Words: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was published in 1891, under Major Whittle’s frequently used pen name, El Nathan.

T he key phrase of the hymn, repeated fifteen times counting the refrains, is taken from the old King James Version of Galatians 2:20. The Apostle Paul testifies:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Other Bible versions of the text can help us understand what God’s Word is saying about the nature of the Christian life.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Amplified Bible)

I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old “I,” but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. (J. B. Philips Paraphrase)

This verse describes a kind of paradox, in that the second part of the verse seems to contradict the first. How can a person “live” who has been crucified and no longer lives?

The answer is that Paul is describing the experiential outworking of a positional reality. When the sinner puts his faith in Christ, and the Spirit of God places him into Christ as to his legal position, God sees him as though he participated in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). William MacDonald says, insightfully, of our participation in the death of Christ by faith:

“This means the end of me as a sinner in God’s sight. It means the end of me as a person seeking to merit or earn salvation by my own efforts” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1880).

“I in Christ” is legally and positionally true in the eyes of God. “Christ [living] in me” is the parallel conditional and experiential truth. Someone has said, “A crucified man has no plans of his own.” It’s a way of describing the Christian walk as one of submission to the will of God. As he lives in obedience to God, and faith in God, the character of Christ is reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. That character is spoken of elsewhere in Galatians as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).

This is a theme that Daniel Whittle dealt with in another gospel song two years later, called Moment by Moment. The first stanza of that hymn says:

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

When the sinner is saved, through personal faith in Christ, he passes from death to life, from darkness to light (CH-1).

CH-1) Once far from God and dead in sin,
No light my heart could see;
But in God’s Word the light I found–
Now Christ liveth in me.

Christ liveth in me,
Christ liveth in me,
O what a salvation this–
That Christ liveth in me.

Whittle uses a lovely analogy to describe the transforming power of God in the believer’s life, comparing it to the recreating power of the sun.

CH-2) As rays of light from yonder sun,
The flow’rs of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth
From Christ living in me.

It should be the controlling desire of every Christian, that what we are positionally in Christ, we become more and more in practical experience–so that when others look at us, they see more and more of Christ.

CH-4) With longing all my heart is filled,
That like Him I may be,
As on the wondrous thought I dwell
That Christ liveth in me.

Questions:
1) Is the difference between the believer’s position and condition (or standing and state) clearly taught in your church?

2) What other hymns do you know that deal well with these twin truths?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 26, 2014

Begin, My Tongue, Some Heavenly Theme

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: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Manoah, from Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1851), published by Henry Wellington Greatorex (b. Dec. 24, 1813; d. Sept. 10, 1858)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Watts called this 1707 hymn “The Faithfulness of God in His Promises.” The original had nine stanzas; CH-1, 2, 6 and 8 are often used today. No specific author is identified for the tune. Manoah was the father of Samson.

There have been some word changes in the original (a few of these in Watts’ own later revision). In CH-2, “And the performing God” has been altered either to “And the fulfilling God,” or to “The love and truth of God.” (Performing now often has the sense of putting on an act, which is not what Watts would have intended.) The word “rase” (also spelled raze) in CH-4 is used in the sense of erase. A variant of the first two lines of CH-9 is: “Now shall my leaping heart rejoice / To know Thy favour sure.”

This hymn also provides a lesson in what happens when we try editing a fine hymn. When Augustus Toplady (author of Rock of Ages) published this hymn, decades after it was written, he decided to change the opening line to “Begin my soul.” That would normally be acceptable–though I fail to see the need. However, in this case, the whole hymn is about speaking, not souls! Notice: “speak” (CH-1); “tell,” “sound,” and “sing” (CH-2); “proclaim” (CH3), etc. Often it’s far better to leave well enough alone!

M any years ago, an old Yorkshire preacher named William Dawson announced the singing of this hymn, and commented:

“I was coming once through Leeds, and saw a poor little [mentally disabled] lad rubbing at a brass plate, trying to rub out the name; but the poor lad did not know that the harder he rubbed, the brighter it shone. Now, friends, let’s sing [CH-4]:

Engraved as in eternal brass
The mighty promise shines;
Nor can the powers of darkness rase
Those everlasting lines.

