The New Song (Pierson)

(Photograph of A. T. Pierson)

THE NEW SONG (Pierson) or WITH HARPS AND WITH VIALS

“…The four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which pictures those in heaven falling down before the Lamb with harps is “The New Song” (Pierson), also known by its opening line, “With Harps and with Vials.”  The text was written by Arthur Tappan Pierson, who was born on March 6, 1837, at Manhattan, New York, the ninth child of Stephen and Sallie Pierson, a family with strong Christian and abolitionist roots.  He was named after Arthur Tappan, the famous New York abolitionist.  While attending a Methodist revival meeting in 1850 at the age of 13, he first publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ.  Graduating from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1857, and serving the Congregational Church at Winsted, Connecticut, in the summers of 1859 and 1860, he married Sarah Frances Benedict in 1860, and they went on to have seven children, all of whom professed conversion to Christianity before the age of 15 and later served as religious leaders.  Also, he graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1869.

     After serving churches in Binghamton, New York (1860–1863), and Waterford, New York (1863–69), Tappan became minister with the Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit, MI (1869–82), the largest church in Detroit, at the age of 32. In 1874, Daniel Webster Whittle conducted a six-week campaign in Detroit with his song director Philip Paul Bliss (1838–1876).  They stayed in Pierson’s home. Pierson gave Bliss these words and was impressed that Bliss withdrew for a season of prayer before composing the tune (Chattanooga).  Upon leaving Detroit, Tappan served churches in Indianapolis, Indiana (1882–83), and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Bethany Collegiate Presbyterian Church, 1883-89).  In 1889–90 he made a missionary tour of the United Kingdom. When Charles Spurgeon’s illness with Bright’s disease kept him from preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, he asked Pierson to substitute for him while he recovered; but when Spurgeon unexpectedly died on January 31, 1892, the people invited Pierson to stay on, which he did for the next two years (1891–93), during which time he was Duff lecturer in Scotland in 1892.

     In 1894, Tappan co-edited The Coronation Hymnal with Adoniram Judson Gordon at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the American Baptist Publication Society.   One of his most significant books was In Christ Jesus (1898), where he came to the conclusion that this brief phrase “in Christ Jesus,” a preposition followed by a proper name, was the key to understanding the entire New Testament. In addition, he wrote a biography of George Mueller of Bristol (1899). One of Pierson’s most notable influences was due to his commitment to orthodoxy during the beginning of the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy in American churches.  After retiring, he continued to preach at churches and conferences at home and abroad, returning to London, England, to preach at Christ Church (1902–03).  Also, he was a consulting editor for the original “Scofield Reference Bible” (1909) for his friend, C. I. Scofield.   He visited Korea in 1910 and taught the Bible in a few churches including the Namdaemoon church.   Tappan died on June 3, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, and was buried GreenWood Cemetery.

     The song points out that what Jesus did for us on earth makes it possible for us to be with Him heaven.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the throng

With harps and with vials,

There stand a great throng

In the presence of Jesus,

And sing this new song:

 A. Some object to singing about harps in heaven, but the Bible itself uses such language, and if we can read Revelation and understand that the harps symbolize the beautiful music of heaven, then we should be able to sing hymns using the same wording with the same understanding: Rev. 14:1-2 (some books erroneously have “viols” instead of “vials”)

 B. It will be a great throng that sing before the throne: Rev. 7:9-10

 C. And in the presence of Jesus the Lamb they will be singing a new song: Rev. 5:9-10

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the garments

All these once were sinners,

Defiled in His sight,

Now arrayed in pure garments

In praise they unite:

 A. All were once sinners: 1 Cor. 6:9-11

 B. But having been forgiven, these are now arrayed in pure garments: Rev. 3:5

 C. And they will unite in praise: Rev. 5:11-14

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the song

He maketh the rebel

A priest and a king,

He hath bought us and taught us

This new song to sing:

 A. Jesus came to save sinful rebels: 1 Tim. 1:15

 B. Having washed us in His blood, He made us kings and priests: Rev. 1:5-6

 C. Therefore we can sing the song of Moses and the Lamb: Rev. 15:2-4

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the cleansing

How helpless and hopeless

We sinners had been,

If He never had loved us

Till cleansed from our sin:

 A. Those lost in sin are helpless and hopeless: Eph. 2:12

 B. But God still loved us: Rom 5:6-8

 C. He made cleansing possible through Christ: Eph. 5:25-27

V. Stanza 5 emphasizes the praises

Aloud in His praises

Our voices shall ring,

So that others believing,

This new song shall sing:

 A. The Lord God is worthy of our praises: Heb. 13:15

 B. Therefore, our tongues should sing aloud: Ps. 51:14

 C. And we should encourage others to sing this new song: Ps. 40:3

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the love of Jesus to make salvation available.

Unto Him who hath loved us

And washed us from sin,

Unto Him be the glory

Forever, Amen.

So far as I know, this song has never been found in any hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use among Churches of Christ. However, it tells us that as we sing here on earth the songs of redemption in praise to Christ, we are preparing ourselves to sing along with the heavenly hosts above “The New Song.”

