Safe in the Harbor

“SAFE IN THE HARBOR”

“And thou shalt be secure….and thou shalt take thy rest in safety” (Job 11:18)

     INTRO.:  A song which talks about the safety that those who find their security in God will have when they take their final rest is “Safe in the Harbor.”  The text was written by Miss Sharon Cummings.  I have not been able to find any further information on this author.  The tune was composed by by Tillit Sidney Teddlie, who was born at Swan TX, on June 3, 1885, and died in 1987 at Greenville, TX, at the age of 102.  The song was copyrighted in 1954.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Teddlie; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.  Today it may be found in the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

The song encourages us to look forward to the eternal safety and security of heaven.

I. Stanza 1 says that the saved will find rest

“Safe in the harbor, the weary find rest,

Free from their labors and cares that distress(ed);

Wounds find a healing, all tears wiped away,

Safe in the sunlight of heaven’s glorious day!”

  1. The Lord has a rest prepared for His people: Heb. 4.9
  2. Those who die in the Lord will have rest from their labors and cares: Rev. 14.13
  3. Part of this rest involves the fact that all tears will be wiped away: Rev. 21.4

II. Stanza 2 says that the saved will find peace

“Safe in the harbor, the harbor of peace,

Safe from the storms that forever increase,

Sorrows and trials and heartaches are o’er.

Safe in the harbor of life evermore!”

  1. God offers peace to those who trust Him: Phil. 4.6-7
  2. The storms of life represent the various trials and tribulations that we experience in life: Jas. 1.2-3
  3. However, in heaven, all the sorrows and heartaches will be over because nothing that defiles will enter there: Rev. 21.27

III. Stanza 3 says that the saved will find love

“Safe in the harbor, the harbor of love,

Safe from all storms in that haven above,

Life everlasting where joys never cease,

Safe in the harbor, the harbor of peace!”

  1. The God who dwells in heaven is a God of love: Matt. 6.9, 1 Jn. 4.8
  2. Because He loves us, He has prepared a kingdom above for His people: Matt. 25.34
  3. It will be a place where we can bask in love forever because we shall be in the presence of God Himself: Rev. 21.3

IV. Stanza 4 says that the saved will find life

“O glorious thought!  We shall meet on that strand,

Safe on the shores of that fair Eden land!

Sorrows and trials and heartaches are o’er,

Safe in the harbor of life evermore!”

  1. The redeemed of all ages shall be raised and meet on that strand: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
  2. The eternal home of the redeemed is likened to the perfect paradise of Eden that God created for mankind in the beginning: Gen. 2.8-9
  3. The saved will find everlasting life in that harbor: Matt. 25.41

CONCL.:  One complaint about much of the church music that came out of the Great Depression was that because life was so bad here on earth for many, their religious songs focused almost entirely upon heaven.  Certainly, as Dwight Moody was fond of saying, we should not become so “heavenly minded” that we are of no “earthly good.”  The primary focus of our singing should be to worship and praise our God.  And as we seek edification through singing, we should strive to apply the truth of God’s word to our lives here on earth.  Yet, as those who are to set our affections on things above, when we are teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, it is good to remind each other of that future time when the saints shall be “Safe in the Harbor.”

safe-harbor

He Who Would Valiant Be

John_Bunyan_by_Thomas_Sadler_1684

(portrait of John Bunyan)

“HE WHO WOULD VALIANT BE”

“Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be” (John 12:26)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that the servants of Christ must follow Him and have the courage to be with Him is “He Who Would Valiant Be.”  The original text was written by John Bunyan who was born on Nov. 30, 1628, at Elstow in Bedfordshire, England.  Educated briefly in the local school, he became a tinker (an itinerate mender of domestic tin utensils such as pots and pans; one who does repairing work; a jack-of-all-trades) like his father.  During the English Civil War of 1646, he served in the parliamentary army.  After 1653 he was a member of a Baptist congregation in Bedord and clashed with his fellow nonconformists, the Quakers.  As a result, he authored two religious pamphlets in 1656 and 1657 to defend his faith and began a new career as an itinerant preacher.  After being arrested in 1660 for preaching without a license, he spent most of the next twelve years in jail and while there produced ten books, including his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in 1666, and started his most famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of salvation.  Following his release from prison in 1672 and his temporary reimprisonment for nonconformism, he completed Pilgrim’s Progress and published it in two parts, the first in 1678 and the second in 1684.