Satan cannot rub it off. ‘His hand hath writ the Sacred Word / With an immortal pen’ [CH-3].”

What is the purpose of music? The answer is it all depends on why the song was written, and how it is used. Among other things, there is music for relaxation and cultural enrichment. There are songs to march to, songs to dance to, and music to express patriotism, or to commemorate some special event.

Not all songs are Christian hymns, of course. There is a great deal of beautiful and wholesome music, which effectively serves other purposes. But without question the highest purpose to which our songs can be put is to be employed in the worship of God, and in a proclamation of truths about Him.

No wonder words such as “sing,” and “song,” and “music” are found hundreds of times in the Scriptures, especially in Psalms, the hymn book of the Bible. Infinitely above all others, the Lord is a subject worth glorifying in song. That is likely a major motivating factor behind most of the hymns that have ever been written.

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!” (I Chron. 16:8-9). “My tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long” (Ps. 35:28). “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 89:1).

Our hymns are a response to the revelation of the person of God, and to our enjoyment of His blessings. When we sing our sacred songs, we both sing to the Lord, and to one another about Him (Col. 3:16). And “the Lord…is worthy to be praised” says the psalmist (Ps. 18:3).

The saints will sound His praises through all eternity. “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). He is forever worth singing about.

CH-1) Begin, my tongue, some heav’nly theme
And speak some boundless thing;
The mighty works, or mightier name
Of our eternal King.

CH-2) Tell of His wondrous faithfulness
And sound His power abroad;
Sing the sweet promise of His grace,
And the performing God.

CH-6) His every word of grace is strong
As that which built the skies;
The voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises.

Questions:
1) Why is it that so much of our comment and conversation is taken up with earthly themes?

2) How can we discipline ourselves (and encourage others) to talk more about “heavenly themes”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 24, 2014

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

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: Thomas Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Mainzer, by Joseph Mainzer (b. Oct. 21, 1801; d. Nov. 10, 1851)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Bishop Ken wrote this hymn in 1674 or earlier. It was later revised, likely by Thomas Ken himself. This may account for the many variations in the text and the stanzas used. Lyra Britannica, usually authoritative, has some stanzas the Cyber Hymnal does not, but the latter includes several missing from Lyra Britannica. The version I’ve used for this article is the 1709 revision.

The good bishop suffered from physical pain, day by day, and was troubled with insomnia at night. He had a timepiece which enabled him to discern the time by touch, in the dark. (It has been preserved as a significant artifact of his life.) He wrote of this watch in his poetry:

Pain keeps me walking in the night;
I longing lie for morning light;
Methinks the sluggish sun forgets
He this day’s course must run.
O heavenly torch! Why this delay
In giving us our wonted day?
I feel my watch, I tell my clock,
I hear each crowing of the cock.

Eminent hymn historian John Julian considered the present hymn among a handful of the greatest hymns in the English language. Others agree, placing Ken’s evening hymn (“Glory [or, all praise] to Thee, my God, this night”) in similar high esteem. The hymns were written for the boys of Winchester College (a school the bishop himself had once attended) with the instruction that they were to, “Be sure to sing the Morning and Evening hymn in their chamber devoutly.”

T his morning hymn is a summons to diligence and discipline in every area of life, living under the watchful eye of God. Picture the boys in their frigid dormitory rising at five in the morning–“with the sun,” or even before it broke the horizon. They are prodded by the hymn to “shake off dull sloth” to offer to the Lord their sacrifice of praise (I Thess. 5:8; Heb. 13:15).

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Ps. 5:3).

CH-1) Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

CH-4) In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

It’s impossible to include a discussion of the entire fourteen stanzas of this great hymn in a short article, but you can read eleven of the stanzas in the Cyber Hymnal. Think of this concise prayer surely reflecting what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25).

CH-9) Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

Or consider these two stanzas (the first of which is not currently included in the Cyber Hymnal). They are based on the thought that heaven is heaven because God is there, and that the grandest employment of eternity will be the praise of God (cf. Ps. 61:8). That will be not only a life of quantity (i.e. endless) but of supreme quality. As the Lord Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3; cf. Jer. 9:23-24).

