I Love the Lord (Brown)


“I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications” (Ps. 116:1)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to love the Lord who is willing to hear our supplications is “I Love the Lord.”  The text was co-written with Elizabeth Brown and the tune was composed both by Scott Brown, who was born around 1958 to Danny and Elizabeth Brown. A native of Orange, TX, and a lifelong resident of the Beaumont area, Scott graduated from Forest Park High School in 1975 and later became the co-owner of Preceptor Printing.  He married Lynette Scott of Buna, TX, and they had three children, son Daniel and daughters Chelsea and Hillary. Scott was a longtime member of the Dowlen Road Church of Christ in Beaumont, where he served as one of the deacons for a number of years, and later of the Southside Church of Christ in Silsbee. He was also a member of The Harmony Explorers Barbershop Chorus and The Soundtrax Quartet.

I did not know Scott, but I did have some contact by mail and phone with his father Danny Brown, publisher and eventually editor of a religious journal known as The Preceptor Magazine.  This song, copyrighted by Scott in 1989, first appeared in The Preceptor, March, 1993.  Three other songs to which Scott contributed had been published previously in the same paper.  “Calling to You,” with words by Elizabeth Brown and music by Scott, copyrighted in 1988, was found in the August, 1992, issue.  “Shall I Have a Mansion?, with two stanzas by Gertrude Bell, third stanza by Elizabeth Brown and melody co-composed by Wayne Wells and Scott, was contained in the December, 1992, issue.  And “The Chorus in Heaven,” again with text by Elizabeth and tune by Scott, was included in the January, 1993, issue.

“I Love the Lord” was reprinted in the January, 2000, issue of The Preceptor.  Scott Brown died, aged 51, on Saturday, May 9, 2009, at the Tyler County Hospital in Woodville, TX. Survivors included his wife, his children, his parents, his father- and mother-in-law, two sisters and their husbands, and several nieces and nephews.  The funeral services were held on May 13 at Broussard’s Mortuary in Silsbee, TX, with the burial following at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.  Scott’s father, Danny Brown, born on December 7, 1924, passed away on Thursday, January 21, 2016, in Beaumont, TX.

“I Love the Lord” mentions three things that we must do in our relationship with the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 says that we should love Him

I love the Lord; He gave His life for me.

He paid the price; He died on Calvary.

I love the Lord; there’s no one else so true.

Yes, He is my hope to live a life so new.

  1. We are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength: Deut. 6:5
  2. One reason why we should love Him is that He gave His life for us: Rom. 5:8
  3. This makes it possible for those who are sinners to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6:3-4

II. Stanza 2 suggests that we should praise Him

I’ll praise the Lord; He is Jehovah’s Son.

I’ve been redeemed; through Him the victory’s won.

I’ll praise the Lord; O hail to Him above!

For He has set me free!  My heart o’erflows with love.

  1. The Lord is worthy of our praise because of what He does for His people: Ps. 147:1-3
  2. Jehovah’s Son has made it possible for us to be redeemed: Eph. 1:7
  3. Thus we can have victory because He sets us free: Rom. 8:1-2

III. Stanza 3 tells us that we should trust Him

I’ll trust the Lord, and by His side I’ll stay.

His word, the truth, will guide me day by day.

I’ll trust the Lord and answer at His call;

O He reigns on high!  And He is Lord of all.

  1. The wise man encourages us to trust this Lord who gives new life and frees from sin: Prov. 3:5-7
  2. His word is the truth which sanctifies and guides us: Jn. 17:17
  3. The reason why we can trust Him is that He reigns as Lord of all: Acts 10:36-38

CONCL.:  I do not believe that I have ever seen this song except for its appearance in The Preceptor.  It would be useful as a communion hymn because it reminds me that “He gave His life for me, He paid the price, He died on Calvary.”  When I consider all that Jesus Christ has done to save me and lead me to heaven, it is no wonder that I would want to tell everyone that “I Love the Lord.”

i love the lord


I Glory in the Cross of Christ


(photo of Stephen  Eckstein)


“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal. 6.14)

     INTRO.: A hymn which points out the importance of glorying only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is “I Glory in the Cross of Christ.”  The text was written by Stephen Daniel Eckstein Sr., was born April 9, 1893, in Sassmach, Latvia, then part of Russia, the son of Samuel and Sarah Eckstein. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, he attended two years at a rabbinical school in Latvia.  When Latvia became free, he migrated to the United States in his young manhood.  Before World War I, he roamed the nation and told his thrilling story in his first book, entitled, From Sinai To Calvary, in a chapter, “A Hebrew Mission In Dallas.” On Dec. 24, 1921, he married Miss Bertha Margaret Foster. They had four boys and one girl, Stephen Daniel, Jr., Paul David, John Milton, William Louis, and Adele Ruth. Also in From Sinai To Calvary, Eckstein tells about his conversion to Jesus Christ in 1921.  Later that same year, he began preaching in Denver, CO. From 1922 through 1934 he had a Jewish mission in Dallas, TX, and spoke at churches in many cities in Texas and Oklahoma. After moving to Kansas City, MO, he worked out of his own home from 1934 to 1975, preaching the gospel in twenty states and speaking at many seminars, lectureships, and area-wide meetings.