The section originally entitled “Who Would True Valor See” was believed to have been penned during his twelve-year prison sentence for refusing to conform to the official state church and was published in the second part of Pilgrim’s Progress in 1684.

  1. “Who would true valour see,

Let him come hither;

One here will constant be,

Come wind, come weather

There’s no discouragement

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim.”

  1. “Whoso beset him round

With dismal stories

Do but themselves confound;

His strength the more is.

No lion can him fright,

He’ll with a giant fight,

He will have a right

To be a pilgrim.”

  1. “Hobgoblin nor foul fiend

Can daunt his spirit,

He knows he at the end

Shall life inherit.

Then fancies fly away,

He’ll fear not what men say,

He’ll labor night and day

To be a pilgrim.”

Bunyan’s other works include The Life and Death of Mr. Badman of 1682, and The Holy War of 1684.  He died on Aug. 31, 1688, in England, and his body was buried at Bunhill Fields in Finsbury.  Today he is known as the supreme master of English prose during seventeenth century.  This text was modified by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  The modified song was first published in The English Hymnal of 1906.  The tune usually used with it (St. Dunstan’s) was composed by Charles Winfred Douglas (1867-1944).  Born in Oswego, NY, Douglas sang at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral while at Syracuse University.  After earning his Bachelor of Music degree from Syracuse in 1891, he became an Episcopal minister and in 1899 moved to Evergreen, CO, for health reasons.  He edited the Episcopal New Hymnal in 1918, in which this tune, dated 1917, was probably first published, and helped to develop the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal as well. His other works include A Brief Commentary on Selected Hymns and Carols in 1936 and Church Music in History and Practice in 1937.  Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song has not appeared nor is found in any to my knowledge.

The song exhorts us to be valiant in being a pilgrim for the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 says that we must follow the Master

“He who would valiant be

’Gainst all disaster,

Let him in constancy

Follow the Master.

There’s no discouragement

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim.”

  1. “Valor” might be an acceptable translation of the word that is often rendered “virtue” and is defined as moral excellence or courage: 2 Pet. 1.5
  2. This valor or virtue is demonstrated by our decision to follow the Master: Matt. 16.24
  3. There will be many things which arise to discourage us, but true valor will not allow any of them to make one relent or look back: Lk. 9.62

II. Stanza 2 says that we must seek the Master’s strength

“Who so beset him round

With dismal stories

Do but themselves confound—

His strength the more is.

No foes shall stay his might;

Though he with giants fight,

He will make good his right

To be a pilgrim.”

  1. There will also be those who will beset us with dismal stories, appearing as ministers of righteousness but actually serving as workers of Satan, to draw us away from Christ: 2 Cor. 11.13-15
  2. However, those who truly follow Christ will look to Him for strength to fight them: Eph. 6.10-12
  3. Thus, with Christ’s strength we can resist our adversary, the devil, and all his forces: 1 Pet. 5.8-9

III. Stanza 3 says that we must look to the Master’s Spirit to defend us

“Since, Lord, Thou dost defend

Us with Thy Spirit,

We know we at the end,

Shall life inherit.

Then fancies flee away!

I’ll fear not what men say,

I’ll labor night and day

To be a pilgrim.”

  1. God has given us His Spirit, whose sword is the Word of God: Eph. 3.16, 6.17
  2. Having been strengthened by the Spirit, we know that at the end of life we shall inherit: 1 Pet. 1.3-5
  3. In this way, we have nothing to fear from men: Heb. 13.5-6

CONCL.:  John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is considered a classic not just of religious literature but of English literature in general.    It has continued to be printed throughout the centuries since Bunyan’s time and is still read by millions today.  Whether one agrees with all of Bunyan’s theology or not, Bible believers can surely appreciate the fact that here was a man who was willing to endure great suffering so that he might remain faithful to his convictions.  Each individual should strive to live in such a way so that others can point to him and say, “He Who Would Valiant Be.”

he valiant

Risen A Savior

doug hoffmsn

(photo of Doug Hoffman)

RISEN A SAVIOR

“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6)

     INTRO.  A song which acknowledges what Jesus did for us as our Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace is “Risen A Savior.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by D. Douglas Hoffman, who was born on January 11, 1949, in Temple Terrace, Florida.  Concerning this song, he writes the following:

“When I started leading singing at the age of 14, the songbook we used had only about 15 communion songs. There were really only about five that we rotated through so, from an early age, I had the desire to write an acapella song for the Lord’s Supper.  When I think about the communion, it brings a wide range of emotions from the sadness of the humiliation to the ecstasy of Jesus’ victory over death which culminated in His resurrection.  I wanted to capture those feelings by taking the singer through the events surrounding the cross from Jesus’ pray in the garden, through the excruciating pain of the cross to the glorious end of the story, His glorification as King. And, truthfully, what seemed like an end began the beginning of His triumphal reign as Wonderful Counselor, Glorious King and Prince of Peace.  It is my hope that this song will stir within each of us a rededication to the One who sacrificed so much so that we, too, could be resurrected and spend eternity in His glorious light. May God be praised!”

“Risen A Savior” was copyrighted in 1983 by Hoffman.  Perhaps his best known hymn is “With One Accord” (#515 in Hymns for Worship Revised), copyrighted in 1990. After having lived in Asheville, North Carolina, he now lives in Abita Springs, Louisiana.

The song is a welcomed addition to our repertoire of hymns for communion.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes Christ’s suffering

Deep in the garden, Our Lord would kneel.

Far from the suff’ring, He soon would feel.

  1. After observing the Passover, Jesus went to a garden: Jn. 18:1
  2. There He knelt, falling on His face: Matt. 26:36-39
  3. He did this knowing that it would be His lot to suffer for our sins: 1 Pet. 3:18

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes Christ’s anguish

Kneeling in anguish, “Father, I pray,

If Thou are willing, Take this away.”

  1. His anguish or agony was seen in that His sweat rolled off Him like great drops of blood: Lk. 22:39-44
  2. He prayed: Heb. 5:7
  3. His prayer was if possible let this cup be taken away from Him: Mk. 14:32-36

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes Christ’s pain

But only Jesus, could bear the pain,

So for our evil, Our Lord was slain.

  1. Only Jesus could redeem us because He alone was the spotless Lamb of God: 1 Pet. 1:18-21
  2. To accomplish His purpose, He bore great pain: Matt. 27:27-31
  3. Thus He was slain and died for our evil or sins: 1 Cor. 15:1-3

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes Christ’s death

Dying on Calv’ry, Seemed like an end.

But a beginning, He rose again.

  1. Yes, because God loved us, Christ died while we were yet sinners: Rom. 5:6-8
  2. The Latin name of the place where He died was Calvary: Lk. 23:33
  3. It seemed like an end when He said, “It is finished,” and gave up His spirit: Jn. 19:30

V. Stanza 5 emphasizes Christ’s resurrection

Risen a Savior, Raised to be King,

Glory and Honor, Ever we’ll sing.

  1. After Jesus died for our sins, He arose again: Rom. 8:34
  2. He was raised to sit as King on His throne: Acts 2:30-32
  3. Thus ever we’ll sing that we’ve been redeemed by His blood: Rev. 5:8-10

CONCL.:  The Sanctus (at the end) reminds us that we should shout Hallelujah to Christ our King, Counselor, and Prince.

Shout Hallelujah! Glorious King,

Wonderful Counselor, And Prince of Peace.  Amen

One time, either in a sermon or remarks at the Lord’s table, I said that in partaking of the Lord’s supper we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Afterwards someone called my observation into question, noting that all the passages about the purpose of the communion emphasize Christ’s death and make no mention of remembering His resurrection.  That may be true, but it is also a fact that without the resurrection His death would have no real meaning for us.  Therefore, it is not inappropriate when we eat the bread and drink the cup in memory of His dying body and shed blood to think as well that we have “Risen A Savior.”

risen a savior

God’s Mercy and Love

“GOD’S MERCY AND LOVE”

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us” (Eph. 2:4)

     INTRO.:  A song which praises God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us is “God’s Mercy and Love.”  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Paul H. Epps (1914-2002).  Epps, who was a preacher and song writer among churches of Christ, was born in Booneville, AR, and died in Dallas, TX.  Perhaps his best known hymn is “Jesus Knows and Cares,” copyright by the Firm Foundation Co. in 1961 and first published in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 2 edited by L. O. Sanderson and published by the Gospel Advocate Co.  “God’s Mercy and Love” was copyrighted in 1971.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons.  Today it may be found in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into Our Hands–Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming.

