Posted by: rcottrill | December 31, 2014

Where Could I Go?

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: James Buchanan Coats (b. Apr. 6, 1901; d. Dec. 15, 1961)
Music: James Buchanan Coats

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (James Coats)
Hymnary.org

Note: This song was published in 1940, and is likely the best known of the many Mr. Coats wrote. He was a deacon in his home church for more than thirty years, then served as the pastor until ill health, a couple of years before his death, brought his retirement. Mr. Coats believed that music was a gift from God, and that the true office of music is the worship of God.

Whether in medicine, or in a rescue operation, or some other field of endeavour, we’re used to hearing that something was a “last resort.” Something that appeared to be the one final hope of success. It is, however, a tragic thing when the Lord becomes a last resort, when those in trouble or in need search for answers everywhere else and find none. Then, at last, turn to God.

Years ago, I heard the testimony of retired hockey star Paul Henderson. (He’s the one who scored the famous winning goal for Canada against the Russians in 1972.) Mr. Henderson talked about how he thought all that was needed for a satisfying and meaningful life was a good wife, a family, and a job he enjoyed. But when he got those things he still felt something was missing. He was bitter and unhappy. Then, through a friend, he learned of his need of Christ, and finally found lasting satisfaction in Him.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” says David (Ps. 34:8). And the Lord Jesus invites seekers to come to Him, promising that He will provide “rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). It sounds as though that was exactly what Paul Henderson was missing, rest of soul.

A misguided search is perhaps more understandable with the unsaved. Maybe they’ve never even heard the gospel, and are seeking satisfaction in the only things they know. But what if it happens to believers? In a sense, that’s even sadder. They know the answer, they’ve experienced the goodness of God, but have drifted away. Unconfessed sin has raised a barrier, and their fellowship with the Lord has been broken.

Long ago, the Lord said to the nation of Israel in a time of backsliding:

“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).

How sad, when God’s people substitute other things to satisfy their souls, broken cisterns that can never provide what they long for, because that is only found in the Lord.

A variation of the “Where could I go?” question was asked by Peter, long ago. It came in response to a question from the Lord Jesus. Many who had flocked after Him, in the days of His earthly life, were there for the wrong reasons. they were sensation seekers, hoping to see some new wonder, or hoping He would use His powers to deliver them from the tyranny of Rome. They were not ready for the sacrifice of true discipleship and soon drifted away. We read:

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Jn. 6:66-69).

Living in this sinful world that opposes God and His Word, facing life’s temptations day by day, sensing a deep hunger in our souls, looking ahead to passing through “the valley of the shadow of death,” with needs such as these, where, indeed, could we go but to the Lord?

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7).

“Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. Those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:9-10).

“When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Ps. 27:8).

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:12-13).

Living below in this old sinful world,
Hardly a comfort can afford;
Striving alone to face temptations sore,
Where could I go but to the Lord?

Where could I go, O where could I go;
Seeking a refuge for my soul?
Needing a friend to help me in the end,
Where could I go but to the Lord?

Questions:
1) What are some things in which people (and perhaps you yourself) have unsuccessfully tried to find peace and satisfaction?

2) What blessings of God are particularly satisfying to you?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 29, 2014

He Took My Sins Away

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Margaret Harris and her husband (John Millard Harris) were both gospel song writers. The two of them often sang duets, and engaged in a musical evangelistic ministry. Margaret Harris was an organist, as well. She published the present song in 1903.

This gospel song is one of the most repetitious ones we have. Counting the refrains, it repeats the words “He took my sins away” (“He’ll take your sins away” in the last stanza) no less that twenty-eight times!

CH-1) I came to Jesus, weary, worn, and sad.
He took my sins away, He took my sins away.
And now His love has made my heart so glad,
He took my sins away.

He took my sins away, He took my sins away,
And keeps me singing every day!
I’m so glad He took my sins away,
He took my sins away.