I would not wake nor rise again,
E’en heav’n itself I would disdain,
Were not Thou there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

CH-7) Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

The morning hymn, along with the bishop’s evening and midnight hymns, each ends with the familiar Doxology. The third line of this has, I think, been improved from the author’s earlier version which read: “Praise Him above y’ Angelick Host.”

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

These four lines have likely been sung in the English speaking church more than any others. They are a masterpiece of compactness and completeness. Repeated praise for all blessings, by all on earth and all in heaven, addressed to all of God (cf. I Chron. 29:11).

Questions:
1) What will be the character of a day that is lived by the code of CH-9?

2) In contrast, what will be missing from the day if CH-9 is not applied?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 21, 2014

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

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: Ira Forest Stanphill (b. Feb. 14, 1914; d. Dec. 30, 1993)
Music: Ira Forest Stanphill

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)

Note: This country style gospel song was published in 1950. William and Ardythe Petersen, in their book, The Complete Book of Hymns (Tyndale House Publishers, 2006) tell the story behind the song (pp. 397-398).

A pparently, as the Petersens tell it, in the late 1940’s, Stanphill’s wife left him and he went through a period of deep depression. He was tempted to give up Christian work completely. But one day the melody for a new song came into his mind, and he started fitting some words to it. Though he wrote about 400 gospel songs during his lifetime, he had gone through a long period where he produced nothing at all. But this song became a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and marked a new start for him.

I cannot judge Mr. Stanphill specifically, as I don’t know the circumstances regarding his wife’s departure. However, in general terms, an absentee father often creates serious difficulties for a family. For example, a man who must leave his wife and children for a tour of military duty discovers that. And traveling evangelists (which Stanphill became) do too.

In First Corinthians chapter 7, the Apostle Paul discusses the benefits of a single life for one who is engaged in the kind of itinerant ministry that he was. He saw the advantages of not having family responsibilities. However, he recognized that not all are given by the Lord the gift of celibacy (vs. 32; cf. vs. 7).

This must be balanced with the teaching of First Timothy that leaders in the church are to demonstrate their fitness for that responsibility by their home and family life (I Tim. 3:4-5). For further thoughts on this issue, check my article Doesn’t Ministry Begin at Home, about another evangelist whose wife left him.

As to the song, there are many things we do know about the future, on the basis of God’s Word. We know that, through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we can be forgiven of our sins, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7). We know that those who are saved can have the assurance that God will complete what He has begun in us (Jn. 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6).

Meanwhile, we know that He has provided all we need to live victorious and fruitful lives (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3-4). And we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again to gather His children to Himself (Jn. 14:3-4).

What we don’t know is the particulars of what tomorrow may bring, at the personal level. Nor can we be dogmatic about the day after that. It is folly to cast our plans in stone, and expect that what we have planned will come to pass without fail (Jas. 4:13-15). Jesus’ parable of the rich fool illustrates the point.

He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:16-21).

Rather than counting on material things, as we look to the Lord, we can trust Him to take the “all things” of life–whether of pains or pleasures–and weave them together into something that is ultimately good and beautiful, using them to make us more like the Lord Jesus.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:28-29).

By the sovereign providence of God, nothing will be allowed to touch the believers life that will not accomplish His good purpose. Though the details about tomorrow are shrouded from our own sight in the mists of time, “we know who holds tomorrow,” and we can walk hand in hand with Him, with confidence.

1) I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day;
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies might turn to gray;
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

Questions:
1) What are some plans or prospects in your own life about whose outcome you are uncertain?

2) How will you live in the meantime, as you wait for the future to unfold?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)

Posted by: rcottrill | February 19, 2014

Hark, Ten Thousand Harps and Voices

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: Thomas Kelly (b. July 13, 1769; d. May 14, 1855)
Music: Harwell, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Kelly died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The hymn was published by the author in 1806. The original had seven stanzas. As of this writing, the Cyber Hymnal does not include the second stanza, and has somewhat changed the order of the others. Modern hymnals usually include only three or four stanzas–most often CH-1, 2, 5 and 6. The tune’s composer, Lowell Mason, added the refrain later.