For ten years, Eckstein served as an elder of the Grandview Church of Christ in Grandview, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, where he taught many classes explaining Old Testament passages and their application in the New Testament. Eckstein’s second book, From Golgatha To Heaven, printed in 1974, came from the popular demand from many readers of his first book. It tells of many Jewish customs and problems which help Christians to understand why it is difficult to convert Jews, especially because of their objection to baptism. Yet, during his ministry, Eckstein baptized 24 Jews into Christ and hundreds of non-Jews. Eckstein had an aged sister, Rachael Himelhoch, who lived in Flint, MI, and a brother, Isaac, who lived in Tel Aviv, Israel. In 1955 Isaac came to America to visit Eckstein. They talked about the Bible and spiritual things. Later Isaac indicated to Eckstein’s son, Stephen, that his father “did the true and right thing” in becoming a Christian. Eckstein could speak Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Lettish, and could use a Greek Lexicon.

Through the years, Ekstein wrote many tracts and articles for the Firm Foundation and a few for the Gospel Advocate. In addition, he wrote a hymn entitled, “I Glory In The Cross of Christ” with the tune (Jewish Missionary) composed by James E. Ferrell (1879-1975). Ferrell is well known for producing other songs such as “A Soul Winner for Jesus” and “Wonderful City of God.” Eckstein died on Mar. 13, 1975, in Kansas City, MO, survived by his wife, four sons, daughter, and eleven grandchildren. The funeral service was conducted in Kansas City, with Robert Jarrell officiating, assisted by Stephen Jr. and Paul, with interment in Floral Hills Cemetery. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “I Glory in the Cross of Christ” appeared in the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb. Today, to my knowledge it does not appear in any other songbooks that are published by brethren and currently available.

The song identifies several benefits that are available to us because of the cross of Christ.

I. Stanza 1 mentions salvation through the death of Christ

“The Christ who died and shed His blood,

On Calvary’s cross my soul to save,

Went into ‘hell and there withstood

Grim Satan and the fearsome grave.'”

  1. The reason Christ died is that His blood might be shed for the remission of sins: Matt. 26.28
  2. Therefore, one cardinal truth of scripture is that He died to save sinners: 1 Tim. 1.15
  3. The statement that He went into “hell” is based on the King James Version rendering of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost where the apostle points out that after Christ died, His soul was in Hades but did not remain there because He was raised from the dead: Acts 2.25-32

II. Stanza 2 mentions the hope of the resurrection

“He snatched the keys of death and hell,

And holds them now in mighty power;

And every saint who fought and fell

Shall rise and stand ‘in that glad hour.'”

  1. Having been raised from the dead, Christ was given the keys of death and Hades: Rev. 1.18
  2. Therefore, every saint who has fought and fallen can have, based on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope of a future resurrection where the same God will give life to their mortal bodies:Rom. 8.11
  3. With this hope, we have confidence that we shall rise and stand in that glad hour: Jn. 5.28-29

III. Stanza 3 mentions peace in the face of death

“On Calvary’s mount I laid my sin;

The cleansing blood poured out, like balm.

And now I carry peace within,

And wait the grave with perfect calm.”

  1. Laying our sin at Calvary’s mount is symbolic of our coming to Christ in obeying the gospel because Calvary is where He died for our sins: Lk. 23.33
  2. Having figuratively come to Calvary for salvation, we have access to the cleansing blood of Jesus: 1 Jn. 1.7
  3. It is this assurance that enables us to wait the grave with a peace that passes all understanding: Phil. 4.7

IV. Stanza 4 mentions being able to see His glorious face

“Or, if He comes before I die,

I know I’ll see His glorious face;

And in His likeness I shall cry,

‘All hail to Christ’s atoning grace.”

  1. The dead will be raised when Christ comes, but many will still be alive when that happens: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
  2. However, all the righteous can look forward to seeing His glorious face “as He is”: 1 Jn. 3.2
  3. Then we shall be more fully able to appreciate the fact that we are saved by grace: Eph. 2.8

CONCL.: The title of this song is not to be confused with John Bowring’s “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” Given the fact that there are so very few, relatively speaking, really good songs to focus our minds upon the death and suffering of Christ on the cross as we seek to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper, the resurrection of this song would be a welcome addition to what is currently available. Certainly when partaking of the Lord’s supper, but also during any time of worship, and even on a daily basis, it is good for me to be reminded that so far as my salvation is concerned, “I Glory in the Cross of Christ.”


