Tell Me the Old, Old Story

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(picture of Kate Hankey)

“TELL ME THE OLD, OLD STORY”

“Christ died for our sins…was buried, and…rose again the third day…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

     INTRO.:  A song about the importance of telling the old gospel story of how Christ died, was buried, and rose again is “Tell Me the Old, Old Story” (#534 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #279 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Arabella Catherine Hankey, who was born at Clapham, England, an elite southwestern suburb of London, on Jan. 12, 1834, the daughter of Thomas Hankey.  Her father was a wealthy English banker and was a member of William Wilberforce’s evangelical “Clapham Sect” of the Church of England, which had worked to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire.  Known to her family and friends as “Kate,” she became involved in religious work while still in school.  As a young girl, she enthusiastically began teaching a children’s Sunday school in Croydon.  When just eighteen, she organized a Bible study class for shop girls in London factories.

Then, as a result of a trip to South Africa to bring home an invalid brother, Kate became deeply interested in foreign missions, and to that cause she contributed all the royalties from her various publications in later years, including her Bible Class Teaching and many books of verses.  One such work was a long poem on the life of Christ entitled The Old, Old Story.  In 1864, Kate experienced a serious illness at the age of thirty and later penned the poem in 1866 while recovering.  It was divided into three headings.  The first, “The Story Wanted,” was completed on Jan. 29, 1866 and is the source of this hymn.  The second was “The Story Told,” from which the familiar hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” came.   The third was “The Story Welcomed.”  Originally, Kate provided her own melody for this hymn.

However, a new tune (Evangel or Old Old Story) was composed and the chorus added in 1867 by William Howard Doane (1832-1915).  That year, he was attending the International Meeting of the Y.M.C.A. in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Major General Russell, commander of the English forces in Ireland, quoted Hankey’s poem and gave Doane a copy.  One hot summer afternoon, while traveling home on a stagecoach between Glen Falls House and Crawford House in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Doane set down the music.  That night it was sung by his companions in the parlor of the hotel.  First printed as sheet music, the song appeared later that same year in Doane’s Silver Spray, published at Cincinnati.  During her last years, Kate Hankey was active in hospital visitation work at London.  She died at Westminster in London, England, on May 9, 1911.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ,  “Tell Me the Old, Old Story” has appeared in the 1925 edition of the1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, a0nd the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; 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, 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 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 expresses the desire to hear the old, old story of Jesus Christ.

I. From stanza 1 we find the desire to hear the story of Christ’s love

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,

For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

  1. This story involves things unseen: 2 Cor. 4:18
  2. Of course, Jesus demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross for our sins: 1 Jn. 3:16
  3. We need to hear this story simply, as to a little child: Matt. 18:

II. From stanza 2 we find the desire to hear the story of Christ’s redemption

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.

Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;

The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

  1. We must listen carefully so that we can understand this story: Eph. 3:3-5
  2. It tells us that it is only through the blood of Christ that we can have redemption or forgiveness of sin: Eph. 1:7
  3. And we need to be told often so that our minds might be stirred up by way of reminder: 2 Pet. 3:1-2

III. From stanza 3 we find the desire to hear the story of Christ’s salvation

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;

Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.

Tell me the story always, if you would really be,

In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

  1. The story should be told with earnest tones and grave because salvation is a serious matter: 1 Pet. 1:10-12
  2. The basic message of first-century Christians was that Jesus came to save sinners: 1 Tim. 1:15
  3. It is this message from God that brings us comfort: 2 Cor. 1:3-4

IV. From stanza 4 (not in HFWR) we find the desire to hear the story of heaven

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear

That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.

Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,

Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

  1. “This world” refers to life on earth which presents so many dangers to our souls: 1 Jn. 2:15-17
  2. In contrast, “That world” refers to heaven, the ultimate goal which Jesus desires for us: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
  3. And to make it possible, Christ died that we might be made whole: Rom. 5:8

CONCL.:  The chorus then emphasizes the importance of telling the story that it might be heard

Tell me the old, old story,

Tell me the old, old story,

Tell me the old, old story,

Of Jesus and His love.

