Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus



“My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song I will praise Him” (Ps. 28:7)

     INTRO.: A song which gives praise to the Lord in whom we can trust for help is “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus” (#526 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Anna Belle Russell, who was born at Pine Valley in Chemung County, NY, on Apr. 21, 1862.  The daughter of Chancey and Jane Denson Russell, she spent most of her life in Corning, NY, where she was an active member of the Free Methodist Church.  She and her sister, Cora C. Russell, made their home together, and both of them authored a number of hymns.  This one was penned around 1921.  When later asked if there was any story about the origin of the song, she replied that there was none.  The tune (New Orleans) was composed, also in 1921, by Ernest Orlando Sellers (1869-1952).

Sellers was a native of Hastings, MI, who completed high school at Lansing, MI.  Afterwards, he was an apprentice to a surveyor and civil engineer and was eventually appointed city engineer and superintendent of public works in Lansing.  Later, he resigned to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, and then served as a YMCA secretary in Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Delaware.  Following this, he worked as an assistant minister with the Euclid Ave. Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, for two years and then returned to Moody Bible Institute as assistant director of the music department.  During this time he was active as a song leader for the crusades of evangelists Reuben A. Torrey, Gipsy Smith, A. C. Dixon, and J. Wilbur Chapman.

Leaving Moody, Sellers became director of the music department of the Bible Baptist Institute, later the Baptist Theological Seminary, in New Orleans, LA.  Throughout his years there, he produced a number of hymn tunes,   This one, originally entitled “A Song in the Heart,” first appeared in the 1921 Hosanna in the Highest compiled by Gipsy Smith and William McEwan for the Hosanna Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, NY.  A favorite of Smith’s, it was widely used as the campaign song for his evangelistic meetings.  When the copyright was renewed in 1949, it was owned by Broadman Press.  After Sellers retired, he made his home in Eola, LA, where he died.  Two years later, Miss Russell died at Corning, NY, on Oct. 29, 1954.

I first became acquainted with “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus” as a result of seeing it in several denominational hymnbooks, such as the 1940 Broadman Hymnal, edited by Benjamin B. McKinney for the Broadman Press; the 1948 Christian Service Hymns edited by Homer A. Rodeheaver for the Rodeheaver Co.; the 1957 All American Church Hymnal, edited by Earl Smith for the John T. Benson Publishing Co.; the 1964 Christian Praise also published by Broadman; and the 1968 Great Hymns of the Faith, edited by John W. Peterson for Singspiration.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the only one, so far as I know, to include it is Hymns for Worship.

The song mentions a number of circumstances when we can trust in Jesus for help.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that Jesus will give us a song when days are dreary and nights are long

There is never a day so dreary,

There is never a night so long,

But the soul that is trusting in Jesus

Will somewhere find a song.

  1. Sometimes our days seem dreary: Job 14:1-2
  2. And sometimes the nights are long: Ps. 6:6-7
  3. However, no matter how dim or dark things may look, the Lord will enable us to have a song in our mouths: Ps. 40:1-3

II. Stanza 2 (not in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will help us to bear our cross

There is never a cross so heavy,

There is never a weight of woe,

But that Jesus will help to carry

Because He loveth so.

  1. Following Jesus means bearing our cross: Matt. 16:24
  2. Because it often presses us down, it is sometimes referred to as a burden: Ps. 55:22
  3. But since He bore His cross for us, Jesus will help us bear ours too by making it light: Matt. 11:28-30

III. Stanza 3 (#2 in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will lighten the cares that we have

There is never a care or burden,

There is never a grief or loss,

But that Jesus in love will lighten

When carried to the cross.

  1. There will always be cares of this world which Satan will use to choke the word: Mk. 4:18-19
  2. Many times such cares are the result of losses that we experience in life: Phil. 3:7-8
  3. However, those who truly trust in the Lord can cast their cares upon Him: 1 Pet. 5:7

IV. Stanza 4 (#3 in HFWR) tells us that Jesus will pardon the guilty sinner who comes to Him

There is never a guilty sinner,

There is never a wandering one,

But that God can in mercy pardon

Through Jesus Christ, His Son.

  1. All of us were guilty sinners at one time or another: Rom. 3:23
  2. However, God offers us mercy to make pardon available: Tit. 3:3-5
  3. This mercy is made possible through Jesus Christ who came to save the lost: Lk. 19:10

CONCL.:  The chorus offers praise to Jesus for all these wonderful blessings

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,

In the heart He implanteth a song:

A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength,

In the heart He implanteth a song.

