Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christian Hymns no. 2 (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1948)

In a previous post I examined the origins of Christian Hymns "no. 1," the Gospel Advocate Company's 1935 "reboot" of its hymnal franchise under the leadership of a new music editor, Lloyd O. Sanderson. The new Christian Hymns series was clearly begun in competition with Elmer Jorgenson's Great Songs of the Church, at least in the intention of Foy E. Wallace, Jr., the Gospel Advocate editor who initiated the project. But over time, new editions of each hymnal would show a degree of mutual influence, probably owed to the mutual respect the hymnal editors themselves showed toward each other. Sanderson, in fact, had given high praise to Great Songs in a 1926 letter:
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)
And though I have not found an actual statement by Jorgenson on Sanderson's work at Gospel Advocate, the 2nd edition of Great Songs (1937) picked up several songs that had appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns, including a new song by Thomas Chisholm and L. O. Sanderson himself, "Buried with Christ." In turn, Great Songs of the Church, no. 2 was very probably an influence on the direction Sanderson took in his next edition: Christian Hymns no. 2, which appeared in 1948.

The Impact of Great Songs no. 2 on Christian Hymns no. 2

There were 175 songs in Christian Hymns no. 2 that did not appear in the 1935 Christian Hymns, more than a third of the contents of the new book. I looked for these 175 new songs in several competing hymnals from the Churches of Christ in the decade before Sanderson's revision appeared: Great Songs of the Church no. 2 (1937); two Will Slater publications, Church Hymnal (1938) and Gospel Songs and Hymns (1944); two Firm Foundation publications, New Wonderful Songs (1938) and Our Leader (1941); and Teddlie's Standard Gospel Songs (1944). As a sort of control to this less-than-scientific experiment, I also compared the popular Broadman Hymnal (1940) and The Methodist Hymnal (1939), both of which were published in Nashville during the time Sanderson was working on the Christian Hymns series. The Broadman Hymnal, a Baptist publication edited by B. B. McKinney, was used by some Churches of Christ during the middle decades of the 20th century, according to a survey in Jim Jackson's 1970 doctoral dissertation.)

Of the 175 songs searched, 85 songs did not appear in any of these books; 32 of these, of course, were original compositions or arrangements by Sanderson himself. Of the 90 that were found in one or more of these hymnals, the results were as follows:
Great Songs of the Church no. 274
Broadman Hymnal51
Standard Gospel Hymns (Teddlie)33
Will Slater publications30
Methodist Hymnal24
Firm Foundation publications13

One caveat about the results is that neither of the Firm Foundation publications examined is really a general-purpose hymnal; they are smaller paperback books that focused more on introducing new songs. The Teddlie hymnal compares much more favorably despite its small size, showing that Sanderson did have a significant connection with the Texas school of songwriters. It is also no surprise to find that the hymn repertoire of the Churches of Christ resembles that of the Southern Baptists more than that of the Methodists, even in a hymnal edited by Sanderson, whose roots were in the Methodist church.

But the significant statistic here, of course, is the preponderance of correspondence to Great Songs of the Church no. 2. If Sanderson's own songs are excluded, more than half of the remaining 143 new songs in Christian Hymns no. 2 can be found in the 1937 Great Songs no. 2. Elmer Jorgenson's hymnal had sold in all about 250,000 copies by 1946 (including all editions from 1921 on), and was probably the most widely used hymnal throughout the Churches of Christ. Its appeal grew even more rapidly in the postwar years, and sales reached the 1 million mark by 1952.(McCann, 226) Of course this figure included replacement copies over the years, but if Yeakley's estimates are correct and the Churches of Christ had about 500,000 members during the 1940s, this is still a staggering number.(Yeakley, 4)

Changing Tastes in the U.S. Churches of Christ During the Postwar Era

Though Flavil Yeakley's studies have provided a valuable corrective to the often exaggerated claims of growth among the Churches of Christ during the period immediately following World War Two, it was nonetheless a time of significant change. The most dramatic growth was in urban and suburban congregations, where the membership was increasingly college-educated and relatively affluent.(Harrel, 568ff.) The smaller rural congregations remained, then and now, a huge portion of the fellowship, but the rising city congregations were a new element with somewhat different tastes.

The Christian colleges, especially through their touring a cappella choirs, raised awareness of the classical hymn style in particular--evidenced by the contents of the Singing Hymnbook LP set, recorded in the early 1950s. (For sake of argument, here are my imperfect definitions of "classical hymn" and "gospel song": a gospel song probably has a chorus, a classical hymn does not; a gospel song may be in any musical meter with much rhythmic variety, a classical hymn is usually in simple duple or triple time with relatively little rhythmic variety; a gospel song is closer to popular music styles of its day, a classical hymn is closer to Western classical art music.) This broader repertoire had long been included in Great Songs of the Church, but was not as much part of the southern traditions represented in hymnals from Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation. With new church buildings going up, there were hymnal racks to fill, and Sanderson wanted his revision of Christian Hymns to keep pace with the changing times.