If I hope to please God here and have a home in heaven, I must continually express the attitude, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story.”

When Jesus Comes

“WHEN JESUS COMES”

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21)

     INTRO.:  A song which reminds us that when the Lord returns, those who have been good and faithful servants will enter into the joy of the Lord is “When Jesus Comes” (#653 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by James Washington Gaines (1881-1937).  It was copyrighted in 1923.  Other well-known songs by Gaines include “Take My Hand and Lead Me,” “In That Home of the Soul,” and the music to “You Never Mentioned Him to Me.”  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “When Jesus Comes” (not to be confused with the Fanny Crosby hymn “Will Jesus Find Us Watching” which begins, “When Jesus comes to reward His servants”) has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; 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 Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship.

The song encourages us to look forward to and prepare for the second coming of Christ.

I. Stanza 1 tells us what will happen when Jesus returns

When Jesus comes again to gather His own,

And to the true a crown is given,

I want to hear Him say, “My servant, well done,

Thy soul shall know the joys of heaven.”

  1. Someday Jesus will come again to gather His own: 1 Thess. 4:13-17
  2. Then a crown will be given to those who have been true in enduring temptation: Jas. 1:12
  3. Also, they will hear Him say, “Enter in”: Matt. 25:34

II. Stanza 2 tells us how to prepare for His return

I want to tell to all the story of love,

That they may know His pardon free,

And there before His throne in glory above,

Receive a crown of victory.

  1. We need to tell to all the story of love by teaching others also: 2 Tim. 2:2
  2. Of course, both we and they need to know His pardon free: Isa. 55:7
  3. And we must be faithful to receive the crown of victory: Rev. 2:10

III. Stanza 3 tells us why He will return

He’s coming back again, His jewels to claim,

They shall receive eternal rest;

’Tis sweet to know that all who come in His name

Shall there be numbered with the blest.

  1. When Jesus comes back, He will claim His jewels: Mal. 3:17
  2. These shall then receive eternal rest: Heb. 4:8-9
  3. And they will be numbered with the blest or redeemed of all ages: Rev. 7:9-10

IV. Stanza 3 tells us about when He will return

I do not know the day my Savior will come,

But I must be prepared to go;

If I am ready, He will call me His own,

And that’s enough for me to know.

  1. We do not know when the Savior will come: Matt. 24:36
  2. Therefore, we need to be prepared: Matt. 24:44
  3. If we are ready, He will call us to the resurrection of life: Jn. 5:28-29

CONCL.:  The chorus (which I usually omit) talks about the desire of the Christian regarding Christ’s return.

I want to know that He will welcome me there,

I do not want to be denied;

I want to meet Him in that city so fair,

And ever there with Him abide.

In the original edition of Hymns for Worship, this song was listed under “Special Selections” with the note, “This section has been provided for songs with more difficult music and different textual style.  The usefulness of these selections is left to the discretion of each congregation and user.”  This note is omitted in the Revised Edition.  I do not think that I have ever been in an assembly where this song has been sung, but having looked it over I doubt if it is one that could be rendered effectively in most congregations due to its more difficult music and textual style, especially in the chorus.  Still, there is nothing unscriptural about the words, and we do need to remember that it is important to be ready “When Jesus Comes.”

Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus

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“WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL JESUS”

“My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song I will praise Him” (Ps. 28:7)

     INTRO.: A song which gives praise to the Lord in whom we can trust for help is “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus” (#526 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Anna Belle Russell, who was born at Pine Valley in Chemung County, NY, on Apr. 21, 1862.  The daughter of Chancey and Jane Denson Russell, she spent most of her life in Corning, NY, where she was an active member of the Free Methodist Church.  She and her sister, Cora C. Russell, made their home together, and both of them authored a number of hymns.  This one was penned around 1921.  When later asked if there was any story about the origin of the song, she replied that there was none.  The tune (New Orleans) was composed, also in 1921, by Ernest Orlando Sellers (1869-1952).

