“Wonderful City of God”

"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly…for He hath prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16)

     INTRO.: A song which seeks to express the wonder, glory, and beauty of that better country in which God has prepared for us a city is "Wonderful City of God" (#637 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #381 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by James W. Ferrill (1879-1975). A native of Texas and a member of the Church of Christ, Ferrill is best known as the author and composer of "A Soul Winner for Jesus." His song "Keep Telling the Story" and the tune for "I Glory in the Cross of Christ" by Stephen D. Eckstein, a convert from Judaism, have also been included in some of our older books. "Wonderful City of God" was copyrighted by Farrell and J. E. Thomas in 1907.

     Concerning Ferrill, I found the following information from an internet article on another song writer Franklin Lycurgus Eiland (1860-1909). "Other early students who sat at the feet of Eiland include Thomas S. Cobb (later along with Austin Taylor to edit several hymnals for the Firm Foundation); J. W. Acuff, author of ‘Just Over in the Glory Land’ (1906); W. D. Evridge, composer of ‘For the Soul That’s Redeemed’ (1906); J. W. Ferrill, writer of ‘A Soul Winner for Jesus’ (1907); Mark D. Ussery, author of ‘Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low;’ and Ira D. Brister, who authored ‘Not a Step Without Jesus.’ Eiland’s school drew large numbers of students from Texas and other states. Teachers of great ability were trained and one of his best song books, The Gospel Gleaner, was edited during that period."

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Wonderful City of God" appeared in the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; and the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections,  the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

The song reminds us of what will be in heaven that we should desire.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes that Jesus will be there
"There’s a wonderful place we call home, ‘Tis a city of glory divine;
It is built in the garden of rest, And that beautiful home shall be mine.
O that wonderful Eden so blest, Where Jesus the Master has gone
To prepare us a glorious home. There He bids us a welcome to come."
 A. Here we have no continuing city to call home, but we seek one to come: Heb. 13:14
 B. The city we seek is a garden of rest that is compared to the perfection of Eden: Gen. 2:8-10, Rev. 22:1-5
 C. But what makes it most wonderful is that Jesus the Master has gone to prepare us a home in that place: Jn. 14:1-3

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes that eternal day will be there
"O how sweet it will be there to dwell With the Savior and Father of all,
In a palace of diamond and gold, Where no evil to us can befall;
There no sorrow that home shall invade, And our loved ones no more there shall die–
One celestial, unbroken, sweet day, While eternity’s ages roll by."
 A. Not only shall we dwell with the Savior but also with God the Father, as like the 24 elders we fall down before His throne and worship Him: Rev. 4:9-11
 B. It will be a place where there will be no evil, sorrow, or death: Rev. 21:1-4 (this is one song where Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections apparently missed "our loved ones" and did not change it to "the saved ones")
 C. The reason for this is that it will be one celestial, unbroken, sweet day because there we shall receive eternal life: Mk. 10:30

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes that the redeemed of all ages will be there
"When the jewels of Jesus are brought There to shine in that land of sweet song,
What a beautiful, beautiful thought That I shall be there in that throng;
Sweetest peace to my soul it will be To behold such a glorious sight,
Where the sun and the moon neither shine, But the glory of God is the light."
 A. God’s "jewels" are those who have feard the Lord and meditated on His name: Mal. 3:16-17
 B. Therefore, when Jesus returns to raise the dead, we can look forward to being there in that throng who rise to meet Him the air and thus ever be with Him: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
 C. This throng will dwell forever where the sun and the moon neither shine but the glory of God is its light: Rev. 21:22-23

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats how wonderful and beautiful the city of God and our mansion in that city are.
"O wonderful city of God, Just across in that beautiful clime,
Where the angels’ sweet echo of song In musical cadencies chime;
O wonderful city of God, By faith in the distance I see
There’s a mansion prepared over there, Yes, a place in that city for me."
Some of our songbooks have been criticized for being over heavy with songs about heaven. It is true that in a few of our books somewhat cheap and tawdry, almost carnal, songs about heaven of a more recent vintage have crowded out great hymns of praise and devotion from the past, and that is to be regretted. However, the older I become and the more I see the need to set my affections on things above rather than things of this earth, the more drawn I am to songs about the "Wonderful City of God."

“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life”

"Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matt. 22:9)

     INTRO.: A hymn which urges us to go into the highways and bid as many as we can find to come to the Lord is "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life." The text was written by Frank Mason North, who was born on Dec. 3, 1850, at New York City, NY. After receiving degrees from Wesleyan University of Connecticut in 1872 and 1875, he became a Methodist Episcopal minister, and served churches in Florida, New York City (East Side Chapel and Calvary), and beginning in 1887 Middletown, CN, for two decades. Then in 1892 he became editor of The Christian City and served as Secretary of the Church Extension and Missionary Society of New York City until 1912. Sometime after 1900, he was urged by Caleb T. Winchester, an editor of the Methodist Hymnal, to provide a new missionary hymn for the 1905 edition. Having firsthand experience with the crowds of New York City and having recently preached a sermon based on Matt. 22:9, he produced this text which was first printed as "Prayer for the City" in The Christian City in June of 1903 and then was included in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal.

     From 1916 to 1920 North was president of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (now the National Council of Churches) and in 1919 became Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. During his life, he authored about a dozen hymns before his death on Dec. 17, 1935, at Madison, NJ. The tune (Germany or Walton) usually used with North’s hymn is of unknown origin.  It first appeared in the 1815 Sacred Melodies from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Adapted to the Best English Poets, and Appropriated to the Use of the British Church edited by William Gardiner (1770-1853). There it was attributed to the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).  Gardiner later wrote in his Music and Friends of 1838, "It is somewhere in the works of Beethoven, but where I cannot now point out." There is some similarity of the theme of the Allegro ma non troppo movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op. 70, No. 2, with the beginning and ending of the tune.

     However, most authorities reject the attributing of the melody to Beethoven. Some have suggested that it is based on a German folk song while others think that it is more likely the work of Gardiner himself.  The present harmonization seems to be from J. Ireland Tucker’s Hymnal with Tunes Old and New of 1872. This tune has been used with several other hymns as well. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, the tune was used with a hymn "Encamped About the Saints Below" by E. L. Jorgenson in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by Jorgenson. North’s text with Gardiner’s tune appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. Today the song may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song reminds us that not all the lost are overseas but many are in our very midst.

