“Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life”

"Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matt. 22:9)

     INTRO.: A hymn which urges us to go into the highways and bid as many as we can find to come to the Lord is "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life." The text was written by Frank Mason North, who was born on Dec. 3, 1850, at New York City, NY. After receiving degrees from Wesleyan University of Connecticut in 1872 and 1875, he became a Methodist Episcopal minister, and served churches in Florida, New York City (East Side Chapel and Calvary), and beginning in 1887 Middletown, CN, for two decades. Then in 1892 he became editor of The Christian City and served as Secretary of the Church Extension and Missionary Society of New York City until 1912. Sometime after 1900, he was urged by Caleb T. Winchester, an editor of the Methodist Hymnal, to provide a new missionary hymn for the 1905 edition. Having firsthand experience with the crowds of New York City and having recently preached a sermon based on Matt. 22:9, he produced this text which was first printed as "Prayer for the City" in The Christian City in June of 1903 and then was included in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal.

     From 1916 to 1920 North was president of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (now the National Council of Churches) and in 1919 became Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. During his life, he authored about a dozen hymns before his death on Dec. 17, 1935, at Madison, NJ. The tune (Germany or Walton) usually used with North’s hymn is of unknown origin.  It first appeared in the 1815 Sacred Melodies from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Adapted to the Best English Poets, and Appropriated to the Use of the British Church edited by William Gardiner (1770-1853). There it was attributed to the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).  Gardiner later wrote in his Music and Friends of 1838, "It is somewhere in the works of Beethoven, but where I cannot now point out." There is some similarity of the theme of the Allegro ma non troppo movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op. 70, No. 2, with the beginning and ending of the tune.

     However, most authorities reject the attributing of the melody to Beethoven. Some have suggested that it is based on a German folk song while others think that it is more likely the work of Gardiner himself.  The present harmonization seems to be from J. Ireland Tucker’s Hymnal with Tunes Old and New of 1872. This tune has been used with several other hymns as well. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, the tune was used with a hymn "Encamped About the Saints Below" by E. L. Jorgenson in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by Jorgenson. North’s text with Gardiner’s tune appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. Today the song may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song reminds us that not all the lost are overseas but many are in our very midst.

I. Stanza 1 points out that we need to hear the voice of Christ
"Where cross the crowded ways of life, Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife, We hear Thy voice, O Son of Man."
 A. We must go to the crowded ways of life because, as He did in Paul’s day, God still has "many people in this city": Acts 18:9-10
 B. The cries of race and clan are calling for someone to come and help them: Acts 16:9
 C. Therefore, we must hear the Lord’s voice over the city’s clamor and strive. What does that voice say? It is calling men to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30

II. Stanza 2 points out that we need to look for the lost where they actually are
"In haunts of wretchedness and need, On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed, We catch the vision of Thy tears."
 A. The lost will be found in haunts of wretchedness and need: Matt. 4:23-24
 B. They will be found in thresholds dark with fears, such as those who are sorrowing: Lk. 7:12-15
 C. But before we will be motivated to go there, we must catch the vision of Christ’s tears: Lk. 19:41-42

III. Stanza 3 points out that we need to minister to all people as Christ did
"From tender childhood’s helplessness, From woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow’s stress, Thy heart has never known recoil."
 A. Even innocent children need to be helped because of such is the kingdom of heaven: Matt. 19:13-14
 B. All people, women, men, famished souls–those who are spiritually sick–need the great Physician: Matt. 9:9-13
 C. The heart of Jesus never recoiled from such people because He was known as the friend of sinners: Matt. 11:19

IV. Stanza 4 points out that we need to show the compassion of Christ by helping others
"The cup of water given for Thee Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see The sweet compassion of Thy face."
 A. If we give our cup of water, Jesus says that we shall be rewarded: Matt. 10:42
 B. The multitudes still are like sheep having no shepherd: Matt. 9:35-38
 C. Therefore, His followers must show them the same compassion that Jesus Himself showed for those in need: Jn. 11:33-36

V. Stanza 5 points out that we need to call on Christ to heal people’s pain
"O Master, from the mountain side, Make haste to heal these hearts of pain.
Among these restless throngs abide; O tread the city’s streets again."
 A. Once Jesus came down from the mountain side to heal the epileptic: Mk. 9:21-27
 B. In like manner, we should call upon Christ to heal the spiritual needs of people even today: Mal. 4:2, 1 Pet. 2:24
 C. And He can figuratively tread the city’s streets again as His followers go everywhere preaching the word: Acts 8:4

VI. Stanza 6 points out that we need to show love in pointing others to heaven
"Till sons of men shall learn Thy love And follow where Thy feet have trod,
Till glorious from Thy heaven above Shall come the city of our God."
 A. The sons of men must learn the love of Christ: Eph. 3:19
 B. This will compel them to follow where His feet have trod: 1 Pet. 2:21
 C. As we proclaim this message, we point the lost to heaven above from which John saw the vision coming down of the eternal city of God where there will be no more suffering: Rev. 21:1-4

     CONCL.: Modern books have attempted to "update" the language (Your voice, Your tears, Your heart, given for You…multitudes to view, Your grace, Your face, Your love, Your feet, Your heaven–is this really necessary?), and in one book the first line of stanza 2 was changed to "In hands of wretchedness" (I do not know whether this was intentional or just a misprint). While New Testament Christians will oppose the purely "social gospel" which seeks to involve the church in serving the "whole man" by trying to meet his political, economic, and social needs, and thus often pushes doing what God ordained the church to do, and that is to meet man’s spiritual needs, into the background, we must realize that we should feel a compassion for suffering humanity and that we do have a responsibility to sinful mankind of going to the lost and proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life."


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