Posted by: rcottrill | November 17, 2017

Only a Few More Years

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: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal (Philip Bliss)
Hymnary.org

Note: P. P. Bliss was one of the most outstanding gospel musicians of the nineteenth century. He wrote words and music for many songs, and also provided tunes for words written by others. A few of the many songs he gave us: Hallelujah, What a Saviour; Wonderful Words of Life; I Will Sing of My Redeemer; The Light of the World Is Jesus; Jesus Loves Even Me; and More Holiness Give Me.

Sadly, the man’s life was cut short by a terrible accident. When they were returning home from a Christmas holiday, the train the Blisses were traveling on crashed and burned, killing more than a hundred people. Bliss died trying to rescue his wife from the burning railway car. He was only thirty-eight. In his trunk, afterward, was found a slip of paper with the beginning of a new song: “I know not what awaits me, God kindly veils my eyes…” True, not only for him, but for each of us.

American author Mark Twain once claimed that, as a practical joke, he sent a dozen of his friends a telegram that said, “Flee at once. All is discovered,” adding, “They all left town immediately!” It was not that Twain knew anything incriminating about them. But they each applied the message according to what they knew about themselves.

Then there was the politician, around the same time, who had a standard question he asked someone he’d met before, but couldn’t remember who he or she was. He simply asked, “How’s the old complaint?” and could be guaranteed a long and revealing description of some trouble or other–because we all have them.

Sometimes messages will be read in different ways by different people. Even when the meaning intended by the author remains the same–and it’s clear to him, its application to us is affected by our own knowledge and experiences, and our own circumstances. All of this applies to the present hymn by Philip Bliss.

It’s a song published in one of his books for the Sunday School. And it’s very brief– three short stanzas, fewer than sixty words in total. It will be helpful to see the full hymn to consider its application to us. Philip Bliss entitled it Soon and Forever. Above it, in an early publication, are the Bible’s words, “The time is short” (I Cor. 7:29).

1) Only a few more years,
Only a few more cares;
Only a few more smiles and tears,
Only a few more prayers.

2) Only a few more wrongs,
Only a few more sighs;
Only a few more earthly songs,
Only a few goodbyes.

3) Then an eternal stay,
Then an eternal throng;
Then an eternal, glorious day,
Then an eternal song.

As the Bible verse quoted says it: “Time is short”–and we don’t really know how short. We may not have much longer to do things that have been a part of our lives for years. And when you think about it, there’s a message in the song that applies to various needs.

¤ It should speak to lost sinners, especially in the first two stanzas. The opportunity to turn to Christ and be saved is not endless. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). The grace of God is boundless, but will not be offered forever. Not much longer. “Only a few more…” Then what?

¤ There’s also a message there for suffering saints. Times may be difficult, but a better day is coming, a day of glory and eternal song. “Therefore we do not lose heart….For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:16-17).

¤ Finally, there is a message there for the servants of God–which every Christian should be, in one way or another. We need a sense of urgency. How much longer do we have to work and witness for Him, before the Lord brings down the curtain on this old world’s history? Will we say with Paul, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:6-7)? May it be so.

Questions:
1) Which of the three applications mentioned relates most closely to you?

2) How will you respond to the message of the song?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Philip Bliss)
The Cyber Hymnal (Philip Bliss)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 15, 2017

O Lord and Master of Us All

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: John Greenleaf Whittier (b. Dec. 17, 1807; d. Sept. 7, 1892)
Music: St. Anne, by William Croft (b. Dec. _____, 1678; d. Aug. 14, 1727)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Whittier)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: New England poet John Greenleaf Whittier didn’t consider himself a hymn writer, saying he had no knowledge of music. Even so, several hymns have come from his poems. The hymn O Lord and Master of Us All consists of a number of verses taken from a much longer poem entitled “Our Master.”

It should also be noted that different hymnals have used different verses of the original poem, causing the hymn to look quite different from book to book. And at least one hymnal has the last line of stanza nine as the more expected “the Life, the Truth the Way” (Jn. 14:6).

The tune St. Anne is commonly used with Isaac Watts’s O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

The saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” has been around at least since the fourteenth century. It portrays a person in the middle of a forest, who can see the trees around him, and may even make a careful study of some. But from his point of view he’s unable to appreciate the immensity and grandeur of the forest as a whole. To do that, he must go back (or above) some distance.

It points to the difficulty of one who can get so involved in the details and complexities of his subject that he fails to appreciate the main point, or misses the big picture. For example, consider an orchestra performing Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (the Pastoral Symphony).

