Follow, Follow Me


“Jesus…saith unto Him: Follow Me” (John 1:43)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which pictures Jesus as calling us to follow Him is “Follow, Follow Me,” or just  “Follow Me,” sometimes known by its first line “Hark, the voice of Jesus calling.”  The text was written by M. B. Sleight (19th Century).  Nothing is known for sure about this individual, but it is speculated that Sleight was the author’s maiden name and that she may be Mary Breck Sleight, who was born circa 1837 in New York City, NY, the daughter of newspaper publisher who founded The Long Island Daily Press in 1821, Henry C. Sleight (1792-1877).  She became an author and poet who wrote historical romances such as The House at Crague: or, Her Own Way; An Island Heroine: or, The Story of a Daughter of the Revolution; Prairie Days: or, Our Home in the Far West; and The Flag on the Mill.

     The words to this hymn first appeared in Sabbath School Songs published in 1868 by Adams, Blackmer, and Lyon of Chicago, Illinois, with the tune (Follow Me) composed by the editor of the book, Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907). Palmer’s best known hymn is probably “Yield Not to Temptation,” but he also provided music for “Angry Words” and “Peace! Be Still!”  Mary B. Sleight died in 1928 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery at Sag Harbor, New York.  I first saw “Follow, Follow Me” in an old hymnbook without either cover or title page given to me by my grandmother on which she had taped a plain white cardboard cover and written “Church Songs.”  It also appeared in the 1959 Christian Hymnal published by the Church of God in Christ—Mennonite.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ, it was used in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons with an arrangement by Holland Boring Jr.

     The song encourages us to hear the voice of Jesus calling us to follow Him.

I. Stanza 1 reminds us of how He called the first disciples.

Hark! the voice of Jesus calling,

Follow Me, follow Me,

Softly through the silence falling,

Follow, follow Me.

As of old He called the fishers,

When He walked by Galilee,

Still His patient voice is pleading,

Follow, follow Me.

 A. Jesus wants all people to follow Him: Lk. 9:59

 B. He called His earliest followers by the Sea of Galilee: Matt. 4:18-22

 C. Through His word, His voice still pleads for us to follow in His steps: 1 Pet. 2:21

II. Stanza 2 asks who will heed His call today.

Who will heed the holy mandate,

Follow Me, follow Me,

Leaving all things at His bidding,

Follow, follow Me?

Hark, that tender voice entreating,

Mariners on life’s rough sea,

Gently, lovingly repeating,

Follow, follow Me.

 A. Though He is no longer physically alive on earth, it is still possible to follow Christ today by heeding His holy mandate to imitate Him: 1 Cor. 11:1

 B. But to follow Him we must deny self and leave all things at His bidding: Matt. 16:24

 C. He especially calls those who are weary and heavy laden with the trials and tribulations of life’s rough sea to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30

III. Stanza 3 points out that a time will come when He no longer calls

Hearken, lest He plead no longer,

Follow Me, follow Me,

Once again, O hear Him calling,

Follow, follow Me.

Turning swift at Thy sweet summons,

Evermore, dear Christ, would we

For Thy love all else forsaking,

Follow, follow Thee.

 A. Jesus will plead no longer when we pass from this life by death: Heb. 9:27

 B. Therefore, we need to hear and follow Him now: 2 Cor. 6:2

 C. This means forsaking all else to love Him with all our hearts while we have the time: Mk. 13:28-30

      CONCL.:  This hymn is not to be confused with another one beginning “Hark! The voice of Jesus calling, who will go and work today?” (often titled “Here Am I, Send Me”) written in 1868 by Daniel March, or with still another entitled “Follow Me” written in 1953 by Ira F. Stanphill.  All of us should listen carefully to the voice of Jesus and obey Him as He calls us through His word saying, “Follow, Follow Me.”

Hold Thou My Hands

(Portrait of William Canton)


“…Thou hast holden me by my right hand” (Psalm 73:23)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks the Lord to hold us by our hand is “Hold Thou My Hands” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #440).  The text was written by William Canton, who was born on October 27, 1845, at Zhoushan (Chusan) Island, south of Shanghai, in Zhejiang, China, to a Catholic family of civil servants.  Canton’s childhood was spent mostly in Jamaica. He studied for the priesthood at Douai and later in Paris, but eventually abandoned the priesthood to become a teacher and writer. He later left the Roman Catholic Church for Protestantism.  Working as a journalist in London and Glasgow, he became editor of the Glasgow Weekly Herald and later a leader-writer for the Glasgow Herald. In 1891, Canton moved to London, where he worked for the religious book and magazine publisher W. Isbister, later becoming editor of the Sunday Review and the Sunday Magazine. He also contributed articles and poems to Good Words, where his hymn “Hold Thou My Hands” first appeared in 1893.   A couple of his other hymns are “Through the Night Thy Angels Kept” and “When the Herds Were Watching.”   Canton’s early poetry was highly regarded in his lifetime.  

     In addition, Canton published literature about Winifred, such as The Invisible Playmate: A Story of the Unseen, with Appendices (1894), which purports to be a series of letters which he had received from a man whose first daughter had died and who was raising his second daughter to think of her dead older sister as an “invisible playmate.”  The second daughter apparently ends up dying as well.  The appendices are three other items, “Rhymes About a Little Woman,” “An Unknown Child-Poem,” and “At a Wayside Station,” all of which are specifically mentioned in the story of The Invisible Playmate.  Two other books in the series are W. V. Her Book (1896) and W. V’s Golden Legend (1898).  In 1901, Canton’s daughter Winifred died at age ten. Canton’s later poetic work was more religious in emphasis, but his output almost ceased after the death of his daughter.  He resigned from Isbister and took up an offer to write the official history of the Bible Society, which he hoped would comfort him. The nine volume work took five years to complete.  Finishing his history in 1910, he afterwards devoted himself to children’s literature and historical works.  His later works include The Bible and the Anglo-Saxon People (1914) and The Bible Story (1915).  Canton began a new religious poem The Mask of Veronica, but it was unfinished at his death on May 2, 1926, at Hendon in Middlesex, England.  His collected Poems were published by Harrap in 1927.

     The traditional tune (Miserere Mei) used with “Hold Thou My Hands” is a minor melody taken from Seven Sobs of a Sorrowful Soul, 1585, but some Internet research shows that other tunes have been used with it as well.  Riches of Grace: A Collection of New Songs and Standard Hymns, published in 1897 by E. S. Lorenz and Co., has one composed by Edmund Simon Lorenz which requires a repetition of both the first and last lines of each stanza (shown below).  The Sunday School Hymnary: A Twentieth Century Hymnal for Young People, edited by Carey Bonner in 1905, has a tune (Aviemore) composed by A. Bryce.  And The American Hymnal, edited by William James Dawson in 1919, has a tune (Cheddar) composed by B. Johnson.  PHASS has a new tune composed in 2010 by Charles L. Willis.

