Posted by: rcottrill | February 7, 2014

Awake, My Soul, to Joyful Lays

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Samuel Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Samuel Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 5, 2014

When Love Shines In

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the right-hand column, 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. But you can find those for many other hymns by clicking on the Index tab. (More are being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Words: Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck (b. Jan. 22, 1855; d. Mar. 27, 1934)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The mother of five children, Carrie Breck was a homemaker who wrote poetry in spare moments. She was not at all musical, but she had a clear sense of rhythm. The Cyber Hymnal lists 375 of her gospel song texts here. A better known one is Face to Face, but the present song, with its lively tune, deserves a place in our hymn books too.

This 1874 song provides a joyful testimony to the transforming power of the love of God. When we turn to the Word of God, we find God’s love–both in us and through us–to be a subject that is referred to again and again. Here is just a small sampling of many New Testament texts on the theme.

About God’s Love for Us. “Our God and Father…has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16). “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). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “The kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Tit. 3:4). “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2).

About the Recognition of God’s Love. “We have known and believed the love that God has for us” (I Jn. 4:16). “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I Jn. 3:1). “[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

About the Sharing of God’s Love. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11). “This commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (I Jn. 4:21). “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him” (I Jn. 2:5). “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you” (I Thess. 3:12).

With our experience of the love of God comes great joy and rejoicing (CH-1). A sense of the love of God will stir us to pray, knowing that we come to a loving heavenly Father who wants only the best for us.

CH-1) Jesus comes with power to gladden, when love shines in,
Every life that woe can sadden, when love shines in.
Love will teach us how to pray, love will drive the gloom away,
Turn our darkness into day, when love shines in.

When love shines in, when love shines in,
How the heart is tuned to singing, when love shines in,
When love shines in, when love shines in,
Joy and peace to others bringing, when love shines in.

With our experience of the love of God comes a new and more positive perspective on life (CH-2 and 3). Tedious duties and painful trials take on a new luster when we trust that our loving Lord has a good purpose in them all (Rom. 8:28). Further, we see ourselves as the bearers of the light of love. To love others for Jesus’ sake is a continuing joy.

CH-2) How the world will grow with beauty, when love shines in,
And the heart rejoice in duty, when love shines in.
Trials may be sanctified, and the soul in peace abide,
Life will all be glorified, when love shines in.

CH-3) Darkest sorrow will grow brighter, when love shines in,
And the heaviest burden lighter, when love shines in.
’Tis the glory that will throw light to show us where to go;
O, the heart shall blessing know, when love shines in.

With our experience of the love of God comes eternal hope. Spiritual victories for today point us to the ultimate victory up ahead (CH-4). In the mind of the author, it is as though heaven has already begun for those who live in the light of God’s love.

CH-4) We may have unfading splendour, when love shines in,
And a friendship true and tender, when love shines in.
When earth’s vict’ries shall be won, and our life in heav’n begun,
There will be no need of sun, when love shines in.

Questions:
1) What other blessings flow from the love of God?

2) What are your favourite hymns about the love of God?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | February 3, 2014

We Have an Anchor

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

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

Words: Priscilla Jane Owens (b. July 21, 1829; d. Dec. 5, 1907)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Priscilla Owens was a member of the Union Square Methodist Episcopal Church, in Baltimore, Maryland. She taught school in that city for nearly fifty years, and was involved in her church’s Sunday School for about the same time period. She wrote most of her hymns for use by that agency. Owens was a prolific gospel song writer. The Cyber Hymnal lists 230 of her songs here. Another well known song of hers is Jesus Saves (“We have heard the joyful sound”).

Most hymnals do not include stanza four of We Have an Anchor, but here it is.

CH-4) It will firmly hold in the floods of death–
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the veil.

The writing of our hymns has often been inspired by telling incidents in the lives of the writers. These, I have tried to share with you, as I come upon them. But the link between hymns and life experiences doesn’t end there. They continue to be used of God and have a powerful effect on the hearers, many years–even centuries–after they were written. For example, I know of a man, walking down a street, who was turned from committing suicide by overhearing a friend of mine sing the hymn Jesus Loves Me, through the open window of a church.

