Sunday, June 23, 2013

Does Jesus Care?

Praise for the Lord #132

Words: Frank E. Graeff, 1901
Music: J. Lincoln Hall, 1901

Franklin Ellsworth Graeff (1860-1919) was a popular Methodist preacher in the Philadelphia area at the turn of the last century. He was active there from 1890, when when he was admitted to the local conference, until his death in 1919. After some  circuit riding in the counties to the north, he was located with the church at Somerton, a northern outlier of Philadelphia, with the Wesley, Bethany, Emmanuel, Summerfield, and Haws Avenue churches in the city, and finally with the church in Norristown, to the north of the city (Elliot 238).

Though Graeff was not the biggest name among Philadelphia Methodists, he seems to have had a special knack for teaching children. His work at a summer camp meeting was described in the Chester Times (Chester, PA), 1 August 1899:
The children at 1:30 p.m. assembled in the temple on the hill for their last meeting of the year. Rev. F. E. Graeff, active and energetic in his talk as ever, was in charge. After a short lesson on the crown of life Mr. Graeff reviewed the little folks on the lessons given them daily during that past ten days. He exhibited something by holding it up that was a symbol of each lesson, and the children in every case promptly responded with the corresponding text. It showed that good and telling work had been done by Mr. Graeff.
In addition to hymns, poetry, and religious articles, Graeff wrote a popular novelette called The Minister's Twins, which follows the pious little title characters' religious development in a tone of sympathy and whimsical humor (Baker 33).

What was the trial that prompted his best-known hymn? One occasionally encounters the assertion that Graeff's wife and/or children died in a fire, but his only known wife, Mary Lourene Mauger, outlived him by 18 years (Find-a-grave). The 1900 U.S. census records also show that up to that time the couple had no children. And though Graeff was age 33 at the time of his marriage to Mary Mauger, I can find no evidence of a marriage prior to this union in 1894 (Elliot 238, cf. Philadelphia Marriages). The story of the fire may have been confused with someone else, as sometimes happens in oral history.

But Graeff was no stranger to heartache, neither professionally nor personally. As a local minister he presided at the "marrying and burying" of the members of his congregations, and no doubt helped bear a share of their heartaches. And Graeff knew grief personally as well; he lost his oldest sister, Ann, in 1880, and one of two younger sisters, Sallie, in 1882 (another sister, Emmeline, died before he was born). In the late 1880s Frank Graeff received another pair of blows: his mother, Matilda Zerbe Graeff, died 3 September 1886; his father, Samuel Beard Graeff, followed on 25 March 1887. Then on 14 February 1901 (the year "Does Jesus care?" was written), his youngest sister Arasma (Graeff) Oliver passed away at the age of 34 (Elliott 233, 237-238). Frank's closeness to Arasma is suggested by the naming of her oldest child, Frank Graeff Oliver. By the time Graeff wrote this song, in his 40th year, he had lost two-thirds of his immediate family. What does a person do when surrounded by grief? Frank Graeff set us a good example: he worked through his heartache, and then (always the teacher!) he used his own experience to help those who would go through the same trials. As the Lord told Peter in Luke 22:32, he "turned again, and strengthened his brothers."

Stanza 1:
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth and song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

James 5:13 advises, "Is any among you cheerful? Let him sing praise." Even when I am not cheerful (and I am not, by nature), singing God's praise will almost always put me in a better frame of mind. But there are times, as Graeff says in this stanza, when we cannot even sing. I remember a chapel service at Lipscomb University several years ago, on the morning after a student had died in a traffic accident next to campus. The dean of students at that time, Bill Davis, was in charge of the service that morning. We usually opened with song, but that morning Bill said, "I cannot sing today." There are times when grief bears down on us so strongly that we can only weep. At such times we often become isolated in our own feelings; every grief is unique, and even the same tragedy will affect different people in different ways. It may be hard to express our feelings to others (though we should try), and sometimes we feel as though no one understands.