¤ A newspaper reporter is there so he can write an article for his paper. He notes that the horn section in the first movement seems too loud, and the violins come in too soon at bar thirty-four. But he describes the depiction of the storm in the fourth movement as particularly well done.

¤ Another who attends the concert is herself a composer. She’s there to study the sonata format of the second movement, and note how it transitions into the scherzo of the third movement.

¤ But what of the one who simply delights in listening to good music? The music lover who attends likely notices none of the things mentioned. He’s there to enjoy the music, to simply let it wash over him, feeling it’s changing moods, and delighting in the experience.

It’s not that the purposes of the first two individuals are unworthy, or of no value. Examining every tree in the forest has its place. But so has the appreciation of the forest in broader terms.

This has its application to the Christian faith. There are 783,137 words in the King James Version of our Bible. And every word is important. It’s all God’s true and trustworthy Word, worthy of our study. But we mustn’t lose sight of the essential message of faith and obedience, sin and salvation, and the centrality of Christ in it all (Lk. 24:26-27, 44-45).

In Whittier’s hymn, he turns us from the many learned volumes about various details of theology, and from the systems, and symbols of various churches and denominations. Whatever “our name or sign,” he paints the Christian faith in broader strokes. To Whittier, the big picture is to follow Christ, the One who calls Himself the Light (Jn. 8:12), the Truth and the Way (Jn. 14:6). The Apostle Paul states it simply: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).

It’s not at all that the details of theology are unimportant. There is a place to study Bible doctrines and know them well. There is a place for symbols and rituals too, if they represent the reality of the Christian faith, and the gospel.

And what is that? The Christian gospel rests upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the faith and confession that He died to pay the penalty for our sins. Without that, doctrine is dead, and symbols become empty playacting.

CH-1) O Lord and Master of us all,
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.

CH-7) Apart from Thee all gain is loss,
All labour vainly done;
The solemn shadow of the cross
Is better than the sun.

CH-8) Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord,
What may Thy service be?
Nor name, nor form, nor ritual word,
But simply following Thee.

CH-9) We faintly hear, we dimly see,
In differing phrase we pray;
But dim or clear, we own in Thee
The Light, the Truth, the Way.

Questions:
1) What does the poet mean by saying, “The solemn shadow of the cross is better than the sun”?

2) What is the author trying to convey by saying “in differing phrase we pray”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Whittier)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 13, 2017

Look to the Lamb of God

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: Henry Godden Jackson (b. Jan. 1, 1838; d. Nov. 10, 1914)
Music: James Milton Black (b. Aug. 19, 1856; d. Dec, 21, 1938)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Henry Godden Jackson and his wife spent many years in Buenos Aires, Argentina, serving as Christian missionaries. After returning to the States, they lived in the area of Chicago. Jackson wrote quite a few hymns, many of them in Spanish. He based the gospel song we’re considering here on John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus quoted below. The tune was composed by James Black, who also gave us the song When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.

Some animals have remarkable eyesight. It’s said that an eagle can spot a rabbit 3.2 kms (2 miles) away. But which human being has the sharpest vision? Years ago, the testing of an unnamed Aboriginal man found he had what they called 6/1.5 sight, meaning the smallest print the average person could read he could read from four times further away.

But now, a new laser eye surgery is able to give patients what’s been called “super vision,” the ability to see fifty percent better than the best humans could formerly do by nature. Doctors say new eye charts will be needed to test this, since those with “super vision” can easily read the smallest print on the chart.

We can look with our physical eyes. But there’s also looking with our soul’s insight and perception, a kind of looking that involves giving attention to our interests and priorities. “Look to your future,” some will say, meaning think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Or we could be advised, “Look to your health.” Or, “Look to your conscience.”

The Bible too talks about this kind of looking. Using the term in a negative sense, the Lord describes corrupt leaders in Israel as “greedy dogs,” saying, “They are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain” (Isa. 56:11). And in our day, who hasn’t known politicians like that–who seem to be in office mainly for what they can get out of it for themselves?

In the positive sense, we are to look to God in faith and expectant hope.

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us” (Ps. 123:2). That’s an appealing image of trust and confidence.

The great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, put his faith in Christ in 1850, at the age of sixteen, responding to the call of God from Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” He decided, as the prophet Micah did, “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Mic. 7:7).

In the New Testament this look of faith is focused particularly on the Lord Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist introduced Him at the beginning of His public ministry, he called out:

“Behold! [Look!] The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).