In his book The Romance of Sacred Song (Marshall, Morgan and Scott Ltd., 1931), Plymouth Brethren author David Johnstone Beattie tells the touching story of how the present song by Priscilla Owen helped a grieving man in Scotland (pp. 218-219).

A Christian worker…lost two sons, both fine young men. One died very suddenly, and a short time afterwards the other was seriously injured in a motor accident. The young man was conveyed to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. His father stood by the bedside, watching the last struggles ere life left that young body. And when all was over he seemed to give way to bitterness of heart and rebellion against God for the great affliction which had come upon him.

Leaving the ward, he went into an adjoining room where his wife waited for him. As he entered, his wife, realizing that their son had passed away, but ignorant as to her husband’s bitter thoughts, said to him, “Mattha, there’s a young fellow doon there in the street whistling Will Your Anchor Hold?” The bereaved father broke down at the significant words of his wife, and could only say, “Weel, the storm is very high just now.”

And indeed it was. But he afterwards confessed that the strains of the hymn, whistled by a young plumber going to work in the early morning, wafted to the top storey of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, were the means of overcoming the evil of doubt, and placing faith in the sure Anchor, Christ Jesus.

CH-1) Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

CH-2) It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, through strength divine.

“Storms of life” (CH-1)–we all have them, of one kind or another. We may pass through the “straits of fear” on our journey (CH-3), and even face the “floods of death” (CH-4). But, for the Christian, Christ Himself provides an anchor that can keep us off the rocks. We are “grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love” (refrain). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asks Paul. And he proceeds to assure us that nothing can or will (Rom. 8:35-39).

The anchor cable is “well secured by the Saviour’s hand” (CH-2), and “our hopes abide within the veil” (CH-4). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil [i.e. in heaven]” (Heb. 6:19). That gives each believer the certain assurance that “we shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore” (CH-5). With Paul, we look forward to being “absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8), because “to depart and be with Christ…is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

CH-5) When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbour bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

Questions:
1) Can you think of other illustrations of our security in Christ, besides an anchor?

2) What other hymns emphasize the believer’s security in Christ?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 31, 2014

Throw Out the Lifeline

Words: Edwin Smith Ufford (b. Feb. 10, 1851; d. Dec. 8, 1929)
Music: Edwin Smith Ufford (harmony by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was written in 1886 and published a couple of years later. The original had seven stanzas, but usually only the first four are used now. In a way, this is unfortunate, since the latter three stanzas make the application of the symbolism. What is the “lifeline”? Pastor Ufford tells us.

CH-5) This is the lifeline, oh, tempest tossed men;
Baffled by waves of temptation and sin;
Wild winds of passion, your strength cannot brave,
But Jesus is mighty, and Jesus can save.

CH-6) Jesus is able! To you who are driv’n
Farther and farther from God and from heav’n;
Helpless and hopeless, o’erwhelmed by the wave;
We throw out the lifeline, ’tis “Jesus can save.”

Graphic Life Preserver-2There are all kinds of lifelines. Ones used by mountaineers, or spelunkers (those who explore caves), and so on. But the ones used in water rescue are often similar to the one pictured here–a long length of rope attached to a floatable life preserver.

In a spiritual sense, the Lord Jesus Himself is our Life-preserver (perhaps why the editor of the Cyber Hymnal chose to capitalize the term “lifeline” in the hymn each time. On one occasion, when Christ walked the earth, that life-preserving activity became a very concrete and practical thing. It happened in this way.

When He [Jesus] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matt. 14:23-32)

Even now, by His Spirit, the Lord continues to rescue lost sinners, and deliver those who are in bondage to sin and Satan. When the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, he mentions various kinds of sinful people who will not be able to inherit the kingdom of God. Then he says:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).

That is deliverance indeed!

Pastor Ufford had a great concern for the lost. He decided to put together a presentation that made use of his hymn, which was very popular at the time. He assembled various kinds of life-saving gear–including two lifelines that had actually been used to save lives. Pastor Ufford gave an illustrated talk, using these things, warning listeners of their danger, outside of Christ. In 1902, he toured the world with this presentation. In Honolulu, Hawaii, he was privileged to hear his hymn sung in the native tongue.

