Monday, October 31, 2011

Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary

Praise for the Lord #95

Words & Music: John M. Moore, 1952

Dr. John M. Moore (b. 1925) is a Baptist minister from Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Following evangelistic work in Glasgow and Inverness, he emigrated to Ontario, where he served at the Willowdale Baptist Church in Toronto.(Osbeck, 54) Now well into his 80s, Dr. Moore is a member of the Springdale Baptist Church in Stouffville, just north of Toronto, where he recently gave a concert featuring his hymns. For a picture and more information about his life, see Sandra Bolan's article at

Dr. Moore has written over 150 hymns, but his most famous by far is this one, which has entered the core repertoire of a number of religious groups. He is philosophical about the fact that his most famous song was one of his earliest: "Not all your songs get recognition like that."(Bolan) In 1952, Moore was in Glasgow, serving as Assistant Superintendent at the Seaman's Chapel. One day he was called to see a young sailor in Glasgow Hospital, and in the course of the visit shared a tract that was based on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The image of the Pilgrim leaving his burden of sin at the foot of the cross was the inspiration for this hymn.(Osbeck, 54)

Stanza 1:
Days are filled with sorrow and care,
Hearts are lonely and drear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

In the course of the last century a certain type of gospel lyric emerged that at best indulged in gratuitous sentimentality, and at its worst simply reveled in maudlin self-pity. (A relative of mine has referred to these as "Oh-poor-me songs.") Part of this was a reflection, of course, of the very real hardship and suffering of the Great Depression; some of it was a reflection, as well, of the lingering Romantic pathos of 19th-century poetry. The result is often an exaggerated manner of stating the sufferings of this life, a manner that rings especially false coming from the lips of well-to-do suburbanites.

I contend that this is not one of those songs. Moore speaks of "sorrow and care," and every person will encounter these in some measure while living in this world. Job famously said, "Man who is born of a woman is few of days, and full of trouble."(14:1) In the great philosophical inquiry of Ecclesiastes, after Solomon had tried out every pleasure, occupation, and diversion that a king's wealth and power could command, we read:
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.(2:22-23)
He continues later in the book,
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.(11:7-8)
There is much joy in life, but we are kidding ourselves if we do not admit that a great deal of it is "sorrow and care."

Moore also speaks of being lonely. It is bad enough to be lonely during the good times; but woe to the person who faces the difficulties of life alone!
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Is life "dreary?" We want to say it is not (Americans revere optimism), but I venture to say that dreariness would describe the lives of many people, much of the time. Disappointments and setbacks come to us all, and in many lives they pile up with little relief; we just learn to manage them better. In addressing the young person who has not yet traveled these roads, Solomon says,
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them."(12:1)
But is this all God wants for us? Ecclesiastes is a deep, powerful book, but we need to remember that it describes life "under the sun," to use the phrase that occurs repeatedly throughout its text. That is to say, it is a series of reflections on life lived on an earthly, not a heavenly level. It arrives at the stoic conclusion that it is best to obey God, enjoy His blessings when we can, and accept the limitations of our knowledge. This is wise, godly advice, of course; but in another way, Ecclesiastes serves to illustrate our desperate need for something more.

Enter Jesus Christ: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."(John 10:10) One of the things that Jesus wants us to have is joy! His birth was announced with joy: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."(Luke 2:10) He taught a way of love, peace, and joy:
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.(John 15:10-11)
Joy was a frequent theme of Paul the apostle, even though he endured a great deal of hardship and persecution. His closing salutations to the church in Rome are typical: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."(Romans 15:13)

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Calvary, Calvary,
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Here is the crux of the matter. (The pun is intentional; isn't it telling that the Latin word for "cross" would come to mean, in our usage, the critical deciding point of some development?) The stoic philosophy of Ecclesiastes says to live a decent, upright life, and make the best of a messed-up world. (This seems to be the point of many world religions, and is noble as far as it goes.) Jesus crashes in like a thunderbolt, if you will, and says, "Yes, it is a messed-up world, but it wasn't supposed to be like this, and I am going to set you right." It wasn't stoic endurance He promised, but relief and renewal:
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."(Matthew 11:28-30)
At Calvary, He "freed us from our sins by His blood."(Revelation 1:5) When we bring our burdens to Calvary and "become obedient from the heart,"(Romans 6:17) then we, "having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."(Romans 6:18) But this new Master does not burden us again; instead, "now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."(Romans 6:22)

One more phrase here deserves mention: "Jesus is very near." Throughout history people have traveled long distances, at great risk and expense, to visit some person or place that they believe will give them spiritual insight and comfort. There is something within the human heart that drives them to find an answer, "that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him."(Acts 17:27) "Yet," as Paul continues in that same passage, "He is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In Him we live and move and have our being.'"(Acts 17:27b-28) God is as close to us as the air we breathe, and He does not make it difficult to find Him or to learn how to please Him.
But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.(Romans 6-9)
The Word of God is not in short supply; witnesses to a confession of faith Christ are easily found; water for baptism is not in short supply. Jesus is very near, but too many hearts are far from obedience.