It was a way of saying, “Here is the One who’ll fulfil those Old Testament sacrifices. His will be the final and full atoning sacrifice.

The writer of Hebrews invites us to…

“Consider Him [think over what you have learned about Him]….Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher [the Source and Goal] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2-3).

CH-1) If you from sin are longing to be free,
Look to the Lamb of God.
He to redeem you died on Calvary,
Look to the Lamb of God.

Look to the Lamb of God.
Look to the Lamb of God.
For He alone is able to save you,
Look to the Lamb of God.

CH-2) When Satan tempts and doubts and fears assail,
Look to the Lamb of God.
You in His strength shall over all prevail,
Look to the Lamb of God.

CH-4) Fear not when shadows on your pathway fall,
Look to the Lamb of God.
In joy or sorrow Christ is all in all.
Look to the Lamb of God.

Questions:
1) What or whom are you looking to, today, to meet your deepest needs?

2) What does it mean that Paul calls Jesus “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 10, 2017

Lord, While for All Mankind We Pray

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: John Reynell Wreford (b. Dec. 12, 1800; d. June 9, 1881)
Music: Dalehurst, by Arthur Cottman (b. circa Nov, ___, 1841; d. June 3, 1879)

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

Note: Wreford seems to have begun as a Unitarian, but there’s some evidence that he later joined the Presbyterian clergy. However, when he began to have serious problems with his voice, he retired from pastoral ministry and founded a school. He wrote A History of Presbyterian Nonconformity, in 1832. He also wrote several volumes of verse, and at least fifty-five hymns.

There is some question as to the date of his death. Another source has July 2, 1881, and still another has 1891. Historian John Julian, usually reliable in these matters, says Wreford’s death took place in 1881.

Most of the nations we know of have their own national songs. We hear some of them played at the Olympic Games, or on other occasions that bring countries together. So, what makes a good national anthem or song?

¤ The text should establish the identity of the nation, and perhaps tell a little of its history.
¤ It should glow with patriotism.
¤ Ideally, it will also have a spiritual element that recognizes the blessings of God, and includes prayers for the future.
¤ It helps too to have a tune that is uplifting, inspiring, and singable.

The English word “nation” has been used since the twelfth century. It comes from an Old French word, nacion, having to do with birth and descendants. In early years, the focus of the word was on a large group of people with a common ancestry (cf. Israel, Isa. 41:8). Later on, there was more emphasis on the nations being political and geographical entities.

After the worldwide flood wiped out all of humanity, with the exception of Noah and his family, God gave a detailed catalogue of the nations descending from Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis chapters 10–11).

The list of seventy nations in the tenth chapter has proven to be amazingly accurate. Using this list, and other ancient documents, British author William Cooper has been able to trace with precision the origins of the earliest Europeans. His book, After the Flood (revised in 2015) makes fascinating reading.

Though human beings, through exploration, settlement, treaty and conquest, establish themselves as national entities, the Bible makes clear that a sovereign God oversees this aspect of human history.

“When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples” (Deut. 32:8).

This had particular significance for the nation of Israel. In the Scriptures, God assures them, nearly one hundred and fifty times that it is He who has given them the land of Canaan, in perpetuity, as their own special possession. “The Lord appeared to Abram [later called Abraham] and said, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7; cf. 13:14-15).

But Deuteronomy 32:8 is not simply for Israel, it’s for all nations, asserting God’s sovereignty over them all. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14). “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours”(I Chron. 29:11).

Therefore, our national songs perform a significant service when they remind us of our accountability to God, and our dependence on Him. America’s Star-Spangled Banner, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee, as well as O Canada, celebrating my own nation in the north, each end with a stanza expressing trust in God and a prayer for His aid. Katharine Lee Bates’s America the Beautiful is a true hymn, and every stanza is an insightful prayer.

But in examining each of these songs, we can see that they’re nationally specific. They can’t be sung with the same meaning by other nations. However, that’s not the case with a hymn written by English clergyman John Reynell Wreford. He produced it in recognition of Queen Victoria’s 1837 ascension to the throne, but its application to any “native land” was recognized, and it was soon included in hymnals both in Britain and America.

CH-1) Lord, while for all mankind we pray,
Of every clime and coast,
O hear us for our native land,
The land we love the most.

CH-4) Unite us in the sacred love
Of knowledge, truth, and Thee;
And let our hills and valleys shout
The songs of liberty.

