Posted by: rcottrill | January 20, 2017

Nailed to the Cross

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck (b. Jan. 22, 1855; d. Mar. 27, 1934)
Music: Kampala, by Grant Colfax Tullar (b. Aug. 5, 1869; d. May 20, 1950)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Carrie Breck)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Carrie Breck was a busy wife and mother, with six daughters. She wrote hundreds of hymns but, having no sense of pitch, she passed the words on to others to provide the tunes. Grant Tullar was a pastor, evangelist, and gospel song writer. He also founded a music publishing company.

The family laughs about it now, but it was an embarrassing disaster back then. We buy a healthier brand of peanut butter, containing no added sugar. But, as purchased, the oil is separated from the peanuts, and has to be mixed in before use–a one-time job that takes a few minutes. “Maybe there’s a quicker way,” thought the man of the house. He clicked one blade into the mixer, pushed it down into the jar, plugged in the cord, and turned the appliance on.

Instantly, several bad things happened. The jar was wrenched out of his hand, and began spinning violently. That wound the cord around the jar and, mercifully, pulled the plug out of the wall. But in its brief giddy spin, the jar flung peanut butter and oil all over the stove, the fridge, the toaster and the wall, and the foolish operator! Two hours of clean-up followed. A lesson learned.

Who has never used a butter knife for a screw driver, or a shoe for a hammer? They don’t usually do the job as well as the thing designed for it. But not all substitutes are misfits. Some are quite clever. Whole books have been written describing how to use familiar household products, toothpaste, mayonnaise, and more, in creative and useful ways.

Did you know a common shoe organizer can make an attractive hanging garden? Or that the Frisbie Pie Company sold thousands of pies on sturdy metal plates. Then, one day, some Yale University students discovered the plates could be thrown and caught, and a new toy was born. And what about bubble wrap? Did you know it was originally designed to be textured wallpaper? But someone realized it made wonderful packing material, which is now its main use.

In the Bible there are examples of objects being used in unusual and effective ways. In Judges chapter 7, we learn how the Lord worked through Gideon and a band of three hundred courageous men carrying pitchers, torches, and trumpets, to defeat an army of 135,000 Midianites (cf. Jud. 8:10). Later we see Samson slaying a thousand Philistines, by wielding the jawbone of a donkey (Jud. 15:15).

There is one example in the Scriptures infinitely more wonderful than any other. God used a Roman gibbet to deliver untold millions of people from eternal judgment. The Romans employed the dreadful cruelty of crucifixion intentionally. It made a public execution a terrifying object lesson warning others not to disobey Roman law.

Yet the crucified Christ was innocent of any wrong. Reading the Gospels we see that many declared it to be so, including Judas, who betrayed Him (Matt. 27:3-4), and Roman procurator Pilate, who ordered His execution (Jn. 19:4). In fact, the Bible states repeatedly that the holy Son of God was utterly sinless (Heb. 4:15; 7:26; I Pet. 2:22). Instead, according to the Father’s plan, He died as our Substitute, under the wrath of God, to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16; II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:7; I Jn. 3:5).

This brings us to a hymn about the cross by gospel song writer Carrie Breck, and evangelist and composer Grant Tullar. Twice that we know of, tunes written by Tullar were put to another use by words provided by Breck. In 1898, Grant Tullar wrote a tune and provided words for it beginning:

All for me the Saviour suffered,
All for me He bled and died.

But some verses arrived by mail the next day from Mrs. Breck that fit the tune exactly. Tullar set aside his words, putting his tune to another use, and gave us:

Face to face with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face–what will it be:

About a year later, Tullar wrote a tune for a secular ballad called By the Murmuring Brook. But Carrie Breck provided a text that led him to put the melody to another–and far better–use. The resulting hymn echoes the truth of Colossians 2:13-14:

“Having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

CH-1) There was One who was willing to die in my stead,
That a soul so unworthy might live;
And the path to the cross He was willing to tread,
All the sins of my life to forgive.

They are nailed to the cross,
They are nailed to the cross,
O how much He was willing to bear!
With what anguish and loss Jesus went to the cross!
But He carried my sins with Him there.

Questions:
1) What gifts has God given you that you have learned to put to a better use and higher purpose, since you trusted Christ as Saviour?

2) How would you explain the gospel simply, to someone who asks you about it?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Carrie Breck)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 18, 2017

Holy, Holy, Is What the Angels Sing

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Johnson Oatman Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: John Robson Sweney (b. Dec. 31, 1837; d. Apr. 10, 1899)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Johnson Oatman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Sometimes this gospel song is called “The Angel Song,” which is a little strange, since its main premise is that the angel’s can’t sing the song of redemption. One day the author and composer were reading from the book of Revelation together, and discussing the singing in heaven. As they parted that day, Oatman said he hoped to put into words that wonderful scene. He was back the next day with some lines of verse, and Sweney wrote the melody immediately.

