Posted by: rcottrill | August 25, 2017

Thou Art the Way

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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: George Washington Doane (b. May 27, 1799; d. April ___, 1859)
Music: St. James, by Ralph (or Raphael) Courteville (b. before 1677; d. June ___, 1772)

Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: George Washington Doane was named in honour of America’s first president, who died the year Doane was born. He became both a pastor and a college professor, and he’s known for his strong support of world missions.

The first wireless radio broadcast dates back to 1906. The experiment was followed by more complex developments until, in the early 1920’s, the regular public broadcasting of radio programs included both talk and music.

It was soon realized that words and music could be combined to sell products of various kinds. With that, the singing commercial was born. On Christmas Eve, 1926, the first of these was used by a station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. To promote Wheaties, a breakfast cereal, a men’s quartet sang:

“Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran…”

General Mills, the maker of the cereal, had considered dropping the product because of poor sales. But they reported that, as the commercial ran in the weeks following, sales increased significantly in the area reached by the radio station, and Wheaties stayed around for decades after that.

Poetry, even when it’s a trite radio jingle, paints word pictures in order to help us better feel the facts. Then, music can add an even stronger emotional element, to get our attention and prompt us to act. Appropriate and memorable music can enhance the message of the words and increase their impact.

God knew that, long before human beings discovered it. Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, is actually a hymn book. The melodies originally used by Israel in singing the songs have been lost to us, but sing them they did, often with instrumental accompaniment.

We’ve since composed our own tunes to sing some psalms. Jesse Irvine, a pastor’s daughter, in Scotland, wrote a beautiful tune for Psalm 23, in 1871. She named the tune Crimond, after the town where she lived. Her melody is still used today for The Lord’s My Shepherd.

When God’s Word is set to suitable music, it can be taught and remembered better. Colossians 3:16 says:

“Let the word of Christ [the Scriptures] dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Our hymn books today contain many songs. When they are soundly biblical, and speak with clarity, they both enrich our praise and help the teachings of the Bible to stick in our minds. Particularly since the nineteenth century, gospel songs (likely what Colossians means by “spiritual songs”) have been used as a teaching tool. Early on, they were often called Sunday School Songs, since they were used there for that purpose.

A few examples: William Newell’s gospel song At Calvary doesn’t quote Scripture directly, but it outlines the whole work of salvation in simple terms. Ernest Sellers Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart quotes Psalm 119:11, and Daniel Whittle’s I Know Whom I Have Believed uses Second Timothy 1:12. William MacKay’s Revive Us Again, and Anna Warner’s We Would See Jesus, make use of phrases from Psalm 85:6 and John 12:21, respectively.

In 1824, George Doane wrote a song dealing with the declaration of the Lord Jesus in John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

His fine song deals with each of the three terms–the way, the truth, the life–in succeeding stanzas, summing up all three in the final one.

CH-1) Thou art the way: to Thee alone
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek
Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.

CH-2) Thou art the truth: Thy Word alone
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst inform the mind,
And purify the heart.

CH-3) Thou art the life: the rending tomb
Proclaims Thy conquering arm,
And those who put their trust in Thee
Nor death nor hell shall harm.

CH-4) Thou art the way, the truth, the life;
Grant us that way to know,
That truth to keep, that life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.

1) What other ways to be saved or reach heaven (other than through faith in Christ) have people tried?

2) Why is Christ the only way?

Wordwise Hymns (George Doane)
The Cyber Hymnal


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