CH-6) Lord of the nations, thus to Thee
Our country we commend;
Be Thou her refuge and her trust,
Her everlasting Friend.

Questions:
1) What do you especially appreciate about your native country?

2) What concerns do you have about your country that you need to pray for?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 8, 2017

Lead Us, O Father

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: William Henry Burleigh (b. Feb. 12, 1812; d. Mar. 18, 1871)
Music: Langran, by James Langran (b. Nov. 10, 1835; d. June 8, 1909)

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

Note: Just after the Civil War, American poet, editor, and abolitionist William Henry Burleigh wrote a hymn, owning the nation’s weakness and appealing to God for help. While I don’t agree with his Unitarian theology, there are some good things in this hymn, which Burleigh entitled “Prayer for Guidance.” It could work as a New Year’s hymn.

It’s usually a mistake to criticize other people’s children–especially to the parents. We may think we’re being constructive and helpful, but it’s often not well received.

The same can be said for pointing out the faults of another nation. They may be justified in retorting, “That’s none of your business! Mind your own affairs!” But having said that, it might be legitimate to use another country’s troubles, with due humility, to discern instructive lessons for our own situation.

To the point, the United States, as I write this, has been facing a steady cataract of disaster and heart-wrenching tragedy. There was hurricane Harvey, followed quickly by hurricane Irma, bringing widespread destruction and flooding to southern Texas and Florida. Then came hurricane Maria, which leveled whole communities of Puerto Rico. And, as if that weren’t more than enough to bear, the worst mass shooting in modern American history was inflicted on an outdoor concert venue in Las Vegas.

Where does the fault lie for all of this? With certain individuals? With the government, or a political party? Or possibly more broadly still? Some see national disasters as a judgment of God on the spiritual drift of the nation as a whole. We must be careful of saying we can discern the mind and purposes of God in every case, but it’s true that there are times when the Lord allows adversity to get our attention, and turn our hearts toward Him.

The Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach [a shame] to any people” (Prov. 14:34). And, “Happy [blessed] are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 144:15). The history of Israel shows what happens when that’s not the case (Jud. 2:12, 14). Possibly there are other more recent examples.

In 2012, historian Stephen Mansfield published a remarkable book called Lincoln’s Battle with God. In it he traces the development of President Abraham Lincoln’s faith, from his early days as an atheist and a mocker of God’s Word, through a gradual acceptance of biblical truth and to his personal commitment to the Lord.

In the years before his assassination, the president grieved over the war that was dividing his country and bringing suffering to so many. He came to believe that neither the North nor the South was free of wrongdoing in the matter, but that the calamity of war was the punishment of a righteous God upon a sinning nation, especially because of slavery. He called his people to a day of “national humiliation, fasting and prayer,” with words which likely no politician would dare to use today. He sounds a warning that has echoes of what Moses said to Israel (Deut. 8:11-20). Lincoln said:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us.

We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

In light of this, William Burleigh’s hymn seems especially relevant, and it surely has a message for America, and Canada, and other nations, in our own day. Especially in the second stanza (and a fourth stanza, not included here) there is an appeal at the individual level, both to young and old.

CH-1) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of peace:
Without Thy guiding hand we go astray,
And doubts appall, and sorrows still increase;
Lead us through Christ, the true and living Way.

CH-2) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of truth:
Unhelped by Thee, in error’s name we grope,
While passion stains, and folly dims our youth,
And age comes on, uncheered by faith or hope.

CH-3) Lead us, O Father, in the paths of right:
Blindly we stumble when we walk alone,
Involved in shadows of a darksome night;
Only with Thee we journey safely on.

Questions:
1) What does the Lord expect of our nation’s leaders?

2) How can we as individuals help to guide our nation in a wise and righteous path?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | November 6, 2017

Have You Any Room for Jesus?

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: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: Room for Jesus, by Charlie C. Williams (b. Sept. 4, 1852; d. Sept. 11, 1882)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Major Whittle, a veteran of the Civil War, later worked for the Elgin Watch Company. Then he committed himself to serve the Lord and became a full-time evangelist. His hymn has a powerful message, not only for the unsaved, but for lukewarm believers. For the utterly amazing incident that brought about Whittle’s conversion, see the first of the Wordwise Hymns links. (And imagine the joy of those two men meeting in heaven!)

In 1959, college students, newly returned for the fall semester, decided to try answering a novel question: How many of them could stuff themselves in the Volkswagen Beetle of that day?