Thomas Kelly was the son of a judge who lived in Kellyville, Ireland. In his early years, Thomas was burdened about his sin, but could find no deliverance and peace. In his distress, he tried various forms of self discipline and self punishment, in hopes of meriting God’s salvation. It wasn’t until his university years in Dublin that he learned about the gospel of grace. When he found the new and living way, through faith in Christ, he became a zealous preacher of the gospel.

While he preached in many places over the years, Dublin became home base where he served as a pastor for over six decades. Kelly was also a notable hymn writer, with 767 hymns to his credit. (Praise the Saviour, Ye Who Know Him, and Look, Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious are others.) Pastor Kelly was ushered into the presence of the Lord at the age of eighty-six. His dying words were, “Not my will, but Thine be done.)

T he present hymn deals with the Lord Jesus Christ as He is at the present time, seated upon His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21), at His right hand (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3), and worshiped by the angels of heaven. The original inspiration for the hymn was Hebrews 1:6, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (This text, in turn, is a version of Psalm 97:7, which says, “Worship Him, all you gods [or angels].”)

Other passages in Revelation seem to be alluded to in the hymn. For example: “I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. And they sang as it were a new song before the throne” (Rev. 14:2-3). Or in another place:

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!’ And 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!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev. 5:11-14).

(CH-1) Hark, ten thousand harps and voices
Sound the note of praise above!
Jesus reigns, and heav’n rejoices,
Jesus reigns, the God of love;
See, He sits on yonder throne;
Jesus rules the world alone.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen!

2) Well may angels, bright and glorious,
Sing the praises of the Lamb;
While on earth, He proved victorious;
Now He bears a matchless name.
Well may angels sing of Him:
Heav’n supplies no richer theme.

Though we will one day stand in the presence of the Lord, in glorified resurrection bodies, we can approach the throne of grace now, through faith. The hymn invites us to do just that.

CH-3) Come, ye saints, unite your praises
With the angels round His throne;
Soon, we hope, our God will raise us
To the place where He is gone.
Meet it is that we should sing,
Glory, glory, to our King!

Another thing that can give believers great joy is rehearsing the gospel story, and meditating on the matchless grace that brought the Lord Jesus from the glories of heaven to be our Saviour (cf. II Cor. 8:9).

CH-4) Sing how Jesus came from heaven,
How He bore the cross below,
How all power to Him is given,
How He reigns in glory now.
’Tis a great and endless theme
O, ’tis sweet to sing of Him.

CH-6) Saviour, hasten Thine appearing;
Bring, O bring the glorious day,
When, the awful summons bearing,
Heav’n and earth shall pass away;
Then with golden harps we’ll sing,
“Glory, glory to our King!”

Questions:
1) Kelly says, “heaven supplies no richer theme” for praise than the Person and work of Christ. What are some things about the Lord Jesus that will motivate praise?

2) What will be the difference between the praise offered by the angels, and that offered by the saints?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Kelly died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 17, 2014

Go, Labour On

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:
Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Pentecost, by William Boyd (b. _____, 1847; d. Feb. 16, 1928)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Written in 1843, this hymn was the first Bonar wrote for adults. His previous songs were intended for the children in his Sunday School. This one was designed to challenge and encourage his fellow workers in the church at Leith, Scotland. Bonar called it, “The Useful Life.” All of the original eight stanzas of this wonderful hymn are worth a look, but hymn books today commonly use four or five: CH-1, 2, 4, 5, and 7.

There is an interesting history behind the tune Pentecost, which is also traditionally used for John Monsell’s hymn, Fight the Good Fight. Actually, the tune was written in 1864 for Charles Wesley’s hymn about the Holy Spirit, Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire–and appropriately named Pentecost, because of the coming of the Spirit then, and the birth of the church.

However, some years later, William Boyd, the composer, was accosted on a London street by his good friend Arthur Sullivan. Sir Arthur was in the process of editing a new hymn book, and he said to Boyd, “I’ve seen a tune of yours which I must have.” Boyd agreed for him to employ the tune.

He was paid for that, but Sullivan never informed him of the hymn the melody would be associated with. He says, “When I saw the tune [published in his hymn book] I was horrified to find that Sullivan had assigned it to Fight the Good Fight. We had a regular fisticuffs [a fight] about it.” But, when the composer saw the public acceptance of the new pairing, he accepted it.