He Is Coming Again

HE IS COMING AGAIN (Camp)

“This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)

      INTRO.:  A song which looks forward to that time when Jesus shall so come in the same way as the apostles saw Him go into heaven is “He Is Coming Again” or “Lift Up Your Heads, Pilgrims A-Weary.”  The text was written and the tune (Camp) was composed both by Mabel Johnston Camp, who was born on November 25, 1871, at Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of a banker.  A gifted pianist and accomplished contralto singer, Mabel went to a girls’ school in Steubenville, Ohio, and in 1896 became the wife of a promising young lawyer in Chicago, IL, named Norman Harvey Camp (1867–1952).  They had one son, Horace J. Camp (1897–1956). 

     The Camps became Christians together at one of Dwight Moody’s Bible Union classes taught by William R. Newell, author of the hymn “At Calvary.”  Norman had first begun attending the classes where he found Christ as Savior and then brought his wife with him who was also converted.  Mabel and Norman were members of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.  Mrs. Camp supported her husband in his evangelistic teaching ministry, while she herself was active in raising money on Chicago’s “Gold Coast” to benefit the “Fresh Air Camp” for under-privileged children. 

     Mabel had many physical problems which caused her to be bedridden for months at a time.  Cyber Hymnal, citing Donald Paul Hustad’s Dictionary-Handbook to Hymns for the Living Church, lists 14 first lines of hymns which she is said to have written, as well as links to other hymns using three tunes which she composed.  “He Is Coming Again,” probably her best-known song, was first published in The Voice of Thanksgiving, edited by Daniel B. Towner (composer of the tune for “At Calvary”) for Fleming H. Revell in 1913.  Mabel J. Camp died on May 25, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois.

     So far as I know, “He Is Coming Again” has never been found in any hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ.  Among other hymnals in my collection, the song was included in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal published by Great Commission Publications, the 1969 Favorite Hymns of Praise published by Tabernacle Publishing Company, and the 1974 Hymns for the Living Church published by Hope Publishing Company, as well as several others.

     The song encourages us to be prepared for the second coming of Christ.

I. The first stanza says that we await the Beloved

Lift up your heads, pilgrims a-weary,

See day’s approach now crimson the sky;

Night shadows flee, and your Belovèd,

Awaited with longing, at last draweth nigh.

 A. We need to remember that we are but pilgrims on this earth: 1 Pet. 2:11

 B. Night or darkness is often used to represent the sinfulness of the world: Jn. 3:19-21

 C. Some might flinch at the phrase “at last draweth nigh” because ever since the promise was made in the first century, the Lord’s return has been drawing nigh:  Jas. 5:8 (KJV)

II. The second stanza explains why we await the Beloved

Dark was the night, sin warred against us;

Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;

But now we see signs of His coming;

Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!

 A. As long as we live on this earth, sin wars against us: Rom. 7:23

 B. Non-millennialists would have trouble with this stanza because while Jesus gave many signs for the destruction of Jerusalem so that the disciples could escape it, there will be no signs of His second coming because no one knows when: Matt. 24:35-36

 C. But even though there are no signs of Christ’s coming and no one knows when, Christians still know that it will happen someday and joyfully prepare for it: 1 Thess. 5:2-9

III. The third stanza indicates the result of His coming

O blessèd hope! O blissful promise!

Filling our hearts with rapture divine;

O day of days! Hail Thy appearing!

Thy transcendent glory forever shall shine.

 A. Our blessed hope is the glorious appearance of our Savior: Tit. 2:13-14

 B. “Rapture” here has nothing to do with Premillennial doctrine but simply refers to extreme joy and happiness at His coming: 1 Thess. 2:19

 C. Then we shall see His glory: 1 Pet. 4:13

 IV. The fourth stanza expresses the desire for His coming

Even so, come, precious Lord Jesus;

Creation waits redemption to see;

Caught up in clouds, soon we shall meet Thee;

O blessèd assurance, forever with Thee!

 A. Like John, we pray for His coming: Rev. 22:20

 B. All creation looks forward to this final redemption: Rom. 8:19-22

 C. Then we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Him: 1 Thess. 4:13-17

     CONCL.:  The chorus points out that it is the same Jesus rejected of men at His first coming for whom we look.

He is coming again, He is coming again,

The very same Jesus, rejected of men;

He is coming again, He is coming again,

With power and great glory, He is coming again!

While we should be careful not to be caught up in false doctrine about the second coming of Christ, we do need to remember and prepare for the fact that “He Is Coming Again.”

The Wonders of God

THE WONDERS OF GOD

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1)

    INTRO.:  A hymn which expresses what the fact that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork means to us is “The Wonders of God” (#18 in Hymns for Worship Supplement).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Roy Joseph “R. J.” Stevens Sr. (1927-2012).  In 1987, R. J. and Dane K. Shepard co-edited Hymns for Worship.  Then in 2007, they were joined by R. J.’s son Tim Stevens to co-edit Hymns for Worship Supplement.  It contains “The Wonders of God” which was copyrighted in 1998.  The inscription on R. J.’s tombstone reads, “R. J. taught us how to worship not just to sing.”

     In 2017, the R.J. Stevens Music Facebook page had the following notice.  “Before Hymns for Worship was introduced 30 years ago, R.J. Stevens desired to publish a hymnal, designed to praise and glorify God, edify His people, and motivate true, spiritual worship. R.J. taught and encouraged new hymn writers and used this hymnal as a vehicle to introduce many of their hymns we sing today in worship. R.J.’s legacy continues through the ongoing efforts of his Music Development Team as they generate both old, new, and ‘yet to be written’ hymns, whether it be in printed or digital form.”

