Posted by: rcottrill | July 15, 2015

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: rcottrill | July 13, 2015

He Is Coming Again

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | July 10, 2015

Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

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

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

Words: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Germany, by William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 8, 2015

Gracious Saviour, Who Didst Honour

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) What can be done about these things?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 6, 2015

God Calling, Yet

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 3, 2015

Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love

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

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

Words: Peter Philip Bilhorn (b. July 22, 1865; d. Dec. 13, 1936)
Music: Peter Philip Bilhorn

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Bilhorn wrote this song at the suggestion of hymn writer Daniel Whittle, who was traveling with him on the train. Early publications credited the words to P. H. Roblin. This was a pen name of Bilhorn’s, formed by rearranging the letters of P. Bilhorn. Irene Durfee was another pen name he sometimes used.

American evangelist and hymn writer Peter Philip Bilhorn had a remarkable and varied career in many respects. With his older brother, he established the Eureka Wagon and Carriage Works, in Chicago. He also had a marvelous singing voice and, in his early years, he entertained in the concert halls and beer gardens in the city. But when he came to Christ, he determined to use his gifts in the service of the Lord.

Bilhorn became a much traveled evangelist, also serving as a song leader in the early ministry of Billy Sunday. At the World’s Christian Endeavour Convention in London’s Crystal Palace, he conducted a choir of 4,000 voices. On the invitation of Queen Victoria, he sang several of his own songs in the chapel at Buckingham Palace.He wrote around two thousand gospel songs, and provided tunes for those written by others. Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love is one for which he provided both words and music.

Seeing the need for a small portable pump organ that could be used in street meetings and on the mission field, Peter Bilhorn designed and built one himself. The small but powerful instrument folded down into a unit about the size of a large suitcase. The Bilhorn Brothers Organ Company grew from this, and they sold a variety of models worldwide. The inventor turned all his profits from their sale back into the Lord’s work.

I’ve told the following story on the Wordwise Hymns link, but I’ll include it here, as an indicator of the nature of the man. Mr. Bilhorn was one of those servants of God that could minister in unusual ways. If others tried the same thing, it might seem forced, or obnoxious, but Peter was just being himself, and people accepted it.

One time, while conducting meetings in Wisconsin, the evangelist retired to his hotel room to sleep, but sleep would not come. Instead, he felt compelled to take his folding organ out into the bitter cold night. Walking down a street, he saw a gleam of light in a basement window. When he knocked, he was admitted to a room where a group of men were gambling. He set up his organ and began to sing Christian songs. As a result of this bold ministry, six men trusted in the Saviour that night.

When we hear the word “peace” today, it’s often in the context international affairs. When a conflict of nations develops, efforts are made to bring peace between warring factions. The Bible certainly talks about that kind of peace, but at the personal level God’s Word focuses on two other kinds.

First, there is the need for peace with God. Whether he knows it or not, the sinner is at enmity with His Creator, and separated from God by sin. But Christ “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). Through faith in Christ, Christians can say, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

CH-1) There comes to my heart one sweet strain,
A glad and a joyous refrain,
I sing it again and again,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

Peace, peace, sweet peace,
Wonderful gift from above,
Oh, wonderful, wonderful peace,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

CH-2) Through Christ on the cross peace was made,
My debt by His death was all paid,
No other foundation is laid.
For peace, the gift of God’s love.

Through Christ, we have peace with God. But “the gift of God’s love,” as Peter Bilhorn’s song describes it, is not only peace with God, but the peace of God in the heart. A settled confidence, as the believer trusts in the Lord day by day, in every circumstance. We are invited to commit those things that bring us anxious care to Him (Phil. 4:6) and, when we do, we’re assured that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (vs. 7).

CH-3) When Jesus as Lord I had crowned,
My heart with this peace did abound,
In Him the rich blessing I found,
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

CH-4) In Jesus for peace I abide,
And as I keep close to His side,
There’s nothing but peace doth betide.
Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

Questions:
1) What kinds of things can disturb the Christian’s inner peace?

2) What do you do to regain a sense of peace, when such things happen to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | July 1, 2015

Only One Life

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

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

Words: Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen (b. Oct. 11, 1895; d. Jan. 14, 1985)
Music: Merrill Everett Dunlop (b. May 9, 1905; d. June 15, 2002)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Avis Christiansen)
Hymnary.org

Note: Encouraged by her grandmother, Avis began writing poetry at ten years of age. In 1916 she started writing the texts for hymns, something she did in collaboration with many gospel composers, for decades afterward. This gospel song was published in 1937.