Music in one form or another seems universal. In every nation, in every culture, there is music of some kind. The style and purpose may differ greatly, for various reasons. But it’s there. Even in nature there are songs. The birds sing, and the whales too, after their fashion.

Music is a kind of language. It can convey joy or sorrow, love, anger, tension, and more. It can relax or energize. It can celebrate or entertain. It can be an aid to memory, or a distraction that helps listeners to forget. It can accompany marching or dancing. In spiritual life, it can be a vehicle for praise or prayer to God, or frame a testimony to one’s beliefs, or teaching to others (Col. 3:16).

The Bible tells us, “By Him [the Lord] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). Only God is eternal and uncreated. All else was brought into being by Him, which would seem to include music. And several Bible passages indicate that the Lord Himself sings (e.g. Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12).

But the question we must address here is: Do angels sing? Many know the Christmas carol that begins, “Hark, the herald angels sing.” So, do they? There are a couple of difficulties with that. First, it’s not how the hymn began when the author, Charles Wesley wrote it. Originally, it was, “Hark, how all the welkin rings,” with welkin being a word for sky. Wesley didn’t claim the angels sang.

Nor does the Bible seem to do so at the time of Christ’s birth. When they came to some shepherds to announce the birth, we’re told, first one angel appeared “and said [some things] to them” (Lk. 2:10). Then he was joined by “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest’” (vs. 13-14). Saying usually means talking, not singing. However, that word “praising” can mean either to praise, or to sing praises, leaving the possibility that they did indeed sing.

In the book of Job, God asks him about creation: “Where were you [Job] when I laid the foundations of the earth?…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7). This is Hebrew poetry, which uses parallelism. We know that “the sons of God” elsewhere in the book are angels, so “the morning stars” refers to them too, poetically describing their heavenly glory–a glory which the shepherds also saw (Lk. 2:9). The angels, therefore, sang at creation.

In heaven, there are “four living creatures” around God’s throne which other passages identify as angelic beings called cherubim (Ezek. 1:4-5, 26; cf. 10:18-22). They are said to sing a new song (Rev. 5:8-10). Later in the book, all the servants of God are called upon to “praise” Him (Rev. 19:5), using the same word for praise as in Luke 2:13. In the passage an angel describes himself to the Apostle John as a “fellow servant” with John, implying he was called to sing too (Rev. 19:10).

This relates to the song written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. Describing the scene around God’s throne, it’s called, Holy, Holy Is What the Angels Sing. And “Holy, holy, holy” does indeed resound from the cherubim there (Rev. 4:8), but there’s no indication they sing the words. Perhaps it’s a minor point. But there’s another questionable issue in the song.

Oatman’s purpose was to indicate that those redeemed through faith in Christ have a reason to sing which the angels do not. True enough. Christ did not shed His blood for the angels, only for sinful human beings. However, they do seem to be singing along with the “twenty-four elders,” which many Bible commentators believe represent the church (Rev. 5:8-9). The angels can surely praise God for what He did for us. But even if they accompany us with singing, we will have a unique perspective on “redemption’s story” that they cannot share (Rev. 5:9).

CH-1) There is singing up in heaven
Such as we have never known,
Where the angels sing the praises
Of the Lamb upon the throne,
Their sweet harps are ever tuneful,
And their voices always clear,
O that we might be more like them
While we serve the Master here!

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make
The courts of heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story,
They will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys
That our salvation brings.

CH-3) Then the angels stand and listen,
For they cannot join the song,
Like the sound of many waters,
By that happy, blood washed throng,
For they sing about great trials,
Battles fought and victories won,
And they praise their great Redeemer,
Who hath said to them, “Well done.”

Questions:
1) If we will actually use some of the hymns we sang on earth, what hymns would you love to sing in heaven?

2) What will our heavenly songs be about?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Johnson Oatman)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 16, 2017

His Name Is Wonderful

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Audrey Mae Mieir (b. May 12, 1916; d. Nov. 5, 1996)
Music: Audrey Mae Mieir

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

Note: This blog is mainly about our traditional hymns and gospel songs, but I’ve included choruses here and there, and this is a fine one. As for the creator, Meyer was a singer-songwriter and choral conductor, writing her first song when she was only sixteen.

Many births are highly anticipated. If it’s the couple’s first child, their excitement is likely shared by family and friends. But unless someone in the family is famous, it’s unlikely the birth will make headline news.

It was different for actress Grace Kelly. When the Hollywood star married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, that got the attention of the press around the world. The birth of baby Caroline, nine months and four days later, was proclaimed, rather extravagantly, as “the most famous birth in history.”

