Posted by: rcottrill | February 1, 2016

The Master Has Come

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Sarah Doudney (b. Jan. 15, 1841; d. Dec. 15, 1926)
Music: Ash Grove, a traditional Welsh Melody

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Notes: In 1871, English author Sarah Doudney published this hymn about following the Lord. In recent hymn books it is wedded to the tune of an old Welsh folk song called The Ash Grove, which seems a good fit. The melody dates from 1862 or earlier. It has been used for some newer hymns as well.

A friend said to me one day, “I just saw a little boy marching across the school playground with great determination. Then he turned his head, waved his arm, and shouted, ‘Follow me, men!’ But,” said my friend with a grin, “there was no one behind him!”

We chuckled at that. Childhood imagination is amazing. Perhaps the boy envisaged himself as an army commander, leading his troops into battle. But he could as easily be Superman the next day, or a cowboy on the prairies.

Adults can have their daydreams too. Author James Thurber published a story in 1939 called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Walter was a meek and ordinary man, but he had a wild fantasy life. There he was in charge, the leader of the pack. He imagined himself being a wartime pilot, a surgeon, and even a heartless killer. But that points to a darker side to the tale. Even Walter’s fantasies often ended badly. Being a murderer put him before an imaginary firing squad! And his real life, though well-meaning, was so many times bumbling and ineffectual.

Leading and following are a part of many phases of our lives, but those relationships do not always function well. There are those who try to lead, but few seem willing to follow them. Then, some would-be followers seem to wander in life, with no leader at all. The Bible says that when Christ “saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).

Other people definitely choose the wrong leader. This sometimes happens, for example, when young people idolize a corrupt entertainment star or sports hero. In Jesus’ day, it was the hypocritical Pharisees who often led the Jewish people astray. The Lord made a cutting comment about them: “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14).

Some seemed to try living with two sets of values–in effect, two different leaders–at the same time. That won’t work. Of them the Lord Jesus said, “”No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Matt. 6:24).

In contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect Leader for us. And every Christian worker should be followed only to the extent that he or she consistently follows the Lord. As Paul put it, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1, NIV).

The Lord Jesus Christ has, in infinite supply, the knowledge and wisdom needed to lead us (Col. 2:2-3). His word is true, His promises are sure (Jn. 1:14, 17; II Cor. 1:20). He has both the power and authority to direct us (Phil. 4:13, 19; Acts 10:36). And we are given an eternally worthy goal, as His followers: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20; cf. Matt. 28:18-20 ).

Sarah Doudney’s hymn issues a challenge to each believer. Though Jesus, in calling His disciples, said to several, “Follow Me,” this hymn may have been inspired by another call, Martha’s message to her sister Mary: “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (Jn. 11:28, KJV).

CH-1) The Master hath come, and He calls us to follow
The track of the footprints He leaves on our way;
Far over the mountain and through the deep hollow,
The path leads us on to the mansions of day:
The Master hath called us, the children who fear Him,
Who march ’neath Christ’s banner, His own little band;
We love Him and seek Him, we long to be near Him,
And rest in the light of His beautiful land.

CH-2) The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary
And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
We follow the Savior and cannot turn back;
The Master hath called us, though doubt and temptation
May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:
“Press onward, look upward,” through much tribulation;
The children of Zion must follow the King.

CH-3) The Master hath called us, in life’s early morning,
With spirits as fresh as the dew on the sod:
We turn from the world, with its smiles and its scorning,
To cast in our lot with the people of God:
The Master hath called us, His sons and His daughters,
We plead for His blessing and trust in His love;
And through the green pastures, beside the still waters,
He’ll lead us at last to His kingdom above.

Questions:
1) If following Christ becomes difficult, what assurances and help do we have?

2) In (or into) what kind of Christian service is the Lord presently leading you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 29, 2016

The Lord Bless You and Keep You

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Numbers 6:24-26
Music: Peter Christian Lutkin (b. Mar. 27, 1858; d. Dec. 27, 1931)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Dr. Lutkin was a highly trained American composer, teacher of music, and organist. He also served as the editor of a hymnal. The music for the present prayer hymn was written in 1900. Other than replacing the repeated “thee” with “you” the text follows the reading of the King James Version.

We’ve likely all heard the proverb, “Good things come in small packages.” It’s a reminder that size is not necessarily a measure of quality or of importance. The girl presented with a tiny ring box by the fellow proposing to her understands that, as does the grandma holding her new baby grandson in her arms.