My brother Eddie Parrish has pointed to David's words in Psalm 142:4 as perhaps the most forlorn and soul-wrenching statement in all of Scripture: "Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul." Could there be a more heartbreaking sentiment? But Jesus knew this feeling, too, in Gethsemane. His closest friends on earth failed to watch with Him, when He needed them most; and if they had, how much could they have understood? I am convinced that each of us at some point (perhaps more than once) faces our own Gethsemane, where we are alone with our grief, fear, pain, or anger, beyond the help of any earthly friend. It is at times such as these--perhaps at 2 a.m. in the emergency room at a loved one's bedside, or on an endlessly bleak day in the depths of depression--that we turn helplessly to the One we believe is always there. We pray, and we wonder what we can say. We are as much afraid of our own doubt as of anything else. We wonder if a truly faithful Christian would be thinking this way.

Here is a place where the Psalms are so valuable to us: David, whom God called "a man after My own heart" (Acts 13:22), the man against whom all other good and faithful kings of Judah were measured, a man whose devotional life with God is laid open for us to see in a way unparalleled in Scripture, often felt the same way and asked the same questions.
How long, O LORD?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
And have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
(Psalm 13:1-2)
So if we have found ourselves thinking along these lines, we are in good company. Even Jesus himself said, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, cf. Psalm 22:1). Though the full significance of that statement is beyond the scope of this discussion, He certainly knew that feeling of abandonment--which brings us to the answer to Graeff's question.

O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Frank Graeff must have had 1 Peter 5:7 in mind when he wrote this refrain, because it provides the answer to the questions posed in each stanza: "Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." Jesus has been where we are; He knows how we feel, even at our worst. The writer of Hebrews explains, "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).

Not only can we be reassured that Jesus knows what we are going through, but we can be equally certain that His love for us never changes. In the Hebrew Testament this is expressed in the wonderful word חֶסֶד (chesed), applied to God some 200 times. It means "lovingkindness," "mercy" (KJV, ASV), or "steadfast love" (RSV, ESV). It is the expression that occurs so dramatically in Lamentations 3:22, in the midst of a book devoted to grieving over a lost nation:
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.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I will hope in Him."
(Lamentations 3:21-24).
In the New Testament, God's love for us is expressed in beautiful words representing even more beautiful actions: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3:16). "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us" (Ephesians 5:2). See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1). Our closest and dearest upon this earth cannot love us with the magnitude and certitude of the steadfast love of God!

Stanza 2:
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?


Surpisingly, the outspoken apostle Paul was a man who struggled with fear. To the church at Corinth he later recounted of his first visit to their city, "I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). He had good reason--he had been rejected by the Jewish leaders in that city and branded a heretic. The proconsul Gallio refused to hear charges based on this religious dispute, but neither did he intervene when a mob beat one of the new Christians in his presence (Acts 18:17). Paul was a minority within a minority, and doubly despised by many in the majority. It was in this context that God told Paul in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are My people" (Acts 18:9-10).

Nor was this the last such occasion. Paul described his situation in 2 Corinthians 7:5 as "fighting without and fear within." Part of this fear, of course, was for the condition of the churches, as revealed in the verses following. But physical danger was Paul's lot throughout much of his career, as revealed in his catalog of adventures in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. How did he face these fears? He advised Timothy that, "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul was not without fear, but (as with most people who are courageous and not actually foolhardy) his fear was under control, and was overcome by his love for serving the Lord and the power of the message with which he was entrusted.

And often in those fearful situations in Paul's life, something good was working out behind the scenes. It would be hard not to be afraid after being beaten and locked up in a foreign jail, as Paul and Silas were in Philippi; but what happened that night resulted in the salvation of their jailer and his household. The church at Philippi eventually became one of Paul's greatest successes. And in Acts chapter 27, when Paul's ship was beaten by a storm to the point that "all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned" (Acts 27:20), an angel spoke to Paul in a dream: "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar" (Acts 27:24). In the midst of what seemed a hopeless situation came the assurance that he would be the first preacher of the gospel to stand before the ruler of the Empire.

When we are overwhelmed by fear, we need to remember that Jesus is still with us; in fact, much closer than we think. Remember how he came to the disciples during the storm on Galilee, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid" (Matthew 14:27). Keep looking for Him, and you will see Him at last.

Stanza 3:
Does Jesus care when I've tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong?
When for my deep grief I find no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?


