Posted by: rcottrill | April 9, 2014

Where We’ll Never Grow Old

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:
James Cleveland Moore (b. May 2, 1888; d. June 1, 1962)
Music: James Cleveland Moore

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was written around 1914. The Cyber Hymnal notes the peculiarity that both the words and the music are similar to those of another song from 1889, called That Beautiful Land. (The author and composer of the latter are different.) Sometimes it happens that a hymn on a particular theme is desired for publication, but copyright restrictions prevent its use. One solution is to write a different but similar song. Whether that was the case here, I don’t know, but the present song was written in response to a particular experience.

According to the Cyber Hymnal, James Moore served as the pastor of a number of churches. For for two years he was also president of the Georgia-Florida-Alabama Tri-State Singing Convention, and was president of the Southern Singers’ Association of Georgia. He estimated that he wrote over 500 songs; sales of his phonograph records ran into the millions.

T wenty-six year old Jim Moore was coming back to his home town in Georgia. He’d been away for years, first, working to earn enough money to go to college, then getting an education. Now he was to preach for the folks in his family’s little Baptist church. Jim’s father had directed the choir and led the singing in the church for many years. Now it was quite a thrill for him to do so before his own son was to speak.

But the thing that struck Jim Moore the most, as he gazed out over the congregation, was how different it was. The years had brought many changes. Some folks had died, others had moved away. Those that remained had grown older. Even Jim’s nine brothers and sisters had grown up since he’d been away.

C. R. Moore, Jim’s father, was reputed to be one of the finest gospel singers in Georgia. He had been trained by Anthony Showalter, a vocal music teacher and hymn writer (the author of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms). But Jim was struck by how the voice of the elder Moore had deteriorated. “I felt sorry for him,” he said. “He would lose his pitch and his voice would break.”

When the young man returned to graduate school, he thought about the inevitability of change, and of how age brings a loss of health, mobility, and various abilities.

This turned his attention to what the Bible says about heaven, and how sickness and death will be forever behind us. Not that there will be no passing of time in the heavenly kingdom. Eternity is not timeless, but consists of endless time. However, the infirmities and other problems of aging will be no more.

“I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’” (Rev. 21:3-5).

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent [our body], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven….For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (II Cor. 5:1-4).

“So when this corruptible [what is perishable] has put on incorruption [that which is imperishable], and this mortal [what is subject to dying and death] has put on immortality [that which is not subject to dying and death], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (I Cor. 15:54).

CH-1) I have heard of a land on the far away strand,
’Tis a beautiful home of the soul;
Built by Jesus on high, there we never shall die,
’Tis a land where we never grow old.

Never grow old, never grow old,
In a land where we’ll never grow old;
Never grow old, never grow old,
In a land where we’ll never grow old.

CH-2) In that beautiful home where we’ll never more roam,
We shall be in the sweet by and by;
Happy praise to the King through eternity sing,
’Tis a land where we never shall die.

CH-3) When our work here is done and the life crown is won,
When our troubles and trials are o’er;
All our sorrow will end, and our voices will blend
With the loved ones who’ve gone on before.

Questions:
1) What other songs about heaven have been an encouragement to you?

2) Is there someone you could encourage with the message of Moore’s song this week?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | April 7, 2014

We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

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

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

Words: Henry Ernest Nichol (b. Dec. 10, 1862; d. Aug. 30, 1926)
Music: Message, by Henry Ernest Nicol

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Some books list the composer of the tune as Colin Sterne, but that is a pen name of Ernest Nicol (an anagram, based on rearranging the letters of Nicol and Ernest).

There is much in this 1896 hymn that is stirring, and commendable. However, the juxtaposition of the refrain does create a problem, and could at least lead to some misunderstanding.

Nichol says the gospel is “a story of peace and light, for the darkness shall turn to dawning…and Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth.” Individually, the statements are true. But the two are not cause and effect. By bringing them together in this way, the author is expressing a teaching of postmillennialism. Postmillennialists believe that the church is going to convert the world, and then Christ will return to set up His earthly kingdom. This view became less popular in the twentieth century, with war after war, and the obvious and increasing corruption of society.