Stanza 2:
Cast your care on Jesus today,
Leave your worry and fear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.


Dr. Moore's inspiration here is 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." Anxiety, "worry and fear," are a natural part of living in this imperfect world; what matters is how we deal with them. In a fast-paced, stress-filled world, perhaps the majority of people have some problem with anxiety, and a significant number--as many as 18% of the U.S. adult population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health--are suffering from a diagnosable anxiety disorder at any given time.

Doctors can help, and should certainly be consulted in a situation that has become chronic and debilitating--but no counselor can give us forgiveness of sin, and no pill can give us meaning in our lives. Peter rightly said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."(John 6:68) Psychological and emotional healing can begin when we understand that the God who created us, loves us, and will never leave us; for "not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you."(Joshua 23:14)

Our Savior wants us to be free from worry and fear, and part of it is our perspective on what is really important. Many (perhaps most?) of the things we worry about are ultimately of little consequence, and most do not even come to pass. We are often worrying about tomorrow instead of working for today.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.(Matthew 6:32-34)
If we seek the kingdom first, and meditate on the fact that our eternal problems and concerns are more than taken care of by the blood of Christ, we can look at the transient problems of today with a much encouraged outlook.

Stanza 3:
Troubled soul, the Saviour can see,
Ev'ry heartache and tear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near.


"Jesus wept."(John 11:35) We all know it as the shortest verse in the English Bible; but what does it mean? In that understatement so typical of the gospels, we are left to work that out on our own. First of all, we need to remember the context. Lazarus was dead, a man Jesus called His friend.(John 11:11) The "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,"(Revelation 19:16) called this imperfect, mortal man a friend; Lazarus was not just one of his subjects, not just a statistic or an abstraction. I think Jesus wept for the suffering his friend had endured.

We also know that Jesus loved the bereaved sisters, Mary and Martha.(John 11:5) Their home in Bethany was a "home away from home" for Jesus when He was in the Jerusalem area. When Jesus saw Mary weeping, "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled."(John 11:33) I think Jesus wept for the suffering of the family, even though He knew that suffering was about to turn to joy.

The same passage says that He saw the rest of the people weeping with her, and I think He was in part weeping for all the griefs that sin had wrought in the world, the worst of which was spiritual and physical death.(Romans 5:12) The Son of God, by whom "all things were created,"(Colossians 1:16) wept over the sorrows that creation had brought upon itself, which He was soon to take upon himself on the cross.

Never doubt that "the Savior can see / Every heartache and tear." "For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."(Hebrews 4:15)

About the music:

It is always interesting to look at an example of gospel music from outside the American traditions. It is worth remembering that Ira Sankey (1840-1908), an American and the putative founder of the gospel music style, became a celebrity first in Great Britain during his 1873-1875 campaigns with revivalist Dwight L. Moody.(Hall, 317) Sankey even sang at Charles Spurgeon's famous Tabernacle in London--though Spurgeon insisted that he only do so a cappella!(Michael, 140)

Dr. Moore's style in this song emphasizes melody more than harmony. There are very few chromatic notes at all. He adds a 7th in the alto at the end of the first phrase, and at the end of the stanza, to pull the harmony toward the subdominant (an important harmony in the song's structure, always occuring with "burdens are lifted"). There is also the little chromatic fill in the tenor (F, E, E-flat) leading into the second phrases of the chorus, but that is really a matter of leading the tenor back to its note for the next phrase. There are no chromatic chords for their own sake, so to speak.

The melody, however, is quite striking; the opening "hook" drops down an arpeggio of the tonic chord (A, F, C), rather an unusual way to start a song; but this returns as part of the title phrase, on the word "Calvary," and becomes a unifying factor. Particularly interesting is the leap upward on the word "LIFT-ed" each time it appears; it is the highest note in the melody, and after the restricted range of the opening two phrases, it is a noticeable contrast. Was Moore illustrating the text, perhaps even subconsciously? At any rate, it puts a proper emphasis on the key idea of the song.


Osbeck, Kenneth W. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1985.

Bolan, Sandra. "Songwriter sharing his hymns, stories in Stouffville."'s%20on/attractions/article/934098--songwriter-sharing-his-hymns-stories-in-stouffville

National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Bethesda, Maryland: National Institutes of Health, 2009.