I. Stanza 1 points out that we need to hear the voice of Christ
"Where cross the crowded ways of life, Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife, We hear Thy voice, O Son of Man."
 A. We must go to the crowded ways of life because, as He did in Paul’s day, God still has "many people in this city": Acts 18:9-10
 B. The cries of race and clan are calling for someone to come and help them: Acts 16:9
 C. Therefore, we must hear the Lord’s voice over the city’s clamor and strive. What does that voice say? It is calling men to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30

II. Stanza 2 points out that we need to look for the lost where they actually are
"In haunts of wretchedness and need, On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed, We catch the vision of Thy tears."
 A. The lost will be found in haunts of wretchedness and need: Matt. 4:23-24
 B. They will be found in thresholds dark with fears, such as those who are sorrowing: Lk. 7:12-15
 C. But before we will be motivated to go there, we must catch the vision of Christ’s tears: Lk. 19:41-42

III. Stanza 3 points out that we need to minister to all people as Christ did
"From tender childhood’s helplessness, From woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow’s stress, Thy heart has never known recoil."
 A. Even innocent children need to be helped because of such is the kingdom of heaven: Matt. 19:13-14
 B. All people, women, men, famished souls–those who are spiritually sick–need the great Physician: Matt. 9:9-13
 C. The heart of Jesus never recoiled from such people because He was known as the friend of sinners: Matt. 11:19

IV. Stanza 4 points out that we need to show the compassion of Christ by helping others
"The cup of water given for Thee Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see The sweet compassion of Thy face."
 A. If we give our cup of water, Jesus says that we shall be rewarded: Matt. 10:42
 B. The multitudes still are like sheep having no shepherd: Matt. 9:35-38
 C. Therefore, His followers must show them the same compassion that Jesus Himself showed for those in need: Jn. 11:33-36

V. Stanza 5 points out that we need to call on Christ to heal people’s pain
"O Master, from the mountain side, Make haste to heal these hearts of pain.
Among these restless throngs abide; O tread the city’s streets again."
 A. Once Jesus came down from the mountain side to heal the epileptic: Mk. 9:21-27
 B. In like manner, we should call upon Christ to heal the spiritual needs of people even today: Mal. 4:2, 1 Pet. 2:24
 C. And He can figuratively tread the city’s streets again as His followers go everywhere preaching the word: Acts 8:4

VI. Stanza 6 points out that we need to show love in pointing others to heaven
"Till sons of men shall learn Thy love And follow where Thy feet have trod,
Till glorious from Thy heaven above Shall come the city of our God."
 A. The sons of men must learn the love of Christ: Eph. 3:19
 B. This will compel them to follow where His feet have trod: 1 Pet. 2:21
 C. As we proclaim this message, we point the lost to heaven above from which John saw the vision coming down of the eternal city of God where there will be no more suffering: Rev. 21:1-4

     CONCL.: Modern books have attempted to "update" the language (Your voice, Your tears, Your heart, given for You…multitudes to view, Your grace, Your face, Your love, Your feet, Your heaven–is this really necessary?), and in one book the first line of stanza 2 was changed to "In hands of wretchedness" (I do not know whether this was intentional or just a misprint). While New Testament Christians will oppose the purely "social gospel" which seeks to involve the church in serving the "whole man" by trying to meet his political, economic, and social needs, and thus often pushes doing what God ordained the church to do, and that is to meet man’s spiritual needs, into the background, we must realize that we should feel a compassion for suffering humanity and that we do have a responsibility to sinful mankind of going to the lost and proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life."

“When This Passing World Is Done”

"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jas. 5:8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us that the coming of the Lord is drawing ever nearer at which time we shall stand before Him in judgment is "When This Passing World Is Done." The text was written by Robert Murray McCheyne, who was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 21, 1813, the son of Adam McCheyne, and educated at Edinburgh University. Becoming a Presbyterian minister in 1835, he served for a year as an assistant at Larbert near Stirling, and then began work in 1836 with the St. Peter’s Established Church in Dundee. It is said that he was regarded as one of the most spiritually minded ministers in the Church of Scotland. This particular hymn was first printed as a poem entitled "I Am Debtor" with nine stanzas of six lines each in the Scottish Christian Herald, May 20, 1837. In 1839 he made a trip to Palestine with the Mission of Enquiry to the Jews from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. After returning from Palestine, he died at Dundee, just a couple of months shy of his thirtieth birthday, on Mar. 25, 1843, of unknown causes which baffled all of his physicians.

     Following McCheyne’s death, his hymns, some of which had been written in Palestine, appeared Songs of Zion to Cheer and Guide Pilgrims on Their Way to the New Jerusalem by the late Rev. R. M. McCheyne, Dundee compiled posthumously in 1843, and his Memoir and Remains were published in 1844 by Andrew A. Bonar. Both of these also included "When This Passing World Is Done." A couple of tunes have been used with the song.  Most denominational books have one (Mt. Zion) composed by Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900). However, all of our books set it to a tune (Spanish Hymn or Madrid) which is traditional Spanish melody arranged by Benjamin Carr (1769-1831). In 1825 Carr secured a copyright for variations which he had composed for a popular air of the time. He published it in 1826 under the title "Spanish Hymn Arranged and Composed for the Concerts of the Musical Fund of Philadelphia by Benjamin Carr, the Air from an Ancient Spanish Melody." The flyleaf indicates that the music was first performed in 1824. It was first used as a hymn tune in M. Burgoyne’s 1827 Collection of Metrical Versions.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1922 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1–three stanzas with words only; a fourth stanza and the tune were added in the 1925 edition) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson. The same tune was used with George W. Conder’s hymn "All Things Praise Thee" in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today "When This Passing World Is Done" may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat, the 2007 Sumphonia Hymn Supplement edited by Steve Wolfgang, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The song mentions several things related to the coming of the Lord and how that should affect us here.