First, consider the 125 songs that were dropped from the 1935 Christian Hymns, highlighted in blue in the linked spreadsheet. Sanderson omitted several of his own songs, written with Thomas O. Chisholm, which had not caught the churches' fancy. Mainstream gospel writers such as Leila Morris, Grant Colfax Tullar, and James Rowe figure prominently in the songs that were cut, though their works are still well represented in the newer hymnal. But barely a dozen of the songs that were left out from the earlier hymnal could be called classical hymns. This is one-fifth of the five dozen or so hymns in the 1935 book that I would place in the "classical" category; but the remaining 100-plus songs that were deleted are close to a third of the gospel songs from the 400-number hymnal. A contributing factor might be that the classical hymn category was older material, winnowed out over the centuries until most of what remained was really worth keeping, whereas the newer gospel songs had more "chaff" to lose. Still, the proportions suggest that Sanderson was favoring classical hymns and looking more critically at the gospel songs.

This becomes even more apparent when we look at the 175 songs that were added. Though the number of classical hymns in this group is not dramatic, the overall result is a noticeable increase in the proportion of classical repertoire to gospel songs from the first Christian Hymns. The 1935 book, with 400 numbers, had about five dozen classical hymns, 15% of the contents. Looking through the 1948 Christian Hymns no. 2, which has 453 numbers, I spot about 90 hymns that I would put in this category--19% of the contents. Again, this is an imprecise measurement, because this classification is a matter of personal judgment. Is Sanderson's "Be with me, Lord" a classical hymn? (Probably.) Is "Onward Christian soldiers," which has a chorus, a gospel song? (No.) But the shift is still big enough to notice.

It is also worth noting that the classical hymns added to the 1948 hymnal include many that are either well known in English hymnody in general, or that have become popular among the Churches of Christ in the U.S. in particular, such as:
  • A mighty Fortress
  • Beneath the cross of Jesus
  • Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  • Fairest Lord Jesus
  • My Jesus, as Thou wilt
  • O worship the King
  • The Lord's my Shepherd (Scottish Psalter)
Each one of these was present in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church no. 2, but could not be found in any  of the other contemporary hymnals from Churches of Christ that I examined. It appears that Sanderson was in fact influenced by his rival, and upon taking sole editorship of the revision of Christian Hymns, steered it in a direction more similar to that of Jorgenson's hymnal

Sanderson's Original Songs in Christian Hymns no. 2

In the 1935 Christian Hymns, Sanderson introduced a number of fine songs co-written with the Methodist lyricist Thomas O. Chisholm; but in Christian Hymns no. 2, only one new song from this team appears. "The home up there" is copyrighted 1935, and thus appears to have been a leftover from their earlier work. By 1948 Chisholm was 72 years old, and having been in poor health most of his adult life was undoubtedly becoming more frail with age. A search of his texts on shows that the appearances of new songs by Chisholm fell off during the 1940s, though a few new songs turn up even to the end of his life (it is not always possible to tell whether these were newly written, included from earlier collections, or newly set to music).

"The providence of God" is one of Sanderson's new songs in the 1948 hymnal that has continued in use. The text was written by W. E. Brightwell, who at the time was the news editor and circulation manager for Gospel Advocate.(Gospel Guardian) I haven't found reference to any other hymns by this author, but this is a good treatment of the subject and calls out some of Sanderson's best composition. I think I hear a trace of "On Zion's glorious summit" in this music.

Sanderson also set a text by Frank E. Roush, "Nearer to Jesus." Roush was a prolific hymn writer from the independent Christian Churches in Ohio. Additionally, Sanderson wrote two texts adapted to music by other composers: "The Lord is our salvation," to music by Alexander Ewing, and "Then be prepared," with music by C. E. Leslie. Sanderson also did a good deal of arranging and minor editing of the music of others, primarily to make it more suitable for a cappella congregational singing.

There were 28 new songs with both words and music by Sanderson himself, though usually the text is attributed to his pseudonym, "Vana R. Raye" (adapted from his wife's nickname).(Sanderson, "Autobiography") Out of these, I am familiar with only four:

"Pray all the time" has the signature bass lead, "Pray in the morn-ing..." which has an unfortunate similarity to "On top of old Smoky," at least to a little boy. It is also the only bass lead song I have seen that has the lead in a separate staff, with an ordinary bass part to be sung at the same time. In my experience, all the basses sing the lead anyway, and it works just about as well. We have a fairly limited number of songs about the need for prayer, and this was a worthy enough effort that it was has lasted a few decades.