Hall, Timothy L. American Religious Leaders. New York: Facts On File, 2003.

Michael, Larry J. Spurgeon on Leadership, 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2010.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Come, Holy Spirit, Guest Divine

Praise for the Lord #94

Words: Adoniram Judson, 1847?
Music: DUKE STREET, John Hatton, 1793

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was born in Massachusetts, and studied at both Brown University and the Andover Theological Seminary. He married shortly after his graduation, and the newlyweds set out to be missionaries in India. The international situation being what it was in 1815, the American couple was turned away by the British East India Company, and settled instead in Burma. (Ironically, when the British captured Rangoon in the 1820s, Judson placed in prison by Burman authorities who suspected him of being a British agent!) Judson spent the majority of his career in that country, and did the Burmans the considerable service of translating the Bible into their language. He and his family are prominent figures in the 19th-century missionary movement, and in the history of Baptists in America.

Besides a versification of the Lord's Prayer, Judson left only one hymn, but his careful thought on the topic--baptism and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit--has made it a classic. Originally in seven stanzas, it has actually been broken up by editors into two different hymns: "Our Savior bowed beneath the wave," published in 1829 and comprising the first three stanzas, and this hymn (originally titled "Come, Holy Spirit, Dove divine"), taken from stanzas 7, 5, and 6 of the original.(Julian, 609) In a rare slip, Julian mistakenly identifies this hymn with the "Come, Holy Spirit" in Winchell's Collection of 1832; that hymn is not Judson's, however, but an entirely different work attributed to Franklin Barby. I have not discovered the earliest appearance of Judson's hymn, but it is included in the 1847 edition of The Psalmist, a landmark hymnal among Baptists in North America.

Here is one of the first hymns in Praise for the Lord to deal very directly with the work of the Holy Spirit, and like Cicero, "I begin to speak with great fear." In my paper, "A place in the soul, all made of tunes," I presented the argument that Churches of Christ historically have avoided hymns about the Holy Spirit because of long-standing disagreements over the exact means of His work today in the Christian's life. For those unfamiliar with the debate, we do believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in all those who have become Christians (Romans 8:9-14; 1 Corinthians 3:16); some, however, believe this indwelling is accomplished strictly through our knowledge of the Word, and others believe it is a literal, personal indwelling. I am of the latter view because I believe it is the simplest, most obvious interpretation of the relevant passages; I also suggest that when either side is pressed to show the difference it quickly becomes a question of semantics.

But if there are differences on this point, we are united (at least among the traditional mainstream congregations) in the belief that the era of pentecostal miracles, and of fresh revelations from the Holy Spirit, ended according to God's will with the passing of the generation of the original apostles. We are also united in the belief that, though the Spirit works mightily through His Word, no one is caused to believe or not to believe against that person's will, or brought to belief in some miraculous manner apart from the word. (For those who want to understand the Scriptural background of these positions, Wayne Jackson's article "False ideas about the Holy Spirit" briefly addresses these areas.)

We are also united in the belief that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the act of baptism: "For in one Spirit we are all baptized into one body."(1 Corinthians 12:13) We believe this is exactly what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."(John 3:5) Galatians 4:29 likewise contrasts "born of the flesh" and "born of the Spirit." Paul summarizes the idea in his letter to Titus as well:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.(Titus 3:4-6)
We believe that this in fact is "the gift of the Holy Spirit" that accompanies the believer's baptism in Acts 2:38. So why not sing about it? I suggest that the following hymn, though it has not been widely used among the Churches of Christ (at least in the U.S.), is perfectly in agreement with Scripture and is a beautiful illustration of the Spirit's work in baptism.

Stanza 1:
Come, Holy Spirit, Guest divine
On these baptismal waters shine,
And teach our hearts, in highest strain,
To praise the Lamb for sinners slain.

The original first line says "Dove divine," calling up the well-known image from Jesus' baptism. I am not sure why it was changed--perhaps it was just a little too much consonance--but I think it is a change for the better. The baptism of Jesus was a wonderful and singular event, never to be equated with the baptism that is the new birth of a lost sinner. "Guest" also reminds us of the promise of the Spirit's indwelling in our hearts and lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Yet a little earlier in the same letter, we read that the Spirit also dwells in us collectively as the body of Christ: "Do you [plural] not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"(3:16)

We all know what it is like to have house guests. No matter how glad we are to see them, there is a little relief when they are finally gone and we can get our households back to normal, which for many of us means not quite up to the standards of efficiency and neatness that we had been maintaining in the presence of company. Sometimes Christians want to treat their Lord the same way--but He is not just a temporary boarder in our lives, He is the new landlord. The indwelling Spirit is with us at all times, "so glorify God in your body."