Contrary to this view, the Bible says:

“The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:1-2).

“Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (I Tim. 3:1-4).

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim. 3:12-13).

So, yes, we have a story to tell to the nations (CH-1), the Bible’s account of how God the Son became Man, and died to save us. And we have a song to sing (CH-2)–the great hymns and gospel songs of the Christian faith that are the subject of this blog. We have a message to give (CH-3), and a Saviour to show to the world (CH-4), both through our lives and our verbal witness. We invest our time, talents and treasures in this work, for the glory of God.

Christ will come again according to the time set by a sovereign God. But apostasy and the pollution of sin will be such that the Lord Jesus raised the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8). “Christ’s great kingdom” will not follow the transformation of the gospel, but will bring that transformation with it. It’s the return of Christ that will “shatter the spear and sword” (CH-2), not the present works of men (cf. Isa. 2:1-4).

CH-1) We’ve a story to tell to the nations
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light,
A story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright;
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.

CH-2) We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
A song that shall conquer evil
And shatter the spear and sword,
And shatter the spear and sword.

CH-3) We’ve a message to give to the nations,
That the Lord who reigns up above
Hath sent us His Son to save us,
And show us that God is love,
And show us that God is love.

Questions:
1) How would you explain the essence of the gospel to a non-Christian (i.e. using what key Bible truths, and what verses of Scripture)?

2) What are the greatest missionary hymns in the English language?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | April 4, 2014

The Saviour Can Solve Every Problem

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: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith, Bentley Ackley)

Note: According to Oswald Smith, the text for this song was written some time between 1913 and 1915, but it took awhile before it was turned into a song. Around 1931, Dr. Smith sent the poem to Bentley Ackley, who promptly set it to music, and published it the following year. Ackley was involved in a radio program at the time, and he says that they used the song for the opening and closing theme for awhile, adding, “The preacher weaves his morning message around the thought of this song.”

T he claim is a bold one: that the Lord can solve every problem. So is that true? Let’s think about several things.

1) God is omnipotent. God can do anything–as long as it doesn’t violate His essential character or His previously stated purpose. God cannot lie, for example (Tit. 1:2), because He’s a God of truth (Deut. 32:4). Otherwise, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). And as Jeremiah confesses, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17).

2) We also know that the Lord will fulfil His purpose for us, as Christians. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). He is determined to bring believers to maturity, and ultimately to exalt them to heavenly glory. And whatever happens in our lives becomes the raw materials that He employs to accomplish that (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:11-12).

3) Then what about our “problems”? The answer is it all depends. It depends on the cause of those problems, and on God’s purpose in the immediate situation. Sometimes a problem may be caused by personal sin. If so, the answer begins with confessing and forsaking the sin. Other times the problem may be the result of Satan’s opposition to the cause of Christ. In that case, we can pray for the Lord to help us, and He will.

Other problems may simply be the result of living in a fallen world that is under the curse of God. They are difficulties that all of us face in daily life, whether believer or unbeliever. And sometimes, as we pray, the Lord will reveal a natural and practical solution that involves the use of gifts He has already given us–but perhaps applied in a new and creative way. Or the Lord will send into our lives others who can help us to deal with the problem.

The Lord will not always remove difficult circumstances from our lives. Dealing with them becomes part of the maturing process, and a way that He can bring glory to Himself as we trust in Him. In all circumstances we can appeal to God for His daily grace and mercy.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Paul provides an example for us (II Cor. 12:7-10). We don’t know exactly what his physical malady was. There are possible clues that it had to do with his eyesight. But though he prayed on three different occasions for healing, it didn’t come. Instead, God said He would provide daily grace to deal with it.

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Cor. 12:9).

This appears to be the kind of problem-solving that Oswald Smith presents to us in his gospel song. We can see it in allusions to Paul’s experience with his physical ailment. And Dr. Smith said the song had also been an encouragement “to those who have marriage problems, financial problems, family and business problems.”