But let’s go back a little further. Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947. Their first child, Charles, was born a year later. Then, in 1952, with the death of her father, King George VI, Elizabeth became queen, and her son became the heir apparent to the throne–a position he has now held for over sixty years, the longest serving heir apparent in British history.

But a birth truly worthy of being called “the most famous birth in history” happened long before these–to a baby born, not to a movie star or earthly princess, but to a peasant girl in Nazareth. An angel appeared to a virgin named Mary, announcing that she, by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, would give birth to the incarnate Son of God. Even His earthly name, “Jesus,” was divinely ordained, and His work as “a Saviour who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 1:30-38; 2:1-7, 11).

His coming was prophesied through the Old Testament. There was even a hint of what He would do right after Adam and Eve fell into sin. “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). This is how Isaiah spoke of Christ’s sacrifice to pay our debt:

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

But there’s more coming, the glorious reign of the Messiah-King of Israel. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Lk. 24:25-26). Isaiah viewing the future with a prophet’s eye, says:

“Unto us a Child is born [in Bethlehem, Lk. 2:7], unto us a Son is given [from the Father in heaven, Jn. 3:16]. [Then, as the Old Testament prophets sometimes do, Isaiah skips over the time between Christ’s two advents to His coming reign.] And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (Isa. 9:6-7).

In that future day, the One who came to earth humbly as a Baby laid in a manger, will return in glory, exalted by God the Father, and adored by saints and angels. Though some Bible versions place a comma after “Wonderful” in Isaiah, it’s probable there are four double titles in the verse.

He will be revealed as a Wonderful (Supernatural) Counselor and Mighty God. The title “Everlasting Father” likely means He’s the Father of Eternity, or, in practical terms, the Source of Eternal Life. Prince of Peace identifies Him as the One who’ll finally bring lasting peace on earth.

Christmas fell on a Sunday in 1955, and that seemed to bring a special excitement in the small church attended by gospel musician Audrey Mae Mieir. After the familiar manger scene was reenacted, and a choir sang, Pastor Luther Mieir, Audrey’s brother-in-law, raised his hands heavenward, and proclaimed, as Isaiah did long ago, “His name is Wonderful!”

That Scripture made a deep impression on the musician. She took her Bible, and wrote in it the words of a little chorus. Later, she lengthened it, by researching other names and titles of the Lord Jesus found in Scripture. It has since become maybe the most famous worship chorus in the English language. Audrey heard it sung in many different languages, all over the world.

His name is Wonderful, His name is Wonderful,
His name is Wonderful, Jesus my Lord.
He is the mighty King, Master of everything,
His name is Wonderful, Jesus, my Lord.
He’s the great Shepherd,
The Rock of all ages,
Almighty God is He.
Bow down before Him, love and adore Him,
His name is Wonderful! Jesus my Lord.

Questions:
1) What other names and titles for Christ can you think of that are not included in the chorus?

2) Why do you think it is that Christ is given so many different names and titles in God’s Word?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 13, 2017

Heartaches

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley)
The Cyber Hymnal (Alfred Ackley)
Hymnary.org

Note: Alfred Ackley was not only a Presbyterian pastor in the United States, but a skilled musician, master of the cello, and a hymn writer with hundreds of songs to his credit. His brother, Bentley DeForest Ackley, was also gospel musician.

Have you noticed that some big malls, or big stores, are getting bigger? Or at least it can seem like it. For those who have difficulty walking, shopping there becomes a painful chore. But benches placed strategically can provide welcome relief, a place to rest.

There’s a parallel on our major highways: rest stops, sometimes called service centres. They often provide gas pumps, washrooms, drinking water, snacks, and perhaps picnic tables. They’re a place to pull out of the traffic and take a break during a long trip, so we can return to the road refreshed and somewhat rested.

Another kind of help along the way is provided by what are called halfway houses, or safe houses. People with disabilities, or ones having come through abusive relationships, or recently released from prison, can go to a place that offers security and encouragement, as well as teaching new tools to deal with the challenges of life.

Those who supply such services should be lauded and supported. But safe houses may not be completely helpful or safe. That bench in the store may be hard to find, or not located where we need it. The rest stop on the highway may not have the particular service we require. A recent movie depicts a couple’s stop at one that proves to be a place of horror, death and spiritual darkness. It’s overwrought fiction, and not recommended, but it makes a point. The world is an imperfect place, filled with imperfect people, and no place of rest will be perfect.

Is there, then, anywhere we can go that will be, infallibly, a place to rest. Yes. It is found at the feet of Jesus, the One who said:

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

On the other hand, what if we reject God’s provision? What if we refuse and reject Him? This is exactly what many in backslidden Israel did.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16).