We will never know, of course, the specific temptation to which Graeff refers, or whether it was something from his own life or from his experience of counseling church members under his care. But I am glad he wrote this stanza, because I can think of precious few hymns that address the subject. The Psalms, of course, especially those we have called the "Penitential Psalms," have much to say about the soul's guilt and grief at having failed to walk in the ways of God.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
All the day I go about mourning.
(Psalm 38:4-6)
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence,
And take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:10-12)
Paul also talked about candidly about his struggle with sin:
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:22-24).
Sin in the lives of Christians is a reality, and we need to avoid the extremes of either denying our sins (1 John 1:8) and pretending nothing is wrong, or excusing them and turning grace into license (Jude 4). Our society may have tried to turn "guilt" into a dirty word, but it has its place; it is appropriate to feel guilt for sin, then to repent of that sin and seek God's forgiveness. But often those who are the tenderest of heart, and the most sincere in their desire to live pure and holy lives before God, struggle to forgive themselves. Again, we need to remember that Jesus is "One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He lived among us as a human being; He understands our weakness and the struggle we have to do right even when we are trying.

We need also to remember that God's love for us, and for that matter our salvation, never depended on our own righteousness--thankfully! Paul tells us,
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, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).
On the contrary, "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). If He was willing to die for us when we were sinners in rebellion against Him, will He not continue to love us when we are at least trying to do His will?

Stanza 4:
Does Jesus care when I've said goodbye
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks--
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?


Here is perhaps the most personal statement by Graeff, in light of the loss of his youngest sister, Arasma, at the beginning of the year in which he wrote this song. No doubt he had comforted many grieving individuals over the years, and knew very well the limits of human words and gestures to heal the hurt of such a loss. In those times of deepest grief we may even think we are beyond the reach of God's love and care; and sometimes we even feel estranged from God by our own anger and disappointment. Does Jesus understand this? Yes.

When Jesus lived on this earth three of His closest friends were the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Their house in Bethany was a refuge from the crowds where He spent time on more than one occasion; in fact they are among the few friends of Jesus we know of outside the immediate circle of the twelve apostles. When Lazarus became sick and died, as recounted in John chapter 11, Jesus deliberately declined to interfere at first--"for the glory of God" (v. 4). Because He allowed nature to take its course, He had to hear the accusing words from each surviving sister: "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (v. 21, 32). The narrative continues,
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" (v. 33-36).
But in the following verse some of the onlookers also said, "Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" Jesus knows what it is to lose a friend to death; He also knows the grief and even anger experienced by those closest to the loss.

Death and loss are part of this life until our own release comes, and grief is to be expected even when we expect to see the loved one again on the other side. It is a small comment in the book of Acts, but worth noting: "Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him" (Acts 8:2). The Christians mourned Stephen, not because they had any doubt they would see him again in heaven, but because they had lost a good man far too soon. Christians are never told not to grieve, we are only told not to "grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Never doubt that God cares for you, no matter how difficult a situation is to understand. In Mark chapter 4, when the disciples were caught in yet another storm on Galilee, they woke up Jesus from His rest in the stern of the boat and said with some apparent exasperation, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38). They were certain that if Jesus cared about the situation, He would have done something already. But what would "doing something" look like? They could not understand that His presence on board that boat made it the safest place on earth in that moment. In fact He resolved the situation in an instant with the words, "Peace! Be still!" May we all listen for that voice of calm in the midst of life's troubles, and remember that "He cares for you."

About the music:

Joseph Lincoln Hall (1866-1930) is best remembered today for his gospel song writing and publishing, particularly through the Hall-Mack Company of Philadelphia. A search of shows more than 300 titles from this publishing house from its beginnings in the 1890s until its merger with the Rodeheaver Company in the 1930s. In his day, however, Hall was also known for his classical church music as well; he wrote at least a dozen cantatas, and contributed to several volumes of anthems (Woodard 16). He also arranged well-known secular classical works as gospel hymns (Woodard 9). According to a search of Stanford University's Copyright Renewal Database, Hall occasionally wrote under the names Clyde Willard, Alfred Judson, and Arthur Wilton.

