"SINNERS, YOU HAVE SADLY WANDERED"
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…" (Isa. 53.6)
INTRO.: A song which invites those who are lost because they have gone astray to return to Jesus is "Sinners, You Have Sadly Wandered." The text was written by Flavil Joseph Hall, who was born on June 22, 1876, at Halls Valley near Trion, GA, to Robert T. and Sarah Doliska Mills Hall. The Halls were faithful Christians, and Flavil’s mother taught her children to read at an early age. However, she passed away a few days after his eighth birthday, and a few years later his father married Eliza Morton. Flavil was baptized in 1890 by N. J. Tumlin, he determined to preach and attended Nashville Bible School, now David Lipscomb University, where he met Samuel H. Hall. After he began preaching at Trion in 1896, he married Martha J. King of Tennessee, and they had three children, Gardner, Effa, and Leslie. Gardner became the father of two gospel preachers, Sewell and Bill Hall.
Around 1908, Hall, who had produced a few hymns previously, was invited by his friend S. H. Hall to Rockmart, GA, for a gospel meeting. The two men conceived the idea of publishing a songbook, so in 1910 they compiled The Gospel Message in Song, which was published by Fred L. Rowe of Cincinnati, OH. Over the next 22 years, the Halls would compile eight songbooks, including Redemption’s Way in Song in 1911, and perhaps the best-known, The Cross and Resurrection in Song of 1917 to 1920 (revised and enlarged in 1927). In 1913, Hall began writing a column for Rowe’s paper the Christian Leader and later became an associate editor. Also in 1913 Hall’s wife died, and he married Bertha Williams in 1919. In 1911, Hall began making evangelistic trips to the Ohio Valley, and in 1928 moved to Pontiac, MI, for two years. After returning to Georgia, he located with the church at Portland, IN, for two years beginning in 1931, worked briefly in Cincinnati, OH, then moved to Millpoint, AL.
From 1940 to 1952, Hall’s home base was Pine Apple, AL, where he would preach with the Awin congregation when not engaged in meeting work. At one time he served as office manager for the Gospel Advocate and became a friend of E. L. Jorgenson. The tune for "Sinners, You Have Sadly Wandered" was composed by J. M. Pierce. No further information about him, the background of the song, its date, or the origin of publication is available. Hall also published two other works of prose and poetry, Pearls of Truth and Pearls of Grace and Glory, and a textbook on singing entitled Hall’s Rudiments of Music, as well as some 200 hymns, before his death at Greenville, AL, on Aug. 16, 1952. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by Jorgenson.
The song reminds wandering sinners that they need to come to Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 points out that sinners need to realize their condition
"Sinners, you have sadly wandered Where destruction’s billows roll,
And your bark is surely sinking In the depths beyond control."
A. The truth is that all have sinned and are like sheep going a stray: Rom. 3.23, 1 Pet. 2.25
B. Those who thus wander are in danger of destruction: 2 Thess. 1.7-9
C. Thus, they are like those who are in a boat that is sinking: Matt. 14.22-30
II. Stanza 2 points out that sinners need to hear Jesus
"Hear, O hear the voice of Jesus As He calls you through His word;
Look to Him and turn your rudder: He will save you by His blood."
A. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus because God speaks to us by His Son: Heb. 1.1-2
B. However, the voice of Jesus calls us through His word, which is the gospel: 2 Thess. 2.13-14
C. It is important that we listen to His voice since it is His blood that provides remission of sins: Matt. 26.28
III. Stanza 3 points out that sinners need to come to Jesus
"Come to Him, O do not linger, And in Him be richly blest;
Then go on your way rejoicing, Till you reach the heavenly rest."
A. However, it is not enough just to listen to the voice of Jesus; we must come to Him: Matt. 11.28-30
B. An example of one who came to Jesus was the Ethiopian eunuch who heard the gospel message preached by Philip, believed on Christ, made the good confession, was baptized, and went on His way rejoicing: Acts 8.26-39
C. Only those who thus obey and follow the Savior will reach the heavenly rest: Heb. 4.8-11
CONCL.: The chorus continues the call for sinners to come to Jesus for His blessings and guidance.
"Come to Jesus, weary wanderer; He will bless you in His love,
And will lead you to the mansions Of the happy home above."
The purpose of invitation songs is to provide those who need to respond with both the opportunity to come and encouragement to do so. Yet, until people understand that they are lost and in danger of punishment, there will not be any motivation for them to come. Therefore, it is good to tell those who are lost, "Sinners, You Have Sadly Wandered."