Monday, May 23, 2022

The Gospel Songs of Mary B. C. Slade

In 1889 the Gospel Advocate magazine of Nashville, Tennessee released its first hymnal under the title Christian Hymns. It was a small book containing 276 songs, but it can be claimed as the first hymnal intentionally for the use of the Churches of Christ, as the conservative, non-instrumental wing of the Restoration Movement in the United States was beginning to be identified. And though much of its content would fall by the wayside in coming years, we can identify at least one cluster of songs introduced by this hymnal that are still widely used today--five memorable lyrics by Mary B.C. Slade, listed below:

Sweetly, Lord have we heard Thee calling (tune name FOOTSTEPS, later FOOTPRINTS)
There's a fountain free (tune name FREE WATERS)
Who at my door is standing? (tune name ALBERTA)

Of the 276 hymns in Christian Hymns, in fact, 25 had lyrics by Mary Slade, almost twice as many as any other lyricist (including Watts, Wesley, and Fanny Crosby). Though the majority of her lyrics  here were set to music by the prolific Methodist music editor, Rigdon McIntosh, 9 of them--including all five listed above--were set to music by McIntosh's late associate and mentor, Dr. Asa B. Everett. The combination of Slade's lyrics and Everett's music brought about a lasting group of songs that make this unlikely pair--a Northerner and a Southerner, who may have never met--worth a closer look. In this post, we will look at the contributions of Mrs. Slade; in a later post, we will address the career of Dr. Everett.

Mary Bridges Canedy Slade (1826-1882)

The 19th-century American hymnologist Hezekiah Butterworth offers this tribute to the life and work of Mary B. C. Slade, which serves as a fitting introduction to this interesting woman's career:
In music-books for young people and the fireside are to be found the initials "M. B. C. S." Few people are acquainted with the history of this lady out of her own city and State, except the mere fact that she was the editor of a school publication of much interest and worth, called "Good Times," and wrote much for young people, especially school songs. She died in Fall River, Mass., in the spring of 1882, at the age of fifty-six. In her early life she was a teacher. Out of this experience came two successful books, "The Children's Hour," and "Exhibition Days." She was one of the editors of the "Journal of Education," edited the "School Festival," and conducted a department in the Philadelphia "School Day Magazine." She was a most prolific writer of Sunday-school and day-school songs. Children were her delight. She worked for them to the last under the shadow of the sickness that ended her life. Her one ambition was to prepare the young for the highest duties of life. Millions of young people owe good influences to her.
A lifelong resident of Fall River, Massachusetts, Mary Bridges Canedy was born into a prominent and progressive family in that city. Her grandfather, John Luther, was one of the first dozen or so residents (Phillips, I:73). Mary's father, William B. Canedy, appears again and again in connection with public works committees (Borden, 514ff.), and served as a selectman (1812-1813) and as town clerk (1814-1815) (Centennial History, 239ff.).  He was especially involved in the schools, having been named to the committee that conducted  the first school census and set up the districts (Borden, 605), and serving on the School Committee in 1808, 1812, 1826, and 1827 (Centennial History, 240ff.).

Squire Canedy house,
Mary's childhood home
During Mary's youth Fall River rapidly became a major textile center, and was an early example of the social problems that came with industrialization. The town was divided between the old families and the increasing numbers of poor factory workers, many of them recent immigrants (Fowler, 63-65). The particular plight of child workers was brought forward by an 1842 petition to the Massachusetts Legislature appealing for regulation of their working hours and better provision for their education. Mary followed the family tradition of public service, and was appointed the teacher for the Second Primary School in 1845 at the age of nineteen (Fall River School Committee Report, 14). In fact all seven of the Canedy daughters became teachers, two of them traveling south to teach Freedmen's schools after the Civil War (Champlin). 

Albion & Mary Slade house, 190 Rock St. Fall River, Google street view
Albion & Mary Slade home, today an office building
In 1852 Mary married Albion K. Slade, a fellow teacher (some sources say he was a minister, and perhaps he was both). Though he was not from the wealthy side of the Slade family that owned the mills, he the grandson of the first ordained pastor of the First Baptist Church (Borden, 132; "AKS" FamilySearch). By 1855 he was appointed principal of the Maple Street Grammar School (Borden, 608), and in 1864 began a ten-year tenure as principle of the High School (Borden, 613).  He would eventually become the director of the Fall River school system (Blood, 11) and served in the Massachusetts legislature (Centennial History, 245). 