As we think of all the good things that Jesus has done and is doing for us, the most important of which is providing a way by which we can be saved from sin, we should certainly want to sing a song of praise to our “Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus.”

Redeeming Love


(picture of Aldine Kieffer)


“And I saw …them that had gotten the victory over the beast…, having the harps of God” (Rev. 15:2)

     INTRO.:  A song which pictures the redeemed as having the harps of God is “Redeeming Love.”   The text, at least of stanzas 1 and 2, was written by William Cowper (1731-1800).  They are two other (not so well known) stanzas of Cowper’s well-known hymn beginning “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” which I do not believe have ever been used with the hymn at least here in the United States.  I cannot vouch for the third stanza. It is not in my copy of Cowper’s Poetical Works: Complete Edition, which has all the Olney Hymns including “There Is a Fountain.” There are only seven stanzas there. According to a Google search, this eighth stanza (#3 as used here) can be traced back as far as Pious Songs: Social, Prayer, Closet, and Camp Meeting Hymns and Choruses, Third Edition, published in 1836 by Armstrong and Berry.  However, this stanza is found in the 2004 Primitive Baptist Hymnal and on Primitive Baptist websites as part of “There Is a Fountain” and attributed to Cowper.

The tune (Milman) was composed by Aldine Silliman Kieffer, who was born on August 1, 1840, near Miami in Saline County, MO, the grandson of Mennonite musician Joseph Funk.  The family must have moved to Virginia at some time, because in the American Civil War, Kieffer served in the 10th Virginia Volunteer Infantry.  After Funk’s death, he and Ephraim Ruebush (1833-1924), who married Funk’s granddaughter, took over Funk’s publishing and printing business, and started producing new hymn collections for Sunday schools, revival and camp meetings, and home gatherings. These new collections proved to be very popular and lucrative, and consequently with John W. Howe, a minister in the United Brethren Church, they founded the Kieffer, Ruebush, and Company gospel music firm around 1873, which was moved from Singers Glen, VA, to Dayton, VA, in 1878.  Kieffer was editor of the Musical Million and Fireside Friend periodical which was published from 1870 until 1914 and became one of the leading tools promoting shape note music for almost a half century. It helped link teachers and students across the country, and published many songs in its pages.  One of Kieffer’s most popular song books was The Temple Star, published at Singer’s Glen in 1877. One of his most popular songs was his poem “Twilight is Stealing,” set to music by B. C. Unseld in 1877 and published in The Temple Star.

Around 1890, Kieffer, Ruebush and Company became the Ruebush-Kieffer Company and established itself as one of the earliest and most successful publishers of gospel songs in America.  In addition to Temple Star, Kieffer’s other famous works include the Christian Harp and Hours of Fancy, or Vigil and Vision, and Wikipedia lists some nine additional books which he edited.   According to Nethymnal, a couple of his best-known texts besides “Twilight Is Falling” are “Jesus Will Let You In” and “The Resurrection,” and Hymnary.org  lists a total of 78 texts attributed to Kieffer, who apparently composed this tune as an alternative for “There Is a Fountain” and supplied the refrain.  A leading nineteenth century music teacher, publisher, and proponent of shape note musical notation, Kieffer died on November 30, 1904, at his home in Dayton, VA.   I first saw this tune used with three of the usual stanzas from Cowper’s hymn in Stamps-Baxter’s 1939 Favorite Hymns and Songs.  I have also seen it with Anne Steele’s hymn “To Our Redeemer’s Glorious Name” and Henry Hart Milman’s “O Help Us, Lord! Each Hour of Need.”  Neither these stanzas nor this tune has ever appeared in any hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ, to my knowledge.

The song looks forward to the future reward awaiting those bought with Jesus’s blood.

I. In stanza 1 it is symbolized as a harp.

Lord I believe Thou hast prepared

(Unworthy though I be)

For me a blood bought free reward–

A golden harp for me.

  1. This future reward has been prepared by God: Matt, 25:34
  2. It was purchased with the blood if Christ: Rev. 5:8-9
  3. We understand that the use of the word “harp” is figurative, but the fact is that the redeemed are described as having harps, so if we can read about it in Revelation, why can we not sing about it?: Rev. 14:1-3

II. In stanza 2 it is identified as endless

’Tis strung and tuned for endless years

And formed by power divine,

To sound in God the Father’s ears

No other name but Thine.