T he present hymn is about Christian service, “labouring” for the Lord. That will mean putting a priority on living for Christ, and doing His will. Following the example of the Lord Jesus, the committed believer will say:

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work [i.e. when our opportunity is gone]” (Jn. 9:4).

Or as Paul assured the Corinthians, out of his love for them: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (II Cor. 12:15). That describes the expenditure of personal resources for love of Christ, spending ourselves, and being utterly spent, holding nothing back.

CH-1. Service for Christ is “the Father’s will” (II Pet. 3:9), and the Lord Jesus (our Master) set us the example of servanthood (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 13:15).

CH-2. Sinners and this evil world will oppose us, not encourage us. “Men heed thee [not], love thee [not], praise thee not.” But we are assured of the praise (and later rewards) of the Lord (Jn. 15:18-21; cf. Matt. 5:11-12; Rev. 22:12).

CH-1) Go, labour on: spend, and be spent,
Thy joy to do the Father’s will:
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?

CH-2) Go, labour on! ’tis not for naught
Thine earthly loss is heavenly gain;
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
The Master praises–what are men?

CH-4. It’s vitally important to realize that we are merely channels or conveyers of the transforming truth of God’s Word. We do not have the power in ourselves to affect spiritual change. “Your hands are weak, your knees are faint.” In the words of the Lord Jesus, “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves…but our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 3:5; cf. I Cor. 2:3-5).

CH-5. We need a sense of urgency, realizing the shortness of the time before Christ’s return. “The world’s dark night is hastening on” (Jn. 9:4; cf. Jn. 12:35).

CH-4) Go, labour on! Your hands are weak,
Your knees are faint, your soul cast down;
Yet falter not; the prize you seek
Is near–a kingdom and a crown.

CH-5) Go, labour on while it is day:
The world’s dark night is hastening on;
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.

CH-7. Service for the Lord will involve toil, and conflict, and it will require godly wisdom. We need to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41). And the servants of Christ must venture forth into “the world’s highway” and compel the wanderer to come in (Lk. 14:23).

CH-7) Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray,
Be wise the erring soul to win;
Go forth into the world’s highway,
Compel the wanderer to come in.

Questions:
1) I have heard from representatives of various denominations and Christian agencies that it seems harder and harder to get young people to commit to full-time Christian service. Why might this be?

2) What makes labour for Christ difficult? What makes it a blessing?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 14, 2014

Fling Out the Banner

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: George Washington Doane (b. May 27, 1799; d. Apr. ___, 1859)
Music: Waltham (or Calkin), by John Baptiste Calkin (b. Mar. 16, 1827; d. May 15, 1905)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Notes: Doane was an Episcopal (Anglican) college professor and a pastor. He was christened George Washington Doane, as he was born in the year America’s beloved first president died. After 1832, he served as the bishop of New Jersey, for the Protestant Episcopal Church, and he helped to found St. Mary’s School in that state. The school is still in existence as a private school for children up to the twelfth grade. They continue to use a beautiful evening hymn by Dr. Doane, Softly Now the Light of Day.

In 1848, at the request of the students, Doane produced another song for the flag raising of the school, the present hymn called Fling Out the Banner. For him the flag became a symbol of the gospel. Because of his keen interest in foreign missions, he was known as “The Missionary Bishop of America.” He incorporated that theme in the new song, and called it “The Banner of the Cross,” though that title is now generally given to another gospel song by D. W. Whittle.

The tune by John Calkin was composed for Doane’s words. One further point: The Cyber Hymnal, for some reason, transposes the second and third stanzas. The usual order I’ve seen is: CH-1, 3, 2, etc.

Dr. Doane’s son wrote of his father:

“My father’s poetical writings were simple necessities. He could not help them. His heart was so full of song, it oozed out in his conversation, in his sermons, in everything that he did….With his heart so full of it, nothing ever touched it but it pressed some out.” (The Gospel in Hymns, pp. 484-485)

Of this particular hymn, David R. Breed wrote, in 1903, in his book The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn Tunes:

“What can be more stirring, more ringing, than these triumphant notes. Surely the missionary spirit–the spirit of the widest evangelization, is not subsiding while such triumphant notes are sounded….If this hymn has not been assigned the first rank among missionary hymns it is because it has been strangely overlooked” ( p. 205).

