It Is Well With My Soul

horatio spafford

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me” (Ps. 49:15)

INTRO.:  A song which gives us hope by reminding us that God will redeem our souls from the power of the grave and receive us is “It Is Well With My Soul” (#626 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #561 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Horatio Gates Spafford, who was born on Oct. 20, 1828, in North Troy, NY, the son of Gazetteer author Horatio Gates Spafford Sr. and Elizabeth Clark Hewitt Spafford.  After an early life in New York, he moved while still a young man to Chicago, IL, where he married Anna Larsen of Stavanger, Norway, on September 5, 1861.  The Spaffords were well known in 1860s Chicago.  Establishing a most successful legal practice, he was a prominent senior partner in a large and thriving law firm and also served as a law professor.  As a Presbyterian, he always maintained a keen interest in religion despite his financial success and enjoyed a close relationship with revival evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody as a good friend and supporter.  Spafford invested heavily in real estate on the shore of Lake Michigan just north of an expanding Chicago in the spring of 1871. When the Great Fire of Chicago reduced the city to ashes in October of that same year, it also destroyed most of Spafford’s sizable investments.  Also about that same time, scarlet fever killed his four-year-old son.

So two years later, in 1873 when his business interests were further hit by an economic downturn, Spafford was advised by his doctor to take a rest and decided that his family should enjoy a holiday somewhere in Europe, They chose England knowing that their friend D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. Due to unexpected, last minute business, Spafford was delayed and had to remain in Chicago. But he sent his family ahead.  His wife and their four daughters—eleven-year-old Anna, nine-year-old Margaret Lee, five-year-old Elizabeth, and two-year-old Tanetta—boarded the S. S. Ville du Havre.  However, on November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic, their ship was struck by the Loch Earn, an iron sailing vessel, sinking in only twelve minutes, and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters.  Mrs. Spafford was picked up by a sailor rowing a lifeboat nearby who spotted her floating in the water unconscious, but the children were never found.  When the survivors were landed at Cardiff, Wales, ten days later, Anna Spafford sent a telegram to her husband saying, “Saved alone.” Spafford immediately left to join his bereaved wife.

When his ship was over the place where the wreck had occurred, the captain told Spafford.  It is believed that he penned the words to a poem beginning, “When peace like a river attendeth my way,” shortly after that as an expression of his faith in God.  Three years later, in 1876, Spafford gave the poem to Ira David Sankey.  The tune (Ville du Havre) was then composed by Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876).  The song was first published that year in Gospel Songs No. 2 by Sankey and Bliss just before Bliss’s tragic death in a train crash.  Anna gave birth to three more children. On February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner Spafford, died at the age of three, of scarlet fever.  Their daughters were Bertha and Grace.  Their Presbyterian church regarded their tragedy as divine punishment, and the Spaffords became religious outsiders. In response, they left their Presbyterian congregation, holding faith-based prayer meetings in their own home, and formed their own Messianic sect, dubbed “the Overcomers” by American press. In 1881, the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Ottoman-Turkish Palestine, settling in Jerusalem where they helped found a group called the American Colony and adopted a teenager named Jacob. Four days shy of his sixtieth birthday, Spafford died of malaria in Jerusalem on October 16, 1888, and was buried there in Mount Zion Cemetery.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “It Is Well with My Soul” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1938 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, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; ; the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater; 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.; the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; and the 2017 Standard Songs of the Church edited by Michael Andrew Grissom; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

This song identifies several prongs of the anchor provided by our hope.

