“SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, ARISE”
“Be strong in the Lord….Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand…” (Eph. 6:10-11)
INTRO.: A hymn which is based on Paul’s description of our spiritual warfare in his epistle written to the Ephesian saints is “Soldiers Of Christ, Arise” (#231 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #225 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It originally appeared in sixteen eight-line stanzas either at the end of John Wesley’s Character of a Methodist in 1741 or 1742 or in an undated tract about the same time that was attached to the book, and was first used as a hymn in Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems of 1749. It has been set to several different tunes. One (Diademata) was composed in 1868 by George Job Elvey, intended for and normally used with “Crown Him with Many Crowns” written in 1751 by Matthew Bridges. Another (Soldiers of Christ) was composed specifically for this text in 1895 by William Pierson Merrill.
The tune (Kirkwood) used in our books is usually attributed to William Batchelder Bradbury, who was born at York, ME, on Oct. 6, 1816. When he was fourteen, his family moved to Boston, MA, where he studied at the Boston Academy of Music and attended the Bowdoin St. Church where the music director was composer Lowell Mason. In 1840 Bradbury moved to New York City, NY, where he served as music director with the First Baptist Church of Brooklyn and later with the New York City Baptist Temple. Then in 1847 he took his family to Europe and spent two years in Leipzig, Germany, studying music under Wenzel, Boehm, and Hauptman. Returning to New York in 1849, he devoted his time to teaching, conducting, composing, and editing music. Also, he led singing classes patterned after those of Mason in Boston which resulted in the teaching of music in the New York public schools.
In 1854 Bradbury joined his brother E. G. Bradbury in establishing the Bradbury Piano Company, later taken over by Knabe. After founding his own publishing firm, he was associated with the publication of 59 collections of sacred music between 1861 and 1867. The date and circumstances of the composition of this tune are unknown. It was first published in his Jubilee of 1858. Since Bradbury’s name is not attached to it, it is not known for sure whether he actually composed it or just borrowed it from another source, but most authorities assume that it is his work. Other well-known tunes composed by Bradbury are used with “Sweet Hour Of Prayer,” “‘Tis Midnight; And On Olive’s Brow,” “How Sweet, How Heavenly,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Just As I Am,” “Asleep In Jesus,” “The Solid Rock,” “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us,” and “He Leadeth Me.” Bradbury died in Montclair, NJ, on Jan. 7, 1868.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The hymn encourages us to fight the good fight of the faith.
I. Stanza 1 points out that as soldiers of Christ we must put on the armor which God supplies
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through His beloved (eternal) Son.
A. The word “arise” suggests awaking out of sleep: Eph. 5:14
B. As an ancient soldier needed armor in battle, so we need God’s spiritual armor: Rom. 13:12
C. When we arise and put on our armor, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us: Phil. 4:13 (Wesley wrote “eternal Son;” why all our books change it to “beloved Son” is beyond me.)
II. Stanza 2 points out that as soldiers of Christ we must be strong in the Lord
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
A. Our strength does not come from within ourselves but from the almighty power of God: 1 Cor. 16:13
B. Therefore, we must trust in the strength of Jesus: Eph. 1:12-13
C. By doing this, we become more than conquerors: Rom. 8:37
III. Stanza 3 points out that as soldiers of Christ we must stand armed for the fight
Stand then in His great might,
With all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.
A. A good soldier will not turn tail and run but will stand and fight with all his might: Phil. 4:1
B. We certainly have a fight in which we must engage: 1 Cor. 9:26
C. But to arm us for the fight and help us to stand, we have the panoply or armor of God: 1 Thess. 5:8
IV. Stanza 4 points out that as soldiers of Christ we must pray
From strength to strength go on,
Wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down
And win the well fought day.
A. The Lord wants His soldiers to go on to perfection: Heb. 6:1
B. To help us do this, the Lord encourages us to pray: Phil. 4:6-7
C. In this way, God will enable us to tread all the powers of darkness down and crush Satan under our feet: Rom. 16:20
V. Stanza 5 points out that as soldiers of Christ we must not leave any area unguarded
Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole.
A. We should leave no unguarded place but love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength: Mk. 12:30
B. To do this, we need to take every virtue or grace and add it to our faith: 2 Pet. 1:5-7
C. This is part of God’s plan to preserve our whole spirit, soul, and body blameless: 1 Thess. 5:23
VI. Stanza 6 points out that as soldiers of Christ we can overcome through faith
That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts passed,
You (Ye) may o’ercome through Christ alone
And stand entire at last.
A. There will come a time when all our conflicts are passed and we have rest from our labors: Rev. 14:13
B. And when the Lord returns, we shall have the final victory that overcomes the world through faith: 1 Jn. 5:4
C. Then, we shall stand entire at last with the angels about the throne of God: Rev. 5:11
CONCL.: Since the hymn was originally written with sixteen eight-line stanzas, no modern books contain the entire text. Each of our stanzas is half an original. Some other sections that are included in various books are as follows:
5. To keep your armor bright,
Attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain’s sight,
And watching unto prayer.
6. Pray without ceasing, pray,
Your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey
And call upon the Lord;
7. To God your every want
In instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint;
Pray, without ceasing, pray!
10. Still let the Spirit cry
In all His soldiers, “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord descends from high
And takes the conquerors home.
We recognize the figurative nature of these references, but in the spiritual realm we as Christians must wage a good warfare. Therefore, let us as “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.”