Posted by: rcottrill | March 16, 2012

Hold the Fort

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

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The story of the Civil War battle that inspired this fine gospel song is told in the Wordwise Hymns link. What happened is used as an effective metaphor for the spiritual conflict each Christian faces.  Mr. Bliss wrote both words and music. And the tune fits the words very well. The opening two bars of the refrain sound just like a bugle call.

I don’t often bring humour into these blogs, but I’ll make an exception here. My father told the story of this hymn being used at the opening of a service. The church was large, and it was the custom for ushers to conduct congregants to their seats. A wealthy woman of rather large dimensions arrived late. Just as an usher brought her down the main aisle to a seat, the congregation sang CH-2, “See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on.” The intended point of the words was temporarily lost amid the laughter!

Now to more serious business! As noted above, the metaphorical text of this song, based on a historical incident in the American Civil War, carries an important spiritual message.

1) There is a spiritual battle going on (Eph. 6:11-12). “Fierce and long the battle rages” (CH-4), since the beginning of recorded time. Satan and his host are in rebellion against their Creator, and are determined to do everything possible to hinder His purpose and destroy His works. A key part of that is the devil’s malicious attacks on the people of God (I Pet. 5:8).

2) There are casualties, and it’s discouraging to see. “Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone” (CH-2). We read of it happening to the followers of the Lord Jesus. In His crisis hour, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). Paul had a similar experience, near the end of his life (II Tim. 4:10, 16). One of the problems is that “all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:10).

3) It is possible to stand firm. “In our Leader’s name we triumph” (CH-3). We are called upon to “resist” the devil, “steadfast in the faith [i.e. anchored firmly to the truth of God’s Word]” (I Pet. 5:9). We can have victory, by the grace of God (Jas. 4:6-7). “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

CH-1) Ho, my comrades, see the signal
Waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing,
Victory is nigh.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
“By Thy grace we will.”

4) We have a message of hope. “See the signal waving in the sky” (CH-1). The signal flag by which Sherman encouraged the beleaguered Union troops is a picture of the entire Word of God, and the great promises of God. In the daily struggle, we are assured of the presence of God (Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 13:5-6), and access to the resources of heaven (Phil. 4:13, 19).

5) Christ will come in victory. “Our help is near; onward comes our great Commander” (CH-4). Ultimate victory will come with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, in great glory (II Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 19:11-21). Yes, there are some sad defections and defeats among the saints, and Satan may bluster and gloat. But his doom is certain, as is the triumph of the Crucified.

CH-4) Fierce and long the battle rages,
But our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander–
Cheer, my comrades, cheer!

1) What are the limitations of Satan in his war against the saints?

2) What is there in the Scriptures, and expressed in this hymn, by which you can encourage other Christians in the struggles of life?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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