"FAITH IS THE VICTORY"
"And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 Jn. 5.4)
INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that the victory which overcomes the world is our faith is "Faith Is The Victory" (#576 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #231 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by John Henry Yates, who was born in Batavia, NY, on Nov. 21, 1837, the son of John H. and Elizabeth Taylor Yates, both of whom originally came from England to the United States. After completing his studies at Batavia Union School, he became a Methodist minister in 1858, while making his living in the retail shoe business. In 1871, he became a department manager for the E. L. and G. D. Kenyon, a hardware company, where he worked for fifteen years. Then in 1886, he turned to editing a local newspaper which he served for tenyears.
Later in life, Yates changed his religious affiliation and labored seven years with the West Bethany Free Will Baptist Church near Batavia. His poetic ability attracted the attention of well-known gospel song composer Ira David Sankey (1840-1908). In 1891, Sankey engaged him to write a number of gospel hymn texts for which Sankey provided music, including this tune (Sankey). In his autobiography, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns, dictated after Sankey was blind, the composer states that he published this one first in The Christian Endeavor Hymnbook, which was thought to have been printed around 1892.
However, in his Gospel Hymns No. 6 of 1891, it appeared with the copyright notice held by Biglow and Main for that same year. Thus, it seems that both collections must have come out in 1891. Sankey’s original manuscript of his life story had been completely destroyed in a fire at Battle Creek, MI, and the later work had to be rewritten from Sankey’s memory shortly afterwards, relying on other sources for additional information and dates. His co-worker, John Yates, was also the author of Poems and Ballads published in 1897 and spent all his life in Batavia, NY, where he died on Sept. 5, 1900.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn reminds us of the faith needed in our warfare with evil.
I. Stanza one says that we are soldiers of Christ
"Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers, rise,
And press the battle ere the night Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world."
A. Good soldiers must be willing to endure hardship for the Lord: 2 Tim. 2.3-4
B. Good soldiers will press the battle by waging a good warfare and fighting the good fight: 1 Tim. 1.18-19, 6.11-12
C. Good soldiers will face the foe, who is the devil: 1 Pet. 5.8-9
II. Stanza two says that our weaponry comes from God
"His banner over us is love, Our Sword the word of God;
We tread the troad the saints above In shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath, Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death Is still our shining shield."
A. An army needs a banner under which to march–our banner is love: Song of Sol. 2.4
B. An army also needs swords with which to fight–our sword is God’s word: Eph. 6.17
C. And an army needs shields for its combat–our shield is faith: Eph. 6.16
III. Stanza three says that we have a foe to fight
"On every hand the foe we find Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head, With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ‘neath our tread, And echo with our shout."
A. The helmet to protect our head is the hope of salvation: 1 Thes. 5.8
B. That which girds us about is the truth which makes us free: Jn. 8.32
C. And with this armor we can overcome and be victorious in the fight: 1 Cor. 15.57
IV. Stanza four says that those who are faithful in the fight shall overcome and be rewarded
"To him who overcomes the foe White raiment shall be given;
Before the angels he shall know His name confessed in heaven.
Then onward from the hills of light, Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night In Jesus’ conquering name."
A. Those who overcome are promised white garments: Rev. 3.5
B. They will also have their name confessed by Jesus Himself before the Father: Matt. 10.32-33
C. Because of this grand hope, we must ever continue to press onward in the battles of this life: Phil. 3.13-14
CONCL.: Some people have objected to the final stanza because they say that it sounds premillennial with its mention of having our names confessed in heaven and then going onward from the hills of light to vanquish all the hosts of night (and many of our books do omit it). However, I have always looked upon this as simply saying that because of our hope of having our name confessed in heaven, we are motivated to keep waging the good warfare until the final victory. The chorus then stresses how important our faith is to fighting the good fight.
"Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory That overcomes the world."
As soldiers of Christ, we shall have to fight many battles with Satan and his forces as we live on this earth. But whatever challenges we face in this life preparing for the one to come, if we will take up the sword of the Spirit and keep the helmet of salvation on, we can have the hope of overcoming because God has promised that "Faith Is The Victory."