Sellers was a native of Hastings, MI, who completed high school at Lansing, MI.  Afterwards, he was an apprentice to a surveyor and civil engineer and was eventually appointed city engineer and superintendent of public works in Lansing.  Later, he resigned to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, and then served as a YMCA secretary in Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Delaware.  Following this, he worked as an assistant minister with the Euclid Ave. Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, for two years and then returned to Moody Bible Institute as assistant director of the music department.  During this time he was active as a song leader for the crusades of evangelists Reuben A. Torrey, Gipsy Smith, A. C. Dixon, and J. Wilbur Chapman.

Leaving Moody, Sellers became director of the music department of the Bible Baptist Institute, later the Baptist Theological Seminary, in New Orleans, LA.  Throughout his years there, he produced a number of hymn tunes,   This one, originally entitled “A Song in the Heart,” first appeared in the 1921 Hosanna in the Highest compiled by Gipsy Smith and William McEwan for the Hosanna Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, NY.  A favorite of Smith’s, it was widely used as the campaign song for his evangelistic meetings.  When the copyright was renewed in 1949, it was owned by Broadman Press.  After Sellers retired, he made his home in Eola, LA, where he died.  Two years later, Miss Russell died at Corning, NY, on Oct. 29, 1954.

I first became acquainted with “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus” as a result of seeing it in several denominational hymnbooks, such as the 1940 Broadman Hymnal, edited by Benjamin B. McKinney for the Broadman Press; the 1948 Christian Service Hymns edited by Homer A. Rodeheaver for the Rodeheaver Co.; the 1957 All American Church Hymnal, edited by Earl Smith for the John T. Benson Publishing Co.; the 1964 Christian Praise also published by Broadman; and the 1968 Great Hymns of the Faith, edited by John W. Peterson for Singspiration.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only one, so far as I know, to include it is Hymns for Worship.

The song mentions a number of circumstances when we can trust in Jesus for help.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that Jesus will give us a song when days are dreary and nights are long

There is never a day so dreary,

There is never a night so long,

But the soul that is trusting in Jesus

Will somewhere find a song.

  1. Sometimes our days seem dreary: Job 14:1-2
  2. And sometimes the nights are long: Ps. 6:6-7
  3. However, no matter how dim or dark things may look, the Lord will enable us to have a song in our mouths: Ps. 40:1-3

II. Stanza 2 (not in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will help us to bear our cross

There is never a cross so heavy,

There is never a weight of woe,

But that Jesus will help to carry

Because He loveth so.

  1. Following Jesus means bearing our cross: Matt. 16:24
  2. Because it often presses us down, it is sometimes referred to as a burden: Ps. 55:22
  3. But since He bore His cross for us, Jesus will help us bear ours too by making it light: Matt. 11:28-30

III. Stanza 3 (#2 in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will lighten the cares that we have

There is never a care or burden,

There is never a grief or loss,

But that Jesus in love will lighten

When carried to the cross.

  1. There will always be cares of this world which Satan will use to choke the word: Mk. 4:18-19
  2. Many times such cares are the result of losses that we experience in life: Phil. 3:7-8
  3. However, those who truly trust in the Lord can cast their cares upon Him: 1 Pet. 5:7

IV. Stanza 4 (#3 in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will pardon the guilty sinner who comes to Him

There is never a guilty sinner,

There is never a wandering one,

But that God can in mercy pardon

Through Jesus Christ, His Son.

  1. All of us were guilty sinners at one time or another: Rom. 3:23
  2. However, God offers us mercy to make pardon available: Tit. 3:3-5
  3. This mercy is made possible through Jesus Christ who came to save the lost: Lk. 19:10

CONCL.:  The chorus offers praise to Jesus for all these wonderful blessings

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,

In the heart He implanteth a song:

A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength,

In the heart He implanteth a song.