Mary Slade ca. 1850, Collection of
the Fall River Historical Society
After her marriage, Mary no longer appeared in the School Committee Reports; married women of her class typically kept house instead of working in the public. Not to say that her life was dull--in the 1850s the Mary and Albion Slade became associated with the Underground Railroad, offering their home as a safe house for Blacks who had escaped slavery in the South (Snodgrass, 486). According to her granddaughter, Slade used her charming personality and gift of conversation to stall law officers who came to search the house, throwing them off the trail and giving the fugitives time to relocate (Champlin). Mary Slade's willingness to reach across social barriers is also seen in her interaction with Joseph Krauskopf (1858-1923), later an important rabbi of Reform Judaism, but at the time just a 14-year-old immigrant boy on his own looking for work. He walked into the Slade home by mistake one day, thinking it was the public library, and ended up with an open invitation to borrow from the Slades' own books. Mary mentored the young man, and wrote a reference letter encouraging his acceptance at the newly founded Hebrew Union College (Bloom, 11-13).

Though she never taught full-time again, Slade's heart was still in the classroom and her pen was rarely still. She filled up her spare time writing poetry, songs, plays, and other enrichment activities for young children. Her earliest publication appears to be "Birds and Angels," a moralizing poem published in The Child's Friend and Family Magazine, Feb 1, 1853 (American Periodicals, ProQuest). From that time on her various sobriquets "M. B. C. Slade", "Mary B. C. Slade", or just "M. B. C. S." turn up in a variety of education journals and children's and family magazines. For a sense of the variety of areas in which her work had an impact, she was published in the inaugural volume of the Indiana School Journal in 1856, was reprinted in The Sunday School Teacher, and was a frequent contributor to children's magazines such as Our Young Folks. She wrote a number of original teaching pieces for L. O. Emerson's Merry Chimes: A Collection of Songs, Duets, Trios, and Sacred Pieces (Philadelphia: Charles Trumpler, 1865), and was prominently featured in the preface to that work. In the last decade of her life she edited the "Department of Dialogues and School Entertainments" in Boston University's prestigious Journal of Education. Her magnum opus was The Children's Hour (Boston: Henry A. Young, 1880), "containing dialogues, speeches, motion songs, tableaux, charades, blackboard exercises, juvenile comedies, and other entertainments, for primary schools, kindergartens, and juvenile home entertainments."

It was only natural that Mary B. C. Slade would try her hand at song lyrics. To the excellent list at I have added a few other discoveries, documenting 158 unique lyrics by Mary Slade  (no doubt there were more) set to music by gospel song composers. In 1866 she broke into this field as a contributor to an interesting series called Our Song Birds, published by the Chicago firm Root & Cady. The children's music editor of Root & Cady, Benjamin R. Hanby, had the unusual concept of a children's secular song collection issued in quarterly parts, each named for a seasonal bird: The Snow Bird for January, The Robin (April), The Red Bird (July), and The Dove (October). Hanby's untimely death in 1867 brought the series to a close with two posthumous installments, The Blue Bird and The Linnet. Though it is uncertain if they ever met in person, Mary Slade corresponded with Hanby during the production of these songbooks (Gross, 70ff.). Slade contributed 16 lyrics to The Snow Bird, and 45 lyrics in all to a series that totaled 306 songs (Gross, Appendix C). (Coincidentally, the most famous result of this series was the Christmas song "Up on the house top" by B. R. Hanby in The Dove, but Mary Slade was not involved.)