I. Stanza 1 refers to the end of the world
"When this passing world is done, When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When I stand with Christ on high, Looking o’er life’s history–
(The original read: "When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story," but was changed to fit the music)
Then, Lord, shall I fully know, Not till then, how much I owe."
 A. Someday this passing world will be done: 2 Pet. 3:10
 B. Then, we shall stand with Christ on high: Phil. 1:23
 C. And at that time, we shall fully realize how much we are truly debtors to Him: Rom. 8:12

II. Stanza 2 refers to our walk here in this life
"Oft I walk beneath the cloud, Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But when fear is at the height, Jesus comes, and all is light–
Blessed Jesus! bid me show Doubting saints how much I owe."
 A. Walking beneath the cloud of midnight’s gloomy shroud represents the troubles of this life: Job 14:1
 B. Such troubles often bring fear: Jn. 20:19
 C. However, Jesus is the light who drives away our fear: Jn. 8:12

III. Stanza 3 refers to standing before the throne
"When I stand before the throne, Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art, Love Thee with unsinning heart–
Then, Lord, shall I fully know, Not till then, how much I owe."
 A. At judgment we shall stand before the throne: Matt. 25:31-32
 B. The righteous will be dressed in beauty not their own but in robes made white by the blood of the Lamb: Rev. 7:14
 C. Then we shall see the Lord as He truly is: 1 Jn. 3:1-2

IV. Stanza 4 refers to the praise of heaven
"When the praise of heaven I hear, Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise, Sweet as harp’s melodious voice–
Then, Lord, shall I fully know, Not till then, how much I owe."
 A. The praise of heaven is described as being like the voice of loud thunder: Rev. 14:1-2
 B. It is also described as being like the sound of many waters: Rev. 19:6
 C. And it is described as being like the sweet melody of the harp: Rev. 15:1-2

V. Stanza 5 refers to being chosen by the Savior
"Chosen not for good in me, Wakened up from wrath to flee,
(The original read, "Waked from coming wrath to flee.")
Hidden in the Savior’s side, By the Spirit sanctified–
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show, By my love, how much I owe."
 A. God chose us not for any good in and of ourselves but because of His love according to the good pleasure of His will: Eph. 1:4-5
 B. Those who respond to God’s choice are hidden in the Savior’s side: Col. 3:1-3
 C. Also they are sanctified by the Spirit: 1 Cor. 6:9-11

VI. Stanza 6 refers to the need to understand how much we owe here on earth
"E’en on earth, as through a glass, Darkly let Thy glory pass;
Make forgiveness feel so sweet, Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet–
E’en on earth, Lord, make me know Something of how much I owe."
 A. Here on earth, it is as though the Lord’s glory passes only darkly as through a glass: 1 Cor. 13:12
 B. However, even here we can feel that forgiveness is so sweet: Col. 1:13-14
 C. And even here we can find the Spirit’s help so meet: Rom. 8:18-27

     CONCL.: Here are the stanzas not included:
2. "When I hear the wicked call, On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink On the fiery deluge brink–
Then, Lord, shall I fully know, Not till then, how much I owe."
8. "Oft the nights of sorrow reign: Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night Thine anger burns, Morning comes and joy returns–
God of comforts! bid me show To Thy poor how much I owe."
9. "When in flowery paths I tread, Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall, but still arise: Jesus comes, the tempter flies–
Blessed Spirit! bid me show Weary sinners all I owe."
I have seen stanzas #s 8 and 9 in reverse order, and the stanza beginning "Oft I walk beneath the cloud" is actually #7, but the Sumphonia Hymn Supplement places it after #1 and before #3 as indicated above, so I have followed that order. I was born and raised in Ohio and in fact spent a goodly number of my located preaching years in the state. Among brethren there, this song is often known as the "Ohio State University" hymn because the same tune is used for the OSU Alma Mater song. However, I was singing it as a hymn long before I knew that, having paid very little attention to college sports. As a hymn, it reminds us of the need to be prepared for that day "When This Passing World Is Done."

“What, Never Thirst Again?”

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst…” (Jn. 4:14)

     INTRO.: A song which points out that those who drink of the water which Jesus gives shall never thirst is “What, Never Thirst Again?” The text was written and the tune (Never Thirst Again) was composed both by May Agnew Stephens, who was born in 1865 at Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  Joining the Salvation Army’s New York 3 Corps in 1890, she helped edit The War Cry and worked on the training home staff and in the Candidates Department. Around 1897, she began working at the Gospel Tabernacle with Albert Simpson, who established the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Two years later, she helped found the Eighth Avenue Mission and in 1902 married Harold Stephens. For the next two and a half decades, she traveled with her husband who was an evangelist in America, Canada, and Britain, and who later served as minister with the Parkdale Alliance Tabernacle in Toronto, Ontario, Canada “What, Never Thirst Again?” is dated 1903. Producing several other songs, such as “Do You Ever Feel Down-Hearted or Discouraged?” and “Is there a Heart That Is Waiting?”, May edited Missionary Messages in Song around 1910 and died at Nyack, NY, on Mar. 19, 1935.

     The only hymnbook in which I have ever seen the entire text of “What, Never Thirst Again?” is the 1972 Living Hymns edited by Alfred B. Smith for Encore Publications Inc. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson had a single stanza:
“I am feasting on the living bread, I am drinking at the fountain head;
And he that drinketh, Jesus said, Shall never, never thirst again.”
It uses a somewhat similar tune and almost exactly the same chorus as May Agnew Stephens’s song. Forrest M. McCann in Hymns and History calls this an “Anonymous text” and Great Songs lists the music as “Arr. by E. L. Jorgenson.”

