“I Surrender All”

"Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14.33)

     INTRO.: A song which expresses the idea of forsaking all to be a disciple of Jesus is, "I Surrender All" (#332 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #98 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Judson Woodbridge VanDeVenter, who was born on a farm near Dundee, MI, on Dec. 5,1855, the song of John W. and Eliza Wheeler VanDeVenter. Receiving his education in the public schools of Dundee and at Hillsdale College in Michigan, he also studied music at numerous singing schools. After studying art and touring Europe in 1885 to visit the famous galleries and to learn painting, he taught art at penmanship in public schools for several years and became supervisor of art in the high school of Sharon, PA.

     During all this time, VanDeVenter was also an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and eventually decided to become a preacher.  His evangelistic work took him throughout the Unted States and Great Britain. These words were penned in 1896 while he was conducting a meeting at East Palestine, OH, and staying in the home of George Sebring, who founded a camp for young people at Sebring, OH, and later developed the city of Sebring, FL. VanDeVenter was recalling an earlier time when, after a long struggle between continuing in art or going into fulltime religious work, he had finally surrendered and dedicated his life to Christ. He wrote, "A new day was ushered into my life…God had hidden a song in my heart."

     The tune (Surrender) was composed by Winfield Scott Weeden (1847-1908). Weeden was the song director for VanDeVenter’s evangelistic campaigns. The song was first published in Gospel Songs of Grace and Glory, compiled in 1896 by Weeden, VanDeVenter, and Leonard Waver in Philadelphia, PA, for the Hall-Mack Co. The two also collaborated on other songs, such as "Sunlight." VanDeVenter spent his last days in Tampa, FL, where he died on July 17, 1939. Originally the music for "I Surrender All" was written for soprano-tenor duet. However, some alterations were made to the text and an arrangement for full four-part harmony was done in 1935 for Christian Hymns (No. 1) by the editor Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992).

     Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited also by 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; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song suggests what we must do to surrender to Jesus.

I. In stanza 1, we must freely give all to Him
"All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live."
 A. Giving our all means that we must put His will first in our lives: Mt. 6.33
 B. It also means loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength: Mk. 12.30
 C. In short, it means having the attitude that Peter expressed when he said, "We have left all and followed You": Lk. 18.28

II. According to stanza 2, we must humbly bow at His feet
"All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me, Jesus, take me now."
 A. Bowing at Jesus’ feet is an expression of the repentance that God demands: Psa. 51.15-17
 B. It demands that we submit ourselves fully to Him and forsake all worldly pleasure: Lk. 14.33
 C. Paul is an example of this complete submission to Christ: Gal. 2.20

III. In stanza 3, we must come with the desire to belong wholly to Him
"All to Jesus I surrender, Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me know the joy of living, Truly know that Thou art mine."
 A. Asking Jesus to make us wholly His is the attitude that Jesus demands of His followers: Mt. 16.24-26
 B. Only those who so live in Christ can know the joy of living: Phil. 4.4 (the original read, "Let me feel the Holy Spirit")
 C. Of course, for Christ to make us wholly His, we must make sure that He is wholly ours by doing the will of the Father: Matt. 7.21

IV. As stanza 4 tells us, we must give ourselves to Jesus
"All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee.
Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessings fall on me."
 A. Giving ourselves to Jesus simply means that we must give Jesus first place in our lives before all else: Mt. 10.34-38
 B. This should call to our remembrance the total commitment of the Macedonians, who first gave themselves to the Lord: 2 Cor. 8.5
 C. An example of one who surrendered himself to Jesus in order that he might know the true joy of living was the Philippian jailor: Acts 16.30-34

V. Stanza 5 concludes with the blessings that come from surrendering all to Jesus
"All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His name!"
 A. Most of our books have omitted this stanza, perhaps because the editors thought this might be confused with some direct operation of the Holy Spirit, but the sacred flame could be understood simply to refer to the influence of God’s word in our hearts: Jer. 20.9
 B. Those who surrender to Christ in full obedience can know the eternal salvation that Christ offers: Heb. 5.8-9
 C. And as such, they will want to give glory to His name: Rev. 14.7

      CONCL.: The chorus repeats the commitment that is made in each stanza to surrender all to Jesus.
"I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all."
This song demonstrates the sort of full self-sacrifice that is necessary to come to Jesus, receive His salvation from sin, live for Him here, and have the hope of eternal life in heaven with Him. If I wish to please Christ, I must tell Him, "I Surrender All."


One thought on ““I Surrender All”

  1. i am also a christian homeschooler. my father is a pastor in gulfport, ms and my family is starting a community center/church/coffee shop. what has been said here is very interestin. keep up the good work


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