CH-1) Throw out the lifeline across the dark wave;
There is a brother whom someone should save;
Somebody’s brother! O who then will dare
To throw out the lifeline, his peril to share?

Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline!
Someone is drifting away;
Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline!
Someone is sinking today.

CH-4) Soon will the season of rescue be o’er,
Soon will they drift to eternity’s shore;
Haste, then, my brother, no time for delay,
But throw out the lifeline and save them today.

Questions:
1) What are some parallels between water rescue and the saving work of God through the gospel?

2) What other analogies can you think of that make a good illustration of deliverance through the gospel?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 29, 2014

The Hem of His Garment

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Root)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Though his songs were simple and singable, Root was a noted musician of his day. In 1873, he was granted the degree of Doctor of Music, by Chicago University. A humble and gracious man, in spite of his many accomplishments, he asked that nothing be sung at his funeral but the Doxology. The present gospel song was published in 1887. It concerns one of the miracles of Jesus.

There is an unusual double incident in the life of the Lord Jesus, recorded by three of the Gospel writers (Matt. 9:18-26; Mk. 5:21-43; Lk. 8:40-56). It is kind of a miracle within a miracle.

On the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the Lord was approached by the ruler of the local synagogue, a man named Jairus. He fell at the feet of Jesus, urging Him to come to his house, because his twelve-year-old daughter was sick, and at the point of death. The Lord agreed to accompany him but, as they went, the message came from home that she had died. Later, Nothing daunted, Christ arrived at the home and raised the young girl from the dead.

But on the way there, between the time of Jairus’s approach, and the raising of the dead child, there was another unusual incident. At the plea of Jairus, and Christ’s indication that He would indeed go with him to his home, “a great multitude” (Mk. 5:21, 24) that had thronged the Lord surged along with Him, curious to see what would happen. In the crowd was a woman who had been seriously ill for twelve years.

Notice: The girl had had twelve years of life, then died of a critical illness. The woman had had twelve years of prolonged misery. The Lord has the power to help us in the sudden crises of life, and aid us in those things that bring prolonged times of suffering.

The woman had a chronic flow of blood which no physician had been able to stop. Not only was the hemorrhaging itself a problem. It would have rendered her ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in religious services. And anything or anyone she touched would likewise become ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 15:19-21). Further, some would consider her malady the result of an immoral lifestyle.

She had spent all her money looking for a cure. But Mark tells us that not only had various doctors failed to help her; their treatments simply made things worse (Mk. 5:26). The strange treatments of the day included: 1) Drink a goblet of wine, mixed with powdered rubber, alum, and an herb made of garden crocuses. 2) Eat Persian onions, cooked in wine, while the doctor proclaimed, “Arise out of your flow of blood!” 3) Carry around the ashes of a burned ostrich egg in a cloth.

In her desperation, she approaches Christ. Timidly, tentatively, but believing He had the power to help her, she reached out and touched “the border [or fringe] of his garment” (Lk. 8:44). The Law commanded the Jews to wear a fringe or tassel of blue on their outer robes, to identify them as God’s people, who were subject to His rule (Num. 15:37-40). It was that she touched, and immediately she was healed.

The multitude thronged around Him, the curious crowd. But hers was a touch of faith, and Jesus said to His disciples, “I perceived power going out from Me” (Lk. 46). He called attention to the woman, forcing her to identify herself, and reassured her, sending her on her way: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith [that is, your faith in Me] has made you well. Go in peace” (Lk. 8:48).

Peace. For twelve long years she had no peace, only fear and frustration. But through faith she had claimed the power of the Lord to do what no doctor had been able to. George Root takes her example and uses it to make a general application of deliverance from sin, and the gift of salvation which can be claimed through faith in Christ. We cannot touch Him physically now, nor is it necessary. But with the eyes of faith, we look to Calvary, and faith declares, “I believe that Jesus died for me.”