The song reminds us of some of the great blessings of God’s mercy.

  1. Stanza 1 tells us that God’s mercy takes away our sin

I. Stanza God’s Mercy and Love

“God in His mercy and His love Takes away every sin,

Through the shed blood of Christ above, Making me whole again.

He is my guide, my help, my stay, Throughout the darkest night;

He will be with me all the way, Leading my steps aright.”

  1. Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world: Jn. 1.29
  2. The means by which He does this is His blood that was shed for the remission of sin: Matt. 26.28
  3. As our Savior, He has promised to be with us all the way: Matt. 28.20

II. Stanza 2 tells us that God’s mercy fills our lives with song

“God in His mercy and His love Filleth my life with song,

Sending His blessings from above, Keeping me from all wrong.

Nothing can turn my soul away; Ever to Him I’ll cling.

Loyal to Christ each passing day, Ever His praise I’ll sing.”

  1. When our hearts are cheerful, we can sing songs of praise to God: Jas. 5.13
  2. One of the things that makes God’s people cheerful so that they sing is that because of God’s mercy we have all spiritual blessings in Christ: Eph. 1.3
  3. The joy that these blessings from God’s mercy brings encourages us to remain loyal and faithful to Him: Rev. 2.10

III. Stanza 3 tells us that God’s mercy speaks to our hearts today

“God in His mercy and His love Speaks to your heart today,

Through the blest words from heaven above; Why not His word obey?

Bring Him your life, your strength, your all; Give Him yourself, complete.

Trust Him for lifting when you fall; Safely you soul He’ll keep.”

  1. Our merciful God speaks to us today by His Son: Heb. 1.1-2
  2. The means by which the Son speaks to us today is His words recorded in His word, which shall never pass away: Matt. 24.35, Jn. 12.48
  3. It is by our faith in this word that His mercy keeps our souls unto the salvation ready to be revealed at the last time: 1 Pet. 1.5

CONCL.:  Sometimes those of us who have problems with the currently popular “praise songs” are accused of just not liking “new songs.”  However, I do not believe that this is the case with most brethren, and I know that it is not so with me.  Both while a teenager and during the time of my preaching work I have constantly encouraged brethren to learn hymns with which they are unfamiliar, and, in fact, I have even composed a few “new songs” myself.  This hymn by Paul Epps is a relatively new hymn, especially when compared with many of the standard hymns which we have loved and sung, but are rapidly declining in usage, through the years, and I believe that it is a good one to emphasize to our minds the importance of “God’s Mercy and Love.”

gods-mercy

Praise, O Praise, Our God and King

(Silhouette of John Antes)

“PRAISE, O PRAISE, OUR GOD AND KING”

“O give thanks to the Lord: for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 136.1)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which gives thanks to the Lord because He is good and His mercy endures forever is “Praise, O Praise, Our God and King.”  The text was written by Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877).  An Anglican minister who lived at Monkland in Herefordshire, England, he was editor in chief for the English songbook Hymns Ancient and Modern from 1860 to 1877, to which he contributed over twenty hymns, the best known of which are probably “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” and “Lord, Thy Word Abideth,” along with nearly ten translations, and a couple of tunes, including one (Stephanos) used in some of our books with the hymn “Art Thou Weary” attributed to Stephen the Sabaite and published by John Mason Neale.  “Praise, O Praise, Our God and King” was based on the fifteen year old John Milton’s paraphrase of Psalm 136, “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind.”

The tune (Monkland) most often used with this hymn was composed by John Antes, who was born on Mar. 24, 1740, in Frederick, PA.  A watchmaker by trade, in 1764 he was called to service at Herrnhut in Saxony, Germany, which was the international headquarters for the Moravians.  In 1769, he became a Moravian minister and spent the next twelve years in Egypt as the first American missionary there.  In 1781, he returned to Germany for two years before settling in Fulneck, England.  Around 1790, he published his Collection of Hymn Tunes Chiefly Composed for Private Amusement, from which this one was taken, and he died on Dec. 17, 1811, at Bristol, England.  The arrangement of the tune was made in 1861 for the original edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern by John Bernard Wilkes (1785-1869).  After studying at the Royal Academy of Music, he became an organist and served as music director at the Monkland church where Baker was minister beginning around 1860.