Hall's musical education was exceptional among his peers--in 1901 he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Music degree (General Alumni Catalogue 119). During a time when very few American universities offered a four-year degree in music, this was an exceptionally rigorous program, with thorough training in music theory and history, and a requirement to compose a major work for chorus and orchestra. Hall's graduation work was a Mass in D minor (Woodard 7). The fact that Hall finished this degree at the age of 35, at a time when his publishing business was booming, is evidence of his determination to broaden his horizons. Jacob Hall (no relation to my knowledge) wrote in his Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers, "Mr. Hall is many-sided in his writing and has written everything in the music line from an oratorio in the classic style to a simple gospel song" (390).

J. Lincoln Hall was also noted as a conductor, having begun directing choirs in his teens, and was music director for various camp meetings and other religious gatherings. Among these was the camp meeting at Chester Heights, Pennsylvania, where Frank Graeff sometimes directed children's services (J. H. Hall 389). It was likely at this function, or some other like it, that the two men came into contact.

The music Hall wrote for "Does Jesus care?" is in the style of the sentimental ballads of the day, as popularized in an earlier generation by Stephen Foster. It is a simple, folk-like melody with no pretension and a slight lilt. The only really notable feature of composition is that Hall restrains the range of the melody to the lower half of the octave throughout the stanza, with the exception of a few brief leaps upward. In contrast, the refrain spends most of its time at the top of the melodic range. This matches the change of mood between the pensive, questioning lyrics of the stanzas and the confident declamation of the refrain.


Baker, A. L. A Study of Religious Literature for the Young. Master's thesis, Northwestern University, 1905.

Elliott, Ella Zerbey. Blue Book of Schuylkill County. Pottsville, Penn.: Pottsville Republican Publishers, 1916.

Frank Ellsworth Graeff.

Franklin Ellsworth Graeff. Philadelphia Marriages 1885-1951.

General Alumni Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania, 1922

Graeff household. 1900 U.S. Census.

"Hall, J. Lincoln." Search of Copyright Renewal Database, Stanford University, 22 June 2013.

Hall, Jacob Henry. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Revell, 1914.

"Shouting time at camp." Chester Times (Penn.) 39:7500 (1 August 1899), page 1.

Woodard, Patricia. "Joseph Lincoln Hall: Gospel Song Composer, Editor, Publisher." The Hymn 56/2 (Spring 2005), pp. 6-17.,%20Joseph%20Lincoln%20Hall.pdf

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Face to Face

Praise for the Lord #131

Words: Carrie E. Breck, 1898
Music: Grant Colfax Tullar, 1898

Carrie Elizabeth Ellis (1855-1934) was born in Walden, a small community in northern Vermont; but in 1863 her family moved to Vineland, New Jersey, where she spent the majority of her life (Breck VHM 46). Though she apparently had no more than a primary education at the local school, her gift for writing was encouraged by a local couple who sponsored a literary society for the youth of the community. Her interest in songwriting was no doubt piqued by the example of another resident of Vineland during her youth, Henry Clay Work, best known for his Civil War songs and the old favorite "Grandfather's Clock" (Breck VHM 46). Carrie Ellis married a local farmer, Frank A. Breck, 28 May 1883 (Familysearch), with whom she had five daughters (New Jersey Census 1905). In her writing career she sometimes followed the older custom of using her husband's name, as "Mrs. Frank A. Breck," but she also wrote under "Carrie Ellis Breck." The Brecks were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Vineland (Conyer 29). The family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1914, where Carrie Breck lived until her death in 1934 (ASCAP 51).

The Cyberhymnal lists 375 gospel song lyrics by Carrie Breck; but according to Joseph Conyer, who knew her personally, she had written "over twelve hundred hymns and over two hundred other poems and articles for papers and magazines" (Conyer 29). It should be noted, of course, that Conyer was an ex-mayor and giving a speech about the achievements of his community; still, this number is probably not far off the mark when one considers all the hymnals from the turn of the last century that still have not been indexed, or have been lost. also lists a poetry volume under Breck's name, To Comfort Thee, and Other Verse (Portland, Ore.: Metropolitan Printing, 1927). A sample of her secular poetry is "Before the leaves are turning," published in the Presbyterian Banner (24 September 1903). The New York Public Library also has a digital copy of a popular sentimental song by Breck and Tullar, "The chair that rocked us all."