But if that is the case, why would we be calling for the Spirit's presence, as in the first line of this hymn? Of course He is present everywhere; but in the same way that we speak of "drawing near to the throne of grace"(Hebrews 4:16) in prayer, we also beseech the Spirit's presence at the moment a person is accepting baptism. Really we are just acknowledging that presence; it is a reminder for us, not for Him! As mentioned previously, the Holy Spirit is present and active in the act of baptism; it is necessary to be born again of "water and the Spirit"(John 3:5) in a "washing of regeneration"(Titus 3:5) to make a "new creature"(2 Corinthians 5:17). Water, of course, is common; but the spiritual birth of a new Christian is not. We do well to take note of the profound wonder of what is taking place.

The focus of praise, however, turns to Jesus, because it is His sacrifice that makes the Spirit's work possible. The image of "a Lamb, as it had been slain" is from the Revelation, beginning in chapter 5, verse 6. The adoration of His person and thanksgiving for His work is described in the following verses:
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.(Revelation 5:9-14)
Revelation 13:8 continues this figure, calling Christ the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." We read more along these lines in 1 Peter 1:18-20,
Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a Lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you . . .
What could be more humbling, inspiring both awe and joy, than to know that it was in the mind of God, from before all time, to sacrifice His sinless Son for you and me?

Stanza 2:
We love Thy name, we love Thy laws,
And joyfully embrace Thy cause;
We love Thy cross, the shame, the pain,
O Lamb of God, for sinners slain.

The second stanza is addressed to Jesus, whose invitation to salvation is being accepted through baptism. We love His name, therefore we confess it before others as part of obeying His gospel,(Romans 10:9-10) and as a new creation we proudly wear His name and are called "Christians."(Acts 11:26) As Judson notes, when we take His name, we are accepting His sovereignty, and are under His laws. There is a "law of Christ,"(Galatians 6:2) and He himself said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love."(John 15:10) "His commandments are not burdensome,"(1 John 5:3) and are even called a "law of liberty,"(James 1:25) but they must be respected.

We are also accepting His challenge, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."(Mark 8:34) To those who invented it, the cross was an emblem of disgrace and terror, but Christians gladly embrace the Man who died upon it and accept the consequences--we will get the same rejection by the world. "You will be hated by all for My name's sake" is His promise; and though we are commanded to "live peaceably with all," at least "so far as it depends on you,"(Romans 12:18) following the path of Jesus will bring conflict enough. Hebrews 12:4 reminded many 1st-century Christians that, "You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Would the writer say of us, "You have not yet resisted unto inconvenience?" God help us to remember that we are citizens of a kingdom "not of this world,"(John 18:36) and are accountable to better things.

Stanza 3:
We sink beneath Thy mystic flood;
O bathe us in Thy cleansing blood!
We die to sin, and see a grave,
With Thee beneath the yielding wave.

I regret Judson's choice of words (lovely though it is) in "mystic flood." With the many conflicting views of baptism and salvation held by religious people in our day, I do not want to suggest through this song that I hold the view that there is something mysterious or magical in the water itself. But if we remember that "mystery" means "something concealed," Judson is on the right track. What we see is just water, but what the believer brings into it (a repentant, obedient faith) and what the Lord promises in it (His saving blood) are unseen. Jesus "washed us from our sins in his own blood."(Revelation 1:5) When and how do we come into contact with His saving blood? There is a puzzling passage in 1 John 5, verses 6-8, that addresses the question--puzzling unless one keeps it in context of the salvation of a believer, as mentioned in verse 5:
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.(1 John 5:6-8)
The new birth through the water and the Spirit (John 3), and the coming of Jesus into the heart of a penitent, obedient believer, involve contact with His blood. The water, present physically and seen, corresponds to the blood, present symbolically and unseen.

In addition to a symbolic washing, baptism is also a symbolic burial. This stanza leans heavily on Romans chapter 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death . . . (Romans 6:1-4a)
This was the only way to kill the power of sin; the "new creation" could not come until the old one was put to death.
We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.(Romans 6:6-7)
In view of these two important aspects of baptism, it is refreshing how clear Judson is in support of immersion as the only logical (and Scriptural!) mode for such an action. Twice in one stanza he emphasizes that this is "beneath" the "flood" and the "wave." The meaning of "baptism" in the original language is obvious enough; and as a symbol, nothing less than immersion could represent the cleansing of bathing or the finality of burial.