1) The Saviour can lift ev’ry burden,
The heavy as well as the light;
His strength is made perfect in weakness,
In Him there is power and might.

The Saviour can solve ev’ry problem,
The tangles of life can undo;
There is nothing too hard for Jesus,
There is nothing that He cannot do.

2) The Saviour can bear ev’ry sorrow,
In Him there is comfort and rest;
No matter how great the affliction,
He only permits what is best.

Questions:
1) In what kind of problem(s) in your own life have you recently found this to be true?

2) What other hymns do you know and love about God’s ministry to us in times of pain and difficulty?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith, Bentley Ackley)

Posted by: rcottrill | April 2, 2014

Tell It to Jesus

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: in German, Edmund Simon Lorenz (b. July 13, 1854; d. July 10, 1942); English translation, Jeremiah Eames Rankin (b. Jan. 2, 1828; d. Nov. 28, 1904)
Music: Edmund Simon Lorenz

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The German version of the song was published in 1876, and the English translation in 1880. (That same year, Rankin also gave us the song, God Be With You Till We Meet Again.) Both Lorenz and Rankin served as pastors in the United States. In addition, Edmund Lorenz founded the Lorenz Publishing Company in 1890, which has been administered by succeeding generations of the Lorenz family, and continues to produce a variety of church music to this day. (It’s now known as the Lorenz Corporation.)

As I note in the Wordwise Hymns link, this is one of the most repetitious gospel songs we have. Some two dozen times we’re told to “tell it to Jesus”–and you can add another one if you include the title! But there are certainly things that bear repeating, and this is one! So there may be merit to this song, simple and repetitious though it is. The Wordwise Hymns link also gives you a Bluegrass version of the song.

CH-1) Are you weary, are you heavyhearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

T he Bible is a book of prayer. The word itself is used over three hundred times, and that does not account for similar terms–beseeching God, calling on God, seeking God, and so on. Add to that all the times we read of individuals or groups actually praying. In his book All the Prayers of the Bible, author Herbert Lockyer lists over six hundred and fifty of them.

Prayer is both a privilege and a duty, both appropriate and helpful.

1) Prayer is a privilege. Almighty God, the Ruler of all the universe, gives us a gracious invitation to talk with Him, day or night, and bring our needs before Him, promising that He is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God (Ps. 50:15; Isa. 55:6; Jer. 33:3). Further, prayer is a privilege won for us at the cross. A new and living way into the presence of God was opened for us by our Saviour (Heb. 10:19-22).

2) Prayer is a duty. We have a responsibility to engage in prayer (Lk. 18:1). It is commanded in the Scriptures (I Thess. 5:17). And there are many who need our prayers (our intercession). Would we deny a cup of water to a thirsty soul, if it were in our power to give it? No, not if we have sensitivity to those around us. And many more needs can be met by the Lord, in answer to our prayers–even those of individuals on the other side of the globe can benefit (II Thess. 3:1).

3) Prayer is appropriate. There are many kinds of prayer. Because we are coming to the Lord God, prayers of worship, and of praise and thanksgiving are certainly appropriate (Ps. 34:1; 103:1-5). And since He is holy, and our lives are marred by sin, prayers of confession are also suitable and timely (I Jn. 1:9).

4) Prayer is helpful. For our own needs, and for our spiritual growth, we ought to pray. The resources of heaven are limitless, and we come to a God who is both loving and wise. He will answer according to what is best (Lk. 11:9-10; Heb. 4:15-16; Jas. 1:5; I Jn. 5:14). It is this area that is the main focus of the present song.

CH-1. Are you weary, or discouraged? Are you grieving some sense of loss? These are things you can talk to the Lord about.

CH-2. Do you sorrow over your own faults and failings? Do you have sins that perhaps only you know about? Then, talk to the Lord about these things, seeking His protection against them.

