“Rescue The Perishing”

"The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but…come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3.9)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages Christians to seek and save the lost that they might not perish but come to repentance is "Rescue The Perishing" (#366 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #497 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was composed by Mrs. Fances Jane Crosby Van Alstyne, better known as Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). In 1869, Fanny was addressing a gathering of working men at a rescue mission in the slums of New York City one hot summer evening and asked if some mother’s son in that meeting needed to be rescued from sin. Afterwards, a young man of eighteen inquired if she had him in mind. She wrote that they had extended prayer, and he left with a new light in his eye.

     A few days before this incident, Fanny had received a request to write a hymn on the subject "Rescue the Perishing" by her most frequent musical collaborator, William Howard Doane (1832-1915). Following the meeting, she went home thinking about nothing besides producing a hymn on that theme. Before going to bed she had in her mind the four stanzas and refrain which were set down the next day and sent to Mr. Doane, who then composed the tune (Rescue) either that year or the following year and
first printed the hymn in his 1870 Songs of Devotion published by Biglow and Main.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, the song was used in the 1917 Selected Revival Songs edited by F. L. Rowe; the 1925 edition of 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 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all 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 J. P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song explains why we should go out into the highways and compel them to come in.

I. Stanza 1 says that it is because of our pity
"Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save."
 A. We should care for the souls of mankind because they are dying in sin: 2 Cor. 5.10-14
 B. This care should motivate us to snatch them from sin and the grave, if need be: Jude vs. 22-23
 C. We accomplish this aim by telling them of Jesus, the mighty to save: 1 Tim. 1.12-15

II. Stanza 2 says that it is because of their need for forgiveness
"Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they truly believe."
 A. Jesus is always waiting to receive the penitent: Rev. 3.19-20
 B. God is always willing to forgive any and all sin from which people will turn away to meet His conditions: Mk. 3.28
 C. And the conditions demand that they truly believe: Jn. 3.16. Miss Crosby’s original wording was "If they only believe." If one understands the word "believe" in its complete Biblical sense as Jesus used it here, this would be all right. E. L. Jorgenson changed it to "truly believe" which makes that point. Christian Hymns No. I (copied in Sacred Selections) changed it further, altering line two to read, "Waiting the wandering child gone astray" (which is somewhat redundant since the definition of "wandering" is "going astray") and line four to read, "He will forgive if they trust and obey." One might think that some brethren would suggest that the passage itself ought to be rewritten to say, "Whoever obeys Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

III. Stanza 3 says that it is because of our desire to restore
"Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Cords that were broken will vibrate once more."
 A. It is the tempter who tries to crush every good impulse in the human heart: 1 Thess. 3.5
 B. Our aim should be to restore such a one to a right relationship with God: Gal. 6.1
 C. The reason what we should want to do this is that we love our neighbor as ourselves: Matt. 22.39 (many books have "chords" instead of "cords;" the dictionary actually indicates that either is acceptable)

IV. Stanza 4 says that it is because of duty to the Lord
"Rescue the perishing! Duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way, patiently win them;
Tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died."
 A. The Lord has promised the strength that we need to carry out this duty: Eph. 6.10
 B. Our duty is to help wanderers find and follow the narrow way that leads to life: Matt. 7.13-14
 C. Again, this is accomplished by telling them that the Savior died for them: Rom. 5.8

     CONCL.: The chorus repeats the call to emphasize its importance:
"Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save."
Jesus Christ came to rescue sinful mankind from eternal destruction. Each of us who are Christians have been rescued from our sins and their punishment. Therefore, we have an obligation to do what we can to "Rescue The Perishing."


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