According to Cyberhymnal, other hymns have been used with the Antes/Wilkes tune: Milton’s “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind” from 1623, though for Milton’s hymn most of our books use another tune (Innocents) attributed to George F. Handel and arranged by William H. Monk; Sarah Slinn’s “God With Us!  O Glorious Name!” from 1777; and James Montgomery’s “Songs of Praise the Angels Sang” from 1817, though the only one of our books to include this hymn uses another tune (Mozart or Zealotes) attributed to Wolfgang A. Mozart.  Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “Praise, O Praise, Our God and King” has not appeared or been found in any to my knowledge, though I believe the tune was used with Milton’s hymn in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.

The hymn exhorts us to praise God as our Creator and Provider.

I. Stanza 1 says that we should praise God because of who and what He is

“Praise, O praise, our God and King;

Hymns of adoration sing.

For His mercies still endure

Ever faithful, ever sure.”

  1. God is the King who rules forever and ever: Ps. 10.16
  2. He is worthy to be adored with hymns: Col. 3.16
  3. His mercies are such that we should sing of them: Ps. 89.1

II. Stanza 2 says that we should praise God because He made the sun and moon

“Praise Him that He made the sun

Day by day his course to run.

And the silver moon by night,

Shining with her gentle light.”

  1. He made the sun to give light during the day: Gen. 1.14-15
  2. The sun and all the heavenly bodies that run their courses declare the glory of God: Ps. 19.1-6
  3. Also, He made the moon to give light during the night: Gen. 1.16-19

III. Stanza 3 says that we should praise God because He has provided for the crops

“Praise Him that He gave the rain

To mature the swelling grain.

And hath bid the fruitful field

Crops of precious increase yield.”

  1. It is God who sends the rain down from heaven to water the earth: Isa. 55.10
  2. The rain helps to mature the swelling grain (corn in KJV): Ps. 65.9
  3. In this way He gives us fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness: Acts 14.17

IV. Stanza 4 says that we should praise God because He gives us the harvest store

“Praise Him for the harvest store,

He hath filled the garner floor.

And for richer food than this,

Pledge of everlasting bliss.”

  1. God promised that as long as the earth remains, there would be seed time and harvest: Gen. 8.22
  2. Through these processes of nature that He has set in motion, God fills the garner floor and gives to all life, breath, and all things: Acts 17.25
  3. Yet, He has provided even richer food than this in that at the final harvest He offers eternal bliss to His people: Matt. 13.37-43

V. Stanza 5 says that we should praise God because He is manifest in the Father, Son, and blest Spirit

“Glory to our bounteous King;

Glory let creation sing.

Glory to the Father, Son,

And blest Spirit, Three in One.”

  1. God the Father is worthy of our praise: Matt. 6.9
  2. The Son is worthy of our praise: Jn. 5.23
  3. And the blest Spirit is also worthy of our praise: Matt. 28.19

CONCL.  Originally, the hymn was in eight stanzas.  The first and last stanzas were as given above.  Stanzas two through seven consisted of two couplets–each of the six couplets in stanzas two through four above followed by “For His mercies still endure Ever faithful, ever sure.”  I have rearranged the stanzas to be able to use them all without unnecessary repetition.  The first time I saw this hymn, in an old “youth hymnal,” I was impressed with the majesty of Antes’s music as a setting for the laudatory words by Baker.  While there are many topics by which we can use spiritual songs to teach and admonish one another, it is good to learn different psalms and hymns such as this that we might “Praise, O Praise, Our God and King.”

praise o praise

Hushed Was the Evening Hymn

burns_jd2

(portrait of James Drummond Burns)

“HUSHED WAS THE EVENING HYMN”

“Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which is based on the story of young Samuel with Eli in the tabernacle when he was called by God and encourages us to have the same attitude that he did is “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn.”  The text was written by James Drummond Burns who was born on Feb. 18, 1823, at Edinburgh, Scotland.  Earning his M. A. degree at the University of Edinburgh, he received his theological training under Thomas Chalmers, and in 1845, became a Free Church minister in Dunblane, Scotland. However, he resigned in 1848 due to bad health and became minister of the Presbyterian Church at Funchal, in Madeira, Portugal. In 1855, his health improved, and he returned to England, where he became minister of Hampstead Presbyterian Church in London.