Often repetitious songs are accused, with some justification, of being trite and shallow, dashed off without much thought. However, that’s not a given. Great songs with much repetition can flow quickly from the soul of a musical genius too. In Handel’s inspiring choral work Messiah, the Hallelujah Chorus repeats the word “hallelujah” thirty-seven times, in the soprano score alone. Repetitious, yes. Trite and shallow, hardly!

If, for any reason, you should doubt that, take a look at the YouTube video here. Made back in 2010, it has since had over forty million visitors. On a regular day at a big city mall, just before American Thanksgiving, people are stopping for lunch in the food court, when suddenly one (brave) young woman stands up and starts singing Handel’s masterpiece. Soon, she is joined by others, more and more.

It’s a trained choir, of course, and it’s all been arranged. But it never ceases to elicit tears, and joyous laughter from me–the latter at the various expressions of non-singing patrons. Worship and praise from me too, as we hear John’s prophetic words, “The kingdoms of this world have become [then fortissimo] the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).

Now, I’m certainly not saying that Mrs. Harris’s little song is on the same level. Not even close. But it does say something of importance to every believer. What impression would singing the song leave? What truth would you go home with, ringing from your heart, if not sounding from your lips? He took my sins away! Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!

It is a truth that resounds through the pages of the holy Word of God. That our burden of sin can be lifted, through faith in Him. That we can receive perfect cleansing and forgiveness, and our debt of sin can be canceked. With the rich poetic imagery of the Scriptures, this wonderful truth is impressed upon us. Though, in Old Testament times, the work of the Saviour still lay in the future, it is seen there as well, rooted in the prospect of what the Lamb of God would accomplish.

¤ “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).

¤ “You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Isa. 38:17).

¤ “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isa. 43:25; cf. Heb. 8:12; 10:17).

¤ “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).

¤ “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found” (Jer. 50:20).

¤ “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19).

¤ “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin….If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:7, 9).

CH-4) If you will come to Jesus Christ today,
He’ll take your sins away, He’ll take your sins away,
And keep you happy in His love each day,
He’ll take your sins away.

Questions:
1) Is the joy of this truth ringing in your own heart today?

2) Is there some way you can share what God can do about sin with others?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 26, 2014

The Lord’s My Shepherd

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: Psalm 23, from the Scottish Psalter of 1650
Music: Crimond, by Jessie Seymour Irvine (b. June 26, 1836; d. Sept. 2, 1887)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Jessie Irvine)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The metrical version of Psalm 23 in the Psalter follows the King James Version very closely. The full title of the Scottish Psalter in which it was found was: The Psalms of David in Meeter: Newly translated and diligently compared with the original Text, and former Translations: More plaine, smooth and agreeable to the Text, than any heretofore. (Yes, that was the original title of the book!)

Sometimes, it takes a great deal of time, for a hymn to become popular. This is the story of a famous text, a famous tune, a famous choir, and two newsworthy events, that brought a hymn into our modern hymn books.

Psalm 23, referred to as the Shepherd Psalm is, without doubt, the best known of the Psalms, and one of the most familiar passages in all the Bible–perhaps rivalled only by the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). And that popularity is not really surprising, given its encouraging message.

David, the psalmist, could write with authority about the work of a shepherd, since that was his early occupation. He used his knowledge to picture the shepherd care of the Lord for His children. How encouraging to know that “the Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps. 23:1), and that He guides, protects, and provides spiritual nourishment for His sheep. Those truths have blessed millions.

The care of the Shepherd even extends to “the valley of the shadow of death” (vs. 4). We can be assured that He will take us safely through to our heavenly home (vs. 6). It is perhaps because of this reference that the song is often used at funeral services. But it would be sad if it were to be relegated only to that. It is a hymn for all occasions.

The Psalter’s editors produced their rendering of Psalm 23 by picking and choosing from seven versions and translations available to them, beginning with one from 1564. The result was an excellent versified version of the psalm for the English-speaking church. The fact that their rendering of Psalm 23 is still in common use three-and-a-half centuries later is a testament to their skill.