CH-1) She only touched the hem of His garment
As to His side she stole,
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him,
And straightway she was whole.

Oh, touch the hem of His garment!
And thou, too, shalt be free!
His saving power this very hour
Shall give new life to thee!

CH-3) He turned with “Daughter, be of good comfort,
Thy faith hath made thee whole!”
And peace that passeth all understanding
With gladness filled her soul.

Questions:
1) This would make a good hymn to use in a service where the sermon dealt with this incident. Are there other times you might use it?

2) What other hymns do you know and use that speak of physical healing by the power of Christ which can readily be applied to His power to cleanse from sin and give new spiritual life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Root)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 27, 2014

Send the Light

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel born)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Charles Gabriel was one of the most prolific gospel song writers at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Many of his creations are still found in our hymn books. For example:

He Lifted Me
More Like the Master
My Saviour’s Love
O It Is Wonderful
O That Will Be Glory
Send the Light

For these he wrote both words and music. But in other cases he either provided the text (e.g. I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go) or composed the tune (e.g. Higher Ground). The present song was written in 1890. At the time, Mr, Gabriel was the choir director at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, in San Franciso.

There is some question about the occasion for which the song was written. When it was first published, it bore the inscription, “For the Easter Service.” However, in later years Charles Gabriel wrote that the song was for a Missionary Day in the church’s Sunday School, when a “golden offering” (see CH-2) was taken to support foreign missionaries in their work. It’s possible these two things took place on the same day.

The Bible uses the symbolism of light in a number of ways. There it represents the light of truth, found in the Bible (e.g. Ps. 119:105, 130). It’s also a symbol of the light of truth and holiness found in the person of Christ. He said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12)–life providing another use of the symbol (cf. Job 33:30; Ps. 36:9; 56:13).

These three things: the “light” of truth, of holiness, and life, are applied to the saints, as well. We have them in a derivative sense. That is, in ourselves, in our sinful fallen state, we are darkness, and in darkness. But by the saving work of God we are given light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

Christians live in a world of sinners, “among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16). “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

The Lord says to Paul, “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17-18).

These texts suggest that we are light bearers, and light reflectors (cf. “a Christlike spirit” CH-3). But being a light sender is something else, and clearly that is the emphasis of the song. As witnesses for the Lord we carry the light. But as those who support other servants of Christ by our prayers, and by our gifts (our “golden offerings” CH-2), we extend the light of the gospel to other places where, perhaps, we are unable to go.

Thus the Apostle Paul expresses his appreciation for the help and support of the Philippian Christians (Phil. 4:13-18) that enabled him to be a light-bearer elsewhere. One of the places the missionaries went (on Paul’s second missionary journey) was Macedonia. That outreach came about this way.

“A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10).

This is the “Macedonian call” Charles Gabriel refers to in CH-2. A summons to spread the light of the gospel still further, until we fulfil our mandate: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).

CH-1) There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,
Send the light! Send the light!

Send the light, the blessèd gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light, the blessèd gospel light;
Let it shine forevermore!

CH-4) Let us not grow weary in the work of love,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
Let us gather jewels for a crown above,
Send the light! Send the light!

Questions:
1) What kinds of things can we do, as individuals, and as churches, to take the gospel to all the world?

2) Why is the cause of world missions less vibrant and urgent in North America today than it was a generation or two ago?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel born)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 24, 2014

Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart

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

Words: Edward Hayes Plumptre (b. Aug. 6, 1821; d. Feb. 1, 1891)
Music: Marion, by Arthur Henry Messiter (b. Apr. 12, 1834; d. July 2, 1916)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Graphic Peterborough CathedralNote: Dr. Plumptre was known as an outstanding preacher and theologian in England, as well as a gifted poet with several volumes of verse to his credit. Arthur Messiter was the long-time organist of Trinity Church, in New York City. Marion was his mother’s name.

The hymn was written in May of 1865, for use at the annual choral festival at Peterborough Cathedral, in Cambridgeshire, England. The Cathedral (seen here), massive and spectacularly beautiful, dates from the twelfth century. The Wordwise Hymns link will give you a rousing choral version of the hymn.