Upon the Banks of Jordan Stood


(portrait of Alexander Campbell)


“And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there…” (Jn. 3:23)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which points to the baptism of John in water is “Upon the Banks of Jordan Stood.”  The text was written by Alexander Campbell who was born, most likely on Sept. 12, 1788, near Ballymena in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland.  His Presbyterian minister father, Thomas, emigrated to the United States in 1807, making his home near Washington, PA, and Alexander and the rest of the family followed a couple of years later, eventually settling in VA near what is now Bethany, WV  Both he and his father also withdrew from the Presbyterian and began preaching only non-denominational, New Testament Christianity.  These facts are well-known, but what is likely not as well-known is that Campbell was very interested in the singing of the church, edited songbooks for use in local congregations, and even wrote hymns himself.  In May of 1828, Campbell brought out his Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs adapted to the Christian Religion, containing 125 hymns.  A second edition appeared in 1829 and a third in 1832.  Meanwhile, Barton Warren Stone, assisted by Thomas Adams, had published The Christian Hymn-Book, Compiled and Published at the Request of the Miami Christian Conference in 1829, with 340 hymns.  After Adams’s death, he joined with John Telemachus Johnson for a new edition in 1832.  However, in 1832, after Campbell and Stone had determined that they were both preaching the same thing, they achieved a union in their efforts, and in 1834 also combined their hymnbooks into Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, Original and Selected–Compiled by A. Campbell, W. Scott, B. W. Stone, and J. T. Johnson–Bethany, Va. 1834, having 240 hymns.  All these books had no music but contained words only.  In Campbell’s day, almost all hymnbooks contained words only with no music.  Within ten years, hymnbooks with music became more and more common, but Campbell vehemently opposed the use of music in hymnbooks, claiming that printed music was a distraction during the song service, and he never wavered from this opposition.

Most hymn-poems were written in certain meters, and various tunes were composed to fit those meters.  People usually memorized as many tunes as possible, and in a worship service the song leader chose one that fit a particular hymn.  It was not uncommon for a hymn to be sung to several different tunes.  Campbell never allowed any of his hymns to be set to music, and there is little historical data to indicate what tunes were used with his hymns.  The 1843 edition of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs gave the suggested tune (Mount Nebo) for this hymn which was titled “John’s Baptism.”   Unfortunately, there are at least three “Mount Nebo” tunes, but the one given in Amos Sutton Hayden’s Introduction to Sacred Music is the most likely choice.  Campbell died at Bethany on Mar. 4, 1866.  A new tune was composed and a chorus was added both by Max Wheeler, who was born on Sept. 18, 1932, at Nocona, TX, into the singing family of Ed and Eula Wheeler.  He married Nancy Lyles and they had three children, Julie, Jeff, and Melanie.  His father was a first cousin to Palmer Esker Wheeler (1904-1983).  Palmer was a well-known songwriter among churches of Christ, who did much to popularize the song, “I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me.”  He was also the one who set the books of the New Testament to music for children to learn them.  This makes Max a second cousin to Palmer’s son, Tommy Wheeler (1931-2015).  Tommy was also a songwriter whose hymns have appeared in several books published and used among churches of Christ.  For a number of years Max, a graduate of Abilene Christian University, lived in the Dallas, TX, area and led singing at the Preston Rd. church.  During this time, he produced many hymns and provided music for hymns written by others.  Perhaps his best known song is “His Name Is Jesus,” published in 1991.

In 1986, Wheeler was preparing some material for a series of lectures on church music in the early days of the “restoration movement” and compiled a collection of hymns by some of the leaders, including Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone.  Since Campbell had never allowed any of his hymns to be set to music, one evening Wheeler tried to come up with a musical arrangement for Campbell’s poem, “Upon the Banks of Jordan Stood,” taken from the 1834 edition of Campbell’s Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs The poem was written as a narrative, beginning with the proclamation of John the Baptist that Jesus is the Lamb of God, writing about the steps of salvation, and discussing the establishment of Christ’s church which is described as the “reign of God.” After trying first one thing and then another Wheeler finally just memorized the basic tune that sounded the best.  About a month later, he was doing some recording with Ray Walker at a Dallas studio and scratched out a quick manuscript copy of the music, asking Ray to look it over.  By the next night, Ray had recorded it.  The producer, Bill Shockley, liked it so much that he decided to include it in one of his production tapes and market it.  A few months later, Bill Humble asked to use it as the theme music for a video that he was producing on the life of Alexander Campbell.  It was first published in a new edition of V. E. Howard’s Church Gospel Songs and Hymns, and since then, it has been included in several other hymnbooks published among churches of Christ, including the 1992 Praise for the Lord, edited by John P. Wiegand.   Also, Max did much research on hymns, and for some three years the Christian Journal presented a series of articles that he wrote on well-loved songs.  These articles were collected and published as a book, known as Reflections On Our Hymns, in 1992.  He died peacefully at Dallas, TX, on September 10, 2012.

The hymn connects the work of John the Baptizer to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

I. Stanza 1 speaks of John’s mission

Upon the banks of Jordan stood

The great reformer, John,

And pointed to the Lamb of God,

The long expected one.