     The song encourages us to seek the blessing of living water that Jesus offers for our salvation.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the water that comes from Christ
“There flows from Calvary a stream For every sinner’s pain,
And he that drinketh, Jesus said, Shall never thirst again.”
 A. Calvary is the Latin name of the place where Jesus was crucified: Lk. 23:33
 B. Poets often picture the prophesied fountain for sin as flowing from Calvary: Zech. 13:1
 C. Jesus offers living water to those come to Him: Jn. 7:37-38

II. Stanza 2 contrasts that with the waters of earth
“Earth’s fountains fair but mock our souls, Like desert phantoms lure;
And they that drink, the fainter grow, The keener thirst endure.”
 A. The Bible pictures this earth, even with its fountains, as being like a desert: Ps. 63:1
 B. Drinking at the fountains of earth is often used as a symbol of enjoying the pleasures of sin: Heb. 11:25
 C. This leaves the soul thirsting for something else that only God can provide: Ps. 42:1-2

III. Stanza 3 reminds us that Christ’s water is still available
“This stream from Calvary still flows To bless and cleanse and heal,
And he that drinketh, Jesus said, New life and rest shall feel.”
 A. The stream from Calvary still flows as a river that makes glad the city of God: Ps. 46:6
 B. These waters will cleanse and heal the soul: Ps. 51:2, Mal. 4:2
 C. Those who partake of them will feel new life and rest: Matt. 11:25-27, Jn. 10:10

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the blessings that come from Christ’s water
“Oh, blessed stream of pure delight! Oh, balm for every pain!
To thee I haste, for Jesus said I’ll never thirst again.”
 A. The stream of Christ is of pure delight because it causes us to rejoice always in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
 B. It is the balm for every pain: Jer. 8:22
 C. Those who drink will never thirst again because Christ will lead them to the living fountains of waters: Rev. 7:17

     CONCL.: The chorus concludes that those who drink of Christ’s water will be blessed.
“What, never thirst again? No, never thirst again;
What, never thirst again? No, never thirst again;
For he that drinketh, Jesus said, Shall never, never thirst again.”
It certainly is a wonderful thought that Christ offers to sinful mankind living waters that will heal our pain, quench our thirst, cleanse our souls, give us joy, and give a positive answer to the question, “What, Never Thirst Again?”

“What a Wonderful Savior Is He”

“…The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 Jn. 4:14)

     INTRO.: A song which extols the blessings of Jesus whom the Father sent to be the Savior of the world is “What a Wonderful Savior Is He.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Grant Colfax Tullar (1869-1950). This is another relatively unknown song for which Tullar provided both the words and the melody. The song was copyrighted in 1931. Cyberhymnal lists some eleven other texts which Tullar wrote.  A couple of such hymns in some of our books for which Tullar did both text and tune were “Beauty For Ashes” and “Savior Divine, Dwell in My Heart,” both copyrighted in 1948 by the Gospel Advocate. He also composed tunes for Carrie Breck’s “Face to Face,” “Nailed to the Cross,” and “Shall I Crucify My Savior?”, as well as S. C. Kirk’s “Our Best,” and he harmonized Joseph Peek’s melody for Howard Walter’s “I Would Be True.”  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, “What a Wonderful Savior Is He” appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson.

     The song helps to explain why Jesus is such a wonderful Savior.

I. Stanza 1 says that He died on the cross
“Jesus died on the cross that sin’s debt He might pay,
What a wonderful Savior is He!
Changing earth’s darkest night into glorious day,
What a wonderful Savior is He!”
 A. Jesus died on the cross: Phil. 2:8
 B. His purpose in so doing was to pay our debt of sin: 1 Cor. 15:3
 C. The result is that He made it possible for our night to be turned to day by bringing us life and light: Jn. 1:4-5

II. Stanza 2 says that He healed the sick
“Just a touch of His hand healed the leper that day,
What a wonderful Savior is He!
To the blind man came sight through a bit of moist clay,
What a wonderful Savior is He!”
 A. He healed the leper: Matt. 8:1-3
 B. He also gave sight to the blind, on one occasion using clay made from his saliva: Jn. 9:1-7
 C. The purpose of these miracles is that we might believe in Him: Jn. 20:30-31

III. Stanza 3 says that He provides spiritual water and manna for mankind
“To the fountain of life thirsty souls He will lead,
What a wonderful Savior is He!
Fainting ones with the Manna from heaven He will feed,
What a wonderful Savior is He!”
 A. He wants us to hunger and thirst after righteousness: Matt. 5:6
 B. To the thirsty, He gives the water of life: Jn. 4:13-14
 C. To the hungry, He gives manna from heaven: Jn. 6:32-33

IV. Stanza 4 says that He cares for us
“Falling sparrows He notes with a pitying eye,
What a wonderful Savior is He;
Needy ones who may call Him He’ll never deny,
What a wonderful Savior is He!”
 A. He notes even the falling sparrow: Matt. 10:29
 B. He knows those who are needy: Ps. 86:1
 C. And He will not deny them but tells them to cast their cares on Him: 1 Pet. 5:7

V. Stanza 5 says that He is preparing a home for us to dwell with Him
“There are mansions above which He’s gone to prepare,
What a wonderful Savior is He!
And someday we shall see Him and dwell with Him there,
What a wonderful Savior is He!”
 A. Jesus has gone to prepare each of us a mansion or dwelling place in His Father’s house: Jn. 14:1-3
 B. Someday, He will come again so that we shall see Him as He is: 1 Jn. 3:1-3
 C. Then His people will be taken home to dwell with Him in His very presence: Rev. 22:1-3

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of what a wonderful Savior and Friend Jesus is.
“What a wonderful Savior is Jesus,
What a dear loving Friend He would be;
What an offering He made when our ransom He paid,
What a wonderful Savior is He.”
Jesus is our Friend, and we should love Him for what He has done for us.  He is also our Lord and Master, and we should obey Him. In addition, we should continually praise His name because “What a Wonderful Savior Is He.”

“Watchman, Tell Us of the Night”

"…Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh…" (Isa. 21:11-12)

     INTRO.: A hymn which tells us that one of the blessings which came to the world through Jesus Christ was the light of a new day is "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night." The text was written by John Bowring (1792-1872). Author of several hymns, such as "In the Cross of Christ I Glory," "Father and Friend," and "God Is Wisdom, God Is Love," he published it in his 1825 Hymns: As a Sequel to Matins. It is said that the conversational style reflects the author’s travels and experiences in the service of the British Colonial government. Several tunes have been used with or suggested for this hymn, including one (St. George’s Windsor) which is usually associated with Henry Alford’s "Come, Ye Thankful People Come," but one (Antiphonal Hymn or Watchman) that was intended specifically for it was composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872).  It is dated 1830 was first published in The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music, tenth edition, of 1831. When Bowring was in China, he informed A. P. Happer, a minister, that he first knew of the poem’s employment as a hymn in 1834 or 1835 when he attended a prayer meeting of American missionaries in Turkey and heard it sung by them.  One might assume that they used Mason’s melody. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann (with a minor-key Welsh melody composed by Joseph Parry); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

    The song interprets the "morning" in a Messianic sense as the coming of Christ’s new day to bless the earth with peace and truth.