CH-1) The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

CH-2) My soul He doth restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.

The tune frequently employed today is of more recent origin–and its history is not entirely clear. Jesse Seymour Irvine (1836-1887) was the daughter of a pastor who served several churches in Scotland. The last of his appointments was to a church in the town of Crimond, in the northeastern part of Aberdeenshire. It was there that Jesse Irvine apparently wrote the melody now associated with the hymn, naming it after the town–Crimond.

However, Jesse knew little or nothing about music theory, so she forwarded her tune to David Grant, the proprietor of a tobacco shop in Aberdeen. In his spare time Grant harmonized music, and he did that for Miss Irvine’s tune. Today, there is some uncertainty as to whether he created the whole tune, but Jesse’s sister insisted she wrote the original melody in 1871.

Miss Irvine’s tune was not, at first, associated with The Lord’s My Shepherd. It was just another of many melodies known and used in the late nineteenth century church. But composer and master choral conductor, Sir Hugh Roberton brought the two together. In 1906, he took the leadership of a choir founded five years before. For nearly half a century to follow, until his retirement, he made the Glasgow Orpheus Choir the most famous singing group in the world, and one of the best. Roberton was a perfectionist, and the recordings made by the choir show it. Many directors later copied his techniques.

It was Roberton who combined the version of Psalm 23 found in the Scottish Psalter with the tune Crimond, and the choir sang it frequently on radio programs broadcast across Britain. But it was two particular events that sealed the fame of the pairing: the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, in 1947, and the Silver Anniversary celebration, a year later, of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The song was sung on both occasions and has been much used ever since.

Questions:
1) What, to you, is the most wonderful truth found in Psalm 23?

2) Which of the many hymns based on Psalm 23, or inspired by it, is your favourite?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 24, 2014

Love Came Down at Christmas

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: Christina Georgina Rossetti (b. Dec. 5, 1830; d. Dec. 29, 1894)
Music: Gartan, a traditional Irish melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Christina Rossetti)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The carol began as a Christmas poem–one of many poems by Miss Rossetti exploring that theme. This one was published in 1885 in a book entitled Time Flies: A Reading Diary. In the book it was simply called “Christmastide.” The tune was named after Lough Gartan, a small lake in County Donegal, Ireland.

This is one of those hymns by a master poet that says more in a few simple words that many with lesser gifts can say with hymns two or three times as long.

Love. It’s a much abused and misused term in our world today. Unfortunately, when books, movies, and secular songs speak of “love,” they are often describing lust. Love sacrificially gives; lust selfishly takes. (In a sense the opposite of love as lust.) For others, love is warm and sentimental feelings, which often have more to do with daydreams, built on proximity and hormones, than with the will.

And love is an act of the will. It may be accompanied by a warmth of feeling, or it may not. But first of all it is a choice–the decision to give sacrificially for the good and blessing of another person. And the greatest thing a loving person can give is himself. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). That is true at the human level. We love our friends–perhaps even to that extent. But what about our enemies? God’s love encompasses them too.

In the Bible, we are told that “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). “God so loved that He gave” (Jn. 3:16)–gave His beloved Son to suffer and die on a cross to pay our debt of sin. His love was not a response to our love. Just the opposite. “We [believers] love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Some form of the word “love” is found hundreds of times in the Bible. The very first reference concerns Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son on an altar, at God’s command (Gen. 22:1-14). Of course, God did not actually want the death of Isaac, but wanted to see Abraham’s willingness to give up the son whom he loved dearly. It was a test of faith. And in this incident we have what is called a type, an Old Testament foreshadowing of New Testament truth. God’s offering up of His Son to die (Jn. 3:16) is the antitype.

And Christ was not an unwilling participant in this pivotal event. Though, in His human frailty, he shrank from the pain of the cross, He submitted to the Father’s will (Matt. 26:39). He came to do His Father’s will, and determined to do it to the end (cf. Mk. 10:45). “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)–”Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

Love is such a dominant and outstanding characteristic of God, such an intrinsic part of His nature, that the Bible says, “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8, 16). It is the context of these verses (vs. 7-11) that was the inspiration for Christina Rossetti’s beautiful song. She personifies Love, and tells us that, in the incarnation, “Love came down.”

CH-1) Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

“Star and angels gave the sign.” How simple the telling of what we read in Luke chapter 2. Among other things, the manger for example, the Christmas star (Matt. 2:2, 9), and the angelic visitation were signs that something extraordinary was happening. In John’s words, “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

Rossetti’s second stanza is one of personal worship, as she recognizes the deity of Christ. But if He is in the truest sense “our Jesus,” our Lord and Saviour, by what sign will this be evident?

CH-2) Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

The author’s answer is that the very Love that came from heaven’s glory in the person of the Lord Jesus will radiate from our own lives. Her original last line read, “Love the universal sign.” But she revised this herself to what we have now. Love is our plea–what we seek (I Jn. 4:11); Love our gift to God and others (Jn. 13:34); and love our sign that we belong to Him (Jn. 13:35).

CH-3) Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Questions:
1) Can you recall, in your recent experience, an example of true Christ-like love?

2) What are some hymns you know and use about the love of God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Christina Rossetti)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 22, 2014

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

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: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A rose has sprung up), author unknown; the English version comes from various translators, including Theodore Baker (b. June 3, 1851; d. Oct. 13, 1934) and Harriet Reynolds Krauth Spaeth (b. Sept. 21, 1845; d. May 5, 1925)
Music: Es Ist Ein Ros, from Alte Catholische Geistliche Kirchengesäng, 1599; harmonization in 1609, by Michael Praetorius (b. Feb. 15, 1571; d. Feb. 15, 1621)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Theodore Baker)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The earliest source of this early and unusual Christmas carol, with its tune that resembles a Renaissance madrigal, is a manuscript dating between 1582 and 1588. Some believe it is much older than that. The song had nearly two dozen verses originally. The original German version begins:

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, aus einer Wurzel zart,
Wie uns die Alten sungen, von Jesse kam die Art,
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

The carol uses the blooming of a rose to represent the coming of Christ. In the Song of Solomon 2:1, the king’s bride refers to herself as “the rose of Sharon.” Only there, and in Isaiah 35:7 is the flower spoken of. Neither is a reference to Christ, but the imagery is sometimes applied to Him. For centuries before the song appeared, the rose had been used as a symbol for Christ (and sometimes for Mary).

Though this hymn is of Roman Catholic origin, there is little in it to which Protestants will object. The possible exception is the third line of CH-2, “To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Saviour.” The initiative for the incarnation was, of course, not Mary’s but God’s (Matt. 1:20; Lk. 1:35; cf. Jn. 3:16). Mary’s most direct motivation was willing obedience to God (Lk. 1:38). Better to say, “God showed His love aright, when Mary bore the Saviour.”

The first line of CH-5, “O Saviour, Child of Mary,” is not meant to glorify her so much as it is to emphasize the humanity of Christ, contrasting His deity in line two, with “O Saviour, King of glory” (cf. CH-4, “True Man, yet Very God;” and see Ps. 24:9-10).

For the most part, the song is rooted in Scripture, and the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20. Through His human birth, Christ is connected to the family of King David, “a Rod from the stem of Jesse,” David’s father (Isa. 11:1; cf. Matt. 1:1).

CH-1) Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

CH-2) Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.

The hymn then reflects upon the joy of the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem, as they heard the angelic message that first Christmas night. “They came with haste” (Lk. 2:16) to see for themselves what the angels had announced.

CH-3) The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

There are a couple of things about roses that we all enjoy. First is the incredible beauty of the flower, and second the lovely fragrance they give off. The rose, therefore, is a fitting picture of the beauty of character revealed in our Saviour. And of the latter, the Bible says, “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2)

CH-4) This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendour the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

Christ is declared to be the one (and only) Mediator we need (I Tim. 2:5). In that He is God the Son, He can perfectly represent God and His purposes. In that He is also perfect Man, He fully understands the weakness of His creatures and our struggles (cf. Heb. 4:15-15), and by His saving work He can bring us safely to heaven in the end.