  1. This harp is tuned for endless years because we shall have eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
  2. It is designed to sound in the ears of God the Father on the throne: Rev. 4:3, 8-11
  3. And the name that it sounds is that of the Lamb who was slain: Rev. 7:9-14

III. In stanza 3 it is said to be heavenly

In heavenly strains, from every chord,

Shall flow the charming sound,

The praise of my redeeming Lord,

While angels wonder round.

  1. These will be heavenly strains because our hope is reserved in heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
  2. The whole idea of harps likely represents simply the praise offered to the redeeming Lord: Rev. 15:1-4
  3. Even the angels join in this eternal praise: Rev. 5:11-14

CONCL.:  The chorus points out that the theme of this song in heaven will be the redeeming love of God and Christ.

Redeeming love has been my theme,

And shall be till I die;

And then I hope to sing this love

In sweeter strains on high.

Certainly in this life we need to express our praise and thanks to the Lord for His great redemption.  But our ultimate goal is to be with Him in heaven where we can eternally sing of His “Redeeming Love.”

The Great Redeemer


“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:3)

INTRO.: A song which expresses devotion to the one in whom we have redemption through His blood is “”The Great Redeemer”” (#18 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #250 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Francis Foster. Almost nothing is know about this individual. Hymns for Worship has “Frances Foster,” but it is certainly not the Frances Foster (June 11, 1924 – June 17, 1997) who was an American film, television and stage actress and an award-winning stage director. All other sources have “Francis,” which is generally a masculine name as opposed to the feminine “Frances,” so the assumption is that the author was a male. One website says, “”Who is the greatest purchaser in history? If you asked one guy named Francis Foster, in 1915 when he wrote ‘‘The Great Redeemer,’’ he’d probably say it was God.””

Basically, Foster is a virtual unknown, except for a few facts and the hymns which he left. He wrote a handful of songs, some ten of which were published in two Sparkling Jewels collections by Samuel Beazley and James Ruebush, No. 1 in 1912, and No. 2 in 1915. The website hymnary.org shows a total fourteen hymns to Foster’s credit: It is not known if ““The Great Redeemer”” was in the second Sparkling Jewels collection or not, but it is at least possible. The tune was composed by Samuel W. Beazley (1873-1944). The song was copyrighted by Beazley in 1915, and the copyright was renewed in 1943 by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company. One source shows that the song was listed in at least ten publications.

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, 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 1994 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; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition, which had ““Let’’s Just Praise the Lord”” by William and Gloria Gaither at the same opening) and Sacred Selections.

The song speaks of several things we can do in our relationship to the Redeemer.

I. Stanza 1 indicates that we should love Him
How I love the great Redeemer Who is doing so much for me;
With what joy I tell the story Of the love that makes men free.
Till my earthly life is ended, I will send songs above,
Then beside the crystal sea More and more my soul shall be Praising Jesus and His love.
A. We should love our Redeemer who has done and is doing so much for us: 1 Pet. 1:7-8
B. The reason that we love Him is because He first loved us and made us free: 1 Jn. 4:19
C. This love must continue till our earthly lives are ended, being faithful until death: Rev. 2:10

II. Stanza 2 encourages us to rejoice in Him
He has purchased my redemption, Rolled my burden of sin away,
And is walking on beside me, Growing dearer day by day.
That is why I sing His praises, That is why joy is mine,
That is why forever more On the everlasting shore I shall sing of love divine.
A, Jesus purchased our redemption with His blood: Eph. 1:3
B. Therefore, we can rejoice always in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
C. One way we should express this joy is by singing praises: Jas. 5:13

III. Stanza 3 suggests that we should praise Him
Glory be to Him forever! Endless praises to Christ the Lamb!
He has filled my life with sunshine, He has made me what I am.
O that everyone would know Him, O that all would adore!
O that all would trust the love Of the mighty Friend above, And be His forever more.
A. Jesus Christ is the Lamb who is worthy of all praise because He takes away the sin of the world: Jn. 1:29
B. One reason is that He fills our lives with sunshine of His divine light: Jn. 1:4-5
C. Therefore, everyone should praise and adore Him forever more: Rev. 5:11-12

CONCL.: I usually omit the chorus.
He is everything to me, And everything shall always be;
I will never cease to raise A song of gladness in His praise;
Here, and in the world above, My soul shall sing of saving love;
Life and light and joy is He, The precious Friend who died for me.
It was Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum in 1956 that primarily introduced and popularized the southern style country music gospel singing convention type of song with its fast tempo and emphasis on special parts among churches of Christ generally. Since then, this song seems to have become a particular favorite of many. To be honest, I have never cared much for it personally, but it is certainly important to give our praise to “”The Great Redeemer.””