I. In stanza 1 the morning star appears over the mountain rim
"Watchman, tell us of the night, What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height, See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, doth its beauteous ray Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes—it brings the day, Promised day of Israel."
 A. In his prophecy, Balaam saw a star that would arise out of Jacob: Num. 24:17
 B. Just as the morning star heralds the beginning of a new day, so Jesus is the bright and morning star: Rev. 2:16
 C. Therefore, He heralds the new day that dawns in our hearts: 2 Pet. 1:19

II. In stanza 2 the star rises and shines on more areas of darkness
"Watchman, tell us of the night; Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light, Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own; See, it bursts o’er all the earth."
 A. Other prophets predicted that when the Messiah came He would bring light to the world: Isa. 9:1-2
 B. When Jesus was born, the star that led the Wise Men to Him stopped at the place of His birth: Matt. 2:9
C. With the coming of Christ, the light of God burst over all the earth: Jn. 1:4-5

III. Stanza 3 the dawn flushes the sky with full day to realize the promise of the star
"Watchman, tell us of the night, For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight, Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease; Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace, Lo! the Son of God is come!"
 A. Just as when with the rising sun the morning dawns and darkness takes its flight, the promised Messiah is the Sun of righteousness: Mal. 4:2
 B. Therefore, we can let our wanderings cease and no longer walk in darkness but walk in the light: 1 Jn. 1:5-7
 C. The reason is that the Prince of Peace has come: Isa. 9:6

     CONCL.: This is a powerful hymn which Mason’s tune fits perfectly.  It is a shame that not more of our books have included it. Albert Edward Bailey wrote that while this work "has primary reference to the coming of Christ–prophesied long years ago, anxiously awaited, realized in the manger of Bethlehem…Bowring may have had in mind also the growing missionary movement." He then pointed out that the symbolism of Bowring’s hymn, with phrases like "higher yet that star ascends" and "the morning seems to dawn" and "see, it bursts o’er all the earth," may have envisioned the mounting concern of those who had the gospel for those who had it not, and concluded that this must be the reason that, along with "Jesus shall reign" and "From Greenland’s icy mountains," one of "the Church’s great missionary hymns" (in that day when churches were actually concerned with taking the gospel to the whole world) was "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night."

“Walk in the Light”

"If we walk in the light, as He is in the light…" (1 Jn. 1:7)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to walk in the light as God is in the light is "Walk in the Light" (#551 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #181 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Bernard Barton, who was born in London (some sources say Carlisle in Cumberland), England, on Jan. 31, 1784. Educated at a Quaker school at Ipswich, he was apprenticed at the age of twelve to a shopkeeper named Mr. S. Jesup at Halstead in Essex, and ten years later, in 1806, joined his brother in the corn and coal business at Woodbridge in Suffolk.  After the death of his wife, to whom he had been married only a year, he went to Liverpool where he spent a year as a tutor. In 1810 he returned to Woodbridge where he served as a clerk in a local bank for the rest of his life, almost forty years.

     During this time, Barton enjoyed the friendship of such giants of English literature as Walter Scott, Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, George Byron, and Percy Shelley. Becoming known as England’s "Quaker poet," he published ten books of poems, beginning with Metrical Effusions in 1812.  From these some twenty hymns came into usage. "Walk in the Light" first appeared with six stanzas in his Devotional Verses, Founded on Select Texts of Scripture, published at London in 1826. His last volume was Household Verses in 1849. Through the efforts of Sir Robert Peel, his poems won for him a state pension of $500 which he received for several years until his death at Woodbridge on Feb. 18, 1849.

     A number of different tunes have been found with this hymn. Many books use one (Manoah) which is taken from the Collection of Church Music compiled in 1851 by Henry Wellington Greatorex (1813-1858). It is sometimes attributed to either Franz Josef Haydn or Gioachino A. Rossini. In several of our books, Samuel Stennett’s 1787 hymn "Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned" has been set to it. Some books use another tune (Campmeeting) which is an American folk melody that has been found with several of Charles Wesley’s hymns and the chorus beginning "I do believe, I now believe That Jesus died for me" and also James Montgomery’s hymn "Prayer Is the Heart’s Sincere Desire."  Cyberhymnal suggests a tune (Richmond, Chesterfield, or Haweis) composed by Thomas Haweis that is most often associated with Isaac Watts’s hymn "Come, Let Join Our Cheerful Songs." Still another tune was composed in 1886 by Anthony Johnson Showalter (1858-1924).

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared with the Showalter tune in the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; and with the Greatorex tune in the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater. Today it appears, with the Greatorex tune, in both the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; and the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; as well as Hymns for Worship Revised, with the Greatorex tune (one of the editions had words only with a note to use the tune for "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?"), and Sacred Selections, with the Showalter tune.

     The hymn urges us to make walking in God’s light our daily aim.

I. From stanza 1 we learn that walking in the light brings us into fellowship with God
"Walk in the light: so shalt thou know That fellowship of love
His Spirit only can bestow Who reigns in light above."
 A. Both the Father and the Son want us to be in fellowship with them through that which the apostles declared: 1 Jn. 1:3
 B. This is made possible by the Spirit who guided the apostles into all truth: Jn. 16:13
 C. What a joy it is to be in fellowship with Him who reigns above: Rev. 19:6

II. From stanza 2 we learn that walking in the light enables us to have cleansing from sin
"Walk in the light: and sin abhorred Shall ne’er defile again;
The blood of Jesus Christ, thy Lord, Shall cleanse from every stain."
 A. "Sin abhorred" would indicate that to have this cleansing, we must repent of sin: 2 Cor. 7:10
 B. God’s remedy for the problem of sin is the blood of Jesus Christ to provide redemption or forgiveness: Eph. 1:7
 C. Thus, by meeting God’s conditions, which brings into the light, we have cleansing from sin: Eph. 5:26

