"We…have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul…" (Heb. 6.18-19)
INTRO.: A song describing the hope set before us which serves as a strong consolation is "Whispering Hope" (#383 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #535 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both, under the pseudonym of Alice Hawthorne, by Septimus Winner, who was born on May 11, 1827, in Philadelphia, PA. A self-taught musician who also ran a music store, gave lessons on various instruments, and played in both the Philadelphia Brass Band and the Cecilian Musical Society, he became a poet and violinist. A prolific songwriter of the later nineteenth century, he edited over 200 volumes of music for more than twenty instruments and produced 2,000 arrangements for piano and violin. Often using his mother’s maiden name for composing the kinds of popular, sentimental ditties that were often identified with women musicians of that day, he had several pseudonyms. His "Listen to the Mockingbird" was published in 1855, and "Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" was published in 1864. Both became favorites, along with his "Ten Little Indians."
Unfortunately, Winner sold the rights to "Listen to the Mockingbird" for the grand sum of five dollars befor it sold twenty million copies over the next few years. "Whispering Hope" was published in 1868, but those who knew him said that Winner did not intend it to be a religious song. In fact, it is claimed that Winner was somewhat amazed and amused that its great popularity was achieved as a hymn. Whatever his intentions were, the song did gain instant access among churches and has been published continuously in hymnbooks ever since. Another interesting fact is that Winner’s brother, Joseph E. Winner, was also a songwriter and became jealous of his brother’s success with "Whispering Hope." So Joe attempted to surpass his brother by writing a novelty song that he hoped would bring him fame and fortune as well. That song was one about drinking, "Little Brown Jug." It was successful too, but certainly not to the same degree of "Whispering Hope."
Septimus Winner died in Philadelphia on Nov. 22, 1902. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2; both had an arrangement for soprano-alto duet presumably made by editor E. L. Jorgenson, which was also used in the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 with an arrangement for soprano-alto-tenor trio made by editor L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal with an arrangement for soprano-alto duet made by editor J. Nelson Slater. Today the song 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 in an arrangement for all four parts by editor Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard with the Sanderson arrangement; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegnad in an arrangement for all four parts by Michael Green; as well as Hymns for Worship with the Sanderson arrangement, Sacred Selections with an arrangement for all four parts by editor Ellis J. Crum, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat in an arrangement by Benny Davis.
This is a beautiful hymn of hope that we often sing in our worship because it does have Biblical references.
I. From stanza 1 we learn that hope is a source of comfort
"Soft as the voice of an angel, Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope, with a gentle persuasion, Whispers her comforting word.
Wait till the darkness is over, Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, After the shower is gone."
A. Even though there is no Biblical evidence that angels speak to anyone today, hope is like the voice of an angel because it comes to us from God: 1 Thess. 2.16
B. This hope whispers her comforting word because it pours forth the love of God in our hearts: Rom. 5.1-5
C. And it gives us comfort for the future by making it possible to wait for the sunshine tomorrow: Gal. 5.5
II. From stanza 2 we learn that hope is a source of light in darkness
"If, in the dusk of the twilight, Dim be the regions afar,
Will not the deepening darkness Brighten each glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us, Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over, Watch for the breaking of day."
A. Sometimes it seems that the dimness of earth discourages us, but one of the things which abides to keep us going is hope: 1 Cor. 13.13
B. Thus, even though we must suffer the sorrows of earth’s darkness, we can still rejoice in hope: Rom. 12.9-12
C. And this hope enables us to watch for the breaking of day because it points us to a brighter future: Col. 1.5
III. From stanza 3 we learn that hope is a source of steadfastness in our lives
"Hope, as an anchor so steadfast, Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered, Robbing the grave of its goal.
Come, then, O come, gald fruition, Come to my sad, weary heart,
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory, Never, O never depart."
A. Hope is an anchor so steadfast because looking toward the future it provides the benefit of patience in our lives even now: Rom. 8.24-25
B. This hope is possible because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Master who entered the veil and robbed the grave of its goal: 1 Pet. 1.3
C. Therefore, we look forward to the coming of Him who is our blest hope of glory as the fruition, i.e., the fulfillment or realization, of our hope: Col. 1.27, Tit. 2.13
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the blessed benefits of true hope:
"Whispering hope, O how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in it sorrow rejoice."
While God does not speak directly to us today, He does whisper to us through His written word about the hope set before us. Faith is describe in the Bible as the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11.1). This is a good reason to find strength in the power of hope. Biblical hope is desire plus expectation with regard to God’s promises. This grand old song contains several tender expressions which allude to the quiet comfort and strength that we can find in God’s "Whispering Hope."