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. Worldcat.org 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 Hymnary.org 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 Hymnary.org. 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 Worldcat.org 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.

Hymnary.org 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 Hymnary.org, 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. Familysearch.org.

"Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck." Cyberhymnalhttp://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/b/r/e/breck_cee.htm

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. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101072318031

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

"Grant Colfax Tullar." Cyberhymnalhttp://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/t/u/l/tullar_gc.htm

"Mrs. Frank A. Breck." Hymnary.org. http://www.hymnary.org/person/Breck_CE

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

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