“Come in Obedience to the Faith”

“But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25)

     INTRO.: A song which calls the lost of all nations to hear the message of the scriptures that the  might obey the gospel according to the commandment of the everlasting God is “Come In Obedience to the Faith.” The text was written by Flavil Joseph Hall (1876-1952). The earliest that I have been able to trace it is to the 1921 book From the Cross to the Crown edited by Hall. Other hymns by Hall that have appeared in some of our books include “Jesus Will Come Again” with words by Mrs. W. S. Stroud and “Sinners, You Have Sadly Wandered” with music by J. M. Pierce. The tune (Holy Manna), said to be “arranged for this work” probably by Hall, is sometimes identified as a “Traditional American Melody” but is usually attributed to William Moore (19th c.). No biographical information seems available on this composer except that he lived at Lebanon, Wilson County, in West Tennessee. In 1825, Moore  sometimes spelled More), compiled The Columbian Harmony, a four-shape-note tune book. During the 1820s Wilson County was home to at least four men bearing the name William Moore, any of whom could have been the tunebook compiler.

     The book included this tune, with authorship claimed by the compiler, set to the following words attributed to George Atkins (19th c.):
1. “Brethren, we have met to worship And adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, While we try to preach the word?
All is vain unless the Spirit Of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna Will be showered all around.”
2. “Brethren, see poor sinners round you, Slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving—Can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers And our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna Will be showered all around.”
3. “Brethren, there are poor backsliders Who were once near heaven’s door,
But they have betrayed the Savior, And are worse than e’er before.
Yet the Savior offers pardon, If they will repent the wound;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna Will be showered all around.”
4. “Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners Who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior—Tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna Will be showered all around.”
5. “Let us love our God supremely, Let us love each other too;
Let us love and pray for sinners Till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to heaven; At His table we’ll sit down.
Christ will gird Himself and serve us With sweet manna all around.”

     These words had first appeared in the 1819 Spiritual Songster where the song was one of five hymns attributed to “the late Rev. George Atkins.” Attempts to identify the author with a Methodist circuit-riding preacher of East Tennessee named George Atkins, who also wrote for newspapers, served in the Ohio Conference, transferred to Knoxville, TN, in 1818, and was preaching at “Abingdon Town” in 1826, are apparently in error since he passed away in 1827 and the author had already died by 1819. Eighteen or nineteen of the tunes in The Columbian Harmony were credited to Moore. However, one writer noted that this one has several earmarks of a melody originating in oral tradition, including its use of a pentatonic scale and its similarity to other folk hymns and secular folk songs, so that Moore’s part in composing it was probably limited to bringing together several preexisting fragments from other tunes to form a new melody. While The Columbian Harmony apparently did not achieve enough popularity to merit a second edition, several of the tunes claimed by Moore which received their first printing in this book became widely used in later shape-note tunebooks.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the Hall song appeared in the 1927 Cross and Resurrection in Song Revised and Enlarged edited by Samuel H. Hall along with Flavil; the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1980 Our Garden of Song edited by Gene C. Finley. Today it may be found in the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming. The Atkins hymn appeared in the 1924 International Melodies edited by Earnest C. Love in a much altered form beginning “Brethren See Poor Sinners” arranged by Lou Donie Love; and the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest McCann. The Moore tune may be found in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections arranged by editor Ellis J. Crum with “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (ugh!), in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand with a 1976 paraphrase of Ps. 34 entitled "Tell His Praise in Song and Story" by Timothy Dudley-Smith, and in the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard with a 1965 hymn “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens” by Catherine Cameron.

      The song could well be used as an invitation song to call the lost to come to Christ.

I. Stanza 1 calls the sinner to hear the invitation
“Wanderer, hear the invitation Sounding forth to one and all;
There’s redeeming love in Jesus If you heed His gracious call.”
 A. Jesus wants us to hear Him: Matt. 13:13-17
 B. His invitation is intended to sound forth to one an all in that the gospel is to be preached to every creature under heaven: Mk. 16:15-16
 C. The message is that there is redemption through the blood of Jesus: Eph. 1:7

II. Stanza 2 calls the sinner to obey the gospel
“He has promised you salvation; O believe Him and repent,
Be baptized into His kingdom, Thus receiving His imprint.”
 A. Jesus has promised salvation to those who obey Him: Heb. 5:8-9
 B. This obedience includes both believing Him and repenting of sin: Acts 16:30-31, 17:30-31
 C. It also includes being baptized into His kingdom: Acts 22:16

III. Stanza 3 calls the sinner to prepare for eternity
“To eternity you’re going Fast as time can bear you on;
Soon the day of preparation Will forevermore be gone.”
 A. Eternity here simply refers to the eternal state which every soul will face, either everlasting punishment or everlasting life: Matt. 25:41
 B. We are heading toward that state fast as time can bear us on because our lives are like a vapor which appears for a little time then vanishes away: Jas. 4:14
 C. The day of preparation will be gone for each one of us at death and for the whole world at the coming of Christ: Heb. 9:27, 2 Pet. 3:10

     CONCL.: The chorus calls the sinner to receive Jesus that he might gain rest.
“Come to Jesus, dying sinner; O receive Him and be blest.
Come to Him in consecration; He will sweetly give you rest.”
The chorus for the third stanza is a little different:
“Come believing and repenting, And obey Jehovah’s word,
Be baptized into His kingdom, And be saved through Jesus’ blood.”
For those of us who are Christians, we can be thankful to God that He made it possible for us to be saved from our sins and we should strive to admonish others to “Come in Obedience to the Faith.”


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