As the page for Carrie Breck shows, though a few of her lyrics appeared in publications of the 1880s, her period of greatest activity and prominence was the two decades from 1895-1915. The frequency of her hymns' appearances peaked in 1910 and fell off sharply after 1920, suggesting a decline in productivity that may have been associated with the family's move to Portland, Oregon. Breck's lyrics were set by such gospel music luminaries as Edwin O. Excell, Daniel B. Towner, Charles Gabriel, and Edumnd S. Lorenz. William J. Kirkpatrick set several of her texts, including the popular "When love shines in."

But it was with Grant Colfax Tullar's music that her verse had the most success. "Face to face" was by far her most popular lyric, appearing in 162 hymnals listed by Other successful collaborations with Tullar were "Nailed to the Cross (There was One who was willing)" and "Shall I crucify my Savior?" Tullar's recollections indicate that Breck at times sent him packets of lyrics to consider (Tullar 12), and according to the Joseph Conyer, a long-time member of the First Presbyterian Church of Vineland, N.J., "Face to Face" was "first sung years ago by the evangelist Grant Tuller [sic] in front of this pulpit" (Conyer 29). It first appeared in print in Sermons in Song no. 2 (Chicago: Tullar-Meredith, 1899).

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

"What will it be," indeed? It is one thing to talk about it; quite another in the reality. When the glory of the returning Christ is revealed, and the reality we know is ended forever, what will it be? There are hints of that glory given in Scripture, particularly at the Transfiguration described in the first two verses of Matthew 17: "And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light." John's encounter at the beginning of the Revelation is similar:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands One like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest. The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the Living One. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.(Rev. 1:12-18)
I am reminded of the words of a little boy in one of my wife's Sunday School classes, when they had finished their lesson on the Resurrection: "I'm kind of scared about Jesus." Of course my wife reassured him that we need not be scared, because Jesus loves us very much; but in his sweet and sincere simplicity, the child had realized something about the awful power and otherness of the risen Lord. I'm afraid even Christians forget that; and certainly the world has no idea. Consider again what John saw--and when Jesus returns, what will it be for us, to see Him "face to face" in His glory?

What will it be for those who beat and abused Jesus before His death, to stand face to face with Him someday knowing the last time they stood so they had spat in that glorious face? But will it be much different for all those since who have figuratively spat upon Him, mocking Him and His followers, turning His name into a curse and a joke? What will it be for those who have rationalized Him, deconstructed Him, and reduced Him in their imaginations to a merely human philosopher? What will it be for those who have put Him out of their minds, intending perhaps to obey Him someday but never taking that step? What will it be for those who once obeyed Him but later left their first love? What will it be for you, and for me?

I know Mrs. Breck probably meant only to make us think about the joys of meeting our Savior in person, but it is also a profoundly sobering thought. When we see Him face to face, "each one's work will become manifest, because the Day will disclose it" (1 Corinthians 3:13). Many who mistakenly think they are right with God will cry, "Lord, Lord!", but will be turned away by the One who knows the hearts of all (Matthew 7:22-23). And what of those who "were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come," but "fall away" and "crucify again for themselves the Son of God?" (Hebrews 6:4-6).
What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? . . . Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:11-12,14)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4).
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

But if we have truly "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine" taught in God's Word (Romans 6:17), we have "been set free from sin, and having become servants of God have . . . fruit to holiness, and its end, everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).

What will it be, then, when the saved see Him face to face? Hebrews 1:3 tells us that "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature." John saw his glory at the Transfiguration, and later wrote: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). But even those apostles who saw Him on that mountain did not see the real fullness of that glory; Jesus later prayed, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

Stephen's eyes were opened to this glory just before his death, showing him the reward that waited for him: "But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55). Paul also once had a vision of heaven and "heard things that cannot be told" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4); perhaps there is an echo of this vision in his earlier words, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9, cf. Isaiah 64:4).

