“Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low”

"… Among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2.15)

     INTRO.: A song which encourages us to shine as lights in the world that we might be a good influence is "Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low" (#85 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mark D. Ussery, who was born near Marlin, TX, in 1880, one of the four children of M. L. and Alice Ussery. His siblings were Ethel, Willie, and Clem. The family, who were members of the church of Christ, loved to sing and often attended the singing schools in the community where they lived. A student and fellow worker of F. L. Eiland, Ussery was associated with the Eiland Music Company of Waco, TX, and became a close friend of Tillit S. Teddlie, Will W. Slater, and Austin Taylor, spending his years producing songs, teaching music, and leading singing among churches of Christ, most of which were rural. His wife’s name was Myrtle, and they had one daughter, Mrs. Calvin Barkley. For most of his life Ussery and his family lived in central and west Texas, including a time in Abilene, where Mark made his living buying and selling cotton. In 1905 he published his first song, "Come In," copyrighted by Dean and Hensley.

     During his life, Ussery was credited with about ninety songs and three hymnbooks, the first of which, Love Tidings published in 1918 by the Interstate Music Company of Abilene, TX, contained "Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low." The tune was composed by J. E. Williams. Beautiful Hymns of Praise was published in 1928, and Pure Heart Praise was published in 1930 by a gospel paper, The Way of Truth, of Brownwood, TX. In the flyleaf of the latter, he wrote, "We have tried to avoid two common extremes so noticeable in many of the present-day songbooks, e.g., the unwarranted use of light, airy, convention songs, and the wholesale gathering together of short space fillers, many of which have no merit, and are noticeably at variance with the teachers of Inspiration." Other songs of his that have appeared in some more recent books include "The Victory to Win" which begins, "Pressing the battle in Jesus’ name, A victory to win" and is dated 1914, and "Glory on the Winning Side" which begins, "There’s a mighty army marching through the land." After a life of 57 years, he died at Winter, TX, in 1937.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low" appeared in the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by T. S. Cobb; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Praise and Revival Songs and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion both edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.  Of our hymnbooks available today, the only one that I know of to include the song is Sacred Selections, in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.  It also was used in the 1939 Favorite Songs and Hymns published by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co.
     The song reminds us of the importance of letting our letting our lights shine.

I. Stanza 1 exhorts us to be a blessing
"O would you be a blessing true As on through life you go?
Be constant in God’s service here, Don’t let your light burn low."
 A. God wants us to be a blessing to others by being the salt of the earth and the light of the world: Matt. 5.13-16
 B. In order to please Him, this must continue as on through life we go that we might be faithful unto death: Rev. 2.10
 C. Therefore, we need to be constant in God’s service here, always abounding in the work of the Lord: 1 Cor. 15.58

II. Stanza 2 exhorts us to be a guide
"The world is groping in despair; God’s love they do not know.
So live to guide them to the right, Don’t let your light burn low."
 A. The world is groping in despair because it is lost in the darkness of sin: 1 Jn. 5.19
 B. They do not know the love of God that sent Jesus to keep us from perishing: Jn. 3.16
 C. Therefore, we need to live to guide them to the right by being examples of the believer: 1 Tim. 4.12

III. Stanza 3 exhorts us to be proclaimers of salvation
"The loving Savior needs your aid In letting sinners know
Salvation’s free, who will may come; Don’t let your light burn low."
 A. The loving Savior needs our aid to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature: Mk. 16.15-16
 B. In doing so, we shall be letting sinners know that they need to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts: Jas. 4.8
 C. Therefore, we need to be proclaiming the message that whosoever will may come and take the water of life freely: Rev. 22.17

     CONCL.: The chorus reemphasizes the need of making sure that our lights are kept shining brightly.
"Don’t let your light burn low, Don’t let your light burn low;
Be constant in God’s service here, Don’t let your light burn low."
This world is a place of spiritual darkness because of the prevalence of sin. However, God, through Jesus Christ, has made salvation possible. He wants His good news to be proclaimed by His people and demonstrated in their lives. Therefore, we must admonish one another, "Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low."


One thought on ““Don’t Let Your Light Burn Low”

  1. As a small boy, about six years old, we sung this song in the church I attended in the small country town of Dyess, Arkansas. I remember going home one Sunday from church with that song on my mind. While my mother was preparing the Sunday lunch, I went into the kitchen and asked her what that song mean, "Don't let your light burn low?" She stopped for a moment and looked at me giving much thought to how to answer me. Then she said, "Well, that means like staying home from church on Sunday or not reading your Bible or not praying, then, you are letting your light burn low. For some time after that when we would stay home from church, I would become very concerned that we were letting our lights burn low. I don't remember hearing the song sung since those days many years ago, but the message of the song still stays with me.


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