“Safe in the Arms of Jesus”

"Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe" (Psa. 119:117)

     INTRO.: A song that describes the refuge of those who are held up by the Lord is "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus" (#137 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #494 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby VanAlstyne (1820-1915). The tune (Brachioni) was composed by William Howard Doane, who was born at Preston, CN, on Feb. 3, 1832. Educated at Woodstock Academy, where at age fourteen he was student director of the school chorus, he was a member of the Baptist Church at Norwich, CN. After three years’ work with his father’s cotton manufacturing company, he became associated with J. A. Fay and Co., makers of woodworking machinery. In 1860 he moved with this firm to Cincinnati, OH, and later became its president.  Spending the rest of his life in Cincinnati, he was a member of and served as music director at the Mt. Auburn Baptist Church. A versatile individual, he kept several irons in the fire at the same time, being an expert accountant and an inventor with seventy patents to his credit.

     Also, Doane maintained his interest in music and was an amateur musician. In spite of his business interests, he was most active in his avocation of composing hymn and editing song collections. After publishing no less than forty hymnbooks and writing over 2,000 melodies, he was given a doctor of music degree by Denison University in Granville, OH, as reward for his efforts. Deeply religious, Doane combined his musical talents with those of Fanny J. Crosby. The team grew to understand one another so well that when the composer sent melodies to Miss Crosby in Brooklyn, NY, the music often suggested themes for verses, and many times she sent poems to Doane in Cincinnati which suggested melodies. One summer day in 1868 Doane took a train to make a quick business trip to New York. During the ride, a melody kept running through his mind that he was hoping to use for a hymn at a Sunday school convention in Cincinnati upon his return.

     Concluding his business, Doane hurried over to Brooklyn to visit Miss Crosby in her apartment and give her the melody before running to catch his train. Since he had only forty minutes before time to leave, he asked the woman he called "Aunt Fanny" to mail him words for the music. However, she immediately prayed and asked Doane to start writing.  As fast as he could take down the words, the blind poetess dictated and, according to her own story, Doane was on his way to the train station with the entire song in fifteen minutes! Settled on the train, the businesssman-composer studied the hastily written verses. Each word fit perfectly with the melody. Thus was born a hymn that was first published two years later in Doane’s 1870 collection Bright Jewels. It was Fanny Crosby’s first song to become nationally known and was sung at her funeral 47 years later. Doane himself died the same year as Miss Crosby, on Dec. 24, 1915, at South Orange, NJ.

     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 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 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. 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 for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song suggests that being in the arms of Jesus provides wonderful blessings.

I. In stanza 1, the emphasis is on Christ’s love
"Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’er-shaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory, Over the jasper sea."
 A. Of course, God has loved us enough to send Christ: Jn. 3:16
 B. But Christ loved us enough to die for us: Rom. 5:8, Eph. 5:2
 C. And, in turn, we should love the Lord for what He has done for us: Jas. 1:12. We experience the benefits of God’s love when we are safe in the arms of Jesus

II. In stanza 2, the emphasis is on the freedom that we have in Christ
"Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations, Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow, Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials, Only a few more tears!"
 A. Certainly, we have freedom from sin: Rom. 6:17-18
 B. But we also have a kind of freedom from the world in general in that, while we are in the world, we are not to be of the world, and are thus not in bondage to men: 1 Cor. 9:19
 C. However, we must be careful that we do not misuse our freedom: 1 Pet. 2:16. Only those who are safe in the arms of Jesus by obeying the gospel are said to be free.

III. In stanza 3, the emphasis is on the trust that we can place in Christ
"Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, Wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning Break on the golden shore."
 A. David trusted in the Lord: 2 Sam. 22:2-3
 B. Isaiah encouraged people to trust in the Lord: Isa. 12:1-2
 C. And Paul is a good example of trust in the Lord: 1 Tim. 4:10. We can be safe in the arms of Jesus if we’ll just trust in the Lord

CONCL.: The chorus repeats the first two lines of the opening stanza.
"Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’er-shaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest."
This reminds us that while we cannot physically sit in the arms of Jesus today, as children did in the first century (cf. Mk. 10:13-16), the Bible pictures Jesus as a gentle shepherd who bears His sheep so that those who come to Him can be "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus."


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