     “The Wonders of God” mentions three aspects of God’s work which produce wonder.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the physical earth and heavens

When I think of this world God formed with His word,

His wonders are seen everywhere.

Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God,

His wisdom, and His great power.

 A. God formed the world with His word: Ps. 33:6-9

 B. His wonders are clearly seen everywhere: Rom. 1:18-20

 C. The heavens and the earth declare that God created them: Gen. 1:1

II. Stanza 2 talks about the death of Christ for our salvation

When I think of the cross where Christ gave His life—

His love, greatest wonder of all.

Jesus bore all my sins on Calvary’s tree;

His death saved me from my fall.

 A. The cross is where Jesus gave His life for us: Heb. 12:2

 B. He did this because He loves us: 1 Jn. 3:16

 C. The goal of His love was to save us: 1 Tim. 1:15

III. Stanza 3 talks about the hope of eternal life with God in heaven

When I think of my home in heaven above,

This wonder gives hope for me here.

I will sing with the saved around His great throne,

And Jesus will meet me there.

 A. Jesus is preparing His people a home above: Jn. 14:1-3

 B. This is the ultimate hope of the Christian: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 C. Then we shall sing forever with those around His great throne: Rev. 5:8-10

     CONCL.:  We certainly should be thankful to God for the physical creation and all the material blessings that He has provided for our lives here upon this earth.  Added to that are the gift of His Son to die for our sins that we might have salvation, and the hope of eternal life with Him in heaven.  When we consider everything that He has done for us, we are made to marvel at “The Wonders of God.”

I Would Love Thee

(Portrait of Madame Guyon)

I WOULD LOVE THEE

“I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18:1)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which expresses the desire to show love to the Lord is “I Would Love Thee.”  The text is attributed to Madame Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mothe Guyon, who was born on April 13, 1648, at Montargis in Loiret, France, the daughter of Claude Bouvier, a procurator of the tribunal of Montargis, 70 miles south of Paris and 40 miles east of Orléans.  There is some controversy surrounding the date of birth for Madame Guyon, but the date of April 18,1648, given in the highly condensed English translation of Madame Guyon’s autobiography, published by Moody Press, appears to be a typographical error—all French editions of the autobiography from the earliest one on, published in 1720, state April 13, 1648, as her birthday.  Of a sensitive and delicate constitution, Jeanne was sickly in her childhood and her education was neglected. Her childhood was spent between the convent and the home of her well–to–do parents, moving nine times in ten years. Guyon’s parents were very religious people, and they gave her an especially pious training. Other important impressions from her youth that remained with her came from reading the works of St. Francis de Sales, and from certain nuns, her teachers. Prior to her marriage she had wanted to become a nun, but this desire did not last long.

     In 1664, when she was 15 years old, after turning down many other proposals, Jeanne was forced into an arranged marriage to a wealthy gentleman of Montargis, Jacques Guyon, aged thirty eight, 22 years her senior. During her twelve years of marriage, Guyon suffered terribly at the hands of her tyrannical mother-in-law. Adding to her misery were the deaths of her half-sister, followed by her mother, and her son. Her daughter and father then died within days of each other in July, 1672. Guyon retained belief in God’s perfect plan and that she would be blessed in suffering. She bore another son and daughter shortly before her husband’s death in 1676. After twelve years of an unhappy marriage, in which she had borne five children, of whom three survived, Madame Guyon became a widow at the age of 28.  During her marriage, Guyon became introduced to mysticism by François La Combe, the superior of the Barnabite house at Thonon in Savoy, and was instructed by him.  After her husband’s death, Madame Guyon initially lived quietly as a wealthy widow in Montargis. In 1679, she re-established contact with François La Combe and became a leader of the Quietist movement in France, considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, although she never called herself a Quietist.  In 1680, she left Montargis with her young daughter and travelled to Gex, in Savoy, to set up a house for “new Catholics.”  From there, she at first went to Turin, then returned to France, and stayed at Grenoble, where she spread her religious convictions more widely.

     In 1686 Guyon went to Paris, where she was first imprisoned for her opinions.  Her arrest took place on January 29, 1688, and she was not released until seven months later.  In1694, after publishing the book A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer, Guyon feared another arrest, and took refuge for some months at Meaux, but returned secretly to Paris.  The Paris police arrested her on December 24, 1695, imprisoned her first at Vincennes, then the next year moved her to a convent at Vaugirard, and finally took her to the Bastille in 1699 for four years.  Madame Guyon remained imprisoned in the Bastille until March 21, 1703, when, after more than seven years of her final captivity, she went to spend the remainder of her life in retirement with her daughter, the Marquise de Bois, in a village in the Diocese of Blois. There she passed some fifteen years surrounded by a stream of pilgrims, many from England and Scotland, and spending her time writing volumes of correspondence and poetry. Her works fill some 40 volumes.  She died on June 9, 1717, at Blois in Loir-et-Cher, France and was buried in the Church of the Cordeliers at Blois. The translation of “I Would Love Thee” by an unknown translator is taken from The Sabbath Hymn Book (New York) and The Christian’s Penny Magazine (England), both published in 1858.  The tune (Love Thee) by an anonymous composer is taken from Hymns and Tunes of 1890.  So far as I know, the song has never appeared in any major hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ. 

