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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Daniel Paul Rader (b. _____, 1878; d. July 19, 1938)
Music: Daniel Paul Rader
Note: Paul Rader served as pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, and followed founder Albert Simpson as president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. He founded the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle in 1922 and was senior pastor there for eleven years. He wrote many gospel song lyrics and a few tunes, and was instrumental in the founding of the Tabernacle Publishing Company. He was also a pioneer of Christian radio broadcasting.
For about forty years it was a New Year’s tradition, listening to the Guy Lombardo Orchestra play Auld Lang Syne. The custom cemented the connection between the old song and the dawning of the new year, and it helped make the orchestra famous. Before the group took on Guy Lombardo’s name, they were known as the Royal Canadians, and they promoted themselves as playing “the sweetest music this side of heaven.”
Gaetano (“Guy”) Lombardo (1902-1977) was a second generation Italian-Canadian, whose orchestra became known around the world. With a heavy emphasis on crooning saxophones, they had a unique sound. Some critics panned it as corny, but millions loved it. Even jazz great Louis Armstrong enjoyed their music. By any mark, they were a big success. It’s estimated that the orchestra sold as many as three hundred million recordings.
In 1928, American preacher Paul Rader held evangelistic meetings in Toronto. Guy Lombardo’s orchestra was playing at the hotel where the Rader team was staying. Each night when they returned from a meeting they’d walk past an advertising poster with a picture of the group’s leader, Lombardo, and the slogan, “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.”
Paul Rader was curious about what that might sound like, but he didn’t get a chance to hear the orchestra until one day that was so busy he didn’t have time for supper. Arriving back at the hotel late that evening, he asked the team’s music director, gospel song writer Merrill Dunlop, if he’d like to join him for a meal in the hotel’s main dining room, the only place open at that hour.
Since that was where the Lombardo orchestra was playing, the two men got their chance to hear what “heavenly” music sounded like. Dunlop said afterward that he thoroughly enjoyed it. Paul Rader replied, “That’s a good orchestra, and I’m sure it will go places. [However] they may say they are playing the sweetest music this side of heaven, but I disagree. There is nothing sweeter this side of heaven than a song that tells people about Jesus and His love.”
The person of God, and what He has done for us, has inspired the songs of believers for many centuries. Even a millennium before the Christian era, David wrote, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Ps. 28:7). On this side of the cross, we have many more reasons to sing. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Christian gospel, the good news of salvation (I Cor. 15:1, 3-4).
The shed blood Christ of has opened the way to God. In Old Testament times, the barrier between sinful man and God was symbolized by the curtain or veil in the temple that closed off the Holy of Holies where the Lord revealed His presence. Today, “having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…through the veil…let us draw [to God] near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22; cf. Matt. 27:50-51).
During the night after he listened to the Lombardo Orchestra, Paul Rader wrote the words and music for a song now little-remembered, a gospel song to express his thoughts. In the morning, he met with Merrill Dunlop at the piano in the main dining room where the orchestra had played the night before. There the musician added the harmony and the two created the song I’ve Found the Way, sweeter music, in its own simple way, than the “heavenly” music of the orchestra.
1) Often my heart longed to pray;
Sinner, so what could I say?
Then I was told of the blood-cleansing way
Opened by Jesus, my Lord.
I’ve found the way through the blood past the veil
To the Holy of Holies with God.
There in the presence of Jesus I stand,
Glorified Son at the Father’s right hand;
There I can plead, I can claim, I can have
All that He purchased for me.
There, by His pow’r over sin I prevail,
I can walk in the path that He trod.
1) What is it about the Lord and His blessings that you particularly like to sing about?
2) What, in your view, is the greatest hymn in the English language?