Stanza 4:
And as we rise, with Thee to live,
O let the Holy Spirit give
The sealing unction from above,
The breath of life, the fire of love.

Just as we die to sin, being buried beneath the waters of baptism, so our coming up out of the water carries extraordinary significance: "in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."(Romans 6:4b) The remainder of Romans 6 fills out Paul's application of this doctrine to everyday life: "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. . . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."(Romans 6:8,11)

The "sealing unction," as Judson puts it, is clearly spoken of in Scripture; and we do not have to understand everything about it to know that it is so. "But you have an anointing [KJV: 'unction'] from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth."(1 John 2:20, ESV) This idea is spelled out more plainly in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, "And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." Paul says something very similar to the Ephesians: "In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory."(Ephesians 1:13-14)

It was our pleasure this past Sunday morning to witness a woman's decision to come out of the world and into Christ. She professed her faith in Christ as the Son of God; she was lowered into the waters of baptism, letting the power of Christ's sinless death put to death the sins of her former life; she was raised in the power of His resurrection as a new person, reborn through water and the Spirit, with the Spirit's indwelling as guarantee of the "new management" under which she now lives. What a wonderful transformation!

About the music:

The tune DUKE STREET is discussed in connection with "Awake, my tongue, thy tribute bring." Any Common Meter tune, of course, could be used; this could be easily sung with the OLD 100TH ("Doxology") tune.


Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology. New York: Scribner, 1892.

Winchell, James M., editor. An Arrangement of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Dr. Watts. Boston: James Loring, 1832.

Stow, Baron, and F. S. Smith, editors. The Psalmist: A New Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Baptist Churches Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1847.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christian Hymns "No. 1" (Gospel Advocate, 1935) - Part 1 of 2

Many of us of middle aged and older folks remember the Gospel Advocate hymnals. The last of them, Christian Hymns III, debuted in 1966, just a year before my own arrival. I do not know the sales figures on Christian Hymns no. 2 (1948), but I am fairly certain that nearly every Church of Christ across the southern United States still has a stack of the little tan books (sometimes blue) tucked away in a closet. During the 1970s and 1980s the hymnals from Howard Publishing caught much of this market, with their larger selection and greater inclusion of new Southern gospel. But I believe the impact of the Christian Hymns series was profound in shaping a core repertoire of hymns familiar to the Churches of Christ in the southern U.S., second only to the widely popular Great Songs of the Church edited by Elmer Jorgenson. The hymnal I would like to focus on is the one that started it all--Christian Hymns "no. 1" as we sometimes call it, from 1935. It was this hymnal that launched the editorial career of Lloyd O. Sanderson and introduced many of his most popular hymns, and there are some surprising circumstances behind its origins.

The Early Gospel Advocate Hymnals

The Gospel Advocate Company got into the hymnal line with another book called Christian Hymns, published in 1889. It was edited by Elisha G. Sewell with the assistance of Leonard Daugherty, and with Rigdon McIntosh serving as music editor. This began the practice of using music editors from outside the Churches of Christ, including McIntosh (Methodist) and William J. Kirkpatrick (Baptist), with text decisions made by an editor of the Gospel Advocate. In the 1910s and '20s GA editor Charles M. Pullias (1872-1962) edited some volumes by himself, but as far as I can determine there was no official music editor on staff.(Bowman, 69) The lack of an in-house music editor comes as no surprise when one considers the situation of the U.S. Churches of Christ in the early decades of the 20th century.

The division between the Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ on the one hand, and the Churches of Christ on the other, has been characterized by some as "sectional," a term that obscures the case by oversimplifying. Richard T. Hughes, by no means an apologist for the division, notes that it was as much a division of urban from rural as of North from South. Not surprisingly, the financial resources, institutions of higher learning, and the most educated part of the population went toward the Christian Churches and Disciples.(Hughes, 4) In a time when there were precious few institutions among the Churches of Christ for the training of preachers, there were certainly no facilities for training musicians.

Today, of course, there are strong music departments among the colleges associated with the Churches of Christ, but there is yet another factor to consider, one not that much changed since the early part of the last century--relatively few congregations of the Churches of Christ hire a "music minister" as others would understand it. Most of the paid positions are modest part-time work, and full-time positions often include song leading among several other areas of service. Many of these positions might be filled by a person with only a little formal education in music, perhaps a college minor. And in many, many congregations there is no pay at all for a song leader, or perhaps just enough to cover gas money if someone is driving in from another community. Though I know many song leaders who have a college education in music, they are teachers in schools or colleges, or sometimes professional performers in secular music; if they make their living in music it is outside of the church.