    The song expresses several reasons why we should love God.

I. Stanza 1 says that we should love God because of who He is

I would love Thee, God and Father,

My Redeemer and my king:

I would love Thee, for without Thee,

Life is but a bitter thing.

 A. God is the Father of our spirits: Heb. 12:9

 B. He is also our Redeemer: Isa. 49:26

 C. And He is our King: Ps. 145:1

II. Stanza 2 says that we should love God because of His blessings

I would love Thee; every blessing

Flows to me from out Thy throne:

I would love Thee—He who loves Thee

Never feels himself alone.

 A. Every good gift or blessing comes from God: Jas. 1:17

 B. These flow to us out of His throne: Ps. 45:6

 C. One of those blessings is His presence: Heb. 13:5-6

III. Stanza 3 says that we should love God because of His provision

I would love Thee; look upon me,

Ever guide me with Thine eye:

I would love Thee; if not nourished

By Thy love, my soul would die.

 A. He provides guidance with His eye: Ps. 32:8

 B. He provides nourishment for our spirits: Col. 2:19

 C. He provides restoration for our souls: Ps. 23:3

IV. Stanza 4 says that we should love God because of His brightness

I would love Thee; may Thy brightness

Dazzle my rejoicing eyes!

I would love Thee; may Thy goodness

Watch from Heav’n o’er all I prize.

 A. God’s brightness is due to the fact that He is light and no darkness is in Him: 1 Jn. 1:5

 B. He is characterized not only by brightness but also by goodness: Ps. 31:19

 C. Because of His brightness and goodness, He watches over us: Ps. 146:9

V. Stanza 5 says that we should love God because He is our refuge

I would love Thee—Thee, my refuge—

While the evil days increase.

I would love Thee; Thee I seek for,

Thou exhaustless source of peace.

 A. God has always been a refuge to His people: Ps. 46:1-3

 B. Therefore, we can turn to Him for refuge when evil days increase: Eph. 5:16

 C. In that refuge we can find an exhaustless source of true peace: Phil. 4:6-7

VI. Stanza 6 says that we should love God because of His salvation

I would love Thee, I have vowed it;

On Thy love my heart is set:

While I love Thee, I will never

My Redeemer’s blood forget.

 A. The decision to love God should be a vow: Ps. 65:1

 B. This love must come from our hearts: Matt. 22:37

 C. His love for us was demonstrated by our Redeemer’s blood: Eph. 1:7
     CONCL.:  God has demonstrated His love for all of mankind, including me, by providing the material blessings of this life to provide for all my physical needs.  On top of that, He so loved the world that He sent Christ to die for our sins and make all spiritual blessings, especially salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life with Him in heaven, available to all mankind, and even to me.  In return, I should not only tell Him but also show Him that “I Would Love Thee.”  

Jehovah the Living God

(Photo of Ruda V. Johnson)

JEHOVAH THE LIVING GOD

“…My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2)

    INTRO.:  A hymn which identifies Jehovah as the living God for whom or hearts should cry out is “Jehovah the Living God.”  The text was written by Ruda V. Hartness Johnson who was born on Aug. 24, 1922, in Perrin, Jack County, TX, to John Henry Hartness and Ruda Priscilla Lee Hartness, the youngest of seven children. She attended high school in Dallas, where she married her high school sweetheart, Clyde Therman Johnson, on Nov. 25, 1942, and they went on to have three children, Gary, David, and Ann.   Ruda was part of a team. She put C.T. through school by doing typing at home, reared their children, helped C.T. write books, and was his inspiration for songwriting. While C.T. taught school, she served right along side him in the business office or a classroom. Their grandchildren say they never saw one of them without the other. They enjoyed traveling overseas and working together, even in the kitchen. 

     A member of Daughters of the American Revolution, Ruda was a woman with an exceptionally sweet spirit who was devoted to God, her beloved C.T., her children, and her church family. They all felt blessed to have her in their lives, “Jehovah the Living God” was copyrighted in 1968 with the tune composed by her husband, Clyde Therman Johnson (1922-2007).  Other songs by Ruda include “Worthy, O Lord” (1984) and “Arise, You Saints of God” (1989), both with music by Clyde, and she helped him with tunes for “Eventide” (1968), “It Should Have Been Me” (1982), and “Father, Forgive Them” (1989).  Ruda is listed as both co-author and co-composer with Clyde for “One Hope, One Faith, One Love” (1968), a wedding song.  Clyde passed away on April 4, 2007.   

     Ruda V. Johnson passed from this life to her heavenly reunion on Friday March 8, 2013, at the age of 90 in Amarillo, Potter County, TX.  Preceded in death by her parents, her husband C.T., and six brothers and sisters, she was survived by her children, Gary Johnson and wife Vicki of Grifton, NC, David Johnson and wife Beverly of Bryan, TX, and Ann Baker and husband Kevin of Lubbock, TX; 15 grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.   Graveside services were held by LaGrone-Blackburn-Shaw Funeral Directors Coulter Road Chapel, at Memory Gardens Cemetery with Hal Smith officiating. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Jehovah the Living God” appeared in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum, and the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard.

     The song explains where the true and living God does and does not dwell.

I. Stanza 1 says that God does not dwell in temples made by man

God does not dwell in temples,

In temples made by man;

His is the earth and the heavens,

Held in the palm of His hand.

God is the God of the living,

Blessing and blessing again;

My God reigns in lives of Christians

And dwells in the hearts of men.

 A. Paul said so on the Areopagus in Athens: Acts 17:24

 B. The God of the Bible is the God of the living: Matt. 22:21-22

 C. His presence dwells in the lives and hearts of His people: Jn. 14:23

II. Stanza 2 points out that God does not dwell in idols

God does not dwell in idols,

In idols made of gold.

Why limit God to an idol

When He the universe holds?

My heavenly Father’s a spirit,

Seeking and seeking to find

All men who in Spirit worship

The Father of all mankind.

 A. Because He is not an idol, He forbade making graven images: Exo, 20:1-6

 B. Rather, He is a spirit: Jn. 4:23-24

 C. And He is the only being worthy of our worship: Matt. 4:10

III. Stanza 3 tells us that God lives in heaven

God lives in Ivory Towers,

Towers so rich and bold;

Four-square, their walls are of jasper,

Crystal clear street of pure gold.

Here God is judging the nations,

Using His word as a rod

To measure all men who worship

Jehovah the living God.

 A. The place (heaven) from which the Messiah was prophesied to come is described as “ivory palaces”: Ps. 45:6-8

 B. It is pictured as a city with walls of jasper and street of gold: Rev. 21:10-21

 C. Here God will judge the nations: Acts 17:30-31

      CONCL.:  The last line of each stanza is repeated.  The God whom we worship does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor does He dwell in graven images carved by man.  As the Creator of the entire universe, He dwells in heaven.  But His presence also dwells in the hearts of His people.  May we always remember and appreciate these facts about “Jehovah the Living God.” 

A Grand Homecoming

A GRAND HOMECOMING

“…We…shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” (1 Thess. 4:17)

     INTRO.:  A song which looks forward to that time when the righteous, both living and dead, are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air is “A Grand Homecoming.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Mrs. Lynn Hassler.  I have been able to locate no further information about this author and composer or about the song.  The song was arranged by Paul H. Epps (1914-2002).  Epps, who was a preacher and song writer among churches of Christ, was born in Booneville, AR, and died in Dallas, TX.  Perhaps his best known hymn is “Jesus Knows and Cares,” copyright by the Firm Foundation Co. in 1961 and first published in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson for the Gospel Advocate Co.  I do not know exactly when “A Grand Homecoming” was produced or first published.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. 

     The song joyfully anticipates the great reunion of the saints when Christ returns.

I. Stanza 1 explains what will happen generally

There’s a grand homecoming by and by

In that place where none shall ever die,

When the saints all gather in that home

Made by Jesus for His very own.

 A. This grand homecoming will occur at the general resurrection: Jn.5:28-29

 B. Christ will take us to a place where none shall ever die: Rev. 21:1-4

 C. This is the place that He has prepared for His own: Jn. 14:1-3

II. Stanza 2 explains what will happen to those who sleep in Jesus

Those who sleep in Jesus shall arise

To meet the Savior in the skies,

And so shall they forever be

In bliss throughout eternity.

 A. “Sleep” is often used as a metaphor for death: Jn. 11:11–14

 B. Those who “sleep in Jesus” are those who died in the Lord: Rev. 14:13

 C. The righteous dead will arise when the Lord returns: 2 Cor. 4:14

III. Stanza 3 explains what will happen to the righteous living

All the righteous living at that time

Shall be caught up in that wondrous clime

To meet their loved ones gone before

And be with Christ forevermore.

 A. Not all the righteous will die, but there will be righteous living when Christ comes: 1 Cor. 15:50-54

 B. They will be changed to be like His glorious body: Phil. 3:20-21

 C. Then they shall see Him as He is and be with Him evermore: 1 Jn. 3:1-3

     CONCL.:  The chorus tells us what to do to keep from  missing this great reunion.

There’ll be a grand homecoming by and by

When we meet the Savior up on high;

But while living here today we must live in His own way,

Or we’ll miss that grand homecoming by and by.

When families become separated, one of the most joyful times is when everyone can “come home” for a holiday, reunion, or other special occasion.  Of course, the final separation that takes place here on earth is death.  But Christians who lose loved ones in Christ have the hope of the Lord’s return by and by with “A Grand Homecoming.”

O! What Mysterious Grace Is This?

O! WHAT MYSTERIOUS GRACE IS THIS?

“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace…” (Eph. 2:7)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which praises God for the exceeding riches of His grace is “O! What Mysterious Grace Is This?”  The text was written by Thomas Nichols (18th Century).    The only information that I could locate online is that someone named Thomas Nichols edited a hymnbook, entitled Hymns and anthems: composed on divine subjects, agreeable to sacred Scripture. By Thomas Nichols. Inspected and approved by the Rev. Isaac Backus, about which it was said, “The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. The Age of Enlightenment profoundly enriched religious and philosophical understanding and continues to influence present-day thinking.”  I could find no reference to Nichols or this text in John Julian’s monumental Dictionary of Hymnology.