The Cyber Hymnal gives us eleven stanzas, including a doxology at the end. In some stanzas little used now, one can detect the original purpose of this great song of praise, which was to serve as a processional hymn, at the beginning of a choral festival. See, for example, CH-3 and 6.

CH-3) Yes onward, onward still
With hymn, and chant and song,
Through gate, and porch and columned aisle,
The hallowed pathways throng.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing.

CH-6) With voice as full and strong
As ocean’s surging praise,
Send forth the hymns our fathers loved,
The psalms of ancient days.

Again, the length of the original hymn is related to its purpose. With a gathering of church choirs from many congregations, the processional at the festival could take as long as half an hour! Present hymnals that I’ve seen use a selection of the stanzas, with CH-1, 7 and 10 common to many. A few hymn books include the doxology at the end.

CH-11) Praise Him who reigns on high,
The Lord whom we adore,
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
One God forevermore.

Amazingly, the word rejoice (in its various forms), plus words such as joy and gladness, are found in our English Bibles about six hundred times. Not surprisingly, the book of Psalms, with its emphasis on praise and worship, contains the most (142). Of further interest is the fact that the first mention of rejoicing has to do with what the Lord did for Israel, the last mention of the word concerns the future blessing of the church, the heavenly bride of Christ.

“Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Exod. 18:9).

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb [Christ] has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

The two Bible verses that Edward Plumptre particularly had in mind, as he developed his theme, were Psalm 20:5 and Philippians 4:4.

“We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners!” (Ps. 20:5). “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Rejoicing in salvation–the two are often linked (e.g. Ps. 13:5; 21:1; 35:9; 40:16). As believers, that should be a theme we often take up in word and song. The gospel is “glad tidings,” and definitely a theme prompting joy.

“As it is written [in Isa. 52:7]: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad [joyful] tidings of good things!’” (Rom. 10:15; cf. Lk. 2:10-11).

CH-1) Rejoice ye pure in heart;
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
Your glorious banner wave on high,
The cross of Christ your King.

CH-4) With all the angel choirs,
With all the saints of earth,
Pour out the strains of joy and bliss,
True rapture, noblest mirth.

Questions:
1) What are some things about the gospel that make it particularly joyful news?

2) What other hymns emphasizing the sentiment of joy and rejoicing do you know and use?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 22, 2014

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: St. Anne, by William Croft (b. Dec. 10, 1648; d. Aug. 14, 1727)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts, William Croft)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This magnificent hymn was published in 1719. It originally had nine stanzas, of which CH-4, 6, and 8 are now commonly omitted. (CH-7 is too, in some hymnals, but that is a great loss.) Based on Psalm 90:1-5, some consider it Watts’s best paraphrase. His original title for the hymn was “Man Frail and God Eternal.” The tune is named for St. Anne’s Church, in Soho, where Croft was the organist.

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: in the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers” (Ps. 90:1-6).

The 90th Psalm is identified as a “prayer of Moses” in the heading. He looked back over the years, even back to the origin of his people in God’s calling of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Down through the years, he saw the Lord’s hand at work, and saw how He had been a Shelter and a Refuge for them. Many Christians today can look back on years of walking with the Lord. (For me, personally, it’s over sixty years now, since I was saved.) And we can celebrate God’s faithfulness through many twists and turns of the way.

CH-1) O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!

Almighty God is our “help” in weakness, our “hope,” in times of discouragement and despair, our “shelter” in the dangerous storms of life, and our “eternal home,” now and forever (CH-1). How wonderful! Though almost three hundred years old, the hymn still has a message for today. Little wonder that it has become a standard for military services, or that it was used at the funeral of wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill.

“You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isa. 25:4).

CH-2) presents the Lord as the all-sufficient One, who is a sure defense for His people. And He is these things not simply for now, but forever, because He is, in Himself, a changeless God (CH-3). What He is, in His nature and character, He is infinitely and forever.