CH-1) Fling out the banner! let it float
Skyward and seaward, high and wide;
The sun that lights its shining folds,
The cross, on which the Saviour died.

B anners are spoken a number of times in the Bible. David declared, “We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners” (Ps. 20:5). And when the Lord called for judgment to fall on the Babylonians, He declared, “Lift up a banner on the high mountain” (Isa. 13:1-2). When a young peasant woman from the hills of Ephraim was married to King Solomon, she testified, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (S. of S. 2:4). Solomon, in turn, compared the beauty and majesty of his beloved to “an army with banners” (6:4, 10).

When the Messiah’s coming is promised in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah says He will “stand as a banner [or ensign] to the people” (Isa. 11:10). And Psalm 60:4 says, “You have given a banner [a rallying flag] to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth [i.e. when it is realized the enemy is approaching].” It is not difficult to see an application of this text to the Person of Christ, and to His cross. He and His Calvary work are the Christian’s rallying point. As the Apostle Paul says, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

There are some skillful poetic phrases and pertinent allusions in Dr. Doane’s hymn. For example, in CH-3 we see angels that “vainly seek to comprehend the wonders of the love divine,” something that Peter speaks of in his first epistle (I Pet. 1:10-12). “Nations crowding to be born” is a colourful phrase, and it perhaps represents Doane’s nearness to the birth of America, in the years before his birth.

The lines about sin sick souls touching in faith the radiant hem of the banner, and receiving eternal life (CH-4) alludes to the healing of the woman with a chronic bleeding problem. She touched the fringe of Christ’s garment in faith, and found physical healing (Lk. 8:43-48), just as the act of faith today, in looking to the cross, brings spiritual healing.

Conquering in the sign of the cross (CH-6) is a historical allusion to the emperor Constantine. Before the battle of the Milvian Bridge near Rome (AD 312), the emperor claimed (whether true or not) that he had seen a cross, blazing in the sky, with the words “In hoc signo vinces” (By this sign thou shalt conquer). He became, at least in name, a Christian emperor. Doane makes a more powerful point with this, insisting that the power of the gospel lies in the saving work of the cross, not in the skill, might, or merit of the evangelist (cf. I Cor. 2:1-5; Gal. 6:14).

CH-6) Fling out the banner! wide and high,
Seaward and skyward, let it shine;
Nor skill, nor might, nor merit ours;
We conquer only in that sign.

Questions:
1) What other symbols are connected with the gospel in the Bible or in our hymns?

2) What, in your view, are the best of our missionary hymns?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 12, 2014

Come to the Saviour

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: George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)
Music: George Frederick Root

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This lovely little invitation hymn, with its appealing melody, was published in 1870. There’s a touching story of how the Lord used it on the Cyber Hymnal link.

W hen an individual is humbled, we sometimes describe him as eating crow, or eating humble pie. These two expressions are centuries old. “Umbles” were the intestines and other usually discarded parts of a deer. And “crow,” in an old English usage, refers to the intestines of an animal. To be brought to the need to consume what we would previously have thrown away is a humiliating experience.

The Christian gospel requires such a humbling in the form of what the Bible calls repentance. There is a 180 degree turn from sin to faith in the Saviour. To go our own way, rather than God’s way, exhibits the same spirit of prideful independence seen in our first parents. God had told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge–that it would bring death upon them (Gen. 2:17). But the serpent (Satan) boldly told them God was not telling the truth (vs. 4-5). With that, the two decided to disobey the Lord (vs. 6).

The Bible says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble….Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:6, 10). We do that when we admit to Him that we are on the wrong path, that our sins are an offense to Him, and that they threaten us with eternal destruction. We do that when we turn from our sin and trust in the finished work of Christ on Calvary as our only hope. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet. 3:18; cf. Jn. 3:16).

All through the Scriptures, we see the Lord graciously inviting sinners to come to Him for what their souls so desperately need.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1; cf. vs. 6). “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” (Isa. 45:22).

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Matt. 11:28; Jn. 6:37). “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink’” (Jn. 7:37).

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

Mr. Root’s song notes several important things about this gospel call to “come” to the Lord.

