Posted by: rcottrill | September 4, 2017

Standing on the Promises

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Words: Russell Kelso Carter (b. Nov. 18, 1849; d. Aug. 23, 1928)
Music: Russell Kelso Carter

Wordwise Hymns (for another article on this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Carter attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy, where he was a good student and an excellent athlete. Mr. Carter later became a teacher at the academy–of chemistry, natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Then, the year after he published the present song, he was ordained as a Methodist clergyman. And as if those career changes were not enough, he later trained and became a medical doctor! Along the way, he wrote many hymns, and co-edited a hymn book. And you can add to that his time as a sheep rancher, and the fact that he was a published novelist. That’s surely enough for more than one lifetime!

The lyrics of the song are good. But gospel musician Norman Johnson (1928-1983) felt Carter’s rather bouncy, and sometimes overly hurried melody did not suit the serious subject. He wrote a new tune called Turlock, named after the California city where he was married. It has since appeared in a couple of hymn books: Praise! Our Songs and Hymns, and Hymns for the Family of God.

Peter Marshall (1902-1949) was a Scottish-American pastor. He also served as the esteemed chaplain of the United States Senate. Marshall was know for his colourful and insightful prayers. Some of them may make us smile, but they often sharply strike the conscience. Once he prayed:

“Give us a clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for–because, unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”

That says a great deal. First, it’s an appeal to God to give us the spiritual insight, to see the significant issues of life with clarity. Then to be equipped to choose what is right and wise, and take our stand there. Without a consistency of personal convictions, we’re open to any foolish notion or moral perversity that has become the fad and fashion of the moment.

The word “stand,” used the way Peter Marshall does, refers to our values and priorities, our attitude concerning what is true and good. It is used in a number of compounds. We can stand for something; or stand on it; we can stand by our decision; we can stand with others.

The word is used in the Bible hundreds of times, with a wide variety of applications. But let’s consider a few New Testament examples that relate to the present theme. When we put our faith in Christ as our Saviour, the One who paid our debt of sin, we receive not only forgiveness, but God’s gift of eternal life (Eph. 1:7; Jn. 3:16).

It’s then we could be described as standing knee-deep in the grace–the unmerited favour of God. “We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2; cf. I Pet. 5:12). Not only are we saved, through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8), but we are exhorted to live by faith, with an ongoing trust in God (II Cor. 5:7). “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13).

There is also encouragement to study and stand steadfastly on the teachings of the Word of God. “Stand fast [firm] and hold the traditions [Christian teaching handed on] which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). This further relates to our stand against Satan, the enemy of our souls.

We’re exhorted to “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). And a key piece of equipment for spiritual warfare is “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (vs. 17). We are to take our stand, by faith, on the promises of God, “for we [believers] shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” to give account (Rom. 14:10).

In 1886, Kelso Carter wrote words and music for a gospel song expressing this theme. His song says:

CH-1) Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

CH-4) Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

1) What are the most important things you personally stand for?

2) Why do you stand for these things above all?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article on this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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