CH-2) Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

CH-3. Do you fret over sorrowful losses that may come up ahead? Are you anxious over the trials and troubles that tomorrow may bring? Then pray, tell the Lord all about it.

CH-3) Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

CH-4. Unless the Lord comes first, which He may, each of us will die. Does that bother you? Or are you longing for the Lord to come and usher in eternity’s cloudless day? Tell the Lord and seek His grace.

CH-4) Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Questions:
1) Which of the concerns mentioned above is particularly on your own heart today? Will you take it to the Lord in prayer?

2) Which of the concerned mentioned is a burden for someone you know? Can you bear them up in prayer today? And are you ready to become a partial answer to your own prayer, by offering a helping hand?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 31, 2014

Softly, Now, the Light of Day

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

Words: George Washington Doane (b. May 27, 1799; d. April ___, 1859)
Music: Seymour, by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (b. Nov. 18, 1786; d. June 5, 1826)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Von Weber was a classical composer. The hymn tune was taken from his opera Oberon. As noted in the Cyber Hymnal, the tune Mercy is also used with this hymn (and with Holy Ghost, with Light Divine).

George Doane (1799-1859) was christened George Washington Doane, as he was born in the year America’s beloved first president died. A scholar and college professor, in addition he became a bishop in the Episcopal (or Anglican) denomination. A bishop who succeeded him wrote of Doane:

“He was a pioneer in the work of education, ahead of his time in a good many things, and his name is remembered not by the troubles he was compelled to face, but by his greatness as a man and a bishop.

D r. Doane published a book of poetry in 1824 called Songs by the Way. In the volume was an 1824 hymn poem called “Evening,” written for St. Mary’s Hall, a girls’ seminary founded by Bishop Doane. The hymn was headed by the text:

“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:2).

Sometimes, in the bustle of our busy lives, there’s an almost constant din falling on our physical ears, all but drowning out the voice of God to our souls. Filling every waking moment of our days with sound seems to be the modern trend. And unfortunately, that is often the adopted norm in the services of the church. Moments of personal meditation and silent waiting on God must seem to some a boring waste of time. But in contrast, God says in His Word, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

One of the common events in nature through which God has much to say to us is sunsets. A sunset marks the end of another day. That is an appropriate time for reflection. Did we invest its hours and minutes for God? Or did sinful weakness cause us to stumble, bringing Him dishonour? As the Lord sought to walk with our first parents in the cool evening of Eden (Gen. 3:8-9), so He desires to meet with us. But if we, like Adam and Eve, have failed Him, perhaps we are more reluctant to draw near.

There’s another significance of the sunset as well. It is a picture and a reminder of death. Just as we speak of the sunset of day, we sometimes refer to the sunset of life. And there is sometimes about death a dread of approaching darkness. It is “the valley of the shadow.” But believers are assured of the presence of the Lord, even then (Ps. 23:4), and of the coming of an even brighter sunrise. He is “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). In the dawning of eternal day “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2).

Notice how the hymn gives an atmosphere of intimacy with God, by using the first person in the opening stanza. Doane’s meditation on the silent approach of nightfall begins:

CH-1) Softly now the light of day
Fades upon my sight away;
Free from care, from labour free,
Lord, I would commune with Thee.

CH-2) Thou, whose all pervading eye
Naught escapes, without, within,
Pardon each infirmity,
Open fault, and secret sin.

Finally, the hymn makes the connection to life’s final sunset (again using the first person):

CH-3) Soon for me the light of day
Shall forever pass away;
Then, from sin and sorrow free,
Take me, Lord, to dwell with Thee.

Some hymn books omit CH-4. It does seem to me somewhat anticlimactic, as CH-3 makes a good ending to the hymn. It may also be poetically inferior to the first three, but I’ll include it here.

CH-4) Thou who, sinless, yet hast known
All of man’s infirmity;
Then, from Thine eternal throne,
Jesus, look with pitying eye.

Questions:
1) What other times or events, other than sunsets, often prompt us to introspection–looking back, and looking ahead?