This is a blog about the hymns and gospel songs of the English-speaking church, their history and their biblical meaning. Most of these contain three or four stanzas or verses, and some add a repeated refrain. For example:

¤ Holy, Holy, Holy has four stanzas with a total of 126 words
¤ O God, Our Help in Ages Past originally had nine stanzas, with 204 words
¤ The Old Rugged Cross has four stanzas, and 254 words (counting repeated refrains)
¤ How Great Thou Art has four stanzas, and 274 words (counting repeated refrains)

But the beautiful hymn we’ll consider now, based on a priestly benediction in the Old Testament, is contained in three verses in the book of Numbers, with a total of 32 words. The hymn version, with several repeats and an Amen, runs to 49 words. Sometimes called the Aaronic Benediction, and originally intended for the people of Israel, it is a meaningful and encouraging prayer, not only fitted to the far side of the cross, but for today as well.

Given to Moses by the Lord, the Bible verses are these:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance [face] upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

There is a richness of meaning in those few words. Since they are given by the Lord Himself (vs. 22), we conclude that it is the Lord’s desire to bestow blessings on His people. We do not need to beg for them, as though we have to somehow change God’s mind. He is ready and willing to bless those who come to Him in faith.

For one thing, the Lord will protect (“keep”) His children. And for Him to be “gracious” is to show His loving kindness, mercy, an divine favour toward us. The “peace” spoken of is more that a cessation of war. It involves a settled tranquility of life and general sense of well-being. The double reference to the face of God is poetic imagery meaning, “May the Lord be actively present in your life, and look upon you with favour.”

The King James and New King James versions use all capitals with “LORD” to represent Jehovah, or Yahweh in Hebrew. The threefold use of the name in the prayer perhaps suggests the three Persons of the Trinity. It is God the Father who protects (Ps. 46:1; 121:1-2; ), God the Son who brings grace (Jn. 1:16-17), and God the Holy Spirit who nurtures inner peace (Gal. 5:22-23).

As quoted on the Cyber Hymnal, American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) said of this prayer:

“Here is a benediction that can give all the time, without being impoverished. Every heart may utter it, every letter may conclude with it, every day may begin with it, every night may be sanctified by it. Here is blessing–keeping–shining–the uplifting upon our poor life of all heaven’s glad morning. It is the Lord Himself who brings this bar of music from heaven’s infinite anthems.”

Peter Lutkin turned the words of Numbers into a melodious prayer. Though his composition has moving parts, with a bit of practice, a congregation can sing it effectively as a closing hymn. This writer also has heard beautiful choral renditions of it, concluding with an elaborate seven-fold “Amen.”

Following the Bible text quite closely, Peter Lutkin’s version says:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord lift His countenance upon you,
And give you peace, and give you peace; and give you peace;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious, and be gracious;
The Lord be gracious, gracious unto you. Amen.

Questions:
1) In what ways this week have you experienced some of the things mentioned in this prayer?

2) Is this a prayer you would offer on behalf of others?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 27, 2016

Something More Than Gold

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: attributed to T. P. Hamilton (no further data)
Music: attributed to T. P. Hamilton

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (T. P. Hamilton)
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1912, T. P. Hamilton published a children’s hymn about Zacchaeus called Something More Than Gold. At least, I think that’s what happened. We know nothing about Hamilton, other than his name. One hymn book calls the song and its tune Anonymous. Another says that someone with the initials F. E. Y. assisted Hamilton in writing the words, though it gives credit to the latter for the tune. To add to the confusion, another book credits the words to “Sister Helen,” and the tune to R. E. Winsett.

In 1969, American jazz singer Peggy Lee had a hit song called Is That All There Is? It presents the stark picture of an individual looking back on life with disappointment, and black despair.

“If that’s all there is, my friends,
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,
If that’s all there is.”

That seems to echo the disillusioned words of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity [“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” says the NIV]….So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry” (Ecc. 1:2; 8:15).

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood of all the sixty-six books that make up the Bible. Its important message seems almost to contradict what is said in the rest of God’s Word. But there’s a reason for that. Ecclesiastes gives us a sermon by King Solomon (Ecc. 1:1), and he’s pointing out the folly of a life lived without God, and without eternal values. He is describing the view of the natural man. But in much of it he seems to be speaking of himself and the mistakes he’d made.

Solomon began well. But his luxurious lifestyle, and his many idolatrous wives warped his values and, for a time at least, he turned away from God (I Kgs. 11:4). In Ecclesiastes, he presents the disappointment and disaster of a life that excludes God and a recognition of eternity. There is a key phrase found twenty-seven times in the book: “Under the sun” (e.g. Ecc. 1:3). It describes this mortal life, from the womb to the tomb. And if that’s all there is, then it’s a dead end street.

Whether it’s success in our job, or worldly pleasure we seek, or possessions, or popularity–whatever it is will not give us true meaning and satisfaction, because life “under the sun” is not all there is. The rich man craves one more dollar, the pleasure seeker one more lustful liaison, the drug addict looks for one more fix. But there has to be something more to life than that.