A cat has nine lives, so the old saying goes–though I’m not sure who first said that. It may have come down to us all the way from ancient Egypt, where the cat was especially revered. But why nine lives, in particular? Some have speculated that nine is a trinity of trinities (three times three) and thus is supposed to be a lucky number.

Or perhaps the idea may have originated simply from the cat’s great balance, agility, and reflexes, which enable it to survive falls and other dangers. But we all know the saying’s not literally true. Cats do get injured sometimes. And though they may live a surprisingly long time, they have only one life to live, and they all eventually die.

It’s the same for human beings. Some religious groups teach the possibility of reincarnation–a word derived from Latin and meaning, literally, “entering the flesh again.” The idea is that the soul or spirit, after death, begins life in a new body. It may be a human body, or an animal’s, depending, so it’s supposed, on whether the previous life was well lived or not.

But as sincerely as this notion may be clung to by some, it’s simply not true. Almighty God has given each of us but one life to live. After that, we have an appointment with our Maker. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). “For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (II Sam. 14:14).

“[Man’s] days are determined, the number of his months is with You [God]; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). “The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). Then, each of us must give an account to the Lord.“For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14).

One life, not two or twenty. If my mathematics are correct, a life of 70 years will contain 25,568 days, or 613,632 hours, or 36,817,920 minutes. When we’re young, that may seem to stretch out before us almost forever. But as the years mount up, the limitations of time begin to seem more serious. Another day gone, in a flash. Was it well spent?

C. T. Studd (1860-1931), a missionary to China, famously wrote:

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

There are so many things in which we might get involved, during the time allotted to us, so many goals that might be set. Some are worthy. Some are not. But it’s well for us to maintain an eternal perspective when we establish our values and priorities. What will truly “last.”

Studd’s telling Christian axiom seems to have become the inspiration for a gospel song, written around 1936, by Chicago resident Avis Christiansen. The song, entitled Only One Life, ponders the significance of the days and hours God has allotted each of us, and the importance of being good stewards of them.

When we trust Christ as Saviour, we become part of His forever family. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). It is then, in a loving response to what He has done for us, that we determine to serve Him. As the song says:

Only one life to offer–Jesus, my Lord and King;
Only one tongue to praise Thee and of Thy mercies sing;
Only one heart’s devotion–Saviour, O may it be
Consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.”

Part of living that life will involve reflecting the character of Christ, as the Spirit of God develops the fruit of the Spirit within us (Gal. 5:22-23).

It will also involve a life of witness and service, telling others the good news of forgiveness and eternal life found in Christ. Like Paul, can we say: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16)?

On that theme, the song continues:

Only this hour is mine, Lord–may it be used for Thee;
May ev’ry passing moment count for eternity;
Souls all about are dying, dying in sin and shame;
Help me bring them the message of Calv’ry’s redemption
In Thy glorious name.”

Questions:
1) What is the most important decision you have made, or action you have taken, today?

2) What things do you plan to be involved in this week that have the prospect of bearing eternal fruit?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Avis Christiansen)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 29, 2015

Sunshine in My Soul

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

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

Words: Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (b. June 28, 1851; d. Apr. 24, 1920)
Music: John Robson Sweney (b. Dec. 31, 1837; d. Apr. 10, 1899)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This hymn was written in 1887. The words are intimately connected to a personal experience of the author’s.

There’s a saying that behind the clouds, the sun is always shining. But that may not be much comfort to a life that is overcome with dark clouds of pain and trouble. Is it possible to avoid being overwhelmed by despair, when buried in a deluge of disaster? Possible to find sunshine in the storm? That is what this story is about.

The central character is Eliza Hewitt. Miss Hewitt lived her whole life in the city of Philadelphia, where she was a public school teacher, until something happened one dreadful day. She had attempted to correct a rebellious student, but when she turned away he struck her across the back with a heavy slate, severely injuring her spine.

Suddenly, her whole life changed. She never fully recovered from the damage done, was often bedridden for long periods, and had trouble getting around for the rest of her days. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, she was placed in a body cast for six long months. Her painful confinement could have been a breeding ground for depression and bitter cynicism, but it wasn’t.

She’d put her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He sustained her. The One whom the prophet Malachi calls “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2) had entered her life and brought the radiance of His love. Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (Jn. 12:46). Then, He bids believers to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

Light is used in Scripture as a symbol of truth and purity. It also depicts the abundant life the Lord can give to those who trust in Him. The Bible describes salvation this way:

“God who commanded light to shine out of darkness [at creation]…has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6).