"The Lord has been mindful of me" is another fine song on the subject of divine providence, this time with text by Sanderson himself. In his autobiographical sketch, Sanderson relates that the text was inspired by reflection on his own life. He once had a promising church music career in the Methodist church, but gave it up at the age of 22 when he was baptized into the Church of Christ. There was no corresponding position of music minister or choir director to which he could aspire in this fellowship, yet he found new doors opening that led him into college choir directing and eventually to hymnal editing with the Gospel Advocate. Through it all, he felt that he certainly had been much favored.

Of the hymns for which Sanderson wrote both words and music, this is in my opinion the best. The genuineness of the text shines through the somewhat cliched hymn language common to gospel songs of the era, and the music is bold and fresh compared to many of his other songs; the first phrase pair in particular trips along in an unusual and compelling way.

"'Tis set, the feast divine" is the shortest and most unassuming of Sanderson's new songs, but it really may be the best-written and will probably continue the longest in use. It is a quiet, modest little hymn for the Lord's Supper, and perhaps shows Sanderson's reflection on the classical hymns he was emphasizing in the 1948 edition.

"Where livest thou?" is an example of Sanderson's experimental streak, and shows both the strength and weakness of that element of his style. It is really quite unusual musically, and somewhat hard to sing, with halting phrases that do not quite do what one expects. It is quite original, especially within the context of congregational gospel song of the era; but in my opinion, it doesn't quite work.

This is a good place to point out a difference between Sanderson's style and that of his contemporary, Tillit Teddlie. Of the songwriters coming from the Churches of Christ in the 20th century, these two contributed the largest number of lasting songs and probably had the biggest impact. Between the two, Teddlie's work is more even in quality--there are Teddlie songs that are better than others, but I can't think of one that doesn't work. Sanderson wrote some songs that just didn't.

On the other hand, Teddlie's style usually stayed within a pretty consistent set of parameters--he knew what worked, and like many another songwriter, he did it repeatedly. Sanderson's style, by contrast, is all over the place. He wrote more experimental songs, some of which didn't work. Between the two, I think Teddlie was the better songwriter on the strength of his more natural melody writing and his sense of what would work for congregational singing. But I have to respect Sanderson's quirkiness, too; it gave us some really good songs. In his own words, "an evaluation of personal contributions is left to the critics and users."("100 years") Critics notwithstanding, the users have kept a dozen or so of Sanderson's songs in use for more than half a century.

Assessment of Impact

I do not have sales figures on Christian Hymns no. 2, but it certainly seemed as though every church building I was in during my growing up years had a stack of these in a closet somewhere. It seems as though this was a very, very popular book across the southern United States where the Gospel Advocate's influence was strongest. And for what it's worth--this is just a rough indication at, which is a union list of thousands of libraries, shows 21 libraries holding copies of the original 1935 hymnal, and 20 libraries holding copies of the 1966 Christian Hymns III, but 39 libraries holding Christian Hymns no. 2--almost twice as many as the others. There seem to have been many more copies of the 2nd edition floating around!

This backs up Sanderson's own assessment in 1955: "The extended circulation and use of Christian Hymns no. 2 throughout America and in some foreign lands, attest to the success of the effort."("100 years") Indeed it does. Looking through the songs in Christian Hymns no. 2, I believe I could still get up and lead about two-thirds of these in most of the Churches of Christ in the southern United States that still sing the the traditional repertoire. Young people who have never seen this hymnal, whose parents were born since it went out of print, may still know half the songs. Though Sanderson's work was influenced by that of Jorgensen and others, it was certainly a major part of establishing the canon of that traditional repertoire.


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

Jackson, James L. Music practices among Churches of Christ in the United States. D.Mus.Ed. dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 1970.

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

Yeakley, Flavil. The Growth Record Revisited. Harding Center for Church Growth Studies, 1998.

Harrell, David Edwin. "Noninstitutional movement." The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004.

"Brightwell added to our staff." Gospel Guardian 1/25 (27 October 1949), p. 4

Walker, Wayne S. "I love Him because He first loved me." Hymn Studies

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. Reproduced by Scott Harp, The Restoration Movement web site.

Sanderson, Lloyd O. "One hundred years in song." Gospel Advocate 97/28 (July 1955), p. 598. Reprinted in Singing for the Master, ed. Irma Lee Batey (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1962), pp. 138-142.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Come Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs

Praise for the Lord #105

Words: Isaac Watts, 1707
Music: Thomas Haweis, RICHMOND, 1792

This hymn was #62 in the first book of Watts's Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), where it has the inscription, "Christ Jesus the Lamb of God, Worshipped by All the Creation, Rev. v.11-13."(Julian, 248) It is hard to realize today the context in which this volume appeared, when many English Protestants held scruples against singing any text in worship that did not come directly from Scripture. Others had broken this barrier before Watts, but Watts was the indispensable figure in the development of the English hymn-singing culture that emerged during the 17th century. Kenneth Cousland summarized his career well: "One simple fact is eloquent--when Isaac Watts was born, scarcely a hymn was sung in church; when he died seventy-four years later, the floodgates of church praise had been flung wide open."(298)