     The only other tidbit that I have seen about this author is that Thomas Nichols is quoted as saying, “Hence I argue, the more melodious the song the more glorious, if it be with a true desire to glorify God, and not to gratify a carnal mind.  The former of which should be the ultimate end of our actions, especially in religious worship.”  The tune (Ostend) was composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872).  The harmonization was made in 1958 by William G. Clelland.  This same tune is used with a metrical version  of Psalm 72 beginning “O God, thy judgments give the king” taken from the Reformed Presbyterian Book of Psalms, 1940, in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal and updated in the 1990 Trinity Hymnal Revised Edition.  Cyberhymnal suggests it as alternative tune for a metrical version of Psalm 107 beginning “O praise the Lord, for He is good” taken from The Psalter of the United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1912.  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (PHaSS) published in 2012 by Sumphonia Productions uses it with a metrical version of Psalm 118 beginning, “The stone is made head cornerstone” taken from The Book of Psalms for Singing of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, 1973. 

     “O! What Mysterious Grace Is This?” delves into the angels’ relationship to God’s grace.

I. Stanza 1 mentions their agreement

The bright and shining heavenly host

Unitedly agree

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

They all submissive be.

 A. There is a bright and shining heavenly host: Ps. 104:4

 B. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the three members of the Godhead: Matt. 28:19

 C. The angels are submissive to them because they are ministering spirits: Heb. 1:14

II. Stanza 2 mentions their work

They constantly engaged be

In what God doth allow;

But saints upon the highest key

Will make the lowest bow.

 A. The heavenly hosts are constantly engaged in praising God: Ps. 103:21

 B. The saints on earth are also blessing Him: Ps. 145:10

 C. Those who sing the highest will make the lowest bow of submission: Rom. 14:11

III. Stanza 3 mentions their singing

They sing redeeming grace and love

From what they feel and know,

Which angels, that high rank above,

Desire to look into.

 A. God is worthy of having praise sung to Him: Ps. 18:49

 B. The angels praise His redeeming grace and love: Rev. 5:11—12

 C. Yet these angels desire to look into that about which they sing: 1 Pet. 1:10-12

     CONCL.:  The chorus mentions their desire to look into God’s grace

O! what mysterious grace is this?
How should we it admire,

Which angels in the realms of bliss

To view so much desire?

That we are saved by grace through faith is one of the things which we can understand as we read what the inspired apostles and prophets wrote as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.  However, much about the love and mercy of God to make salvation possible is so deep that we can never begin to fathom it completely.  All we can do is to stand before it in amazement and say, “O! What Mysterious Grace Is This?”

Jesus Revealed in Me

(Photo of Rodney “Gipsy” Smith)

JESUS REVEALED IN ME

“To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen…” (Gal. 1:16)

     INTRO.:  A gospel song which exhorts us to live and work in such a way that God might reveal the influence of His Son in us is “Jesus Revealed in Me.”  The text was written by Rodney Simon “Gipsy” Smith, who was born on March 31, 1860, in a Romani bender tent at Epping Forest, six miles northeast of London, England.  Smith received no education, and his family made a living selling baskets, tinware, and clothespegs. His father, Cornelius (1831-1922), and his mother, Mary (Polly) Welch (ca. 1831-1865), provided a home that was happy. The Smith children numbered four girls and two boys.  Rodney was the fourth child.  Smith was quite young when his mother died from smallpox near Baldock in Hertfordshire. Cornelius Smith was in and out of jail for various offences. There, he heard the gospel from a prison chaplain; later, he and his brothers were converted at a mission meeting.  When he was aged 16, Rodney’s own conversion came as a result of a combination of various factors, such as the witness of his father, hearing Ira Sankey sing, and a visit to the home of John Bunyan in Bedford. He taught himself to read and write and began to practice preaching. He would sing hymns to the people he met and was known as “the singing gypsy boy.”  From 1873 on, “The Converted Gypsies” were involved in numerous evangelistic efforts.  At a convention at the Christian Mission (later to become The Salvation Army) headquarters in London, William Booth noticed the Gypsies and realized the potential in young Smith. On June 25, 1877 Smith accepted the invitation of Booth to be an evangelist with and for the Mission. For six years (1877–1882) he served on street corners and mission halls.

     Smith was married on December 17, 1879, to Annie E. Pennock, one of his converts. It was from this marriage that Rodney and Annie had three children, two boys and one girl.  Albany Rodney, the eldest, was known as ‘Gipsy Smith, Jr.’  Rodney’s youngest son was Alfred Hanley.  Daughter Rhoda Zillah served with her father in his great South African campaign known as the “Mission of Peace.  Rodney and Annie served in several Salvation Army assignments and saw membership rise to hundreds, then a thousand. By June 1882, great crowds were coming and the work was growing. His eight assignments with The Salvation Army had produced 23,000 decisions, and his crowds were anywhere up to 1,500.  A gold watch was given to him and for accepting this he was dismissed from the organization.   He then became a Methodist and traveled extensively around the world on evangelistic crusades, drawing crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands throughout his life.  As a British evangelist who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain for over 70 years, he was a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and an acquaintance of G. Campbell Morgan and H. A. Ironside.  Smith wrote several books and could sing as well as he preached. Sometimes he would interrupt his sermon and burst into song. Several of these hymns that he would sing were recorded by Columbia Records.  Thousands wept as he sang such songs as, “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah” with tears running down his cheeks, or “This Wonderful Saviour of Mine” and “Jesus Revealed in Me,” a song that he wrote beginning “Christ the Transforming Light, Touches this heart of mine”   Another song that he wrote was “Not Dreaming.” Other hymns written were “Thank God for You” and “Mother of Mine.” C. Austin Miles wrote “But This I Know,” and dedicated it to Smith. B.D. Ackley composed the music for “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me,” and dedicated it to Smith.

