Posted by: rcottrill | June 6, 2011

Wonderful Words of Life

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

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (and see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The two Wordwise Hymns links have to do with the birth of Mr. Bliss, and that of his tragic death, respectively. In spite of the shortness of his life, Philip Bliss is one of the most important and influential gospel song writers of the nineteenth century.

On one occasion, Christian publisher Fleming H. Revell (Dwight Moody’s brother-in-law) was about to launch a new Sunday School paper. He wanted a song that would capture the overall focus of the publication, which was to emphasize the vital importance of studying the Word of God.

The name of the paper was to be Words of Life. So Mr. Revell asked Philip Bliss if he could come up with a song to fit, suggesting the key text, John 6:67-68. In the passage, many who had followed Christ were drifting away (vs. 66). The Lord turned to His disciples and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” And Peter made this reply on behalf of the other men:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (cf. Jn. 5:24).

Words of eternal life…words of life. That is an apt description of the whole Bible. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). And as Hebrews declares, “The word of God is living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12; cf. I Thess. 2:13). “[God’s] word is a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Ps. 119:105). In the keeping of its principles and precepts “there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11).

Mr. Bliss duly produced a song, as requested, calling it Wonderful Words of Life.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Stanza CH-2 ties in the Scripture suggested by Fleming Revell with, “Christ, the blessèd One, gives to all wonderful words of life.” And the responsibility not only to know God’s Word, but to share it with others, is reflected in CH-3 (cf. I Pet. 3:15).

Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life.

It’s a simple song. And after it served its purpose, in the first issue of the publication, it was all but forgotten. But Mr. Revell passed on a copy of the Sunday School paper to another hymn writer, George Stebbins. Mr. Stebbins began using Philip Bliss’s song in evangelistic meetings, with he and his wife Elma singing it as a duet. It caught on, after that, and became very popular. Simple though it is, it reminds us that we have a precious treasure in the Scriptures–words of life.

Questions:
1) The “life” often spoken of in the Bible is spiritual and eternal life. But living according to God’s Word can transform our mortal lives here and now, too. In what ways?

2) Bliss asks, concerning the Scriptures, “let me more of their beauty see.” In what way is the Word of God “beautiful”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (and see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. What year was it written?

    • The song appears to have been published in 1874.


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