But when the first volume of Hymns and Spiritual Songs appeared in 1707, it was by no means certain that it would be accepted. Watts was carefully apologetic in the preface to this collection, recognizing the prejudices arrayed against any such attempt:
I have borrowed the Sense and much of the Form of the SONG from some particular Portions of Scripture . . . In these I expect to be often censured for a too religious Observance of the Words of Scripture, whereby the Verse is weakened and debased, according to the Judgment of the Critics; But as my whole Design was to aid the Devotion of Christians, so more especially in this Part: And I am satisfied I shall hereby attain two Ends, namely, assist the Worship of all serious Minds, to whom the Expressions of Scripture are ever dear and delightful, and gratify the Taste and Inclination of those who think nothing must be sung unto GOD but the Translations of his own Word.(ix-x)
Note that his apology is addressed to critics of poetry, not of doctrine; by invoking their imagined objections to his literalness in paraphrase, he subtly courted the acceptance of the Scripture-only faction.

As a Calvinist, Watts was naturally drawn to the principle of God's absolute majesty and sovereignty, and spoke in tones that recall something of the spirit, if not the poetic style and skill, of Milton's Paradise Lost. Frederic Palmer notes that "when [Watts] approaches God there is ever with him the sense of awe; he bows low in the Divine presence. . . . He is almost unique in his ability to convey the impression of sublimity."(393) This hymn is an example of one of Watts's favorite variations on that theme: Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God, now enthroned in glory. In his first book of hymns, Watts paraphrased from the Revelation no fewer than 15 times out of 150 hymns. The image of Jesus as the Lamb appears 20 times, and almost all of these reference the same passages from the Revelation. For a good readable (and searchable) online copy of Watts's three books of original hymns, see the 1803 edition by Manning & Loring of Boston.

Stanza 1:
Come let us join our cheerful songs
With angels round the throne;
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands . . . (Revelation 5:11)
Who are all these citizens of heaven? Descriptions in Scripture tell us that an angel looks like us, only more glorious; but these are occasions when God sent those beings to communicate with humans. How do we know that is their true appearance? And when it comes to the four beasts or "living creatures," the best imaginations of science fiction writers could not come up with more terrifyingly alien beings. How long have these heavenly beings existed? What was the circumstance of their creation? We cannot say, but we know what they do--they serve and worship the Lord. "Day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'"(Revelation 4:8) They have done so since the creation of this universe, "when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy."(Job 38:7) They do so still, and the Revelation makes clear that they will do so when this universe is no more.

Into this scene of ageless, eternal, august celebration, God invites you and me, who "are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow."(Job 8:9) But through Christ's grace, He has assured us that we can "with confidence draw near to the throne of grace."(Hebrews 4:16) When we raise our voices in sincere praises of the Almighty, we are joining in the songs of the angels! My singing would never win "American Idol," but if I am "singing and making melody to the Lord in [my] heart," I am pleasing an infinitely more significant Judge.(Ephesians 5:19) I might never win a place in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera (which I would covet far more than "American Idol"), but when I lift up my songs with my brothers and sisters in the church, I am joining in the great and everlasting chorus of "angels round the throne."

Twice during the vision of the Revelation, John fell down and worshiped the angels who were speaking to him; but each time the heavenly being said, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!"(Revelation 19:10, 22:8-9) Though the glory of these beings is so far above ours, they call us their fellow servants under the Lord of All. No doubt their singing, whatever that may be, is far above ours as well, but they call us to be fellow worshipers with them.

All around this globe Christians can join together in praise of God, in many languages and accents, but with one accord. Basil of Caesarea (330-379) said, "Who can regard a man as his enemy, when they have lifted up one voice to God together?"(Letters, 60) Unfortunately, there are many things that divide those who seek to follow Christ, but Basil's words are true: if all those who seek to be pleasing to God will unite in harmony with God's will, we will be in harmony with each other.

Stanza 2:
Worthy the Lamb that died they cry,
"To be exalted thus:"
"Worthy the Lamb," our lips reply,
For He was slain for us.

Here Watts renders the next verse of his source text: "Saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.'"(Revelation 5:12) This statement follows, in context, the question posed at the beginning of this episode of the Revelation:
Then I saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.(Revelation 5:1-4)
If none among that company of sinless heavenly beings was worthy, it is no surprise that no one "on earth or under the earth" was worthy to look into the scroll! The very best among us would still have to say with Isaiah, "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."(Isaiah 64:6)

But the Everlasting Son of the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Heaven, came down to this earth and "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."(Hebrews 4:15) Our sins were washed away "with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a Lamb without blemish or spot."(1 Peter 1:19) He is worthy of the honor of opening that scroll, and of any other honor there may be on earth or in heaven. And if the angels of heaven praise His worthiness, how much more should we? It is through His sacrifice that we can aspire to join our praises with them. They love Him for who He is; we love Him for who He is, and for what He has done for us.

