“WHY NOT NOW?”
“Call ye upon Him while He is near…return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy…” (Isa. 55:6-7)
INTRO; A song which exhorts those who are outside of Christ to call upon Him while He is near to receive His mercy is “Why Not Now?” (#311 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #625 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by “El Nathan,” which is a pseudonym for the well-known revival evangelist Daniel Webster Whittle (1840-1901). Other famous songs by Whittle include “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” “Christ Liveth in Me,” “The Banner of the Cross,” and “Showers of Blessing.” The tune for “Why Not Now?” was composed by Charles Clinton Case, who was born at Linesville in Crawford County, PA, on June 6, 1843, the son of Orasmus and Nancy Sophronia Fitch Case. When Charles was four years old, his family moved to Gustavus, OH, where he made his home until the last few years of his life. Case’s grandfather was an American Revolutionary War veteran who taught vocal music, and his father was an accomplished violinist. When Case was nine years old, a neighbor gave him a small violin which he mastered long before he could read music.
At age sixteen, Case began to go to singing schools without his parents’ consent, borrowing the money from a neighbor. While still in his teens, he came under the influence of many well-known singing school teachers such as C. A. Bentley, a prominent conductor of the day, G. Frederick Wright, and especially William Batchelder Bradbury. For three winters in a row, Case attended Bentley’s singing school, working on his father’s farm in the summer. In 1866, he even went to Boston, MA to study with B. F. Baker. Shortly afterwards, Case began teaching while attending summer music normals conducted by a number of outstanding teachers of his day, such as William Mason, Luther Orlando Emerson, George James Webb, George Frederick Root, and Horatio Richmond Palmer. Also he became a close friend of fellow composer James McGranahan. As the two lived nearby, they attended music conventions together where they were associated as faculty members and jointly compiled two collections, The Choice in 1875, and Harvest of Song in 1877. “Why Not Now?” first appeared in 1891 in Gospel Hymns No. 6, edited by Ira David Sankey (1840-1908).
Case himself compiled a number of song collections for use in music conventions and several Sunday school songbooks, almost all of which were published by the John Church Company of Cincinnati, OH. For twelve years, he led the music at Chautauqua Lake, NY, and was active in other Chautauqua meetings. For three years, he was music director at the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, IL, later also serving as music director at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Akron, OH, and at the Ruggles St. Baptist Church in Boston, MA. For ten years, he spent a part of each year with Dwight L. Moody as a song leader. Also, he served as a professor at Oberlin College. Only a short time before he died, he published a patriotic song entitled, “Stand Behind the Boys Over There” to encourage the American soldiers fighting in Europe during the Great War. His death occurred at Oberlin in Lorain County, OH, on Dec. 1, 1918.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Why Not Now?” 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 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The song pleads with those who are lost in sin to come to Jesus now.
I. According to stanza 1, sinners should come because the Father calls them
While we pray and while we plead,
While you see your soul’s deep need,
While our Father calls you home,
Will you not, my brother, come?
A. We should certainly pray for those who are lost: Rom. 10:1
B. People should see their soul’s deep need because of its value: Matt. 16:26
C. The means by which the Father calls us home is the gospel: 2 Thess. 2:13-14
II. According to stanza 2, sinners should come because they have wandered far away
You have wandered far away;
Do not risk another day;
Do not turn from God your face,
But today accept His grace.
A. Since all have sinned, all like sheep have wandered away from God: 1 Pet. 2:24
B. No one should risk another day because of the uncertainty of the future: Jas. 4:13-14
C. Therefore, the lost should accept God’s grace today: Heb. 3:15
III. According to stanza 3, sinners should come because they cannot find in the world what they truly need
In the world you’ve failed to find
Aught of peace for troubled mind;
Come to Christ, on Him believe,
Peace and joy you shall receive.
A. The ways of the world lead us farther away from the peace of God: 1 Cor. 1:21
B. Jesus wants us to believe on Him: Jn. 8:24
C. By coming to Him, we can receive both joy and peace: Phil. 4:4, 7
IV. According to stanza 4, sinners should come because they can find pardon in Christ
Come to Christ, confession make;
Come to Christ, and pardon take;
Trust in Him from day to day,
He will keep you all the way.
A. Those who come to Christ must confess Him: Rom. 10:9-10
B. In so doing, they will find pardon and forgiveness of sin: Eph. 1:7
C. And if they trust Him, His power will keep them all the way: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
CONCL.: The chorus continues to make the plea:
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
In Sacred Selections editor Ellis J. Crum, as usual, changed the last line of stanza 1 to read, “Will you not, dear sinner” come, and Shepard and Stevens followed the change in Hymns for Worship. I suppose that this was originally done so that no one would think that we are identifying those who are outside of Christ and lost in sin as our spiritual brothers. However, we understand that when such songs were written, “brother” was a common form of general greetings, as in “Brother, can you spare a dime?” This song asks all of our human brothers and sisters who are not right with God and need to obey the gospel, “Why Not Now?”