Posted by: rcottrill | October 13, 2010

Today in 1834 – In the Hour of Trial written

James Montgomery wrote this hymn with Luke 22:31-32 in mind, and the words of Jesus to Peter: “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” the song begins:

In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me,
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee.
When Thou seest me waver, with a look recall,
Nor for fear or favor suffer me to fall.

Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil, and woe;
Or should pain attend me on my path below;
Grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee.

We know that the Lord Jesus prayed much while on earth. The Gospels show us that. But does He pray for us now? Even James Montgomery seems to have been uncertain about that. A year later, he rewrote the opening line as: “In the hour of trial, / Jesus, stand by me.” The Holy Spirit prays for us (Rom. 8:26-27). But Christ’s advocacy with the Father on our behalf seems more related to the eternal effectiveness of His payment for our sins (I Jn. 2:1-2). And it is the Spirit of God who strengthens us in trials (Eph. 3:16). Even so, there is much to recommend at least the sentiment of this hymn. (For a little more about James Montgomery and his hymns, see Today in 1854.)

The following piano rendition is interesting–and probably brilliant. But the sprightly jazz stylings seem completely at odds with the text of this sober hymn. As I have pointed out numerous times, the text of our hymns is their most important element. It should be both biblical and clear. Then, think of the words as a great painting, and the music as the frame. The frame should help to draw our attention to the painting, and enhance its meaning, not be distracting, or carrying a complete different message. Skilled as this performance is, it utterly fails in that regard.

(2) Today in 1877 – Who Is on the Lord’s Side? written
Written by Frances Ridley Havergal, the original title of this hymn was Home Missions. Miss Havergal took her inspiration from the declaration of loyalty by a member of David’s army. “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: ‘We are yours, O David; We are on your side, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.’” (I Chron. 12:18). She thought of it as applying to Christians working and warring under their Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Saviour, we are Thine!

Not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm;
But for love that claimeth lives for whom He died:
He whom Jesus nameth must be on His side.
By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Saviour, we are Thine!


Responses

  1. Wonderful words! Unfortunately I have never heard this sung; and I have been unsuccessful locating a recording or music.
    Thank you for posting it and for your comments on my blog.

    • Thanks for the note. If you want to hear the tune, you can do so here.

  2. […] Today in 1779 – Luise Reichardt Born C. Luise Reichardt was born in Berlin, Germany. Her father was a composer and music teacher. Luise became a singer and vocal music teacher, first in Berlin, then in Hamburg (where she also became the director of a women’s choir). Tragedy struck her life when her fiancee died shortly before they were to be married. Later, she also lost her voice, surely devastating for a singer. She composed over 90 songs and choruses of her own, as well as translating and arranging the works of others. Miss Reichardt is known in hymnody as the composer of the tune Armageddon, to which we sing Frances Havergal’s Who Is on the Lord’s Side? (For more about this hymn, see the second item under Today in 1834.) […]

  3. I was a bit confused there for a minute. The tune I am familiar with for this text is “Mary Magdalen (Dykes).”

    http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/o/l/olethimw.htm

    Thanks for the link to the other tune.

    • “A bit confused”–I can identify! 🙂

      I pulled several hymn books of the shelf, and I see that Armageddon is the tune used for Who Is on the Lord’s Side? It is also the tune Dick Adams uses in the Cyber Hymnal. But Dykes certainly fits well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Two comments:
    1. I have always thought (and taught) that the Biblical foundation of the hymn “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?” is Exodus 32:26. 🙂
    2. I completely agree with your assessment of the style of the music of “In the Hour of Trial.”
    *** It’s entirely inappropriate.***
    Sadly, though, this is the direction that traditional sacred music (i.e., hymn music) is going. It’s the reason I left my (former) church earlier this year.
    Another example: A particular radio Bible preacher has, since the beginning of his radio ministry, used an upbeat and “modernized” arrangement of the Doxology. I have been very uncomfortable with this arrangement, but I endured it because I liked the preaching. Recently, this radio program changed their music to an even *more* upbeat Doxology: syncopated, soft rock. It’s barely recognizable any more as the Doxology. It’s so very, very sad.
    Another excellent radio preacher, who has been on the air for much longer, uses a very showy, ostentatious, arrangement of an old, traditional chorus. The music is totally at odds with his humble, low-key, excellent Bible-expository preaching.