Burns’s hymns appeared in two volumes that he published during his lifetime, The Vision of Prophecy: and Other Poems, at Edinburgh in 1854 and revised in 1858; and The Evening Hymns at London in 1857, in which “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn” was first published.  Some of his other hymns include, “As a Helpless Child Who Clings,” “At Thy Feet, Our God and Father,” “Not, Lord, unto That Mount of Dread,” “O Thou Whose Sacred Feet Have Trod,” “Still with Thee, O My God,” This Night, O Lord, We Bless Thee,” and “Thou, Lord, Art Love, and Everywhere,” though very few if any survive in common usage besides “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn.”  Burns also wrote the article “Hymn” in the eighth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  After nine years in London, he again traveled abroad due to ill health and died on Nov. 27, 1864, at Mentone, France.

A Memoir and Remains of the late Rev. James D. Burns, M. A., of Hampstead was published posthumously at London in 1869.  The tune (Samuel–Sullivan) most often used with this hymn was composed by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900).  It was first published in 1874.  I first saw this song in a book of hymn stories that had been given to me by my grandfather entitled Famous Hymns with Stories and Pictures by Elizabeth Hubbard Bonsall, published by The Union Press of Philadelphia, PA, in 1923.  Since then, I have also seen it in other denominational hymnals, most notably the 1961 Trinity Hymnal published for use in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it has not appeared nor is found in any to my knowledge.

The song teaches us to look to Samuel’s example and strive to follow the Lord’s will in everything.

I. Stanza 1 mentions the circumstances of the story

“Hushed was the evening hymn,

The temple courts were dark;

The lamp was burning dim

Before the sacred ark;

When suddenly a voice divine

Rang through the silence of the shrine.”

  1. Some might object to the word “temple” since the actual temple had not yet been built in Samuel’s day and the tabernacle was still in existence; however, the basic meaning of the word “temple” is holy place or priestly house, so in this sense the tabernacle was a “temple,” and the King James Version uses the word “temple” with reference to this story: 1 Sam. 3.1-3
  2. The lamp was burning dim before the sacred ark, just as the law commanded: Exo. 27.20-21
  3. It was in these circumstances that the voice of God called out: 1 Sam. 3.4-7

II. Stanza 2 mentions the individual whose example is cited

“The old man, meek and mild,

The priest of Israel, slept;

His watch the temple child,

The little Levite, kept;

And what from Eli’s sense was sealed

The Lord to Hannah’s son revealed.”

  1. The old man, the priest of Israel, was Eli: 1 Sam. 1.9
  2. While Samuel’s father lived in the mountains of Ephraim, he must have been of the tribe of Levi, because Samuel eventually offered burnt offerings, something only Levites could do: 1 Sam. 1.1, 7.9
  3. Because of Samuel’s attitude, God revealed His message to the young child: 1 Sam. 3.11-18

III. Stanza 3 mentions the willingness of Samuel’s ear to hear God’s word

“O give me Samuel’s ear,

The open ear, O Lord,

Alive and quick to hear

Each whisper of Thy Word,

Like him to answer at Thy call,

And to obey Thee first of all.”

  1. Samuel’s ear was open to the Lord: 1 Sam. 3.8-9
  2. We likewise need to have an ear that is alive and quick to hear God’s word: Matt. 13.16-17
  3. Of course, it is not enough just to hear; we must also determine to answer His call and obey Him: Jas. 1.22-25

IV. Stanza 4 mentions the willingness of Samuel’s heart to move with God’s will

“O give me Samuel’s heart,

A lowly heart, that waits

Where in Thy house Thou art,

Or watches at Thy gates;

By day and night, a heart that still

Moves at the breathing of Thy will.”

  1. In order to serve God, we need to have a lowly heart: Eph. 4.1-2
  2. Such a lowly heart will watch at the gates: Prov. 8.34
  3. This heart will also move at the breathing of God’s will: Matt. 26.39

V. Stanza 5 mentions the willingness of Samuel’s mind to believe in God’s truth

“O give me Samuel’s mind,

A sweet unmurmuring faith,

Obedient and resigned

To Thee in life and death,

That I may read with child like eyes

Truths that are hidden from the wise.”

