“Only One Way”

"…Washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:5)

     INTRO.: A song which teaches that the only way to be washed from our sins is in the blood of Christ is "Only One Way" (#542 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Birdie Bell. For a number of years I tried to locate information about this author and was not very successful. When I first started my research, I found that there was a Birdie Bell who was born on Apr. 14, 1868, to Francis and Hulda Jane Osborn Bell at Keswick, Keokuk County, IA, and died in June of 1938.  There was also a Birdie Bell who was married to George E. Brooks in Webster County, KY, in 1904. However, I had no way of knowing if either of these penned the song. Fortunately, further research indicates that hymns attributed to Birdie Bell were actually written by Birdie Bell Harris Winsett, who was born around 1877.

     In 1904, Birdie was a primary school teacher in Beulah, later renamed Carter, in Oklahoma, at the first "Holy Ghost" school in the state, named Beulah Home of Emmanuel’s Bible School, Beulah Colony. It was founded by members of the Holiness, Pentecostal, and Assemblies of God denominations. When she was teaching there, Robert Winsett, author and composer of "Jesus Is Coming Soon," was the school’s music teacher, and the two married in 1908. By 1910, they were located in El Paso in El Paso County, TX, and after living a while in Ft. Smith, AR, they moved to Dayton in Hamilton County, TN. "Only One Way" was copyrighted in 1923 by the composer of the tune, Leonard Daugherty (1859-1951). Daugherty is perhaps best known for his music to the song "Down in the Valley" beginning, "Are you dwelling in the sunlight, Is your path with roses strewn?"

     Cyberhymnal credits Birdie Bell with eleven other songs, including "Just One Touch" of 1897 with music by J. Howard Entwisle. Some of our books have included other hymns attributed to her, such as "Jesus Understands" of 1901 or 1903 with music composed by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). Birdie probably died sometime in the 1920’s, perhaps around 1925, because the 1930 census shows her husband living alone in Dayton, Hamilton County, TN, where he maintained an office for his publishing company. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Only One Way" appeared in the 1927 Sweeter Than All Songs edited by C. M. Pullias; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis. Today it may be found, to my knowledge, only in Sacred Selections.

     The song explains what is involved in the one way to enter the kingdom of God.

I. Stanza 1 says that it involves coming to the Savior
"There is only one way to the kingdom of God;
‘Tis the old-fashioned way of the cross.
You must come to the Savior, pass under the blood;
You must count earthly pleasure as dross."
 A. It is the way of the cross because the message of the cross is the power of God: 1 Cor. 1:18
 B. Since Jesus is the one who died on the cross for us, we must come to Him for rest: Matt. 11:28-30
 C. This requires that we count all earthly pleasures as dross: Phil. 3:7-8

II. Stanza 2 says that in means turning away from the broad way
"There is only one way to the kingdom of God;
You will find it is narrow and steep.
Turn away from the one that is easy and broad;
In the footsteps of Christ ever keep."
 A. It is narrow and steep: Matt. 7:13-14
 B. To find it we must turn from the broad way which means turning away from idols (which includes anything that keeps us from the Lord) to serve God: 1 Thess. 1:9-10
 C. Yet it is not enough just to turn from the broad way; we must start following in the footsteps of Christ: 1 Pet. 2:21

III. Stanza 3 says that it results in being cleansed by Jesus’s blood
"There is only one way to the kingdom of God;
‘Tis the same for the great or the small.
‘Tis the way of the cross and the sin-cleansing blood;
‘Tis the way of salvation for all."
 A. This way is the same for the great or the small–it is to be preached to every creature under heaven: Mk. 16:15
 B. The result of following it is having redemption through the blood of Christ: Eph. 1:7
 C. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone: Rom. 1:16

IV. Stanza 4 says that it leads to the home of the soul
"There is only one way to the kingdom of God,
But it leads to the home of the soul;
And the saved of all ages this pathway have trod,
As they journeyed in faith to the goal."
 A. This way leads to the home of the soul that Jesus is preparing for His people: Jn. 14:1-3
 B. The saved of all ages have trod this pathway as they have been kept by faith through the power of God to the salvation ready to be revealed at the last time: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
 C. It is a journey of faith because we must walk by faith and our victory will come through faith: 2 Cor. 5:7, 1 Jn. 5:4

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that there are not many ways to be cleansed from sin.
"There is only one way;
‘Tis the old-fashioned way.
You will find it today if you come to the cross,
And are washed in the sin-cleansing blood."
In an article entitled "There’s Only One Way" from Guardian of Truth (May 17, 1990), Mike Willis wrote, "The early church surveyed the religious alternatives offered by Judaism and concluded that every Jew needed to come to Christ for salvation. The early church then surveyed the religious alternatives which Gentiles offered, among which were some of the presently existing ‘world religions,’ and concluded that every Gentile needed to come to Christ for salvation. We dare not reach a different conclusion today. Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles have found a sacrifice for sin! There is but one way to salvation–through the shed blood of Jesus Christ! The poet Birdie Bell expressed it well in ‘Only One Way.’" Then he quoted the first stanza of the song. Indeed, when it comes to being saved from sin and having the hope of eternal life with God in heaven, there is still "Only One Way."


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