  1. John baptized in the Jordan River: Mk. 1:4-5
  2. He was a great reformer because He preached repentance: Matt. 3:7-8
  3. This was done in preparation for the long expected Lamb of God to whom John pointed: Jn. 1:29

II. Stanza 2 speaks of John’s message

He loud proclaimed the coming reign,

And told them to reform;

If they God’s favor would obtain,

And shun the gathering storm.

  1. First, he proclaimed the coming reign or kingdom of the Messiah: Matt. 3:1-2
  2. To prepare for it, he told the people to reform: Lk. 3:10-14
  3. This was needed to obtain God’s favor and shun the gathering storm of punishment: Matt. 3:10-12

III. Stanza 3 speaks of John’s work

He bade all those who would repent,

Forthwith to be immersed,

Assuring them that God had sent

The message he rehearsed.

  1. John preached a baptism of repentance for remission of sins: Lk. 3:2-3
  2. Those who thus repented were immersed: Lk. 7:29
  3. The work which John did was from God: Jn. 1:6-7

IV. Stanza 4 speaks of John’s result

Thus did the man of God prepare

A people for the Lord;

To him did all the Jews repair,

Who trusted in his word.

  1. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord: Matt. 3:3
  2. Also, He prepared a people for the Lord: Lk. 1:13-17
  3. As a result, all the Jews to him did repair: Matt. 3:5-6

V. Stanza 5 speaks of the fulfillment of John’s prediction

But now the reign of God has come,

That reign of grace below,

And Jesus reigns upon God’s throne,

Remission to bestow.

  1. The reign or kingdom which John prophesied has come as Jesus now sits on God’s throne: Acts 2:30-33
  2. Therefore, we can be saved by grace: Eph. 2:8-9
  3. This is because remission is offered to sinful mankind: Acts 2:38

VI. Stanza 6 speaks of the one whom John proclaimed

He bids all nations look to Him,

As Prince of Life and Peace;

And offers pardon to all them

Who now accept His grace.

  1. Jesus bids all nations look to Him: Matt. 28:18-20
  2. He is the Prince of Life and Peace prophesied in the Old Testament: Isa. 9:6
  3. He offers pardon or forgiveness to all who accept Him: Acts 13:38

CONCL.: The chorus, like John, points us to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world:

Now I see the blood of the Lamb,

Now I see the blood of the Lamb;

‘Tis the blood of Jesus the crucified one;

Now I see the blood of the Lamb.

The omitted stanza is as follows:

  1. Forsake your sins, the Baptist said,

That you may be forgiven;

Forsake them now, and be immersed,

For near’s the reign of heaven.

This is probably the best known of the Campbell hymns because it touches on the theme of baptism, so central to the doctrinal debates of his time.  In the first five stanzas, Campbell summarizes the evangelistic work of John the Baptist. The final two stanzas are addressed to the modern reader, living this side of Calvary, and stress the far greater significance of baptism into Christ.   Wheeler’s version uses only stanzas 1, 3, 6, and 7.  Particularly interesting is Campbell’s preference for the term “immerse” to represent the Greek “baptize” as used in the New Testament, rather than the English transliteration “baptize.”  Certainly there are many lessons that we can learn by remembering that time when John “Upon the Banks of Jordan Stood.”


I Love the Lord (Wheeler)

Tommy Wheeler

(photograph of Tommy Wheeler)


“I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength” (Ps. 18:1)

     INTRO.:  A hymn that expresses love to the Lord our strength is “I Love the Lord.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Tommy E. Wheeler, who was born on Feb. 1, 1931, in Scottsville, KY, to Palmer Esker and Lena Maude (Bandy) Wheeler.  During the early to middle thirties, his father, who became a well known song leader and hymn writer among churches of Christ, began working full time with the local church of Christ as a song director and assistant minister, so Tommy was taught music from the time he was able to read and learned to read music early in life.  He attended Freed-Hardeman grade school in Henderson, TN, where his father had moved to become a music instructor, and then graduated from high school in Dallas, TX.  During his high school years, he formed several quartets, for which he arranged the music, and sang for all types of programs.  After high school, he attended Abilene Christian College and received his B. S. degree in music from there in 1950.

In 1956 Tommy married Beth Wood in Dallas, TX, and they had three children, Dennis, Kathy, and Gary.  For about ten years he taught chorus and band in the public schools of west and south Texas.  During this time he also attended Texas Tech College in Lubbock, receiving his masters degree in music there.  Eventually, he left school teaching and returned to Dallas to work in a bank.  About this time he began composing original music which was published by the Stamps-Baxter Music Co.  After Beth’s death, he married Joyce Preston, and they moved to DeSoto, TX, where he served as a deacon and led singing for the local congregation.  Also he worked with the Skillman Ave. church in Dallas as an announcer for their television program, “The Way of Truth.”  In addition, he sang with the Dallas Choraliers, writing many of the songs used on the television program and by the Choraliers, as well as for the Galileans, a quartet based in Dallas.

