"GO FORWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIER"
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4)
INTRO.: A hymn which urges us to make a commitment as to please Him who has chosen us to be soldiers in His spiritual army is "Go Forward, Christian Soldier." The text was written by Lawrence (sometimes mispelled Laurence) Tuttiett, who was born at Colyton in Devonshire, England, around Oct. 31, 1825, the youngest son of John William Tuttiett, a surgeon in the royal navy. Like his two brothers, Frank and Henry, he was educated at Christ’s Hospital and at King’s College, London, where he came under the influence of John Frederick Denison (F. D.) Maurice and Charles Kingsley. Originally intending to devote himself to the study of medicine, he became an Anglican minister instead in 1850 and began work with St. Paul’s at Wilton Place in Knightsbridge. In 1850 he moved to St. Thomas’ and later at Holy Trinity in Ride on the Isle of Wight, but in 1853 went to Longton at Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. Then in 1854 Lawrence married Helen Carnegy and began serving at Lea Marston in Warwickshire. A daughter was born in 1855.
During this time, Tuttiett began producing hymns and published Hymns for Churchmen in 1854. "Go Forward, Christian Soldier" dates from 1861 and was first published in his Counsels for a Godfather that year. Other works by Tuttiett include Hymns for Children of the Church in 1862, Gems of Thought on the Sunday Services in 1864, and Through the Clouds: Thoughts in Plain Verse in 1866. In 1870, he moved to the Scottish Episcopal Church of St. Andrew at Queen’s Gardens in St. Andrew’s, Fife, and then in 1877 began serving at St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Perthshire, where he remained until retiring to Pitlochry prior to his death on June 21, 1897. Cyberhymnal credits him with some nineteen hymns. Thirteen of these had at one time passed into common use, including "Father, Let Me Dedicate" which appeared in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal, "O Quickly Come, Dread Judge of All" which appeared in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and "O Grant Us Light" which appears in Praise for the Lord.
John Julian in his Dictionary of Hymnology wrote, "Mr. Tuttiett’s hymns are characterised by smoothness of rhythm, direction of aim, simplicity of language, and deep earnestness." Several tunes have been used with "Go Forward, Christian Soldier." Most books I checked have one (Lancashire) composed by Henry Thomas Smart but which in our books is used with Ernest Warburton Shurtleff’s "Lead On, O King Eternal." A new tune for male quartet was composed in 1905 by Ira B. Wilson and copyrighted by George D. Elderkin. Another tune (Caskey) that can be used was composed by Theodore E. Perkins (1831-1912). Perkins also composed the tune for Jane C. Bonar’s hymn "Jesus Is Mine." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Go Forward, Christian Soldier" appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater with an anonymous tune (Ellacombe) which is most often associated with Isaac Watts’s "I Sing the Mighty Power of God."
The hymn discusses several aspects of what it means to be a soldier of Christ.
I. Stanza 1 identifies our Leader
"Go forward, Christian soldier, Beneath His banner true;
The Lord Himself, thy Leader, Shall all thy foes subdue.
His love foretells thy trials; He knows thine hourly need.
He can with bread of heaven Thy fainting spirit feed."
A. Our Leader has a banner over us: Ps. 60:4
B. This Leader is the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation: Heb. 2:10
C. He will feed our fainting spirits with the bread of heaven: Jn. 6:35
II. Stanza 2 talks about the enemy
"Go forward, Christian soldier, Fear not the secret foe;
Far more o’er thee are watching Than human eyes can know.
Trust only Christ, thy Captain; Cease not to watch and pray.
Heed not the treacherous voices That lure thy soul astray."
A. Our foe is the devil, who goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour: 1 Pet. 5:8
B. However, those who are watching over us are more than those who are against us, as was true in Elisha’s day: 2 Ki. 6:8-18
C. Therefore, we should trust in our Captain and watch and pray lest we enter into temptation: Matt. 26:41
III. Stanza 3 describes the warfare
"Go forward, Christian soldier, Nor dream of peaceful rest
Till Satan’s host is vanquished, And heaven is all possessed;
Till Christ Himself shall call thee To lay thine armor by,
And wear in endless glory The crown of victory."
A. We are fighting a spiritual warfare with spiritual hosts of wickedness: Eph. 6:12
B. Someday, Christ Himself shall call us to lay our armor by in death: Heb. 9:27
C. Then we shall gain the crown that He has promised: Rev. 2:10
IV. Stanza 4 mentions the assurance
"Go forward, Christian soldier, fear not the gathering night;
The Lord has been thy Shelter, The Lord will be thy Light.
When morn His face revealeth, Thy dangers all are past;
O pray that faith and virtue May keep thee to the last!"
A. As soldiers of Christ, we have nothing to fear: Heb. 13:5-6
B. When the Lord returns, the morn will reveal His face for then we shall see Him as He is: 1 Jn. 3:1-2
C. Until then, we must exercize faith and virtue through which God’s power will keep us unto the salvation ready to be revealed at the last time: 1 Pet. 1:5
CONCL.: Judging from its appearances in older hymnbooks, this hymn was apparently fairly popular in mainstream denominations during the earlier part of the twentieth century–that is, until many of them began to excise all songs which used language related to soldiers, fighting, and warfare. Of course, Bible believers know that waging a good warfare and fighting the good fight of the faith are common figures of speech used in the scripture for the life of the Christian. Therefore, each child of God needs to be encouraged to "Go Forward, Christian Soldier."