Words: Lewis Hartsough (b. Aug. 31, 1828; d. Jan. 1, 1919)
Music: Welcome Voice, by Lewis Hartsough
Note: This hymn of invitation was written in 1872, in Epworth, Iowa, while the author was conducting meetings there. Ira Sankey, over in England with Dwight Moody to hold evangelistic meetings, saw the song in a magazine the following year, and soon had it published in his popular Sacred Songs and Solos.
The Cyber Hymnal uses I Hear Thy Welcome Voice as the title (sometimes rendered “Thy gentle voice”), but some hymnals use the first line of the chorus, entitling the song I Am Coming, Lord. The hymn originally had six stanzas, but books I’ve seen use only the first three. In a stanza often not included, Pastor Hartsough ends with this triumphant note of praise:
CH-6) All hail! atoning blood!
All hail! redeeming grace!
All hail! the gift of Christ our Lord,
Our Strength and Righteousness.
In the four Gospels there are many examples of the Lord Jesus calling others, whether to salvation, or service, whether a call to discipleship (Matt. 4:21-22), or simply into more intimate fellowship with Himself. Some examples:
“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matt. 9:13).
“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
“”My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me….Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Jn. 10:27; 18:37).
“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice….And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (Jn. 10:4, 16).
The Lord even makes reference to an eschatological calling at the end of the present age:
“The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His [the Son of Man’s] voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:28-29).
God’s call to repentance and faith can come through a time of personal conversation with a Christian, or through the reading of God’s Word, or the reading of some devotional material. But many evangelicals may think of a call extended from the platform in a meeting, a summons to trust in Christ for salvation before others. There is both good and bad in this practice. It does give an opportunity for the individual to bear public witness to his heart’s desire. But there are cautions to keep in mind.
Such an invitation, in an evangelistic meeting, to raise a hand, or come forward, requires careful handling. It must be insisted upon by the one giving leadership that raising a hand, or coming forward saves no one. Only Christ can save. But these actions can be an evidence of what is happening inwardly, or indicate a desire for prayer, or perhaps a desire to get some questions answered.
Another danger is that the service leader will use emotional appeals and fleshly manipulation to gain a response. A distinction must be made between emotion and emotionalism. Dealing with sin, and seeking salvation are serious matters. Yes, there will be emotion involved, but the decisions made must not be driven by emotion. They must be a response to the truth of God’s Word, clearly presented.
Finally, follow-up is very important. The weeks afterward can bring powerful temptations to a new Christian. Perhaps friends will ridicule him (or her) for “getting religious.” Or comrades of his former way of life will try to lure him back again into sin. Support at such times is invaluable. It need not be a pastor, but at least some mature Christian the convert can talk to, and pray with, and a church he can attend to keep on learning, and growing.
CH-1) I hear Thy welcome voice
That calls me, Lord, to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord!
Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary!
1) What is your view of giving a public invitation to trust Christ for salvation? And if you do so, what cautions do you observe?
2) What are our best invitation hymns?