Entering a New Era: Great Songs of the Church

The early lack of formally trained music editors within the Churches of Christ came to an end with the arrival of a man who was to have a huge impact on the hymnody of the Churches of Christ: Elmer Leon Jorgenson (1886-1968). Jorgenson, editor of Great Songs of the Church, took a complete "four-year course in musical theory, history, harmony and composition" at the University of Louisville in his decade-long preparation for his life's labor.(McCann, 220) Though the university's music department did not grant a degree in those days, it presented a curriculum similar to the classroom portions of a bachelor's degree in music without the applied studies in performance.(Catalogue, College of Liberal Arts, 28-30)

Jorgenson's dream of a highly inclusive hymnal, combining the best of the heritage of English hymnody from earlier centuries with the best of the contemporary gospel songs of his day, bore fruit in 1921 when Great Songs almost immediately sold out its first printing. It was obvious that Jorgenson had produced a classic, and the hymnal was widely praised by well-known song leaders. In 1925 Jorgenson accomodated the growing demand from the South for a shape-note edition; earlier editions had been in traditional round notation, and both round- and shape-note versions were produced for many years.(McCann, 222-223)

But Jorgenson's hymnal was not without its detractors. Jorgenson was firmly in the premillennial camp, and was an associate editor of Word and Work, the Louisville, Kentucky journal that came to be the primary voice of this viewpoint within the Churches of Christ. (A search of the archived issues at Hans Rollman's Restoration Movement Pages shows that Jorgenson wrote the "Work and Worship" department of the journal from at least 1913, even before R. H. Boll's editorship brought it to the forefront among the premillennial congregations. With the redesign of the masthead in 1916 he is listed as a co-editor under Boll, along with Stanford Chambers and H. L. Olmstead.) As the premillennial issue swept across the churches during the early decades of the 20th century, Jorgenson's hymnal was inevitably associated with the controversy.

Whether the hymnal itself was premillennial is an interesting question, because most hymnals contain works written by people of widely varying doctrinal beliefs, yet without necessarily reflecting all of those beliefs. There were certainly songs that could support a premillennial interpretation, such as "I know that my Redeemer liveth" by Jessie Hunter Brown Pounds, which originally included this stanza:

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand,
I know eternal life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

This is of course based directly on Job 19:25, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." But opponents of premillennialism were quick to point out that the word "again" in the second line is an interpretation of Mrs. Pounds not inherent in the Scripture in question, especially considered from Job's perspective!(Wallace) The argument here turned on this common debate point against premillennialism: at the return of Christ, since we will "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up,"(2 Peter 3:10) therefore the Bible teaches that Jesus will not set foot on this earth again, much less establish an earthly kingdom.

Interestingly, Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (1937) simply omitted the hymn; other hymnals among the Churches of Christ use it with the second line of this stanza altered to, "And that His throne shall ever stand."(Mankin) Most of the rest of the examples cited in Mankin's study are open to "either/or" interpretation, and at any rate those songs were easily enough avoided. But for some brethren it was sufficient that the editor of Great Songs was a premillennialist, and Foy Wallace Jr. (1896-1979), the Texas firebrand who devoted much of his life to refuting that doctrine, believed that Great Songs should be rejected.(Hooper, 149) In the 1930s, with the popular new hymnal available in shape notes, one supposes there was even more urgency to provide an alternative.

Answering the Call: A New Music Editor

Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992), from Jonesboro, Arkansas, was a precocious boy who quickly soaked up the education opportunities available to him in his rural setting. Trained in music at home and in local singing schools, he was reading music by age five--"before that," he claimed modestly, "I sang much by rote." He was teaching singing schools himself by age fifteen, and by eighteen had attained "graduate" status at the summer music normal schools, which he later equated roughly with a bachelor's degree. He began writing songs at age fourteen, though he later discounted their quality. Some of these works from his teens, however, were at least good enough to publish. His songs appeared in books published by the Hartford Music Company (Hartford, Arkansas), where Albert E. Brumley was a staff songwriter, and by the Hildebrand-Burnett Company (Roanoke, Virginia).(Sanderson, "Autobiography")

Like that of Jorgenson, Sanderson's education was to be an ongoing process. Though he was teaching music and directing the chorus for the newly founded Harding College during the 1920s (having served in the same role at the short-lived Harper College in Kansas), he took voice from a private instructor and did two further years of music studies at the Little Rock Conservatory. Following his desire to serve the Lord in full-time church work, he took a position with a congregation in Springfield, Missouri in 1928; while in the area he took two more years of college work at Southwest Missouri. Most of his studies were in the area of public speaking, but he also took correspondence courses in music history through the University of Arkansas.(Sanderson, "Autobiography")