III. From stanza 3 we learn that walking in the light makes our hearts belong to Christ
"Walk in the light: and thou shalt find Thy heart made truly His,
Who dwells in cloudless light enshrined In Whom no darkness is."
 A. The Lord wants us to give Him our hearts so that He may dwell in them by faith: Eph. 3:17
 B. He dwells in cloudless light: 1 Tim. 6:15-16
 C. And with Him is no darkness: 1 Jn. 1:5

IV. From stanza 4 we learn that walking in the light removes darkness from our lives
"Walk in the light: and thou shalt own Thy darkness passed away,
Because that light hath on thee shone In which is perfect day."
 A. Darkness often is used in scripture to represent sin: Jn. 3:19-21
 B. However, Jesus is the light of the world: Jn. 8:12
 C. If we will walk in His light, He will shine more and more unto the perfect day: Prov. 4:18

V. From stanza 5 we learn that walking in the light chases away the fear of death
"Walk in the light: and e’en the tomb No fearful shade shall wear;
Glory shall chase away its gloom, For Christ has conquered there."
 A. The tomb represents the fact that it is appointed for men to die once: Heb. 9:27
 B. However, Christ chases away its gloom because He has delivered us from the fear of death: Heb. 2:14-15
 C. He is the one who Himself conquered death and brings life and immortality to light: 2 Tim. 1:10

VI. From stanza 6 we learn that walking in the light brings the brightness of joy to our lives
"Walk in the light: and thine shall be A path, though thorny, bright;
For God, by grace, shall dwell in thee, And God Himself is light."
(Showalter’s versions read, "And thou shalt see Thy path…;"
others have, "Thy path shall be A path…," probably to fit the music better)
 A. Even though our path is sometimes thorny, when we walk in the light we can drink from the fountain of God’s pleasures: Ps. 36:8-9
 B. The reason is that God extends His grace to those who obey Him: Eph. 2:8-9
 C. And this grace provides the light of the gospel by which we can know that we are pleasing to the Lord: 2 Cor. 4:6

     CONCL.: The chorus, based on Ps. 56:13 and probably added by Showalter, continues to stress the importance of walking in the light.
"Walk in the light of the living, Walk in the light of God;
Walk in the light of the living, Walk in the light of God."
As a Quaker, Barton wrote his poems with the archaic pronouns, "thee," "thy," and "thine," drawn from the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible, as did many other hymn writers. Many books have made alterations in an attempt to "update" or "modernize" the language and eliminate the older terminology. For example, here is stanza 6 in "today’s lingo":
"Walk in the light: and you shall share Your path, though thorny, bright;
For God in grace walks with you there, And God Himself is light."
One may debate the advisability of such changes to classic hymns, but regardless of that, we should certainly want to sing songs like this which exhort us about the need to "Walk in the Light."

“Walk Beside Me”

“Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths, lead me in Thy truth, and teach me” (Ps. 25:4-5)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks the Lord to show us His ways, teach us His paths, and lead us in His truth is “Walk Beside Me” (#701 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Katharine E. Nash Purvis, who was born probably sometime in the early 1840s, most likely in Pennsylvania. I have not been able to find out much information about her. She was the daughter of a Methodist minister in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Conference. After graduating from Williamsport Dickinson Seminary in 1860, she married and continued living in Williamsport where she was a member of the Mulberry St. Methodist Episcopal Church and became a vocal and instrumental music teacher at the seminary of the Methodist Episcopal Church there from 1884 to 1888. Hymnary.org credits her with 25 hymns. Later, she was an invalid for the last several years of her life and died on Oct. 23, 1907 (some sources give the year as 1909).

     The tune for “Walk Beside Me” was composed by James Milton Black (1856-1938). Black is best remembered perhaps for the song, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Many sources list Purvis and Black as the originators of the song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It is true that they produced a song that appeared in the 1896 Songs of the Soul No. 2 entitled “When the Saints Are Marching In,” but this is not the same as the traditional song which was played by many New Orleans jazz bands beginning around the end of the nineteenth or the beginning of the twentieth century. The precise origins of the folk song are not known, though some researchers believe that it came as a spiritual from the Bahamas and migrated to the mainland where it was used as a funeral hymn by African Americans of the South in the 1800s. It is thought that maybe Purvis and Black were influenced by it in their hymn, of which various sources say, “Very similar to the contemporary song, the latter is obviously a derivative of it,” and that the two “bear an uncanny similarity.”

     “Walk Beside Me” was copyrighted in 1896 by Black and first published that year also in his Songs of the Soul No. 2 which he edited for Curtis and Jennings of Cincinnati, OH. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1960 Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; and the 1964 Songs for the Shadows edited by Morris Lynwood Smith.  Today it may be found in Hymns for Worship. It was not in the original edition but was added around 1992 in an arrangement by the editor, R. J. Stevens. When the Revised edition was published around 1995, a different arrangement by Stevens was used. Then, when the type was completely reset, around 2005, still another arrangement by Stevens, who now changed the time signature from 3/4 to 4/4, appeared. I happen to like the original better.

     The song asks the Lord to walk with us during the morning, noon, and evening of our lives.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the morning of life
“Walk beside me, O my Savior, While life’s morning sky is bright.
Grant me now Thy loving favor; Flood my path with heavenly light.
Whether good or ill betide me, Whether skies be dark or clear,
Ever stay so close beside me, I may know and feel Thee near.”
 A. Morning is often used poetically to refer to the younger years of one’s life: Eccl. 12:1
 B. Especially when we are young we need to be taught to walk in the heavenly light of God’s word: Ps. 119:105
 C. Through the rest of one’s life, both good and ill will appear, and sometimes the skies will be dark while other times they will be clear, but the young person who has learned to stay close beside the Savior will have His help to bear whatever burdens life may bring: Ps. 55:22

II. Stanza 2 talks about the noontide of life
“When the noontide’s glowing splendor Brings its weight of toil and care,
May Thy love, so pure and tender, All my heavy burdens bear.
In a weary land, provide me Sheltering rock and cooling spring;
When the tempest rages, hide me Underneath Thy folded wing.”
 A. Noontide is used to refer to what we call the “prime of life” which brings a weight of toil and care: Ps. 90:10
 B. It is when we feel that we are in a weary land that we can look to the Lord as a sheltering rock and cooling spring: Isa. 32:2
 C. And when the tempest rages, we can seek His protection underneath His folded wing: Ps. 63:7