  1. Stanza 1

I. Stanza 1 refers to the peace of God which is like a river

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say (orig. know),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

  1. Those who trust in God can have a peace that will keep their souls: Isa. 66:12
  2. This peace is available even when sorrows that might cause anxiety come: Phil. 4:6-7
  3. Whatever our lot, we can learn to be content knowing that God is with us: Heb. 13:5-6

II. Stanza 2 mentions the assurance of redemption in time of trials

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

  1. Satan will buffet us through the trials of life: 1 Pet. 4:12-13
  2. However, those whose hearts are right with God have an assurance regardless of what happens in life: Heb. 10:22
  3. This assurance is based on the fact that Christ shed His own blood for us: Matt. 26:28

III. Stanza 3 talks about the forgiveness of sins in Christ

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His (or the) cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

  1. Every responsible person has to deal with the problem of sin: Rom. 3:23
  2. However, Jesus bore our sins on the cross: 1 Pet. 2:24
  3. Therefore, we bear that sin no more when it is forgiven: Eph. 1:7

IV. Stanza 4 (not in HFWR) says that we have life in Christ

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pain (or pang) shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

  1. As we have life in Christ, He lives in us: Gal. 2:20
  2. Jordan poetically symbolizes the time of death: Heb. 9:27
  3. But we can magnify the Lord in both life and death: Phil. 1:20

V. Stanza 5 (also not in HFWR) tells us that we have a goal to press on for

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

  1. We wait for the Lord’s coming: 1 Thess. 1:9-10
  2. This gives us a goal to keep us pressing on: Phil. 3:13-14
  3. Thus, we look forward to hearing His voice: Jn. 5:28-29

VI. Stanza speaks of our expectation of Christ’s coming

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

(orig.  A song in the night, oh my soul!)

  1. Someday the trumpet will sound: 1 Cor. 15:51-52
  2. Then the Lord shall descend as promised: Acts 1:11
  3. We should always live with this expectation so that our attitude will be, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”: Rev. 22:20

CONCL.  The chorus continues to express the well being of the soul who trusts in the Lord

It is well (it is well),

With my soul (with my soul),

It is well,

It is well with my soul.

The original manuscript has only four stanzas, but Spafford’s daughter Bertha states how later the other verses were added, the last line of the original was slightly modified, and a few other alterations were made.  Even though this song does not use the word “hope,” it gives us hope.  And because of my hope in heaven, I have an anchor which enables me to say, “It Is Well with My Soul.”

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We’ll Be Like Him

powell

“WE’LL BE LIKE HIM”

“When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2)

      INTRO.: A gospel song which reminds us that when Christ will appear, we shall be like Him is “We’ll Be Like Him” (#624 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #7 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and tune was composed both by R. L. Powell, who was born on Apr. 11, 1888, in Hood County, TX.  Some sources give his name as Robert Lawrence Powell while others have Richard Lawrance Powell.  He was the next to the youngest of twelve children born to Robert Jones Powell (1849–1923) and Martha Licilty Hobson Powell (1852–1920); his siblings names were William Nathaniel (b. 1872), Georgia Ann (b. 1873), Lewis Sidney (b. 1875), Lee Andrew (b. 1876), Amanda O. (b. 1877), Maggie Jane (b. 1879), Joel Jackson (b. 1881), Haynie Lue (b. 1882), Grover Cleveland (b. 1884), Earl Monroe (b. 1886), and Rhoda Belle (b. 1891).  R. L. Powell, who was a farmer and a member of the Church of Christ, was very active with Franklin Lycurgus Eiland and other hymn writers among Churches of Christ in central Texas.

F. L. Eiland was not healthy even as a child, and in his adult years he was often sick. In the winter of 1909 he conducted a singing school in Golden, TX, the boyhood home of Tillit S. Teddlie. During this time he became ill with pneumonia and died there on December 3. He was only 49 years old. George W. Winningham, R.E. Campbell, R.L. Powell, and Woodie Valentine sang several of his songs at his funeral including his well-known “From the Cross to the Crown,” written in 1895, and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.”  Powell married Margaret Hand about 1912, and they had three children.  For a time they lived around seven miles from Seymour, TX.  He edited The Eureka Song Climax: For All Religious Gatherings for the Eureka Pub. Co. in 1916.  Another hymn of his was “Marching to Our Home, Sweet Home.”