In Watts's original there is another stanza following, based on the same verse of Scripture:

Jesus is worthy to receive
Honor and power divine;
And blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, for ever Thine.

In his younger, more faithful days, King Solomon prayed as he dedicated the temple, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You."(1 Chronicles 29:14) He had just sacrificed an array of livestock that would boggle the mind of even a West Texas rancher! But Solomon knew it was really nothing compared to the honors God deserves. Micah echoed this attitude: "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"(Micah 6:7) There is nothing we could have done to repay the debt of sin; likewise there is nothing we could do to fully offer the honor and gratitude Jesus deserves. But it is our duty and privilege to do our best!

Stanza 3:
Let all that dwell above the sky,
And air, and earth, and seas,
Conspire to lift Thy glories high,
And speak Thine endless praise.

Another stanza originally followed, closing out the hymn:

The whole creation join in one,
To bless the sacred name
Of Him that sits upon the throne,
And to adore the Lamb.

The two preceding stanzas paraphrase Revelation 5:13,
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
There is one little issue of language to address before looking at the content: why did Watts use the word "conspire?" I have never heard that word used, in modern speech, without the implication of a sinister intent. The Oxford English Dictionary shows that this is the oldest and primary meaning of the word, as far back as Chaucer. But there was a secondary meaning, now fallen out of use, that implied only concerted action and unity of purpose. The word itself is a Latin borrowing, meaning "to breathe together," speaking as with one voice. Watts's poetry and choice of words are not without flaw, to be sure, but the intent here was perfectly sensible to his contemporaries.

The thought presented in this Scripture verse, and in Watts's closing stanzas, is a common one in Old Testament poetry: the chorus of creation. The last verses of Psalm 150, the very final words of that wonderful book, command: "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!" Psalm 148 is a more detailed catalog, calling on all created things to praise their Maker, from the greatest to the least.

  • The heavenly beings: "Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts!"(v.2)
  • The celestial bodies of the universe: "Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all you shining stars!"(v.3)
  • The atmosphere of our earth: "Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!"(v.4)
  • The seas and all creatures in them: "Praise the LORD
    from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps!"(v.7)
  • The phenomena of weather: "Fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling His word!"(v.8)
  • The dry land and its features: "Mountains and all hills . . ."(v. 9a)
  • The plant kingdom: "fruit trees and cedars!"(v. 9b)
  • The animal kingdom large and small, wild and tame, even down to the tiniest "creeping things": "Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!"(v. 10)

To the ancient Hebrews it was a matter of great import to remember that God is the Creator of all things. They were surrounded by peoples that worshiped many limited gods of limited things, a god for this and a god for that. The children of Israel had a profoundly different perspective: they served the One God who created all, and who therefore holds all creation under His control. It was a way of life, as Artur Weiser described in his commentary on Psalms:
Because all things are God’s handiwork, He has the power to help whatever may happen; for even now all things are still in His hand. The distinctive character of the Old Testament concept of creation . . . represents not a piece of knowledge but a decision to submit oneself to God’s creative will and power.(Weiser, 747)
So as the writer of Psalm 148 concludes, he turns to that one part of God's creation that does not already unabashedly and ungrudgingly give Him glory: human beings.(v. 11-12) Here is the invitation of the heavenly worship, and here is Watts's plea in making this hymn: submit to the will of God, and join with the rest of His creation in an endless stream of joyful praise!

About the music:

Thomas Haweis (1734-1820; last name rhymes with "paws") was a prominent leader in the Evangelical movement within the Church of England, and was associated with many of its most important figures. In 1762 he was appointed to serve at the Lock Hospital Chapel in London, under chaplain Martin Madan. Through Madan he became acquainted with Lady Huntingdon, whom he served as chaplain for many years following.(Wikipedia) Madan was publisher of the significant hymnal known as the Lock Hospital Collection (1769); Lady Huntingdon was also heavily involved in hymnody as a facilitator and encourager of aspiring hymnists.

Haweis consistently tried to keep the Evangelical movement within the bounds of the Church of England, which led to something of a separation from Lady Huntingdon, though her respect for him was such that her will made him a trustee of the Huntingdon Connexion after her death. He was a scholar and practical theologian of considerable note; his Evangelical Principles and Practice was a standard work for the rising generation of leaders in the new movement, and he also wrote a commentary on the Bible, a translation of the New Testament, and a history of Christianity.(Wikipedia)

Most of Haweis's hymns and tunes are known from his Carmina Christi; or Hymns to the Saviour, with editions in 1792 and 1808.(Wikipedia) Though he is not as well known today as some of his contemporaries, he was a central figure in the new hymnody of the late 18th century. In one striking coincidence, he was actually offered the curatorship of Olney, which he declined, suggesting John Newton instead. The substitution was made, and it was at Olney that Newton worked and lived alongside William Cowper, producing the landmark Olney Hymns.(Huntingdon, 2:36 fn.)

