Words: William Pierson Merrill (b. Jan. 10, 1867; d. June 19, 1954)
Music: Festal Song, by William Henry Walter (b. July 21, 1825; d. _____, 1893)
Note: Dr. Merrill was a theologically liberal preacher and author of some note early in the twentieth century. An authority on hymns and hymn tunes, he was asked to write a hymn suited to the “brotherhood movement” of his day. Some time after reading an article called “The Church of Strong Men,” by Gerald Stanley, he was traveling on Lake Michigan on board a steamer bound for Chicago, when the words for this song suddenly came to him. As first published in 1911, it was entitled simply “To the Brotherhood,” but it now takes its title from the first line.
CH-1) Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
In the second of the two Wordwise Hymns links, I’ve tried to give an analysis of the theological issues related to this hymn. As I say there, most evangelicals would likely have no trouble with the first stanza of the song, and perhaps the last (CH-4). They issue a ringing challenge to serve the Lord. But the idea of having the power to bring in some kind of universal brotherhood of man (CH-2) would give them pause. Nor is it the strength of human beings that will make the church great (CH-3). To sing such things, would be to take far too much credit to ourselves!
CH-2) Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
CH-3) Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!
We humans are brothers and sisters in terms of our humanity. We have the same Creator, and are all descended from Adam. However, we can only become spiritual kin by being born again into the family of God through personal faith in Christ. We “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26; cf. Jn. 1:12-13; 14:6).
Proponents of the universal brotherhood of man who suggest those of all religions are worshiping the same God are wrong. The claim is not only unbiblical, it engenders a deadly presumption. Outside of Christ, the unsaved are “children of wrath,” not children of God (Eph. 2:3; cf. Jn. 3:36). They are “without God,” and without hope (Eph. 2:12).
And in contrast to Merrill’s view exalting those who serve the church, we hear the Lord declaring, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Though God graciously uses human instruments, if the church is to be made great, it will not be feeble man’s doing, but the Lord’s. Paul confesses:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (I Cor. 3:6-7).
From the beginning, “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Though it is quite true that we need godly men in our congregations to “rise up” and take a stand for Christ, all the glory for whatever we accomplish belongs to Him.
This is not a hymn I can recommend or would be comfortable singing.
1) What is the true and biblical basis for us to be spiritual brothers and sisters?
2) Can you think of another traditional hymn that contains a fine sentiment, but is too false to the Word of God for you to use it?