“I Love the Lord,” perhaps Tommy’s best known hymn, was copyrighted in 1970.  It was originally published in Gospel Gems, but its first major hymnbook publication was most likely in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard, where it is titled “Why I Love the Lord.”  His second best known hymn is probably “The Lord and Savior of Mankind,” also copyrighted in 1970 and published in Howard’s Songs of the Church. In 1976, Tommy was elected to the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP).  Other songs by Tommy include “I Met the Master Face to Face;” “O Lord, We Praise Thy Name” (1984); a tune for Fanny Crosby’s “The Half I Cannot Tell” (1984); a tune for Barton Warren Stone’s “The Lord Is the Fountain” (1986); “In Heaven’s Beautiful Land” (1988), “Standing by the Cross” (1990), “Wonderful Arms of Jesus” (1991), “Hear Me, Precious Lord” (1991), “Lord, I Confess to Thee” (1991), “I Know a Fountain” (1991), “Give Your Burdens to Jesus” (1991), all with his cousin Max Wheeler; “That Night in Gethsemane” (1991); “My Daily Prayer” (1991); “Come Dwell With Me” (2002) with his cousin Max and R. J. Taylor; and “Mighty God, May We Adore Thee” (2007) with W. D. Jeffcoat. Tommy passed away November 21, 2015, in Dallas, TX, at the age of 84.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, in addition to Songs of the Church, “I Love the Lord” may be found in the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming; 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.  It is the representative song for Wheeler in Gene C. Finley’s wonderful 1981 book of biographies about song writers associated with the Lord’s church, Our Garden in Song.

The song mentions several reasons why we should love the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 says that He died for us

“I love the Lord, for He died my soul to save;

On Calvary His dear life He freely gave.

From realms above, Jesus freely came to die

That I might live someday with Him on high.”

  1. Even while we were yet sinners, God demonstrated His love in that Christ died for us: Rom. 5:*
  2. This He did on Calvary, the Latin name for Golgotha or the Place of the Skull, where Jesus was crucified: Lk. 23:33
  3. The reason He did this is that we might someday live with Him on high, as He tasted death for everyone to bring many sons to glory: Heb. 2:9-10

II. Stanza 2 says that He has saved us

“I love the Lord, for He saved the lost from sin;

He gave them life to be whole and free again,

To live on high, with Him nevermore to die.

Oh, praise His name, we’ll see Him by and by.”

  1. Jesus came to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19:10
  2. His aim was to make us free and whole again by giving us life more abundant: Jn. 10:10
  3. This makes it possible for us to have the hope of seeing Him by and by: 1 Jn. 3:1-3

III. Stanza 3 says that He loves us

“I love the Lord for His love so full and free;

He taught us why that our love like His should be,

To be like Him, and compassion freely give.

Oh, bless His name, we then with Him could live.”

  1. Jesus showed His love so full and free by laying down His life for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
  2. He taught us to love others even as He loved us: Jn. 13:34-35
  3. Therefore, we should want to be like Him and walk in love as He has loved us: Eph. 5:2

CONCL.:  The chorus continues to extol the great love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ.

“I love the Lord, He has been so good to me;

He gave His life, from sin to set me free.

No greater love than His could ever be;

I love the Lord, because He first loved me.”

I love my parents, even though they are both now gone, because of what they did in bringing me up.  I love my wife and my children.  I love my brethren. I must love my neighbor as myself.   In fact, I am to love even my enemies.  But when I think of what Jesus did to save me from sin, more than anyone else, “I Love the Lord.”


Marching for the Master


(photo of Ward Ellsworth)


“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6.12)

     INTRO.: A song which exhorts us in our warfare against spiritual wickedness is “Marching for the Master.” The text was written and the tune was composed both by Ward Ernest Ellsworth, who was born the seventh of eight children in a sharecroppers family of Rogers, Arkansas on December 1, 1933. Ward was baptized into Christ at Vancouver, Washington, in 1946 and married Kay Odell in 1954.   They had three daughters and a foster son.    He entered Western Washington University in 1956 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree as a Music Specialist in Education, a Provisional Teaching Certificate, a Standard General Teaching Certificate, an Elementary School Principal’s Credential, and finally his Master’s Degree in Elementary School Administration by 1966.  From 1956 until his “retirement” 26 years later in 1982, Ward taught grades 4-7 in public schools, did boys’ chorus, and ran the Audio-Visual Department of a Junior High School, as well as both writing and teaching a speed reading course for Bellevue Community College.  For 22 of these years Ward sold real estate and also completed a six year obligation with the U.S. Army General Hospital unit on active reserve.  Believe it or not, he had had short stints with the Northern Pacific Railroad, worked on the Yale Dam, and was a commercial fisherman, logger, mechanic, elevator operator, and security officer too.