     The hymn mentions several specific situations where we need the Lord to hold our hands.

I. Stanza 1 asks the Lord to hold our hands in times of both grief and joy

Hold Thou my hands!

In grief and joy, in hope and fear,

Lord, let me feel that Thou art near:

Hold Thou my hands!

 A. There are times in life when we experience joys: Ps. 42:4

 B. There are other times when we experience fear: Ps. 31:13

 C. Whatever happens, we can know that the Lord is near: Ps. 119:151

II. Stanza 2 (not in PHASS) asks the Lord to hold our hands in times of doubt

If e’er by doubts

Of Thy good fatherhood depressed,

I cannot find in Thee my rest:

Hold Thou my hands!

 A. There are also times when we experience doubts, like Peter: Matt. 13:41

 B. Some may even doubt the goodness of God’s fatherhood, as Asaph was tempted to do: Ps. 73:1-3

 C. It may seem as if we cannot find rest in the Lord, but He is always there to give us rest if we seek Him: Ps. 94:12-13

III. Stanza 3 asks the Lord to hold our hands in times of temptation

Hold Thou my hands!

These passionate hands too quick to smite,

These hands so eager for delight:

Hold Thou my hands!

 A. Sometimes our hands are tempted to smite or strike back too quickly: Matt. 5:39

 B. And many times our hands are so eager to grab for the sinful delights or pleasures of this life: Lk. 8:14

 C. Thus, when our hands are weak, we should look to the Lord to strengthen them: Heb. 12:12-17

IV. Stanza 4 asks the Lord to hold our hands in time of death

And when at length,

With darkened eyes and fingers cold,

I seek some last loved hand to hold,

Hold Thou my hands!

 A. As death begins to approach, our eyes are often darkened: Eccl. 12:1-3

 B. And as it continues to draw near, our fingers and indeed our whole body may grow cold: 1 Ki. 1:1-2

 C. However, if we trust in God, when our spirit takes wing to cross the narrow sea of death, His hand will hold us: Ps. 139:9-10

     CONCL.:  I looked through my collection of hymnbooks and could not find this hymn in any of them  (except PHASS). indicates that it was included in some four hymnals, published primarily from around 1900 to 1925 and can be located at a couple of modern hymn websites.  All during the days of my life as I travel towards eternity, I should always be making request of the Lord to “Hold Thou My Hands.”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.


“A virgin shall…bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel” (Matthew 1:21)

      INTRO.:  A hymn which identifies Jesus Christ as the virgin born Emmanuel is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #429).  The text is an anonymous medieval Latin hymn (“Veni, veni Emanuel”) dating possibly to the twelfth century, c. 1150, which is made up paraphrases from various antiphons by an unknown author known as the seven O Antiphons, a series of plainchant antiphons attached to the Magnificat at Vespers that were in existence by at the latest the eighth century.  However, the earliest surviving evidence of the hymn’s text is in the seventh edition of Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, which was published in Cologne in 1710. The first version of the hymn includes five stanzas, corresponding to five of the seven standard O Antiphons, in the following order:

“Veni, veni Emmanuel!” = “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“Veni, O Jesse Virgula” = “O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse”

“Veni, veni, O Oriens” = “O come, Thou Dayspring”

“Veni, clavis Davidica” = “O come, Thou Key of David, come”

“Veni, veni, Adonai” = “O come, O Come, Thou Lord of might”

The text of the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum version is essentially expanded, rather than altered, over the subsequent centuries. This five-stanza version of the hymn left two of the O Antiphons unused. Possibly under the influence of the Cecilian Movement in Germany, two new stanzas — “Veni, O Sapientia” (“O Come, Thou Wisdom”) and “Veni, Rex Gentium” (“O Come, Desire of Nations”) — were added that adapted the remaining antiphons. No precise date or authorship is known for these verses. At present, their first known publication is in Joseph Hermann Mohr’s Cantiones Sacrae of 1878, which prints a seven-stanza Latin version in the order of the antiphons (i.e., with “Sapientia” as the first stanza and “Emmanuel” as the last).

     The primary English translation was made by John Mason Neale (1818-1866).  It first appeared in his 1851 Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences. In 1844, “Veni, veni Emmanuel” had been included in the second volume of Thesaurus Hymnologicus, a monumental collection by the German hymnologist Hermann Adalbert Daniel. As in the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, there are five stanzas and the order is again altered so that the last of the O Antiphons (the titular “Veni Emmanuel”) becomes the first stanza of the hymn.  It was from Thesaurus Hymnologicus that Neale would come to know the hymn. Neale’s original translation began, “Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.”  The 1861 alteration from Hymns Ancient and Modern is the most prominent by far in the English-speaking world.  It would take until the twentieth century for the additional two stanzas to receive significant English translations.   A new translation was done in 1916 by Henry Sloane Coffin (1877-1954).   It was first published in the 1923 Hymns for the Kingdom of God, included only the “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” stanza by Neale with Coffin’s two “new” stanzas, and gained the broadest acceptance with occasional modifications. A full seven-stanza English version officially appeared for the first time in 1940, in the Hymnal of the Episcopal Church.

     The words and the music of “O come, O come, Emmanuel” developed separately. The traditional tune (Veni Emmanuel) is said to come from a French Missal in the National Library, Lisbon.  It is a fifteenth century plainsong processional chant by an unknown composer used by French Franciscan nuns with the text “Bone Jesu dulcis cunctis,” part of a series of two-part tropes to the responsory in the setting for the funeral hymn Libera me from a Requiem Mass, c. 1450.  It was arranged and first paired with an early revision of Neale’s English translation of the text by a choirmaster, writer about singing, and editor of hymns named Thomas Helmore (1811-1888).  This version was published in the Hymnal Noted in either 1851 or 1856. While the Veni Emmanuel tune predominates in the English-speaking world, several others have been closely associated with the hymn.  In fact, because “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a metrical hymn in the common 88.88.88  meter scheme, it is possible to pair the words of the hymn with any number of tunes.  One such tune (St. Chrysostom) was composed in 1872 by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared, with the traditional tune, in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to PHASS.

     The hymn use several Old Testament prophetic terms to point to the coming of the Messiah.