Of course, there is. And it’s possible that Ecclesiastes represents Solomon’s repentance and renewed faith in old age. As well as being a confession of what he learned would not work, Solomon ends by showing what the missing factors are in a life merely lived “under the sun.” The two things ignored or forgotten by secular man are: God, and eternity.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,” the king says (Ecc. 12:13-14). “God will bring every work into judgment [in eternity], including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” That being so, how should we live out our earthly lives? What basic values should we espouse? “Fear [reverence] God,” says Solomon, “and keep His commandments.” In other words, give God first place in your life, and live to honour and serve Him. “This is man’s all”–the bottom line for everyone.

The Bible tells of a man who lived in Jericho, during the time of Jesus (Lk. 19:1-2). Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector. These men served the hated Romans, and were allowed to collect funds far beyond what was required by the government, pocketing the difference. They were utterly despised by the Jews.

But Zacchaeus began to realize that there was more to life than money. As he listened to the words of Christ, he repented of his ways, and pledged to return any funds taken unethically. With great joy, he welcomed the Saviour into his home and into his life (vs. 3-10). Learn from Zacchaeus, and “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecc. 12:1).

1) A certain man of whom we read,
Who lived in days of old,
Though he was rich, he felt his need
Of something more than gold.

Oh, yes, my friend, there’s something more,
Something more than gold:
To know your sins are all forgiv’n
Is something more than gold.

The Bible tells us Zacchaeus was short of stature, but he wanted to see and hear Christ so much that he had climbed a tree for a better view, as He passed by.

4) But Jesus stood beneath that tree,
And said, “On Me behold;
Zacchaeus come down, I’ve brought thee
This something more than gold.

5) So he obeyed, and soon he found
The half had not been told;
Where love and joy and peace abound,
‘Tis better far than gold.

Questions:
1) Why is what the Lord offers to us “more than gold”?

2) What effect do you imagine the conversion of Zacchaeus and his transformed life had on his former customers?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (T. P. Hamilton)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 25, 2016

Pass It On

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Henry Burton (b. ___, 1840; d. _____, 1930)
Music: George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Henry Burton)
Hymnary.org

Note: Henry Burton was an English clergyman, though he did spend some years in America receiving training. I encourage you to read the absolutely remarkable story on the Wordwise Hymns link, of how this song came to be written.

The expression “pay it forward” was popularized by a 2000 Hollywood film, but it’s actually an old concept. It was used in a Greek play, in 317 BC, and can be found in the writings of Benjamin Franklin, and others.

The idea is this: rather than trying to pay back someone who has done you a favour, pass the benefit on to others, thus paying it forward. There are a number of positive principles in that–principles that are also found in the Bible. Let’s consider four of them, briefly.

First, there is the principle of grace. In the Greek language of the New Testament, that’s related to the word for gift. Grace represents a blessing given without expected payment. That so dominates the character of God that He is called “the God of all grace” (I Pet. 5:10). In saving sinners, God is gracious, because we have nothing by which to adequately pay Him back. No good deed or church ritual will do it. Only God can save sinners, as a gift of His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

At the human level, gift-giving is ideally an exercise of grace. We don’t expect payment for a gift–or it wouldn’t be a true gift. And when someone blesses our lives, helping us in some way, they may even be a little insulted if we try to pay for it! It’s not, “The Smiths had us over for dinner, so now we have to have them over!” No, it shouldn’t work that way. That is often simply a manifestation of pride.

Second is the principle of thankfulness. While we can’t pay for a gift, we can express appreciation for it. Believers do that to God when we thank Him for His blessings. And because God’s gracious gifts will never come to an end (Eph. 2:7), we’ll be thanking Him for all eternity. “Thanksgiving and honour and power and might, be to our God forever and ever” (Rev. 7:12). At the human level, we can and should show gratitude to those who are good to us (Phil. 1:3). Rather than attempt to pay back the giver of a gift, a sincere thank you is appropriate.

Third comes the principle of responsibility. Whatever we are given, we are responsible to use wisely and well. This gets us to the pay-it-forward idea. The Bible tells us that God’s gifts are a stewardship, something we’ve been entrusted with, and stewards should be faithful in their care of what is entrusted to them (I Cor. 4:2). “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another [i.e. serve one another], as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Pet. 4:10). What we are given we are called upon to put to good use.

Finally, there is the principle of multiplication. Like the expanding ripples on a pond when we throw in a stone, the good we do to others will continue to pay dividends in their lives, and in the lives of others they touch in turn. In the Bible, the teaching of God’s Word is seen that way. The Apostle Paul says, “The things that you have heard from me…commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). Keep the process going!