I do not have a copyright date for Powell’s song “We’ll Be Like Him,” but it was controlled by the Quartet Music Company of Fort Worth, TX, which was established by James Edmond Thomas, and according to Hymnary.org the hymn was published in twelve hymnals, the earliest of which was Gospel Songs No. 2 edited by Austin Taylor and G. H. P. Showalter for the Firm Foundation Pub. Co. of Austin, TX, in 1919.   Hymnary.org also credits Powell as the author of 22 hymn texts.  The Powells moved briefly to Abernathy, a small community near Lubbock, TX, where he developed a tumor on his arm.  Although he had the arm removed, he still died of cancer in Lubbock on Oct. 7, 1933, at the age of 45.  His obituary noted that he was “widely known as a singer.”  His body was buried in Abernathy Cemetery at Abernathy in Hale County, TX.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “We’ll Be Like Him” has appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song expresses several concepts related to our hope of being like Him at His coming.

I. Stanza 1 says that His coming will be a bright day

When the Savior comes for His chosen ones,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

When the bright day breaks and the dead awakes,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. Someday the Savior will come: Acts 1:9-11
  2. One purpose of His coming will be to gather His chosen ones: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
  3. To accomplish this, He will awaken or resurrect all the dead: Jn. 5:28-29

II. Stanza says that it is a message worth ringing out

Let the message ring over hill and plain,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

Send it far and wide on the gospel tide,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. That we shall be like Him is an important message: Phil. 3:20-21
  2. This message should be sent far and wide through all the world to every person: Mk. 16:15-16
  3. It is gospel or good news because it is God’s power to save: Rom. 1:16

III. Stanza 3 says that He is the one for whom we look through the weary years

He’s the one we love, He’s the one we prove,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

He’s the one who cheers through the weary years,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. He is the one whom we love, even though we have not seen Him: 1 Pet. 1:7-9
  2. We prove Him by demonstrating to both others and ourselves that His way is right: Rom. 12:1-2
  3. The reason why we love and prove Him is that He brings cheer to us as He did to His apostles: Matt. 14:22-27

IV. Stanza 4 says that it is the theme of our song

Though He tarry long, this will be our song,

We’ll be like Him, We’ll be like Him;

Though the path be dim we shall cling to Him,

We’ll be like Him when He comes.

  1. His coming may tarry long, but there is a purpose even in this: 2 Pet. 3:3-4, 8-9
  2. But the fact that we’ll be like Him should be our song as we live on earth: 2 Pet. 1:3-4
  3. So during this time we must cling to Him by being faithful: Rev. 2:10

CONCL.:  The chorus exhorts us to look forward to that time when we shall meet Him

We’ll be like Him, sing the glad refrain;

We’ll be like Him when He comes again.

Blessed thought to me that His face I’ll see,

And be like Him when He comes.

Some day this world will end when the Lord returns.  And until that happens, life will end for each human being in death.  All of us who seek to let that mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus and imitate Him who left us a perfect example that we should follow in His steps have the hope that at His coming “We’ll Be Like Him.”

God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty

msedgar

(photo of Mary S. Edgar)

GOD, WHO TOUCHEST EARTH WITH BEAUTY

“He hath made everything beautiful in His time” (Eccl. 3:11)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us of the beauty with which God made everything is “God, Who Touchest (or Touches) Earth with Beauty” (#621 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Mary Susanne (or Susannah) Edgar, who was born on May 23, 1889, at Sundridge in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Joseph Edgar and Mary (Little) Edgar.  After Barrie High School, she was educated at Havergal College and the University of Toronto, and was also a graduate of the National Training School of the Y. W. C. A. in New York City, NY.  A member of the Anglican Church, she was for many years associated with the Y. W. C. A. of Canada.  Though she published poetry, hymns, and plays, she is chiefly known for her development of Camp Glen Bernard for Girls in northern Ontario near Sundridge on Lake Bernard. It has become a leader in environmental education.  Edgar was the director from its beginning in 1922 until her retirement in 1956.  This hymn, penned in 1925 for campers, was awarded first prize in a contest conducted by the American Camping Association the following year.

The tune (Geneva) was composed by Carl Harold Lowden (1883-1963).  In 1925, when he was music editor for the Sunday School Board of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (now the United Church of Christ), these words were brought to his attention, and he set them to music.  The song was first sung from leaflets at an International Sunday School Association meeting in Chicago, IL, and has been translated into many languages.  Lowden also provided the tune for the hymn “Living for Jesus.”  Through the years Miss Edgar produced several collections of poems and essays including Wood-Fire and Candle-Light (1945), Under Open Skies (1955), and Once There Was a Camper (1970), as well as a number of hymns, mostly for use on special occasions at outdoor services, such as “Ere This Day at Camp Be Done” and “God of the Nations of the Earth,” and some one-act plays.  After traveling widely, she retired in 1956 to Toronto in Ontario, Canada, where she died, aged 84, on September 17, 1973.

“God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty,” at least with Lowden’s music, was apparently not copyrighted until 1955.  Other tunes have been used with it.  Hymnary.com suggests one (Bullinger) composed in 1874 by Ethelbert W. Bullinger for use with Frances Havergal’s hymn “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus.”  Another (Spiritus Christi) was composed by Henry Walford Davies.  There was also a tune (Glen Bernard) that was composed for the hymn in 1925 by James Edmund Jones (1866-1939).  The Baptist Hymnal of 1991 uses a tune (Butler) composed in 1966 by Aubrey L. (Pete) Butler (b. 1933).  It was first published in 1972 and arranged for congregational unison singing in the hymnal by Anna Laura Page (b. 1943).  Another new tune (Ludington) was composed in 2008 by Gregg DeMey.  And I found a reference to a publication in which the hymn was set to new music by Helen Kemp.  Many recent hymnbooks use a version in which, with permission of the copyright owners, the text was revised extensively by the editors of Hymns for the Living Church (1974).  Aside from the updated pronouns and verb forms, I have tried to note the original in parentheses below.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it appears to my knowledge only in Hymns for Worship.

The song calls upon the God of nature to bless us spiritually.

I. Stanza 1 asks Him tovrecreate us by His Spirit

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew (me lovely, too),

With Thy Spirit recreate me,

Pure and strong and true (Make my heart anew).

  1. Those who wait on God are told that they can be renewed: Isa. 40:31
  2. To accomplish this, He gives us of His Spirit: 1 Jn. 4:12-13
  3. The result is that we are made pure and strong and true: Eph. 3:16

II. Stanza 2 asks Him to purify and strengthen our hearts

Like Thy springs and running waters,

Make me crystal pure,

Like Thy rocks of towering grandeur

Make me strong and sure.

  1. Like a crystal spring, God wants us to be pure: 1 Jn. 3:1-3
  2. God Himself is like a rock of towering grandeur: Ps. 71:1-3
  3. Thus, He can help us be steadfast and sure like a rock: 2 Pet. 1:8-10

III. Stanza 3 asks Him to help us live lives of gladness and uprightness (not in HFWR)

Like the dancing (shining) waves in sunlight,

Make me glad and free,

Like the straightness of the pine trees,

Let me upright be.

  1. The blessings of God should make our hearts glad: Ps. 16:7-9
  2. They also encourage us to be like a tree planted by the water: Ps. 1:1-3
  3. Therefore, we should strive to be upright in our lives: Ps. 112:1-4

IV. Stanza 4 asks Him to lift our thoughts to higher things

Like the arching of the heavens,

Lift my thoughts above,

Turn my dreams to noble action,

Ministries of love.

  1. We need to lift our thoughts above: Col. 3:1-2
  2. But we must also express these higher thoughts in “noble action”: 1 Jn. 3:16-18
  3. The reason for this is that we are to be ministers in love to one another: 1 Pet. 4:8-10
  4. Stanza 5

V. Stanza 5 asks Him to give us songs of joy and thanksgiving (not in HFWR)

Like the birds that soar while singing,

Give my heart a song;

May the music of thanksgiving

Echo clear and strong.

  1. God wants us to have a joyful song in our hearts: Ps. 40:1-3
  2. It should be a song of thanksgiving: Ps. 26:6-7
  3. And it should echo clear and strong for all to hear: Ps. 98:2-4

VI. Stanza 6 asks Him to keep us as we ought to be

God, who touches earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew (me lovely, too),

Keep me ever, by Thy Spirit,

Pure and strong and true.

  1. This is an echo of the opening stanza which asked God to make our hearts anew: Rom. 12:1-2
  2. However, the conclusion of the song then calls upon the Lord to keep us pleasing in His sight: Jude 1 vs. 24-25
  3. And He will make us pure and strong and true as we are transformed into His image: 2 Cor. 3:18

CONCL.: This hymn does not specifically tell us anything about how to be delivered from sin’s crippling bondage, through faith in Christ, or how to live and grow in Christlikeness; yet, it is not incompatible with these essential concepts. Thus the song can serve a worthwhile purpose to help remind us of lessons God has provided all around us in nature.  We need learn those lessons ourselves, and then teach them to others, especially to instill godly wisdom in our children.  In this way, we look for a re-creating work in our hearts from “God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty.”

Room in God’s Kingdom

baxter

(photo of J. R. Baxter)

ROOM IN GOD’S KINGDOM

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

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

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

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

Among hymnbooks published among brethren for use in churches of Christ, “Room in God’s Kingdom” has appeared in the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song encourages us to serve Christ with whatever abilities we have, whether great or small.

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

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

For the small things that you can do;

Just a small, kindly deed that may cheer another

Is the work God has planned for you.

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

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

Just a cup of cold water in His name given

May the hope in some heart renew;

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

To the work God has planned for you.

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

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

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

Who are loyal to Him and true;

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

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

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

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

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

In the kingdom of God for you.

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

There is work that we all can do.

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

Into Our Hands

 

Into our hands-500x500

“INTO OUR HANDS”

“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak…” (1 Thess. 2:4)

     INTRO.:  A gospel song which encourages us to speak about the gospel to others is “Into Our Hands” (#616 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #90 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Ruth Johnson (Mrs. Roy) Carruth, who was born at Vashti, TX, on Dec. 31, 1900, and reared at Bellevue, TX.  Even as a child, she liked to write poetry.  Prior to her marriage, she taught school in New Mexico at a little one-room schoolhouse.  She once said laughingly, “No wonder my teaching career was short.”  After only one year of teaching, she married Roy Carruth, and they made their home in Vernon, TX, where she became a woman hymn writer among churches of Christ.  As an author, she published a book of poems called Acorn Cups as well as many hymns.

Perhaps her best known hymn is “Into Our Hands” beginning, “Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages.”  It was copyrighted in 1939 with a tune composed by Tillit Sidney Teddlie (1885-1987).  The earliest book in my possession in which I have been able to locate it is Teddlie’s 1943 Standard Gospel Songs.  This book is also the original source of publication for another Carruth-Teddlie collaboration, “You Can Lead Someone to Jesus.”  While looking through some old Will Slater songbooks, I came across still another song by Mrs. Carruth and Teddlie, which he copyrighted in 1946, entitled “One of His Own” beginning, “The wonderful word that was sown in my heart,” in the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion.  Hymnary.com lists yet another Carruth hymn, “After I’m Tested and Tried.”  All of her songs which I have been able to find have music composed for them by Teddlie, who also copyrighted them.

Mrs. Carruth continued to write poetry for the rest of her life.  Her husband had been injured in World War I and was unable to do secular work full time, so he preached at small congregations in the area surrounding Vernon for more than forty years, and also in California for a few years. In addition, he served as an elder.  Their son Vance also became a gospel preacher.  After Roy died, Ruth became more active in writing and for a while did some work with a greeting card company but found that it required too much time.  Her death occurred at Vernon, TX, on Oct. 12, 1985.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Into Our Hands” has appeared in the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song reminds us the limited amount of time which we have to do the Lord’s work.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the swift passage of time

Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages;

Swiftly the hours are changing to years.

How are we using God’s golden moments?

Shall we reap glory?  Shall we reap tears?

  1. Swiftly we are turning life’s pages because our days are like a sigh: Ps. 90:9-10
  2. Thus, we need to be concerned with how we are using God’s golden moments: Eph. 5:15-16
  3. This is because we shall reap glory or tears as we have sown: Gal. 6:7-8

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the need for the gospel

Millions are groping without the gospel;

Quickly they’ll reach eternity’s night.

Shall we sit idly as they rush onward?

Haste, let us hold up Christ the true light.

  1. The gospel is God’s power to salvation: Rom. 1:16
  2. Those who do not obey the gospel will reach eternity’s night: 2 Thess. 1:7-9
  3. To help them avoid such a fate, we must hold up Christ the true light: Jn. 8:12

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the value of the soul

Souls that are precious, souls that are dying,

While we rejoice our sins are forgiven–

Did He not also die for these lost ones?

Then let us point the way unto heaven.

  1. Souls are precious because each one is worth more than the whole world: Matt. 16:24-26
  2. To save our souls, Jesus died for everyone: Heb. 2:9
  3. Thus, we need to point out the way to heaven by proclaiming the gospel: Mk. 16:15-16

CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of our responsibility to share God’s precious message.

Into our hands the gospel is given;

Into our hands is given the light.

Haste, let us carry God’s precious message,

Guiding the erring back to the right.

At one time, this song was very popular among our brethren.  The first time that I ever heard the beloved Aude McKee (now deceased) preach was one evening in a gospel meeting at Evendale, OH (a couple of years after that he came and held a meeting at what was then the  Park Ave. church in my hometown of Hillsboro, OH, where our family attended).  The song leader at Evendale that night had led “Into Our Hands,” and when he stood up to speak brother McKee said that it was his favorite hymn for a very special reason.  If I remember his story correctly, when he and his family first went to Africa to live and work in Lagos, Nigeria, they arrived early on a Sunday but were detained on the boat so that they were unable to make it to the Lord’s day services until the evening.  The song that was being sung when they walked into the meeting house was “Into Our Hands.”

A Hymn of Joy We Sing

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(picture of Aaron Robards Wolf)

A HYMN OF JOY WE SING

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

     INTRO.:  A song which reminds us that when we eat the bread and drink the cup we are showing the Lord’s death is “A Hymn of Joy We Sing” (note: This hymn does NOT appear in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.   But it deserves a look.)  The text was written by Aaron Robarts Wolfe, who was born on September 6, 1821, at Mendham, New Jersey.  Educated at Williams College (1844) and Union Theological Seminary, New York (1848-51), Wolfe, on April 9, 1851, became a minister with the Third Presbytery of New York. He ran a young ladies’ school in Tallahassee, Florida (1852-55).  The devout spirit of the man is fittingly illustrated by the account he once gave his friends of an incident which shaped his later career somewhat seriously. When he left Florida in the summer of 1855 he put all his effects—library, notes, and things of that sort—on board a sailing-vessel at St. Mark’s, and with a simple gripsack returned North by way of Nashville and Chicago. Reaching New York after some two weeks spent in journeying, he sought his goods at the commission house to which they had been consigned. There he learned that, on the day appointed for sailing, the vessel had been struck by lightning, the mate killed at the foot of the mast, and the vessel, laden with turpentine, burned to the water’s edge. Books, papers, notes, everything of past treasure had gone up in smoke. He looked upon this as a special providence of God, shaping his life, and fixing his home. For it made him a teacher of the young rather than a minister of a church; and soon the way was opened for the beginning of one of the most useful engagements with Dr. Abbott, and so his life was fashioned