2) What is your favourite evening hymn (or hymn for the closing of a church service)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 28, 2014

Revive Thy Work, O Lord

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: Albert Midlane (b. Jan. 23, 1825; d. Feb. 27, 1909)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The tune I’m most familiar with for this hymn is an unnamed one by James McGranahan. It is used in a number of hymn books, including the Worship and Service Hymnal, and Living Hymns. McGranahan’s tune includes a refrain, adapted from CH-5, which then is not used.

Revive! Revive!
And give refreshing showers;
The glory shall be all Thine own;
The blessing shall be ours.

The Cyber Hymnal suggests two other tunes for the hymn, and there is a fourth that is used by still others. The latter is called Swabia, after the birthplace of the composer, Johann Martin Spiess (1715-1772). (Swabia was a territory in the south of Germany.)

The author of the 1858 text, Albert Midlane, lived on the Isle of Wight, an island in the English Channel, off the coast of England. Mr. Midlane credits a Sunday School teacher, with encouraging him to write hymns–and he went on to write hundreds of them.

T his particular hymn was based on the prayer of the prophet Habakkuk for the people of Judah. His prayer was for the Lord to show His delivering power, as they faced the threat of an attack by the Chaldeans.

“O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

It’s not difficult to see a secondary application of this prayer to the spiritual condition of the church–whether, like the church at Ephesus, we have “left our first love” (Rev. 2:4), and there isn’t the warmth of loving fellowship there once was (cf. Eph. 1:15). Or, we have compromised with those who teach error, like the church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:14-15). Or perhaps we have grown cold and self-satisfied, like the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-17).

In all such cases, and others too, there is a need for spiritual renewal and revival. With the Apostle Paul we cry, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” Eph. 5:14). Revival, narrowly defined, involves the repentance and restoration of born again believers who have strayed, grown cold, and allowed worldliness and carnality to get a grip on their lives (cf. I Cor. 3:1-3). Though conversions often accompany a widespread revival, it’s the church–made up of those already saved–that first experiences the revitalization of the Spirit of God.

CH-1) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

CH-2) Revive Thy work, O Lord,
Disturb this sleep of death;
Quicken the smold’ring embers now
By Thine almighty breath.

As the psalmist cries, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Ps. 85:6). When that happens to an individual, or to a community of believers, several things will be in evidence. Among them will be:

¤ A repentance of sin, and a new desire to live holy lives
¤ A renewed love for the Lord, and a longing to know Him and serve Him
¤ An increase and deepening of the study and application of God’s Word
¤ A love for the people of God and a desire to fellowship regularly with them
¤ A new earnestness and power in prevailing prayer
¤ A love for the great hymns and gospel songs of the church, and for singing them with others
¤ A greater passion to witness for Christ, and see others come to know Him

CH-3) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Create soul-thirst for Thee;
And hungering for the bread of life
O may our spirits be.

CH-4) Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Exalt Thy precious name;
And, by the Holy Ghost, our love
For Thee and Thine inflame.

Questions:
1) If the above are evidences of a spiritual renewal, what are the opposites–that is, the evidence that one is needed?

2) Is there, in your life, evidence that you need spiritual renewal? What will you do about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 26, 2014

Precious Promise

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: Nathanael Niles (b. Sept. 15, 1835; d. ______ )
Music: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Nathanael Niles was a New York City lawyer in the mid-nineteenth century. The date of his death is as yet unknown to me. (Perhaps around the turn of the twentieth century.) He wrote this gospel song in 1873, at the age of thirty-eight, when he was commuting to work on the train.

T he text upon which the theme of the hymn is based is this one from Psalms:

The Lord promises David (and us), “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Ps. 32:8).

Literally, “upon you My eye,” says the Hebrew. Various modern translations recognize the need to clarify and complete the thought in the final clause: “I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (NASB); “I will counsel you and watch over you” (NIV).