In the day-to-day world, grace and goodness are sometimes in short supply. More often the motivating concept is: “What will I get out of this?” Politicians dispense favours with a view to winning more votes. Stores offer bargains to try to bring in more customers who will spend their money there. But, think for a moment. What would our communities be like if each of us daily looked for ways we could benefit others–freely, and without seeking selfish advantage–with the blessings we’ve received?

Henry Burton gave us a fine gospel song in 1885, based on the pay-it-forward principle. It says:

1) Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on!
‘Twas not given for thee alone: pass it on!
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another’s tears,
Till in heaven the deed appears: pass it on!

2) Did you hear the loving word? Pass it on!
Like the singing of a bird? Pass it on!
Let its music live and grow,
Let it cheer another’s woe;
You have reaped what others sow–pass it on!

4) Have you found the heavenly light? Pass it on!
Souls are groping in the night, daylight gone;
Hold thy lighted lamp on high,
Be a star in some one’s sky:
He may live who else would die—pass it on!

Questions:
1) Have you had a special kindness shown to you this week?

2) What blessing received have you used to bless another person this week?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Henry Burton)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 22, 2016

Oppressed with Unbelief and Sin

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807
Music: Germany, William Gardiner (b. Mar. 15, 1770; d. Nov. 16, 1853) from Sacred Melodies, 1815.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton’s conversion)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Note: As of my writing of this blog, the hymn does not appear on the Cyber Hymnal. But it is worthy of note. Like a number of Pastor Newton’s hymns, it seems very much a personal testimony. It was published in Olney Hymns, the book he produced in 1779, with friend and poet William Cowper. Quite a number of Long Metre tunes (8.8.8.8) would fit it. Germany, the one I’ve chosen is commonly used with Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness.

The life of John Newton is likely better known than that of most other hymn writers. In his younger years he was a seaman, and was involved in transporting kidnapped African men and women to be sold as slaves on this side of the Atlantic. In addition to this reprehensible business, Newton was a blasphemer of such vile extremes that his profanity even terrified the hardened but superstitious sailors with whom he sailed.

The Lord finally got his attention in a violent storm at sea. So destructive did it seem that Newton thought at any moment he would be killed. When he cried out, almost without thinking, “Lord have mercy on us!” he was stunned by what he had said. A wicked man who only used God’s name to swear, how could he expect mercy? He deserved only the judgment of God. But he found in the Lord amazing grace.

The hymn is headed with the text Second Corinthians 12:9. It would be well for us to note two verses in the passage, as Newton applies them in a special way. In the context, we learn that the Apostle Paul has been troubled by some kind of physical malady (vs. 7). Exactly what this was is unknown, but he apparently felt it was hindering his ministry. He prayed on three occasions that the Lord would heal him (vs. 8), but no healing came. Instead:

“He [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10).

Here is God’s answer to a Christian praying for healing. But John Newton took the promise of grace, applying it to himself as a greatly distressed seeking sinner, crying out for God to save him. Grace, which Newton wrote about so wonderfully in his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace, can be defined most simply God’s undeserved, unearned favour and blessing.

It is by His grace we are saved, through faith in Christ, not because of any merit or works of our own (Eph. 2:8-9). But we need grace to live the Christian life too. In that case, it becomes the “favour” of divine enablement or empowerment granted to us. And we are invited to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

It’s in the latter sense that Paul seems to use the term grace. But Newton’s application of it to saving grace (and beyond) certainly makes sense too. And we get a powerful and moving sense of the extremity of his despair in this hymn. He was delivered from the storm, but then what? We see him here as he struggled for several days with his own guilt, and sought to find an answer.

As a point of interest, notice the words “fightings without, and fears within” in the first stanza. More than four decades after Olney Hymns was published, Charlotte Elliott used almost the same wording in stanza three of her great hymn, Just as I Am–“Fightings and fears within, without, / O Lamb of God, I come.” Perhaps a reading of Newton’s work suggested it to her, but the struggle is not unique to either one. Newton’s hymn says:

1) Oppressed with unbelief and sin,
Fightings without, and fears within;
While earth and hell, with force combined,
Assault and terrify my mind.

2) What strength have I against such foes,
Such hosts and legions to oppose?
Alas! I tremble, faint, and fall,
Lord save me, or I give up all.

3) Thus sorely pressed I sought the Lord,
To give me some sweet, cheering word;
Again I sought, and yet again,
I waited long, but not in vain.

Then comes the joyous turning:

4) O, ‘twas a cheering word indeed!
Exactly suited to my need;
“Sufficient for thee is My grace,
Thy weakness my great pow’r displays.”