Foy E. Wallace, Jr. became editor of the Gospel Advocate in 1930, and was soon looking for just such a man. Theodore Thomas, writing on the history of hymnody in the American Restoration Movement, notes merely that the Gospel Advocate Company was "responding to the reluctance of some churches to adopt a premillennial hymnal,"(411) but when we consider who the editor was, it is easy to understand the speed with which the project went forward. Sanderson was contacted by Wallace, and began work on the hymnal in 1933.(Sanderson, "100 years") It should not be assumed, however, that Sanderson shared Wallace's views of Great Songs of the Church; in fact, he was on record to the contrary. The February 1926 issue of Word and Work contained among others this testimonial to Jorgenson's hymnal:
A hymnal of great songs for spiritual worship. In price, none to compare; in make-up, very neat; in binding, lasting quality; in arrangement of songs, superior; in fact--the book the church has been needing. -- L. O. Sanderson, Director Vocal Music, Harding College.(Boll)
In his autobiographical statement, published posthumously in the Gospel Advocate, Sanderson places Elmer L. Jorgenson alongside Will W. Slater, Albert E. Brumley, and Tillit S. Teddlie as acquaintances who were of particular significance in the Churches of Christ for their work as songwriters and editors.

The Title Page: Between the Lines

The title of the the new hymnal, Christian Hymns, was not just a generic descriptor arrived at by accident. It was the title of the very first Gospel Advocate hymnal in 1889, brought out by the efforts of David Lipscomb as an alternative to the Christian Hymn-Book, formerly Alexander Campbell's hymnal but by that time owned by the American Christian Missionary Society. It was the latter association, and the fact that sales of the Christian Hymn-Book helped support the ACMS, that drove Lipscomb to offer a new hymnal.(Bowman, 58) The 1889 Christian Hymns was a small, affordable book, but was obviously designed to serve as the main hymnal of a congregation, rather than as a supplement (as was the case with the many ephemeral paperback publications of the gospel music industry). It was still being sold in 1922, much longer than any other GA hymnals before Sanderson's time.(Bowman, 67) The re-use of this title, therefore, helped emphasize the importance of the 1935 Christian Hymns as a re-invention of its well-known predecessor.

The title page of Christian Hymns is interesting in its presentation of the editorial team. L. O. Sanderson appeared first--though he was very much the junior of the others--and then C. M. Pullias, the editor of the last several Gospel Advocate hymnals. It is impressive that Pullias, one of the best known preachers and writers among Churches of Christ in that era, and the song leader for N. B. Hardeman's famous "Tabernacle Meetings" at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, gave top billing to a newcomer forty years his junior.(Collins) Listed as "associate editors" were Nicholas B. Hardeman (1874-1965), Elvin H. Ijams (1886-1982), and James F. Cox (1878-1968). Though I cannot tell the extent to which these last three men influenced the hymnal, the reason for their inclusion was simple: at the time, Hardeman was president of Freed-Hardeman College, Ijams was president of Lipscomb College, and Cox was president of Abilene Christian College.(Harp, "Hardeman"; Overton; Childers) Nothing more could have been done to proclaim this hymnal a serious endeavor, worthy of brotherhood-wide attention, than securing the endorsement of these three major institutions.

One man's name is missing from this title page--Foy E. Wallace, Jr., who brought Sanderson on board in the first place. Wallace was in dire straits at the time. When he had first arrived in Nashville in 1930 (at the beginning of the Great Depression!), he found that his salary had been significantly reduced even before he began. Additionally, his usually reliable income from preaching gospel meetings was hampered by the perception that the churches were already supporting him through their subscriptions to Gospel Advocate, and thus were not obligated to pay him as much for his preaching.(Harp, "Wallace") (Dr. Carroll Ellis, whom I was blessed to know as a next-door neighbor, said the same situation existed for Lipscomb College faculty when he came to Nashville in the late 1940s. The college assumed you would supplement your income from preaching work, and the churches assumed the college was paying your living, so neither felt obligated to pay you much!) In 1934 Wallace resigned from the editorship of the Gospel Advocate, presumably in order to pursue full-time the gospel meeting work that was his forte. Though he eventually paid off his debts, he was forced to declare bankruptcy later that year and left Nashville.(Wikipedia) Despite these struggles, the new hymnal appeared in 1935, published by Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tennessee, and in a cooperative effort between the usually rival hymnal publishers, by Firm Foundation in Austin, Texas.