The Lord instructs and teaches us through His Word. But He is also “a very present help” (Ps. 46:1), with us, watching over us, and continuing to provide guidance for us in each circumstance and situation. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5) is the believer’s reassurance “on the way from earth to heaven” (CH-1).

CH-1) Precious promise God hath given
To the weary passerby,
On the way from earth to heaven,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

I will guide thee, I will guide thee,
I will guide thee with Mine eye
On the way from earth to heaven,
I will guide thee with Mine eye.

What of times of temptation (CH-2), times when our “trusted watchers fly”? (I’m assuming he means human helpers who turn away from us in times of trouble, the way Job’s acquaintances did from him.) What then? The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). And He will guide us to that “way of escape,” giving us the grace to take it.

CH-2) When temptations almost win thee
And thy trusted watchers fly,
Let this promise ring within thee,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Mr. Nils also reminds us of the discouragement of having “secret hopes” perish, lifelong dreams that seem to crumble to dust. What then? Then the Lord is still with us, and His plan for us will prove to be far better than any we could devise for ourselves. When the Lord seems to close one door, prayerfully watch for another to open.

King David had a desire to build a temple for the Lord, but God said no. Though David would help to assemble materials for the project, it would be his son Solomon who would build the house of God. For David, it was a dream that was to go unfulfilled. However, the Lord told him that, instead of the king building Him a house, He was going to build a house for David, in the sense of a household, a royal family, a dynasty (II Sam. 7:1-29).

We call this promise the Davidic Covenant. And while Israel’s beautiful temple was later destroyed, “[David’s] house and [his] kingdom shall be established forever….[His] throne shall be established forever” (vs. 16), through David’s greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise to Mary was, “The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32).

CH-3) When thy secret hopes have perished
In the grave of years gone by,
Let this promise still be cherished,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Finally, we can be assured that the Lord will guide His children safely “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). With Paul we are confident that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8). The apostle had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which [he says] is far better” (Phil. 1:23). If, for the Christian, “to live is Christ,” then we can say with confidence that “to die is gain” (vs. 21).

CH-4) When the shades of life are falling
And the hour has come to die,
Hear thy trusty Pilot calling,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Questions:
1) In what way is it a blessing and an encouragement that the Lord is watching over us, and knows us through and through?

2) In what way is this also a warning and a corrective in our life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 24, 2014

O God of Bethel

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: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Salzburg (or Haydn), by Johann Michael Haydn (b. Sept. 14, 1737; d. Aug. 10, 1806)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Salzburg is not the tune given by the Cyber Hymnal, but it’s the one I’m more familiar with being used for this hymn. Johann Michael Haydn was the brother of the more famous composer, Franz Josef Haydn.

P astor Doddridge wrote this hymn for use on January 16th, 1737, at the conclusion of a message he planned to preach on Jacob. After he cheated his brother Esau, the latter had threatened to kill him (Gen. 27:41), and Jacob fled from home. Alone in the wilds he was confronted by God, who reiterated that he (not his elder brother Esau) was the one through whom the Abrahamic Covenant would be fulfilled (Gen. 28:13-15). Given the kind of man Jacob had shown himself to be, this was a demonstration of sovereign grace on God’s part.

In recognition of the fact that he had met Jehovah God in that desolate wilderness, Jacob named the place Bethel, Beyth El in Hebrew, meaning House of God (Gen. 28:17-19). When the Lord met him again in later years, He identified Himself as “the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13), and clearly Jacob continued to have a special remembrance of the site (cf. Gen. 35:3), and the Lord had become to him El Beyth El, “God of the House of God” (vs. 7).

The original hymn follows the biblical account closely. However, it has been subjected to seemingly endless tinkering over the years, changes that obscure its connection with what happened to Jacob. For example, some editors have changed “God of Bethel” to “God of Ages,” or “God of our fathers,” or something else. But why? If the Lord calls Himself the God of Bethel, who are we to complain? Can a service leader or pastor not explain the meaning of the phrase. Don’t capitulate; educate!

