"VOICES ARE CALLING"
"And the temple of God was opened in heaven…and there were lightnings, and voices…" (Rev. 11.19)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us in death by calling our attention to those who have gone before and are awaiting us in the heavenly realms is "Voices Are Calling." The text of stanza 1 was written and the tune was composed both by Tillit Sidney Teddlie (1885-1987). A well-known preacher and songwriter among churches of Christ, he is responsible for such beloved hymns as "Heaven Holds All To Me," "Worthy Art Thou," and the oft used "The Lord’s Supper," beginning, "When we meet in sweet communion." The text of stanzas 2 and 3 was written by Newton Washington Allphin, who was born on Nov. 25, 1875, near Waco, TX. By the time he was eight both is mother and father had died, so he lived with relatives until his early teens when he began earning his own way in life by working odd jobs. After his public schooling, he began attending normal schools in which he became intensely interested in music and attended his first music school in 1887 with John Kelley as teacher. In 1895 he studied with J. E. Thomas of Ft. Worth, TX, and in 1901 with F. L. Eiland.
During these years, Allphin began to produce songs. For many years he was part owner or associated with various music companies, such as the A and NL Music Company, the Quartet Music Company, New Songs Company, and Churchmen’s Press, all located in Texas. Also, he compiled twelve songbooks and assisted with others. In addition, he published a music magazine, The Musical Light, for five years in Ft. Worth, TX, and published a music reader. After teaching singing schools from 1902 to 1932, he went into other religous work, authoring the book Visions Unveiled: or The Revelation Explained, and until the late 1950’s directed singing in gospel meetings with 84 different gospel preachers. Through the years, Allphin is credited with 120 songs and provided either words or music for some 1,500 more. Many of his songs are found in older books published by brethren, but only a few can be located in later ones. Perhaps his best-known hymn is "You Will Reap What You Sow," from 1938 with a tune by Virgil O. Stamps. It is not in more recent books but was used in Ellis J. Crum’s 1956 Sacred Selections for the Church and Robert C. Welch’s 1963 Abiding Hymns.
A tune that Allphin composed for John Morrison’s "To Us A Child of Hope Is Born" (or "The Prince of Peace") was included in Alton Howard’s 1971 Songs of the Church, and his "Before Thy Throne We Bow" was used in Reuel Lemmon’s 1978 Hymns of Praise. In addition, Leland R. Fleming’s Into our Hands of 1999 contains two songs for which Allphin did both words and music, "I’m Clinging To His Hand" and "Unto Thy Cross I’ll Cling" (with an additional stanza by F. L. Eiland). It also carries "O Wonderful Hope in Jesus," for which he provided the harmony for a tune by Tillit S. Teddlie; "His Grace Is Sufficient," for which he provided a text for a tune by H. W. Elliot; and "The Old, Old Story," in which he wrote words for a tune by Ernest Rippetoe. Gene C. Finley’s Our Garden of Song has "I Shall Be Satisfied," with words by Allphin and music by John A. Holley, as the representative hymn for Allphin, whose work was not confined to religious music but included piano solos in sheet music and marches for bands, such as "March Militant Matadors" for D. O. Wiley who was director of the Texas Tech University Band. At age seventy, Allphin became an income-tax accountant but was forced to cease this at the age of 95 because of failing eyesight. However, he continued to correct music manuscripts as his eyes permitted until his death at Tahoka, TX. in Dec. 24, 1972.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Voices are Calling" (sometimes identified by its first line, "Oft in the twilight") appeared in the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise (twice, at least in the Pilot Edition which I have) edited by Reuel C. Lemmons.
The song points our minds toward those who are calling us from the heavenly realms to join them.
I. Stanza 1 says that their faces still appear in our memory
"Oft when the twilight gathers around me,
Clear, in the shadows, faces I see.
Deep in the stillness voices are calling;
Loved ones are calling, calling for me."
A. The twilight, with its shadows, is often a time for reflection and contemplation: Ps. 6.6
B. At such times, we can see, in our mind’s eye, the faces of those who have gone on before, remembering the works that they have left behind that follow them: Rev. 14.13
C. Their voices call us in the sense that like Abel they, being dead, still speak through their influence: Heb. 11.4
II. Stanza 2 says that they are waiting for our coming
"Friends of the past, whom often I’ve greeted,
Here as they journeyed even as I,
Lovingly wait and watch for my coming,
With them to share the glories on high."
A. It is good to have friends here on this earth: Prov. 18.24
B. It is also good to know that those of our friends who were faithful in Christ are lovingly waiting and watching for our coming, like the great could of witnesses: Heb. 12.1
C. Our hope is to share with them the glories on high when the Lord returns, the dead are raise, and we rise together with them to meet the Lord with the air: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
III. Stanza 3 says that they are now in the abode of spirits made free
"Many are gone, who here were my kindred,
To the abode of spirits made free;
They, with my Lord and all His redeemed ones,
Longingly wait and beckon for me."
A. The longer we live on earth, the more we find that our many of our loved ones and kindred are gone because of death: Heb. 9.27
B. Once released from this life, they go to the abide of spirits made free: Lk. 16.22
C. Some object to songs which seem to picture the righteous dead as being in heaven before the resurrection; while there may be those who disagree, the scriptures do seem to teach that the souls of those who die go to the place called Hades to await the resurrection and judgment when they will enter either heaven or hell. However, I have no problem with songs which picture the souls of the righteous in the heavenly realm waiting for us because Hades is still part of the heavenly realm, and, while I may not understand all the details, the Bible does teach that at death the soul returns to God: Eccl. 12.7
CONCL.: The chorus echoes the thought of those gone before who are calling to us from the portals of glory.
"Sweetly they’re calling, lovingly calling,
Those whom I loved, so happy and free;
Out from the shining portals of glory,
Loved ones are calling, calling for me."
Newton W. Allphin is one of those whom, perhaps, some still alive "often greeted" when he journeyed here but now is "gone to the abode of the spirits made free." However, his works do follow him in that he left us songs by which we can praise the Lord and admonish one another. While his hymns are not sung as often today as they apparently once were, they can still be found as we think about those gone before and realize that "Voices Are Calling."