The Importance of Christian Hymns (1935)

In the long run, Christian Hymns did not overtake Great Songs of the Church as the most widely used hymnal among Churches of Christ. Thomas notes that eventually the quality of the hymnal overcame concerns about the editor's premillennial views,(Thomas, 410ff.) and it has already been noted that Great Songs No. 2 omitted some of the hymns that had raised objections. Additionally, as the years passed and premillennialism was clearly not becoming the majority view in the Churches of Christ, the furor died down on its own. I suspect that few in my generation in the Churches of Christ know there ever was an issue with using Jorgenson's hymnal.

Ironically, the hymnal that Sanderson had been recruited to beat was probably also an influence on his work as well. Though at least half of its contents were gospel songs, Great Songs was noted as a hymnal that included many of the best traditional hymns from the entire heritage of English hymnody. When Sanderson brought out Christian Hymns No. 2 in 1948, so did his. I can see no more likely influence than Jorgenson's hymnal, that Sanderson himself had given such high praise.

But the fact that there was a "No. 2" and "No. 3" is evidence enough that Christian Hymns was a major success on its own. To that extent, it succeeded in meeting its purpose--it launched an alternative franchise. When Sanderson brought out the second edition in 1948, it was poised to take advantage of the post-war boom in church growth. Its economical size, quality editing, and the respected names of its publisher and editor meant that a volume called Christian Hymns would be in the hands of many, many Christians for years to come.

One practice of Pullias's era that Sanderson continued was the acquisition of copyrights, and this led to perhaps the greatest lasting influence of the 1935 Christian Hymns. In those days long before clearing-houses such as CCLI, hymnal publishers bartered with each other for discounts on the use of their copyrights. If publisher A held copyright to a particularly popular hymn, publisher B might offer a discounted rate on the use of several of his own hymns in exchange for permission to use publisher A's hymn. Gospel Advocate had been late coming into the hymnal business, but Pullias had learned the ropes and did his best to acquire material to use as leverage with other publishers.(Sanderson, "100 years")

One of the best means of working around this situation, of course, was to write your own songs. They cost you nothing to use, and if they became popular enough they could become a valuable asset sought for by other publishers. Sanderson wrote a number of new songs for Christian Hymns--in fact, the final page of the hymnal is a list of the songs included to which Gospel Advocate held the copyright, and many of them were brand-new works for which he wrote the music. Many of these were collaborations with his Methodist pen-pal (they never met face to face), the talented lyricist Thomas O. Chisholm. Though Sanderson wrote many fine hymns, it is ironic that the hymnal that premiered so much of his music to the Churches of Christ, would contain so many of his best. Theodore Thomas notes this as the high point of the hymnal: "Christian Hymns was a less ambitious work than Great Songs, but it had the virtue of disseminating a number of its editor's finer hymns."(411)

In a later post I will examine the contents of the hymnal itself.


Bowman, John. Sweetly the Tones are Falling: A Hymnal History of Churches of Christ. Brentwood, Tenn.: Penmann Press, 1984.

Hughes, Richard T., and R. L. Roberts. The Churches of Christ. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001.

McCann, Forrest. "A History of Great Songs of the Church." Restoration Quarterly 38/4 (1996), 219-228.

Catalogue, University of Louisville, 1910-11.

Wallace, Foy E., Jr. "Does it read that way?" Gospel Guardian volume B/1 (January 1936), page 19.

Mankin, Jim, and Jason Fikes. "'When Shall I Reach That Happy Place?' Apocalyptic Themes in the Hymns of the Stone-Campbell Movement." Restoration Quarterly 38/1 (1996)"

Hooper, Robert E. A Distinct People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Sanderson, Lloyd O. "'The Lord has been mindful of me': an autobiography of L. O. Sanderson." Gospel Advocate 146/9 (September, 2004), pages 26-28.

Thomas, Theodore N. "Hymnody." The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 409-411.

Sanderson, L. O. "One hundred years in song." Gospel Advocate July 1955. (quoted in Bowman, John. Sweetly the Tones are Falling: A Hymnal History of Churches of Christ. Brentwood, Tenn.: Penmann Press, 1984, 69ff.)

Boll, Robert H. "Commendations." Word and Work 19/2 (February 1926), 64.

Collins, Willard. "Charles Mitchell Pullias." Gospel Advocate 104/17 (26 April 1962), 263-264.,cm.htm

Harp, Scott. "Nicholas Brodie Hardeman." The Restoration Movement.,nb.htm

Overton, Basil. "Brother and Sister Ijams." The World Evangelist (March 1975), page 6.

Childers, Tom. Obituary of James Franklin Cox.

Harp, Scott. "Foy E. Wallace, Jr." The Restoration Movement.,fe,jr.htm

"Foy E. Wallace." Wikipedia.