As we think of all the good things that Jesus has done and is doing for us, the most important of which is providing a way by which we can be saved from sin, we should certainly want to sing a song of praise to our “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus.”

Redeeming Love

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(picture of Aldine Kieffer)

“REDEEMING LOVE”

“And I saw …them that had gotten the victory over the beast…, having the harps of God” (Rev. 15:2)

     INTRO.:  A song which pictures the redeemed as having the harps of God is “Redeeming Love.”   The text, at least of stanzas 1 and 2, was written by William Cowper (1731-1800).  They are two other (not so well known) stanzas of Cowper’s well-known hymn beginning “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” which I do not believe have ever been used with the hymn at least here in the United States.  I cannot vouch for the third stanza. It is not in my copy of Cowper’s Poetical Works: Complete Edition, which has all the Olney Hymns including “There Is a Fountain.” There are only seven stanzas there. According to a Google search, this eighth stanza (#3 as used here) can be traced back as far as Pious Songs: Social, Prayer, Closet, and Camp Meeting Hymns and Choruses, Third Edition, published in 1836 by Armstrong and Berry.  However, this stanza is found in the 2004 Primitive Baptist Hymnal and on Primitive Baptist websites as part of “There Is a Fountain” and attributed to Cowper.

The tune (Milman) was composed by Aldine Silliman Kieffer, who was born on August 1, 1840, near Miami in Saline County, MO, the grandson of Mennonite musician Joseph Funk.  The family must have moved to Virginia at some time, because in the American Civil War, Kieffer served in the 10th Virginia Volunteer Infantry.  After Funk’s death, he and Ephraim Ruebush (1833-1924), who married Funk’s granddaughter, took over Funk’s publishing and printing business, and started producing new hymn collections for Sunday schools, revival and camp meetings, and home gatherings. These new collections proved to be very popular and lucrative, and consequently with John W. Howe, a minister in the United Brethren Church, they founded the Kieffer, Ruebush, and Company gospel music firm around 1873, which was moved from Singers Glen, VA, to Dayton, VA, in 1878.  Kieffer was editor of the Musical Million and Fireside Friend periodical which was published from 1870 until 1914 and became one of the leading tools promoting shape note music for almost a half century. It helped link teachers and students across the country, and published many songs in its pages.  One of Kieffer’s most popular song books was The Temple Star, published at Singer’s Glen in 1877. One of his most popular songs was his poem “Twilight is Stealing,” set to music by B. C. Unseld in 1877 and published in The Temple Star.

Around 1890, Kieffer, Ruebush and Company became the Ruebush-Kieffer Company and established itself as one of the earliest and most successful publishers of gospel songs in America.  In addition to Temple Star, Kieffer’s other famous works include the Christian Harp and Hours of Fancy, or Vigil and Vision, and Wikipedia lists some nine additional books which he edited.   According to Nethymnal, a couple of his best-known texts besides “Twilight Is Falling” are “Jesus Will Let You In” and “The Resurrection,” and Hymnary.org  lists a total of 78 texts attributed to Kieffer, who apparently composed this tune as an alternative for “There Is a Fountain” and supplied the refrain.  A leading nineteenth century music teacher, publisher, and proponent of shape note musical notation, Kieffer died on November 30, 1904, at his home in Dayton, VA.   I first saw this tune used with three of the usual stanzas from Cowper’s hymn in Stamps-Baxter’s 1939 Favorite Hymns and Songs.  I have also seen it with Anne Steele’s hymn “To Our Redeemer’s Glorious Name” and Henry Hart Milman’s “O Help Us, Lord! Each Hour of Need.”  Neither these stanzas nor this tune has ever appeared in any hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ, to my knowledge.

The song looks forward to the future reward awaiting those bought with Jesus’s blood.

