Posted by: rcottrill | June 2, 2014

The Song of the Soul Set Free

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Words: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)

Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)

Note: Dr. Oswald J. Smith was a Canadian pastor, missionary statesman, and hymn writer (giving us some 1,200 songs). In 1933, another gospel song writer, A. H. Ackley, sent him the manuscript of a tune, asking that Smith see if he could provide words for it. The latter placed the music on the piano in his Toronto home, and went right to work.

Ackley had suggested the basic theme, and Smith soon had three stanzas to fit the tune. Then, it occurred to him that the holy angels, not personally having experienced salvation through the Calvary work of Christ, couldn’t sing such a song from their own experience. That gave him the fourth stanza, and he quickly added a refrain. Oswald Smith was pleased with the result, and in later years considered it one of the best he’d written.

The song is a triumphant testimony to the sinner’s deliverance through Christ, and it was much used by the large choirs in Billy Graham’s evangelistic meetings. The Sydney, Australia, crusade choir made a recording of the song. I have it in my own disk collection.

1) Fairest of ten thousand, is Jesus Christ my Saviour,
The Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He is all my glory and in this heart of mine,
Forevermore I’m singing a song of love divine.

‘Tis the song of the soul set free,
And its melody is ringing;
‘Tis the song of the soul set free,
Joy and peace to me it’s bringing,
‘Tis the song of the soul set free,
And my heart is ever singing
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The song of the soul set free.

2) Once my heart was burdened, but now I am forgiven,
And with a song of gladness, I’m on my way to heav’n;
Christ is my Redeemer, my Song of songs is He,
My Saviour, Lord and Master, to Him my praise shall be.

One of Christ’s titles for Himself is “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). But notice the reference in the second stanza to the “Song of songs.” That’s actually the inspired heading of the Bible book we call The Song of Solomon. The opening verse says it’s “the song of songs which is Solomon’s” (S.S. 1:1). It means the most excellent song of all he wrote (and he apparently composed one thousand and five of them, I Kgs. 4:32).

But Oswald Smith cleverly turns the title of a romantic song about the love between a man and a woman to something that glorifies the Saviour. I have no problem with that, as long as we don’t lose the original intent of the book–which represents God’s stamp of approval on romance and marriage. Smith is simply taking the phrase and using it in a secondary and figurative way. Four times in the Bible the authors declare, “the Lord is my…song” (Exod. 15:2; II Sam. 1:18; Ps. 118:14; Isa. 12:2).

That connection with Solomon’s song doesn’t stop there. In the opening stanza Christ is referred to as the “Fairest of ten thousand,” and the “Lily of the Valley.” The first description is similar to what Solomon’s bride says of him, that he’s “chief among ten thousand” (S.S. 5:10). The second phrase is actually the bride’s description of herself: “I am the lily of the valleys” (S.S. 2:1). It’s a humble designation of herself as just a delicate little flower, formerly hidden away from view, but now exalted by the king. If we apply it to Christ, it might indicate His beauty of character, or His humble condescension to dwell among us.

3) When He came to save me, He set the joy bells ringing,
And now I’m ever singing, for Christ has ransomed me;
Once I lived in darkness, the light I could not see,
But now I sing His praises, for He has set me free.

The third stanza describes salvation as coming from darkness to light, and bondage to freedom, through Christ who paid the ransom for us. This lifts the saints to music and singing.

One more point should be made about the angels in the fourth stanza. We can say that the holy angels, not having been saved through faith in the Calvary work of Christ, will not be able to sing the song of the redeemed from personal experience. But I wouldn’t rule out their joining with us in singing praises to our Saviour. The “four living creatures” John sees around the throne of God are cherubim (a kind of angels). And they do seem to join in redemption’s song (Rev. 5:8-14; cf. Ezek. 10:20).

4) Angels cannot sing it, this song of joy and freedom,
For mortals only know it, the ransomed and the free;
Slaves were they in bondage, and deepest misery,
But now they sing triumphant, their long of liberty.

1) We do not know if we’ll also sing in heaven some of the hymns and gospel songs composed on earth. But supposing for a moment that we will, which ones would you think are especially appropriate?

2) What do you think is the meaning of the statement, “the Lord is our song”?

Wordwise Hymns (Oswald Smith born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)


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