The car was designed for four people, with maybe room for an extra one if it’s a child. But if you aren’t expecting to drive anywhere, and a bunch of people simply pile into every nook and cranny, the students found they could manage seventeen or eighteen. And it became a fad for awhile. The current record, officially recognized, is twenty!

And what about the capacity of outdoor stadiums? The largest in North America is Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which seats 107,000–though there are claims of larger crowds there than that. The biggest in the world is the May Day Stadium in North Korea, which can hold 114,000 people.

The word “room” (from the Old English word rum) means space. To make room for something is to provide space for it.

It’s an important factor when purchasing a computer. How much information can it hold? This is calculated in bytes. A byte is a small unit of information, perhaps representing a letter of the alphabet or a single number. As the capacity of computer hard drives grows, new terms are needed to describe this “roominess.” A terabyte is one trillion bytes. Even bigger are petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes. (The combined space of all the computers in the entire world does not amount to even one yottabyte.)

But we can think of room in another way too. At the personal level, it can represent our priorities and what we do with our time and our treasures. Do you make room in your busy life for times of recreation and fun? Do you make room for family time? More importantly, do you make room for the Lord?

The Bible says of the wicked, “God is in none of his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4). Such a person has no room at all for God. The Lord doesn’t figure in his plans or activities. The Lord’s will is not consulted, the Lord’s person is not honoured. But what of the more religious of us?

Some have the idea that the answer to the question involves church attendance. That attending church Sunday by Sunday is making room for the Lord–which means roughly giving God His due for one hour out of one hundred and sixty-eight each week. But that could only be “church-ianity,” not Christ-ianity.

The Christian faith involves a personal relationship with Christ. Honouring Him as we should will not only mean a commitment to church activities. It will affect how we relate to our family, and to our friends and neighbours. And it will affect how we perform at school, at work, in our leisure hours and more.

It’s the desire of God the Father that we recognize “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11), and that “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). In Revelation, the Lord is pictured knocking on the door of a church, seeking admittance (Rev. 3:20). He also wants to be “received” into each part of our lives at the personal and individual level (Jn. 1:12).

CH-1) Have you any room for Jesus,
He who bore your load of sin?
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinner, will you let Him in?

Room for Jesus, King of Glory!
Hasten now His Word obey;
Swing the heart’s door widely open,
Bid Him enter while you may.

CH-2) Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?

Questions:
1) What are the things that take up the most “room” in your life?

2) What are you doing to keep Christ central and in control in all things?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 3, 2017

God Is My Strong Salvation

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: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This is a fine hymn. The tune Aurelia, also excellent, is usually used with The Church’s One Foundation.

But if you use the song, you need to address a little problem. The word “affiance” (line three of the second stanza) means trust, or confidence. It’s related to our word fiancee, referring to a trusted pledge of marriage. It could be explained to a congregation before the hymn is sung, but there’s another solution–to replace the word with another.

The Cyber Hymnal currently substitutes the word “sustenance.” But then the line doesn’t seem to scan properly. The parallel line in the first stanza, “In darkness and temptation,” has 7 sounded syllables. “His truth will be my sustenance” has 8, unless we shorten the last word to “sust’nance” which is a little odd.

Another word that (1) retains the meaning, (2) rhymes with “reliance,” and (3) can fit the metre is “assurance.”

His truth be my assurance,
When faint and desolate.

In Charles Dickens’s wonderful story, A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is first confronted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, he tries to explain away the apparition. “You may be an undigested bit of beef,” he says, “a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

He’s saying that what we eat can affect our perceptions, our point of view. So can other things. Illness, fatigue, or stress can do it too. Not that we necessarily begin seeing ghosts, but our understanding of how things really are is affected. We may move from happiness to discouragement, from faith to fear, simply because of such matters of human frailty.

The Bible tells us about a great king of Israel, and how his rebel son brought him into mortal danger and pierced his soul with grief. The king was David, and his wayward son was Absalom. David was a man of faith, and the Lord had led him from one triumph to another. But now he was growing old, and less able to cope with the troubles that descended upon him.

The account is found in Second Samuel, chapters 15-18, describing a period when the king experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Absalom secretly and slyly won the favour of the people over time (15:1-6), and began to organize a rebel army (15:10-12). Then the king’s close friend and counselor Ahithophel deserted David and joined Absalom, and the king fled from Jerusalem (15:13-14).

