"Sing praises to the Lord…" (Ps. 9.11)
INTRO.: A song which expresses praises to the Lord is "Wonderful Jesus" (#25 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #129 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Rowe, who was born at Horrabridge in Devonshire, England, on Jan. 1, 1865, the son of John and Jane Gillard Rowe. The son of a copper miner, he worked for the Irish government for four years and then at the age of 24 came to the United States in 1890. Settling in Albany, NY, he married Blance Clapper and for about ten years worked as an employee of a New York railroad. Then he became a superintendent of the Hudson River Humane Society in Albany.
Afterwards, he devoted the rest of his life to literary pursuits. As an author of song texts and editor of music journals, he was successively employed by the Trio Music Company of Waco, TX; the A. J. Showalter Music Company of Chattanooga, TN; and the James D. Vaughan Music Company of Lawrenceburg, TN. By his own record, he produced more than 19,000 song texts, including "He’s My King" and "God Holds the Future in His Hands" with James D. Vaughan; "Won’t It Be Wonderful There?" with Homer F. Morris; "After the Shadows," "Home of the Soul," "Ring Out the Message" and "I Choose Jesus" with Samuel W. Beazley; "I Have Been Redeemed" with Stancel A. Ganus; "Looking to Thee" with Herschel M. Eagle; "I Walk with the King" and "I Would Be Like Jesus" with Bentley D. Ackley; "You Never Mentioned Him to Me" with James W. Gaines; "What Is He Worth to Your Soul?" with Willam B. Walbert and Adger M. Pace; and perhaps his best known, "Love Lifted Me" with Howard E. Smith.
"Wonderful Jesus" was copyrighted in 1913. The tune was composed by James P. Denton (1890-1951). Some newer books identify Denton as the author as well the composer while others leave the author’s place blank, but almost all the older books list Rowe as author. In his later years, Rowe made his home in Wells, VT, where he spent his time writing both serious and humorous verses for greeting card publishers in association with his daughter, Louise Rowe Mayhew, who was a gifted artist. He died at Wells on Nov. 10, 1933.
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 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; 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 hymn offers three reasons why we should extol Jesus as our Lord and King.
I. Stanza 1 says that He is a glorious friend
"Wonderful Jesus! glorious friend!
He will be with me unto the end,
Cheering, upholding, keeping me strong,
Fearless and loyal, shielding from wrong."
A. Jesus is truly a loyal friend of whom we never need fear that He will forsake us: Jn. 15.14
B. This is because He has promised to be be with us unto the end of the age: Matt. 28.20
C. As our Friend, He will help to keep us strong in the power of His might: Eph. 6.10
II. Stanza 2 says that He shows us the way
"Wonderful Jesus! showing the way
Into the blessed kingdom of day;
Guiding my footsteps, holding control,
Making me happy, keeping me whole."
A. Jesus is the only way by which we can come to the Father: Jn. 14.1-6
B. Thus, He is the way into the blessed kingdom of day and will abundantly supply us an entrance into that everlasting kingdom: 2 Pet. 1.11
C. He guides our footsteps on the way to that kingdom by leaving us an example that we should follow Him: 1 Pet. 2.21
III. Stanza 3 says that He will keep us all through the night
"Wonderful Jesus! all through the night
He will enfold me, giving me light;
Then when the morning breaks on the shore,
This He will whisper, ‘Mine evermore.’"
A. The term "night" often represents times of sorrow and sadness: Ps. 91.5
B. Jesus is the light that guides us through the darkness of this world: Jn. 3.16-21
C. His goal is to lead us to eternal life where the morning breaks on the shore: Ps. 30.5
CONCL.: The chorus then breaks forth with praise for Jesus as our King.
"Wonderful Jesus! marvellous King!
Ever His praise my spirit shall sing;
When I behold His glorified face,
How I shall praise His wonderful grace."
As we think about all that Jesus our Lord and King has done, is doing, and will do for us, we are bound to sing praise to this "Wonderful Jesus."