"THOU ART THE WAY"
"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (Jn. 14.6)
INTRO.: A hymn that is based on this statement by Jesus is "Thou Art The Way" (#148 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by George Washington Doane, who was born at Trenton, NJ, on May 27, 1799, and educated at Union College, Schenectady, NY, from which he graduated in 1818, and at General Theological Seminary in New York City, NY. Becoming a minister with the Episcopal Church in 1821, he served at Trinity Church in New York City until 1824 when he was appointed professor of Belles-Lettres at Trinity College in Hartford, CN. Many of his hymns, including this one, were first published in his 1824 work, Songs by the Way, Chiefly Devotional with Translations and Imitations.
Other hymns of Doane’s that have appeared in our books are "Fling Out The Banner" and "Softly Now The Light Of Day." In 1828, Doane became minister at Trinity Church in Boston, MA, and then became Bishop of New Jersey in 1832 at the age of 33, where he remained for the rest of his life. Two years later, in 1834, he published an American edition of The Christian Year by English hymnwriter John Keble (1792-1866). One of the foremost promoters of the Episcopalian missionary movement and the establishment of church-related schools, he was instrumental in founding St. Mary’s Hall, a girls’ school, at Burlington, NJ, in 1837, and Burlington College in 1846.
Doane died at Burlington on Apr. 27, 1859. His son, William C. Doane, became Bishop of Albany, NY, and was also a hymnwriter, best known for the song "Ancient of Days." "Thou Art The Way" has the distinction of being the only hymn by an American author in the original edition of the monumental English hymnbook Hymns Ancient and Modern published for the Anglican Church in 1861. The tune (Sawley) was composed by an English musician who was well-known as an organist and conductor, James Walch (1837-1901). The usual date given for its first publication is 1860, but it may have actually been produced as early as 1857.
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 1922 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 John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship.
This hymn presents Jesus as the Word with three functions in His relation to man.
I. From stanza 1 we see that Jesus is the Way
"Thou art the Way: to Thee alone From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek, Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee."
A. The reason that we need a way is that we must flee from sin and death: Rom. 3.23, 6.23
B. In order to escape sin and death we must seek the Father: Acts 17.27
C. Believing in Jesus is the only way that we can seek the Father and pass from death unto life: Jn. 5.24
II. From stanza 2 we see that Jesus is the Truth
"Thou art the Truth: Thy word alone True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst instruct the mind, And purify the heart."
A. True wisdom, of course, comes only from God: Prov. 9.10, Jas. 1.5
B. The scriptures, inspired by God, are given to instruct our minds in righteousness: 2 Tim. 3.16-17
C. It is only by the truth of Christ that we can be made free from sin and purified in heart: Jn. 16.7-13, 1 Pet. 1.22
III. From stanza 3 we see that Jesus is the Life
"Thou art the Life: the rending tomb Proclaims Thy conquering arm;
And those who put their trust in Thee Nor death nor hell shall harm."
A. The empty tomb proclaims Jesus as the conquering Son of God: Rom. 1.3-4
B. Therefore, we should put our trust in Him: Eph. 1.11-14
C. Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, only those who believe in Him can have eternal life where neither death nor hell can harm them: Jn. 11.25-26
IV. From stanza 4 we see that Jesus is the true and living way.
"Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life: Grant us that way to know,
That truth to keep, that life to win, Whose joys eternal flow."
A. Through Jesus Christ alone we can know the way: Matt. 7.13-14
B. Through Jesus Christ alone we can find the truth: Jn. 8.32
C. Through Jesus Christ alone can we win eternal life by believing on His name: Jn. 20.30-31
CONCL.: In their haste to shave hymns down to the bare minimum, the editors of some of our books have used only stanzas 1-3, which eliminates the powerful conclusion. Oddly enough a few have had only 1, 2, and 4–it seems as though something is missing there! Only a few very books have used all four stanzas of this short hymn! One characteristic of a truly good hymn is that it is based directly on the scriptures. This hymn takes a statement of Jesus and makes an application of its meaning to each one of us, concluding with a summary of the teaching and a request that it might become a part of us. May all of us accept His truth so that we might receive His life by saying to Jesus, "Thou Art The Way."