“Sound the Battle Cry”

"…Be strong….Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may…stand" (Eph. 6.10-11)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages us to be strong, put on the whole armor of God, and stand in the fight of faith is "Sound the Battle Cry" (#225 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Battle Song) was composed both by William Fiske Sherwin (1826-1888). Born in Buckland, MA, he moved to Boston as a teenager and studied music with Lowell Mason. Later he worked at the New England Conservatory of Music and taught singing in Massachusetts and New York. The first music director at the Chautauqua Festival near Chautauqua, NY, he was also a musical editor at Biglow and Main Publishers of New York City.

     Sherwin produced some tunes for poems by Fanny Crosby, but these have not become very well known. His most famous tunes are found with Mary Ann Lathbury’s hymns "Break Thou the Bread of Life" and "Day Is Dying in the West." One of our books also used a tune of his with Hugh Stowell’s "Lord, of All Power and Might," and several have included William O. Cushing’s "Beautiful Valley of Eden" with another of his tunes. Sherwin is credited with a few songs in which he provided both words and music, but "Sound the Battle Cry" is the only one of these found in any of our books. It was first published in Biglow and Main’s 1869 Bright Jewels.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, one of the earliest of our books in which I have found it is the 1917 Selected Revival Songs published by F. L. Rowe of Cincinnati, OH. 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 1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard (not in the original 1978 edition); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections and the new 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song reminds us of the great spiritual warfare in which we as Christians must fight.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the armor that we need in the fight
"Sound the battle cry! See, the foe is nigh; Raise the standard high For the Lord;
Gird your armor on, Stand firm, everyone, Rest your cause upon His holy Word."
 A. We must sound the battle cry because we are to wage a good warfare: 1 Tim. 1.18
 B. To do so, we must put on the armor of God to protect us in the fight: 1 Thes. 5.8
 C. Both our armor and our cause must rest upon God’s word because it is sharper than any two-edged sword: Heb. 4.12

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the foe that we meet in the fight
"Strong to meet the foe, Marching on we go, While our cause we know Must prevail;
Shield and banner bright Gleaming in the light; Battling for the right We ne’er can fail."
 A. Our adversary is the devil and all those who are serving him: 1 Pet. 5.8
 B. In order to meet this foe, we must be strong: 1 Cor. 16.13
 C. And to prevail against him, we must fight the good fight of the faith: 1 Tim. 6.12

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes our leader who guides us in the fight
"O! Thou, God of all, Hear us when we call, Help us, one and all, By Thy grace;
When the battle’s done, And the victory won, May we wear the crown Before Thy face."
 A. Our leader is our God who hears us, helps us, and saves us by His grace: Eph. 2.8-9
 B. Only with His help and by His grace can we win the victory that comes by faith: 1 Jn. 5.4
 C. And when the victory is won, He Himself will give us the crown to wear before Him: Rev. 2.10

     CONCL.: The chorus is a spirited call to join in the battle and fight for the right:
"Rouse then, soldiers! Rally round the banner! Ready, steady, pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud, Hosanna! Christ is Captain of the mighty throng."
Yes, the devil is our enemy; immorality, worldliness, and error are his weapons. However, Christ is our victorious Captain, and so to join with Him who will lead us to glory, we must "Sound the Battle Cry."


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