When the Roll Is Called up Yonder


(picture of James M. Black)


“For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52)

      INTRO.:  A song which points to the time of the second coming of Christ when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible is “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder” (#522 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #345 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune (Roll Call or Trumpet) was composed both by James Milton Black who was born at South Hill in Sullivan County, NY, on Aug. 19, 1856.  After an early music education in voice and organ with John Howard of New York and Daniel Towner of the Moody Bible Institute, he became a singing school teacher and hymn book editor, compiling more than a dozen of his gospel songbooks, beginning with Songs of the Soul in 1894 through Songs of Help in 1917, many of which were published by The Methodist Book Concern of New York City, NY, McCabe Publishing Company of Chicago, IL, and the Hall-Mack Company of Philadelphia, PA.  In addition, he was a Methodist Sunday school teacher who was also involved in the social concerns of his community.  One day he met a girl named Bessie, fourteen years old, poorly clad and the daughter of a drunkard.  At first she readily accepted his invitation to attend Sunday school.  However, when she looked at her tattered clothing, she changed her mind.  But the very next day, a box of nice, new dresses mysteriously appeared on Bessie’s porch, left anonymously by Black of course, and every one of them fitted her just right, so she began going to Sunday school every week.

Yet, one Sunday in 1893 Bessie failed to answer the roll.  Black made a comment to the effect, “Well, I trust when the roll is called up yonder, she’ll be there,” telling the students what a sad thing it would be if, when their names are called from the Lamb’s book of life in judgment, one of them would be absent.  Then he said in his prayer, “O God, when my own name is called up yonder, may I be there to respond!”  Looking around for a suitable song to sing just then, he found nothing.  This lack of a fitting song caused him both sorrow and disappointment, so on the way home he thought about providing a hymn of his own based on the idea.  When he arrived at his house, he decided to do so, and the words of the first stanza came to him in full.  Fifteen minutes later he had finished the other two and soon had the melody also.  The song was first published in the 1894 Songs of the Soul which he edited with Joseph F. Berry.  In its first two years, the book sold more than 400,000 copies.  Also in 1894, Henry Date was publishing a new song book, Pentecostal Hymns, for the Hope Publishing Company of Chicago, IL, with the help of gospel song writer Charles Hutchinson Gabriel.

Date was looking at some hand-copied song manuscripts that had been submitted.  An assistant started to discard them when Gabriel asked to see if there was anything useful in them.  After receiving them, he also was about to lay them aside when one caught his attention because it was written in green ink.  The name of James M. Black was not familiar to the famous composer, but Gabriel decided that “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” had merit and decided to include it, thus securing its popularity.  Shortly after producing the song, Black learned why Bessie was absent that day.  She was very ill, and, in fact died a week later.  In 1904 Black moved to Williamsport, PA, where he was an active member and song leader of the Pine Street Methodist Episcopal Church.  The following year, he was appointed to serve on the Commission for the Methodist Hymnal.  While he was the only gospel song writer to serve on the commission, being credited with almost 1,500 hymns including the tune for the Katherine E. Purvis hymn “Walk Beside Me, O My Savior,” none of his songs were included in the book.  His death occurred at Williamsport Dec. 21, 1938.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ,  “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” has appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; 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.; 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 focuses our attention on Christ’s return and the general resurrection.

