“O Say, But I’m Glad”

"I will be glad and rejoice in Thee; I will sing praise" (Ps. 9:2)

     INTRO.: A song which expresses gladness and rejoicing in God by singing praises is "O Say, But I’m Glad." The text was written by James Patrick Sullivan, who was born in 1876. I have not been able to find much information about this author. He evidently was a minister in some denominational church, because many books list him as "Rev. James P. Sullivan." The song was copyrighted in 1930 and "dedicated to Bishop A. J. Moore." There was a Methodist Bishop and Missionary Field Secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Church South named Arthur J. Moore (1888-1974). The tune (Sullivan) was composed by Mildren Ellen Sullivan Lacour, who was born in 1916. In most older books, the composer’s name was simply given as "Mildred Ellen Sullivan," and I originally had supposed that the author and the composer were husband and wife.

     However, doing a little hymn research over the Internet, I came across a genealogy website which said that James P. Sullivan (b. abt. 1878) married Gertrude E. Lake (b. May, 1881), and they had two children, Mildred Ellen Sullivan (b. abt. 1916) and Marrl C. Sullivan (b. abt. 1924). So the composer was evidently the author’s daughter. Probably she composed the melody and the song was published before her marriage, which may well be why her maiden name was used in older books. Her father died in 1948, and the copyright was renewed in 1958 by Mrs. James B. Sullivan (probably a typographical error for James P.). It was later assigned to Singspiration Inc.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion and the 1955 Sacred Praise both edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections and the 1997 edtion of Ruth Winsett Shelton’s 1961 Best Loved Songs and Hymns both edited by Ellis J. Crum; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the
edited by William D. Jeffcoat. Other books in my collection which have it include the 1948 Healing Waters Songbook published by Oral Roberts; the 1951 Best of All No. 1 edited by R. E. Winsett; the 1956 Heavenly Highway Hymns edited by Luther G. Presley; the 1969 Hymns of the Spirit edited by Connor B. Hall; the 1969 Sword Special Songs and the 1972 Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns both edited by John R. Rice; the 1972 Living Hymns edited by Alfred B. Smith; the 1976 New Church Hymnal edited by Ralph Carmichael; the 1980 Praises We Sing edited by Elmina Yoder and Lula Miller; the 1995 Rejoice Hymnal edited by Vernon M. Whaley; the 1997 Majesty Hymns edited by Fred Garlock; and the 1999 Songs and Hymns of Revival edited by Jack Trieber. The 1951 Church Hymnal from Tennessee Music and Printing Co. has a song by the same title, said to be "arr. by Curtis Taylor" and copyright 1936 in Homeland Harmony, which by its similarity is almost certainly an adaptation of the Sullivan’s song.

     The song reminds us of the great joy to be found in Christ and the reasons why.

I. Stanza 1 says that we can be glad because our sins are taken away
"There is a song in my heart today, Something I never had.
Jesus has taken my sins away; O say, but I’m glad!"
 A. God had put gladness in the heart of His people: Ps. 4:7
 B. There was a time when they did not have this gladness because they were not God’s people: 1 Pet. 1:10
 C. What brings about this gladness is that Jesus has taken their sins away: Rev. 1:5

II. Stanza 2 says that we can be glad because of the marvelous love of Christ
"Wonderful, marvelous love He brings Into a heart that’s sad;
Through darkest tunnels the soul just sings, ‘O say, but I’m glad!’"
 A. Jesus has demonstrated a wonderful, marvelous for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
 B. Sometimes in life, we find that our hearts are sad: Gen. 40:1-6
 C. However, because of His love, we can know that even through darkest tunnels such as the valley of the shadow of death He will be with us: Ps. 23:4

III. Stanza 3 says that we can be glad because we have a rich and sweet fellowship
"We have a fellowship rich and sweet, Tongue never can relate.
Living in Him is a blessed treat; O say, but it’s great!"
 A. A fellowship rich and sweet exists between the Lord and His people: 1 Jn. 1:3, 7
 B. Such a relationship can never fully be related by the tongue because it is above all that we ask or think: Eph. 3:20
 C. The original third line read, "Abiding in Him is a real treat," but it is difficult to fit that with the music and make it sound good, so
many books have altered it slightly; either way, Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly: Jn. 10:10

IV. Stanza 4 says that we can be glad because we can bring Him all our care
"Won’t you come to Him with all your care, Weary and worn and sad?
You, too, will sing as His love you share, ‘O say, but I’m glad!"
 A. The Lord tells us that we can cast all our care on Him: 1 Pet. 5:7
 B. Therefore, He calls those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30
 C. When they do this, they too will be glad in the Lord: Ps. 64:10

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to proclaim the soul’s gladness in Jesus Christ.
"O say, but I’m glad! O say, but I’m glad!
Jesus has come and my cup’s overrun; O say, but I’m glad!"
Occasionally, a song will combine words and music in such a way as to bubble over with joy. This is just such a song, and it is a shame that it has not been included in more of our books. As Christians, we should be examples to others of the gladness that Christ can bring to our lives.  Yes, I will experience times of sorrow and sadness in life, but if I am a child of God, even in trials and tribulations, I can still affirm, "O Say, But I’m Glad."


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