I. In stanza 1 it is symbolized as a harp.

Lord I believe Thou hast prepared

(Unworthy though I be)

For me a blood bought free reward–

A golden harp for me.

  1. This future reward has been prepared by God: Matt, 25:34
  2. It was purchased with the blood if Christ: Rev. 5:8-9
  3. We understand that the use of the word “harp” is figurative, but the fact is that the redeemed are described as having harps, so if we can read about it in Revelation, why can we not sing about it?: Rev. 14:1-3

II. In stanza 2 it is identified as endless

’Tis strung and tuned for endless years

And formed by power divine,

To sound in God the Father’s ears

No other name but Thine.

  1. This harp is tuned for endless years because we shall have eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
  2. It is designed to sound in the ears of God the Father on the throne: Rev. 4:3, 8-11
  3. And the name that it sounds is that of the Lamb who was slain: Rev. 7:9-14

III. In stanza 3 it is said to be heavenly

In heavenly strains, from every chord,

Shall flow the charming sound,

The praise of my redeeming Lord,

While angels wonder round.

  1. These will be heavenly strains because our hope is reserved in heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
  2. The whole idea of harps likely represents simply the praise offered to the redeeming Lord: Rev. 15:1-4
  3. Even the angels join in this eternal praise: Rev. 5:11-14

CONCL.:  The chorus points out that the theme of this song in heaven will be the redeeming love of God and Christ.

Redeeming love has been my theme,

And shall be till I die;

And then I hope to sing this love

In sweeter strains on high.

Certainly in this life we need to express our praise and thanks to the Lord for His great redemption.  But our ultimate goal is to be with Him in heaven where we can eternally sing of His “Redeeming Love.”

The Great Redeemer

“THE GREAT REDEEMER”

“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:3)

INTRO.: A song which expresses devotion to the one in whom we have redemption through His blood is “”The Great Redeemer”” (#18 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #250 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Francis Foster. Almost nothing is know about this individual. Hymns for Worship has “Frances Foster,” but it is certainly not the Frances Foster (June 11, 1924 – June 17, 1997) who was an American film, television and stage actress and an award-winning stage director. All other sources have “Francis,” which is generally a masculine name as opposed to the feminine “Frances,” so the assumption is that the author was a male. One website says, “”Who is the greatest purchaser in history? If you asked one guy named Francis Foster, in 1915 when he wrote ‘‘The Great Redeemer,’’ he’d probably say it was God.””

 
Basically, Foster is a virtual unknown, except for a few facts and the hymns which he left. He wrote a handful of songs, some ten of which were published in two Sparkling Jewels collections by Samuel Beazley and James Ruebush, No. 1 in 1912, and No. 2 in 1915. The website hymnary.org shows a total fourteen hymns to Foster’s credit: It is not known if ““The Great Redeemer”” was in the second Sparkling Jewels collection or not, but it is at least possible. The tune was composed by Samuel W. Beazley (1873-1944). The song was copyrighted by Beazley in 1915, and the copyright was renewed in 1943 by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. One source shows that the song was listed in at least ten publications.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in 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 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1994 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; 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 Revised (not in the original edition, which had ““Let’’s Just Praise the Lord”” by William and Gloria Gaither at the same opening) and Sacred Selections.

The song speaks of several things we can do in our relationship to the Redeemer.

I. Stanza 1 indicates that we should love Him
How I love the great Redeemer Who is doing so much for me;
With what joy I tell the story Of the love that makes men free.
Till my earthly life is ended, I will send songs above,
Then beside the crystal sea More and more my soul shall be Praising Jesus and His love.
A. We should love our Redeemer who has done and is doing so much for us: 1 Pet. 1:7-8
B. The reason that we love Him is because He first loved us and made us free: 1 Jn. 4:19
C. This love must continue till our earthly lives are ended, being faithful until death: Rev. 2:10