I. In stanza 1 we’re told that when Christ comes again, time will be no more

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,

And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair,

When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. Time will be no more because the Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, it will be “the end”: 1 Cor. 15:23-24
  2. Just as the dawn of the morning brings a new day, so the Lord’s return will bring a new heaven and a new earth: Rev. 21:1-5
  3. The “other shore” refers to being by the pure river of water of life where the tree of life will be: Rev. 22:1-5

II. In stanza 2 we’re told that when Christ comes again, the dead shall rise

On that bright and glorious morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,

And the glory of His resurrection share;

When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. While this stanza focuses on the dead in Christ, Jesus said that both the righteous and the wicked dead will be raised at the same time: Jn. 5:28-29 (the original read, “On that bright and cloudless morning,” but most of our books change it to “glorious morning” because the Scriptures teach that Christ will return in the clouds: Acts 1:9-11, Rev.1:7)
  2. In so doing, they will share in Christ’s resurrection: Rom. 6:5 (both spiritual and physical)
  3. Then His chosen ones will gather to their home beyond the skies: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

III. In stanza 3 we’re told that when Christ comes again, we’ll be rewarded for our labor

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,

Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;

Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,

And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

  1. Our hope of the resurrection should motivate us to labor for the Lord: 1 Cor. 15:58
  2. One aspect of this labor is to talk of all His wondrous love and care in teaching others: 2 Tim. 2:2
  3. Then one day the night will come when our work on earth is done: Jn. 9:4

CONCL.:  The chorus echoes the thought of the roll call on judgment day

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll, is called up yonder,

When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

May we always live and labor for the Lord in such a way that we shall be ready to give an answer “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.”

Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me


(picture of Arthur S. Sullivan)


“When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them” (Matt. 9:36)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which asks Jesus to look on us with compassion as He did on the multitudes is “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me” (#521 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Charlotte Elliot (1789-1871).  It was first published in her 1869 work Thoughts in Verse on Sacred Subjects.  Miss Elliot is best known for her hymn “Just As I Am, Without One Plea.”  The tune (Hanford or Sullivan) used with “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me” was composed by Arthur Seymour Sullivan, who was born at Bolwell Terrace in Lambeth, England, on May 13, 1842.  At the age of twelve, he was a chorister of the Chapel Royal under Thomas Helmore.  Educated at the Royal Academy of Music in England, where he studied under W. Sterndale Bennett and John Goss, he also studied at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany, where his teachers included Moritz Hauptmann, Felicien David, and Ignaz Moscheles.

After his return to England, Sullivan held several organist positions and in 1866 became professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He composed a great deal of church music, and most of his hymn tunes were produced between 1867 and 1874.  This one was written in 1871 at Hanford in Dorsetshire, England, when he was a guest in the home of Mrs. Gertrude Clay-Ker-Seymer.   His tunes appear in two hymnbooks of which he was the editor, The Hymnary of 1872 and Church Hymns with Tunes of 1874.  This tune was first published in the latter.  It is often used with another Charlotte Elliot hymn of 1834, “My God, My Father, Though I Stray.”  Perhaps Sullivan’s most famous tune was provided, also in 1871, for the 1864 hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” by his good friend Sabine Baring-Gould.

However, Sullivan is best remembered for the music which he composed with the librettos and lyrics of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert for the Savoy Opera of London, including H. M. S. Pinafore in 1878, The Pirates of Penzance in 1879, and The Mikado in 1885, along with other secular pieces such as “The Lost Chord.”  These works brought him international fame for which he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883, and the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas became a part of English tradition.  Sullivan did not believe that popular melodies should be used for hymns and so declined numerous requests for permission to make hymn tune arrangements from his operetta music.  He died at Westminster, England, on Nov. 22, 1900.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the text of “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me,” to my knowledge, has appeared only in Hymns for Worship Revised.

The song expresses a request for Jesus to provide for our spiritual needs.

I. Stanza 1 asks for rest

Jesus, my Savior, look on me,

For I am weary and oppressed;

I come to cast myself on Thee:

Thou art my Rest.

1. We often are weary because we are oppressed by the trials and tribulations of life: Ps. 9.9

2. However, we can come to Jesus the Savior to cast our cares on Him: 1 Pet. 5:7

3. He is our Rest who will give us rest: Matt. 11:28-30

II. Stanza 2 asks for strength

Look down on me, for I am weak;

I feel the toilsome journey’s length;

Thine aid omnipotent I seek:

Thou art my Strength.

  1. Many times we find that as human beings the flesh is weak: Matt. 26:41
  2. However, Jesus is omnipotent or all powerful and will give us aid: Heb. 2:17-18
  3. He is our Strength who will provide us with strength: Eph. 3:16

III. Stanza 3 asks for light

I am bewildered on my way,

Dark and tempestuous is the night;

O send Thou forth some cheering ray:

Thou art my Light.