In 1858, Wolfe contributed seven hymns, under the signature A. R. W., to Church Melodies, by Thomas Hastings.  This one was originally entitled “A parting hymn we sing,” and was apparently intended to be used after observing the Lord’s supper for churches which followed this custom.  In 1859, he established the Hillside Seminary for Young Ladies in West Bloomington (now Montclair), New Jersey. He retired in 1872 and died on October 6, 1902, at Montclair, New Jersey.  Several tunes have been used with this hymn.  I first saw it in the 1948 Church Service Hymns edited by Homer A. Rodeheaver with the original text and a tune (Olmutz) said to be arranged in 1824 from a Gregorian chant by Lowell Mason (1792-1872).  Cyberhymnal suggests an 1832 tune (Boylston) also by Mason which we usually associate with Charles Wesley’s “A Charge to Keep I Have.”  The 1940 Broadman Hymnal edited by B. B. McKinney used an 1832 tune (Dennis) by Johann G. Nageli which we usually associate with John Fawcett’s “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”  The first time I ever saw the change of title and first line was in the 1987 Worship His Majesty edited by Fred Bock, with an 1850 tune (Schumann) attributed to Robert Schumann which we usually associate with William W. How’s “We Give Thee but Thine Own.”  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song may be found with this same form in the 2017 Wonderful Name (#89) edited by Kevin W. Presley for Legacy Music Publishing.

The hymn emphasizes the practical effects that should ensue from partaking of the communion.

I. Stanza one mentions joy

A hymn of joy we sing

Around Thy table, Lord,

Again our grateful tribute bring,

Our solemn vows record.

  1. We can always rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
  2. This is especially true when we surround the table of the Lord: 1 Cor. 10:21
  3. At the same time, we are making a vow to the Lord: Eccl. 5:4

II. Stanza two mentions grace

Here have we seen Thy face,

And felt Thy presence here;

So may the savor of Thy grace,

In word and life appear.

  1. We “see” His face as we envision in our minds His death on the cross: Jn. 19:17-19
  2. We also feel His presence as He promised to be with even two or three who gather in His name: Matt. 18:20
  3. As we do so, we savor the grace by which we have been saved: Eph. 2:8

III. Stanza 3 mentions the purchase of Christ’s blood

The purchase of Thy blood,

By sin no longer led,

The path our dear Redeemer trod

May we rejoicing tread.

  1. Christians have been purchased or redeemed with His blood: 1 Pet. 1:18-19
  2. Thus we are no longer led by sin because we have remission: Matt. 26:28
  3. Therefore, we should resolve to tread the path our dear Redeemer trod: 1 Pet. 2:21-23

IV. Stanza 4 mentions communion

In self forgetting love

Be our communion shown,

Until we join the church above,

And know as we are known.

  1. By partaking of the Lord’s supper we show our love to Christ for the redemption through His blood: Eph. 1:7
  2. We also have communion with His body and blood: 1 Cor. 10:16
  3. And we do this until we join the general assembly and church of the firstborn ones above: Heb. 12:22-24

CONCL.:  It has not been the custom among churches of Christ to sing a special hymn after observing the Lord’s supper.  However, with the simple change of the title and first line, this song becomes an appropriate one to help us prepare our minds for partaking of the communion.  While our hearts are saddened that Jesus had to suffer such agony to save us, we are thankful that He was willing to do so, and thus “A Hymn of Joy We Sing.”