 
II. Stanza 2 encourages us to rejoice in Him
He has purchased my redemption, Rolled my burden of sin away,
And is walking on beside me, Growing dearer day by day.
That is why I sing His praises, That is why joy is mine,
That is why forever more On the everlasting shore I shall sing of love divine.
A, Jesus purchased our redemption with His blood: Eph. 1:3
B. Therefore, we can rejoice always in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
C. One way we should express this joy is by singing praises: Jas. 5:13

III. Stanza 3 suggests that we should praise Him
Glory be to Him forever! Endless praises to Christ the Lamb!
He has filled my life with sunshine, He has made me what I am.
O that everyone would know Him, O that all would adore!
O that all would trust the love Of the mighty Friend above, And be His forever more.
A. Jesus Christ is the Lamb who is worthy of all praise because He takes away the sin of the world: Jn. 1:29
B. One reason is that He fills our lives with sunshine of His divine light: Jn. 1:4-5
C. Therefore, everyone should praise and adore Him forever more: Rev. 5:11-12

CONCL.: I usually omit the chorus.
He is everything to me, And everything shall always be;
I will never cease to raise A song of gladness in His praise;
Here, and in the world above, My soul shall sing of saving love;
Life and light and joy is He, The precious Friend who died for me.
It was Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum in 1956 that primarily introduced and popularized the southern style country music gospel singing convention type of song with its fast tempo and emphasis on special parts among churches of Christ generally. Since then, this song seems to have become a particular favorite of many. To be honest, I have never cared much for it personally, but it is certainly important to give our praise to “”The Great Redeemer.””

When the Roll Is Called up Yonder

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(picture of James M. Black)

“WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER”

“For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52)

      INTRO.:  A song which points to the time of the second coming of Christ when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible is “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder” (#522 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #345 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune (Roll Call or Trumpet) was composed both by James Milton Black who was born at South Hill in Sullivan County, NY, on Aug. 19, 1856.  After an early music education in voice and organ with John Howard of New York and Daniel Towner of the Moody Bible Institute, he became a singing school teacher and hymn book editor, compiling more than a dozen of his gospel songbooks, beginning with Songs of the Soul in 1894 through Songs of Help in 1917, many of which were published by The Methodist Book Concern of New York City, NY, McCabe Publishing Company of Chicago, IL, and the Hall-Mack Company of Philadelphia, PA.  In addition, he was a Methodist Sunday school teacher who was also involved in the social concerns of his community.  One day he met a girl named Bessie, fourteen years old, poorly clad and the daughter of a drunkard.  At first she readily accepted his invitation to attend Sunday school.  However, when she looked at her tattered clothing, she changed her mind.  But the very next day, a box of nice, new dresses mysteriously appeared on Bessie’s porch, left anonymously by Black of course, and every one of them fitted her just right, so she began going to Sunday school every week.

Yet, one Sunday in 1893 Bessie failed to answer the roll.  Black made a comment to the effect, “Well, I trust when the roll is called up yonder, she’ll be there,” telling the students what a sad thing it would be if, when their names are called from the Lamb’s book of life in judgment, one of them would be absent.  Then he said in his prayer, “O God, when my own name is called up yonder, may I be there to respond!”  Looking around for a suitable song to sing just then, he found nothing.  This lack of a fitting song caused him both sorrow and disappointment, so on the way home he thought about providing a hymn of his own based on the idea.  When he arrived at his house, he decided to do so, and the words of the first stanza came to him in full.  Fifteen minutes later he had finished the other two and soon had the melody also.  The song was first published in the 1894 Songs of the Soul which he edited with Joseph F. Berry.  In its first two years, the book sold more than 400,000 copies.  Also in 1894, Henry Date was publishing a new song book, Pentecostal Hymns, for the Hope Publishing Company of Chicago, IL, with the help of gospel song writer Charles Hutchinson Gabriel.