    Carol Blair
    Gladewater, TX

    • Thanks for your thoughtful note.

      As to the origin of Miss Havergal’s “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?” both Don Hustad (in Dictionary-Handbook to Hymns for the Living Church), and Ken Osbeck (in Amazing Grace–366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions) reference First Chronicles 12 (specifically vs. 18) as the inspiration for the hymn. I know that Exodus 32:26 seems to fit well too, but devotional writers such as Frances Havergal drew spiritual parallels and illustrations from all over the Bible. By analogy, she applied Amasai’s Spirit-inspired words, “We are yours…We are on your side!” to our commitment to Christ.

      As to your second point, I grieve with you that much of our “Christian” music has lost its way. When I write my blogs, I look for renditions of the hymns on YouTube, that I can link to by way of illustration. Quite a number of different styles (and a range of quality) are represented in what I’ve used. But I have drawn a line. Other than as examples of what not to do I would never include something like the following–performances of the great hymn “Rock of Ages” that are far, far from the prayerful worship represented by the text. If you can stand it (!), listen here (after the first stanza), and here.

      Or you might check out the vulgar rock version of Handel’s “Messiah“! Listen to the strange justifications given for this atrocious abuse of arguably the greatest piece of sacred music ever written. The reasons why they think this is a great idea are very revealing!

      The music of our hymns has been subjected to false and foolish criteria that have moved it far from its higher purpose. A hymn’s tune should reflect the mood and meaning of the text. It should focus our attention on the words, and enhance our understanding of their message. But instead, we have assumptions such as:

      1) “The church has to keep up with the fashions of the world.” No. God says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I Jn. 2:15). “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord” (II Cor. 6:17).

      2) “The music should please me; it should be what I want.” That very much depends! If what you like is tainted significantly with worldly associations, how can it be a fitting vehicle to please God? And shouldn’t we be much more concerned with pleasing Him? Who is the real audience in our worship? Us? Or God? It reminds me of the Israelites wanting to copy the worship style of the idolatrous heathen nations (cf. Deut. 12:29-32).

      3) “We need to draw a crowd. We need to stir up excitement.” H-m-m… Where in the Bible does it say this is the job of sacred music? We are to “teach and admonish [exhort, warn]” one another with our hymnody (Col. 3:16). And in worship, the “excitement” of our songs should arise from an understanding of who God is, and what He has done for us (Ps. 28:7), not be something stirred up by a musical manipulation of our emotions. That confuses emotional excitement with spiritual edification.

      I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but perhaps another reader will see my comments and it will give him or her pause. God bless.

  5. I totally agree with the comments.

    At a practice session, a young guitarist said, “Let’s jazz up this hymn and make it livelier!” and the pianist played some syncopated upbeat chords. I was the song leader and I said that I would never sing that particular hymn that way.
    I explained the hymn story behind “Amazing Grace” and then only they agreed to sing it slower.

    What I have observed is that many of our younger ones (and some stubborn oldies) do not know the background and theology of the hymns so they end up wanting to make it “alive”. We have to teach and keep on teaching them.

    My 2 cents!

    • “Two cents” well worth sharing. Thanks! Every song leader or service leader needs to look at the message of the song, and the purpose of singing it. If the message calls for special reverence, and a thoughtful approach, “jazzing it up” isn’t going to help with that! And why are we singing it? Just to whip up excitement? Are these just fun songs to entertain us? I certainly don’t see that in Scripture. Instead, we are to teach and admonish [exhort, warn, counsel, help] one another, as well as singing them to the Lord, as an act of praise and worship (Col. 3:16).

      But does that, on the other hand, mean that every church service must be sober and sombre, and gloomy? No, of course not! But our joy (something the Bible speaks of hundreds of times) should come from an appreciation of the person of God, and from what He has done for us, not from the lively beat of our songs.

      Well now! Ya got me started, and I dun got to preachin’! Thanks again for your input.


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