Those two responses were illustrated by a father and son in the early 1930’s. To the continual grief of his parents, the son lived a wild and wicked life. Crimes he committed eventually landed him in prison for many years, and the heartache he caused possibly led to the early death of his mother. Unfortunately, I know of no happy ending for him. No repentance and rest in the Lord.

But what about his dad? “Kick him into the street!” advised a neighbour, when the young man was still living at home. “I can’t,” said his father. “He’s my son, and I love him.” Instead, he went to Pastor Alfred Ackley and poured out his heart. Perhaps his lament echoed that of King David’s wailing words at the death of his rebellious son. “The king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (II Sam. 19:4).

Together, the two men prayed earnestly for the salvation of the prodigal. They also claimed the comfort and help the Lord promised when we bring life’s burdens to him (I Pet. 5:7). The evening after the sorrowing father left him, Ackley wrote a song called simply Heartaches.

The song is comforting and reassuring, regarding the grace and love of the Lord. However, I do think Ackley overstated the case in the last line of the refrain. It’s simply not true that “He will take your heartaches all away.” (He might have made a more modest promise such as, “He will ease your burdened heart today.”)

This life has its heartaches, and not all of them will be removed (cf. Paul’s grief for his Jewish brethren, Rom. 9:1-3). Nor is it necessarily productive for all our burdens to be instantly wiped out in this life. Our heartaches can keep us clinging to the Lord, and sometimes nurture deep compassion for others in their trials. Nevertheless, there is relief and sustaining grace available through Christ.

1) When your heart is aching, turn to Jesus;
He’s the dearest Friend that you can know.
You will find Him standing close beside you,
Waiting peace and comfort to bestow.

Heartaches, take them all to Jesus;
Go to Him today, do it now without delay;
Heartaches, take them all to Jesus;
He will take your heartaches all away.

Questions:
1) Is there a recent heartache for which you have found comfort and relief in the Lord?

2) Is there someone you know who has an aching heart, whom you can encourage and pray for (or with)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley)
The Cyber Hymnal (Alfred Ackley)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 11, 2017

Father, by Thy Love and Power

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Joseph Anstice (b. Dec. 21, 1808; d. Feb. 29, 1836)
Music: Evening Hour, by Samuel Prowse Warren (b. Feb. 18, 1841; d. Oct. 7, 1915)

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

Note: Joseph Anstice was a remarkable man. A brilliant scholar, he graduated from Oxford with double first-class honours. At the young age of twenty-two he became Professor of Classical Literature at King’s College, London, a position he held for four years, until ill health forced his retirement. (Notice that he died in a Leap Year, on February 29th.)

Samuel Warren was an outstanding Canadian organist who first served a Presbyterian church in Montreal. He wrote a number of hymn tunes.

The continental divide of North America is a kind of geographical backbone running along the continent from north to south. Chief among the mountains that form this ridge is the Rocky Mountain range. And it is a significant watershed. Snow and ice that melt on the mountain peaks, flow either westward to the Pacific Ocean, or eastward across the continent, in the form of rivers and streams.

This will serve us as a picture of midnight, which poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes in one of his poems as “the watershed of Time.” And whether we retire to sleep precisely at midnight, or some earlier or later hour, the imagery is the same. We look back on what we have experienced that day, and forward with certain expectations for tomorrow.

It is God who made this great temporal divide of day and night at the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:3-5). And the Lord remains sovereign over both. As the Bible says, “The day is Yours, the night also is Yours” (Ps. 74:16).

Not only that; He is omniscient, knowing all that takes place in both. “The darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You” (Ps. 139:12). That should be a sobering concept to those who think darkness will hide their evil deeds (Jn. 3:19-20). But it is also a comfort to those who trust in the Lord. Dr. James Dobson has written:

“One of the most breathtaking concepts in all of Scripture is the revelation that God knows each of us personally, and that we are in His mind both day and night.”

As the psalmist puts it, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4).

To return to the thought that the night hours are a kind of watershed between yesterday and tomorrow, those moments before we go to bed can be a time for looking back, evaluating what is past, and looking forward to what we could face tomorrow. For the Christian, that means these are also an occasion to reflect on God’s faithfulness through the day, and entrust Him with what is to come.

One who did that was Joseph Anstice. As you can see from the dates given above, he lived only to the age of twenty-eight, and the last two years involved intense suffering. But in this “valley of the shadow of death” he wrote a number of beautiful and deeply thoughtful hymns. Mrs. Anstice later explained: “The hymns were all dictated to his wife, during the last few weeks of his life.” It is then he composed the following hymn, published posthumously. (You can read the stanza on the Holy Spirit on the Cyber Hymnal link.)