  1. To please God as we walk, we must have a mind that is guided by faith: 2 Cor. 5.7, Heb. 11.6
  2. Such a faith will magnify God in life or death by being obedient to Him: Phil. 1.20, Heb. 5.8-9
  3. This kind of faith will understand truths that are hidden from the wise: Ps. 119.97-100

CONCL.:  The combination of Burns’s simple but powerful text with Sullivan’s lilting, lullaby-like melody creates a truly lovely hymn that impressed me the very first time I ever saw it.  Not many hymns are based on Old Testament stories, and this one is practically unknown among us because it has not been included in any of our books.  Some might think of it primarily as a children’s hymn, but all Bible believers of any age can learn important lessons by considering that event which took place in Samuel’s life when “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn.”

hushed

The Mountains of Faith

“THE MOUNTAINS OF FAITH”

“…The end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out that the end of their faith for which Christians seek is the salvation of their souls is “The Mountains of Faith” (#329 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Henry Jeffreys Zelley (1859-1942).  Born at Mount Holly, NJ, Zelley attended Pennington Seminary and Taylor University, where he earned his Ph.D. and divinity degrees. Becoming a Methodist minister, he worked in the New Jersey Conference, retiring in 1929. He produced over 1,500 poems, hymns, and gospel songs, including “When Israel Out of Bondage Came” in 1896, “He Brought Me Out” in 1898, and, perhaps his best known, “Heavenly Sunlight” in 1899, prior to his death at Trenton, NJ.  Hymnary.org lists a total of 95 hymns under his name.  I have not been able to find a copyright date for “The Mountains of Faith,” and the earliest book to which I have been able to trace the song  is Our Thankful Songs edited by Anthony J. Showalter and published by the A. J. Showalter Co. of Dalton, GA, in 1900.  The tune was composed by M. L. McPhail.

It is believed that he is the M. L. McPhail who was associated with Charles T. Russell, founder of what is now the Jehovah’s Witnesses, at the beginning of the 1890s since in 1892 a letter from him is published in the Zion’s Watch Tower.  McPhail, who was very active as a lecturer, was married, and had at least one son who got ill and died in 1897, was the author of the Feb. 1, 1896, issue of the Zion’s Watch Tower entirely devoted to religious hymns (“Zion’s Glad Songs of the Morning,” with 11 hymns). Most of the songs were composed by him, but one of them is composed by a certain John McPhail. In another reference in the Zion’s Watch Tower, M.L. McPhail mentions “brother John” in a very familiar way, so he might be his “brother” in a literal sense.  In 1900, McPhail was the author of a songbook entitled Zion’s Glad Songs for all Christian Gatherings (82 hymns), published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and advertised in the Zion’s Watch Tower as a hymnbook that complements the official one, Hymns of Millennial Dawn. In 1907 he published another hymnbook with the same title Zion’s Glad Songs No. 2 for all Christian Gatherings (65 hymns). This one is not published by the Society, but by a certain K. McPhail from Chicago. However, on the back cover the publications of Russell and the International Bible Students Association are advertised.  Then in 1908 he published another songbook with the title Zion’s Glad Songs for all Christian Gatherings (248 hymns). It was published in Chicago by M. L. McPhail himself. This time, there was no reference to Russell or the International Bible Students Association.

The Library of Congress assigns him the name Malcolm (or Malcom) Leod McPhail, born about 1877.  It is not likely that this Malcolm or Malcom Leod McPhail, is the same M. L. McPhail who was a hymn writer associated with Charles T. Russell, especially because of his year of birth, 1877.  There are several hymnbooks and pieces of light music by M. L. McPhail for instance in the Library of Congress. Some of them are published in 1878, 1882, etc.  So, “our” M. L. McPhail couldn’t have been born in 1877. Either they are different McPhails, or the year assigned by the Library of Congress is wrong. He also published the series of hymnbooks called Winnowed Anthems between 1894 and the 1920s. If M. L. McPhail had been born in 1877, then in 1894 he was seventeen, and yet he was a recognized musician who was even able to publish a series of hymnbooks.  However, there is also a light music score in the Library of Congress, the author of which is “Mat. L. McPhail.”  It was common to abbreviate the name Matthew as “Mat.”   Also Vol. 6 of the series Winnowed Anthems includes a hymn by certain M. Lindsay McPhail Jr.  Was this McPhail’s son?  If so, we can infer that the father’s name was also M. Lindsay McPhail, and so we could arrive at the possibility that his name was Matthew Lindsay McPhail.