But now I want to reverse myself in a sense, and point out what I see as a major flaw in this hymn. One that merely changing a few words does not correct. The revision posted on the Cyber Hymnal site has much to commend it. However, it does not entirely remove the problem.

Earlier incidents in the life of Jacob reveal him to have been a cheat and a deceiver. And when he meets God at Bethel, Jacob does not even seem to be a genuine believer. We can see that when, true to form, he tries to make a deal with the Lord (italics mine):

“Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God’” (Gen. 28:21).

It’s as though he’s saying, If God will do what I want–bring me back home safely–then He can have the privilege of being my God”–which strongly implies that he isn’t Jacob’s God as yet. And we need to notice another thing: the Lord had already promised Jacob that He would do precisely that, bring him safely back home (vs. 15). But Jacob must have the promise actually fulfilled before he’s ready to commit himself.

This is a conditional, I’ll-love-you-if kind of love, and it’s hardly a glowing example of faith! Nor is it, surely, an attitude worthy of being glorified in a hymn. But that’s exactly what Doddridge has done. The hymn changes Jacob’s “my” to the congregation’s “our,” but otherwise the gist of the text is here. Note how closely his original, with it’s repeated “if,” parallels the words of Scripture (Gen. 28:20-22).

3) If Thou, through each perplexing path,
Wilt be our constant Guide;
If Thou wilt daily bread supply,
And raiment wilt provide;

4) If Thou wilt spread Thy shield around,
Till these our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode,
Our souls arrive in peace:

5) To Thee, as to our Covenant God,
We’ll our whole selves resign;
And count that not our tenth alone,
But all we have is Thine.

The version in the Cyber Hymnal (a 1781 revision by John Logan) does perhaps make the earlier part of the hymn more worthy of our use. But there is still, in the final stanza, the implication that we’re putting conditions on our allegiance to Almighty God.

CH-5) Such blessings from Thy gracious hand
Our humble prayers implore;
And Thou shalt be our chosen God,
And portion evermore.

“And [if Thou wilt come through for us] Thou shalt be our chosen God.” How dare we try to make deals with Almighty God, and have the audacity to call them “humble prayers”! Especially since, in infinite grace, He has already promised abundant blessings to us, undeserving as we are (cf. Rom. 8:32; Eph. 1:7; 2:7). The hymn has been greatly improved by some editors by simply omitting the final stanza.

Questions:
1) Do you agree or disagree with the point I’m making here?

2) What is a more worthy approach to God for Jacob (and for us)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 21, 2014

Never Give Up

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

Words: Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Ira Allan Sankey (b. Aug. 30, 1874; d. Dec. 30, 1915)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was one of Fanny’s later creations, published in 1903. Ira Allan Sankey was the son of Ira David Sankey, who was for many years associated with the ministry of Dwight L. Moody. The son became president of the Biglow and Main Publishing Company, responsible for publishing many of Fanny Crosby’s songs.

Some fifteen times (with the refrains) we have the word “never” here. Fanny is urging us not to abandon the work of the Lord, not to be a deserter of the cause. The emphasis reminded me of a famous speech given in October of 1941, by Winston Churchill. With the war raging in Europe, and England under attack, and having come through the Blitz (1940-41), he said to the boys at Harrow School:

“For everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period–I am addressing myself to the School–surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

In the Bible, this kind of persistence is described with such expressions as persevering and being steadfast. Godly Job, in the Old Testament, is set before us a an example of perseverance in a time of severe trial and suffering (Jas. 5:11). And we are taught that, when we trust in the Lord as Job did, the eventual outcome of our trials can be a persevering (strong) faith (Rom. 5:3-4).

CH-1) Never be sad or desponding,
If thou hast faith to believe.
Grace, for the duties before thee,
Ask of thy God and receive.

Never give up, never give up,
Never give up to thy sorrows,
Jesus will bid them depart.
Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord,
Sing when your trials are greatest,
Trust in the Lord and take heart.

