Room in God’s Kingdom

baxter

(photo of J. R. Baxter)

ROOM IN GOD’S KINGDOM

“Whosoever shall give…a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple…shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42)

     INTRO.:  A song which exhorts us to serve God even if it means just giving a cup of cold water in Christ’s name is “Room in God’s Kingdom” (#620 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #80 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Jesse Randall Baxter Jr., who was born on December 8, 1887, in Lebanon, AL, and grew up in DeKalb County, Alabama.  He was a farmer and married Clarice Howard in 1918.  After attending singing schools in Alabama where he studied with some of the foremost gospel hymn writers of the time, including Thomas Benjamin Mosley and Anthony Johnson Showalter, he became proficient in providing both words and music for gospel songs.  It has been said that he probably wrote more convention songs than any other gospel song writer of his day.  Some of his works include “Try Jesus,” “Travel the Sunlit Way,” “Something Happens (When You Give Your Heart to God”), “I Have Peace in My Soul,” “Living Grace,” and “I Want to Help Some Weary Pilgrim.” Also, he was an outstanding singing school teacher and conducted his own schools until 1922, when he was asked to manage the Texarkana, TX, office of A. J. Showalter.

“Room in God’s Kingdom” was copyrighted in 1923.  It is said to have been “Suggested in a sermon by J. D. Ray, Gordo, Ala., July 14, 1922.”  Some newer books list it as “copyright 1923 Stamps-Baxter Music,” but that company was not yet in existence then.   However, older books have the note “Copyright 1923 by Gospel Advocate Co., in Choice Gospel Hymns.”  That book was edited in 1923 for the Gospel Advocate by Thomas B. Mosley.  Sacred Selections carries the notice, “Copyright 1951 Renewal, Stamps-Baxter Music and Ptg. Co., owners.”  So maybe it was originally copyrighted by the Advocate and then renewed by S-B.  Yet, Hymns for Worship identifies it as “Copyright renewal 1951, extended Gospel Advocate Company.”  So I don’t know who, if anyone, currently owns it!   Then in 1926 Baxter, known professionally as J.R. Baxter and sometimes referred to as “Pap,” bought a stake in Virgil Oliver Stamps’s gospel music publishing company.  Renamed The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company, the firm moved to Dallas, TX, in 1929. Baxter opened and ran the company’s Chattanooga, TN, office.

The business became quite successful as one of the leading publishers of Southern gospel songs using shaped notes in the early twentieth century.  After Stamps’s death in 1940, Baxter moved to Dallas to run the main office.  Baxter’s interest in school teaching led him to publish shape-note songbooks and sponsor a Stamps-Baxter School of Music, both of which contributed to the popularity of gospel music.  Other songs in our books for which Baxter provided words and/or music are “God Shall Wipe Away All Tears,” “Zion’s Call,” “Let Me Live Close to Thee,” “He Bore It All,” “I Hold His Hand,” “I Love My Savior Too,” and “The New Song.” Also he arranged “Farther Along.”  His death occurred on January 21 (some  sources have Jan. 29), 1960, in Dallas, TX.  That same year a compilation of his songs, Precious Abiding Peace, was issued. After Baxter’s death, his wife Clarice ran the business until she died; it was then sold to Zondervan. Baxter was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1997.

Among hymnbooks published among brethren for use in churches of Christ, “Room in God’s Kingdom” has appeared in the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; 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 encourages us to serve Christ with whatever abilities we have, whether great or small.

I. Stanza 1 points out that we should do so because we are citizens of God’s kingdom

There is room in the kingdom of God, my brother,

For the small things that you can do;

Just a small, kindly deed that may cheer another

Is the work God has planned for you.

  1. The kingdom of God is His church to which we have been added: Matt. 16:18-19, Acts 2:47
  2. There is room in this kingdom even for small things: Zech. 4:10
  3. Hence, we should be doing those small, kindly deeds that are part of the work that God has planned for us: Eph. 2:8-9

II. Stanza  2 points out that we should do so because we want to renew hope in others

Just a cup of cold water in His name given

May the hope in some heart renew;

Do not wait to be told, nor by sorrow driven,

To the work God has planned for you.

  1. It should always be our desire to renew hope in others: Col. 1:21-23
  2. Thus, we should not wait to be told or driven by sorrow or other feeling of necessity because God wants willing, cheerful service: 2 Cor. 8:12, 9:6-7
  3. This kind of attitude will lead us to do the work that God has planned for us: Matt. 5:14-16

III. Stanza 3 points out that we should do so because we desire to be loyal workers in His service

There’s a place in the service of God for workers

Who are loyal to Him and true;

Can’t you say to Him now, “I will leave the shirkers,

And the work Thou hast planned I’ll do”?

  1. The Lord wants workers in His service: 1 Cor. 15:58, 2 Tim. 2:15
  2. To serve Him well, those workers need to be loyal and true, or in other words, faithful: Matt. 25:21, 1 Cor. 4:2, Rev. 2:10
  3. So instead of being shirkers we need to be zealous of good works: Tit. 2:13-14

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us that there is a place in God’s service for everyone to work.

There is room (in the kingdom), there’s a place (in the service),

In the kingdom of God for you.

There is room (in the kingdom), there’s a place (in the service),

There is work that we all can do.

Each of us has different talents and abilities, so in serving God not everyone can do the same thing.  But for whatever service we can perform, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, we need to remember that there is “Room in God’s Kingdom.”

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2 thoughts on “Room in God’s Kingdom

  1. Hi, Wayne,

    After noticing in your hymn study today that there is a discrepancy about J. R. Baxter’s death date, I looked up his death certificate on Ancestry. According to it, he died on January 21st and was buried on the 23rd. I thought you might like to have this information.

    Always enjoy the hymn studies. Thanks.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Vaughn
    Mount Enterprise, TX

    Reply

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