CH-1) Father, by Thy love and power
Comes again the evening hour;
Light has vanished, labours cease,
Weary creatures rest in peace;
Thou, whose genial dews distill
On the lowliest weed that grows
Father, guard our couch from ill,
Lull Thy children to repose,
We to Thee ourselves resign;
Let our latest thoughts be Thine.

CH-2) Saviour, to Thy Father bear
This our feeble evening prayer;
Thou hast seen how oft today
We, like sheep, have gone astray;
Worldly thoughts, and thoughts of pride,
Wishes to Thy cross untrue,
Secret faults and undescried,
Meet Thy spirit-piercing view;
Blessèd Saviour, yet, through Thee,
Grant that we may pardoned be.

CH-4) Blessèd Trinity, be near,
Through the hours of darkness drear;
Then, when shrinks the lonely heart,
Thou more clearly present art;
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Watch o’er our defenseless heads;
Let Thy angels’ guardian host
Keep all evil from our beds,
Till the flood of morning rays
Wake us to a song of praise.

Questions:
1) Is it your own practice to have a time of prayer at bedtime? (Or early in the morning, before the days activities begin?)

2) What topics does Mr. Anstice’s hymn suggest such prayers might cover?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 9, 2017

Before the Throne of God Above

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charitie de Cheney Lees Smith Bancroft (b. June 21, 1841; d. June 20, 1923)
Music: Sweet Hour, by William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)

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

Note: Charitie Bancroft was an Irish-American hymn writer. The daughter of an Irish clergyman, at some point she emigrated to the United States. In 1863 she published this hymn about Christ’s heavenly work, which she entitled “The Advocate.”

As to the tune (originally used with Sweet Hour of Prayer), the Cyber Hymnal offers Sagina as an alternative (used with Wesley’s And Can It Be?). I suggest you consider splitting each of the three 8-line stanzas in two. There are many more options with the 8.8.8.8 metre. To me, the truths need a tune a little more sturdy and stalwart than Bradbury’s meandering one. Try Duke Street (which is usually used with Jesus Shall Reign), or Germany (used with Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness).

It often amazes us, when we think about it. Our ancestors might simply gaze in awed disbelief at what we’re doing. We type the letters of words on a keyboard and they appear instantly on an illuminated screen. With ease, we correct any errors, we click “Print,” and our work appears on paper, almost soundlessly, in perfect, jet-black type.

Those who’ve been around long enough to have worked with the old typewriters appreciate the difference. The noisy clatter of keys that sometimes jammed, white-out or correction fluid, messy carbon copies, the repeated need to swipe a carriage return to move to a new line. Isn’t progress wonderful?

These changes have come about, in the last few decades, because of the ever more sophisticated computers we use, with their amazing array of programs and features. And they continue to shrink in size. A pocket-sized smart phone can do far more than the early computers that took up so much of our desk space. And the magic leading to the finished produce is hidden from view on a hard drive. We can’t see it happening.

There are other examples of that. The pipes and wires that bring water and electricity into our homes are normally out of sight. Hidden, but at work for us day and night. We turn a tap, or flip a switch, and almost always the water or electric power is there. The phenomenon is evident in nature too. We can’t see the wind, or the sun’s rays, but we see the handiwork of both, usually benign, but sometimes rising to an intensity that is harsh and hurtful.

In the spiritual realm, this invisible activity applies to Christ. The Son of God took on our humanity, and walked this earth for about thirty-five years. For the last three He undertook a public ministry, teaching people, and demonstrating His supernatural power. Both verbally and with miraculous signs He identified Himself as Israel’s Messiah-King.

But He was rejected, and cruelly crucified. For a brief time His fearful followers saw that as a devastating end of all their hopes. Then He rose from the dead, Conqueror over death and the grave. And believers learned that, far from being a defeat, His death was part of God’s plan. In it, the sinless Saviour paid our debt of sin, so that all who believe on Him might be forgiven, and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16).

Though His spiritual presence is with us still, the Lord Jesus is no longer walking the earth in physical form. He ascended back into heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3). The work Christ engages in there is detailed in the New Testament. It’s too extensive to deal with adequately in a short article, but here are a few things.

¤ He is our heavenly Intercessor and Advocate (Heb. 7:25; I Jn. 2:1-2).

¤ He is our Mediator and means of access to our heavenly Father in prayer (I Tim. 2:5; Eph. 1:6; 2:18).

¤ He is our great High Priest, and a dispenser of heavenly grace to meet our needs (Phil. 4:13, 19; Heb. 4:15-16).

¤ He is Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), and a provider of gifted workers to the church (Eph. 4:11-12).

¤ He is preparing heaven to be the dwelling place of His own (Jn. 14:2-3).