I. Stanza 1 calls Him Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

 A. “Emmanuel” means “God with us” and thus identifies the divine nature of the virgin-born child: Isa. 7:14

 B. “Captive Israel” is not just the physical nation of Israel but all who would make up God’s new spiritual Israel: Rom. 9:6, Gal. 6:16

 C. This ransom would occur when the “Son of God,” a term used of Jesus the Christ would appear: Mk. 1:1

II. Stanza 2 calls Him the Rod of Jesse

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

 A. The “Rod or Branch of Jesse” refers to Jesus’ lineage as Jesse was the father of David, second king of Israel and ancestor of the Christ: Isa. 11:1

 B. This “Rod” makes us free from Satan’s tyranny: Heb. 2:14-15

 C. Thus, He makes possible our victory over the grave: 1 Cor. 15:50-57

III. Stanza 3 calls Him the Day-spring

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

 A. “Day-Spring,” the morning star or daystar, is literally “Oriens” or “East” from which the sun rises: Mal. 4:2

 B. Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, uses this term to refer the advent of the Christ:  Lk. 1:78-79)

 C. As the Day-star, Jesus brings light: 2 Pet. 1:19

IV. Stanza 4 calls Him the Key of David

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

 A. “Key of David” again refers to Jesus’ lineage: Isaiah 22:22

 B. He opens up the way to heaven which no man can shut: Rev. 3:7

 C. And He makes safe the way because the government will be on His shoulder: Isa. 9:6-7

V. Stanza 5 calls Him the Lord of might

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

 A. Lord is from “Adonai,” a name for God, the giver of the law on Mt. Sinai in cloud and majesty, and awe: Exodus 19:16-20

 B. However, we are not of Mt. Sinai but of the Jerusalem which is above: Gal. 4:25-26

 C. Thus what we have in the heavenly Mt. Zion is greater than what was found at Mt. Sinai: Heb. 12:18-24

V.. Stanza 6 (Coffin) calls Him Wisdom from on high

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,

And order all things, far and nigh;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And cause us in her ways to go.

 A. In the Old Testament, Wisdom was personified: Prov. 1:20-21
 B. Jesus Christ has become wisdom from God: 1 Cor. 1:30

 C. Therefore, we seek all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ: Col. 2:1-3

     CONCL.:  The refrain calls upon God’s spiritual Israel to  rejoice in the coming of Emmanuel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Here is Sloan’s seventh stanza:

O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind;

Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;

Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Because Neale kept revising his translation and other translations have been made, different hymnbooks have a number of variations.  Here is a variation of stanza 2:

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,

An ensign of Thy people be;

Before Thee rulers silent fall;

All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Also a variation of stanza 3:

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Then a variation of stanza 5:

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

In ancient times didst give  the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

And a variation of stanza 6:

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,

Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.

Finally, a variation of stanza 7:

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Some books seek to update the language, as in

2. O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,

Unto your own and rescue them!

From depths of hell your people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

3. O come, O Bright and Morning Star,

And bring us comfort from afar!

Dispel the shadows of the night

And turn our darkness into light.

5. O come, O come, great Lord of might,

Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times did give the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

7. O come, O King of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind.

Bid all our sad divisions cease

And be Yourself our King of Peace. (from the Psalter Hymnal Gray)

The editors of PHASS chose wisely not to do this.  We can rejoice today because God sent the Messiah in fulfillment of His promise to those Old Testament saints who continually prayed, “”

My God, I Thank Thee

(Portrait of Adelaide Proctor)


“I thank Thee…O Thou God of my fathers” (Daniel 2:23)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which expresses thanks to the God of our fathers is, “My God, I Thank Thee” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #415).  The text was written by Adelaide Anne Procter who was born on October 30, 1825, at Bedford Square, in London, England, he daughter of Bryan Waller Procter, better known as “Barry Cornwall,” a popular poet and playwright of the mid-Victorian era.  She was the “golden-tressed Adelaide” of one of her father’s best known poems.  The daughter inherited genius of a high order and at an early age showed precociousness in both language and music.  Adelaide began writing hymns after joining the Roman Catholic Church in 1851, when she was 26 years old, and was a well known poet by age 28.  Through her father, she became acquainted with such literary figures as Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, and Charles Dickens.  One of her first contributions, sent anonymously to Household Words, attracted the favorable notice of editor Dickens, a family friend.  In fact, many of her earliest poems, written under the pseudonym “Mary Berwick,” were published by Dickens for a couple of years without his knowing the poet’s real identity.  Once when dining with the Proctors, Dickens showed them a copy of a poem by this “Miss Berwick.”  The next day Mrs. Proctor told him that her daughter was the actual author.

     The young lady had concealed her identity because she feared that Dickens might publish her work through personal friendship rather than due to their real worth.  She continued to write for this and other periodicals during her brief and bright career.  Her poems are not unworthy to rank with those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti.   Probably her most famous poem is “The Lost Chord,” published in 1858 in The English Woman’s Journal and later set to music by Arthur Sullivan in 1877.  When Adelaide’s poems were collected and published in 1858 as Legends and Lyrics, a Book of Verse, which included “My God, I Thank Thee,” Dickens wrote an enthusiastic introduction to the volume, which met with instant and continuing success.  An expanded edition in 1862 included another well known hymn, “The Shadows of the Evening Hours.”  Miss Proctor was sincerely devout in doing good, visiting the sick, sheltering the homeless, teaching of the dismally ignorant, and raising up those who had wandered and got trodden underfoot.  Her zeal outran all prudence, and she disregarded times, seasons, health, and weather.  Under such a strain her frail health gave way, and after fifteen months of suffering her flushed earnestness caused her death at the age of 39 on February 2, 1864, in London, England.

     PHASS uses a new tune (Eulogia) composed in 2011 by Matthew L. Harbor.  Most other books have a tune (Wentworth) composed, probably for Proctor’s text, by Frederick Charles Maker (1844-1927).  It first appeared in the second series of The Bristol Tune Book, 1876.   The 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann and Jack Boyd, used an altered form of this tune with the 1893 hymn “The Sun Declines O’er Land and Sea” by Robert Walmsley (1831-1905).   Cyberhymnal suggests an alternate tune (Carrow) composed in 1873 by Arthur S. Sullivan.  The United Methodist Hymnal of 1935 includes another alternate tune (Fowler) composed by Robert G. McCutchan for The Standard Hymnal of 1930.  This last tune would work well with Walmsley’s “The Sun Declines O’er Land and Sea.”

     This beautiful song of thanksgiving concerns itself with six topics.

I. Stanza 1 thanks God for the beauty of the physical world

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made

The earth so bright,

So full of splendor and of joy,

Beauty and light;

So many glorious things are here,

Noble and right.

 A. It is God who created the earth: Gen. 1:1

 B. He made it with a splendor and beauty that point to Him as the one who built all things: Heb. 3:4

 C. He also made it with a moral sense that makes glorious things noble and right: Gen. 1:31

II. Stanza 2 thanks God for the joy that springs from love

I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made

Joy to abound;

So many gentle thoughts and deeds

Circling us round,

That in the darkest spot of earth

Some love is found.

 A. There is much in this world that God intended to bring us joy: Eccl. 9:7

 B. One thing that brings joy is gentle thoughts and deeds of kindness circling us round: Prov. 19:22

 C. These things in turn spring from love that may be found even in the darkest spot: Matt. 22:39

III. Stanza 3 thanks God even for the pain that keeps us from smugness

I thank Thee more that all our joy

Is touched with pain,

That shadows fall on brightest hours,

That thorns remain;

So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,

And not our chain.