CH-2) Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

CH-3) Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

There is a marvelously eloquent contrast made in CH-5 and CH-7, concerning how the eternal God relates to time, and how we do. The Lord inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15; cf. Ps. 90:4). Human beings, on the other hand, are finite creatures of time. As far as their present mortality is concerned, they are swept along, and swept away, by the inexorable currents of time. Because of this our prayer is, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12), help us to use well whatever time You give us.

CH-5) A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

CH-7) Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

The hymn ends by reiterating the opening lines, and pleading that the Lord continue to help us all our days, and on into eternity.

CH-9) O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last,
And our eternal home.

Questions:
1) What are the most profoundly encouraging thoughts in this hymn?

2) What is there in God’s “help” in your own past that gives you “hope” for the future?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts, William Croft)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 20, 2014

Never Alone

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

Words: Ludie Carrington Day Pickett (b. Mar. 31. 1867; d. Mar. 1, 1953)
Music: composer unknown (Fred Jackey is listed as the arranger in some books)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was published in 1897. Some hymn books call both the words and music anonymous, but others identify the two individuals noted above. Fred Jackey is an otherwise unknown musician. For more about Mrs. Pickett, see the Wordwise Hymns link.

The wording I’ve used below is slightly different from what is found in the Cyber Hymnal, but not in any material way. The message is still the same, and it’s an encouraging one. At times the refrain has been used as a chorus, on its own.

God did not mean human beings to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Though there are times when this happens, and even is necessary, we have been made to relate to others and live in community. However, having a number of people nearby is no guarantee we will not be lonely. A person can be lonely in a crowd. To have real friendship and companionship, there have to be mutual concern and compassion, a sharing of life’s pains and pleasures.

At times there is a loneliness in service for God. Sometimes, this is because those around us are opposing what we do. Other times, it is because coworkers and friends–for whatever reason–have abandoned us.

¤ Godly Job suffered alone on the ash heap. His wife had told him to “curse God and die” (Job 1:9). And the “friends” who came to comfort him turned on him in the end, believing he must have done some great wickedness to be experiencing what he was (e.g. Job 4:7; cf. 16:2).

¤ Elijah experienced feelings of loneliness as he fled from the murderous wrath of Queen Jezebel (I Kgs. 19:10).

¤ The Lord Jesus experienced it too. First, many in the multitudes that flocked after Him drifted away (Jn. 6:66-69). Later, even His disciples abandoned Him in fear (Matt. 26:56), including Peter, who’d said he never would (Matt. 26:33, 69-75).

¤ Near the end of his life, Paul reported to Timothy that Luke was the only one who had stayed with him–i.e. visited him in his lonely prison cell (II Tim. 4:9-12).

Though such times are a reality for many faithful servants of God, we have the repeated assurance that God will never abandon His own. The Lord Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). “He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). The Apostle Paul raises the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” His answer is that nothing can or will (Rom. 8:35-39).

CH-1) I’ve seen the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, which tried to conquer my soul.
I’ve heard the voice of my Saviour, He bid me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leaven me alone;
No, never alone, no never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

CH-4) He died on Calvary’s mountain, for me they piercèd His side.
For me He opened that fountain, the crimson, cleansing tide.
For me He’s waiting in glory, upon His heav’nly throne–
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone!

With regard to the refrain of the song, some books change a line, possibly to avoid some of the repetition. Lines two and three are made to say:

He promised never to leave me,
He’ll claim me for His own;

This is true, but I would have preferred to see that in the present tense: “He claims me for His own.” The Bible says, “Beloved, now we are children of God” (I Jn. 3:2; cf. Gal. 3:26). The Lord considers us “My sheep” (Jn. 10:14, 26).

As to the Lord abiding with those who belong to Him, Paul’s own testimony bears this out. In his prison cell he wrote to Timothy:

“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (II Tim. 4:16-17).

And it should be added that believers ought to be the Lord’s ministers in visiting and encouraging those who are lonely and facing various trials (Matt. 25:36; cf. Acts 20:35; II Cor. 1:3-5; II Tim. 1:16-17; Jas. 2:15-16; III Jn. 1:5-8).