CH-5) O Saviour, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Saviour, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of heaven,
And to the endless day!

Questions:
1) What are some things about our Saviour to which this song calls our attention?

2) Is this a carol you would use in your church? (Why? Or why not?)

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 19, 2014

Only Believe

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: Daniel Paul Rader (b. _____, 1878; d. July 19, 1938)
Music: Daniel Paul Rader

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This gospel song was first published in 1921. For another note on this remarkable servant of Christ, see the Wordwise Hymns note on Paul Rader.

One day Pastor Rader was walking across one of Chicago’s busiest streets, holding the hand of his four-year-old daughter. In the midst of the traffic he asked her, “Aren’t you afraid to cross the street, Harriet?” But she instantly replied, “No, not when you’re with me. Why should I be afraid?” It was that incident that led her father to write this song.

The key phrase in this lovely little hymn, “only believe,” comes from the words of the Lord Jesus to Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, whose daughter had just died. “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Lk. 8:50). And indeed she was (vs. 54-55). The opening line of the first stanza also comes from the words of Jesus.

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).

In the context, the Lord had been teaching His disciples about the problem of worry and anxiety (Lk. 12:22-31)–teaching that is also recorded in Matthew, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:25-34). The disciples were like a little flock of defenseless sheep who’d be sent out into a hostile world to serve the Lord. But they could (and we can) trust in the Lord’s provision and protection, and seek to live by the values and principles of His kingdom. Then comes the promise of vs. 32.

CH-1) Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.

Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe,
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

In a real sense, fear and faith are polar opposites. Fear often tends to smoother faith, while trust in the Lord quiets our fears. We know that. Yet (speaking for myself) fear sometimes seems to get me in its icy grip. It’s then I pray, with another man the Lord dealt with, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

One reason we, as His sheep, need not fear, is that He is our Shepherd. That’s an image the Bible uses many times, Old Testament and New. As David declares with confidence in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (vs. 1). The Bible in Basic English paraphrases the verse this way: “The Lord takes care of me as His sheep; I will not be without any good thing.”

In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus describes Himself, in a kind of parable, as “the good shepherd,” who knows His sheep (vs. 14), and willingly gives His life for them (vs. 11). “When he brings out his own sheep [i.e. to find pasture], he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (vs. 4).

In his second stanza Paul Rader combines this lovely picture with an allusion to an Old Testament incident (Exod. 15:22-27). After the Israelites are delivered from Egyptian bondage by the power of God, they find themselves in a hostile wilderness. There, the huge multitude has difficulty finding water, and what they do find is bitter and undrinkable. But the Lord miraculously sweetened the water for them. The hymn writer makes this a picture of the condemnation of sin that Jesus took willingly upon Himself (Matt. 26:39).

CH-2) Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

Finally, Pastor Rader draws another illustration from the time the resurrected Christ appeared in the upper room to His disciples, apparently passing into their presence even though the doors remained closed (Jn. 20:26). To the hymn writer it becomes an assurance that, no matter what situation we face, no barrier can keep the Lord from meeting us there (cf. Matt. 28:20).

CH-3) Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, “the doors being shut,”
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

Questions:
1) What is the most reassuring thing to you, knowing the Lord is your Shepherd?

2) What other shepherd hymns do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 17, 2014

All Will Be Well

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: Mary Bowly Peters (b. _____, 1813; d. July 29, 1856)
Music: Ar Hyd Y Nos (Through the Night), a traditional Welsh melody

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

Note: The author married an English clergyman, and wrote fifty-eight hymns, as well as a massive work of history (in seven volumes) entitled, The World’s History from Creation to the Accession of Queen Victoria (i.e. 1837). Mrs. Peters published this hymn in 1847.