And Oh! so much more! Suffice to say that Christ is hidden, but at work on behalf of every child of God. Bancroft’s hymn is loaded with biblical allusions to the heavenly work of Christ.

CH-1) Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

CH-2) When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Questions:
1) Thinking of which heavenly ministry of Christ has been the most blessed to you?

2) Are there any other hymns you know that speak of Christ’s heavenly work? (If you’re stuck, Charles Wesley has a great one. See.)

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 6, 2017

Father, Thy Will Not Mine Be Done

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Colebrooke, by Henry Thomas Smart (b. Oct. 26, 1813; d. July 6, 1879)

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

Note: As of the time of writing this article, the Cyber Hymnal lists 124 of Montgomery’s hymns, but the present brief gem is not among them.

The words either/or, present a choice between two, implying that having both together is not possible. They present a kind of verbal fork in the road. Taking one means abandoning the other, going one way means we have decided not to go the other. As the saying goes, we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

This dilemma has been the subject of humour. Like the old joke about the stranger in town asking which street to take to get to the railway station. The response was, “Go left and you’ll be right; go right and you’ll be left [i.e. left behind].” And there’s legendary baseball player Yogi Berra, telling his friend Joe how to get to his house, saying, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Humour aside, either/or can represent a life-changing decision. In November of 2016, Americans had that kind of judgment to make in an election. A choice between two individuals for the office of president. It had to be either one or the other. Only time will reveal the wisdom or folly of the decision that was made.

In the Bible, the word “or” is used over a thousand times. Occasionally it represented this clear choice between two options. We see it when Abraham gave his nephew Lot a choice of where to pasture his flocks.

“Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left” (Gen. 13:9).

Lot, making his decision on the basis of which land looked more fertile and green (vs. 10-11), chose to camp near the wicked city of Sodom. Terrible consequences followed.

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus warns, “No one can serve two masters….You cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Matt. 6:24). Both God and money cannot control your life; it must be either/or.

But suppose a prior commitment has been made to the Lord. A commitment that is both sincere and steadfast (as described in Romans 12:1) . Once we determine that life’s choices will be governed by our loyalty to God and His Word, that priority, like glowing signpost, points to which road we must follow.

Three Hebrew slaves in Babylon were told to either bow in worship before an idol or be thrown into a blazing furnace. But their response was:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not [if He chooses not to], let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17-18).

In a similar vein, there is the agonizing decision which was before Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. He was facing the terrible torment of crucifixion, and He shrank from it in horror. (Who would do otherwise?) But loyalty to His heavenly Father, and a desire to fulfil His mission, triumphed.

“[He] fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will…Your will be done’” (Matt. 26:39, 42).

In England, on July 19th, 1829, William Rawson died. A much beloved husband, he was only twenty-eight. But, in the hours of suffering before his death, he exhibited a wonderful peace of mind, and expressed his resignation to whatever was the will of God for him. His mother, near his bedside in those last hours, wrote down the words of his godly witness.

Some time afterward, hymn writer James Montgomery was visiting in the home. He asked to see what Rawson’s mother had written, taking the account with him to his room that evening. In the morning, he returned the papers, having written the words of a new hymn in the margin. The hymn beautifully enshrines the young man’s testimony.

1) “Father! Thy will, not mine, be done;”
So prayed on earth Thy suffering Son;
So, in His name, I pray;
The spirit faints, the flesh is weak,
Thy help in agony I seek,
O take this cup away!

2) If such be not Thy sovereign will,
Thy wiser purpose then fulfil;
My wishes I resign;
Into Thy hands my soul commend,
On Thee for life or death depend;
Thy will be done, not mine.

Questions:
1) Have you recently faced an either/or choice in your life, one in which your loyalty to Christ was the deciding factor?

2) What has been the outcome of your choice so far? By faith in God, what do you foresee as the ultimate or final outcome?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | January 4, 2017

As Thy Days Thy Strength Shall Be

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Gott Sei Dank, by Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (b. Dec. 2, 1670; d. Feb. 12, 1739)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As of my work on this article, Hymnary.org’s information on this hymn is rather a tangle. It has both Frances Havergal and someone called Mrs. P. Munzinger credited as authors. But as you look at the rest of the page it becomes clear that two different hymns are being confused.

Benjamin Franklin quoted the proverb in the 1735 edition of his Almanac: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

As with many proverbs, there’s a grain of truth in that. Getting enough sleep, and making a good start to the day is worthwhile. But proverbs are not intended to be guarantees. Rather, they’re observations about how things often tend to work out. In truth, those with regular sleep habits aren’t always healthy, or wealthy, or wise. What we do with our waking hours is more important than when they start or stop.