When Absalom entered the city and tried to establish his reign (16:15-16), David responded not as one with a God-given right to the throne, or as one concerned for the welfare of the nation. His main worry, as a doting father, was that his son wouldn’t get hurt. “Deal gently…with the young man Absalom,” he said (18:5). But David’s forces knew Absalom was a danger to the people, and they killed him (18:15). With that, the king was stricken with grief at the loss of his son (18:33).

In all this David’s faith was severely tried, and he wrestled with fears. Some scholars have suggested that he wrote Psalm 27 during this period. It’s a beautiful expression of triumphant faith, except for a jarring change of mood in verse 7. Critics have claimed that maybe the centre section was written by someone else, and the two passages patched together.

However, this theory fails to taken into account a couple of things. First, that it’s not that unusual for David’s psalms to contain dramatic changes of mood. And second, that this struggle of the king fits human experience–our own experience. Moments of strong faith are sometimes interrupted by an attack of doubt and desperation. Listen to David’s cry for help:

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me…. Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps. 27:7, 9).

We can identify with times like that. The important thing is that, as the psalm ends, David sounds a note of hope for us all: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (vs. 14).

“Waiting” involves trust, patience and attentiveness, with a readiness to respond, as the Lord reveals the next step. Waiting, in this context, does not necessarily mean inactivity. It means looking to the Lord, even as we are involved in life and our service for Him.

In 1822, newspaper editor and hymn writer James Montgomery produced a hymn on this psalm, focusing particularly on the first few verses and the last. It’s a brief hymn, but it has a stirring and encouraging message. (See the earlier note for the word “affiance.”)

CH-1) God is my strong salvation;
What foe have I to fear?
In peril and temptation
My Light, my Help, is near.
Though hosts encamp around me,
Firm to the fight I stand;
What terror can confound me,
With God at my right hand?

CH-2) Place on the Lord reliance;
My soul, with courage wait;
God’s truth be thine affiance*
When faint and desolate.
God’s might thy heart shall strengthen,
God’s love thy joy increase;
Mercy thy days shall lengthen;
The Lord will give thee peace.

Questions:
1) What do you think David means in Psalm27:1 when he says, “the Lord is my light”?

2) Is there something for which you are currently “waiting” on the Lord (see the definition of the word above)?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | November 1, 2017

Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain

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: Consolation (or Lindeman) Ludvig Mathias Lindeman (b. Nov. 28, 1812; d. May 23, 1887)

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

Note: James Montgomery was a newspaper editor and a hymn writer. He gave us Angels from the Realms of Glory, a wonderful Christmas carol. But here we’ll consider a hymn about the cross. Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain was published in 1819. A fine blending of doctrinal truth and devotional passion, it was inspired by a prophecy of Zechariah, ““In that day a fountain shall be opened…for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).

As for the tune, you also could try it with the tune Irbe, by Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876), to which we sing the Christmas carol Once in Royal David’s City.

Advertisers are paid a great deal of money to come up with symbols that represent companies and their products. Images that connect to them so well that they bring an instant and favourable association, the one with the other, sometimes worldwide.

See those golden arches along the road, or in print, and you know they represent the McDonald’s fast-food restaurants. The technology company Apple is represented by…an apple. The Volkswagen car company’s symbol is a V and W, superimposed over one another. Volks is German for people, and wagen means car, so the company wants you to see a “VW” as the people’s car, built for just regular folks.

We have no trouble seeing the cross on which Jesus died as the most recognizable symbol of the Christian faith. There are large ones and small ones, plain ones and bejeweled ones. They adorn church buildings, or are worn as jewelry, are printed on book covers and tee-shirts, or are tattooed on bodies.

The reasons why they appear are varied. The cross may be a statement of faith, a superstitious good luck charm, a bow to tradition, or simply a decoration with no awareness of its meaning. In most cases, however, the crosses we see are a radical departure from the cross that bore the Son of God, nearly two thousand years ago.

The crosses around us are often stylized, polished, crisp and clean, with no hint of unpleasantness. But to tell it like it is, crucifixion was a brutal means of execution, usually bringing a slow, agonizing death. This was intentional, as was the practice of executing criminals in public, in a prominent place. It was used as a warning and deterrent to others who were tempted to break the law.

And what does Scripture have to say about the meaning of the cross of Calvary and the death of Christ. There we read:

“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). “[Christ] for the joy that was set before Him [the joy of our salvation] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). “[He] made peace [with God] through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).

God’s Word tells us “there are “enemies of the cross” (Phil. 3:18), and “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (I Cor. 1:18). But, as Christians, “God forbid that [we] should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ [as the means of our eternal salvation]” (Gal. 6:14).