As to the Welsh melody, it has been found in print dating 1784, and it was used by John Gay in The Beggar’s Opera (1728). Hymnary.org has a hymn book using the tune for the hymn in 1880, so its connection with the hymn also goes back a long way.

It is most unfortunate that more hymnals haven’t carried this simply but effective hymn, and that it is less familiar than it should be.

The Bible uses the word “well,” occasionally in the sense of well-being and soundness of health, particularly in a spiritual sense. For example, “I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him” (Ecc. 8:12).

“Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you” (Jer. 7:23). “Jeremiah said, ‘…Please, obey the voice of the LORD which I speak to you. So it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live’” (Jer. 38:20).

In Third John 1:2, the English Standard Version renders the word “prosper” (in the NKJV) as “well.” “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

Wellness of soul and spirit for the Christian depend on a number of things that are alluded to in this lovely hymn.

CH-1. We are objects of the love of God our Saviour (Tit. 3:3-5), recipients of our heavenly Father’s tender care (CH-3). His favour is “free” (gracious) and changeless toward us who have experienced spiritual healing through faith in the shed blood of Christ (I Pet. 2:24). In grace we have been sealed by the Spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself becoming the God’s mark of ownership on us (Eph. 1:13-14). The hand of the Lord is mighty to defend us (Ps. 89:13).

CH-1) Through the love of God our Saviour,
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favour;
All, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us;
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched out to shield us;
All must be well.

CH-2. We certainly face various trials in this life. But, even in these things, “all will be well.” The Lord will either deliver us from them, or give us the grace to endure them and glorify Him in them. Christians have a salvation that is “full,” both in its depth and eternal effects. The Lord Jesus exhorts us to “abide” in Him (Jn. 15:4). (As this term is used in John’s Gospel, in means to maintain a vital fellowship with Him.) Abiding is the secret of fruit bearing (Jn. 15:5). Also, God invites us to pray for what we need to live for Him (Phil. 4:6; Heb. 4:15-16). Added to these things, believers have the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13-14; Rom. 8:14).

CH-2) Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation;
All, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding,
Fruitful, if in Christ abiding,
Holy through the Spirit’s guiding,
All must be well.

CH-3. The “bright tomorrow” for the Christian encompasses both time and eternity. Whether “in living or in dying, all must be well.” We have this confidence: “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Paul’s testimony is, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Through Christ, we have all we need to do either to the glory of God (Phil. 4:13, 19).

CH-3) We expect a bright tomorrow;
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
Or in living, or in dying,
All must be well.

Questions:
1) What is the most comforting or encouraging truth covered in this hymn?

2) If your church doesn’t know and use this hymn, is there a way you could introduce it?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | December 15, 2014

Praise Ye the Triune God

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: Elizabeth Rundle Charles (b. Jan. 2, 1828; d. Mar. 28, 1896)
Music: Flemming, by Friedrich Ferdinand Flemming (b. Feb. 28, 1778; d. May 27, 1813)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Friedrich Flemming)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This fine Trinitarian hymn was published in 1858. It is notable for the fact that, though the metre suits the tune, none of the lines rhyme in the common way. (In CH-1, lovingkindness, children, heavens, and Jehovah are nowhere close to doing so.)

There are many hymns that present the Trinity. The Cyber Hymnal lists fifty-five here. Among them are Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, and Reginal Heber’s Holy, Holy, Holy. But there are others that use the triune structure. For example: Come Thou Almighty King, William Whiting’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save, and Fanny Crosby’s Be Thou Exalted.

CH-1) Praise ye the Father for His lovingkindness;
Tenderly cares He for His erring children;
Praise Him, ye angels, praise Him in the heavens,
Praise ye Jehovah!

Though it never once uses the actual word “Trinity” (our technical short-form for this aspect of the nature of God), the Bible is loaded with Trinitarian truth. There is simply no legitimate way to deny either the deity of Christ (claiming that He is only a Man) or the personhood of the Holy Spirit (suggesting that He is an impersonal force, like the force of gravity or magnetism),

Each Person of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is seen to have the nature of deity, and is given honour as deity (Jn. 5:23; Acts 5:3-4). Further, there are references to the three Persons of the Godhead working together.