III. Stanza 3 talks about the twilight of life
“When the twilight shades, descending, Warn my soul that night is near,
With the hues of sunset blending, Let the light of heaven appear.
Through the valley, Savior, take me; Close my eyes when night shall come.
Then bid angel voices wake me, Sweetly singing, ‘Welcome home.’”
 A. The twilight of life is a warning that the night is coming when no man can work: Jn. 9:4
 B. But as we approach the valley of the shadow of death, we can look to the Lord to be with us: Ps. 23:4
 C. And we can look forward to hearing the angel voices welcome us home: Lk. 16:22

     CONCL.: The chorus seeks the Lord’s presence to take away our fear.
“Blessed Savior, walk with me; Take away all anxious fear.
Ever stay so close beside me, I may know and feel Thee near.”
Walking is such a simple task that most of us take it for granted and are reminded of what a blessing it is to be able to do it only when we have contact with someone who cannot walk. Throughout the Bible, the idea of walking is used figuratively of how we live. We can either walk with God, and He with us, or we can walk our own way without Him. However, if it is my desire to be received into His eternal presence, I must live in such a way that I tell Him, “Walk Beside Me.”

“Unto the Hills”

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" (Ps. 121:1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to lift up our eyes to the hills from whence comes our help is "Unto the Hills" (#648 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text, a paraphrase of Psalm 121, was written by John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, who was born at St. James, Staffordhouse, in Westminster, Middlesex, England, on Aug. 6, 1845. As chief of the Campbell clans, he was Marquis of Lorne and later became the ninth Duke of Argyll. After his education at Eton, at St. Andrews, and at Trinity College in Cambridge, he became a liberal member of Parliament for Argyll in 1868. Then in 1871, he married Princess Louisa Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. This metrical version of Psalm 121 is sometimes dated 1866 or 1870, but it was first published in his 1877 Book of Psalms, Literally Rendered in Verse. The 1866 and 1870 dates could both be misprints for 1877, or, given Donald Hustad’s observation that "it was written…before he became a public figure," which occurred following his marriage, one of the earlier dates could be correct for the actual writing and it was just not published until 1877.

     After serving for three years as private secretary to his father, who was Secretary of State for India, Campbell was appointed Governor-General of Canada where he served in this capacity as the official representative of the Queen from 1878 to 1883. As he was quite popular with the Canadians, the province of Alberta was named for his wife. Also, he founded the Royal Society of Canada to promote the arts and sciences and authored two books about the country. At the end of his term in office, he returned to England and again served in Parliament as a Unionist member for South Manchester from 1895 to 1900 and as Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle. In addition, he was a good friend of the Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson. Apparently Campbell, or someone, made a few alterations in "Unto the Hills" in 1909. Well known as a writer of both prose and poetry, in addition to being a strong and earnest churchman, Campbell died on May 2, 1914, of double pneumonia while vacationing at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

     All of our books use a tune (Sandon or Landon) which had been composed in 1860 by Charles Henry Purday (1799-1855). It was originally published in his Church and Home Metrical Psalter and Hymnal with the text "Lead, Kindly Light," written in 1833 by John Henry Newman. However, some of our books also use this same tune with another hymn, "Light of the World" written by Laura O. D. Chant. Many older books use another tune (Lux Benigna) composed in 1885 by Albert Lister Peace (1844-1912). Peace is perhaps best remembered as the composer for the standard tune used with George Mattheson’s "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go." Also he composed a tune that some of our books use with Charles Wesley’s "Must We Be to the Judgment Brought." The original Hymns for Worship contained the entire hymn with Purday’s original tune, but when the Revised edition came out with the tune arranged by Craig Roberts and editor R. J. Stevens, for some reason only two stanzas, the first and the fourth, were used.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Unto the Hills" appeared in the 1922 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.  Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1983 edition of the 1978 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

     The hymn exhorts us to look to God above for assistance in the trials and tribulations of life.

I. According to stanza 1, we find that our hel comes from God.
"Unto the hills around do I lift up My longing eyes;
O whence for me shall my salvation come, From whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
From God the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made."
 A. Lifting up our eyes to the hills symbolizes looking to God above for our help: Ps. 121:2
 B. The Lord has promised to be our aid or helper: Heb. 13:6
 C. And we can trust His power to help us because He made heaven and earth: Gen. 1:1

II. According to stanza 2, we find that God will keep those who trust Him.
"He will not suffer that thy foot be moved: Safe shalt thou be;
No careless slumber shall His eyelids close, Who keepeth thee.
Behold, He sleepeth not, He slumbereth ne’er,
(The altered version reads, "Behold, our God, the Lord, He slumbereth ne’er")
Who keepeth Israel in His holy care."
 A. His promise to watch over and protect His people is symbolized by not suffering that their foot be moved: Ps.  91:11-12
 B. We know that God will keep us safe because He never sleeps nor slumbers: Ps. 121:3-4
 C. Thus, we can rest assured that He cares for us: 1 Pet. 5:7

III. According to stanza 3, we find that God is changeless in His care.
"Jehovah is Himself thy keeper true: Thy changeless shade;
Jehovah evermore on thy right hand Himself hath made.
(The altered version reads, "Jehovah thy defense on thy right hand")
And thee no sun by day shall ever smite,
No moon shall harm thee in the silent night."
 A. The Lord has promised to be our keeper if we follow Him: Prov. 3:26
 B. The idea of being on one’s right hand suggests present and ready to help: Ps. 16:8
 C. Because God will always protect us, we need fear neither the hot sun nor darkness: Ps. 121:5-6

IV. According to stanza 4, we find that God will prserve us unto eternity.
"From every evil shall He keep thy soul, From every sin;
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, Thy coming in.
Above thee watching, He whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, forever more."
 A. Certainly, we look to God to lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one: Matt. 6:13
 B. Therefore, we trust in His promise to preserve our going out and coming in: Ps. 41:1-2
 C. The Lord will guide us throughlut this life on our journey to heaven: Ps. 121:7-8

     CONCL.: The story is told that one day the pioneer preacher "Raccoon" John Smith returned from a preaching trip and found his cabin burned to the ground. His wife and children, except for one son who was visiting a neighbor, had been killed in the fire. Witnesses reported that in the face of this tragedy, he knelt to the ground, quoted Psalm 121, and prayed to the Lord as he lifted his eyes "Unto the Hills."