5) Now despond and mourn no more,
I welcome all I feared before;
Though weak, I’m strong, though troubled, blessed.
For Christ’s own pow’r shall on me rest.

6) My grace would soon exhausted be,
But His is boundless as the sea;
Then let me boast with holy Paul,
That I am nothing, Christ is all.

Questions:
1) Have you, or has anyone you know, gone through the struggles of the soul pictured in the hymn?

2) What Scripture meant the most, in your (or their) journey toward the light?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Newton’s conversion)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 20, 2016

My Ain Countrie

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Mary Augusta Lee Demarest (b. _____, 1838; d. Jan. 8, 1888)
Music: Ione T. Hanna (b. Aug. 21, 1837; d. Aug. 6, 1924)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mary Lee wrote this hymn before her own marriage, when she was twenty-three. Her original poem appears to have had about eight stanzas. For the hymn, half have been chosen, and the metre adjusted slightly to fit the tune.

Some years ago, I was on the staff of a Bible college. The registration and orientation of freshmen each year was not always easy for them. So much to remember, so much to learn. It was all rather intimidating. And, for some at least, there was the problem of homesickness. Perhaps they had never been away from home before, for any extended period.

This added depressive feelings to the anxiety of facing something quite new. At times it actually made the students physically ill. Fortunately, a few days of adjusting to the college routine, along with making some new friends, usually moderated their distress considerably. But not always. There were a few, over the years, who simply surrendered to their longings for home and quit school before they even got going.

There is an example of homesickness in the Bible. Late in the Old Testament period, when the people of Israel continued in disobedience toward God, and in idolatry, He allowed the armies of Babylon to enter their land and take many of the choicest citizens captive. There, the people pined for their homeland.

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps. 137:1-4).

A similar experience led to the writing of a beautiful hymn in 1861. The story is told by gospel musician Ira Sankey, the soloist and song leader for evangelist Dwight Moody. I’ll only take a paragraph to summarize it here. I encourage you to read the whole story. You’ll find it on the Cyber Hymnal link.

Many years ago John Macduff and his young bride left Scotland for America, there to seek their fortune. After tarrying a few weeks in New York, they went on West, where they had great success. But John’s wife’s health began to fail. The anxious husband said that he feared she was homesick. “John,” she replied, “I am wearying for my ain countrie.” Her husband’s heart was moved with compassion, and in an effort to save her, he eventually sold his home, and took her back across the ocean to Scotland where she did indeed recover.

In 1861, Mary Demarest, when she heard about the Macduffs’ experience, wrote a hymn entitled My Ain Countrie. But instead of Scotland, she portrayed the believer’s longing for the home the Lord Jesus said He is being prepared for us above.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3).

Paul tells us he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). A similar longing for a home God would provide was in the heart of Abraham, centuries before. “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).

It was with such longings and expectations that Mrs. Demarest created her hymn. It was written in Scottish dialect, so it is not likely used many places other than Scotland–where Ira Sankey himself sang it as a solo, blessing many. Below the full text I’ve given a “translation” of several of the more obscure lines.

CH-1) I am far frae my hame, an’ I’m weary aftenwhiles,
For the langed for hame bringin’, an’ my Father’s welcome smiles;
An’ I’ll ne’er be fu’ content, until mine een do see
The gowden gates o’ heav’n an’ my ain countrie.

The earth is fleck’d wi’ flowers, mony tinted, fresh an’ gay
The birdies warble blithely, for my Faither made them sae:
But these sights an’ these soun’s will as naething be to me,
When I hear the angels singin’ in my ain countrie.

CH-2) I’ve His gude word o’ promise that some gladsome day, the King
To His ain royal palace his banished hame will bring;
*Wi’een an’ wi’ hert rinnin’ owre, we shall see
The King in His beauty, in oor ain countrie.

CH-3) **Sae little noo I ken, o’ yon blessèd, bonnie place
I only ken it’s hame, whaur we shall see His face,
It wad surely be eneuch for ever mair to be
In the glory o’ His presence, in oor ain countrie.

CH-4) He is faithfu’ that hath promised, an He’ll surely come again,
***He’ll keep His tryst wi’ me, at what oor I dinnna ken;
But He bids me still to wait, an’ ready aye to be,
To gang at ony moment to my ain countrie.

* With eyes and with heart running over, we shall see
** So little now I know of yonder blessed, lovely place
*** He’ll keep His appointed meeting with me, at what hour I do not know.

Questions:
1) What things in our lives help to awaken a longing for our heavenly home?

2) What things can tend to dampen or hinder this desire?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 18, 2016

I Lay My Sins on Jesus

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Published in 1843, as the Cyber Hymnal notes, “This is believed to be Bonar’s first hymn [of 600 he wrote]. He later apologized for it, saying, ‘It might be good gospel, but it is not good poetry.’” As to the tune, we also use Aurelia for The Church’s One Foundation.

