Posted by: rcottrill | April 20, 2011

Tell Me the Old, Old Story

Words: Arabella Katherine (“Kate”) Hankey (b. Jan. 12, 1834; d. May 11, 1911)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

This high quality gospel song is a companion to I Love to Tell the Story. (For a further explanation of the connection between the two songs, see the Wordwise Hymns link.) Katherine Hankey wrote Tell Me the Old, Old Story during a time of serious and prolonged illness. She said later that the phrase in CH-1, “I am weak and weary,” described her own condition.

There is also a logical connection between the two songs. When the sinner realizes his spiritual need, he seeks for someone to tell him how it can be met. Then, when he appropriates God’s great salvation, he’s excited about spreading the news to others. The account of the starving beggars in Elisha’s day illustrate this principle (II Kgs. 7:1-20).

Though the words of the hymn are simple, the construction is thoughtful. Each stanza tells us something about the Lord we need to know, and gives an added motivation to keep sharing the gospel. It may be an “old, old story,” but God’s power to save is undiminished.

Supposed answers to the world’s problems, and to those of individuals, seem as plentiful as snow flakes in a blizzard. What we need, we are told, is better political leadership, more education, better medical services, effective pollution control, or maybe this self help book, or that one. Many of these things can have some effect in improving life at an external or superficial level. But the real underlying problem of humanity is sin. Unless we are prepared to deal with that in an effective way, all the rest fall short.

CH-1 declares the glory and love of the Lord, but reminds us that He is “unseen…above.” That is one reason why we need to share God’s revelation in His Word of these hidden things. And because many are “weak and weary,” as well as being “helpless and defiled,” we need to tell the story “simply.” Time enough to study deeper truths, and profound doctrines, but putting the gospel within reach, even of “a little child,” is likely going to be more helpful to start with.

CH-2 draws attention to the gospel story of God’s “wonderful redemption, ,” His “remedy for sin.” It’s a message that needs to be presented “slowly” and “often,” so it can be fully absorbed. Even those who have heard it before can “forget so soon.” If he can, the devil is going to distract the one who needs the gospel, and snatch away the seed of the Word (Matt. 13:4, 19).

CH-3 proclaims the wonderful truth that “Jesus came to save [sinners]” (cf. I Tim. 1:15; I Jn. 5:11). And when there’s a recognition that “I’m the sinner,” the individual is making a personal application of the truth, and we need to “softly” and “with earnest tones” develop the message of the gospel of grace, and tell it “always.”

CH-4 tells of the restorative power of the gospel. The words “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole” (Acts 9:34, KJV) refer to the physical healing of a man named Aeneas. But there are other kinds of “wholeness,” and Katherine Hankey makes a spiritual application. When there is a temptation to respond to the lure of “this world’s empty glory”–we need to hear again that fulfilment, true meaning, and spiritual wholeness are found in Christ alone. 

Notice how the glory of Christ, unseen above (CH-1) is contrasted with “this world’s empty [vain, worthless] glory” (CH-4). One is eternal (I Pet. 5:10); the other will slip through our fingers like grains of sand.

Any time it’s needed, the truth of the gospel bears repeating.

1) What “new” stories have you heard that suggests different supposed answer to man’s problems? Why are these inferior to “the old, old story”?

2) What suggestions for effective evangelism come from Katherine Hankey’s hymn?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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