Posted by: rcottrill | November 30, 2016

Are You Counting the Cost?

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Words: Ina Mae Duley Ogdon (b. Apr. 3, 1872; d. May 18, 1964)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; Sept. 3, 1958)

Wordwise Hymns (Ina Ogdon)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ina Ogdon)

Note: Mrs. Ogdon was an Illinois school teacher, who also wrote many gospel songs, including the popular Brighten the Corner Where You Are. Charles Gabriel wrote the tune for this song, as he did for many of Ogdon’s others. Of the authoress, Mr. Gabriel writes:

“The object of every song seems to have been the winning of souls. Loved by thousands who have sung her hymns, she shrinks from celebrity in the knowledge that her songs are God-given, and that without Him she could do nothing.”

Frank Heneage relayed the following account to Homer Rodeheaver, Billy Sunday’s song leader, and Rodeheaver relates it in some length in his book, Song Stories of the Sawdust Trail (published by Moffat, Yard and Company, 1917). I’ve compressed his eighteen pages to fit this short treatment.

We enjoy pleasant stories, stories that end well, when “they lived happily ever after.” Though even some of those had a dark side. An early version of the fairy tale Cinderella had the ugly step-sisters stuffed in barrels full of nails and rolled down into the sea!

But in real life, there are times when the conclusion isn’t happy at all. Times when the account ends in heartbreaking tragedy and loss. We are gripped by such stories, as we see how the path to destruction is strewn with foolish choices.

There is a term for this kind of narrative. It’s called a cautionary tale, a story in which something bad happens that can be used as a warning for the future. Someone disregards the warning signs, or acts in a foolish or forbidden way, resulting in disaster. It’s to be hoped we learn a lesson from it.

Something like that happened to Jim Tarleton, early in the twentieth century. Here is his cautionary tale.

Jim was an intelligent young man who made good grades in university. But he came to New York City with one thing on his mind: having a good time. He had about a hundred thousand dollars in the bank–worth three or four million in buying power today. Intelligent, wealthy, but not wise. As Jesus said:

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37).

Tarleton rented a lavish apartment for himself and his pal, Al Cummings, and they started on a spending spree. Three or four times a week, they threw parties. Lots of girls, the best wines, Broadway shows, the works. This went on for a little over two years, then the crash came.

Jim was shocked when, for the first time, one of his cheques bounced. For awhile, his credit remained good, and he borrowed money. But the bills kept on piling up. When there were no more good times, Al walked out on him. Shortly after that, the landlord asked Jim Tarleton to move out, too.

He sold his good clothes to buy food, but soon that resource failed as well. As he spiraled downward, he found himself living in a bare room with a cot and one rickety chair, shaking with an illness that would eventually take his life. Jim wandered the streets, selling cheap calendars to anyone who would have pity on him.

One day he came across Frank Heneage, a businessman who had known him in his big spending days. Heneage was shocked to see the ragged, shaking, wasted figure before him. He found Jim a decent place to stay, paid the rent himself, and got him some decent food. Then he took Jim to a meeting of evangelist Billy Sunday.

Though Jim did not make a decision for Christ, one song, written by Ina Ogdon, was sung at the meeting that made a deep impression on him. The refrain asked:

Are you counting the cost, are you counting the cost?
When your Lord you refuse are you counting the cost?
Do you know without Jesus your soul will be lost?
When your Lord you refuse are you counting the cost?

Frank took Jim back to his room, promising to look for a job for him, which he did. But in his weakening condition, Jim couldn’t handle even the easy duties. He was fired. The next Frank knew, his friend was taken to the hospital, and he got a call saying Jim was in critical condition. When he arrived, and realized the end was near, Frank asked permission to stay with him through the night.

During those long hours of suffering, Jim kept mumbling, over and over, the words of the song that had stuck in his mind:

4) For what shall it profit you there, though you gain
The wealth of the world as a whole”
O shall not your labour be worse than in vain
If thereby you lose your own soul?

Are you counting the cost, are you counting the cost?
When your Lord you refuse are you counting the cost?
Do you know without Jesus your soul will be lost?
When your Lord you refuse are you counting the cost?

As cold death tightened its grip on the man, his last words to Frank were, “I…I guess I have found the cost…after all, old man.”

1) Is there someone you know on a similar road to ruin as Jim Tarleton took? What are you doing to attempt to rescue him or her?

2) Do you know someone whose life was turned around, through Christ and the gospel?

Wordwise Hymns (Ina Ogdon)
The Cyber Hymnal (Ina Ogdon)


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