Though Haweis's tune RICHMOND is his most lasting musical composition, it was not his first: contemporary testimony identifies him as the "T. H." who wrote some of the tunes for Madan's Lock Hospital Collection (1769). This publication is notable for its departure from the somber hymn tunes of the preceding generations, turning instead to the popular song styles of the music halls.(Temperly, 67ff.) It was this work that introduced one of the best-known examples of the new style, Giardini's glorious ITALIAN HYMN. Haweis's RICHMOND has something of the same light minuet-like feel.

RICHMOND is a much-used tune, found associated with no fewer than 23 different texts at Like Giardini's ITALIAN HYMN, the version we have today is modified from Haweis's more elaborate original; we sing an arrangement of the tune by Samuel Webbe, Jr., published in his Collection of Psalm Tunes (1808).( The tune is not particularly difficult, but neither is it easy; another Common Meter tune such as AZMON ("O for a faith that will not shrink") would do as a substitute if necessary.


Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology. (London: J. Murray, 1891).

Cousland, Kenneth. "The Significance of Isaac Watts in the Development of Hymnody." Church History: Studies in Christianity & Culture 17/4 (December 1948), pages 287-298.

Watts, Isaac. Hymns and Spiritual Songs in Three Books. London: Strahan & Rivington, 1773.

Basil of Caesarea. Letters and Selected Works, edited by Blomfield Jackson. London, 1894.

Artur Weiser. The Psalms: a Commentary, 5th rev. ed., translated Herbert Hartwell. The Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962.

"Thomas Haweis." N.B. This article is well written and sourced, obviously by someone familiar with the subject, and is the best resource available without access to the biography by Wood.

The Life and Times of Selina Countess of Huntingdon, 2 volumes. London: William Edward Painter, 1844. Volume 2:

Temperley, Nicholas. "The Lock Hospital Chapel and its Music." Journal of the Royal Music Association volume 118/1 (1993), pages 44-72.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Christ's Love is All I Need

Praise for the Lord #104

Words & music: George W. Sides, 1924

This song is fairly well known in southern gospel circles, but information about George W. Sides has been hard to find. The following biography has been gleaned from primary sources such as census records and newspaper articles; to avoid excessive repetition in citations, these are listed at the end of the post or are linked in the text.

George William Sides was born 29 August 1880 in the Pleasant Grove community of Walker County, Alabama, to William Lafayette and Martha Elizabeth Sides. As a young man he went to work in the coal mines at nearby Carbon Hill, but by age 30 he was back in Pleasant Grove as a music teacher. On 13 October of that year he married Alice Pearl Ray; the couple would have three children, Mary, George Jr., and Jennie. It was probably during this period that Sides published his first paperback hymnal: Perennial hymns of praise, edited with L. Dow McDonald, R. H. Brooks and J. T. Lane. This undated work was published simultaneously by Sides in Oakman, Alabama and by R. H. Brooks in Whitesburg, Tennessee.

Sides moved his family to the neighborhood of Hatley in Monroe County, Mississippi in 1912. Though his primary occupation was farming, during this period he was associated with the Stanley-Gardner Company, a gospel music publisher in Saltillo, Mississippi. The owners were James Henry Stanley (composer of "Prepare to meet thy God") and W. P. Gardner. The company issued several paperback hymnals, most without dates, but they were in operation at least by 1910 when they published a Rudiments of Music. Stanley also operated a music school in Saltillo. Sides produced two books for Stanley-Gardner: Our Tidings of Praise, co-edited with J. H. Stanley, and The Golden Harp, co-edited with J. H. Pannell and Samuel W. Beazley.

By 1930 there are no further references to the Stanley-Gardner company, and James H. Stanley had become a justice of the peace. Small gospel music publishers came and went frequently, even before the economic hardships of the Great Depression. The manifesto of the Southern Song Book Cooperative Association, formed in 1916, gives an idea of the difficulties faced by this industry. (Both Stanley and Gardner figure prominently among the officers of this organization; this document is practically a "Who's Who" of the early southern gospel publishers.) In 1929 George W. Sides moved his family west to farm in the Pettit community just outside Greenville, Mississippi. In later years he served three terms as a justice of the peace. George William Sides passed away on 3 November 1956, in Avon, Mississippi, south of Greenville. He is buried in the cemetery of the New Hope Baptist Church near his former home in Hatley, in Monroe County.

These are all the songs by George W. Sides I have been able to discover, along with the earliest publication I can find:
If he wrote this many songs in three years, he probably wrote many more. It is possible, of course, that some of these were reprints from earlier years. It is an interesting coincidence that five of these (including "Christ's love is all I need") appear in the publications Gospel Sunshine and Signal Bells from B. B. Bateman in Knoxville, Tennessee, and that the only extant copy of Sides's publication Perennial Hymns of Praise is in the rare books collection of the Knox County Public Library.