As I write this, we have recently come through a Federal Election here in Canada. Now a different political party is in power. And if things run true to form, we’ll soon be hearing–perhaps for several years–that everything wrong with the country is the fault of the previous government. Old habits die hard, and the blame game has been in vogue almost since the beginning of time.

When our first parents sinned (Gen. 2:17; 3:6), and the Lord confronted them, Adam quickly blamed Eve. After all, she was the one who gave him the forbidden fruit to eat. But he went a step further, audaciously hinting that God was at fault too for giving him his partner (“the woman You gave me” (Gen. 3:12). Eve then passed the buck to the devil who, in the guise of a serpent, had tempted them (vs. 13). But God held them all responsible.

There are two sides to the coin–not me…him/her instead. We try to divest ourselves of responsibility by putting it elsewhere. How often have you seen signs that say, “We are not responsible for any loss or damage to your property [implying you are, for trusting them with it].” Whether it’s your winter coat at the cleaners, or your car in a parking lot, the owners do not want to be held accountable for anything going wrong–though, in fact, they may well be.

Why do we do it? It’s an attempt to preserve our good image, before God, before others, and even to ourselves. It’s no fun carrying a load of guilt. Even when we are held accountable, and pushed to apologize, we may try to blunt the force of this with all too familiar qualifications. “I was at fault, but you were too.” Or, “It was wrong, but I wasn’t well at the time.” Or, “It was an accident.” Or, “I couldn’t help it.” (You can likely supply other statements along a similar line.)

However, when it comes to sin, each one of us stands guilty before God. “We know that whatever the law [God’s holy Word] says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God….All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:19, 23).

God sees and knows not only our outward actions, but our inner motivations as well. As David the psalmist puts it:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4).

But something wonderful happened at the cross. There, the sinless Son of God was crucified and died, enduring the wrath of God–not for His own sins, because He had none (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:22). No, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

Please look at that last text again. Christ bore cruel treatment from whom? From us. We did it. We are to blame. By proxy, it was we sinners who abused and crucified Him. But a gracious God turned our wicked actions around and used them for our good. Christ bore the punishment for our sins, so that we, through faith in Him, might be cleansed and forgiven. Amazing!

It brings to mind a hymn by the great Scottish pastor and hymn writer Horatius Bonar, which takes its title from the opening line–“I lay my sins on Jesus.” In one sense, that is not true. It was God the Father who laid all our sins on Jesus. Isaiah 53:6 says it. “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” But that may not be what Dr. Bonar was saying. What God did at the cross has the potential of saving us, but it must be personally and individually applied.

In that sense, the statement is correct. If we are to receive God’s eternal salvation, there must come a time we say, as individuals, “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Like the Israelite of old with his sacrifice, we lay our hand, by faith, in the Christ of Calvary, and identify His death as for our sins (cf. Lev. 1:4). Recognizing that Jesus died for me is, in a way, personally attributing His death to my sins.

CH-1) I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us from the accursèd load;
I bring my guilt to Jesus, to wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious, till not a stain remains.

CH-3) I rest my soul on Jesus, this weary soul of mine;
His right hand me embraces, I on His breast recline.
I love the name of Jesus, Immanuel, Christ, the Lord;
Like fragrance on the breezes His name abroad is poured.

CH-4) I long to be like Jesus, strong, loving, lowly, mild;
I long to be like Jesus, the Father’s holy child:
I long to be with Jesus, amid the heavenly throng,
To sing with saints His praises, to learn the angels’ song.

Questions:
1) Have you laid your sins on Jesus in this personal way, and trusted in Christ for salvation?

2) If not, why not now?  And if so, what are some of the differences this has made in your life?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 15, 2016

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Ellacombe, an old German tune adopted and harmonized by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1821, hymn writer James Montgomery wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 72. Isaac Watts had based his hymn Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun on the same psalm. Montgomery wrote his as a Christmas hymn, but clearly many details of the psalm were not fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, but await His return. The tune, Ellacombe, is used also with Isaac Watts’s hymn I Sing the Might Power of God.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in a service at Westminster Abbey on June 2nd, 1953, before more than eight thousand guests, representing one hundred and twenty-nine nations. The three-hour service followed a traditional pattern, then over nine centuries old. There was a great deal of sacred choral music, but only one congregational hymn, All People That on Earth Do Dwell.

During the service, a Bible was presented to the Queen, with these words:

“Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.”

What a wonderful admonition for all rulers everywhere! Like the kings of Israel, Britain’s monarch was to take God’s Word as a guidebook for her rule (cf. Deut. 17:18-19).

