“Sweeter Than All”

"…Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice" (1 Pet. 1.8)

     INTRO.: A song which describes the kind of love and joy that we have because of Jesus is "Sweeter Than All" (#421 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #553 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922). A prolific hymn text author of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, he produced a number of songs which are well-known and have been in many of our books, including "Count Your Blessings," "Hand In Hand With Jesus," "Higher Ground," "I’ll Be A Friend To Jesus," "Lift Him Up," "The Last Mile Of The Way," "No Not One," "What Shall It Profit?", and others. The tune was composed by J. Howard Entwisle, who was born in 1863. Very little information is available about this composer.

     We do know that Entwisle was a nineteenth century musician and songbook compiler in Philadelphia, PA, especially in the 1890’s, who was frequently associated with other well-known hymnwriters of his day in the publication of hymnbooks. One of his collaborators was William J. Kirkpatrick, also of Philadelphia. It is known that in 1897 he helped to compile Songs of Love and Praise, No. 4, along with John R. Sweney and Henry L. Gilmour. This book introduced the much-used song, "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown," with words by Eliza E. Hewitt and music by Sweney. In 1898 Entwisle helped to edit Songs of Love and Praise, No. 5, along with Sweney and Frank M. Davis. It contained Oatman’s "Higher Ground" with music by Charles H. Gabriel.

     In fact, the latter song had been written in 1892 and was sold by Gabriel to Entwisle for five dollars. "Sweeter Than All" was first published in Make His Praise Glorious, compiled at Chicago, IL, in 1900 by Edwin O. Excell. The book noted that originally Entwisle owned the copyright to the song and that it was used with his permission. However, later it was controlled by John J. Hood, who published many of the other hymnbooks that Entwisle helped to produce. Cyberhymnal.org lists nine songs credited to Entwisle: this one, two for which he provided the text, three with words by Fanny J. Crosby, one each with words by Birdie Bell and Harriet E. Jones, and one other with a text by Oatman. Entwisle died in 1901.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during thetwentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Sweeter than All" 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 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 John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This song identifies some of the blessings for which we rejoice in Christ.

I. Stanza 1 says that Christ affords us aid as we travel through life.
"Christ will me His aid afford, Never to fall, never to fall;
While I find my precious Lord Sweeter than all, sweeter than all."
 A. Christ has certainly promised to aid (succor) those who are tempted: Heb. 2.18
 B. His purpose in providing this aid for us "never to fall." The editor of Sacred Selections changed this phrase to read, "Whene’er I call, whene’er I call," probably because he thought that it sounded like the false doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. I suppose that one could read that into those words, but then some read that into the Bible as well. The song does not necessarily say that a Christian cannot fall, but only that Christ has made provisions to help us so that we will never fall or stumble: 2 Pet. 1.5-10
 C. Therefore, we can look upon our Lord as precious: 1 Pet. 2.7

II. Stanza 2 says that Christ speaks to us so that we can hear and follow Him.
"I can follow all the way, Hearing Him call, hearing Him call;
Finding Him from day to day Sweeter than all, sweeter than all."
 A. Jesus wants us to follow Him: Matt. 4.19
 B. Therefore, as the Great shepherd of the sheep, He calls His sheep by name so that we might follow Him: Jn. 10.2-5, 27-29
 C. This is something that we must do day to day in taking up our cross: Lk. 9.23

III. Stanza 3 says that Christ blesses us that we might be vessels in His service.
"Though a vessel I may be, Broken and small, broken and small,
Yet His blessings fall on me, Sweeter than all, sweeter than all."
 A. God wants us to cleanse ourselves from all iniquity so that we can be vessels of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared to every good work: 2 Tim. 2.19-21
 B. Yet, even like the apostles, we are earthen vessels who are broken and small: 2 Cor. 4.7
 C. At the same time, God showers all spiritual blessings upon us in Christ, thus supplying all our need to be what He wants us to be: Eph. 1.3, Phil. 4.13 & 19

IV. Stanza 4 says that Christ enables us to be with Him in heaven forever
"When I reach the crystal sea, Voices will call, voices will call;
But my Savior’s voice will be Sweeter than all, sweeter than all."
 A. The stanza apparently uses the "crystal sea" to refer to what is before the throne of God, which symbolizes the fact that mankind is now physically separated from the Lord but which will someday be done away: Rev. 4.6, 15.2, 21.1
 B. When we reach that place, voices will call, because we shall be reunited with those dead in Christ who have gone on before: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
 C. However, the songwriter says that the sweetest voice will be that of the Savior because then we shall dwell in His presence forevermore: Jn. 14.1-3, Rev. 22.22-27

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of just how much we can rejoice in Jesus.
"Jesus is now, and ever will be Sweeter than all the world to me,
Since I heard His loving call, Sweeter than all, sweeter than all."
As we consider all that Jesus has done for us, we must certainly consider Him "Sweeter Than All."


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