"Christ's love is all I need" seems to be Sides's most popular song, and was known among the Churches of Christ at least as early as 1938, when it appeared in New Wonderful Songs, edited by Thomas S. Cobb and George H. P. Showalter (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation).( Its widest exposure, however, doubtless came from Sacred Selections, edited by Ellis J. Crum (Kendallville, Indiana: Ellis J. Crum, 1956), a very popular hymnal among Churches of Christ in the southern United States.

Stanza 1:
Though dark and dreary be life's way
And burdens hard to bear;
There's One whose love will never fail,
My heart shall ne'er despair.
My hope is staid in Him today,
And He will safely lead
To that sweet home beyond the sea;
Christ's love is all I need.

Christ's love is all I need each day,
I know, I know, Christ's precious love is all I need;
He'll lead me safely on life's way,
I know, I know Christ's precious, precious love is all I need.

Does "dark and dreary" really describe our lives? That answer will vary depending on the circumstances of the individual; I hope your answer is, "No!" But for many of us there have been times when we would have to answer, "Yes." And with age and experience, we begin to see the truth of Ecclesiastes 11:7-8, "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."

The path of the Christian life helps us avoid many of the dark pitfalls of this world, but nothing can spare us from the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," not to mention the active ill will of the wicked. No, Christians are not immune to the darknes and burdens, but we have a source of strength the world does not know. "There's One whose love will never fail," says our songwriter, no matter who turns against us or disappoints us in this life. David the Psalmist said: "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in."(Psalm 27:10) Jeremiah, in his Lamentations, spoke as though God had abandoned him along with his nation; then in the midst of this book of tears, the weeping prophet cries out:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.(3:21-23)
How much better promises we have now, if we "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge!" It is all we need, and it is more than enough, "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."(Ephesians 5:19) Paul understood this, and even under threat of death, he could say cheerfully, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."(Philippians 1:21) Christ's love was all Paul needed. It was this love from and for Christ that sustained him through all his troubles, because it was a constant source of hope. For this reason Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica, "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word."(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Note that Christ's love gives us not only future promises--"eternal comfort and good hope through grace"--but comfort in this life as well, as we are "established in every good work and word." We are established in "every good work" when we "walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."(Ephesians 5:2) We are established in "every good word" when we "follow the pattern of the sound words . . . in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."(2 Timothy 1:13) Christ's love is the foundation of our beliefs and our course of life:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died. And He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Stanza 2:
Though trials press on every side
And many snares there be;
I look in simple faith to Him
Who calmed the stormy sea.
He is the Shepherd kind and true,
His sheep He'll ever feed;
This cheers me on and makes me strong,
Christ's love is all I need.


Jesus calming the stormy Sea of Galilee is one of the first stories we teach to children, and with good reason, because it touches on an almost universal experience. Storms are frightening to most children, and even some adults confess to hiding under the covers during a booming thunderstorm. To some of us, a powerful storm is fascinating as well; but the disciples in that boat had little time to contemplate the beauty and majesty of the elements, and were more concerned about their lives! If you have ever been in such a situation, you know what they were doing. You force the fear to the back of your mind, and do your best to reason clearly and make the right decisions quickly, but a little voice inside says, in a rather surprised tone, "You know what? This could be the end for you."

In the midst of this terror and frantic activity, we see Jesus serene and composed. In the incident of Matthew chapter 8, He was asleep in the stern of the boat. In Matthew 14 He came walking across the waves--not flying, or running, or swimming, but walking as though nothing were out of the ordinary. Of course, to Him, it wasn't. He was active in the creation of the great oceans of our planet, and could hardly be impressed with the minor tantrums of a fairly small body of water. God said to Job and his friends,
Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed"? . . . Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?(Job 38:8-11, 16)
Job had to answer no, and even with all our exploration, there are many "recesses of the deep" that remain a mystery today. But Jesus knew the sea and the storm, and though His disciples were amazed at His power over these elements, it was nothing of particular note to Him who had created them. "He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed."(Psalm 107:29) When we endure storms of the figurative sort--trials and persecutions, blows of fate and of foes--Jesus is also present, serenely guiding us, if we will only look to Him. He has the same power to calm the storms of our lives, and the storms that sometimes rage within our own hearts.

But in addition to the power to command, He has the power to comfort. The other image used in this stanza is that of the Shepherd, as Jesus describes in John 10:14-15, "I am the good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." An earthly shepherd defends and sustains the flock in his care, and the spiritual sheep of Jesus' flock are likewise promised that "He will guide them to springs of living water."(Revelation 7:17) It was this sustaining love that carried the apostle Paul through his numerous trials, any one of which might have broken a man without this secret strength: "the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."(1 Timothy 1:14) That same comfort and strength is available to all who will seek it in obedience to a loving Savior's will.