  1. This world is often pictured as a place of darkness: Jn. 3:19
  2. God promised to send out a cheering ray: Mal. 4:2
  3. Jesus is the Light who enables us to have light: Jn. 8:12

IV. Stanza 4 (not in HFWR) asks for peace

When Satan flings his fiery darts,

I look to Thee; my terrors cease;

Thy cross a hiding place imparts:

Thou art my Peace.

  1. As long as we live in this world of spiritual warfare, Satan will fling his fiery darts at us: Eph. 6:16
  2. However, the cross is a refuge behind which we can find protection: 1 Cor. 1:18
  3. Jesus is the Peace who makes it possible for us to have peace: Col. 4:6-7

V. Stanza 5 (also not in HFWR) asks for life

Standing alone on Jordan’s brink,

In that tremendous latest strife,

Thou will not suffer me to sink:

Thou art my Life.

  1. Someday we shall stand at the brink of death just as the Israelites stood on Jordan’s brink waiting to cross over into the promised land: Josh. 3:1
  2. At that time, Jesus will not let us sink, just as He did not let Peter sink: Matt. 14:28-31
  3. Jesus is our Life who brings us life: Jn. 10:10

VI. Stanza 6 (#4 in HFWR) asks for Christ to be our all

Thou wilt my every want supply,

E’en to the end, whate’er befall;

Through life, in death, eternally,

Thou art my All.

  1. Just as a shepherd provides for all the needs of his flock, so the Lord will supply all our wants: Ps. 23:1
  2. And He has promised to be with us even to the end: Matt. 28:20
  3. Thus, He is our All who grants us all that we need: Col. 3:11, 2 Pet. 1:3

CONCL.:  There is another stanza, #4:

I hear the storms around me rise;

But when I dread th’impending shock,

My spirit to the Refuge flies:

Thou art my Rock.

My life will have its share of problems.  However, my Lord who loves me and died for me does not expect me to deal with them all alone.  He has promised to be with me and help me.  Therefore, I should constantly be asking Him, “Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me.”

Just a Closer Walk with Thee


(picture of Mosie Lister)


“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18)

     Introduction:  A hymn which asks the Lord to go with us that He might preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom is “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (#482 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #177 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text is an anonymous American folk hymn, the source of which is unknown.  The tune (Closer Walk) is a spiritual, the source of which is also unknown and which is considered an American folk song.  Both are thought to be from African-American slave origins.  In 1940 Kenneth Morris arranged and published for the first time the well-known version after gospel musicians Robert Anderson and R.L. Knowles listened to William B. Hurse direct a performance of it in Kansas City and then brought it to Morris’ attention.  The arrangement in our book was made by Thomas Mosie Lister, who was born at Cochran, GA, on Sept. 8, 1921, the second son of Willis W. and Pearl Holland Lister, who were both musical and attempted to teach their son music at an early age on their farm in the Empire District of Dodge County.  They placed the young Lister in the church choir, but soon discovered that he could not distinguish musical tones.  Mosie grew up with people of minority groups.  When he was nine, he began learning music theory from his father, who taught music as a hobby, and his family moved to a farm, where they lived until he was nineteen.  At age twelve, he started taking violin lessons.  His ear training abilities began to improve and by the time he was a teenager he was already studying harmony and composition.

At age sixteen, fresh out of high school, Lister tried to get into country music, having transferred his violin lessons into country fiddle and guitar.  One of the top ranked fiddle players in Georgia, he was converted at age seventeen and turned his attention to gospel music, hoping to compose.  In January, 1939, he traveled to the Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, TN, and studied harmony with Adger M. Pace and G. T. Speer to further his desire.  After serving in the navy during World War II, he enrolled in Middle Georgia College where he continued to study harmony, counterpoint, arranging, piano and organ. His first involvement in a gospel quartet came in 1941, the same year that his first song was published, as a member with the Sunny South Quartet in Tampa, FL, which also included Jim “Big Chief” Wetherington; with whom he left to form the Melody Masters Quartet.   In 1946 he met Wylene Whitten. They married that same year, moved to Atlanta, and in 1949 gave birth to identical twin daughters, Brenda and Barbara.  In 1948, Hovie Lister (no relation) invited him to be the original lead singer for the Statesmen Quartet, but he eventually had to quit singing because of vocal problems.  For three decades he held a number of different jobs in the music field including Gospel singer, songwriter, and arranger, and since 1955, has devoted his life to writing gospel songs and hymns.  His own publishing firm, Mosie Lister Publications, founded in 1953, was merged with Lillenas Publishing Co. in 1969.