 A. On this earth, all our joy is touched with pain: Ps. 25:16-18

 B. As Paul found out, even in our brightest hours, the thorns remain: 2 Cor. 12:7-10

 C. They teach us not to be chained to things below: Col. 3:1-2

IV. Stanza 4 thanks God for spiritual ideals (not in PHASS)

For thou who knowest, Lord, how soon

Our weak heart clings,

Hast given us joys, tender and true,

Yet all with wings;

So that we see gleaming on high

Diviner things.

 A. The Lord knows how deceitful our weak hearts can be: Jer. 17:9

 B. Therefore, to encourage us to leave behind things of lesser value and pursue higher goals, the blessings that we enjoy here have wings: Prov. 23:5

 C. Instead, we should forget what is behind and press on to diviner things: Phil. 3:13-14

V. Stanza 5 thanks God for the hope of a deeper peace

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept

The best in store;

We have enough, yet not too much

To long for more:

A yearning for a deeper peace

Not known before.

 A. We may have enough here, but the Lord intends better things for us: Heb. 6:9

 B. The Lord made us to long for more than this earth offers that only He can fill: Ps. 107:9

 C. One of the things for which we yearn is deeper peace: Phil. 4:7

VI. Stanza 6 thanks God for the promise of heaven

I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls

Though amply blessed,

Can never find, although they seek

A perfect rest;

Nor ever shall, until they lean

On Jesus’ breast.

 A. Now our souls are amply blessed because God is the giver of every good gift: Jas. 1:17

 B. However, in this life, we can never find a perfect rest, as that is reserved for after death: Rev. 14:13

 C. Then the saints will depart and be with Christ: Phil. 1:23

      CONCL.:  As usual with “unfamiliar” hymns, PHASS updates the pronouns and verb forms.  Albert Edward Bailey, in his book The Gospel in Hymns, noted of this hymn, “This is one of the few hymns of the period in which there is not the slightest trace of sectarian theology or liturgical usefulness.  It is the private outpouring of a thankful human soul.”  Whether it is in daily common speech, prayer to God, or songs such as this one, I should ever be telling the Lord, “My God, I Thank Thee.”

How Can I Keep From Singing?


“…I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being” (Psalm 146:2)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to sing praises to God while we have any being is “How Can I Keep From Singing?” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #396).  The text of stanzas 1, 2, and 4 is attributed to and the tune (Endless Song or Sicilia) was composed by Robert Wadsworth Lowry (1826-1899).   The first known publication of the words was on August 7, 1868, in The New York Observer, titled “Always Rejoicing”, and, attributed to “Pauline T.”  The song, also known by its first line “My Life Flows On in Endless Song,” was published by Lowry, an American Baptist minister, in the 1869 song book, Bright Jewels for the Sunday School.   Here Lowry claimed credit for the music, but gave no indication as to who wrote the words. These words were also published in a British periodical in 1869, The Christian Pioneer, but no author is indicated.  Lewis Hartsough, citing Bright Jewels as source of the lyrics and crediting Lowry for the tune, included “How Can I Keep from Singing?” in the 1872 edition of the Revivalist.  The famous gospel songwriter Ira D. Sankey (1840-1908) published his own musical setting (Wrocław) of the words in Gospel Hymns, No. 3 (1878), writing that the words were anonymous, but some sources confuse the picture even further by wrongly suggesting that the original melody is actually a composition by Sankey.  In 1888, Henry S. Burrage listed this hymn as one of those for which Lowry had written the music, but not the lyrics. The song is frequently, though erroneously, cited as a traditional Quaker or Shaker hymn.  Though it is not, in fact, a Quaker hymn, twentieth-century Quakers adopted it as their own and use it widely today.

    During the 20th century, this hymn was not widely used in congregational worship. It was published in the 1908 Seventh-day Adventist hymnal, Christ In Song, under the title “How Can I Keep From Singing?”  Diehl’s index to a large number of hymnals from 1900 to 1966 indicates that only one other hymnal included it, the 1941 edition of The Church Hymnal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, where it is titled “My Life Flows On.”  Doris Plenn learned the original hymn from her North Carolina grandmother, who reportedly believed that it dated from the early days of the Quaker movement. Plenn contributed an additional stanza around 1950.  It is often placed as stanza 3.  Pete Seeger learned a version of this song from Plenn, a family friend. His version, mistakenly credited as a “traditional Quaker hymn,” made this song fairly well known in the folk revival of the 1960s.  Seeger’s version omits or modifies much of the Christian wording of the original, and adds Plenn’s verse, which was taken up by other folk revivalists. In the late 1970s and early 80s, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” was recorded by Catholic Folk musician Ed Gutfreund on an album called “From An Indirect Love,” the music was published in a widely used Catholic Hymnal called “Glory and Praise,” and the song was popular among Catholic liturgical music ministers.

     The song received new prominence in 1991 when Irish musician Enya released a recording of the hymn on her album Shepherd Moons, mistakenly crediting this track as a “traditional Shaker hymn.”  Enya’s version follows Pete Seeger’s replacement of some more overtly Christian lines; for example, “What tho’ my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Saviour liveth” became “What tho’ the tempest ’round me roars, I hear the truth it liveth.”  In a 1993 recording by Marty Haugen, Jeanne Cotter, and David Haas, the quatrain beginning: “No storm can shake my inmost calm …” is used as a repeated refrain.  The song was also included in the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, printed in 1993 and following.  It was published in the Quaker songbook Songs of the Spirit, and the original words, with Plenn’s verse, were included in the much more ambitious Quaker hymnal project, Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal in 1996.  The United Methodist Church published it in its 2000 hymnal supplement, The Faith We Sing, giving credit for the lyrics as well as the tune to Robert Lowry.  The Faith We Sing version changes some of the lyrics and punctuation from the 1868 version.   The original composition has now entered into the public domain, and appears in several hymnals and song collections, both in its original form and with a revised text. So, Pauline T.’s Christian poem is again regularly sung in churches as a worship song.

     The song cites several reasons for the Christian to keep on singing.

I. The reason in stanza 1 is that God makes it possible for us to be a new creation

My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation,

I hear the sweet (real or clear), though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation;

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;

It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?

 A. This earth is filled with lamentation because of sin: Mic. 2:4

 B. However, God offers forgiveness in Christ that we might be a new creation: 2 Cor. 5:17-18

 C. Thus, through tumult and strife, Christians can still hear the music and keep on singing: Jas. 5:13

II. The reason in stanza 2 is that Christ the Savior offers refuge in storms

What though my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Savior liveth;

What though the darkness gather round?

Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that refuge clinging;

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

 A. In this life, the darkness of storms may gather round us: Ps. 107:25-27

 B. Yet, the Lord offers us refuge if we cling to Him: Ps. 46:1-3

 C. So we can look to Him to give us songs in the night to keep on singing: Job 35:10

III. The reason in stanza 3 is that we have friends with whom we can rejoice

When tyrants tremble, sick with (in their) fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them go (are) winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

 A. Tyrants may rule for a time, but God’s people have friends both far and near: Prov. 17:17, 18:24

 B. Though some may be in prison cell and dungeon vile, many of our friends are undefiled by shame because God still has His 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal: 1 Ki. 19:18

 C. Hence, they encourage us to keep on singing because they exhort us not to become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: Heb. 3:12-13

IV. The reason in stanza 4 is that the peace of Christ can rule in our hearts

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;

I see the blue above it;

And day by day this pathway smooths,

Since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing;

All things are mine since I am his—

How can I keep from singing?

 A. The Lord has promised to lead us in a plain, i.e., level or smooth, pathway: Ps. 27:11

 B. This does not mean that the way will be easy but that we can have the peace of Christ to keep our hearts: Phil. 4:6-7

 C. Therefore, we can keep on singing because all things are ours: 1 Cor. 3:21-23

     CONCL.:  Some variations are noted above in parentheses.  Another source suggests that this hymn appeared in an 1864 earlier compilation by a contemporary of Lowry, Anna Warner (1820-1915), who published several collections. If so, this would predate Lowry’s collection by five years.   The most popular modern versions of the song take the following portions for the stanzas:

1. My life flows on in endless song….

2. Through all the tumult and the strife….

3. What though my joys and comforts die….

4. The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart….

Then they use as a chorus the following section:

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

Lowry was known as a gifted composer of gospel songs on the East Coast of the U.S. Among his most famous gospel compositions are “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” and “Up from the Grave He Arose.”  He also composed tunes for others’ texts, such as “Marching to Zion,’ a camp meeting version of Isaac Watt’s text “Come, We that Love the Lord,” and the tunes for Annie Hawks’s “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and Fanny Crosby’s “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  His work leaves with several good answers to the question “How Can I Keep From Singing?” 

Where Charity and Love Abound


“…He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and He in Him” (1 Jn. 4:16)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which exhorts us to dwell in love that God might dwell in us and we in Him is “Where Charity and Love Abound” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #336).  The text is based on a ninth century Latin hymn of the Western Church “Ubi caritas,” beginning “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est,” usually dated c. 850.  The Gregorian melody was composed sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries, though some scholars believe the text dates from even earlier Christian gatherings. In the second typical edition (1975) of the current Roman Missal, the antiphonal response was altered to read “Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est,” after certain very early manuscripts. This translates as “Where charity is true, God is there.”  The current Roman Catholic Missal (1970, 3rd typical edition 2000) assigned it to the offertory procession at the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and it also is found in current Anglican and Lutheran hymnals.  The literal translation is as follows:

1. Where charity and love are, God is there.

Christ’s love has gathered us into one.

Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.

Let us fear, and let us love the living God.

And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

2. Where charity and love are, God is there.

As we are gathered into one body,

Beware, lest we be divided in mind.

Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,

And may Christ our God be in our midst.

3. Where charity and love are, God is there.

And may we with the saints also,

See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:

The joy that is immense and good,

Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

     Most books today, including PHASS, use a 1960 translation, “Where Charity and Love Prevail,” originally in six stanzas, made by Omer Westendorf (1916-1997).   The first stanza reads thus:

Where charity and love prevail,

There Christ is ever found;

Brought here together by Christ’s love,

By love are we thus bound.

It was copyrighted in 1961 by World Library Publications Inc. and first published that year in the People’s Mass Book.  The original tune (Christian Love) was adapted from the chant melody for Veni redemptor gentium by Paul Benoit (1893-1979).  It has also been set to a Taizé chant by Jacques Berthier (1978).  The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) sets it to an 1836 tune (St. Peter) by Alexander R. Reinagle which today is often associated with John Oxenham’s “In Christ There Is No East or West.”  PHASS has an 1832 tune (Balerma) by Robert Simpson which our books have used with Charles Wesley’s “O For a Heart to Praise My God.”  Among other books published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand both use a tune (Melody, Chelmsford, Primrose, or Twenty-Fourth) attributed to either Amzi or Lucius Chapin.   It first appeared in the 1813 Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, edited by John Wyeth, where it was attributed simply to “Chapin.”  There were two Chapins, brothers, who composed hymn tunes in early America.  Actually, they also had a third brother, Aaron, who wrote tunes as well, but he has not generally been associated with this one.

     Lucius Chapin was born on April 25, 1760, at Longmeadow near Springfield, MA, the son of Edward Chapin, a cabinet maker.  In 1775, he joined the Continental Army in Boston, serving at the Battles of Ticonderoga and Stillwater, and enduring the infamous winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge, PA.  After the war, he conducted singing schools in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and in 1787 moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, later teaching in Rockbridge, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties. Around 1797, he moved to Vernon, KY. He retired in 1835 and moved to Cincinnati in Hamilton County, OH, where he died on December 24, 1842.  Lucius’s younger brother was Amzi Chapin, who was born in March, 1768, at Springfield, MA.  Amzi worked in Hartford, CT, from 1788 until 1791, when he moved to New Haven. Thereafter he embarked on a career as an itinerant singing teacher, composer, and cabinetmaker in the South and Midwest, teaching singing schools in Virginia and North Carolina, before moving to Kentucky and then Pennsylvania.  He married Hannah Power, daughter of James Power, on October 10, 1800, in Mount Pleasant, PA, where he taught and farmed for the next thirty years. They had seven children including five daughters named Jane, Eunice, Eliza, Rebecca, and Hannah.  In 1831 the Chapins and their children’s families moved to Northfield, OH, becoming some of the pioneers of Northfield Township. Amzi Chapin is listed as one of the four founders of the Presbyterian congregation in Northfield. He died there on February 19, 1835. In the Sacred Harp, the well-known tune “Primrose” is said to be by Amzi, while Lucius contributed “Vernon” and the Ninety-Third Psalm.  Thus, older books attribute the tune to Amzi, while modern editors have assigned it to Lucius.  Below, I have used another paraphrase of the “Ubi caritas” hymn intended for this tune.

     The hymn identifies some of the blessings that prevail when we have charity and love toward one another.

I. The first stanza mentions oneness

Where charity and love abound

Christ gathers us as one.

Let us rejoice and praise our Lord

Until our race is run.

 A. Jesus prayed for oneness among all believers: Jn. 17:20-21

 B. Those who are thus one in the Lord can rejoice: Phil. 4:4

 C. And this they can do while running the race: Heb. 12:1-2

II. The second stanza mentions service

Where charity and love abound

We all are one in heart.

Division ends, all evil stops,

And each one does his part.

 A. Again, God’s people should be one in heart or mind: Phil. 2:1-2

 B. When this is the case, they will seek to end all division: 1 Cor. 1:10

 C. Instead, each one will do his part in the Lord’s service: Rom. 12:4-8

III. The third stanza mentions the hope of heaven

Where charity and love abound

We sing a happy song.