What does this knowledge of the coming glory mean to us? Paul counseled the Christians of Rome, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). And to the Corinthians he wrote at more length, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). When we see Christ "face to face," it will be worth so much more than anything it cost us along the way, it will not even cross our minds to consider it.

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.


In the second stanza Breck addresses more directly the Scripture from which her inspiration seems to have drawn, 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Without taking a sidetrack into a topic that does not really pertain to this song, I understand this verse to refer to our present state of understanding God, even with His revelation to us in His fully revealed Scriptures, which I believe is the meaning of "the perfect" (or "the complete") in verse 10. The prophecies and knowledge given by miraculous means in the early church gave way to the superior revelation of the completed written Word. But even that revelation is limited compared to what we will know first-hand when we reach heaven. God has told us what we can understand now, and what He knows we need for our present condition. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Breck surely does not mean the "darkened veil" in the sense Paul used it in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, where he references the veil that Moses used to shield the Israelites from the glory of God reflected in his face (Exodus 34:33-35). Paul applied that figuratively to describe those who heard the Christ preached from the prophecies of the Hebrew Testament, but refused to consider the possibility that Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah. We might use it in a more general way today to describe the veil of skepticism, or of religious prejudice, or of worldliness, that keeps a person from even contemplating the truth. "But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed" (2 Corinthians 3:16). There is no need to have that veil between us and the Lord!

But Moses's veiled face introduces a more general principle: the glory of God is more than we are allowed to see, in our present state. This was the point of all the layers of separation between the average Israelite and the Most Holy Place, where the "Glory of God" was present in a special way. The final separation was the veil between the inner temple and the actual room where the Ark was kept; and though the average person no doubt knew of it, no one but the High Priest ever entered. Even this was only once a year, and only after careful preparation and purification. The glory of God is not something to be taken lightly!

The letter to the Hebrews addresses these types, and explains the high priestly function of Jesus on behalf of His people: "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:19-20). The figure is continued in chapter 10, verses 19-22:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
So in this sense we are able to pass beyond the veil vicariously, through our High Priest, into the presence of God's glory; and what a wonderful thing that is to know! But when the day comes that we are in that presence without a veil, without need for further intercession, how much more will it be?

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened,
And the dark things shall be plain.


In this stanza Mrs. Breck combines ideas from several passages of Scripture to illustrate a broader concept: when Jesus comes again, it will be to make everything right. The second line surely refers to Revelation 21:4, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." The third line comes from Isaiah 40:4-5,
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
This was fulfilled in the ministry of John, of course, who prepared the Jewish nation for Jesus' arrival (Luke 3:5); but Breck extends it poetically to Christ's second coming. The final line about "dark things" being made "plain" does not seem to point to a specific Scripture, but rather the overall theme of the mystery surrounding God. When God came down to Sinai, He was surrounded by "thick darkness" (Exodus 20:21). This made a deep impression on the ancient writers of the Hebrew Testament, as seen in numerous passages in Deuteronomy, and especially in the poetic and wisdom literature. "He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water" (Psa 18:11).

Overall, then, Breck paints a picture of the time when all our infirmities are taken away, both physical and spiritual. What caused us grief and pain will be no more; the crooked twists and turns of this life will give way to a place of serenity, safety, and perfect beauty. The dimness of our spiritual vision, which leaves us "in the dark" to all but a small portion of God's glory, will be taken away. We look forward to so much, in that day--but until then, we can strive to glimpse as much of that glory as we may. Unlike the ancient Israelites, who were not permitted to see even the reflection of God's glory in Moses' face, "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). The "crooked ways" of our own sins can be undone by the blood of Christ, and grow straight again in the new life of the Spirit. "Grief and pain" are with us to the end, but we do not "grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.


Mrs. Breck brings the hymn to a conclusion with a final rapturous outburst, exclaiming, "Face to face" three times in broken sentences. The second line probably captures the sentiment best: "to see and know." Once I was privileged to get to know personally, over an extended period, an author whose works I had previously read. When I read a book of his afterward, I looked at it quite differently; and when I heard others discuss his writing (he was often controversial), I sometimes tried to say, "You are misunderstanding him; you have to know what he is like."