Date was looking at some hand-copied song manuscripts that had been submitted.  An assistant started to discard them when Gabriel asked to see if there was anything useful in them.  After receiving them, he also was about to lay them aside when one caught his attention because it was written in green ink.  The name of James M. Black was not familiar to the famous composer, but Gabriel decided that “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” had merit and decided to include it, thus securing its popularity.  Shortly after producing the song, Black learned why Bessie was absent that day.  She was very ill, and, in fact died a week later.  In 1904 Black moved to Williamsport, PA, where he was an active member and song leader of the Pine Street Methodist Episcopal Church.  The following year, he was appointed to serve on the Commission for the Methodist Hymnal.  While he was the only gospel song writer to serve on the commission, being credited with almost 1,500 hymns including the tune for the Katherine E. Purvis hymn “Walk Beside Me, O My Savior,” none of his songs were included in the book.  His death occurred at Williamsport Dec. 21, 1938.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ,  “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” has appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; 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, 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; 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 focuses our attention on Christ’s return and the general resurrection.

I. In stanza 1 we’re told that when Christ comes again, time will be no more

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,

And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair,

When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. Time will be no more because the Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, it will be “the end”: 1 Cor. 15:23-24
  2. Just as the dawn of the morning brings a new day, so the Lord’s return will bring a new heaven and a new earth: Rev. 21:1-5
  3. The “other shore” refers to being by the pure river of water of life where the tree of life will be: Rev. 22:1-5

II. In stanza 2 we’re told that when Christ comes again, the dead shall rise

On that bright and glorious morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,

And the glory of His resurrection share;

When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. While this stanza focuses on the dead in Christ, Jesus said that both the righteous and the wicked dead will be raised at the same time: Jn. 5:28-29 (the original read, “On that bright and cloudless morning,” but most of our books change it to “glorious morning” because the Scriptures teach that Christ will return in the clouds: Acts 1:9-11, Rev.1:7)
  2. In so doing, they will share in Christ’s resurrection: Rom. 6:5 (both spiritual and physical)
  3. Then His chosen ones will gather to their home beyond the skies: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

III. In stanza 3 we’re told that when Christ comes again, we’ll be rewarded for our labor

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,

Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;

Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. Our hope of the resurrection should motivate us to labor for the Lord: 1 Cor. 15:58
  2. One aspect of this labor is to talk of all His wondrous love and care in teaching others: 2 Tim. 2:2
  3. Then one day the night will come when our work on earth is done: Jn. 9:4

CONCL.:  The chorus echoes the thought of the roll call on judgment day

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

May we always live and labor for the Lord in such a way that we shall be ready to give an answer “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.”

Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me

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(picture of Arthur S. Sullivan)

“JESUS, MY SAVIOR, LOOK ON ME”

“When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them” (Matt. 9:36)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks Jesus to look on us with compassion as He did on the multitudes is “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me” (#521 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Charlotte Elliot (1789-1871).  It was first published in her 1869 work Thoughts in Verse on Sacred Subjects.  Miss Elliot is best known for her hymn “Just As I Am, Without One Plea.”  The tune (Hanford or Sullivan) used with “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me” was composed by Arthur Seymour Sullivan, who was born at Bolwell Terrace in Lambeth, England, on May 13, 1842.  At the age of twelve, he was a chorister of the Chapel Royal under Thomas Helmore.  Educated at the Royal Academy of Music in England, where he studied under W. Sterndale Bennett and John Goss, he also studied at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, where his teachers included Moritz Hauptmann, Felicien David, and Ignaz Moscheles.

After his return to England, Sullivan held several organist positions and in 1866 became professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He composed a great deal of church music, and most of his hymn tunes were produced between 1867 and 1874.  This one was written in 1871 at Hanford in Dorsetshire, England, when he was a guest in the home of Mrs. Gertrude Clay-Ker-Seymer.   His tunes appear in two hymnbooks of which he was the editor, The Hymnary of 1872 and Church Hymns with Tunes of 1874.  This tune was first published in the latter.  It is often used with another Charlotte Elliot hymn of 1834, “My God, My Father, Though I Stray.”  Perhaps Sullivan’s most famous tune was provided, also in 1871, for the 1864 hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” by his good friend Sabine Baring-Gould.