“He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,” said the Lord Jesus (Jn. 8:12). After receiving God’s gift of eternal life, we are to “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

Eliza Hewitt did just that. She was the good friend of another prolific hymn writer, Fanny Crosby and, like her friend, she concentrated on that ministry. Though hindered from moving about, she began writing gospel songs, and eventually produced many hundreds of them. Some of these were written under the pen name Lidie H. Edmunds. Brightly joyous songs of faith and hope, they include: More About Jesus; My Faith Has Found a Resting Place; Since the Fullness of His Love Came In; Singing I Go; Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; and Stepping in the Light.

Six months after her back injury, the body cast was removed, and she was later able to take her first faltering steps outside. Eliza went for a short walk in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. She loved the beauty of nature, particularly flowers. What a delight to feel the breeze again, and the warm sunshine! Though brief, it was an energizing outing.

The experience inspired her to write a song she called Sunshine in My Soul. In it she applies the exhilaration of stepping out into the sunshine to the joy she found in fellowship with Christ.

CH-1) There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there’s sunshine, blessèd sunshine,
When the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

CH-2) There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus, listening, can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

After several years, her physical condition improved somewhat, and she served as a Sunday School Superintendent, for several decades, at the Northern Home for Friendless Children, and later at the Calvin Presbyterian Church. Miss Hewitt was also a regular contributor to Sunday School Helps.

CH-3) There is springtime in my soul today,
For, when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

CH-4) There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys “laid up” above.

Questions:
1) What experience have you had that at least is a small picture of the joy you experience in knowing and fellowshiping with Christ?

2) What reason(s) can you think of for great rejoicing in our fellowship with Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | June 26, 2015

Springs of Living Water

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

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

Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

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

Note: John Peterson was a prolific and influential gospel song writer, during the latter half of the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first. He not only produced books of songs for church congregations, but choral works as well. The present song was published in 1950.

Conflicts in other parts of the world have driven multitudes from their homes into crowded and verminous refugee camps. We see these tragedies played out in the news. Makeshift shelters, overcrowded and unsanitary communities, filled with worried, fearful people. One of their greatest needs is a continuing supply of clean water.

We live on a watery planet. Nearly three-quarters of the earth is covered with it. Yet in a given location, drinkable water may be in short supply. Stagnant, stinking ponds there may be, brackish water, fetid swamps, foul pools polluted by human or animal waste, or poisoned by industrial chemicals, all will be consumed by human beings at great peril.

Fresh, clean water–the Bible has a term for it, used a number of times. It’s called “living water.” The phrase suggests both movement and superior quality. Living water comes from flowing streams and spring-fed pools (also called “running water,” Gen. 26:19). It is fresh and sparkling, refreshing and life sustaining. And since it is flowing, there is also the promise of continuance and abundance, providing all the water that anyone could need.

When the prophet Zechariah speaks of the second coming of Christ (Zech. 14:3-4), he describes a dramatic change in the topography of the land of Israel: “In that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur” (vs. 8).

Several times the Bible uses our phrase as poetic imagery. In the Song of Solomon, the bridegroom speaks of his beloved as “a well of living waters” (S.S. 4:15). And in Jeremiah the Lord uses the phrase of Himself, saying:

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

Many in Israel had turned away from the living Lord to go after false gods. They had forsaken the One who is the source of life, and embraced impotent, lifeless idols.

In the Gospel of John, the work of the Spirit of God in bringing new life and salvation to the soul is described to a Samaritan woman by the Lord Jesus:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water….The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:10, 14).

Later, the Lord declared: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And John comments, “This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (Jn. 7:38-39).

The Samaritan woman had had five husbands, and was now living with another man (Jn. 4:18). It’s clear there was no lasting satisfaction in these relationships. She was a thirsty soul, ready to listen to the message of the gospel. And here, indeed was One who seemed to know all about her. His prophetic insight suggested to her that here might be the long expected Messiah. She went with that message to others (vs. 29). They came to Jesus too, and many believed on Him (vs. 39, 42).

Published over sixty years ago, Peterson’s gospel song Springs of Living Water celebrates the revitalizing work of God in the soul. It echoes the words of Christ to the woman of Samaria, that He could give her “living water, and she would “never thirst.”The life-changing message of the gospel has had a similar affect many times, down through the years. Dry emptiness of soul has been transformed by living water. The hymn says:

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
And nothing satisfying there I found;
But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
Where springs of living water did abound.