According to U. S. Census records, there was a Matthew L.[indsay] McPhail, born at Baillieston, Scotland, in 1854 or 1855, arrived to the U.S.A. in 1865, and granted U.S. citizenship in 1880. In the 1910 census his profession was evangelist and he lived in Chicago, IL, and in the 1920 and 1930 census he lived in Maine, IL. One of his brothers was called John, born in 1849 (he could be the John McPhail mentioned before).  He had at least 2 daughters, Jessie and Laura; in the Watchtower’s Souvenir Report for 1905 or 1906 Laura McPhail is mentioned along with M. L. McPhail. One of his sons was M. Lindsay McPhail (which could be the one mentioned in Vol. 6 of Winnowed Anthems). The census specifies that this son was a musician, a pianist.  Matthew L. McPhail’s wife, whom he married in 1878, was Catharine or Kate McPhail (Kelly was her maiden name, born in 1858), who could be the publisher, K. McPhail, of Zion’s Glad Songs No. 2 for all Christian Gatherings.  This M. L. McPhail is said to have composed more than 200 religious hymns, before, during and after being an active “Bible Student” (early name for Jehovah’s Witnesses).  He apparently was in touch with some of the most famous hymn writers and hymn composers of the end of nineteenth century and the beginning of twentieth century.  Around 1909, his relationship with the Watch Tower Society ended when, due to certain doctrinal differences with Russell, he and E. C. Henninges decided to leave the movement.  McPhail died in 1931, and his son became a famous composer and pianist between the 20s and 40s.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, “The Mountains of Faith” is currently found in Sacred Selections.

The song talks about looking forward to the eternal home as we travel on through life.

I. Stanza 1 says that we are seeking the country where Jesus has gone

“I’m seeking the country where Jesus has gone,

I’m facing the beauty of heaven’s bright dawn;

I’m climbing the mountains, the mountains of faith,

And now I can see o’er the river of death.”

  1. Even the patriarchs of old sought not the land from which they came but the heavenly country: Heb. 11:13-16
  2. Like them, we seek the beauty of heaven’s bright dawn by laying up treasures there: Matt. 6:19-20
  3. As we continue climbing the mountains of faith and draw ever nearer the river of death, we can see with clearer vision the heavenly promise, like Moses on Mt. Nebo: Deut. 34:1-3

II. Stanza 2 says that we are going onward and upward

“I’ve climbed to the summit of holy desire,

But onward and upward my soul doth aspire;

I see in the sunlight some higher peaks glow,

And strong in my Savior, still upward I go.”

  1. We climb to the summit of holy desire by running with patience the race set before us: Heb. 12:1
  2. However, we must not consider ourselves to have apprehended but continue to press onward and upward: Phil. 3:13-14
  3. We can do this only if we are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might: Eph. 6:10

III. Stanza 3 says that we must leave the darkness of this earth behind

“I’ve left all the fogs of the valley behind,

And here the bright sunlight forever I find;

The clouds are beneath me, above is my home,

And Christ, my dear Savior, invites me to come.”

  1. The fogs of the valley, which we must leave behind, represent the darkness or sin of this world: Jn. 3:19-21
  2. Instead of the darkness of sin, we should walk and live in the bright sunlight of God: 1 Jn. 1:5-7
  3. This is necessary in order to seek the city which is above: Heb. 13:14

IV. Stanza 4 says that we can see the fair city where Jesus awaits

“I see the fair city where Jesus awaits,

I see the bright walls with their wide opened gates;

I’m climbing the mountains, but soon I’ll arise,

And leave the last peak for my home in the skies.”

  1. By the eyes of faith we can see in God’s written word the city where Jesus awaits: Rev. 21:1-1-2
  2. We can see its bright walls with their wide open gates: Rev. 21:12-14
  3. But to enter that city we must continue climbing the mountains of faith by doing God’s commandments: Rev. 22:14

CONCL.:  The chorus continues to emphasize the importance of climbing the mountains on our journey toward the heavenly city.

“I’m climbing, climbing,

I’m climbing of the mountains of faith;

Still higher I climb, to regions sublime,

On the peaks of the mountains of faith.”

I recall first seeing this song when the congregation where my family worshipped as I was growing up changed from Christian Hymns No. 2 to Sacred Selections in the early 1970s.  However, I never heard it sung until I was in college when a college friend of mine led it in a singing practice at the congregation where we both attended.  It certainly has a bright, positive message as it exhorts to keep on climbing “The Mountains of Faith.”

the mountains