In 1983, Ward and Kay established the “WEE Academy” in Issaquah, Washington, and supervised homeschoolers there until Ward retired again in 1998.  In addition, Ward had preached and taught in Kirkland, WA, with Roy Rains, Arnold Schnabel, and Conrad Estes.  Also he taught singing classes and helped establish a new congregation in Issaquah, WA, where he served as an elder for  20 years with  Al Bass, and then, after Al’s death, with Al’s son Dan, and Elden Givens.  Ward’s special efforts and success came in the field of Creation / Evolution / Humanism in the public schools.   He held meetings on these topics in seven states, and wrote and promoted legislation such as House Bill 1021 which would have required that both Creation and Evolution be taught in public schools.  In these efforts he appeared numerous times on radio and television programs, including the Seattle Today Show.  He testified before the House Committee on Education, the Senate Committee on Education, and on the Senate floor itself. He was a consultant in the writing of the “Balanced Education Act” which was introduced in 16 state legislatures, passed in Arkansas and Louisiana, but then ruled unconstitutional.

Ward was a panel member and speaker at the University of Washington on the topic of censorship, been a guest lecturer at the Lutheran Bible Institute, and spoke at the 1985 Florida College Lectureship on the topic of “Values Clarification in the Public Schools.”  He wrote a chapter with that title in the lecture book Humanism: Devotion to Man, 1985, edited by Melvin Curry and wrote his own book entitled, “Identity Crisis: My Brother’s Keeper or My Keeper’s Brother?”  With his wife Kay, Ward wrote and arranged many hymns, among which are “Someday It Will Happen,” “Marching For the Master,” I’m Going On a Journey,” and “Together Forever.” Several years ago, back in the 1980s, when I wrote to brother Ellsworth for some of his material on humanism, he also sent me copies of some of the songs that he and his wife have produced. “Marching For the Master” was copyrighted in 1976. The arrangement was made by Kay Ellsworth, his wife.  Beginning in 1999, for several years Ward worked with the Mt. Vernon Church of Christ in Washington. Ward died peacefully at home on August 5, 2017.  Among hymnbooks p ublished by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, his songs have not appeared and are not found in any to my knowledge.

The song identifies both the responsibilities and the blessings of those who fight the good fight of faith.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that the soldier/Christian is a worker

“We will work in the Master’s vineyard;

We’ll sow seed in the fertile soil.

We’ll lay treasures up in heaven,

Gift from our God for obedient toil.”

  1. The Christian is not only a soldier but also a worker in the Master’s vineyard: Matt. 20.1-7
  2. As laborers in the vineyard, we sow the seed of the kingdom, which is the word of God: Lk. 8.5-8, 11
  3. In doing this, we lay treasures up in heaven: Matt. 6.19-20

II. Stanza 2 tells us that the soldier/Christian is a soul winner

“We’ll win souls for the Master’s kingdom,

Souls more precious than purest gold.

We are going to be with Jesus,

Pleasure for us that cannot be told.”

  1. These figures of soldier and sower both emphasize that our goal in our work is to win souls for the Master’s kingdom: Prov. 11.30
  2. The reason that we seek to win souls is that souls are more precious than anything else on earth: Matt. 16.26
  3. Our motivation for doing this is that we are going to be with Jesus who came to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19.10

III. Stanza 3 tells us that the soldier/Christian is free from sin

“Satan has no more hold upon us;

We’ve been freed from the debt of sin.

God in heaven is waiting for us,

Opens the door when He calls us in.”

  1. Satan, or the devil, is the tempter who holds people with the power of death: Heb. 2.14-15
  2. However, those who obey Christ are freed from the debt and bondage of sin: Rom. 6.3-7
  3. As a result, God is waiting in heaven to prepare an eternal kingdom for His people: Matt. 25.34

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the soldier/Christian is headed for heaven

“Thanks to God, who has offered Jesus,

Offered up His beloved Son.

Soon we’ll leave this old world behind us;

We’ll be in heaven, our victory won.”

  1. In order to make a home in heaven possible, God offered up Jesus for our sins: Heb. 9.28
  2. Someday we shall leave this old world behind us in death: Heb. 9.27
  3. Then, when the Lord comes again, we shall have the final victory: 1 Cor. 15.52-54

CONCL.: The chorus encourages us to march as soldiers of the Lord.

“Let us march in cadence for the Master,

As we go against the foe.

We shall wield the sword to win the victory over

All the forces here below.”

There are many figures of speech that are used to describe the nature of the life of a Christian from different perspectives. As sowers of the seed, we strive to spread the word of God. As soldiers of the cross, we seek to wage a good warfare against evil and for truth. Therefore, we must recognize our responsibility to be “Marching for the Master.”

marching for the master

How Sweet the Words

harry presley

(photograph of Harry Presley)


“How sweet are Thy words unto my taste!  Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:103)

     INTRO.:  A song which declares how God’s words should be sweet unto our taste is “How Sweet the Words.”  The text was written by Harry Presley, who was born on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1924, near Stilwell, OK, in the home of his parents John M. and Inez Richardson Presley. Growing up in the Stilwell area, he received his schooling from the Stilwell public schools and graduated from high school in 1942. Following his baptism into Christ on Sept. 17, 1950, he served in the U. S. Army in Korea during the Korean War. After his return, he began preaching the gospel in 1956, doing fill-in work for local congregations. On Dec. 17, 1961, he started preaching full-time for the Four Corners church of Christ, five miles east of Stilwell on Hwy. 100.  In addition, Presley has written three commentaries on books of the Bible: Zechariah, Revelation, and Romans; and has produced over 1,000 poems. Through the years, much of his poetry has been published in the Gospel Light out of Delight, AR.