Further, the proverb ignores a metabolism factor. Some are morning people, others are evening people. The morning folks–larks, they’re sometimes called–bounce out of bed at an early hour, and their minds and bodies are quickly in gear. They tackle the day’s work with zest. The minds of night owls are in a fog early in the day. They may feel they need the jolt of caffeine from that first cup of coffee to get them going. But late at night they are energetic and more productive.

And none of this addresses the spiritual dimension of life, which is not directly concerned with becoming wealthy or healthy in a material or temporal sense. Wisdom is more in its purview. And genuine godly wisdom is not a product of when we get up or go to bed. It comes through our relationship with God and His Word, and is to guide the daily walk of the Christian. The Bible says:

“The fear of the Lord [reverencing Him, giving Him His rightful place in our lives] is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Ps. 111:10).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him [recognize Him as your Lord and Saviour], and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).

And the Lord has promised sufficient grace–divine enablement–for each day to accomplish what He wants us to do. Just as He told Israel, long ago, “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deut. 33:25). And as He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

God’s ever-sufficient grace makes us strong enough to do His will. His will, not our own. The Lord doesn’t promise us we’ll be able fulfil selfish ambitions, or avoid any problems or trials in our lives. In truth, the latter are opportunities for Him to reveal His grace and goodness to us.

William Havergal was an English clergyman, serving as rector of St. Nicholas’ Anglican Church in Worcestor. At the midnight hour on December 31st, the bells of the church began to chime joyously, welcoming in the new year, 1859. Havergal’s two daughters, Maria and Frances shared a bedroom in the rectory.

Maria, wakened by the bells, roused her sister sharing a version of Deuteronomy 33:25 quoted above, “As thy days thy strength shall be.” Strength enough for each day of the new year. Frances (who seems to have been a morning person!) in moments composed a hymn poem in her head, and recited it to her sister.

CH-1) As thy days thy strength shall be!
This should be enough for thee,
He who knows thy frame will spare
Burdens more than thou canst bear.

CH-2) When thy days are veiled in night,
Christ shall give thee heavenly light;
Seem they wearisome and long,
Yet in Him thou shalt be strong.

Frances Havergal was twenty-three at the time of this incident. She went on to become one of our most highly esteemed hymn writers, giving us hymns such as Like a River Glorious, and Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

The next day, she added a little more to the poem quoted previously. It concludes:

CH-4) When thy days on earth are past,
Christ shall call thee home at last,
His redeeming love to praise,
Who hath strengthened all thy days.

Questions:
1) How has the Lord given you strength for a challenge or personal trial recently?

2) How might you be able to be a channel of God’s grace to someone you know who needs help?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 2, 2017

Abide with Me, ‘Tis Eventide

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Martin Lowrie Hofford (b. Jan. 27, 1823; d. Jan. 7, 1888)
Music: Millard, by Harrison Millard (b. Nov. 27, 1829; d. Sept. 10, 1895)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1884, an American Presbyterian clergyman named Martin Hofford published this beautiful hymn about the meeting of the resurrected Christ with a couple of His followers. The hymn is a favourite of the Mormons, though Hofford was not one of them.

To say “Good night” to someone is a custom that has been around for hundreds of years. And it usually implies a time of parting. The speaker is bidding farewell to some individual or a group. Research suggests the words are possibly a contraction of, “May God give you a good night,” a night of refreshing sleep, and safety from harm.

It’s our Creator who established the division of night and day. The Bible tells us:

“God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:3-5).

It’s only the omnipotent God who can create something out of nothing (ex nihilo), simply by His almighty word of command.

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6, 9).

Though there are exceptions–individuals such as nurses and police officers that work a night shift–the general rule is that “Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening” (Ps. 104:23). Especially in ancient times, activities such as work and travel were usually circumscribed by the daylight hours between sunrise and sunset.

There is, in the Bible (in Luke 24:13-32) the record of an unusual meeting that happened as night was approaching.

The Lord Jesus had been crucified days before, but many believers were not yet aware of His resurrection. Two followers of Christ were on their way from Jerusalem to the little village of Emmaus where they lived. We don’t know if these were two men, or a man and his wife. We know only that one of the two was a man named Cleopas (vs. 18). There is a tradition (without proof) that Cleopas is the same person as the one called Clopas in John 19:25. If that’s so, then the other person here is his wife, a woman named Mary.

As they walked along, the two were discussing what had happened in Jerusalem, specifically the death of Christ. Then the Lord Jesus joined them, but their sight was supernaturally controlled so they did not recognize their divine Companion (vs. 16). When He asked what they’d been talking about, they were surprised that even a Stranger had been in that area and seemed not to have heard about the crucifixion of “Jesus of Nazareth” (vs. 19-20).

Their hopes for the future were dashed when He was cruelly put to death. They’d heard rumours of a resurrection, but apparently they did not yet believe it. “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’” (vs. 25-26).