However, Sullivan is best remembered for the music which he composed with the librettos and lyrics of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert for the Savoy Opera of London, including H. M. S. Pinafore in 1878, The Pirates of Penzance in 1879, and The Mikado in 1885, along with other secular pieces such as “The Lost Chord.”  These works brought him international fame for which he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883, and the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas became a part of English tradition.  Sullivan did not believe that popular melodies should be used for hymns and so declined numerous requests for permission to make hymn tune arrangements from his operetta music.  He died at Westminster, England, on Nov. 22, 1900.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the text of “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me,” to my knowledge, has appeared only in Hymns for Worship Revised.

The song expresses a request for Jesus to provide for our spiritual needs.

I. Stanza 1 asks for rest

Jesus, my Savior, look on me,

For I am weary and oppressed;

I come to cast myself on Thee:

Thou art my Rest.

1. We often are weary because we are oppressed by the trials and tribulations of life: Ps. 9.9

2. However, we can come to Jesus the Savior to cast our cares on Him: 1 Pet. 5:7

3. He is our Rest who will give us rest: Matt. 11:28-30

II. Stanza 2 asks for strength

Look down on me, for I am weak;

I feel the toilsome journey’s length;

Thine aid omnipotent I seek:

Thou art my Strength.

  1. Many times we find that as human beings the flesh is weak: Matt. 26:41
  2. However, Jesus is omnipotent or all powerful and will give us aid: Heb. 2:17-18
  3. He is our Strength who will provide us with strength: Eph. 3:16

III. Stanza 3 asks for light

I am bewildered on my way,

Dark and tempestuous is the night;

O send Thou forth some cheering ray:

Thou art my Light.

  1. This world is often pictured as a place of darkness: Jn. 3:19
  2. God promised to send out a cheering ray: Mal. 4:2
  3. Jesus is the Light who enables us to have light: Jn. 8:12

IV. Stanza 4 (not in HFWR) asks for peace

When Satan flings his fiery darts,

I look to Thee; my terrors cease;

Thy cross a hiding place imparts:

Thou art my Peace.

  1. As long as we live in this world of spiritual warfare, Satan will fling his fiery darts at us: Eph. 6:16
  2. However, the cross is a refuge behind which we can find protection: 1 Cor. 1:18
  3. Jesus is the Peace who makes it possible for us to have peace: Col. 4:6-7

V. Stanza 5 (also not in HFWR) asks for life

Standing alone on Jordan’s brink,

In that tremendous latest strife,

Thou will not suffer me to sink:

Thou art my Life.

  1. Someday we shall stand at the brink of death just as the Israelites stood on Jordan’s brink waiting to cross over into the promised land: Josh. 3:1
  2. At that time, Jesus will not let us sink, just as He did not let Peter sink: Matt. 14:28-31
  3. Jesus is our Life who brings us life: Jn. 10:10

VI. Stanza 6 (#4 in HFWR) asks for Christ to be our all

Thou wilt my every want supply,

E’en to the end, whate’er befall;

Through life, in death, eternally,

Thou art my All.

  1. Just as a shepherd provides for all the needs of his flock, so the Lord will supply all our wants: Ps. 23:1
  2. And He has promised to be with us even to the end: Matt. 28:20
  3. Thus, He is our All who grants us all that we need: Col. 3:11, 2 Pet. 1:3

CONCL.:  There is another stanza, #4:

I hear the storms around me rise;

But when I dread th’impending shock,

My spirit to the Refuge flies:

Thou art my Rock.

My life will have its share of problems.  However, my Lord who loves me and died for me does not expect me to deal with them all alone.  He has promised to be with me and help me.  Therefore, I should constantly be asking Him, “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me.”