Some of Presley’s poems have also been published as hymns.  “How Sweet the Words” was published in the March, 1975, issue of With All Boldness, a paper edited by Brent Lewis. The tune was composed by R. J. Stevens (1927-2012). Stevens told me in a note, “Harry sent me some religious poetry nearly thirty-five to forty years ago. He lived in a small town in Oklahoma and preached for the church in that community. I never met him and I haven’t been in touch with him since then. As you know, I put some of his poems to music.”   Later, Presley wrote in a letter to me, “I never knew R. J. Stevens, but I have corresponded with him several times in the past by mail.  I have lost track of him though and don’t know where he is now.  I sent him a package of songs similar to this one several years ago, but I never heard from him.”   Presley-Stevens collaborations published in the 1986 Hymns for Worship edited by Stevens and Dane K. Shepard are “I Need Thee Ever Near Me,” “Immortally Arrayed,” “Let Him Make Your Heart His Own” (original edition only), “My Home Above,.” and “O Lord, We Give Our Hearts.”

Presley continued his full-time preaching work until Dec. 31, 1986, when health problems forced him to retire, but he has continued to be an active member of the Four Corners congregation, teaching the adult Bible class and leading singing. Ninety of his poems were published by Leon Brashear, former preacher at Four Corners, in a book entitled Treasures of the Heart in 1988. Rick Ritter, current preacher at Four Corners, published 105 of Presley’s poems in 2010 in a book entitled Blessed Assurance. Harry sent me a copy of the latter. It is available along with many other of his poems through the website of the Braggs, OK, church of Christ where Brashear now preaches. Those who like devotional religious poetry should enjoy this book, which is plastic-comb spiral bound. Presley also provided both words and music for over 200 other hymns, such as “Be the “Pilot of My Soul” (1973), “When Jesus Leads Me Through Heaven’s Gate” (1979), “My Lord Will Take Care of Me” (1988), “Heaven’s Fountain of Love” (1993), “That Eternal Jubilee” (1994), and “My Soul Is in My Savior’s Hand” (2007). He says, “I never went to college, or had a formal music education. All I know about music is what I have taught myself from rudiment books.”

“How Sweet the Words” explains why the word of God is sweeter than honey.

I. Stanza 1 reminds us that it provides great blessings

How sweet the words that fill my ears,

The everlasting message,

Unchanged throughout the passing years,

Replete with every blessing.

  1. God’s word is intended to fill our ears: Matt. 13:9, 16
  2. It reveals an everlasting, unchanging message: Rev. 14:6
  3. And this message enables us to have all spiritual blessings in Christ: Eph. 1:3

II. Stanza 2 points out that it is God’s revelation of His power to salvation

Still new the scenes they now unfold

With every revelation;

Such love that man may now behold

God’s power unto salvation.

  1. The Bible is a revelation from God: Eph. 3:3-5
  2. This revelation tells us of His love for sinful mankind: Jn. 3:16
  3. Thus it is called the gospel or good news and is God’s power unto salvation: Rom. 1:16

III. Stanza 3 indicates that it abides forever

The tide of life forever flows

Within the holy pages;

Abiding still, their message grows

More precious through the ages.

  1. Its pages are holy because it is inspired Scripture: 2 Tim. 3:15-17
  2. This message will abide forever: 1 Pet. 1:22-25
  3. The faith that engenders and the promises it contains grow more precious through the ages: 2 Pet. 1:1-4

CONCL.:  The chorus shows that God’s words tell of His grace that we might look upon His face through them.

They tell of God’s unceasing grace

To every Christian duty;

By faith we look upon His face

Within their sacred beauty.

As we consider all the benefits that come to us from God’s message revealed by His Son through the Holy Spirit to inspired writers in the Scriptures, we’re moved to exclaim, “How Sweet the Words”!

how sweet the words

Are Ye Able?


(photo of Earl Marlatt)


“…Can ye drink the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)

     INTRO.:  A song which asks if we can drink the cup and be baptized with the baptism of Christ is “Are Ye Able?”  The text was written by Earl Bowman Marlatt, who was born on May 24, 1892, in Columbus, IN.  Marlatt received his bachelor’s degree from DePauw University at Greencastle, Indiana, in 1912, and then served as an artillery officer in World War I. He also studied at Harvard, Oxford, and the University of Berlin.  Receiving his master’s from Boston University in 1922, he joined the faculty of Boston University the following year.  In 1925, he became the first winner of the May Day Poetry Tournament there.  That same year, as a faculty member the Boston University Theological Seminary School of Religious Education, he was asked to write an original hymn for a consecration service.

