"JESUS IS TENDERLY CALLING"
"Come unto Me…and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…" (Matt. 11.28-20)
INTRO.: A song that talks about the call of Jesus to come and learn of Him is "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling" (#294 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #600 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby VanAlstyne (1820-1915). The tune (Calling Today) was composed by George Coles Stebbins, who was born on Feb. 26, 1846, in Orleans County, NY, where he grew up on a farm. After studying music at Buffalo and Rochester, both in New York, he moved to Chicago, IL, in 1869 at the age of 23, where he was associated with the Lyon and Healy Music Co. Also, he served as music director at the First Baptist Church. During this time he met revival evangelist Dwight L. Moody and became acquainted with the leading religious musicians of the day including George Frederick Root, Philip Paul Bliss, Horatio Richmond Palmer, and Ira David Sankey.
In 1874, Stebbins moved back east to Boston, MA, where he became director of the Clarendon St. Baptist Church, serving for a couple of years, and then in 1876 he accepted a similar position with the Termont Temple in Boston for about six months. However, during that summer, he was persuaded to join the evangelistic team of D. L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey in their work. For the next 25 years he was associated with them and others in their campaigns. In addition to his work as a song leader, he was busy writing hundreds of gospel songs and editing numerous hymn collections. After the death of P. P. Bliss, he helped in compiling editions three through six of the Gospel Hymns series with Sankey and James McGranahan.
"Jesus Is Tenderly Calling" first appeared in Gospel Hymns No. 4, published in 1883. In 1924 Stebbins wrote his Memoirs and Reminiscences which provides an interesting insight into his life and work. On pages 105 and 106 he said that there was no incident which occasioned the writing of Miss Crosby’s text or his melody to accompany it and that neither the words nor the music impressed him as having more than ordinary merit. Thus, he was surprised at the popularity and success of it as an invitation song in his evangelistic work. Other well known Stebbins tunes are used with "Savior, Breathe an Evening Blessing," "Take Time to Be Holy," "Have Thine Own Way, Lord," "Ye Must Be Born Again," and "I’ve Found a Friend." Stebbins died just a few months short of his 100th birthday at Catskill, NY on Oct. 6, 1945.
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, the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song mentions several aspects of Jesus’ call of invitation.
I. Stanza 1 says that Jesus is calling us to come to Him today.
"Jesus is tenderly calling thee home, Calling today, calling today;
Why from the sunshine of love wilt thou roam Farther and farther away?"
A. If a person needs to obey the gospel, today is the only time that he has assurance of being able to do so: Heb. 3.15
B. As the Sun of Righteousness, He calls us today into the sunshine of His love: Mal. 4.2
C. But like the prodigal son, so many wander farther and farther away: Lk. 15.11-13
II. Stanza 2 says that Jesus is calling us to come to Him with our burdens
"Jesus is calling the weary to rest, Calling today, calling today;
Bring Him thy burden and thou shalt be blest; He will not turn thee away."
A. Jesus promises us rest from our sins so that we can have the hope of eternal rest when this life is over: Rev. 14.13
B. But to have this rest, we must bring our burdens to Him: Psa. 55.22
C. Thus, our response must be like that of blind Bartimaeus who arose and came with his burden of blindness to find healing from Jesus: Mk. 10.46-52
III. Stanza 3 says that Jesus is calling us to come to Him now
"Jesus is waiting, O come to Him now, Waiting today, waiting today;
Come with thy sins, at His feet lowly bow; Come, and no longer delay."
A. Paul reminds us that when it comes to being saved, now is the accepted time because now is the time of salvation: 2 Cor. 6.2
B. We need to come to Him now because we need to do something now about our sins: Rom. 3.23, 6.23
C. Therefore, we must come to His feet and lowly bow; this is symbolic of the attitude of complete obedience that must characterize those who come to Jesus: Heb. 5.8-9
IV. Stanza 4 says that Jesus is calling us to come to Him for joy
"Jesus is pleading, O list to His voice: Hear Him today, hear Him today;
They who believe on His name shall rejoice; Quickly arise and away."
A. We must listen to the voice of Jesus because God speaks to us through Him: Mt. 17.3, Heb. 1.1-2
B. Those who listen to Jesus and obey His word can rejoice: Psa. 89.16, Phil. 4.4
C. But, again, this rejoicing can be experienced only by those who come to Him in obedience to His word: Acts 8.26-39 (Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections changes the final word of the stanza to "obey")
CONCL.: The chorus reiterates the fact that Jesus calls us to come to Him.
"Calling today! Calling today!
Jesus is calling, Is tenderly calling today."
It encourages those who need to obey the gospel not to wait but to take the opportunity that they have. Originally published with the scripture reference, "Arise, he calleth thee" (Jn. 11.28), this is a very effective hymn of invitation to remind the lost that "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling."