An Empty Mansion

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“AN EMPTY MANSION”

“In my Father’s house are many mansions….I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2)

INTRO.: A gospel song which centers upon the many mansions that Jesus is preparing in the Father’s house is “An Empty Mansion” (#198 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #392 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Beuna Ora Bryant (Mrs. J. B.) Karnes, who was born on Feb. 8, 1889, in Comanche County, TX, and in 1911, at the age of 22, met and married Jess O’Brian Karnes, who had also been born in 1889. A series of events led up to the production of this song. In 1928, Jess, who was a successful builder in Abilene, TX, lost his lumber yard to a disastrous fire and had no insurance to cover the loss. A few months afterwards, the Great Depression began and their life’s savings were wiped out. By this time, the Bryants had a large family of twelve children, three of which had been born with a genetic disease known as Frederick’s Ataxia, a form of muscular dystrophy, and one of these sons caught pneumonia and died later that year.

The next few years the Karneses struggled to survive. Jess moved the family back to the farm, and they worked at share cropping, picking cotton, or just about anything which would provide food and shelter. Then, in 1937, as the Depression was beginning to end and it appeared that the worst was over, Buena’s father was hit and killed by a drunk driver as he walked along the sidewalk in Mansfield, TX. Three months later, filled with grief, her mother passed away. With all the events of the past few years fresh in her mind, Buena penned a poem beginning, “Here I labor and toil as I look for a home,” which was first published by Stamps-Baxter in their 1939 book Joyful Songs, with a tune (Empty Mansion) composed by Clarence A. Luttrell (1896-1986). Buena remained a housewife until her death in Ft. Worth, TX, on Oct. 7, 1974. After the song’s renewal in 1966 by Luttrell, it was assigned to National Music Co., and then in 1984 to M. Lynwood Smith Pub., but Stamps-Baxter still claims copyright ownership.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it has appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; 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 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. 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.; 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.

The song focuses our attention on things above rather than on things of this earth.

I. The  first stanza explains what we are looking for

Here I labor and toil as I look for a home,

Just an humble abode among men,

While in heaven a mansion is waiting for me

And a gentle voice pleading, “Come in.”

  1. Whatever time we have here upon this earth is filled with labor and toil: Ps. 90:10
  2. However, God has prepared a place for His people in heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
  3. And His gentle voice is pleading with us so that we can finally hear Him say, “Enter in”: Matt, 25:21

II. The second stanza explains why we can look for it

Ever thankful am I that my Savior and Lord

Promised unto the weary sweet rest;

Nothing more could I ask than a mansion above,

There to live with saved and the blessed.

  1. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord: Lk. 2:11
  2. He has promised to the weary sweet rest: Matt. 11:28-30
  3. Also, He has promised that we can have the hope of living forever with the saved and the blessed if we set our affections on things above: Col. 3:1-2

III. The third stanza explains when we can look for it

When my labor and toiling have ended below

And my hands shall lie folded in rest,

I’ll exchange this old home for a mansion up there

And invite the archangel as guest.

  1. Our labor and toiling below will end at death: Heb. 9:27
  2. Those who die in the Lord shall have rest from their labors: Rev. 14:13
  3. Their final hope is to receive a mansion and live with the angels who surround the throne of God: Rev. 5:11

CONCL.: The chorus points us forward to that mansion which is now empty, just waiting for each of God’s people in the after a while.

There’s a mansion now empty, just waiting for me,

At the end of life’s trouble some way;

Many friends and dear loved ones will welcome me there

Near the door of that mansion someday.

As is usually the case, Ellis Crum of Sacred Selections decided that we won’t have any “friends and dear loved ones” in heaven, so he changed the third line of the chorus to read, “And I know that the Savior will welcome me there,” and Hymns for Worship has followed that alteration. Not many Stamps-Baxter songs found their way into the hymnbooks which L. O. Sanderson edited for the Gospel Advocate Co., but this was one of them, and I can remember singing it quite frequently when growing up in a congregation which used Christian Hymns No. 2. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that while here on earth, we have no continuing city, so we need to remember that what we seek to come is “An Empty Mansion.”

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Ere the Sun Goes Down

“ERE THE SUN GOES DOWN”

“…The sun knoweth his going down” (Ps. 104:19)

    INTRO.:  A hymn which likens the going down of the sun to the end of life is “Ere the Sun Goes Down.”  The text was written by Josephine Pollard (1834-1892).  Born in New York City, NY, she was a poet, author, and hymn-writer.  She produced several one-syllable history books for children in the 1880’s, as well as numerous juvenile Biblical stories.  Among her one-syllable history books are The Life of George Washington, The History of the United States, and Our Naval Heroes.  Her titles are very popular with homeschoolers and parents as a way to promote reading.  Also, she provided texts for several hymns, such as “Beyond the Sunset’s Radiant Glow,” “I stood outside the gate,” and “Joy-bells ringing, Children singing” which appeared in Ira D. Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos of 1878.  I do not have a date or source of publication for “Ere the Sun Goes Down.”   The tune was composed by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921).  The only hymnbook in which I have seen the song is in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 published by The Gospel Advocate Co., where arrangements of both the text, titled “Till the Sun Goes Down” and beginning “There is work enough to do,” under the pseudonym of Vana R. Raye, and of the tune were made by editor Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992).

The song suggests several things that we need to do before the sun of our lives goes down.

I.  Stanza 1 mentions work

I have work enough to do,

Ere the sun goes down,

For myself and kindred too,

Ere the sun goes down:

Every idle whisper stilling

With a purpose firm and willing,

All my daily tasks fulfilling,

Ere the sun goes down.

  1. We must do God’s works while it is day before the night comes: Jn. 9:4
  2. One such work is learning to still every idle word: Matt. 12:36
  3. Like all servants, our daily tasks should be fulfilled heartily, as unto the Lord: Col. 3:22-23

II. Stanza 2 mentions learning to control our anger

I must overcome my wrath

Ere the sun goes down;

I must walk the heavenly path

Ere the sun goes down.

For it may be death is wending

Hither, with the night descending,

And my life will have an ending,

Ere the sun goes down.

  1. We need to control our anger because the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God: Jas. 1:19-20
  2. Also, walking the heavenly way means putting away anger and wrath: Col. 3:8-10
  3. And we need to work on this now because death is wending: Heb. 9:27

III. Stanza 3 mentions helping others

I must speak the loving word,

Ere the sun goes down.

I must let my voice be heard,

Ere the sun goes down:

Every cry of pity heeding,

For the injured interceding,

To the light the lost ones leading,

Ere the sun goes down.

  1. We should speak a loving word to comfort others: 2 Cor. 1:3-4
  2. We should also heed each cry of pity even to giving a cup of cold water: Matt. 10:42
  3. One purpose of helping others in these ways is to lead lost ones by letting our lights shine: Matt. 5:14-16

IV.  Stanza 4 mentions obedience

As I journey on my way,

Ere the sun goes down,

God’s commands I must obey,

Ere the sun goes down.

There are sins that need confessing;

There are wrongs that need redressing

If I would obtain the blessing,

Ere the sun goes down.

  1. Loving God means obeying His commands: Jn. 14:15
  2. One command is to confess our sins: 1 Jn. 1:9
  3. Another is to redress wrongs and be reconciled: Matt. 5:23-24

CONCL.: Here is Sanderson’s version:

  1. There is work enough to do

Ere the sun goes down;

Time is swiftly passing too—

Soon the sun goes down.

Every idle whisper stilling,

Every purpose firm and willing,

Every Christian task fulfilling,

Till  the sun goes down.

  1. We must love in word and deed

Till the sun goes down;

Erring ones must hear and heed

Ere the sun goes down.

With the message swiftly speeding,

For the injured interceding,

To the light the lost ones leading,

Ere the sun goes down.

  1. We must go the narrow way

Till the sun goes down;

God’s commands we must obey

Till the sun goes down.

Every day the Lord confessing,

With true hearts our wrongs redressing,

If we would obtain the blessing

When the sun goes down.

Just as surely as the sun sinks into the west each day, so each one’s life will inevitably come to its end.  Preparing for death and eternity means doing our very best to accomplish what the Lord wants from us “Ere the Sun Goes Down.”

God’s Tomorrow

GOD’S TOMORROW

“…And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which reminds us that in heaven God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes is “God’s Tomorrow” (#426 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960).  Born on January 21, 1887, in Spring Hill, PA, he was the youngest son of Stanley Frank Ackley and the younger brother of hymn writer Bentley DeForest Ackley.  Alfred’s father taught him music, and he also studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Graduating from Westminster Theological Seminary in Maryland, he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1914 and served churches in Pennsylvania and California. Also, he worked with the Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver evangelist team and for Homer Rodeheaver’s publishing company, producing around 1,500 hymns.  “God’s Tomorrow” was copyrighted in 1928 by Homer A. Rodeheaver. The copyright was renewed in 1956 by The Rodeheaver Co.  Another of Ackley’s hymns appearing in some of our books is “I Shall Not Be Moved” beginning, “As a tree beside the waters,” but his most famous work is likely “He Lives.”  Ackley died on July 3, 1960, in Los Angeles, CA.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song has appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; in addition to Sacred Selections.

The song points out some of the blessings of heaven to be received on the day of the Lord.

I.  Stanza 1 calls it a day of gladness

God’s tomorrow is a day of gladness,

And its joys shall never fade;

No more weeping, no more sense of sadness,

No more foes to make afraid.

  1. This gladness or joy will never fade because we shall have eternal life: Mk. 10:29-30
  2. Such joy involves no more weeping or sadness: Rev. 21:1-4
  3. The reason is that there will be no foes there to make afraid: Rev. 22:15

II. Stanza 2 calls it a day of greeting

God’s tomorrow is a day of greeting;

We shall see the Savior’s face,

And our longing hearts await the meeting

In that holy, happy place.

  1. First and foremost, we shall see the Savior’s face: 1 Jn. 3:1-3
  2. There will also be the meeting with the dead in Christ who will be raised: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
  3. And we shall all be together in that happy, holy place: Rev. 22:1-5

III. Stanza 3 calls it a day of glory

God’s tomorrow is a day of glory;

We shall wear the crown of life,

Sing through countless years love’s old, old story,

Free forever from all strife.

  1. This glory involves wearing the crown of life: Rev. 2:10
  2. Those who wear the crown will sing love’s old, old story in the song of Moses and the Lamb: Rev. 15:2-4
  3. And they will be forever free from all strife because they will be at rest: Rev. 14:13

CONCL.:  The chorus expresses the desire for the dawning of that day

God’s tomorrow, God’s tomorrow,

Every cloud will pass away At the dawning of that day;

God’s tomorrow, no more sorrow,

For I know that God’s tomorrow Will be better (some books have brighter) than today!

Years ago in a congregation with which I labored, a group of members got together once a month in one another’s houses and sang hymns.  One evening when I led this song, evidently unfamiliar to them, a lady responded that it had “weird chords.”  I guess that various people will have different ideas as to what is “weird” in musical harmony.  In my experience, this hymn has not been much used among us, and it is not in most currently available hymnbooks.  But as Christians, we certainly look forward to “God’s Tomorrow.”

As the Life of a Flower

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(portrait of Laura E. Newell)

AS THE LIFE OF A FLOWER

“…All the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth and the flower thereof fadeth away” (1 Pet. 1:24)

     INTRO.:  A gospel song which reminds us that all the glory of man is as the flower of the grass is “As the Life of a Flower” (#570 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #556 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Laura Emeline Pixley Newell, who was born on Feb. 5, 1854, at New Marlborough, MA.  The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Pixley, but orphaned as an infant, Laura was adopted by her aunt, Mrs. Hiram Mabie, who at the time lived in New York. In 1858, the Mabie family moved to a farm south of Wamego, KS, with an abolitionist colony. Two years after the move, Mr. Mabie died, and his wife resumed teaching.  In 1860, Mrs. Mabie accepted positions in Topeka and then Wabaunsee KS, before starting a school in her home near Zeandale where she taught for many years.

Under her adopted mother’s tutelage, Laura received her education. As early as age twelve, Laura was writing rhymes, and two years later her poems began to appear in local newspapers. She had no thought of a literary career but simply wrote to give vent to her poetical mind. In 1871, Laura married Lauren Newell, a carpenter from Manhattan, KS. They lived in Tabor Valley, KS, had at least six children, one of whom died accidentally from a fall, and belonged to the Congregational Church at Wabaunsee, commonly known as “Beecher’s Bible and Rifle Church.”  In 1873, Laura was listening to an address by a speaker who lamented the death of genuine hymns, and she resolved to try her hand in that line of work.

That began a long period of writing songs both sacred and secular, services for all anniversary occasions, cantatas, and adapting words to music and music to words.  Laura’s best known hymn, “As the Life of a Flower,” was produced in 1904, shortly after her adoptive mother passed away, and first appeared in Sonnets of Praise, edited by Emmett S. Dean at Waco, TX, for the Trio Music Company in 1907.  The tune was composed by George Henry Ramsey (1858-1915).  Born in Erath County, TX, the son of William and Bristiana Lemley Ramsey, he married Clara Jane Whitacre and died at Lingleville, TX.  Mrs. Newell, a very modest and unpretentious lady, was indeed a prolific writer, penning several hundred poems annually. She had over eight hundred poems published in a single year, a most remarkable record.  Her verses numbered in the thousands prior to her death on Oct. 13, 1916, at Manhattan, KS.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “As the Life of a Flower” has appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 both edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; 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 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 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; 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.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song encourages us to remember that life is short and to use our opportunities here wisely in preparation for eternity.

I. Stanza 1 says that our lives are like a flower in terms of their brevity

As the life of a flower,

As a breath or a sigh,

So the years that we live

As a dream hasten by;

True, today we are here,

But tomorrow may see

Just a grave in the vale,

And a memory of me.

  1. Many figures of speech are used in Scripture to describe the brevity of life: Job 7:16, Ps. 90:9-10
  2. Today we are here, and it is the only time we have promise of: Heb. 3:13
  3. Tomorrow may and some day surely will see us in the grave: Heb. 9:27

II. Stanza  2 says that our lives should be like a flower in terms of their sweetness

As the life of a flower,

Be our lives pure and sweet;

May we brighten the way

For the friends that we greet;

And sweet incense arise,

From our hearts as we live

Close to Him who doth teach

Us to love and forgive.

  1. Flowers are pretty to look at, and our lives can brighten the way for others as we strive to be the light of the world: Matt. 5:14-16
  2. Also, most flowers smell good, and our actions can be a sweet smelling aroma to others: Phil. 4:18
  3. But we can accomplish these aims only as we live close to the Lord: Jas. 4:8

III. Stanza 3 says that our lives can be like a flower prepared for God’s garden above

While we tarry below

Let us trust and adore

Him who leads us each day

Toward the radiant shore

Where the sun never sets,

And the flowers never fade,

Where no sorrow or death

May its borders invade.

  1. This eternal garden is described as “the radiant shore where the sun never sets”: Rev. 21:23, 25
  2. It is also pictured as a place where “the flowers never fade”: Rev. 22:1-2
  3. And it is a place “where no sorrow or death may its borders invade”: Rev. 21:1-4

CONCL.:  The chorus again emphasizes the brevity of our lives on earth.

As the life of a flower,

As a breath, or a sigh,

So the years glide away,

And alas, we must die.

Our time here is given to us by God as preparation for eternity.  Since we simply do not know when the Lord will return or even when we must die, we always need to be ready and remember that our earthly existence is “As the Life of a Flower.”

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus

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“NO ONE EVER CARED FOR ME LIKE JESUS”

“I will mention the lovingkindness of the Lord…according to all that the Lord hath bestowed…” (Isa. 63:7)

     INTRO.:  A song which focuses our attention on the lovingkindness of our Lord and all that He has bestowed on us is “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” (#562 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #141 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune (Weigle) was composed both by Charles Frederick Weigle, who was born on November 20, 1871, at Lafayette, IN, the son of a God-fearing immigrant German baker and his wife.  There was a total of twelve children, five boys and seven girls.  Young Charles was sent to a Lutheran parochial school.  The Weigles attended church, but Charles became rebellious as a young boy and after getting into trouble with the law was converted when age twelve at the Methodist Church where his parents attended.   When he was still a lad in high school, the family moved to Florence, KY, where at age seventeen he went to work at the Dueber Watchcase Factory.  His keen interest in music led him to attend the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he received training that later helped him in his ministry.  Then he went on to a career as an itinerant crusade evangelist in the Methodist Church.

Not only was Weigle an inspiring preacher, but also he was a gifted songwriter.  This particular song was the product of one of the darkest periods of his life.  Quite frequently believers find new joys in their times of sorrow and despair because they discover a greater closeness with the Lord during those experiences. For example, such was the case with the blind songwriter Fanny J. Crosby.  She once said, “If I had not lost my sight, I could never have written all the hymns God gave me.”  One day Weigle returned home from an evangelistic crusade to find a note left by his wife of many years.  It said that she was leaving him and taking their only son with her because she had had enough of being an evangelist’s wife.  She wrote, “I’m leaving Charlie.  I want to go the other way—to the bright lights.”  Over the next several years, he became so despondent that there were even times when he contemplated suicide because of the terrible feeling that no one really cared for him any longer.  However, his spiritual faith was gradually restored, and he soon became active again in his preaching work.

Having authored several hymns before this time, Weigle felt compelled in 1932 to create a gospel song that would contain a summary of his past tragic experience.  It was originally copyrighted by the Hall-Mack Co. of Philadelphia, PA, which merged with the Rodeheaver Co.  It was later owned by Singspiration and now belongs to Brentwood-Benson Music.  Having renewed his commitment to the Lord, Weigle went to produce some 400 more songs, nearly 1,000 in all, and during his life edited several hymnbooks, including Songs of Peace, Purity and Power No. 2 (1903), Great Tabernacle Hymns (circa 1916), Songs of the True Life (circa 1935), and Songs About Jesus (1940).  However, the choice words of “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus,” which came from a heart that had been broken, are probably his best known and have been a comfort to many.  In 1963, at the age of 92, Weigle told his story to an Atlanta, GA, radio station, which was also published in a book to raise funds for the Tennessee Temple Schools in Chattanooga, TN.  Spending the last fifteen years of his life on the campus of the Tennessee Temple Schools, he continued his work of preaching and songwriting until his death at Chattanooga, on December 3, 1966.

Among hymn books published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The song points out that we can always look to Jesus as our Friend and Guide.

I.  In stanza 1 we are told that Jesus can change our lives completely

I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,

Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true.

I would tell you how He changed my life completely;

He did something no other friend could do.

  1. All Christians should tell others about Jesus: Mk. 5:19
  2. The reason is that we have found Him to be a friend: Jn. 15:15
  3. He can change our lives because He is able to do something that no other friend can do, and that is never to forsake us: Ps. 37:25

II. In stanza 2 we are told that Jesus can lead us in the way that we ought to go

All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me;

All my heart was full of misery and woe.

Jesus placed His strong arms about me,

And He led me in the way I ought to go.

  1. The reason why we need a leader is that our lives are full of sin: Rom. 3:23
  2. As a result of sin, our hearts are often full of misery and woe: Job 14:1
  3. The leadership of Jesus to help us with these things is pictured as placing His strong arms about us: Deut. 33:27
    III. In stanza 3 we are told that Jesus can save us eternally

Every day He comes to me with new assurance;

More and more I understand His word of love.

But I’ll never know just why He came to save me,

Till someday I see His blessed face above.

  1. To those who truly believe in Him, Jesus offers assurance of eternal life: 1 Jn. 5:11-13
  2. We understand that His reason for doing this is His great love: Eph. 3:16-19
  3. The result is that someday we shall see His blessed face: 1 Jn. 3:1-2

CONCL.:  The chorus emphasizes the fact that Jesus does all this for us because He cares for us

No one ever cared for me like Jesus;

There’s no other friend so kind as He.

No one else could take the sin and darkness from me;

O how much He cared for me.

When I was a teenager and the congregation where we attended changed from Christian Hymns No. 2 to Sacred Selections, a dear, elderly sister asked me to lead this song.  I asked her how she knew it, and she replied that she had never even heard it before but saw it in the new hymnbooks, read over the words, and thought that they had a comforting message.  Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to catch on, and my experience through the years is that it has been seldom used.  Yet, it reminds me that with God’s help, I can rise above the problems and hurts that I may experience in life, knowing that “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”

Since I Have Been Redeemed

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(photo of Edwin O. Excell)

“SINCE I HAVE BEEN REDEEMED”

“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: For His mercy endureth for-ever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so….” (Ps. 107:1-2)

INTRO.:  A song which speaks of the many wonderful blessings for which those who are the redeemed of the Lord can give thanks to Him is “Since I Have Been Redeemed” (#548 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written and the tune (Othello) was composed both by Edwin Othello Excell, who was born at Uniontown in Stark County, OH, near Canton, on Dec. 13, 1851, the son of a German Reformed Church minister named J. J. Excell.  After his early education in the public schools of Ohio, he married in 1871 near Brady’s Bend, PA, relocated to that state, and supported his family by working for twelve years as a plasterer and bricklayer, during which time starting at the age of twenty he began to conduct country singing schools and became a popular teacher.  From 1877 to 1883, he attended normal music schools conducted by Frederick W. Root and his father, hymn writer George F. Root.

Following his move to Chicago, IL, in 1883, the “E. O. Excell Co.” music publishing business was started with Sing the Gospel, and Excell began the publication of gospel songbooks which were widely used.  Also he was active in Sunday school work, leading the singing at Sunday school conventions and, with Methodist bishop John H. Vincent, helping to found the International Sunday School Lessons.  His powerful voice and talent as a congregational song leader were quite famous, and for twenty years he assisted Southern evangelist Sam P. Jones in his revival campaigns.  In all, Excell produced more than 3,000 gospel songs and edited about fifty songbooks.  Probably his best known melody is found with Johnson Oatman’s “Count Your Blessings,” but he also provided the tunes for Jonathan B. Atchinson’s “Let Him In” and the well-known children’s song “I’ll Be a Sunbeam,” and was responsible for the modern arrangement and harmonization of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”

“Since I Have Been Redeemed” first appeared in Excell’s 1884 book Echoes of Eden for the Sunday School, which he compiled in Chicago.  In addition, Excell published some 38 compilations for other individuals.  He provided the plates and did printing and binding in the early songbook ventures of Robert Coleman, a prominent Baptist musician, and was the original printer of Great Songs of the Church in 1921 for Elmer L. Jorgenson who was associated with churches of Christ.  Later in 1921, Excell fell ill while assisting Gipsy Smith with a city-wide revival crusade in Louisville, KY, and returned to Chicago to be hospitalized. He died on June 10, 1921, after more than thirty weeks in Wesley Memorial Hospital.  At the time of his death, the firm which bore his name was the highest volume producer of hymnbooks in America. His heirs sold the large E. O. Excell Co. copyright portfolio to the Hope Publishing Company in 1931.

Among hymn books published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Since I Have Been Redeemed” has appeared in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 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.

The song specifies a number of spiritual blessings that being redeemed in Christ brings to us.

I. According to stanza 1, the redeemed have a song to sing

I have a song I love to sing,

Since I have been redeemed,

Of my Redeemer, Savior, King,

Since I have been redeemed.

  1. When a person is redeemed, God puts a new song in his mouth: Ps. 40:1-3
  2. This song is about our Savior: Lk. 2:11
  3. Its purpose is to give praise to Him who is our King: Rev. 19:16

II. According to stanza 2, the redeemed have a Christ who satisfies

I have a Christ who satisfies

Since I have been redeemed,

To do His will my highest prize,

Since I have been redeemed.

  1. Those who are redeemed accept Christ as their Savior by obeying Him: Acts 2:36-38
  2. But even after making Him our Savior, we must continue to do His will: Matt. 7:21
  3. By making this our highest prize here, we can gain the eternal prize: Phil. 2:13-14

III. According to stanza 3 (not in HFWR), the redeemed have a witness bright and clear

I have a witness bright and clear,

Since I have been redeemed,

Dispelling every doubt and fear,

Since I have been redeemed.

  1. This is not the idea of our “witnessing for Jesus,” as only the apostles could truly be witnesses of Him: Acts 1:8 (cf. v. 2), 21-22
  2. Nor is it referring to some kind of direct witness of God to us, since He has already born witness to His inspired messengers: Heb. 2:3-4
  3. Rather, it is the witness that God gives to us in the Scriptures to dispel doubt and fear: 1 Jn. 5:9-10

IV. According to stanza 4 (also not in HFWR), the redeemed have a joy that is inexpressible

I have a joy I can’t express,

Since I have been redeemed,

All through His blood and righteousness,

Since I have been redeemed.

  1. Christians can rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
  2. Peter says that in a sense this joy is “unspeakable” (KJV): 1 Pet. 1:9
  3. This joy is the result of the redemption that is available by His blood: Eph. 1:7

V. According to stanza 5 (#3 in HFWR), the redeemed have a home prepared in heaven

I have a home prepared for me,

Since I have been redeemed,

Where I shall dwell eternally,

Since I have been redeemed.

  1. From the foundation of the world, God has prepared a kingdom for those who come to Him for redemption: Matt. 25:34
  2. As a result, Jesus is now in heaven preparing a home for His people: Jn. 14:1-3
  3. The redeemed will dwell there eternally because it is a place of eternal life: Mk. 10:29-30

CONCL.:  The chorus then captures the feeling of happiness on the part of one who is redeemed

Since I have been redeemed,

Since I have been redeemed,

I will glory in His Name,

Since I have been redeemed,

I will glory in my Savior’s Name.

What a wonderful life of peace and joy I can have “Since I Have Been Redeemed”!

Rise Up, O Men (Child) of God

merrill_wp

(picture of William P. Merrill)

“RISE UP, O MEN (CHILD) OF GOD”

“Yet a little while, and…He will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to labor for the Lord while we wait for Him to come is “Rise Up, O Men (Child) of God” (#545 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by William Pierson Merrill, who was born at Orange, NJ, on Jan. 10, 1867.  The Merrills must have moved to Massachusetts, because at the age of eleven, he became a member of the Belleville Congregational Church at Newburyport, MA.  Two years later, after his family returned to New Jersey, he became a member of the Second Dutch Reformed Church at New Brunswick, NJ.  His first book, Faith Building, was published in 1885, when he was just eighteen.  Educated at Rutgers, from which he received the A. B. degree in 1887 and the M. A. degree in 1890, and at Union Theological Seminary, from which he received the B. D. degree also in 1890, he became a minister that year with the     Presbyterian Church.  He served churches, first in Philadelphia, PA, for five years, and then in Chicago, IL, for sixteen years.  In 1896 he married Clara Dwymour Helmer, and in 1900 authored his second book, Faith and Sight.

In 1911, while Merrill was living in Chicago and active with the “Brotherhood Movement” of the Presbyterian Church, Nolan R. Best, then editor of The Continent, a Presbyterian newspaper published at Chicago, suggested to Merrill that there was an urgent need of a “brotherhood hymn.”   About that same time, Merrill read an article by Gerald Stanley Lee entitled “The Church of the Strong Men.”  With these two ideas incubating in his mind, the hymn suddenly came to Merrill, almost without conscious thought or effort, one day as he was returning to Chicago on one of the Lake Michigan steamers.   As a poem entitled “To the Brotherhood,” it first appeared with the first line “Rise up, O men of God” in the Feb. 16, 1911, issue of The Continent.  Its first publication as a hymn was in The Pilgrim Hymnal published in 1912 at Boston, MA, with a tune (Festal Song), which had been composed, probably around 1872, by William Henry Walter (1825-1893).  It had first appeared in the 1894 Hymnal Revised and Enlarged, edited by J. Ireland Tucker and W. W. Rosseau, where it was used with  “Awake, and Sing the Song” by William Hammond.

Other tunes have been used with Merrill’s hymn, but the one by Walter is probably the best known.  Later in 1911, Merrill moved to become minister with the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, NY, where he remained until his retirement in 1938.  An active leader in movements for civic betterment, he became president of the Trustees of the Church Peace Union in 1915.  In addition to preaching and producing hymns, he was the author of several more books, including Footings for Faith in 1915, Christian Internationalism in 1919, The Common Creed of Christians in 1920, The Freedom of the Preacher in 1922, Liberal Christianity in 1925, Prophets of the Dawn in 1927, The Way in 1933, and We See Jesus in 1934.  Declining an invitation to become President of Union Theological Seminary in 1917, he did receive honorary degrees from New York University, Columbia, and Rollins College of Deland, FL, prior to his death in New York City on June 19, 1954.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Rise Up, O Men of God” has appeared with the Walter tune in the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; 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 Revised (not in the original edition).  It is found with another tune (St. Thomas) attributed to Aaron Williams in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J.  Crum; the 1978 edition of 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; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.  Both tunes are used in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, and the 2009 Songs for Worship and Praise also edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

The hymn exhorts each child of God to rise up and serve Lord.

I. In stanza 1 we are told to have done with lesser things and give our all to the Lord

Rise up, O men of God!

Have done with lesser things.

Give heart and mind and soul and strength

To serve the King of kings.

  1. Someone has suggested that “lesser things” may refer to church suppers, entertainment, bowling teams, and other worldly activities that do not relate to the work of the church: 2 Tim. 2:3-4
  2. Rather, we should give all our heart, soul, mind, and strength to God: Mk. 12:30
  3. This is how the King of kings wants us to serve Him: Deut. 11:13

II. In stanza 2 we are told to wait for His eternal kingdom by pursuing brotherhood and working to end wrong

Rise up, O men of God!

His kingdom tarries long.

Bring in the day of brotherhood

And end the night of wrong.

  1. “His kingdom tarries long” may sound premillennial to some (though if the author was a millennialist, he would more likely have been postmillennial), but we can understand it as a reference to the eternal kingdom of heaven into which Christ will usher His people at His second coming: 2 Pet. 1:10-11
  2. To prepare for it, we should strive to bring in the day of brotherhood: 1 Pet. 2:17
  3. We should also labor to end the night of wrong by shining the light of truth on it: Eph. 5:8-14

III. In stanza 3 we are told to come to the aid of the church and make her great

Rise up, O men of God!

The church for you doth wait,

Her strength unequal to her task;

Rise up and make her great!

  1. The church is the spiritual body of Christ: Eph. 1:22-23
  2. On the surface “Her strength unequal to her task” sounds as if the church is not sufficient to do its work, but if we understand that the church is made up of members, it is equal to its task only as the members do their part: Eph. 4:16
  3. Therefore, we need to be as the people of Nehemiah’s day: Neh. 2:18

IV. In stanza 4 we are told to lift up the cross of Christ to a lost and dying world

Lift high the cross of Christ!

Tread where His feet have trod.

As brothers of the Son of Man,

Rise up, O men of God!

  1. We lift high the cross of Christ by preaching the message of the cross to sinful mankind: 1 Cor. 1:18-24
  2. Then we illustrate the message of the cross by treading in the footsteps of our Savior who left us a perfect example: 1 Pet. 2:21-22
  3. In this way we truly show that we are “brothers of the Son of Man”: Heb. 2:11-12, 17

CONCL.:  The editors of Hymns for Worship Revised changed the title/first line to ‘Rise Up, O Child of God’ and the last stanza to “As children of the Son of Man.”  I assume that they copied these alterations from some other source.  I do not know when or where these changes were first made, but the probable reason given for them was to have the hymn sound more “inclusive.”  However, I believe this kind of altering is a cave-in to appease feminists who disdain the usage of words like “men” and “brothers” as being too “patriarchal.”  The fact is that in every language such terms are often used in an inclusive sense to identify all people, both male and female.  Trying to “correct” hymns sometimes results in inconsistencies.  The original last stanza is in agreement, “As brothers (plural)…O men (plural) of God.”  But the “revised” version reads “As children (plural)…O child (singular) of God.”  Even the United Methodist Hymnal of 1989, no friend to “non-inclusive” language, retains the reading, “Rise up, O men of God” with a note “’Ye saints’ may be substituted for ‘O men.’”  This would be preferable to “O child,” but I guess the less I give my opinion about it, the less problem I’ll have with high blood pressure.  Regardless of that, God wants His people to labor for Him and says to all of us, “Rise Up, O Men (Child) of God.”