     During World War I, Smith ministered under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A. to the British troops in France, often visiting the front lines. As a result of this, King George VI made him a Member of the Order of the British Empire.  “Jesus Revealed in Me” was copyrighted in 1931 by the composer of the tune (Transforming Light), Ensign Edwin Young (b. Jan. 3, 1895; d. July 22, 1980).  Gipsy Smith’s wife, Annie, died in 1937 at the age of 79 while he was in America. Front-page headlines in 1938 carried the news of the 78-year-old widower marrying Mary Alice Shaw on her 27th birthday. Smith’s second wife helped him in his meetings, sang, did secretarial work, and later nursed him when his health failed.  Stricken by a heart attack, he died, aged 87, on August 4, 1947, on the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Queen Mary while on a cruise from Wanstead, England, to America.  It was estimated that this was his 45th crossing of the Atlantic. His funeral service and cremation were held on August 8, 1947, in New York City, NY. A memorial with a plaque was unveiled on July 2, 1949, at Mill Plain, Epping Forest, England, his birthplace; his ashes are reportedly buried beneath this.  After the copyright for “Jesus Revealed in Me” was renewed by Young in 1959, it was assigned to Hope Publishing Co.  Gipsy Smith was, perhaps, the best loved evangelist of his day. When he would give his life story, the crowds that came to hear usually overflowed the halls and auditoriums. Although he was a Methodist, ministers of all denominations loved him. It is said that he never had a meeting without conversions.

     So far as I know, “Jesus Revealed in Me” has never appeared in any major hymnbook published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ.  I have seen it in the 1940 Broadman Hymnal edited by B. B. McKinney for Broadman Press of Nashville, TN, and the 1969 Favorite Hymns of Praise published by the Tabernacle Publishing Company of Chicago, IL.

     The song identifies several things that are necessary for Jesus to be revealed in us.

I. Stanza 1 mentions receiving Christ’s transforming light

Christ the Transforming Light,

Touches this heart of mine,

Piercing the darkest night,

Making His glory shine.

 A. Christ is the light of the world: Jn. 8:12

 B. He wants to dwell in our hearts by faith: Eph. 3:17

 C. When we allow Him to do so, He will transform us into His glory: 2 Cor. 3:18

II. Stanza 2 mentions being cleansed

Here, Lord, I bring my heart,

My love, my strength, my will;

Cleanse me in every part,

With all Thy Spirit fill.

 A. The Lord wants us to give Him our hearts: Prov. 23:26

 B. When we do this, He will cleanse us: Ps. 51:1-2

 C. Then we can be filled with His Spirit: Eph. 5:18

III. Stanza 3 mentions yielding our lives completely to Him

Life is no longer mine,

I yield it all to Thee;

Fill me that I may shine

Until Thy face I see.

 A. We must be crucified with Christ so that it is no longer we who live but Christ lives in us by faith: Gal. 2:20

 B. We do this yielding to Him by denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him: Matt. 16:24

 C. Only then can we be filled with all His fullness: Eph. 3:17-19

IV. Stanza 4 mentions letting Jesus reign within

Triumphant peace is mine,

Now Jesus reigns within;

He giveth joy divine,

And victory over sin.

 A. When Jesus reigns within, we can have triumphant peace: Col. 3:15

 B. We can also have divine joy: Phil. 4:4

 C. And we can have victory by faith: 1 Jn. 5:4

     CONCL.:  The chorus expresses the desire that others should be able to see God’s grace and love reflected in us.

Oh, to reflect His grace,

Causing the world to see,

Love that will glow Till others shall know

Jesus revealed in me.’”

Sometimes “Gipsy Rodney” Smith is confused with his nephew “Gipsy Simon” Smith who was also an evangelist and hymn writer.  Rodney’s best known song emphasizes to my mind that I need to live in such a way that those around me will notice and identify “Jesus Revealed in Me.” 

Look Up With Me!

LOOK UP WITH ME!

“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to look for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God is “Look Up With Me!” (#3 in Hymns for Worship Supplement).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Anne F. Stevens.  I assume that this is the same Anne Finley Stevens who wrote “Grant Me Peace and Hope” (#628 in Hymns for Worship Revised).   On the Internet, I found references to an Anne Lois Finley Stevens who was born on April 25, 1949, and lives in Seminole, TX.  “Look Up With Me!” was copyrighted in 2002 and was included in the 2007 Hymns for Worship Supplement edited by R. J. Stevens et. al.  Another rather popular hymn, “The Apples in a Seed,” was written by Anne F. Stevens, was copyrighted in 1999, and is also in Hymns for Worship Supplement.

     “Look Up With Me!” is designed to help lift our eyes past the time of death to the eternal reward.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the final setting of the sun

When sets my final sun,

My journey Home begun,

As my last song is sung,

Look up with me!

