"MY SOUL, BE ON THY GUARD"
"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Cor. 16.13)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us to be watchful that we might stand fast in the faith is "My Soul, Be On Thy Guard." The text was written by George Heath, who was born around 1750. Receiving his education at the Dissenting Academy in Exeter, England, he became a minister with the Presbyterian Church at Honiton, Devonshire, in 1770. However, he was deemed unworthy of this position, deprived of his office, and later served as a Unitarian minister, most likely around Bristol, England. In 1781 he published his Hymns and Poetic Essays Sacred to the Public and Private Worship of the Deity and to Religious and Christian Improvement, at Bristol, which contained 244 hymns. It included this song under the title of "Steadfastness." Samuel W. Duffield wrote of the author, "It is a striking commentary on his hymn that its author should have failed in the very mode against which his stirring trumpet-blast ought effectually to have warned him. But perhaps we are uncharitable, and this was one of the fruits of true repentance." Cyberhymnal also credits Heath with the hymn "Now from the World Withdrawn." In addition, he published A History of Bristol in 1797, and died in 1822.
The tune (Laban, Guard, or Conflict) was composed by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). It is date 1830 and was first published in his 1832 Spiritual Songs for Social Worship. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "My Soul, Be On Thy Guard" appeared in 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; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in 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 the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. The same tune is used as an alternate melody for Charles Wesley’s "A Charge to Keep I Have" in both Abiding Hymns and the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) also edited by Jorgenson.
The song reminds of the importance of being watchful in the fight of the faith.
I. Stanza 1 talks about our foes
"My soul, be on thy guard; Ten thousand foes arise.
The hosts of sin are pressing hard To draw thee from the skies."
A. Our souls need to be on guard because our adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion: 1 Pet. 5.8
B. The devil is not alone, but has "ten thousand foes" for us among the spiritual hosts of wickedness: Eph. 6.12
C. These enemies seek to draw us from the skies by tempting us to set our affections on this earth rather than above: Col. 3.1-2
II. Stanza 2 talks about our battle
"O watch, and fight, and pray; The battle ne’er give oer.
Renew it boldly every day, And help divine implore."
A. To prepare for the battle, we must watch and pray: Matt. 26.41
B. We must also renew the inner man every day: 2 Cor. 4.16
C. And we must implore divine help in prayer: Phil. 4.6
III. Stanza 3 talks about our victory
"Ne’er think the victory won, Nor lay thine armor down;
The work of faith will not be done Till thou obtain the crown."
A. God has promised us victory: 1 Cor. 15.57
B. To gain this victory, we must put on the whole armor of God: Eph. 6.13-17
C. However, the victory will not be won until we finish our work and obtain the crown: 2 Tim. 4.6-8
IV. Stanza 4 talks about our end
"Fight on, my soul, till death Shall bring thee to thy God;
He’ll take thee, at thy parting breath, To His divine abode."
A. Therefore, we must continue to fight the good fight of faith throughout our lives: 1 Tim. 6.12
B. The only real end to the fight will be when death brings us back to God: Heb. 9.27
C. Then, at our parting breath, He will give us the victory and take us to His abode where we shall be with Christ: Phil. 1.23
CONCL.: This song was in the book that was used by the congregation where I attended when growing up, but we never sang it very much. I tried to lead it, but it never seemed to catch on and has not been in most of the more recent books. It is fairly short song, but it seems to me that it contains much more substance than most of the so-called "praise songs" so popular today. There is much spiritual danger in the world today, so it should often tell myself, "My Soul, Be On Thy Guard."