In John 20:29, Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." We learn to know Christ from His Word, and from trying to follow that example which He set for us. I can see some parallel in this to the way in which one of my music professors taught us to understand the fugues of J. S. Bach. It is one thing simply to listen to them, reading along in the scores; it is quite another to write one yourself! When it came time for us to begin writing a fugue in that style, we listened much more closely, examining the details of the master's technique. I cannot say that any of us became equals of Bach, or even passably close; but I learned to admire and appreciate his writing even more than I did before.

As we do our best to follow the example of Jesus, listening carefully to His Word, we grow in our knowledge and love of Him. We can all attain that goal expressed by Peter: "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8). But however much we learn to know and love Jesus in this life, how pale and thin will that knowledge and love seem in comparison to the revelation of His glory! We need to make Paul's goal our own,
That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own (Philippians 3:10-12).
Here is a goal worth striving for in this life, with a reward beyond description in the next: "when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

About the music:

Grant Colfax Tullar (1869-1950) seems to have lived in real life the plot of Dickens's David Copperfield, with a certain amount of Oliver Twist. His mother died when he was two, and his impoverished father, a disabled Civil War veteran, split the nine children up among various relatives . Young Grant was passed from family to family, and eventually to a man who was not even a relative, who severely abused him (Tullar 49ff.). He ran away and was on his own before even reaching his teens, supporting himself as best he could.

At one time in his childhood he worked in a textile mill, where he was severely injured in an accident; being thus unable to support himself by hard labor, he found work as an errand boy (Tullar 52ff.). During his early teens he shared a single-room apartment with three or four other boys in the same situation, and not surprisingly grew up indulging in most of the vices that young men will fall into without a strong hand guiding them. By the age of 18 he was desperate, and in a drunken stupor one winter night nearly jumped overboard from a ferry into the icy water. An old man restrained him, begging him to consider that he would surely break his mother's heart. Tullar claimed that it was at that moment, because of a stranger's compassion, that he determined to seek God. He converted to Methodism at a camp meeting at the age of 19 (Tullar 63).

Tullar reckoned later that he had about six months of schooling up to that point in his life, not counting his own efforts to teach himself basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. Fortunately, just like a Dickens hero, Tullar found his benefactors. Sympathetic church members recognized the young man's drive and ability, and saw to it that he entered Hackettstown Academy, where he soon excelled and began his training for ministry. His music education consisted only of a few days at singing schools in his childhood, where he learned some basics of music reading; but he applied his meager knowledge with a passion, and impressed his new school friends with his singing, and with his ability to compose hymns at the piano (Tullar 70ff).

Though he trained for ministry in the Methodist Church, Tullar soon found his services in greater demand as a songleader for traveling evangelists. In 1893 he formed the Tullar-Meredith Company with Isaac H. Meredith, publishing gospel music and Christian literature from offices in Chicago and New York ("Tullar" Cyberhymnal). A search of shows that this company published more than 400 titles before its apparent dissolution after Tullar's death, including hymnals, sheet music of gospel and secular songs, inspirational literature, and a Sunday School journal. lists 176 texts by Grant Colfax Tullar, and Cyberhymnal credits him with 17 musical settings, though doubtless he wrote much more. One of his well-known lyrics is "Beauty for ashes." But just as was true for Carrie Breck, it was in their collaborations that Tullar's work is best remembered, and it is "Face to Face" that has outstripped all the others in popularity and longevity. In his little book, Written Because--, Tullar explains that this song actually began with other lyrics, owing to an odd moment of inspiration. During an evangelistic meeting in Rutherford, New Jersey, he was staying with a married couple who were friends from his school days. Knowing Tullar's particular fondness for jelly, the lady of the house made sure to keep some on the table at supper; and one evening when the supply had run low, Tullar was amused to see that his friends declined to take any themselves, passing the entire dish to him. "So," he quipped, "this is all for me, is it?"