One of the key areas needing this kind of steady persistence is in our prayer life. Sometimes there will be a temptation to give up, and stop praying, when the answer doesn’t come quickly, or it isn’t what we’d expect. But God’s Word counsels us to be “patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

CH-2) What if thy burdens oppress thee;
What though thy life may be drear;
Look on the side that is brightest,
Pray, and thy path will be clear.

We would perhaps debate the unqualified optimism of this hymn at some points. CH-2 promises: “Pray, and thy path will be clear.” It isn’t always that cut and dried. As we pray, and persist in prayer, the way ahead may well become clearer. But because He wants us to continue trusting in Him, the future is sometimes left uncertain, and we simply need to cling to the Lord day by day.

Another area where perseverance is necessary is in resisting satanic temptation.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (I Pet. 5:8-9).

Our service for Christ is another area that patience and “stick-to-it-iveness” is required, if we are to bear fruit for eternity.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

CH-3) Never be sad or desponding,
There is a morrow for thee;
Soon thou shalt dwell in its brightness,
There with the Lord thou shalt be.

CH-4) Never be sad or desponding,
Lean on the arm of thy Lord;
Dwell in the depths of His mercy,
Thou shalt receive thy reward.

Questions:
1) What is the remedy for those who are discouraged and tempted to give up?

2) Is there some discouraged servant of God whom you can help and encourage today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Posted by: rcottrill | March 19, 2014

May the Grace of Christ

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: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21:1807)
Music: Sardis, arranged from Romance for Violin, Opus 40, Number 1, by Ludwig van Beethoven (b. Dec. 17, 1770; d. Mar. 26, 1827)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn, published in Olney Hymns, in 1779, surely ranks as one of the shortest in common use. It was originally composed as one eight-line stanza. But to suit tunes such as Sardis, it has been broken into two four-line stanzas.

Graphic May the Grace- NewtonHere is a copy of the hymn exactly as it appears in Olney Hymns. You’ll notice what seems to us an oddity, though it was common in the printing of that time. The lower case letter “s” looks quite a bit like our letter “f,” unless it appears at the end of a word. Thus, the word boundless looks like boundlefs, and possess like poffefs.

I also noticed that while Saviour is spelled with a “u” (as we Canadians are used to doing), the word favor is not.

These technicalities aside, this is a beautiful little hymn. Given that it is also doctrinally rich and practically useful, it’s unfortunate more hymnals don’t include it. As the title above the hymn indicates, it paraphrases the benediction found in Second Corinthians 13 verse 14:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of [or created by] the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

The hymn was written to be sung at the end of a Sunday service, or to conclude one of the cottage prayer meetings Newton established in the village of Olney. It is a Trinitarian hymn, referring to the three Persons of the Trinity and includes a quality to be identified with each–though certainly not to be thought of as exclusive to each.

1) The grace of Christ. Though grace was displayed in Old Testament times, a super-abundant flow of grace began with the coming of Christ. “Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace [grace heaped upon grace]. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:16-17).

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

2) The love of God the Father. It was the love of God that prompted Him to send His Son to be the Saviour desperately needed by a lost and dying world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

“When the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7).

3) The favour of the Holy Spirit. Observe that the text speaks of “communion” (or fellowship). That is the “favour” of which Newton speaks, and he brings it in at line seven. As the Amplified Bible has it, it’s “the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit” that believers enjoy. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). And these are qualities upon with true Christian fellowship is based.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

By simply changing the pronouns, an interesting application of this hymn was provided for, many years after it was written. If third-person pronounces are used, it becomes a beautiful benediction hymn for the conclusion of a wedding ceremony. It becomes the congregation’s prayer for the newly married couple.

May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon them from above.
Thus may they abide in union
With each other and the Lord,
And possess, in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.

Questions:
1) How sad that there are divisions and conflicts in many local churches, in spite of God’s provision for loving fellowship. What can we do to restore and maintain the latter?

2) Is this a hymn you would use in the services of the church or (in its revised form), at a wedding?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton)
The Cyber Hymnal

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