CH-1) Come to Calvary’s holy mountain,
Sinners, ruined by the fall;
Here a pure and healing fountain
Flows to you, to me, to all,
In a full, perpetual tide,
Opened when our Saviour died.

CH-2) Come in poverty and meanness,
Come defiled, without, within;
From infection and uncleanness,
From the leprosy of sin,
Wash your robes and make them white;
Ye shall walk with God in light.

CH-3) Come in sorrow and contrition,
Wounded, impotent, and blind;
Here the guilty, free remission,
Here the troubled, peace may find
Health this fountain will restore;
He that drinks shall thirst no more.

CH-4) He that drinks shall live forever;
’Tis a soul renewing flood.
God is faithful; God will never
Break His covenant of blood,
Signed when our Redeemer died,
Sealed when He was glorified.

Signed, sealed, and delivered, when we put our faith in Christ. “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).

Questions:
1) What words or phrases from Montgomery’s hymn powerfully describe the sinner’s desperate condition?

2) What words from the hymn describe what God can do for the sinner, through Christ?

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

Posted by: rcottrill | October 30, 2017

O That Will Be Glory

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel was perhaps the premier gospel song writer at the turn of the twentieth century. One song he published in 1900, in a book whose title fits our theme here. Using words from Psalm 66:2, the book was called Make His Praise Glorious. A fuller story of the origin of the song is given in the first of the two Wordwise Hymns links.

One of the most significant things about heaven is that it’s different from this present world. Remarkably so, endlessly so.

Even though there’s sometimes beauty and goodness around us, it’s never unmixed with its opposite. Shakespeare states it starkly:

“Comfort’s in heaven, and we are on earth,
Where nothing lives but crosses, cares, and grief.”

In contrast, heaven is far better in every way.

And given the pain and degradation of this world, and its temporary nature, shouldn’t we delight in the prospect of heaven? We do have to live here, and do business here for now, but God is preparing something far better up ahead. This should be reflected in our hymn books, but it isn’t always.

Back in the nineteenth century, before the discovery of wonderful healing drugs, it seems people thought a lot more about death, and getting ready for it. One hymn book from that period, sitting on the table beside me, has one hundred and thirty-seven hymns about heaven. But another from the late twentieth century has fourteen, and “heaven” didn’t even make the Topical Index. Maybe we’re getting more settled in, and satisfied with, this present world than we should be!

The Bible speaks of heaven more than five hundred times.

¤ Sometimes the sky, where clouds form and birds fly is what is meant by the word.

¤ Occasionally the term is used of outer space, the realm of the planets and stars.

¤ But often in view is “the third heaven” (II Cor. 12:2), where the throne of God is (Rev. 4:1-2), and the holy angels dwell (Heb. 12:22). Other names used for heaven include: “My Father’s house (Jn. 14:2), Paradise (II Cor. 12:3), the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22), and New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).

Heaven is being prepared by the Lord as a home for all who are saved through faith in Him (Jn. 14:2-3). Christians are already called citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), and there is an eternal inheritance reserved there for us (I Pet. 1:4). Christ is there now (Heb. 1:1-3), and it’s from heaven that He’ll return one day (I Thess. 1:10; II Thess. 1:7).

Heaven is a place of glory, illuminated by the glory light of God. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb [Christ Himself] is its light” (Rev. 21:23]. But the word glory can also describe what’s glorious in the sense of being majestic, magnificent, and wonderfully praiseworthy. To give glory to God is to give due praise and honour to Him.

We are to “give unto the Lord the glory due to His name” (Ps. 29:2). Because God’s name (representing His person) is glorious (Ps. 72:19), and His work is glorious (Ps. 111:3), it’s understandable that heaven will be the place where God is surpassingly glorious and most glorified (Rev. 7:12).

The song in view, O That Will Be Glory, was an expression often used by Ed Card, the superintendent of the Sunshine Rescue Mission in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Card was a radiant Christian who just bubbled over with the joy of the Lord. Whether he was preaching or praying, he would frequently exclaim, “Glory!”–by which he meant, “Praise the Lord! Isn’t that wonderful!”

He often ended his prayers with a reference to heaven, adding, “And that will be glory for me!” Charles Gabriel’s joyful song memorialized Mr. Card’s phrase with this fine gospel song.

CH-1) When all my labours and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

CH-2) When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Christ looks forward to having us with Him in eternity, both to see His glory (Jn. 17:24), and to share His glory (Col. 1:27; 3:4).