With that, Jesus began a Bible lesson, ranging through the Old Testament Scriptures, to show them that His coming was prophesied there, as well as both His death and future glorious reign (vs. 27).

By that time, they’d reached Emmaus, and it was getting dark. So the two said, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent” (vs. 29). With that invitation, He went in to stay with them for awhile, and a meal was served. Mysteriously Christ seems to have acted as the Host at that meal. He was the One who broke the bread as they ate (vs. 30).

In that moment, their sight was restored. They recognized Him (perhaps recalling when He did something similar at the feeding of the five thousand, Luke 9:16), and instantly He vanished. “And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (vs. 32). That is the basis for Hofford’s beautiful hymn.

CH-1) Abide with me, ’tis eventide!
The day is past and gone;
The shadows of the evening fall;
The night is coming on!
Within my heart a welcome Guest,
Within my home abide.

O Saviour, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide!
O Saviour, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide!

CH-2) Abide with me, ’tis eventide!
Thy walk today with me
Has made my heart within me burn,
As I communed with Thee.
Thy earnest words have filled my soul
And kept me near Thy side.

Questions:
1) Is the Lord Jesus a “welcome Guest” in your heart and life?

2) When was the last time your heart burned (you were blessed in a special way) in the study of God’s Word?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 30, 2016

In Age and Feebleness Extreme

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Vale, by John Duncan Buckingham (b. May 17, 1855; d. _____, 1928)

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

Note: Charles and his brother John were used of God to lead multitudes across Britain to faith in Christ. In a time of moral decay, God used their faithful ministry to stir the fires of revival across the land. And Charles Wesley remains one of our greatest hymn writers.

As to the tune, I’m not familiar of the one by Buckingham, but St. Catherine fits the words well (a tune we use with Faith of Our Fathers.). Having said that, this is not a hymn that suits a wide use. It is one man’s testimony, and is of interest because of that.

The term swan song is used to describe someone’s final work or words, just before retirement, or before death. It’s based on a legend, dating back centuries before the time of Christ, that these birds burst forth in a beautiful song, just before dying, though usually they’re either silent or only produce a raucous unmusical cry.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that an individual, moments before death, will speak with great wisdom and penetrating insight. Some dying words are trivial, some are incoherent. Others are painfully pathetic. Frank Sinatra died after saying, “I’m losing it.” Sir Winston Churchill’s last words were, “I’m bored with it all.” Queen Elizabeth I, when she died in 1603, said, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” And musician Bob Marley said, “Money can’t buy life.”

Others who’d lived rejecting God’s grace, died in angry defiance. When asked if he had any last words, Karl Marx said, “Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” And when the housekeeper of actress Joan Crawford tried to pray for her dying mistress, Crawford swore at her and said, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”

How sad all this is–tragic–when hope and peace, and abounding joy, are found in Christ, accessible to all who call on Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). And “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). By faith we can say, “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

For the believer, death becomes a doorway to far better things. David prayed, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). As the Apostle Paul put it, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Scientist Michael Faraday was asked, on his deathbed, if he knew what heaven would be like. He replied, “I shall be with Christ, and that is enough.” Theologian Jonathan Edwards said to those gathered around him, “Trust in God and you shall have nothing to fear.” Missionary Adoniram Judson said, “I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school. I feel so strong in Christ.” Martin Luther said, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit [cf. Lk. 23:46]! Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth.”

On her deathbed, Queen Victoria told those around her that she loved God and was His little child, so she was ready to die. Then she called for a hymn to be sung: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” Hymn writer Joseph Addison said, “See in what peace a Christian can die.” And hymn writer Charles Wesley (1707-1788) said, “I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness. Satisfied [cf. Ps. 17:15]!”

But there is something more from Wesley that needs to be added. He wrote more than 6,500 hymns, some are among the finest in the English language. But it’s a short hymn from the dying hymnist that we consider here. Near death, at the age of eighty, and in great weakness, he called for his wife to come so he could dictate to her one final hymn.

Here is how she reported it (with her own spelling): “The following lines I wrote from Mr. Charles Wesley’s repeating, a few days before he departed ye life. In age and feebleness extream.”

The hymn consists of only one stanza, but it’s a remarkable testimony from an outstanding servant of God. Charles Wesley’s last hymn says:

In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a helpless worm redeem?
Jesus! My only hope Thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart;
O, could I catch one smile from Thee,
And drop into eternity!

Oh my! There is, writ plain, a recognition of helplessness and any ability to save himself (cf. Isa. 41:14), but steadfast hope anchored to the Saviour. That is some swan song!

Questions:
1) What Bible truths are expressed or implied in this hymn of Wesley’s?

2) If you had to choose the hymns for your own funeral, what would they be?

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

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