Questions:
1) What are the unique hurts experienced in the loneliness of ministry? And its unique comforts?

2) Is there some lonely person you are aware of that would benefit from a visit or an act of kindness from you today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | January 17, 2014

Master, No Offering

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

Words: Edwin Pond Parker (b. Jan. 13, 1836; d. May 28, 1920)
Music: Love’s Offering, by Edwin Pond Parker

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Dr. Parker had a long and distinguished career, as a pastor, a poet, a musician and a hymn writer, as well as a hymn book editor. In addition, he served as the Senate Chaplain for the state of Connecticut. In 1860, he became pastor of a church in Hartford, and continued that ministry for more than half a century. In 1888, Pastor Parker wrote the words of this hymn to conclude a sermon. He composed the tune as well.

This is a truly lovely and meaningful hymn. It is worthy of a place in any hymn book, and any congregation’s repertoire.

The first stanza makes reference to a woman anointing the feet of Jesus. This actually happened twice during His three years of ministry. Luke records the first instance (Lk. 7:36-39). The woman involved is called “a sinner” (vs. 37)–likely indicating she was a prostitute (cf. Matt. 21:32). She is not named. The second instance occurred in the little town of Bethany, and we know that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Jn. 12:1-8; cf. Jn. 11:2).

There has been an assumption by some that the woman in the earlier incident was Mary Magdalene. However, there is not a shred of evidence to support this arbitrary tradition. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Luke 8:1-3 as one of the women who accompanied Jesus in his travels. But it would be strange indeed for Luke, a careful historian, to fail to identify her by name a chapter earlier, if they were one and the same person.

However, this common inaccuracy in the hymn does not mar its beauty or limit its usefulness. It infringes on no doctrine. Consider a few things.

The Lord Jesus is no longer with us, as a physical presence. We cannot, as Mary of Bethany, or the other unnamed woman did, lay at His feet a gift, “costly and sweet” (CH-1). But “love’s incense” is possible and appropriate any time. Like the incense that arose from the golden altar (Exod. 30:1-3, 7-8), may the fragrance of our loving worship, and service for Him, continue to be offered up to the Lord.

CH-1) Master, no offering costly and sweet,
May we, like Magdalene, lay at Thy feet;
Yet may love’s incense rise, sweeter than sacrifice,
Dear Lord to Thee, dear Lord to Thee.

What are some of the things our service can accomplish? The next two stanzas offer some examples of this.

1) Strengthen those who are weak (CH-2). “Strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Job 4:3-4; Lk. 22:32; Heb. 12:12; I Pet. 5:10).

2) Encourage those who are emotionally distressed and down. Sometimes the right song, or devotional poem, or a gentle word, can “brighten” the day of those who are discouraged (CH-2; cf, Job 35:10; Acts 16:40; II Cor. 1:3-4).

3) Bring new hope to those struggling with fears (CH-3; cf. Ps. 42:5, 11; Isa. 43:1; I Tim. 1:1).

4) Minister peace and comfort to the sorrowing (CH-3; cf. Jn. 14:2-3; I Thess. 4:13, 18).

5) Scatter deeds of kindness and mercy, showing the love of Jesus to others (CH-2 and 3; Matt. 5:16; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 13:16).

6) Seek to win the lost to Christ (CH-2; cf. Mk. 16:15; II Cor. 5:20; I Pet. 3:15)

7) Point wayward sinners back to the Lord (CH-3; cf. II Cor. 7:10; II Tim. 2:25; I Jn. 1:9).

Is that not a valid and valuable list? If each and every child of God sought to do those things, what a vital ministry the local church would have to the glory of God! And Dr. Parker’s prayer is that we’d not only do it, but continue to do so until the Lord calls us home.

CH-4) Thus, in Thy service, Lord, till eventide
Closes the day of life, may we abide;
And when earth’s labours cease, bid us depart in peace,
Dear Lord to Thee, dear Lord to Thee.

Questions:
1) Of the seven things listed above, is there something you could do today (or this week) to minister to someone in need?

2) In what ways does the Lord equip us to have this kind of ministry?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers