Posted by: rcottrill | August 5, 2009

A New Name

It is possible to change your name. Doing so officially is complicated, but it can be done. Names are switched for a variety of reasons. Hollywood often gives its stars new names, hoping to project a  more glamorous public image. Few likely know that the real name of movie cowboy Roy Rogers was Leonard Slye, or that romantic leading man Cary Grant was born Archie Leach, or that the name of tough guy John Wayne was actually Marion Morrison!

Hymn writers, though not officially changing their names, sometimes adopt pen names. Some do this for reasons similar to the above. Another name perhaps sounds more poetical to them. (William Dunkerley, who wrote In Christ There Is No East or West, chose the pen name John Oxenham from a novel.) Or they may do it for reasons of modesty–that they want the focus to be on the Lord, and not on them. Preacher and hymn writer Henry Ostrom ascribed his hymn, Is It the Crowning Day? to George Walker Whitcomb, so that if he asked for it to be sung in a meeting it would not direct undue attention to himself.

Fanny Crosby is the all-time champion of using pen names, with over 200 of them! The reason for this, in her case, is a bit different. She wrote somewhere between 8,500 and 9,000 hymns. And sometimes a new song book would be published in which almost all of the hymns were hers! Not only did this draw too much attention to her, the publishers felt some embarrassment about it. So, she varied the pen names in bewildering variety. Just consider a few of the “A’s.” We have Cora Adrienne, Fannie Jane Alstyne (a version of her married name), A. E. Andrews, James Apple, Alice Armstrong, and Rose Atherton. No wonder there is still some doubt about exactly how many songs she wrote!

Sometimes, in life, a new name represents a change of status. It suggests the past is past. Fresh goals have been set and life is taking a different direction. That has a spiritual application to each believer. The process of legally changing one’s name can be expensive. But there is a name change that is infinitely more costly than that. In order for sinners to become saints, God the Son had to become Man, and suffer cruel abuse and death at the hands of His creatures. Now, through faith in Christ we are born again spiritually, entering the family of God, with all the rights and privileges that entails (Jn. 1:12-13).

The book of Revelation pictures the Lord giving to each of the saints in heaven a white stone with a new name written on it (Rev. 2:17). The stone seems to be what we might call a New Birth certificate, and a symbol of the saint’s acceptance by God. Perhaps that new name is also the one recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life which lists all of the redeemed (Rev. 21:27).

That thought captivated Charles Austin Miles, leading him, in 1910, to write and publish a gospel song called A New Name in Glory. It speaks of the new name inscribed in heaven of a sinner who’s come to the Saviour.

I was once a sinner, but I came
Pardon to receive from my Lord:
This was freely given, and I found
That He always kept His word.

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
And the white robed angels sing the story,
‘A sinner has come home.’
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven,
Never more to roam.


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