Other well-known songs by Lister include “Where No One Stands Alone,” “Till the Storm Passes By,” “Then I Met the Master,” “He Knows Just What I Need,” and “How Long Has It Been?”   I have been unable to find a date or source of publication for his arrangement of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”  Once he said, “I think that God has directed my thoughts on certain occasions toward writing songs.  I don’t think my songs would have gone as well as they have if God hadn’t directed.  I prayed that God would use what talent I have to bring some blessing to other people.”  Associated for the rest of his life with the Lillenas Publishing Company of Kansas City, MO, he became quite famous as a songwriter and arranger, and was also director of publications for the Faith Music Catalogue.  Lister was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Southern Gospel Music Association in 1997. His songs have been recorded by nearly every Southern Gospel artist.   For many years he was the song director at the Riverside Baptist Church in Tampa, FL, then later became an ordained Baptist minister in Bradenton, FL.  After Wylene’s death in 2001, he married Martha Jean Hunter in 2002, and they moved to Franklin, TN, where one of his daughters lived.  As of 2014, Lister’s songs cataloged over 700 in numbers, with thousands more in arrangements. He died on February 12, 2015, aged 93.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, other arrangements of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” have been found, and in one form or another the song has appeared in the 1959 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater (in a 1948 arrangement by Jesse R. Baxter Jr.); the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch (Baxter arrangement); the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by Lloyd O. Sanderson (arrangement by the editor); the 1977 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; the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons (Sanderson arrangement); The 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard (original edition arrangement by John T. Benson, revised edition choral arrangement by Kenneth Davis); the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand (Baxter arrangement); the 1997 new edition of the 1961 Best Loved Songs and Hymns edited by Ellis J. Crum (arrangement by Robert E. Winsett); the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs and Hymns and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert Taylor Jr. (latter with Baxter arrangement); and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections (latter with Baxter arrangement).

The song expresses the desire to have a closer walk with the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 says that the Lord will walk with us in weakness

I am weak, but Thou art strong;

Jesus, keep me from all wrong.

I’ll be satisfied as long

As I walk, dear Lord, close to Thee.

  1. As human beings, we are weak: 2 Cor. 12:10, 13:4
  2. But Jesus is strong, and if we trust Him, He will help to keep us from all wrong: 1 Cor. 10:13
  3. Therefore, we can be satisfied as long as we’re drawing close to Him: Jas. 4:7-8

II. Stanza 2 says that the Lord will walk with us in toils and snares

Through this world of toil and snares,

If I falter, Lord, who cares?

Who with me my burden shares?

None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

  1. Toils and snares refer to the trials and temptations of this life: Jas. 1:2, 12
  2. When we suffer these tribulations and falter, we may wonder if anyone cares: Ps. 142:3-4
  3. But we know that Jesus cares because He tells us to share our burden with Him: Ps. 55:22

III. Stanza 3 says that the Lord will walk with us in death

When my feeble life is o’er,

Time for me will be no more;

Guide me gently, safely o’er

To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

  1. Our feeble lives will be over at death: Heb. 9:27
  2. Then time will be no more because we’ll stand before God in judgment: 2 Cor. 5:10
  3. But if we’ve followed Christ faithfully, He’ll guide us to His eternal kingdom: 2 Pet. 1:10-11

IV. Robert E. Winsett added a Stanza 4 which says that the Lord will walk with us in heaven

When life’s sun sets in the west,

Lord, may I have done my best.

May I find sweet peace and rest,

In that home, glad home, of the blest.

  1. Life’s sun setting in the west is another figure to depict death: Jn. 9:4
  2. It should be our desire to do our best because only those who do the will of God will enter heaven: Matt. 7:21
  3. And if this is the case, we shall find sweet rest: Rev. 14:13

CONCL.:  The chorus encourages us to seek a closer walk daily with the Lord.

Just a closer walk with Thee,

Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.

