Channels Only


(photo of Ada Rose Gibbs)


“A vessel unto honor…and fit for the Master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:21)

     INTRO.:  A song which points out the need for us to be vessels unto honor and fit for the Master’s use is “Channels Only” (#659 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The authorship of this hymn is questionable. It is attributed to Mary E. Maxwell (Late 19th-Early 20th Century).  Some have suggested, with no supporting evidence, that she was the prolific and popular Victorian novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon Maxwell, who was born on Oct. 4, 1835, in the Soho section of London, England, to Henry and Fanny Braddon.  Educated by private tutors, she married John Maxwell in 1874 and died at Richmond in Surrey, England, on Feb. 4, 1915.  However, others believe that crediting the hymn to her is highly unlikely for two reasons.  She had a history of living with Maxwell, a married man, for thirteen years while his first wife was still alive before the wife died and Maxwell could remarry.  Also her works showed no interest in religion.  In fact, her most successful and well-known book, Lady Audley’s Secret, was a sensation novel published in 1862, with a plot that centered on bigamy, which was in literary fashion in the early 1860s.

The only facts which are reasonably certain are that Mary E. Maxwell was probably associated with the Keswick Convention movement in northern England and produced a number of hymns.  The tune (Channels) for “Channels Only” was composed by Ada Rose Gibbs, who was born on Oct. 5, 1863, at Whitechapel in London, England. Ada’s parents were George Edward Rose and Erllen Stenson Reeve Rose.  A contralto, she sang at City Temple, Holborn, London, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone, London, for five years. After joining Richard D’Oyly Carte’s opera company around 1885, she played parts in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, such as Katisha in The Mikado; Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance; Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard; and Duchess of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.  Gibbs parted ways with D’Oyly Carte around 1890, and began working with the Salvation Army. She also sang with Dwight Moody’s evangelistic missions, and was apparently was part of the Keswick Convention movement. Her husband was William James Gibbs, at one time superintendent of the Methodist Central Hall in Bromley, Kent; they married around August of 1898 in Islington, London, England.

The circumstances behind the origin of this hymn are not certain.  It first appeared in a 1900 booklet entitled Twenty-Four Gems of Sacred Song, edited by Mrs. Gibbs who provided the music, probably published for use at the Keswick Convention.  The date of 1910 is sometimes given because the song was included under “Special Solos” in J. H. Allan’s Redemption Songs: A Choice Collection of 1000 Hymns and Choruses for Evangelistic Meetings, Solo Singers, Choirs, and the Home, published in 1910 by the Scottish Bible and Book Society of Glasgow, Scotland, which gave it more widespread notoriety. Ada Rose Gibbs, who was the mother of one of the former directors of Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, Ltd., who owned the song’s copyright, died on April 16, 1905, at Bromley in Kent, England.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Channels Only” has appeared in the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al. (with updated pronouns), in addition to Hymns for Worship.

The song suggests some things which we must do to be channels that are useful for the Master.

I. From stanza 1 we learn that we must be saved, cleansed, and filled by Christ

How I praise Thee, precious Savior,

That Thy love laid hold of me;

Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me

That I might Thy channel be.

  1. Before we can become servants of Christ, we need to be saved from our sins: Matt. 1:21
  2. Even after being saved, we must still seek cleansing through Christ’s blood when we sin: 1 Jn. 1:7-9
  3. Once we have been saved and cleansed, we can be filled with the fullness of God: Eph. 3:17-10

II. From stanza 2 (not in HFWR) we learn that we must tell others of salvation

Just a channel full of blessing,

To the thirsty hearts around;

To tell out Thy full salvation,

All Thy loving message sound.

  1. There are thirsty hearts all around us: Ps. 42:1-2
  2. Christ wants us to tell them of His full salvation: Mk. 16:15-16
  3. The reason is that He wants them to know His message of love: Jn. 3:16

III. From stanza 3 (st. 2 HFWR) we learn that we must look to Christ for power

Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,

A clean vessel in Thy hand;

With no power but as Thou givest

Graciously with each command.

  1. We are emptied when we are made free from sin: Rom. 6:16-18
  2. The only power that we have as Christ’s servants then is the gospel: Rom. 1:16-17
  3. And as we obey His commands, the Lord uses this power to supply our needs: Phil. 4:19
  4. From s

IV. From stanza 4 (st. 3 HFWR) we learn that we must allow Christ to possess us

Witnessing Thy power to save me,

Setting free from self and sin;

Thou who boughtest to possess me,

In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.

  1. Witnessing here is not necessarily the idea of “witnessing” to others but that of having seen ourselves what the Lord did for us so that we might then tell it to others: Mk. 5:18-20
  2. Thus having witnessed what He did for us, we remember that He bought us: 1 Cor. 6:20—Acts 20:28
  3. And as His servants, we have been crucified so that Christ lives in us and possesses us: Gal. 2:20

V. From stanza 5 (st. 4 HFWR) we learn that we must surrender ourselves completely to Christ

Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit

Hearts that full surrender know;

That the streams of living water

From our inner self (man) may flow.

  1. Though it is nothing miraculous, God wants us to be filled with His Spirit: Eph. 5:19, 6:17 (Gal. 5:22-23)
  2. This is possible only as Christ’s servants surrender by denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him: Matt. 16:24-26
  3. Then streams of living water will flow through us to others: Jn. 7:37-38

CONCL.:  The chorus asks the Lord’s help and direction in applying these principles

Channels only, blessèd Master,

But with all Thy wondrous power

Flowing through us, Thou canst use us

Every day and every hour.

The highest calling in life is for us to serve God as “Channels Only.”


Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Lillenas, Haldor portrait (PF)

(photo of Haldor Lillenas)


“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14)

      INTRO.:  A song which extols how wonderful the grace of our Lord Jesus is with faith and love is, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” (#638 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #452 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune (Wonderful Grace) was composed both by Haldor Lillenas, who was born on November 19, 1885, at Stord Island, near Bergen, Norway, the son of Ole Paulsen Lillenas and his wife Anna Marie Lillenas.  Ole was a farmer and storekeeper; Haldor’s siblings were named Paul, Johanes, Katrine, and George.  The Lillenas family farm was sold to allow the family to migrate to the United States. Ole came to the States via Canada in 1886 and bought a farm in Colton, SD. Anna and the children were re-united with him in 1887. In 1889 the Lillenas family relocated to a farm on the Columbia River near Astoria, OR. While living in Astoria, Lillenas learned English and began to attend school. In 1900 the family moved again to Roseville Township, Kandiyohi County, MN. While in Roseville, Lillenas began attending high school in a Lutheran school at Hawick, MN.  At the age of seventeen, Lillenas began a four-year correspondence course from the International Correspondence Schools in chemistry and chemical analysis with private tutors, working as a farm laborer most of the year, but during winter concentrating on his studies. About 1906 Anna Marie Lillenas died, and Ole decided to return the family to North Dakota; however Haldor decided to move back to Astoria, OR, where he finished his correspondence course and found employment in a chemical factory.

Like many Scandinavians at that time, Lillenas was raised in a Lutheran family. In 1906 Lillenas began to attend meetings at the Peniel Mission, a holiness rescue mission, in Astoria.  One summer evening he paused to listen to a street corner service and made his decision then to devote his life to Christian service.  In 1907 Lillenas moved to Portland, Oregon, where he worked with the Peniel Mission located there.  In 1908 Lillenas became a member of the Portland First Church of the Nazarene.  Soon after he enrolled in the ministerial course of studies, which he began by correspondence, joined a vocal group called the “Charioteers’ Brigade,” which held street meetings and revival services. In 1909 Lillenas was able to continue his ministerial studies at the Deets Pacific Bible College, now Point Loma Nazarene University, located at Los Angeles, CA.  Additionally, during this time he studied voice at the Lyric School of Music in Los Angeles.  While at Deets College, Haldor met another student, Bertha Mae Wilson, and on October 4, 1910, Lillenas married Bertha Mae, who became a songwriter like himself. They had two children, Evangeline Mae and Wendell Haldor.   Lillenas was a minister for the Church of the Nazarene for fifteen years from 1910. Soon after his marriage, he and Bertha moved to Sacramento, CA, where they took charge of the Peniel Mission.  After a year, Lillenas became the minister of the Lompoc, CA, Church of the Nazarene. During this time, he also took a two-year course in composition and harmony from the Siegel-Myers University Correspondence School of Music.  For ten years Lillenas was also a song evangelist and travelled with Bertha Mae holding revival services.  In addition, he provided songs for such meetings conducted by himself and others.  He subsequently worked with churches in Pomona, CA; Redlands, CA; Auburn, IL; Peniel, TX; and, from 1923 to 1926, Indianapolis, IN.  From a very young age, Lillenas had begun to write his own songs; however, it was not until later, that he attempted to have them published. Lillenas’ best known song is probably “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” which he wrote during his time at the Church of the Nazarene in Auburn, IL, for use by evangelist Charles M. Alexander.   This gospel song was copyrighted in 1918, but not published until 1922 in the Tabernacle Choir Book edited by R. J. Oliver and Lance Latham. Lillenas was paid $5.00 for it.

Lillenas was a prolific composer of hymns, and it is estimated that in his lifetime, he wrote some 4,000 hymns, and supplied songs for many evangelists. Lillenas was the editor and compiler of over fifty song books for church and Sunday School.  Lillenas’ first book was Special Sacred Songs, which was published in 1919.  In 1924, while still serving with the Indianapolis First Church of the Nazarene, Lillenas founded the Lillenas Publishing Company. He resigned from Indianapolis First Church to focus on his publishing house, Before Lillenas Publishing Company was sold to the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City, Missouri in 1930, more than 700,000 hymnals and song books were published and sold.  The sale agreement mandated that Lillenas would serve as manager for ten years and then be reviewed. However, he continued as an editor until his retirement in 1950, at the age of 65.  After his retirement, he served as an adviser to the music department of Nazarene Publishing House until his death.  Among his other publications was the first official hymnal for the Church of the Nazarene, Glorious Gospel Songs, published in 1931, soon after Lillenas Publishing Company became part of the Nazarene Publishing House.  It included about 700 hymns and gospel songs, of which 81 were of his own compositions.  In 1938 Lillenas became a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). That same year Haldor and Bertha Mae purchased a 500-acre rural estate, that they called “Melody Lane,” in the Miller County, MO, Ozarks, halfway between Tuscumbia and Iberia.  It was here that Bertha Mae died of cancer in March 1945, and that Lillenas married Lola Dell later that year.  They remained there until they relocated to Pasadena, CA, by 1955.  In 1941 Olivet Nazarene College awarded Lillenas an honorary Doctor of Music degree in recognition of his contributions to American hymnody.  He died on August 18, 1959, at Aspen, CO, where the Lillenases had a summer retreat.  In 1982 Lillenas was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” 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 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2017 Standard Songs of the Church edited by Michael Grissom; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song mentions three important aspects of God’s grace through Jesus.

I. Stanza  1 says that it is greater than all our sin

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Greater than all my sin;

How shall my tongue describe it,

Where shall its praise begin?

Taking away my burden,

Setting my spirit free;

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. The fact is that each of us has sinned: Rom. 3:23
  2. But God by His grace makes it possible for our burden of sin to be taken away through justification: Rom. 5:15-17
  3. In this way, the grace of Christ sets our spirits free: Rom. 8:1-2

II. Stanza 2 says that it reaches all the lost

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Reaching to all the lost,

By it I have been pardoned,

Saved to the uttermost,

Chains have been torn asunder,

Giving me liberty;

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. The gospel of God’s grace is His power of salvation to everyone: Rom. 1:16-17
  2. Thus all who are lost can find pardon or forgiveness in Christ by grace: Eph. 1:7-8
  3. Not only is this grace broad enough to save anyone but it is deep enough to save us to the uttermost: Heb. 7:25

III. Stanza 3 says that it reaches the most defiled

Wonderful grace of Jesus,

Reaching the most defiled,

By its transforming power,

Making him God’s dear child,

Purchasing peace and heaven,

For all eternity;

And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

  1. This means that there is no single sin so defiling that it cannot be forgiven: Mk. 3:28
  2. As a result, even the vilest sinner can be transformed by grace into God’s dear child: Gal. 3:26-27
  3. And God’s grace gives us not only peace here but also the hope of heaven for all eternity: Col. 1:3-6

CONCL. The chorus continues to express appreciation for the blessings of Christ’s grace

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,

Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;

Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.

Broader than the scope of my transgressions,

Greater far than all my sin and shame,

O magnify the precious name of Jesus.

Praise His name!

This is not the easiest song to sing, but it is a good song.  There is a beneficial message about our salvation and about the exuberant joy available in Christ because of the “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”

(Since) The Love of God (Has Shed)



“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude v. 21)

       INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to keep ourselves in God’s love while looking to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life is “The Love of God” beginning “Since the love of God has shed” (#636 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #266 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Laurene Highfield, who, though her name is known, is next to anonymous, at least terrestrially as a songwriter.  One source says that she was born at Quincy, IL, in 1870.  What we do know about her is that she was a playwright, who lived in Adams County, IL, in 1900 and 1910.  Some of the scripts attributed to her include The Usurper Overthrown; Immanuel; Hope for the Ages; Hail to the Victor; and The Jolly Tars.  Also she produced about three hundred hymns and sacred songs, the libretto of one oratorio, and several cantatas, among other works.

Another of Highfield’s fairly well-known hymns, though it has not appeared in any of our books, is “The Work Must Go On.”  In addition, we know “The Love of God” was a 1916 composition (some sources give a 1917 copyright date), written when she was 46 years old, with the tune (Priceless Blessings) composed by Samuel William Beazley (1873-1944).  Copyrighted by Beazley, the song was later owned by Stamps-Baxter after its renewal in 1944.  A couple of other collaborations between Highfield and Beazley which have appeared in many of our books are “Somebody Loves You: ‘Tis Jesus” and “Cling to His Hand.”  This is about all the information available on Laurene Highfield.   Even her date of death is not well-known.  One source gives 1970, which is not impossible, though another says 1927, which is probably more likely.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song 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 t he 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 Grissom; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song explains what we must do to keep ourselves in God’s love.

I. Stanza 1 tells us to hide in our hearts

Since the love of God has shed

Priceless blessings on my head,

I have made it my own;

I will hide it in my heart

That it never may depart,

It shall rule there alone.

  1. The love of God makes possible the priceless spiritual blessings that we have: Eph. 1:3-4
  2. We need to hide it in our hearts: Rom. 5 :5
  3. This will enable Christ to dwell and rule in our hearts: Eph. 3:17-19
  4. Stanza 2

II. Stanza 2 tells us to let Jesus who manifested it reign in our lives

Since the Son of God came down

With His love our lives to crown,

He with us would remain;

Greater love there could not be,

Jesus died for you and me,

In our hearts, He would reign.

  1. Because of His love for us, the Son of God came down: Phil. 2:5-7
  2. His purpose in this was to show His love by dying for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
  3. Therefore, we should sanctify and crown Him as Lord in our hearts: 1 Pet. 3:15

III. Stanza 3 tells us to share it with others by serving mankind

He who gave His love to me

That I might from sin be free

Bids me share it today;

“As I love you,” He has said,

“You must serve men in My stead

As you go on your way.”

  1. Jesus manifested His love for us by making it possible for us be free from sin: Rom. 8:1-2
  2. He in turn bids us share His love with others: 1 Jn. 4:9-11
  3. We do this by serving our fellow man: Gal. 5:13-14

IV.  Stanza 4 tells us to reflect it in our example

While His love burns true and bright

We are walking in the light,

He has shown us the road;

We His glory must reflect,

Lest our dimness and neglect

Keep some soul from its God.

  1. As a result of His love, we can walk in the light: 1 Jn. 1:5-7
  2. We in turn must reflect His glory as lights in this world: Matt. 5:14-16
  3. If we don’t, our dimness and neglect may keep some soul from God by placing a stumblingblock before him: Rom. 14:13

CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us of how important God’s love is to us.

The love of God within the heart

Will kindliness and warmth impart;

The soul will glow like Jesus in His tender mercy,

If the heart is made His dwelling place;

The love of God glows like a flame,

Through endless years it is the same;

The love of God will never fail nor lose its glory

Till we see Him face to face.

The apostle John summed up the character of God by saying, “God is love.”  Without this love, we could never hope to be saved and go to heaven.  Therefore, it is entirely appropriate that we extol in song “The Love of God.”

The Trinity Song

guthrie dean

(photo of Guthrie Dean)


“…Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19)

     INTRO.:  A song which offers thanks to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) for the role of each one in our salvation is “The Trinity Song.”  The text was written by Guthrie Davis Dean, who was born at Farmerville in Union Parish, Louisiana, on May 18, 1927, to George Washington Dean (1888 – 1974) and Exa Odom Dean (1893 – 1981).  He had three older siblings, Lloyd William Dean (1915 – 2006), Garland Lee Dean (1917 – 2009), and Christine Dean Albritton (1921 – 2004).  A 1948 graduate of Harding College (now University) in Searcy, AR, he was awarded the Master’s degree at Sul Ross College in Alpine, Texas, in the spring of 1950 and that fall became the preacher with the church of Christ at Judsonia, AR.  Guthrie married Mary Muriel Larkin Waller on January 8, 1953, and they had one daughter, Georgia Ann. He also adopted her son, Michael Waller.

The Deans left Judsonia in the fall of 1954, and Guthrie began work with the Northside church of Christ in Malvern, AR. After one year there they moved to Ruston, Louisiana, and then back to their home in Judsonia, where Guthrie worked nine years with the Bald Knob church of Christ. From 1965 to Oct. 1974 he labored with the Park Hill church in Ft. Smith, AR.  Dean’s next move was to Franklin Road church in Nashville, Tennessee, and from there back to Fort Smith as preacher of Blair Avenue church as long as his health permitted. Dean did extensive writing for several gospel papers, published a number of tracts which have received wide circulation, for one year edited and published a semi-monthly religious newspaper, “The Arkansas Christian Herald,” and published a book, “Handy Bible Helps.”  He also provided the words to a hymn, “The Trinity Song,” with the tune composed by Tom Reed, that was copyrighted in 1976 and published by the Literary Research Institute of Nashville, TN.

In his later years, Guthrie had bypass heart surgery, gall bladder surgery, and a hip replacement. After his retirement, he and his wife were members of the River Valley Church of Christ.  Muriel was bed-fast and on oxygen constantly for three years before her death on July 25, 1996. Guthrie, age 73, died Friday, May 26, 2000, in a local hospital at Fort Smith. The funeral was at Lewis Funeral Chapel with burial at Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith under the direction of Lewis Funeral Chapel of Fort Smith.   Preceded in death by his parents and wife, he was survived by his daughter and son; his sister and two brothers; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only one in which I have seen “The Trinity Song” is the original 1978 edition of Gospel Songs and Hymns, compiled and edited by V. E. (Verna Elisha) Howard with Broadus E. Smith as associate, and published by Central Printers and Publishers of Texarkana, AR.  In the revised edition, known as Church Gospel Songs and Hymns, published in 1983, it was replaced with “Holy Father, Loving Master” by Bob Connel.

“The Trinity Song” identifies the three persons of the Godhead and what they have done for us.

  1. Stanza 1 mentions all three members of “the Trinity”

We thank Thee, dear Father, for Thy loving care,

For sending us Jesus to die for us here,

For Thy Holy Spirit to comfort and cheer

Through Thy word of power, the gospel so dear.

  1. We thank the Father for His loving care: 1 Pet. 5:7
  2. We also thank Him for sending His Son Jesus to save us: Jn. 3:16
  3. And we thank Him for sending the Holy Spirit to comfort us through His revelation: Jn. 14:16-17

II. Stanza  2 mentions the pardon offered by God the Father

We thank Thee for pardon so full and so free,

For life that now is and for eternity,

For the blood that was shed at old Calvary

To bring full salvation to creatures like me.

  1. Our heavenly Father is a God of pardon: Isa. 55:7
  2. This pardon makes possible life that is now and for eternity: 1 Tim. 4:8
  3. Such wonderful blessings are available through the blood of the Son whom God sent: Eph. 1:3-7

III. Stanza 3 mentions the Son who was sent by the Father

We thank Thee, dear Father, for Thy precious Son,

Who came forth from Hades a victory won,

Who went back to heaven, His earthly work done,

To make intercessions for us, every one.

  1. The Son gained victory over Hades by His resurrection: Acts 2:25-32
  2. He then went back to heaven: Acts 1:9-11
  3. There He ever lives to make intercession for us: Heb. 7:25

IV. Stanza  4 mentions the Holy Spirit who was given to comfort

We thank Thee, dear Lord, for Thy Spirit so fair,

The promise from heaven all Christians to share,

Who lives in us daily with much fruit to bear;

Through Thy word of power He leadeth us here.

  1. The Holy Spirit is promised to all those who obey Christ: Acts 5:32
  2. When His influence lives in us, we bear His fruit: Gal. 5:22-23
  3. The means by which He does His work is the word of God: Eph. 6:17

CONCL.: The chorus gives glory to the name of the Father, the risen King, and the Spirit.

Glory, glory to Thy name,

Glory to the risen King,

Glory to the Spirit sing;

Free salvation we proclaim.

Some people do not like the term “Trinity” because it is not specifically found in the Scriptures.  However, I believe that it can be understood and used simply to refer to the existence and equal-deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as plainly taught in God’s word.  With this understanding, we should be able to sing “The Trinity Song.”

trinity song

I Saw the Cross of Jesus


“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which suggests how important the preaching of the cross is to those who are saved is “I Saw the Cross of Jesus.”  The text was written by Frederick Whitfield (1829-1904).  Best remembered as the author of another hymn beginning, “There is a name I love to hear,” which our books pair up with the tune of an old camp meeting chorus, “O How I Love Jesus,” Whitfield apparently penned “I Saw the Cross of Jesus” in 1855 when it appeared on a single sheet.  Its first hymnal inclusion was in Ryles’s 1860 Hymns for the Church.  Whitfield then included it in his own Sacred Poems and Prose of 1861.

The tune (Whitfield, Calcutta, or Patna) is said to be an anonymous Greek folk song from an unknown source, which has sometimes erroneously been attributed to Reginald Heber (1783-1826).  It goes back to an 1811 benefit concert at the Theatre Royal in Dublin, Ireland, arranged by Thomas Moore (1779-1852).  There it appeared in a “Melologue upon National Music” as a “Greek Air” with a note by Moore saying, “For this pretty Greek melody I am indebted to Mr. Gell who brought it with him from Athens.”  Its earliest known appearance as a hymn tune was in the 1851 Psalmista edited by Thomas Hastings (1784-1872) and William B. Bradbury (1816-1868).  It is not known who first adapted it as a hymn tune or made the arrangement. However, similar tunes had appeared in Lowell Mason’s and George Webb’s The Psaltery of 1845 (Loraine) and Hastings and Bradbury’s The New York Choralist of 1847 (Millenium Song).

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church 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 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.

The song suggests several ways in which the cross of Jesus and what it stands for affects our lives.

  1. In stanza 1 we see the cross of Jesus

I saw the cross of Jesus,

When burdened with my sin;

I sought the cross of Jesus

To give me peace within.

I brought my soul to Jesus,

He cleansed it in His blood;

And in the cross of Jesus

I found my peace with God.

  1. Of course we do not literally see the cross, but through God’s word we see what it represents, the sacrifice of Christ: Heb. 12:2
  2. When we then seek the cross, we can be cleansed by His blood: 1 Jn. 1:7
  3. The result is having the peace of God within: Phil. 4:7

II. In stanza 2 we love the cross of Jesus

I love the cross of Jesus,

It tells me what I am—

A vile and guilty creature,

Saved only through the Lamb.

No righteousness, nor merit,

No beauty I can plead;

Yet in the cross of glory,

My title there I read.

  1. Of course, the cross reminds us that we are vile and guilty sinners: Rom. 3:23
  2. But it also tells us that we are saved by the blood of the Lamb: Rev. 7:14
  3. Therefore, we love the cross in the sense that we glory in what it means: Gal. 6:14

III. In stanza 3 we trust the cross of Jesus

I trust (clasp) the cross of Jesus

In every trying hour,

My sure and certain refuge,

My never failing tower.

In every fear and conflict,

I more than conqueror am;

Living I’m safe, or dying,

Through Christ, the risen Lamb.

  1. All of God’s people face the trying hour of tribulation: Acts 14:22
  2. Those who trust the cross will find refuge: Heb. 6:18
  3. And they will be more than conquerors: Rom. 8:35-39

IV. In stanza 4 we are safe in the cross of Jesus

Safe in (Sweet is) the cross of Jesus!

There let my weary heart

Still rest in peace unshaken,

Till with Him, ne’er to part.

And then in strains of glory

I’ll sing His wondrous power,

Where sin can never enter,

And death is known no more.

  1. By staying safe in the cross, we continue to rest in peace: Col. 1:20
  2. We also have the hope of being with Him in glory: Col. 3:4
  3. There we shall find that death is known no more: Rev. 21:4

CONCL.:  The slight variations noted above in parentheses are taken from the Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988.  I do not know if the editors of the Psalter Hymnal Handbook made the changes or if the version found in the Psalter Hymnal Handbook is the original.  Again, I do not literally look on the cross as did those at Calvary.   But I can understand what God’s word teaches about what it means and appreciate the many spiritual benefits that have come into my life because “I Saw the Cross of Jesus.”

Sweet the Moments, Rich in Blessing


(picture of Walter Shirley)


“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich” (Proverbs 10:22)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us of how rich the Lord’s blessings make us is “Sweet the Moments, Rich in Blessing.”  The original text was written by James Allen, who was born on June 24, 1734, at Gayle, near Wensleydale in Yorkshire, England. The son of Oswald Allen, an ancestor of an earlier Oswald Allen, James was educated with a view to taking Holy Orders, first with two different ministers at different times, and then for one year at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Leaving Cambridge in 1752, he became a follower of Benjamin Ingham, founder of the Inghamite sect. He subsequently joined himself to the Sandemanians, and finally built a chapel on his estate at Gayle, ministering there the rest of his life. He published a small volume, Christian Songs, with 17 hymns, and was the editor and principal contributor to the 1757 Kendal Hymn Book and the Appendix to the second edition in 1761. Allen published the original version of this hymn beginning “O How Happy Are the Moments” in the Kendal Hymn Book of 1757.  He died on October 31, 1804, at Gayle.

In its present form this hymn was wrought out of a bitter experience in the life of Walter Shirley, who was born on September 23, 1725, at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, England.  Walter was the fourth son of Laurence Shirley (son of the 1st Earl Ferrers, and cousin of the Countess of Huntingdon). In 1742, he matriculated at New College, Oxford. He graduated with a B.A. in 1746, and, after preaching with great success in England, that same year became minister of Loughrea, County Galway, Ireland, where he continued to exercise his ministry for many years.  He was a friend of Whitefield and the Wesleys, often preaching in their chapels. Some time after that, his brother, the Earl of Ferrars, a man of evil habits, engaged in a quarrel with one of his servants, who had long been in his employ, and in the passion of his anger he murdered the old man. He was at once imprisoned; and Shirley, though mortified by the terrible disgrace which the revolting crime had brought upon his family, journeyed to his brother’s prison and remained near him during the distressing weeks that followed. The Earl was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. After the execution Shirley, worn out by his long vigil and humiliated in spirit, returned to his church, finding comfort only in the cross of Jesus Christ.   Discovering an imperfect expression of his emotions at that time in a hymn, “O How Happy Are the Moments,” by James Allen, he adapted and revised the hymn so completely that it became practically a new composition, truly poetic in language and form, and tenderly eloquent of his own experience, publishing it in 1770. In 1774, he helped the Countess of Huntingdon revise the collection of hymns used in her chapels.  He published one volume of sermons and two poems.  His last sickness was of a lingering character, and it is related of him that when no longer able to leave his house he used to preach, seated in his chair in his drawing room, to many who gladly assembled to hear. Shirley died on April 7, 1786, in Dublin, Ireland, of dropsy.

Several tunes have been found with the hymn. The 1945 United Brethren in Christ Church Hymnal uses one (Dorrnance or Talmar) by Isaac B. Woodbury.  The 1987 Zion’s Praises, a Mennonite hymnal, has one (Sicilian Mariners) which it attributes to Mozart.  These tunes require dividing up the material into four-line stanzas instead of having four eight-line stanzas.  The 1913 Good Old Songs and the 1983 Old School Hymnal Eleventh Edition both use one (Crumley) by William Houser.  The 2004 Primitive Baptist Hymnal has one (Greenville) by Jean Jacques Rousseau.  Other possible tunes suggested include one (Batty or Ringe recht), a Moravian melody, from the chorale “Ringe recht in Erbaulicher musikalischen Christen-schatz” first published in the Musikalischer ChristenschatzTown, Basel, Switzerland, 1745; another (Evening Prayer Stebbins) by George C. Stebbins, 1878; still another (Freiburg), a German folk song from the 16th Century; yet another (Love Divine Stainer) by John Stainer, 1889; and one more (Merton Monk) by William H. Monk, 1850.   The 1902 Church and Sunday School Hymnal with Supplement, the 1959 Christian Hymnal Mennonite, and the 1980 New Harmonia Sacra Legacy Edition all use one  (Divine Compassion), which the New Harmonia Sacra Legacy Edition attributes to W. Cowper, although William Cowper was a poet, not a musician, but which the Christian Hymnal Mennonite simply says “Source Unknown.”  So far as I know, no books published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ have ever included this hymn.

It would seem to be a suitable song for singing before the Lord’s supper.

I. Stanza 1 focuses on Christ’s cross

Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,

Which before the cross we spend,

Life and health and peace possessing

From the sinner’s dying Friend.

Here we stay, forever viewing

Mercy streaming in His blood;

Precious drops, our souls bedewing,

Plead and claim our peace with God.

  1. We do not literally stand before the cross, but we spend time with it by contemplating what it means: Gal. 6:14
  2. It reminds us that Jesus is the sinner’s dying Friend: Jn. 15:13
  3. This is because we have redemption through His blood: Eph. 1:7

II. Stanza 2 focuses on Christ’s forgiveness

Truly blessèd is the station,

Low before His cross to lie,

While we see divine compassion

Floating in His languid (or gracious) eye.

Here we find our hope of Heaven,

While upon the Lamb we gaze;

Loving much, and much forgiven,

Let our hearts o’erflow with praise.

  1. As we contemplate the cross, we see divine compassion: Matt. 9:35-38
  2. Christ is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world: Jn. 1:29
  3. We should love Him much because He has forgiven us so much: Lk. 7:47

III. Stanza 3 focuses on Christ’s love

Love and fear our hearts dividing,

With our tears His feet we bathe;

Constant still in faith abiding,

Love deriving from His death.

May we still enjoy this feeling,

In all need to Jesus go,

Prove His wounds each day more healing,

And Himself more deeply know.

  1. When we contemplate the cross, our hearts are divided between fear and love: 2 Tim. 1:7
  2. Fear brings tears for our sins, but love prompts us to act as if, like Mary, we were washing His feet with those tears: Jn. 12:1-8
  3. This is because we understand that He showed His love for us by His death: 1 Jn. 3:16

IV. Stanza  4 focuses on Christ’s salvation

Lord, in ceaseless contemplation

Fix our hearts and eyes on Thee,

Till we taste Thy full salvation,

And unveiled Thy glories see.

For Thy sorrows we adore Thee,

For the griefs that wrought our peace;

Gracious Savior, we implore Thee,

In our hearts Thy love increase.

  1. Contemplating the cross will help us set our minds on things above: Col. 3:1-2
  2. It will also help us to appreciate the full salvation that is in Christ: 2 Tim. 2:10
  3. And it will help us to increase our love for Him who brought this great salvation: Rom. 5:8-10

CONCL.: Shirley’s original adaptation was in the first person singular, whereas most hymnals today use the plural.  Many modern books update the Elizabethan pronouns, and some make other changes to avoid offending politically correct sensitivities.  We especially remember the Lord’s death when we observe the Lord’s supper each first day of the week.  However, it is good to take time at other occasions to think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.   Whenever we do, we shall find “Sweet the Moments, Rich in Blessing.”

That Stone Is Made Head Corner Stone



“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Ps. 118:22)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which discusses the results of having the stone which the builders refused become the head cornerstone is “That Stone Is Made Head Corner Stone” or “Psalm 118” (#644 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text is a metrical arrangement of Psalm 118:22-29.  It is evidently based on a version taken from the Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases‎ of 1800.

  1. That stone is made head corner-stone,

Which builders did despise:

This is the doing of the Lord,

And wondrous in our eyes.

  1. This is the day God made, in it

We’ll joy triumphantly.

Save now, I pray thee, Lord; I pray,

Send now prosperity.

  1. Blessed is He in God’s great name

That cometh us to save:

We, from the house which to the Lord

Pertains, you blessed have.

  1. God is the Lord, who unto us

Hath made light to arise:

Bind ye unto the altar’s horns

With cords the sacrifice.

  1. Thou art my God, I’ll Thee exalt;

My God, I will Thee praise.

Give thanks to God, for He is good:

His mercy lasts always.

A similar arrangement was used in The Psalter published in 1912 by the United Presbyterian Board of Publication of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The version found in HFWR came from The Book of Psalms for Singing published in 1973 by The Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America at Pittsburgh, PA.  The particular number from which it is taken actually begins with Ps. 118:17 and contains eight stanzas.  The omitted stanzas are:

  1. I shall not die, but live and tell

Jehovah’s power to save;

The Lord has sorely chastened me,

But spared me from the grave.

  1. O set ye open unto me

The gates of righteousness;

Then will I enter into them

And I the Lord will bless.

  1. This is Jehovah’s gate, by it

The just shall enter in.

I’ll praise Thee who has heard my prayer

And hast my safety been.

From The Book of Psalms for Singing, the text, with four stanzas (nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5 below), was used in Selected Psalms for Church Singing edited by Edward Fudge and originally published in 1974 by the C. E. I.  Publishing Company of Athens, AL.  From there, the same four stanzas passed into the original editions of Hymns for Worship with words only.  Hymns for Worship Revised, using only stanzas 1, 2, and 5, added music. The Book of Psalms for Worship published in 2010 by Crown and Covenant Publications for The Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America at Pittsburgh, PA, has an updated version of the same section of Ps. 118 in seven stanzas beginning with verse 19.

Selected Psalms for Church Singing set the psalm to a tune (St. Anne) attributed to William Croft which is most commonly associated with the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Watts.  The 1986 printing of Hymns for Worship suggests using the Croft tune as well.  However, the 1994 printing suggests another tune (Azmon) composed by Carl Glaser and most often identified with “I’m Not Ashamed to Own My Lord” also by Isaac Watts.   Hymns for Worship Revised then set it to the Glaser tune.  Both The Book of Psalms for Singing and The Book of Psalms for Worship have a tune (Jackson) which was composed by Thomas Jackson, who was born c. 1715. Little is known of his early career.  An organist and composer of obscure origin, he was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1739, and he had become a member of the king’s band by 1767. In April 1768 he was appointed organist and master of the song school at Newark, England, where he served from 1768 to 1781. His works include A Favorite Lesson for the Harpsichord c. 1778, and Twelve Psalm Tunes and Eighteen Chants, published around 1780, in which this tune first appeared. He died in office at Newark and was buried on Nov. 11, 1781.

The song expresses praise to God for giving us the head cornerstone.

I. Stanza 1 helps to give the identity of the head cornerstone
That stone is made head corner stone
Which builders did despise.
This is the doing of the Lord,
And wondrous in our eyes.
A. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone: 1 Pet. 2:3-8
B. He is the one whom the builders despised or rejected: Matt. 21:42
C. This is the Lord’s doing because He prophesied it: Isa. 28:16
II. Stanza 2 helps to specify the day when this one became the head cornerstone
This is the day the Lord hath made;
Let us be glad and sing.
Hosanna, Lord! O give success!
O Lord, salvation bring!
A. People often quote Ps. 118:24 as a motto for every day, but the Lord had a specific day in mind, and Peter associates it with the resurrection of Jesus: Acts 4:8-12
B. Jesus arose on the first day of the week to bring salvation: Mk. 16:9
C. Thus, the first day of the week is a special day for Christians to be glad and sing: Acts 20:7
III. Stanza 3 identifies from whence came the head cornerstone
O blessed be the one who comes,
Comes in Jehovah’s name!
The blessing of Jehovah’s house
Upon You we proclaim.
A. Jesus is the blessed one who came: Matt. 21:9
B. He came in Jehovah’s name: Matt. 23:39
C. He came from Jehovah to establish the Lord’s house or church: 1 Tim. 3:15
IV. Stanza 4 explains what happened when the head cornerstone arose
The Lord is God, and He to us
Has made the light arise;
O bind ye to the altar’s horns
With cords the sacrifice.
A. The resurrection declares Jesus to be the Son of God: Rom. 1:3-4
B. As such He made light to arise: 2 Pet. 1:16-19
C. This is because He is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins: Heb. 9:11-15
V. Stanza 5 offers God thanks for the head cornerstone
Thou art my God; I’ll give Thee thanks.
My God, I’ll worship Thee.
O thank the Lord for He is good;
His grace will endless be.
A. We should be thankful for what God has done for in Christ: 2 Cor. 9:15
B. This should motivate us to worship Him in spirit and truth: Jn. 4:24
C. All of this is possible because of His endless grace: Tit. 2:11

CONCL.:  Here is the “updated” version from The Book of Psalms for Worship.

  1. That stone is now the cornerstone

That builders once despised.

This is the doing of the LORD,

And wondrous in our eyes.

  1. This is the day the LORD has made;

Let us be glad and sing.

Hosanna, LORD! O give success!

O LORD, salvation bring!

  1. O blessed is the one who comes,

Comes in the LORD’s great name.

A blessing from the LORD’s own house

Upon you we proclaim.

  1. The LORD is God and He to us

Has made the light arise.

With cords bind to the altar’s horns

The festal sacrifice.

  1. You are my God, I’ll give You thanks;

My God, I’ll give you praise.

O thank the LORD, for He is good;

His love lasts endless days.

Surely we ought to extend our gratitude to God for all the benefits that come to us because “That Stone Is Made Head Corner Stone.”