Suddenly struck by the notion of those words, he went to his hosts' piano and worked out the music we know from "Face to Face," but with lyrics beginning,
All for me the Savior suffered,
All for me He bled and died.
It was sung as a solo at the evening meeting, and was well received. But the very next morning Tullar received a packet of lyrics in the mail from Carrie Breck, and the first he took up to read was "Face to Face." Realizing that the meter of her poem was the same as that of his new song, he tried his music with her lyrics, and immediately realized this was the better combination. Among his friends, however, "Face to Face" would forever be remembered as the "Jelly Song" (Tullar 10-12).

Tullar's music is remarkably well written from a technical standpoint, especially considering that he was almost entirely self-taught. His training at singing schools in his childhood did not even extend to the point of learning sharps and flats; he admitted that in his youth, whenever he had a chance to sit down at a piano with a hymnal, he could only play the songs written in C major (Tullar  71). But he filled in the gaps somehow, whether by studying music theory texts on his own, modeling his work after good examples, or (most likely) a combination of both.

For example, in the voice-leading in "Face to Face," from the end of the first measure into the second measure ("be-hold Him"), Tullar sidesteps the classic problem of parallel 5ths between consecutive root-position chords a step apart. Instead of leading the tenor from F to G, which would create parallel 5ths with the bass's B-flat to C, Tullar holds the tenor on an F over the barline before moving to G. It's a cheat, in a way, but it's a good cheat. The slight dissonance on the downbeat of measure 2 (C, F, E-flat, B-flat) distracts the ear, making us anticipate the resolution on the next beat when the tenor moves into position with a G, resolving the harmony to a Cmin7.

It is in the melody of "Face to Face," however, that Tullar's real talent is seen. Two basic ideas underlie the tune, presented in the first two phrases. In the first phrase there is a stepwise turn up, then back down ("Face to face with"), followed by a sudden leap at the end ("Christ my SAV-ior"). The second phrase begins at a higher pitch (about the middle of the melody's range) and walks down the scale by step ("Face to face, what will it be?").

These basic ideas are played out through the rest of the tune. At every occurrence of the phrase "Face to face" we have the same stepwise turn, but when it first appears in the refrain, it is at a higher pitch; when it appears the second time at the climax of the refrain it is at the highest pitches used in the melody throughout. The descending scale heard in the 2nd phrase recurs most prominently in the refrain at "Far beyond the starry sky." And the two ideas are combined in the two refrain statements of "Face to face," where the stepwise turn begins the phrase, followed by a descending scale. It is good writing, developed from spinning out new combinations of a few distinct ideas.

One little puzzle about the music of "Face to Face" is the soprano note on the final syllable of the phrase, "Face to face in all His glo-RY" (next-to-last phrase of the refrain). In the earliest Tullar-Meredith publication of this hymn (Sermons in Song no. 2, 1899) this note is a G above middle C, not the high E-flat with a fermata as we know it today (assuming the original B-flat key). After looking at all the instances of this song tabulated at, it appears that the low G in the soprano appeared in just a few publications in the first decade of the song's existence. What is puzzling is that Christian Hymns no. 1 by Hall-Mack in Philadelphia, also published in 1899, has the high E-flat and the fermata. The next instance of this song I can find from the Tullar-Meredith Company, Sunday School Hymns no. 1 (1903), has the high E-flat and fermata as we sing it today, as do all their later publications I have been able to examine. Whether the version with the low G was a simple printer's mistake, or Tullar changed his mind, is impossible to say from the evidence I have.


ASCAP Biographical Dictionary of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 2nd ed. New York: Crowell, 1952.

Breck, Carrie Ellis. "Landis Avenue and Spring Road neighborhood." Vineland Historical Magazine vol. 1 (1916), pp. 46-47.

"Carrie E. Ellis." New Jersey Marriages 1678-1985.

"Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck." Cyberhymnal

Conwell, Joseph A. Religious Forces and other Activities in the History of Vineland, N.J.: An Address Delivered at the 50th Anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church of Vineland, N.J. Vineland, N.J.: Smith Printing House, 1916.

"Frank E. Breck." New Jersey State Census, 1905.

"Grant Colfax Tullar." Cyberhymnal

"Mrs. Frank A. Breck."

Tullar, Grant Colfax. Written Because--; and, an Autobiography, Some Stories, and Poems. Orange, N.J.: Tullar Studio, 1937.