Then we shall stand before His throne

Through all the ages long.

 A. In this life, those who are one in Christ can sing a happy song: Jas. 5:13

 B. Then when life is over, they shall stand before the throne of God in heaven: Rev. 4:1-6

 C. And they will remain all the ages long because they will have eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25

     CONCL.:  Latin hymns of the Middle Ages were for the most part left behind and forgotten among the Protestants following the Reformation.  However, there was a renewed interest in them, along with Greek hymns of the early church, beginning in the middle nineteenth century, and many of them were translated into English, a practice which has continued down to the present time, especially since the Roman Catholic Church has changed its liturgy from Latin to modern languages.  This particular hymn reminds us how that good things will result “Where Charity and Love Abound.”

Take Me Home, Father, Take Me Home


“…Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23)

     INTRO.:  A song which expresses the desire to be with Christ is “Take Me Home, Father, Take Me Home.”  The text was written under the penname of Vana R. Raye and the tune was composed both by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992).  The song was copyrighted in 1948 by the Gospel Advocate Company and first published that year in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 which Sanderson edited for The Gospel Advocate.  It also appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 which Sanderson edited for the Advocate as well, and in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.

       The song looks at death not only as the cessation of life with its sorrows but also as a going home.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the frailties of old age

When the sun of my life has gone down,

And the shadows have denser grown,

When there’s ought to remind of a failing mind,

Take me home, Father, take me home.

 A. The going down of the sun when night comes is often used poetically of the end of life: Jn. 9:4

 B. Thus, the picture of the shadows growing denser symbolizes the difficult days of old age: Eccl. 12:1

 C. Often, as we approach the time of death, the mind may begin to fail; at least it appeared to be so with David: 1 Ki. 1:1-4

II. Stanza 2 talks about the suffering of old age

When my form is inclined and I yield

To the thorns of the flesh I’ve known,

And this temple of clay only in the way,

Take me home, Father, take me home.

 A. To say that one’s form is inclined seems to imply that such a person is bent with age, as sometimes occurs: Lk. 13:10-11

 B. And most of us, as we grow older, suffer from some kind of a thorn in the flesh: 2 Cor. 12:7

 C. Such infirmities serve to remind us that our physical bodies are only temporary temples of clay: Job 33:6

III. Stanza 3 talks about the loneliness of old age

When the ones I have loved pass away,

When I’m left in the world alone,

And there’s none who can see any good for me,

Take me home, Father, take me home.

 A. As time goes by, more and more of our loved ones fall asleep in Jesus: 1 Thess. 4:13

 B. When this happens, we tend to feel that we are left alone in the world, like a single sparrow on the housetop: Ps. 102:1-7

 C. It may even seem that as we approach death no one sees any good in us and we may already be forgotten: Eccl. 9:4-6

     CONCL.: The chorus asks that when we are no longer useful here below God would take us home to be with Him.

Take me home, Father, take me home!

Leave me not in the world to roam!

When I’m useless below, I would rather go—

Take me home, Father, take me home.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, the local church where we worshipped still used the “old brown book,” Christian Hymns No. 2, for a while.  One Sunday, the preacher and his family invited the whole congregation to his house for a potluck dinner following the morning worship.  After we had eaten, we did some singing, and I was asked to lead many of the hymns which were called out.  As time moved on, my mother was beginning to chomp at the bit to leave, and when someone asked for No. 452, she turned to it and said out loud, “Yes, please take me home!”  We all laughed.  My mother has since “gone home” to be with the Lord.  The trials and tribulations of life tend to create in all faithful Christians the same kind of longings to say, “Take Me Home, Father, Take Me Home.”

Who Is He in Yonder Stall?

(Portrait of Benjamin R. Hanby)


“He is Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14)

     Introduction:  A hymn which identifies Jesus Christ as the Lord of lords and King of kings is “Who Is He in Yonder Stall?”  The text was written and the tune (Lowliness) was composed both by Benjamin Russell (or Russel) Hanby, who was born on July 22, 1833, at Rushville, Ohio, the son and oldest of eight children, of United Brethren minister (and later bishop) William Hanby and Ann (Miller) Hanby. The family moved to Westerville, OH, where Hanby’s father was active as a “conductor” on in the Underground Railroad and was assisted by his son. In 1849, at the age of sixteen, Benjamin enrolled at Otterbein University in Westerville. Hanby wrote over five dozen songs, many of which appeared in the quarterly Our Song Birds. One of his best known secular songs is “Darling Nelly Gray.” He wrote the song in 1856 while attending Otterbein in response to the plight of a run­away slave named Joseph Selby (or Shelby).

     After graduation in 1858, Hanby became a United Brethren minister, and married Kathryn Winter.  He briefly worked for the college teaching school, and then in 1860, he became principal of Seven Mile Academy in Seven Mile, Ohio.  Later he served as minister for churches at Lewisburg and New Paris, both in Ohio, but by Christmas 1864, he was no longer working as a minister, but operating a singing school in New Paris and working for music publishers John Church of Cincinnati, Ohio,.  In 1864, while at New Paris, Hanby wrote “Up on the Housetop,” as a Christmas sing-along. It was originally titled “Santa Claus,” and is said to be the second oldest secular Christmas song, preceded only by Jingle Bells, and the first to suggest that Santa Claus’ sleigh landed on house roofs. “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” has also sometimes also been attributed to Hanby.  The following year, Chicago, Illinois, publisher George Frederick Root of Root and Cady published “Up OnThe Housetop” and brought Hanby to Chicago to pursue other publishing ventures.  

     Hanby helped Root to edit many song collections such as The Snow-Bird (1865), The Dove (1866), The Red Bird (1866), The Robin (1866), Chapel Gems (1866), and The Blue Bird (1867).  Also he published many hymns including “Little Eyes” and in 1866 “Who is He In Yonder Stall?”, which first appeared in The Dove.   Hanby died of tuberculosis at age 33 on March 16, 1867, in Chicago, and was buried at Otterbein Cemetery, Westerville, Ohio.  His home in Westerville where he composed “Darling Nelly Gray,” known as the Hanby House, located at the corner of Grove and Main Streets, and moved in the 1930s to 160 West Main Street, adjacent to the campus of Otterbein University, was Ohio’s first memorial to a composer. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to Canada and is a national historical site, a Methodist church Landmark, and a Network to Freedom site for the National Park Service. There is a Hanby Residence Hall at Otterbein University.

     “Who is He In Yonder Stall?” basically follows the life of Christ.

I. Stanza 1 begins with His birth and early life

Who is He in yonder stall

At whose feet the shepherds fall?

Who is He in yonder cot,

Bending to His toilsome lot?