CH-2) Praise ye the Saviour–great is His compassion;
Graciously cares He for His chosen people;
Young men and maidens, older folks and children,
Praise ye the Saviour!

¤ At creation, we see God [the Father], the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:1-2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 148:5;), and the Son of God (Jn. 1:1, 3; Col. 1:16-19) at work. Even the words of the Lord, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26) suggest this cooperative work.

¤ At the baptism of Jesus, we see all three Persons involved (Matt. 3:16-17). The water baptism of believers is also to be performed in the authority of all three (Matt. 28:19).

¤ When the Lord Jesus teaches, in the upper room, about coming of the Spirit to begin His Church Age ministry, both the Father and the Son are said to send Him (Jn. 14:26; 15:26).

¤ All three are involved in Christ’s resurrection, the Father (I Cor. 6:14), the Lord Jesus (Jn. 2:19; 10:17-18), and the Holy Spirit (I Pet. 3:18).

¤ All three had a part in producing the Scriptures (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 6:17; Col. 3:16; II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; II Pet. 1:21).

¤ All three are involved in the coming of Christ, and the work of salvation (Gal. 4:4-6; cf. I Jn. 3:3, 6; I Jn. 4:14). We are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:2; cf. II Thess. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-6).

¤ All three are involved in giving spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:3-6), and gifted men to the church (Acts 13:2; 20:28; Eph. 4:11).

¤ Paul commends the Corinthian believers to the care of the triune God, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Cor. 13:14; cf. Jude 1:20-21).

¤ All three are involved when believers pray. “For through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 2:18).

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which the three Persons of the Godhead are active in our world and in our lives.

CH-3) Praise ye the Spirit, Comforter of Israel,
Sent of the Father and the Son to bless us;
Praise ye the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Praise ye the Triune God!

Questions:
1) Why is it important to believe and teach the doctrine of the Trinity?

2) What is the importance of the deity of Christ (that He is not simply a Man)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Friedrich Flemming)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 12, 2014

The Nail-scarred 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: Baylus Benjamin McKinney (b. July 22, 1886; d. Sept. 7, 1952)
Music: Baylus Benjamin McKinney

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

Graphic Benjamin McKinneyNote: B. B. McKinney was an American singer, song writer, teacher, and music editor. Of his many compositions, he wrote the present gospel song in 1924. He was killed in his sixty-sixth year, in an automobile accident, when returning home from a Music Conference in North Carolina. In Gospel Song Writers Biography, published in 1971, he is described this way:

“The radiant and gentle life of B. B. McKinney exemplified his Christianity as he lived and walked among men. As one of our foremost and very meaningful song writers and singers, he was always so modest, never wanting any credit for his ability, but just ever trying to use the talent God had given him” (p. 50).

As to the origin of the present song, Mr. McKinney was teaching at Southwestern Seminary at the time, and came to Allen, Texas (fifty miles from Fort Worth) for a Sunday School Conference. In an evening session the speaker gave a strong evangelistic appeal, urging his listeners, “Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. B. B. McKinney says he was gripped by the words, and jotted them down.

He had planned to head back to Fort Worth after that evening session, but was prevented from doing so by a severe storm. He stayed overnight in a home, and the storm raged on, even endangering the little town. The musician wrote the song during the storm, and sang it at the conference the next day.

The hands of the Lord are mentioned quite a number of times. In a psalm of David’s that has a secondary application to Christ, we read, “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). Then, in the Gospels we read the Jesus using His hands to bless (Mk. 10:16) and to heal (Lk. 4:40).

When He was arrested, the Lord Jesus was cruelly struck by the hands of others (Jn. 19:3). And when Pilate, against his better judgment, condemned Him to be crucified, the weak Roman ruler washed his hands as a sign that he was no longer responsible for what was done to the Saviour (Matt. 27:24)–which, of course, he still was!