The Love of God Is Greater Far

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(picture of Frederick M. Lehman)

THE LOVE OF GOD IS GREATER FAR

“Who shall separate us…from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39)

      INTRO.:  A hymn which extols the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord is “The Love of God Is Greater Far,” sometimes titled “O/Oh Love of God” (#608 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #267 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text of stanzas 1 and 2 and the tune (Lehman) was composed by Frederick Martin Lehman, who was born on August 7, 1868, at Mecklenburg in Schwerin, Germany. Lehman emigrated to America with his family at age four, settling in Iowa, where he lived most of his childhood. Studying for the ministry at Northwestern College in Naperville, IL, he became a Nazarene minister and served churches in Audubon, IA, and New London, IN.  However, the majority of his life was devoted to writing sacred songs.  His first was produced while living in Iowa, in 1898. In 1911, he moved to Kansas City, MO, where he helped to found the Nazarene Publishing House. Sometime around 1917, Lehman, preparing to relocate to California, was at a campmeeting in a Midwestern state and heard an evangelist end his message by quoting what became the third stanza of Lehman’s song “The Love of God.”  The preacher said that these lines had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave.  The assumption was that this inmate had scratched out the words in moments of sanity.

The identity of that incarcerated prisoner is unknown, but it is now recognized that his scribbled message was adapted from an eleventh-century acrostic Jewish poem entitled Haddamut (or Akdamut) of ninety couplets written in the Aramaic language with the author’s name woven into the concluding verses.  It was composed in the years around 1050 to 1096 by a Jewish rabbi and cantor in the city of Worms, Germany, named Mayer (or Meir) ben Isaac Nehorai (c. 1020-1096).  The profound depths of the portion cited moved Lehman to preserve the words for future generations.  However, it was not until he had settled in California that his urge found fulfillment.  One day, during a short interval of inattention while he was engaged in manual labor at a factory, he picked up a scrap of paper and a stub pencil and, seated upon an empty lemon box pushed against the wall, added the first two stanzas and the chorus of the song.

During his life, Lehman wrote numerous poems, published hundreds of songs, and compiled five volumes of song books with the title Songs That Are Different.  “The Love of God” first appeared in Volume Two of that series in 1919, although the copyright was obtained two years earlier.  The translation of stanza 3 was made in 1917 by Joseph H. Hertz.  The harmonization of the music was provided by Lehman’s daughter, Claudia F. Lehman (Mrs. W. W.) Mays (1892-1973).  She was also associated with the Nazarene Publishing House as its secretary for a period of time.  Lehman left his own account concerning the writing of this hymn in a 1948 pamphlet entitled “History of the Song, The Love of God.”  Two other well known Lehman songs are “The Royal Telephone” and “There’s No Disappointment in Heaven.”  He spent his latter years in California, where he died on February 20, 1953, at Pasadena.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “The Love of God” has appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; 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 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 discusses some important facts about God’s love for us.

I. Stanza 1 teaches us that God’s love is greater than anything that we can tell

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.

  1. The greatness of God’s love is seen in the fact that He gave His Son for our sins: 1 Jn. 4:8-10
  2. He did this because He wanted us to be reconciled to Him: Col. 1:20
  3. As a result, we can be pardoned from our sin: Mic. 7:18-19

II. Stanza teaches us that God’s love is stronger than anything that we can know

When hoary (years of) time shall pass away,

And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,

When men, who here refuse to pray,

On rocks and hills and mountains call,

God’s love so sure, shall still endure,

All measureless and strong;

Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—

The saints’ and angels’ song.

  1. The updaters seem to think that no one today can understand what “hoary time” means so they have changed it to “years of time;” but there are times when men who refuse to pray will call on rocks and mountains: Rev. 6:15-16
  2. However, because of His love and grace, God wants to redeem sinful mankind: 1 Pet. 1:18-19
  3. The strength of God’s love is seen in the fact that He is mighty to save the entire race: Zeph. 3:16-17

III. Stanza 3 teaches us that God’s love is more enduring than anything else

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

  1. God’s love is certainly great: Jn. 3:16
  2. God’s love is also strong to save: Eph. 2:4-7
  3. And God’s love is enduring because it is an everlasting love: Jer. 31:1-3

CONCL.:  The chorus repeats the greatness, strength, and enduring quality  of God’s love

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

As we face the various situations that come our way in life, we should be grateful for all the blessings which we have because “The Love of God Is Greater Far.”