1) Our coming should not be delayed (CH-1). It’s the devil’s way to prod sinners to procrastinate, to put off the most important decision of their lives. When Paul spoke to a Roman governor with the convicting power of the Spirit, the reply was, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you” (Acts 24:25). But there is no record that he ever did.

2) All the information we need to make the decision is found in the Bible, the Word of God. There “He has shown us the way” (CH-1). It is through personal faith in Christ, in Him alone, that we are saved eternally (Jn. 3:16; Acts 4:12). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). There are all kinds of “ways” in life. But only one that brings everlasting life. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). In contrast, You [Lord] will show me the path of life” (Ps. 16:12).

3) In grace, the Lord has made Himself accessible (CH-1).“‘Am I a God near at hand,’ says the LORD, ‘and not a God afar off?…Do I not fill heaven and earth,” says the Lord” (Jer. 23:23-24). As Paul told his listeners in Athens, sinners “should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

CH-1) Come to the Saviour, make no delay;
Here in His Word He has shown us the way;
Here in our midst He’s standing today,
Tenderly saying, “Come!”

Joyful, joyful will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Saviour, with Thee,
In our eternal home.

CH-3) Think once again, He’s with us today;
Heed now His blest command, and obey;
Hear now His accents tenderly say,
“Will you, My children, come?”

Questions:
1) What are some of the hindrances to sinners hearing and obeying the call of God (see Romans 10:14 and 17, for example)?

2) What do the Lord’s repeated invitations tell us about Him?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 10, 2014

Brighten the Corner

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 are being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Words: Ina Mae Duley Ogdon (b. Apr. 3, 1872; d. May 18, 1964)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The writing of this hymn in 1913 reflects a life of self sacrifice on the part of the author. (See the Wordwise Hymns link.) One story of how it had an impact on another person is told in the Cyber Hymnal. That account is one of many found on pp. 1-14 of Homer Rodeheaver’s book, Song Stories of the Sawdust Trail (Moffat, Yard, and Company, 1917). The Cyber Hymnal lists 133 of Ina Ogdon’s gospel songs, here.

T he message of this song is simple, but biblically sound. Perhaps we all have grand dreams of spectacular things we could do for God. They may be practical, or they may not. But the counsel of the song is do what you can do now, and the Lord may move you on to greater things in time to come. In the meantime, bloom where you’re planted.

CH-1) Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbour
You may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

The word “bar” in the refrain, of course, refers to a sand bar, that build-up of sand that can sometimes be found near a harbour. The danger may be hidden from view, but a good navigator can guild ships around it. It stands as a metaphor for potential dangers, often unforeseen, that can threaten a person’s spiritual welfare. It may be we can help others to avoid running aground, by some wise counsel and timely aid.

Below are some things the Word of God has to say on the subject. Notice the repeated word, “whatever.” We may admire someone who has great gifts in service for the Lord, or a prominent and fruitful ministry. But, as the Lord said to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” (Exod. 4:2). It happened to be his shepherd’s rod, and God showed him how it could be put to use for His glory.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecc. 9:10). “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Pet. 4:10). Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him….And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:17, 23). “Do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 1:31).

A slingshot in the hand of David won a great victory (I Sam. 17:48-50), so did some trumpets, pitchers and lamps in the hands of Gideon’s three hundred men, though they were greatly outnumbered (Jud. 7:19-25). And in the hands of the Lord Jesus, one boy’s lunch fed thousands of people, with some food left over (Matt. 14:15-21)! Don’t despise the instrument God has put in your hand.

Possibly, your service is something that tends to be behind-the-scenes. A ministry that most people never witness, though they may enjoy some of the results. Never mind. Do it…as to the Lord and not to men.” Even if you are criticized by others, the main thing is that you are pleasing the Lord (cf. Mk. 14:3-9).

CH-2) Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

There is value in a ministry to “one heart alone.” Philip the evangelist had that experience. The Lord took him away from a successful ministry to multitudes in the city of Samaria (Acts 8:5-8) to present the gospel to one man on a desert road (vs. 26-39).

It’s not a matter of wishing for, or even praying for, some talent God has not given us. Though there are exceptions to this, it often involves the Lord uncovering or revealing a talent already there, but hidden. Maybe a crisis or a time of painful trial opens up a new avenue of ministry.