Daily walking close to Thee,

Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

The paths which I must tread in this life on my way to eternity are often rugged and difficult.  If it is my desire to go to heaven, I can’t make it on my own but need help.  So it should be aim always to look to the Lord and say to Him that I need “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”

Hold the Fort


(picture of William T. Sherman)


“Hold fast till I come” (Rev. 2:25)

     INTRO.:  A song which exhorts us to hold fast until Jesus comes is “Hold the Fort” (#234 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written and the tune was composed both by Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876).  Born at Clearfield County, PA, he went in 1864 to Chicago, IL, in the employ of Dr. George F. Root, the musician, where he was engaged in conducting musical institutes, and in composing Sunday School melodies.  Later he joined Daniel W. Whittle in evangelical work. Bliss produced “Hold the Fort” in 1870 after hearing Whittle relate an incident from the American Civil War.  Just before William Tecumseh Sherman began his famous march to the sea in 1864, and while his army lay camped in the neighborhood of Atlanta, GA, on the 5th of October, the army of Confederate General Hood, in a carefully prepared movement, passed the right flank of Sherman’s army, gained his rear, and commenced the destruction of the railroad leading north, burning blockhouses and capturing the small garrisons along the line. Sherman’s army was put in rapid motion pursuing Hood, to save the supplies and larger posts, the principal one of which was located at Altoona Pass where General Corse of Illinois was stationed with about fifteen hundred men, Colonel Tourtelotte being second in command.

Six thousand men under command of General French were detailed by Hood to take the position. The works were completely surrounded and summoned to surrender. Corse refused and a sharp fight commenced. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill.  Many had fallen, and the result seemed to render a prolongation of the fight hopeless. At this moment an officer caught sight of a white signal flag far away across the valley, twenty miles distant, upon the top of Kenesaw Mountain. The signal was answered, and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: “Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman.”  Cheers went up; every man was nerved to a full appreciation of the position; and under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded more than half the men in the fort, Corse himself being shot three times through the head, and Tourtelotte taking command, though himself badly wounded, they held the fort for three hours until the advance guard of Sherman’s army came up and French was obliged to retreat.

The song was first published in Bliss’s Gospel Songs of 1874.  Two years later, Bliss’s death occurred in a railway disaster at Ashtabula, OH. He escaped from the car, but lost his life when he went back in trying to save his wife. Not long before his death, Bliss once told Ira D. Sankey that he hoped that he would not be known to posterity only as the author of “Hold the Fort,” for he believed that he had written many better songs. However, when Sankey attended the dedication of the Bliss monument, at Rome, PA, he found these words inscribed: “P. P. Bliss, Author of “Hold the Fort.”  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, to my knowledge this song has appeared only in the 1956 Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum.

The song pictures the Christian’s life as a battle.

I.  Stanza 1 discusses the signal

Ho! my comrades, see the signal,

Waving in the sky!

Reinforcements now appearing,

Victory is nigh!

  1. The signal represents the promise of Jesus: Matt. 28:20
  2. He brings reinforcements because those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful: Rev. 17:14
  3. As a result, His people are assured of victory: 1 Jn. 5:4

II. Stanza 2 discusses the enemy

See the mighty host advancing,

Satan leading on;

Mighty men around us falling,

Courage almost gone.

  1. The mighty host advancing is the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places: Eph. 6:10-12
  2. Our great enemy is Satan who leads them on: 1 Pet. 5:8-9
  3. The fact that many might men around are falling could refer to either those who are passing away or to those who are falling from grace due to error or sin: Gal. 5:4

III. Stanza 3 discusses the banner

See the glorious banner waving,

Hear the bugle blow;

In our Leader’s Name we triumph

Over every foe.

  1. The banner represents the Lord’s leadership over His people: Ps. 60:4
  2. The blowing of the bugle is the call to arms in the fight of faith: 1 Tim. 6:12
  3. As we follow and fight in the Lord’s name, we shall be more than conquerors: Rom. 8:35-37

IV. Stanza 4 discusses the Commander

Fierce and long the battle rages,

But our help is near;

Onward comes our great Commander,

Cheer, my comrades, cheer!

  1. Fierce and long the battle will rage as we wage the good warfare: 1 Tim. 1:18
  2. But our help is our great Commander, the Captain of our salvation: Heb. 2:10
  3. Therefore, even in tribulation we may be of good cheer: Jn. 16:33

CONCL.:  The chorus encourages us to be steadfast and wait for His help.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”

Jesus signals still,

Wave the answer back to Heaven,

“By Thy grace we will.”

Our lives as Christians are often described as a great spiritual warfare in which Satan and his hosts are the attacking enemy, Christ is our Commander, and our responsibility is to “Hold the Fort.”