 A. When Jesus was born, He was laid in a manger: Lk. 2:4-7 (I guess to make it sound more “up to date,” some modern books have “Who is He born in the stall”)

 B. While He was there, shepherds came to see Him: Lk. 2:15-18

 C. During His growing up and young adult years, He was, like Joseph, a carpenter: Mk. 6:3

II. Stanza 2 continues with His temptation and teaching

Who is He in deep distress,

Fasting in the wilderness?

Who is He the people bless

For His words of gentleness?

 A. Before He began His earthly ministry, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness: Mk. 1:12-13

 B. This was after He had fasted forty days and nights: Matt. 4:1-4

 C. When He started teaching people, they marveled at His words: Matt. 7:28-29

III. Stanza 3 mentions His miracles of healing and resurrection

Who is He to whom they bring

All the sick and sorrowing?

Who is He that stands and weeps

At the grave where Lazarus sleeps?

 A. During His earthly ministry, people brought those who were sick and sorrowing to Jesus: Mk. 1:32-34

 B. When His friend Lazarus died, He stood at the tomb weeping: Jn. 11:33-35

 C. Then He raised Lazarus from the dead: Jn. 11:38-44

IV. Stanza 4 covers His “passion week” from the triumphal entry to Gethsemane

Who is He the gathering throng

Greet with loud triumphant song?

Lo! at midnight, who is He

Prays in dark Gethsemane?

 A. Jesus entered Jerusalem amid a gathering throng who greeted Him with triumphant song: Matt. 21:8-11

 B. Yet, in just a few days, He experienced the loneliness of Gethsemane: Mk. 14:32-35

 C. There He prayed in great agony: Lk. 22:39-44

V. Stanza 5 refers to both His words and His death at Calvary

Who is He in Calvary’s throes,

Asks for blessings on His foes?

Who is He on yonder tree

Dies in grief and agony?

 A. Jesus was crucified on Calvary: Lk. 23:33

 B. While there, He asked the Fathe to forgive His enemies: Lk. 23:34

 C. He bore our sins as He died on the tree: 1 Pet. 2:24

VI. Stanza 6 concludes with His resurrection and present reign

Who is He that from the grave

Comes to heal and help and save?

Who is He that from His throne

Rules through all the world alone?

 A. After three days, Jesus came forth from the grave: Lk. 24:1-7

 B. His resurrection demonstrates His power to save: 1 Tim. 1:15

 C. He now rules alone, having ascended to His throne: Acts 2:30-32

     Conclusion: The chorus answers all the questions asked in the stanzas:

’Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!

’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!

At His feet we humbly fall,

Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!

Hanby originally wrote twelve two-line stanzas.  Donald Hustad introduced a version combining two of the original stanzas into four-line stanzas in the 1957 Worship and Service Hymnal.  Various editors have tinkered with the order of the stanzas. So far as I know, this song has not appeared in any hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ.  The first time that I ever saw it was in an old hymnbook without either cover or title page given to me by my grandmother on which she had taped a white cardboard cover and written “Church Songs.”  Since then I have seen the original in the 1972 Living Hymns edited by Alfred B. Smith for Encore Publications and the Hustad version in the 1974 Hymns of the Living Church which he edited for Hope Publishing Co.  It would be great if the whole world asked “Who Is He in Yonder Stall?” 

All My Hope on God Is Founded

(Portrait of Robert S. Bridges)


“Thou art my hope, O Lord God: Thou art my trust from my youth” (Psalm 71:5)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which points out that God should be our hope and trust from our youth is “All My Hope on God Is Founded” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #317).  The text was written by Joachim Neander (1650-1680).   Beginning in German “Meine Hoffnung stehet feste,” it first appeared in Neander’s Alpha und Omega Glaub- und Liebesubung published in 1680.  The usual English translation was made by Robert Seymour Bridges, who was born on Oct. 23, 1844, the son of J. J. Bridges, of Walmer, Kent, England, and educated at Eton and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (B.A. 1867, M.A. 1874).  Becoming a doctor in 1874, he eventually discovered his literary gifts and retired from practice in 1882.  A resident of Yattendon in Berkshire,where he was song director for the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, he was the author of three volumes of lyrics, several plays, literary criticism, and other works. Some of his better known poems are “Eros and Psyche” (1885) and “Testament of Beauty” (1929).  Also, disappointed with the range of hymns available, he decided to make his own collection, so he edited and contributed to the Yattendon Hymnal of 1899, originally printed by the Oxford Univ. Press, in which this translation first appeared.  Named British Poet Laureate in 1913, he died on April 21, 1930, at Boars Hill, England. 

     The United Methodist Hymnal of 1989 uses a new translation of Neander’s text beginning “All my hope is firmly grounded” made in 1986 by Fred Pratt Green.  The original tune (Meine Hoffnung named from its German text, or Coblentz) was a minor key German chorale melody composed by Neander himself.  The United Methodist Hymnal used a new tune (Michael) composed in 1930 by the English church musician Herbert Howells (1892-1983).  PHASS uses a tune (Irby) composed in 1849 by Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876) for Cecil F. Alexander’s 1848 hymn “Once in Royal David’s City (see PHASS #645).  Another tune (Coronae) that works was composed in 1871 by William Henry Monk for Thomas Kelly’s 1809 hymn “Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious” (cf.  PHASS #265), for which most of our other books use a tune by George C. Stebbins.

    The hymn gives reasons why we can put our hope and trust in God.

I. According to stanza 1, God alone can guide us

All my hope on God is founded;

He doth still my trust renew,

Me through change and chance He guideth,

Only good and only true.

God unknown, He alone

Calls my heart to be His own.

 A. He has promised to guide us with His eye: Ps. 32:8

 B. He is the only one who is truly good: Matt. 19:17

 C. Thus, He alone is worthy to call our hearts His own: Prov. 23:26

II. According to stanza 2, we cannot trust in man’s pride and earth’s glory

Pride of man and earthly glory,

Sword and crown betray his trust;

What with care and toil he buildeth,

Tower and temple fall to dust.

But God’s power, hour by hour,

Is my temple and my tower.

 A. Pride of man will always end up betraying our trust because it leads to a fall: Prov. 16:18

 B. Also, all that is built for earthly glory eventually falls to dust: Isa. 26:5

 C. However, God is a strong tower that will never fall: Ps. 61:1-3

III. According to stanza 3, God’s wisdom endures forever

God’s great goodness aye endureth,

Deep His wisdom, passing thought:

Splendor, light and life attend him,

Beauty springeth out of naught.

Evermore from His store

Newborn worlds rise and adore.

 A. God is known for His great wisdom: Ps. 104:24

 B. This wisdom brings light and life to us through His Son: Jn. 1:1-3

 C. Therefore, even newborn worlds which He framed should rise and adore Him: Heb. 11:3

IV. According to stanza 4, God is the almighty Giver of every good gift

Daily doth th’almighty Giver

Bounteous gifts on us bestow;

His desire our soul delighteth,

Pleasure leads us where we go.

Love doth stand at His hand;

Joy doth wait on His command.