A significant part of the long ceremony was an anointing, done with a special oil that was only used for that purpose. This is something we find in the Bible as well. Priests were anointed (Exod. 28:41); prophets were anointed (I Kgs. 19:16); and kings were too (I Sam. 10:1). It represented a dedication to the Lord, a setting apart of the person for the service of God. Possibly it also symbolized the empowering of the Spirit of God for service, since this is also referred to as an anointing (Lk. 4:18-19; Acts 10:38).

The roles of prophet, priest, and king are all to be fulfilled in the final sense by the Lord Jesus Christ. And, significantly, both the Hebrew word Messiah (mashiyach), and the Greek word Christ (christos) mean Anointed One. As Prophet, the Lord Jesus not only spoke the Word of God, He is, Himself, the living Word (Jn. 1:1, 14). As Priest, He not only offered a sacrifice to God, as the Old Testament priests did, on the cross Christ Himself became the final Sacrifice (Eph. 5:2).

Christ is also our coming King. Though He rules now in the hearts of individual Christians, those who own Him as Lord, one day He will return and set up His reign over all the earth.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:31-33; cf. Isa. 9:6-7; I Tim. 6:14-15).

Psalm 72 is a royal psalm. Apparently written by David (vs. 20), it is headed “A Psalm of Solomon”–not in the sense that it was written by him, but about, or concerning him.

The psalm celebrates the coronation of Solomon, David’s son. But it is soon clear that it goes way beyond what was possible for Solomon. It has a further application prophetically to the Messiah’s coming reign. Solomon’s investiture is seen as a foreshadowing of the coming of Israel’s Messiah-King who, in His humanity, was also a descendant of David (Matt. 1:1), and who referred to Himself as “greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42).

Only of Christ at His return could many of the things in Psalm 72 be said.

“In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth….Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him” (vs. 7-8, 11).

CH-1) Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression, and rule in equity.

CH-3) He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

CH-6) Kings shall fall down before Him, and gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him, His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion o’er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.

CH-8) O’er every foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious, all blessing and all blest.
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever, His name to us is Love.

Questions:
1) What would happen on earth if every ruler consistently followed the instructions given to Queen Elizabeth regarding the Bible presented to her?

2) From what the Bible says, what can be said about the characteristics of Christ’s coming reign?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 13, 2016

There Is No Name So Sweet on Earth

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: George Washington Bethune (b. Mar. 18, 1805; d. Apr. 27, 1862)
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: There is little doubt that American Pastor George Washington Bethune (1805-1862) was named after the nation’s first president, George Washington, who died in 1799. Bethune was offered the posts of chancellor of New York University, and provost of the University of Pennsylvania, but he refused both, preferring to continue in pastoral ministry. He was also the author of several books, and a number of hymns.

Babies are given names for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes the child is named after a parent, or other relative. Sometimes, parents select a name simply because it’s different, or interesting. Other times the name is chosen for its inspiring meaning. One of the first questions coming up when we meet a parent with a new baby is, “What’s his (or her) name?”

Years ago I spoke with a senior whose parents had decided to call her Eugenia. From a Greek word meaning nobility, it perhaps would inspire her to lofty goals and moral excellence. Lovely. But a problem arose when her father went to register the birth and the baby’s name. Nobody had told him how to spell Eugenia. A very proud man, rather than ask for help, he simply put down what he thought was right. That is why my friend’s official name is Engine!

Many names in history have become almost synonymous with the person’s deeds. Whether it’s Christopher Columbus, or Thomas Edison, most will associate specific things with the name. The same can be said for many Bible names. Noah, Samson, or Jonah, each calls to mind certain things.

For Christians, the name of Jesus has a significance above all others. It’s found over 940 times in the New Testament, often in combination with other titles such as Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Old Testament Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Jehovah [the Lord] is Salvation.”

As the New Testament begins, we are given, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). From this we learn that the human ancestry of Jesus can be traced back to King David, and even further back to Abraham, the founding father of the nation of Israel.

The work of salvation is specifically attached to His prophesied future accomplishments. As the account unfolds, we learn that Jesus would be born of a virgin named Mary (Matt. 1:18), and her betrothed husband Joseph was told, “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (vs. 21).

This close association of the name Jesus with salvation continues through the New Testament. In Titus 3:6 He is called “Jesus Christ our Saviour,” and in Second Peter 1:11 “our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” John says, “The Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14).

The Bible is also clear that this One is deity, God the Son come to earth and taking on our humanity. He is called “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” in Titus 2:13. And in Second Peter 1:1, “our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Only as Man could He die for the sins of human beings, and only in the perfection of His deity could He be undeserving of death for His own sins, and be Conqueror over death on our behalf.