 A. The going down of the sun is often a poetic symbol for the end of life: Ps. 113:3

 B. At death, we begin our final journey to our home: Heb. 9:27

 C. After our last song on earth is sung, we can join the heavenly chorus: Rev. 5:9-10

II. Stanza 2 mentions forsaking this earth

When I this earth forsake,

As my last breath I take,

While hearts around me break,

Look up with me!

 A. We forsake this earth when we return to the dust: Gen. 3:19

 B. It is then that we breathe our last: Gen. 25:8

 C. Hearts of loved ones around us will break with such parting: Acts 21:13

III. Stanza 3 mentions the fading of the light

Though light must surely fade,

Sunlight in mortal shade,

Toward heaven’s shining gate,

Look up with me!

 A. Eventually we reach a point where life begins to fade away: Isa, 40:6-8

 B. This is because we are mortals, subject to death: Eccl. 12:7

 C. But for the child of God, this just moves us closer to heaven’s shining gate: Rev. 21:12-13

     CONCL.:  Some have opined that many of our hymnbooks are overweighted with songs about heaven.  If they mean that in some books great hymns of praise that have passed the test of time are being replaced by lightweight little ditties about looking forward to having  silver and gold in the home above, there may be some merit in the charge.  However, I want to go to heaven, and therefore I like to sing about heaven.  Also, I wish to exhort others to desire a place in heaven as they “Look Up With Me!”

I’m Homeward Bound Today 

I’M HOMEWARD BOUND TODAY

“For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country” (Heb. 11:14)

     INTRO.:  A song which talks about seeking a country or homeland (NKJV) is “I’m Homeward Bound Today.”  The text was written and the tune (Sandusky) was composed both by yours truly, Wayne S. Walker (b. 1954).  Here is my short “official” biography.   I was born and raised near Hillsboro, OH, where my family attended the Park Ave. (now Northside) church of Christ, and I obeyed the gospel there.  After graduating from Florida College, I began full time preaching work in 1974 which has continued for over 47 years.  My wife of 38 years is named Karen, and we have two sons.   Mark is 30, and Jeremy is 25.   Much of my earlier located preaching work was done in Ohio, including three years in Akron with two different churches, seven years in Medina, and fifteen years in Dayton.  Then after six years in Affton, MO, outside of St. Louis, we moved to Salem, IL, in 2008, and I began work with the Elm Grove church near Iuka, IL, in rural Marion County outside of Salem in 2009.   I turned 67 earlier this year.

     “I’m Homeward Bound Today” was my very first attempt at hymn writing.  It was produced around 1971 to 1972 when I was seventeen or eighteen years of age.  Since then I have polished some things in it to round off a few sharp edges, but it is still essentially the work of a young man in his upper teens.  I recently dug through my old papers with all my early stabs at writing hymns and decided to resurrect this one because it was probably the best of those youthful efforts.  I have made a few other changes to render it a little more singable, but I left most things the way they were because they represent my melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic, as well as lyrical, thinking at that time.

     The song is designed to encourage us to be looking toward our eternal home.

I. Stanza 1 mentions God’s promise

I’m homeward bound today;

The Lord has promised me

A heavenly home to call my own

If I’ll but faithful be.

 A. Heaven is the home toward which Christians are bound: 1 Pet. 1:3-5

 B. There the Lord has promised us eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25

 C. But to gain this home and receive its promise, we must be faithful: Rev. 2:10 

II. Stanza 2 mentions God’s way

There is a way to God;

It’s found in Christ, the Lord.

He gave a book, and if we’ll look,

We’ll find it in His word.

 A. There is a strait and narrow way that leads to God: Matt. 7:13-14

 B. Christ the Lord is the way through which we come to the Father: Jn. 14:6

 C. This way is found in the book known as the word of God: Jas. 1:21

III. Stanza 3 mentions God’s Son

Christ Jesus is the King

And Savior of my soul;

He makes His plea for you and me

To press on to our goal.

 A. Christ Jesus is the King of kings: Rev. 19:11-16

 B. He is also the Savior of our souls: Eph. 5:23

 C. As such, He encourages us to press on to the heavenly goal: Phil. 3:12-14

IV. Stanza 4 mentions God’s conditions

If you accept the Lord

And walk within His way,

A home above built by His love

He’ll grant in that last day.

 A. We accept the Lord and receive His salvation by obeying Him: Heb. 5:8-9

 B. Then we must continue walking by faith in His way: 2 Cor. 5:7

 C. The end result will be a mansion or dwelling place above: Jn. 14:1-3

V. Stanza 5 mentions God’s reward

Obey what Jesus says;

Believe His word so true.

Then garments white with crown so bright

Will be awaiting you.

 A. Those who will receive God’s reward are those who truly believe Jesus: Acts 16:30-34

 B. This reward will consist of garments white: Rev. 7:9-14

 C. They will also receive a crown so bright: 2 Tim. 4:6-8

     CONCL.:  The chorus repeats the main idea of the song.

I’m homeward bound;

The Lord has promised me

A heavenly home to call my own

If I’ll but faithful be.

One of the sweetest words in any language is “home.”  However, with regard to material things such as houses and lands, the old saying, though trite, is true. that “you can’t take it with you.”  Homes on earth are never permanent, but Jesus is preparing an eternal home for His people in heaven.  Thus, wherever on this earth I may dwell, if I’m a Christian, then “I’m Homeward Bound Today.”