That happened to Annie Johnson Flint. She was a school teacher and an accomplished pianist, but severe arthritis left her bedridden. It was then she took to writing poetry and, before he death in 1932, she gave us a great many insightful poems, two of which became the hymns God Hath Not Promised, and He Giveth More Grace.

CH-3) Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the Bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Questions:
1) What gift or other resource do you have right now that could be put to use for the Lord?

2) What person can you encourage this week, with the message of this song?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 7, 2014

Awake, My Soul, to Joyful Lays

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: Samuel Medley (b. June 23, 1738; d. July 17, 1799)
Music: Lovingkindness, an American folk melody, attributed to William Caldwell (publisher of Union Harmony, in 1837, a book containing forty-two tunes written by him). No other data available for him.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Samuel Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: A “lay” is simply another word for a song. But there are several uncertainties about this hymn, both as to the date when it was written, and as to the number and wording of the stanzas.

On one occasion, Samuel Medley was visiting in the home of a Baptist friend named Mr. Phillips. He asked the Phillips’ daughter Betsey (who may have been little older than a toddler at the time) to bring him ink and paper. When these were provided, he retired to the guest room and wrote this particular hymn. The Cyber Hymnal gives the date as 1782, though others have 1785.

As to the stanzas, the Cyber Hymnal currently has seven, but the usually authoritative Lyra Britannica has nine. The mystery doesn’t quite end there, since the Cyber Hymnal’s fourth stanza is not included in the above-mentioned volume! Of the three missing from the Cyber Hymnal, the last one sums up the whole song nicely, by picturing ongoing praise in the heavenly kingdom:

There with their golden harps I’ll join,
And with their anthems mingle mine,
And loudly sound on ev’ry chord
The lovingkindness of the Lord.

Any consideration of the text of this hymn surely must begin with a comment on the biblical word lovingkindness, since it is found in every stanza of the hymn, and it is for this that the author is praising the Lord. The Hebrew word is checed (also written hesed).

“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses” (Isa. 63:7).

The scholarly Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (pp. 305-307) discusses the term at great length, noting that there is a strong connotation of mercy in the meaning, and perhaps of loyalty and faithfulness. (It is sometimes translated “mercy” in the NKJV.) But in the end the TWOT states that the archaic expression “lovingkindness” is “not far from the fulness of meaning of the word.”

The English word (NKJV) is found many times in the book of Psalms, the hymn book of Israel. Clearly, the psalmists felt as Pastor Medley did, many centuries later, that the lovingkindness of the Lord was something precious, something to be celebrated. A few examples will show how this attribute of God was appealed to.

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” (Ps. 36:7).

“Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me” (Ps. 40:11).

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1).

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Ps. 103:4).

“Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth [i.e. obey Your Word]” (Ps. 119:88).

Awake, My Soul, to Joyful Lays cannot be considered great poetry. Yet it continues to be found in our hymnals more than two centuries after it was written. There is a warmth of joyful piety in it that seems irresistible. For Medley, as stated in the stanzas of his hymn, God’s lovingkindness is to be praised because it is “free” (given in grace), “great,” “strong,” and “changes not.” Amen to all of that!

CH-1) Awake, my soul, to joyful lays,
And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
He justly claims a song from me–
His lovingkindness, O how free!

Something of the heart of the man can be detected in his dying words. (And see how these words fulfil the prayer of CH-6 in his hymn.) On his deathbed he said:

“I am thinking on the laws of gravitation: the nearer a body approaches to his centre, with the more force it is impelled; and the nearer I approach my dissolution, with greater velocity I move toward it.” When reminded by a friend that his “centre” was Christ, he said, “Yes, yes, He is, He is….I am looking up to my dear Jesus, my God, my portion, my all in all!…Glory! Glory! Home! Home!”

CH-6) Soon I shall pass the gloomy vale,
Soon all my mortal powers must fail;
O! may my last expiring breath
His lovingkindness sing in death.

Questions:
1) What experience of the lovingkindness of the Lord have you had in the past week for which you can praise Him?

2) Would it be possible for you to keep a mini-journal, for a week or a month, in which you recorded three particular examples of God’s lovingkindness to you, each day?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Samuel Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal

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