After Christ’s resurrection, His glorified body still bore the marks of the nails driven into His hands. He showed His hands to the disciples, as a means of confirming who He was (Lk. 24:39-40; Jn. 20:20). However, Thomas was absent during this initial meeting, and refused to believe that Christ had indeed risen from the dead.

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (Jn. 20:25-29).

It appears that the marks of His supreme sacrifice will still be evident in heaven. John, in a vision of the glories of that future days says, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6), clearly a reference to Christ, the Lamb of God.

The marks of Calvary that our living Saviour bears are, of course, an evidence that our debt of sin has been paid. But they are something else. They are an evidence of His compassion and sacrificial love for us. To place our hand in the hand of the Lord is to place the things that fret and trouble us there. It’s to trust His care and to appropriate His grace and mercy.

1) Have you failed in your plan of your storm-tossed life?
Place you hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Are you weary and worn from its toil and strife?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
He will keep to the end, He’s your dearest Friend,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

2) Are you walking alone through the shadows dim?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Christ will comfort your heart, put your trust in Him.
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

4) Is your soul burdened down with its load of sin?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Throw your heart open wide, let the Saviour in.
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

Questions:
1) Who is there in your circle (family, friend, acquaintance) who needs to place himself/herself in the hands of Christ today?

2) What do you think will be our response to viewing the hands of Christ in heaven?

Links:

Posted by: rcottrill | December 10, 2014

What Wondrous Love Is This

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: Southern Folk Hymn (author unknown)
Music: (composer unknown)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Graphic Camp_meetingNote: This hymn is sometimes called a White Spiritual. It has its origins in the American South, in the revivalist camp meetings of the early nineteenth century (depicted in the drawing). Most agree the author is unknown, but The Hesperian Harp, printed in 1848, attributes the song to Alexander Means, a Methodist preacher in Oxford, Georgia.

As to the tune, it was printed in 1835, in The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, by William Walker (1809-1875). The modern arrangement was written by hymn historian William Reynolds (1920-2009).

The stirring hymn owes much to its hauntingly beautiful melody. Once heard, it’s hard to forget. Some have contended that it is a melody used in an old ballad about the pirate Captain Kidd. Others reject the idea, though as to the text, the structure is similar. William Kidd, a Scottish pirate, was hanged on May 23, 1701. The ballad about him says:

My name was William Kidd, as I sailed, as I sailed,
My name was William Kidd, when I sailed,
My name was William Kidd; God’s laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did, as I sailed.

The version of the present hymn given in the Cyber Hymnal is derived from the earliest form known, but as of this time, the actual third and fourth stanzas first printed in 1811 are missing. They are:

(3) Ye wingèd seraphs fly, bear the news, bear the news!
Ye wingèd seraphs fly bear the news!–
Ye wingèd seraphs fly, like comets through the sky,
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity with the news!

(4) Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, with hearts and voices sing,
And strike each tuneful string in His praise, in His praise!
And strike each tuneful string in His praise!

Then follow CH-3 and CH-4. But American Hymns Old and New, published by Columbia University Press in 1980, includes a final stanza I’ve not seen elsewhere. It says:

(7?) Yes, when to that bright world we arise, we arise,
Yes, when to that bright world we arise;
When to that world we go, free from all pain and woe,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on, and sing on,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on.

Taken together, those stanzas provide a simple (and biblical) expression of the Christian gospel. It was love that caused the Lord to come to this earth and bear sin’s punishment for us (Jn. 3:16; Gal. 2:20). For this we can and should praise Him now (cf. Exod. 15:2; Ps. 62:7; Hab. 3:18). And our song of praise will echo and re-echo down the endless ages of eternity (Rev. 5:8-14; 19:5).

CH-1) What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

CH-3) To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

CH-4) And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Questions:
1) What are some of the wonderful blessings that are a part of God’s salvation?

2) What, in your view, are the greatest hymns on the theme of salvation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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