 A. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above: Jas. 1:17

 B. His comforts delight our souls: Ps. 94:13

 C. Thus, we joy in His love: Isa. 12:3

V. According to stanza 5, God is the eternal one

Still from man to God eternal

Sacrifice of praise be done,

High above all praises praising

For the gift of Christ, His Son.

Christ doth call one and all:

Ye who follow shall not fall.

 A. The very nature of God is eternal: Deut. 33:8

 B. The greatest gift that He gave us is Christ, His Son: 2 Cor. 9:15

 C. And those who follow Christ shall never fall: Jn. 10:27-28

     CONCL.:  Even though this hymn would almost surely fall into the category of “unfamiliar” to those of us associated with churches of Christ, the editors of PHASS chose not to update the language in this one (doth, guideth, ye, etc.), I would assume, because it would require too much rearranging and altering of the text to do so.   I think that it is actually somewhat refreshing.  In any event, I always need to remember through the changing scenes of this life that “All My Hope on God Is Founded.” 

I Could Not Do Without Thee


“Without Me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that without Christ we can do nothing is “I Could Not Do Without Thee” (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, #313).  The text was written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879).  She was born at Astley, Worcestershire, the daughter of William Henry Havergal who was an Anglican minister.   Five years later her father moved to St. Nicholas, Worcester. In August, 1850, she entered Mrs. Teed’s school, whose influence over her was most beneficial. In the following year she says, “I committed my soul to the Saviour, and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment.” A short sojourn in Germany followed.  In 1860 she left Worcester on her father’s resigning from St. Nicholas, and resided at different periods in Leamington, and at Caswall Bay, Swansea, broken by visits to Switzerland, Scotland, and North Wales.  Her hymns, such as “I Gave My Life for Thee” and “Take My Life, and Let It Be,” were frequently printed by J. R. Parlane as leaflets, and by Caswell & Co. as ornamental cards. They were gathered together from time to time and published in her works.  “I Could Not Do Without Thee” is dated May 7, 1873, and first appeared in her book Home Words the same year.  She died at Caswall Bay, Swansea.

     Several tunes have been used with this hymn.  Cyberhymnal suggests one (Ewing) composed by Alexander Ewing in 1853 for the medieval Latin hymn “Jerusalem the Golden” which I pair with Samuel F. Smith’s “The Morning Light Is Breaking.”  It offers as an alternate a tune (Angel’s Story) composed by Arthur H. Mann in 1881 which in our books is used with John E. Bode’s “O Jesus, I Have Promised.”  Some books set it to a tune (Missionary Hymn) composed by Lowell Mason in 1823 for Reginald Heber’s “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.”  PHASS has a new tune (Elbert) composed in 2009 by one of the editors Charlotte E. Couchman, most likely for this text.  Looking at, I found that a large number of books have a tune (Magdalena as shown below)) composed in 1868 by John Stainer (1840-1901).

     The song mentions several situations which remind us that we need Jesus in our lives.

I. Stanza 1 talks about being lost

I could not do without Thee

O Savior of the lost,

Whose precious blood redeemed me

At such tremendous cost.

Thy righteousness, thy pardon

Thy precious blood, must be

My only hope and comfort,

My glory and my plea.

 A. When we reach an accountable age and choose to sin, we become numbered among the lost whom Jesus came to seek and save: Lk. 19:10

 B. The means by which He did this was by offering redemption through His blood: Eph. 1:7

 C. The only way for us to have righteousness accounted to us is to obtain forgiveness of sin: Rom. 4:6-8

II. Stanza 2 talks about standing strong

I could not do without Thee,

I cannot stand alone,

I have no strength or goodness,

No wisdom of my own;

But Thou, beloved Savior,

Art all in all to me,

And weakness will be power

If leaning hard on Thee.

 A. We need to stand: Eph. 6:11-13

 B. However, we cannot do it alone because we cannot lean on our on understanding: Prov.  3:5-7

 C. Thus, we must look to Christ for strength so that in weakness we can be strong: 2 Cor. 12:8-10

III. Stanza 3 talks about journeying on the way

I could not do without Thee,

For, oh, the way is long,

And I am often weary,

And sigh replaces song:

How could I do without Thee?

I do not know the way;

Thou knowest, and Thou leadest,

And wilt not let me stray.

 A. Sometimes the way seems long, weary, and even sorrowful because of our trials: 1 Pet. 4:12

 B. The fact is that we do not know the way because the way is not in ourselves: Jer. 10:23

 C. Therefore, we must trust the Lord to lead and guide us: Ps. 32:8

IV. Stanza 4 talks about being lonely

I could not do without Thee,

O Jesus, Savior dear;

E’en when my eyes are holden,

I know that Thou art near.

How dreary and how lonely

This changeful life would be,

Without the sweet communion,

The secret rest with Thee!

 A. Sometimes our eyes are “holden,” in a way similar to those of the two on the road to Emmaus, and we don’t seem to feel Jesus near: Lk. 24:13-15

 B. It is at such times we may feel how dreary and lonely life is, as Elijah did: 2 Ki. 19:14

 C. Yet, even then we can rest in the sweet communion of Christ’s promise to be with us always: Matt. 28:20

V. Stanza 5 talks about needing a friend

I could not do without Thee;

No other friend can read

The spirit’s strange deep longings,

Interpreting its need;

No human heart could enter

Each dim recess of mine,

And soothe, and hush, and calm it,

O blessèd Lord, but Thine.

 A. Most everyone likes to have friends: Prov. 18:24

 B. However, not even our friends can always read our spirit’s deep longings because no one knows the things of a person except the spirit of that person: 1 Cor. 2:11

 C. But Jesus can enter our hearts to soothe, hush, and calm them because He has proven Himself a true friend: Jn. 15:13-15

VI. Stanza 6 talks about facing death

I could not do without Thee,

For years are fleeting fast,

And soon in solemn oneness

The river must be passed;

But Thou wilt never leave me,

And though the waves roll high,

I know Thou wilt be near me,

And whisper, “It is I.”

 A. The years of our lives are fleeting fast: Ps. 90:9-12

 B.  Soon the river of death must be crossed: Heb. 9:27

 C. But for the faithful Christian, Jesus will be there, saying, “It is I; be not afraid:” Jn. 6:20

     CONCL.:  Since the editors of PHASS have apparently deemed this hymn “unfamiliar” among churches of Christ, they felt the need to update the pronouns.  Frances Havergal wrote many hymns, besides the ones already mentioned, which have appeared in our books, such as “Another Year Is Dawning,” “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,” “I Bring My Sins to Thee,” “Is It for Me, Dear Savior?”, “Light After Darkness,” “Lord, Speak to Me,” “Nobody Knows but Jesus,” “The Half Has Never Yet Been Told,” and “True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted,” some used more often than others.  This is perhaps a lesser known one.  But by it, I confess to Jesus, “I Could Not Do Without Thee.”