In the words of Christ, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Those who put their faith in Him are reborn and renewed by the Spirit, who comes like refreshing waters to the soul.

Questions:
1) What are some things about pure, fresh water that parallel the spiritual life given by the Spirit of God to the seeking sinner?

2) Jeremiah speaks of “broken cisterns” (Jer. 2:13). They seem to hold water for awhile, but it soon seeps away. What are some things in which the world seeks, but fails to find, true and lasting satisfaction?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | June 24, 2015

Rest for the Weary

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

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

Words: Samuel Young Harmer (b. Dec. 9, 1809; d. Apr. 26, 1884)
Music: John William Dadmun (b. Dec. 20, 1819; d. Aug. 6, 1890)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Hymnary.org lists William Hunter as a co-author of the words, but I could find no confirmation of that, in early copies of the song. Samuel Harmer was the son of a Quaker father and Presbyterian mother, and he later was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination. He wrote a number of gospel songs.

One thing that has often struck me about this song is that it seems to have two refrains. The last four lines of the eight-line refrain simply reuse the tune of the first four, and together it becomes a bit cumbersome. I think if I were using it I might try using the first half of the refrain with stanzas 1 and 3, and the second half with stanzas 2 and 4.

On a compilation of hymns on CD called Come Ye Faithful, there is a recording of this hymn sung by the great operatic baritone John Charles Thomas (1891-1960). I notice he does not use the full refrain each time, but does include both halves overall. Mr. Thomas’s father was a preacher, and he grew up loving the old hymns. He had a weekly radio program that featured them, and there are recordings available of some of these. A music critic declared that Thomas’s was one of the four greatest voices of the twentieth century. Agree or not, if you enjoy straightforward singing, with crisp diction, give him a try. Gospel singer George Beverly Shea knew him, and received some vocal coaching from him.

Football is a game with millions of fans. A close fought battle on the field can be exciting. But there’s quite a difference between being a player and a spectator. Some wit has described the game as “a bunch of people on the field needing rest, and a bunch in the stands needing exercise! A bit unfair to the fans, perhaps. We all can get weary in the duties of our day-to-day lives, and times of rest and recreation are essential to us.

That’s true in our service for Christ as well. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples one day, “‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.’ For [says Mark], there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31). Serving the Lord is not easy. No job is, of course, if we are determined to do it well. But there is a spiritual dimension to Christian service that adds to the burden.

We are dealing with the eternal destiny of others, while we struggle with our own weakness and waywardness. We have an enemy, Satan and his hosts, arrayed against us. Sometimes there’s opposition and even danger, from a world that does not know the Lord or love Him. The persecution suffered by Christians in the early church (cf. II Cor. 11:24-28) is repeated daily in many countries around the world today.

The servants of Christ need rest, and the Lord understands that. Sometimes, as described above, it involves a break from the duties we have assumed, and from dealing with people’s troubles. Other times, it is simply the rest of faith, trusting in Him to provide in the midst of our service. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). Even as we bear the yoke of service for Christ, we can experience His rest.

As well as that, there is an ultimate rest from earthly service yet to come, the heavenly rest of the saints. The Apostle John writes of it, “I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them’” (Rev. 14:13). Heaven will not be a rest from every kind of duty. Even there, “His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3; Gal. 6:9). But the frustrations, dangers, and painful trials of labour for the Lord in a fallen world will be forever behind us.

CH-1) In the Christian’s home in glory
There remains a land of rest;
There my Saviour’s gone before me,
To fulfill my soul’s request.

There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for you.
On the other side of Jordan,
In the sweet fields of Eden,
Where the tree of life is blooming,
There is rest for you.

In the Bible the Lord Jesus promises:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).

CH-2) He is fitting up my mansion,
Which eternally shall stand,
For my stay shall not be transient,
In that holy, happy land.

The book of Revelation declares that there, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

CH-3) Pain and sickness ne’er shall enter,
Grief nor woe my lot shall share;
But, in that celestial center,
I a crown of life shall wear.

CH-4) Death itself shall then be vanquished,
And his sting shall be withdrawn;
Shout for gladness, O ye ransomed!
Hail with joy the rising morn.

Questions:
1) What are your favourite hymns about heaven?

2) In this present life, how do you find a measure of spiritual rest?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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