“Unity in Christ”

"Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4.3)

     INTRO. A song which encourages us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is "Unity in Christ." The text was written and the tune was composed both by Palmer Esker Wheeler, who was born on July 11, 1904, at Millport, AL, in a four-room cabin, the third child of William David and Gertrude Jane Tate Wheeler. The family lived on five different farms in the community of Simmon Town near the old Pollard school house, but when he was thirteen they moved to a farm near Columbus, MS. Then in 1922, they moved to southeastern Oklahoma where he atttended Southeastern Oklahoma Teacher’s College at Durant, OK, for one year. Times were so hard that when he was offered a job with the Stamps Music Co. he took it. The Wheelers had been a singing family, the children having been tutored in music by their father, and by 1924 the whole family had made music their vocation. That year, Palmer took his first harmony class from Newton W. Allphin in Whitesboro, TX, and went on to have other training in music at such schools as the Stamps School of Dallas, TX, and the Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, TN, and with such teachers as R. B Vaughan, G. K. Vaughan, W. B. Walbert, C. C. Stafford, and Homer Rodeheaver. However, to meet the bills and pay for their music lessons, the family sometimes had to pick cotton, work in the hay, and do other jobs of that nature. Wheeler taught his first singing school in 1925.

     In 1927, with his brothers J. E. and Roy, Palmer joined the Stamps Quartet, which soon became the famous Stamps All-Star Quartet with Frank Stamps singing the bass. The group made records for Victor in 1927 and 1928, but the Great Depression separated them. On June 21, 1929, Palmer married Lena Bandy of Scottsville, KY, and that same year was baptized into Christ by Clarence Williams at Hugo, OK. Later, Lena was baptized by G. K. Wallace at Wheeler, TX. Palmer spent 1930 through 1933 in Kentucky teaching singing schools, leading singing for religious meetings, and working with the Sunshine Quartet. In 1935 he joined the Vaughan Quartet and sang first tenor in this famous group with Keiffer Vaughan, John Cook, and Jim Waits for nearly three and a half years, gaining the distinctive title of "The Golden Voice Tenor of Tennessee" in the middle thirties, but left to teach music in public schools. For two years he was Director of Music at Freed Hardeman College in Henderson, TN, but left that work to go into full time evangelistic song leading. After that, he taught in more than 500 singing schools and vacation Bible schools, and led singing in meetings with N. B. Hardeman, G. C. Brewer, E. R. Harper, and Foy E. Wallace Jr. This work took him into 27 states, from San Francisco, CA, to Washington, DC.

     Wheeler produced more than fifty songs, most of them for children, and in 1955 edited a book, Youth Melodies and Action Songs, with 148 selections "designed for the edification of our youth, to be used especially in Vacation Bible Schools, Singing Schools, Song Drills and Chorus Work." The song of which he said that he was the proudest was the books of the New Testament which he set to music. I can recall singing this song frequently in Bible classes and vacation Bible schools when I was growing up, and even now when I say the books of the New Testament, its melody still runs through my mind. "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Acts, and the letter to the Romans…." It appears that Wheeler is largely responsible for the popularity of the song "I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me" among churches of Christ by his 1965 arrangement of it in Into All the World.  Other arrangements have been made since then, but Wheeler’s is the one that I remember singing when I was growing up. A 1970 invitation song by Wheeler, "Tomorrow May Be Too Late," has achieved some degree of use. I have not been able to find a date for "Unity in Christ." Wheeler lived in Dallas, TX, for many years before his death in 1983. His son, Tommy, born in 1931, and a cousin, Max Wheeler, born in 1932, are also songwriters. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Unity in Christ" appeared in Wheeler’s Youth Melodies and Action Songs; and in the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie.

    The song emphasizes the importance of seeking for unity among God’s people.

I. Stanza 1 says that this unity must be in Christ
"Unity in Christ, our Lord, Christians are as one.
Unity in Christ, His Church of God’s own blessed Son.
Neither Jew nor Greek in Him, neither bond nor free,
All are one in His dear fold; ‘Tis for you and me."
 A. God planned for this unity to exist in the body of Christ, which is the church over which He is head: Eph. 1.22-23
 B. Unity means that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free: Gal. 3.28
 C. Rather, it means that, just all of a shepherd’s sheep are in one fold, so it is for faithful Christians: Jn. 10.16

II. Stanza 2 says that this unity must be in hope
"Unity on hope we stand, fighting for the right
Adding courage to our faith with lamps all trimmed and bright;
Neither high nor low in Him, all are made the same,
Trusting all He bids us do in His blessed name."
 A. One thing that helps us maintain unity in our hope is adding to our faith virture or courage: 2 Pet. 1.5
 B. With the hope that God gives us, we can have the same mind and judgment: 1 Cor. 1.10
 C. This hope also unites us in striving to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus: Col. 3.17

III. Stanza 3 says that this unity must be in love
"Unity in love for all, working for the crown,
All the humble lifted up, the mighty are brought down;
Equal ranks in Christ, our Lord, oneness in this realm.
All must seek this unity ere we go to heaven."
 A. When we are truly united in love, the humble are lifted up and the mighty are brought down: Jas. 1.9-10
 B. This love will help us develop a true oneness, even as Christ and the Father are one: Jn. 17.20-21
 C. All who desire to go to heaven must seek this unity by entering the strait gate and travelling the narrow way: Matt. 7.13-14

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the importance of maintaining the unity of the Spirit and of what we must do to accomplish this aim.
"Unity in Christ, there’s unity in Christ,
One faith, one church taught in His word, There’s unity in Christ;
Unity in Christ, there’s unity in Christ,
‘Twas purchased with His precious blood, There’s unity in Christ."
This is a good song with a very singable melody that deserves more use than it has received. Certainly there is a need occasionally for spiritual songs which will point people’s minds to the need for "Unity in Christ."