Stanza 3:
And when I hear the boatman's call,
"Come cross the chilly tide;"
I shall not fear to launch my bark,
For Christ is at my side.
He bore the sting of death for me,
Has met my every need;
And so I sing the sweet refrain,
Christ's love is all I need.


Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Now, it is true that some people manage to avoid the latter, either through having nothing to be taxed, or through having enough of it to hire a good team of lawyers and accountants; but there is no exemption, no loophole, for escaping the former. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,"(Hebrews 9:27) and that is one appointment we all shall keep.

This is not a prospect to be faced alone; but in facing death, none of our fellow human beings can comfort us by sympathy of having passed that trial before. None, that is, but One who walked that road before us, and calls us on from the other side. In the end, the love of Christ is our only true assurance and hope in this trial. Paul wrote of this comfort at a time when Christians daily faced the prospect of death at the hands of an oppressive government:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8:35-39)
It is a bond unbreakable (except by our own deliberate rejection!) and will carry us even through death itself. In view of these wonderful promises, then, "keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life."(Jude 21)

The "sting of death is sin,"(1 Corinthians 15:56) but Jesus took this sting away for His followers, bearing it Himself on the cross. Death must still be faced, but it is already a beaten opponent for those who are in the love of Christ:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"(1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
"Christ's love is all we need" in this life, and in facing the inevitable end of life, it will be all we have; but it is more than enough. "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."(Revelation 1:5b-6)

About the music:

I haven't seen any other examples of Sides's songwriting for comparison, but judging it within the context of its style--early 20th-century quartet gospel--his technique is strong. He uses a little barbershop-style chromatic harmony, but not too much, and the dissonances created by doubled nonharmonic tones are unexpected and pleasing. (For example, the doubled accented "neighbor tone" created at the beginning of the 6th measure ("NEV-er fail") by the soprano/alto A-flat/F against the bass/tenor E-flat/B-flat, resolved into an E-flat chord on the next note.)

One of the general principles of four-part harmony writing is to move each voice to the nearest possible note in each successive chord, so that the individual parts flow logically and smoothly. The shortest possible movement, of course, is to not move at all--to hold the same note from one chord to the next, whenever the chords have a note in common. Given the other restrictions on note doublings within chords, and against parallel 5ths and octaves between successive chords, there is a strong tendency for these held notes to accumulate in a single voice part. At least one of the parts, therefore, will often have a less interesting role than the others (altos have long recognized this phenomenon). Sides breaks up this tendency, whether deliberately or accidentally, especially in the first phrase. At first the tenor moves in parallel 6ths with the melody, while the alto holds an E-flat; then as the melody works its way into a higher register, the alto takes up parallel 3rds and the tenor takes over the held E-flats.

One rule that Sides breaks is pretty obvious to any student of part-writing--the parallel perfect 5th in the bass/tenor parts from the second measure of the chorus to the third. There were ways around this, such as moving the tenor to an A-flat in the 3rd measure (tripling the A-flat, or putting the soprano on the E-flat instead of the tenor). But the prohibition of perfect parallel 5ths is intended to preserve the independence of the voices, and in the chorus, the soprano, tenor, and bass are really serving more as a chordal accompaniment to the alto's melody, and the effect of the parallel 5ths is not really noticeable.

There is a real problem with the final phrase of the stanza, before the chorus--a problem that is not at all the fault of the songwriter. Sides chose to put the voices in unison, a striking effect in a cappella music. The unison melody is a descending scale passage, B-flat / A-natural / G / F, implying the key of B-flat, the dominant of the main key, E-flat. This is nicely written and causes the ear to anticipate the coming E-flat / B-flat / E-flat cadence that concludes the stanza. But only if it is sung correctly! Many singers run over the A-natural unawares, and sing it as an A-flat, as though it had no accidental. If everyone sang it this way, it would be weaken the harmonic progression of the song, but would still work; but unfortunately, it is more common for some singers to hit the A-natural as written, some to sing the A-flat they hear in the scale of the overall key, and others to wander between the two!


George W. Sides, 1900 U.S. Census.

William L. Sides family, 1910 U.S. Census.

Record of George W. Sides-Alice Pearl Ray marriage. "Alabama Marriages."

World War One Draft Registrants, Monroe County, Mississippi.

George W. Sides family, 1920 U.S. Census.

George W. Sides family, 1930 U.S. Census.

George W. Sides obituary. Delta Democrat Times (Greenville, Mississippi), 4 November 1956, p. 2.

"Sides Family Cemetery (Walker County, Alabama)."

"George William Sides."

James H. Stanley family, 1910 U. S. Census.

James H. Stanley family, 1930 U. S. Census

"What the Southern Association seeks to Accomplish." Music Trade Review 63/24 (December 1916), p. 138.