Questions:
1) What will in mean for us to behold the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ?

2) In what way(s) will we share in His glory (cf. Phil. 3:20-21)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | October 27, 2017

In the Field with Their Flocks

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: Frederic William Farrar (b. Aug. 7, 1831; d. Mar. 22, 1903)
Music: Chope, by Richard Robert Chope (b. Sept. 21, 1830; d. May 29, 1928)

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

Note: The hymn is a poetic paraphrasing of Luke 2:8-14. Regarding the tune, many books use one by John Farmer (1835-1901). In the Field with Their Flocks was written in 1871 by Frederic William Farrar, while he was an assistant master at Harrow School for boys in England.

Farrar was born in India, where his father was a missionary. Afterward he graduated with distinction from both Oxford and Cambridge, and became a celebrated prelate in the Church of England. By both his preaching and his literary output he gained international recognition. Later Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, he was also honorary chaplain to Queen Victoria.

The shepherds are a well known part of the Christmas story. But why? Why did God single them out particularly for a spectacular angelic visitation?

For an account of the birth of Christ and events surrounding it, we rely mainly on four Bible chapters, Matthew 1–2, and Luke 1–2. Mark mentions the birth not at all, leaping right into the work of John the Baptist and Christ’s years of ministry. John’s Gospel provides an important theological perspective on the birth in his prologue (Jn. 1:1-14), but gives no details about the event itself.

Luke begins his account with the birth of John, the one who’d be the forerunner, the announcer of the Lord’s coming, and Matthew takes us on through to the visit of the magi from the east, some months after the birth of Christ. In between, there is the miraculous conception in the womb of Mary, and the trip of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. This is followed by the announcement of the birth to some shepherds (Lk. 2:8-14).

It was Rudyard Kipling who spoke of “six honest serving men” employed by reporters and historians every day. Consider Luke 2:11-12. What happened: the birth of Jesus; Why it happened: because of all us sinners needing a “Saviour;” When it happened: “this day;” How to identify Jesus: He is wrapped in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger; Where He is: in the city of David (Bethlehem); Who He is: “Christ [the Messiah] the Lord [God in human flesh].”

But, again, how were the shepherds connected to the momentous event of the incarnation of the Son of God? The answer may lie in their proximity to the city of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, near where the shepherds were caring for their flocks, was situated about seven kilometres (4.5 miles) from Jerusalem. It’s likely, therefore, that these particular shepherds were keepers of sheep to be used in the temple sacrifices.

Couple this with John the Baptist’s presentation of the Lord Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), and Paul’s description of Him as “Christ, our Passover, [who] was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7), and we begin to see the link.

All the thousands of sacrifices under Old Testament Judaism were graphic pictures of what was to be fulfilled in Christ. The death of animals as innocent substitutes in place of guilty sinners pointed forward to the gospel message, “that Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:1, 3). That is what made the message of Christmas “good tidings of great joy” (Lk. 2:10). The One to be the final Sacrifice for sin had come.

Many of our Christmas carols tell the story of the angels and the shepherds: Angels from the Realms of Glory, The First Noel, and more. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night follows the wording of Scripture quite closely. But we look here at another, lesser known carol, one notable for its poetic beauty. (In the third stanza, a “lay” is a song.)

CH-1) In the field with their flocks abiding,
They lay on the dewy ground;
And glimmering under the starlight,
The sheep lay white around;
When the light of the Lord streamed o’er them,
And lo! from heaven above,
An angel leaned from the glory,
And sang his song of love.
He sang, that first sweet Christmas,
The song that shall never cease.
“Glory to God in the highest,
On earth good will and peace.”

CH-3) And the shepherds came to the manger,
And gazed on the holy Child;
And calmly o’er that rude cradle
The virgin mother smiled;
And the sky in the starlit silence,
Seemed full of the angel lay:
“To you in the City of David
A Saviour is born today!”
O they sang, and we pray that never
The carol on earth shall cease.
“Glory to God in the highest,
On earth good will and peace.”

Notice, in the angel’s message to the shepherds in Luke chapter 2, the words, “You will find…” (vs. 12), and the immediate action of the shepherds, “Let us now go…” (vs. 15), and finally, “And they came with haste and found…” (vs. 16). There was a ready response to the gospel message. I pray that the invitation to seek the Saviour has met the same ready response in your own heart.

Questions:
1) What are the two significant actions of the shepherds, after they had found Jesus (Lk. 2:17, 20)?

2) If you too have found the Saviour, how can you do these things in the coming week?

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

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