“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Our hymnody often reminds us of the meaning and preciousness of the name of Jesus. The present one is an example, a simple gospel song written in 1858 by George Bethune. (Note: As of writing this blog, stanza five below was not included in the Cyber Hymnal. It alludes to the Philippians passage quoted above.)

CH-1) There is no name so sweet on earth,
No name so sweet in heaven,
The name, before His wondrous birth
To Christ the Saviour given.

We love to sing of Christ our King,
And hail Him, blessèd Jesus;
For there’s no word ear ever heard
So dear, so sweet as “Jesus.”

CH-4) So now, upon His Father’s throne,
Almighty to release us
From sin and pain, He gladly reigns,
The Prince and Saviour, Jesus.

5) To Jesus every knee shall bow,
And every tongue confess Him,
And we unite with saints in light
Our only Lord to bless Him.

CH-5) O Jesus, by that matchless name,
Thy grace shall fail us never;
Today as yesterday the same,
Thou art the same forever.

Questions:
1) How does it make you feel when you hear the name of Jesus profaned and used as a swear word?

2) What have you done about this?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | January 11, 2016

Forever with the Lord

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.

Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Terra Beata, a traditional English melody arranged by Franklin Lawrence Sheppard (b. Aug. 7, 1852; d. Feb. 15, 1930)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: James Montgomery, formerly a school drop-out, became a successful newspaper editor, essayist, and hymn writer. Among other worthy hymns, he gave us the Christmas carol Angels from the Realms of Glory. And in one sounding like a personal testimony, he wrote this sublime, though little known, hymn about the believer’s eternal future. It should be in every hymn book, but is not.

Montgomery’s original had twenty-one four-line stanzas. The Cyber Hymnal version has selected a dozen from these to form six eight-line stanzas. (“Pent” in CH-1 means confined; “anon” in CH-3 means soon.)

Shepherd’s tune, Terra Beata (meaning Beautiful Earth), is based on a melody he remembered for his childhood. We also use Shepherd’s rendering of it for the hymn This Is My Father’s World.

There are subjects we often try to avoid in polite company, some because they seem gross or nauseating to us, others because they might offend an individual’s feelings. But there is one particular topic that is spoken of with particular discomfort, and often shunned. An experience often anticipated with dread or anxiety, certainly as it seems to be approaching. Death.

In his profane 1939 play, The Iceman Cometh, playwright Eugene O’Neill depicts a number of drunken occupants in a bar, blathering on–for nearly five hours!–about their fanciful dreams and faded hopes. The better days they look for are mostly an alcoholic delusion. In truth, the Iceman (a symbol of death) lurks in their midst, unseen and largely unacknowledged, but an inevitable destiny.

What a depressing scene! How different life and death are viewed by those who know Christ as Saviour. Then death is seen, not as a hopeless end, but as a door to our endless hope. Poet and hymn writer John Milton wrote: “Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.”

The Saviour died on the cross of Calvary to take the wages of our sin upon Himself, that we, through faith in Him, might receive the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Having that assurance, for the Christian, death is “to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). So Paul speaks of his “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

“We know that when He [Christ] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I Jn. 3:2). “As for me,” says the psalmist, “I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Ps. 17:15). “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). “And those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:4).

The Lord Jesus declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (Jn. 14:2-3).

It was for our presence with Him in heaven that Christ petitioned His heavenly Father (Jn. 17:24). “Thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). That thrilling promise fueled Montgomery’s wonderful hymn.

CH-1) “Forever with the Lord!” Amen, so let it be!
Life from His death is in that word, ’tis immortality.
Here in the body pent, absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent a day’s march nearer home.

CH-2) My Father’s house on high, home of my soul, how near
At times to faith’s foreseeing eye thy golden gates appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints to reach the land I love,
The bright inheritance of saints, Jerusalem above.

CH-3) Yet clouds will intervene, and all my prospect flies;
Like Noah’s dove, I flit between rough seas and stormy skies.
Anon the clouds depart, the winds and waters cease,
While sweetly o’er my gladdened heart expands the bow of peace.

CH-5) “Forever with the Lord!” Forever in His will,
The promise of that faithful word, Lord, here in me fulfil.
With You at my right hand, then I shall never fail;
Uphold me, Lord, and I shall stand, through grace I will prevail.

CH-6) So when my latest breath breaks through the veil of pain,
By death I shall escape from death, and life eternal gain.
That resurrection word, that shout of victory:
Once more, “Forever with the Lord!” Amen, so let it be!”

“Our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us, that whether we wake or sleep [i.e. die], we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (I Thess. 5:9-11).

Questions:
1) What does the promise that we will be “forever with the Lord” mean to you?

2) What other hymns about heaven do you know and love?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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