Marlatt served as associated editor for the American Student Hymnal in 1928 and went on to earn his Ph.D. in 1929 from Boston University.  In 1938, he became dean of the Boston University School of Theology, but left in 1945 to take a position as professor of philosophy of religion and religious literature at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Texas, retiring in 1957.  Later, as a member of the Executive Committee of the Hymn Society of America, he served as curator of the Treasure Room and Hymn Museum at the Interchurch Center in New York City from 1958 to 1962.  Returning to Indiana, he also published several books of poetry and died on June 13, 1976, at Winchester, IN.  The tune (Beacon Hill) had been composed in 1924 by Harry Silvernale Mason who was born on October 17, 1881, at Gloversville, NY. Mason graduated from Syracuse University, New York, in 1911. He went on to serve at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City, as organist (1916–39), instructor of music (1917–35), and assistant professor of fine arts and religion (1935–39).

While at Auburn, Mason did graduate work at Boston University from 1924 to 1926, and was a graduate student there when Marlatt was a professor at the same school.  Mason provided music for an entry by Harry Wright into a school song contest.  It did not win, but Marlatt was disappointed that it was not chosen.  He liked it and the following year wrote his poem to fit the melody.  The song was first printed as a leaflet and was later included in the 1928 American Student Hymnal which Marlatt co-edited.  Also, Mason served as music director at the First Presbyterian Church and later at the Second Presbyterian Church of Auburn for 27 years.  Mason died on November 15, 1964, at Torrington, CT.

Among the denominational hymnals in my collection, the hymn appeared in the American Service Hymnal (Benson), the Broadman Hymnal (Broadman), Christian Praise (Broadman), the Church Service Hymnal (Rodeheaver), Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle), Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan), Hymns of Praise and Service (Rodeheaver), Hymns of the Living Church (Hope), Inspiring Hymns (Zondervan), and the New Hymnal for American Youth (Century).  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in Churches of Christ, it has appeared only in the 2017 Standard Songs of the Church compiled by Michael A. Grissom for the Little Dixie Publishing Co. of Wynnewood, OK.

The song challenges us to examine ourselves and see if we are able to follow Christ.

I. Stanza 1 asks if we are able to be crucified with Him

Are ye able, said the Master,

To be crucified with Me?

Yea, the sturdy dreamers answered,

To the death we follow Thee.

  1. While we may not be called upon to be crucified literally, we must be crucified spiritually: Gal. 6:14
  2. We must be more than sturdy dreamers but count the cost of following Christ: Lk. 14:25-30
  3. Of course, that cost means being faithful even unto death: Rev. 2:10

II. Stanza 2 asks if we are able to relinquish earthly dreams

Are ye able to relinquish

Purple dreams of power and fame,

To go down into the Garden,

Or to die a death of shame?

  1. We must relinquish dreams of power and fame, as did Paul when he counted things loss for Christ: Phil. 3:4-8
  2. Then we must go down into the Garden of sacrificing our will to God with Christ: Matt. 26:36-39
  3. And we must be willing to lose our lives for Him even if it means dying a death of shame: Matt. 16:24-25

III. Stanza 3 asks if we are able to forgive others

Are ye able, when the anguish

Racks your mind and heart with pain,

To forgive the souls who wrong you,

Who would make your striving vain?

  1. There are times when others will persecute us and cause anguish that will rack our minds and hearts with pain: Matt. 5:10-12, 41
  2. We must be willing to forgive those who wrong us: Matt. 6:14-15, 18:21-22
  3. Jesus did: Lk. 23:34

IV. Stanza 4 asks if we are able to remember the Lord’s pardon

Are ye able to remember,

When a thief lifts up his eyes,

That his pardoned soul is worthy

Of a place in paradise?

  1. The account of the penitent thief on the cross is recorded for us to remember: Lk. 23:39-43
  2. It reminds us that our God is a pardoning God: Isa. 40:1-2
  3. This enables us to have the hope of being with Him in paradise: Rev. 2:7

V. Stanza 5 asks if we are able to believe in God’s triumph

Are ye able when the shadows

Close around you with the sod,

To believe that spirit triumphs,

To commend your soul to God?

  1. The shadows close around us with the sod in death: Eccl. 12:6-7
  2. However, God promises that those who trust Him will have triumph or victory over death: 1 Cor. 15:50-57
  3. With this belief, we can in death, like Christ, commend our souls into the hand of the Father: Lk. 23:46

VI. Stanza 6 asks if we are able to endure to eternity

Are ye able? Still the Master

Whispers down eternity,

And heroic spirits answer,

Now as then in Galilee.

  1. Jesus is our Lord and Master, so we must always seek to obey Him: Jn. 13:13-17
  2. His goal is to prepare us for eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
  3. Thus, we must answer that it is our aim to be faithful until death: Rev. 2:10

CONCL.: The chorus gives the response that the Lord wants us to make to His questions.

Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine.

Remold them, make us, like Thee, divine.

Thy guiding radiance above us shall be

A beacon to God, to love and loyalty.

This may sound like boasting to some, but it is really just expressing our desire to become with His help what the Lord wants us to be as He asks us, “Are Ye Able?”

are ye able