George F. Root. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a02045
George F. Root
During the same period she wrote eight lyrics for George F. Root's Temperance Movement songbook, The Musical Fountain (1866), and his Sunday School collection The Prize (1870) contained three new Slade lyrics along with 16 reprints. No doubt her continued association with Root brought the Fall River homebody to the attention of church music publishers nationwide. Though best remembered today for the Civil War anthems "Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp the Boys are Marching," G. F. Root was also co-founder of the New York Normal Institute with Lowell Mason, and was the first American composer in the genre of the secular cantata. He was a dynamic teacher, promoter, and publisher of church and school music, and not surprisingly was connected with just about everyone in that field (Fanny Crosby was a former student) (Wilhoit). In just a few years Mary Slade was contributing new lyrics to be set by prominent musicians such as Horatio Palmer (Palmer's Sabbath School Songs, 1868) and William O. Perkins (Starry Crown of Sunday School Song, 1869). Palmer was a publishing associate of Root (Root 152), and also the editor of the monthly musical magazine Concordia (Jones 127). Perkins was a European-trained choral conductor and composer, with more than 200 music conventions under his belt across the northern U.S. and in Canada (Jones 133).

Slade's collaboration with Root came to a sudden halt with the destruction of the Root & Cady publishing plant in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Though Root would eventually recover, the company was forced to sell its catalogue of copyrights and printing plates. Most went to the John Church Company of Cincinnati, with some going to Brainard & Sons in Cleveland, Ohio (Root 157). From this point forward we see Slade's songs began to appear in reprints in a wider variety of songbooks from various publishers. Slade wrote ten new songs for the Brainard publications Joyful Songs and Pure Diamonds, both published in 1872, all of which were set to music by the book's editor James R. Murray. A protégé of Root, Murray was a gifted editor (Root 142), and had taken Hanby's place in completing The Linnet, the last of the Song Birds books. Pure Diamonds was said to have sold half a million copies (Jones 104). Murray would continue to reprint Slade's songs during his later association with the John Church Company. 

Rigdon McIntosh, photo from
Rigdon McIntosh
But it was another collaboration in the early 1870s that would set Slade's legacy firmly in place as a hymnwriter, and with a somewhat unlikely partner: Rigdon M. McIntosh (1836-1899). McIntosh set out in life as a school teacher in his native Tennessee, but an opportunity to join the Virginia music teachers L.C. and Asa B. Everett (of whom more in a future post) set him on the course that would become his career. McIntosh proved to be a dynamic teacher, a capable composer, and an excellent businessman (Oswalt 11ff.). The partnership was abruptly ended, however, by the Civil War--the Everetts went to Canada, and McIntosh enlisted in the Confederate States Army. Though they remained cordial after the war and occasionally collaborated, McIntosh went his own way in business. Years later McIntosh confided to a friend that he did not know the reason for the Everetts' decision, and had never asked, but the fact that he brought it up at such a late date is suggestive of his lingering mixed feelings toward their decision (Oswalt 15ff.). 

How exactly the ex-Confederate McIntosh obtained the services of the abolitionist Mary Slade is unknown, but in 1871 she supplied eight new lyrics for The Amaranth, a Sunday School book that McIntosh was editing for the Southern Methodist Publishing House. It is interesting that all of these were set to music by Asa B. Everett instead of McIntosh, even though McIntosh was never shy about including his own compositions. Perhaps there was some prior connection between Slade and the Everett during his student days in Boston, or during his Canadian sojourn; perhaps also they were more sympathetic in political and social views. (Slade's connection with McIntosh was fruitful, regardless, and continued well after Everett's death.) Oswalt notes that The Amaranth included more songs by Mary Slade than by any other living writer, including Fanny Crosby. And though most have fallen by the wayside, this publication saw the first appearance of one of the timeless Slade-Everett hymns, "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling (Footsteps of Jesus)." counts 200 hymnals that have reprinted this song over the years, the first of Mary Slade's lyrics to break double digits.

Footsteps of Jesus
from The Amaranth (Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1871)

Atticus Haygood, the denomination's Sunday School Secretary, noted in 1873 that The Amaranth had sold 50,000 copies in a little over a year (The Emerald, preface). Though this was just a fraction of what the most successful Sunday School books might sell in the North, it was an encouraging number for a denominational press in the recovering post-war economy of the South. Encouraged by this reception, it seems, McIntosh was commissioned to bring out a companion book, The Emerald. His co-editor Haygood remarked that this effort "excels in the number of what we have called subject-songs . . . most written expressly for this book," where were "as useful in impressing the lessons as they are beautiful in expression and evangelical in sentiment" (Oswalt 192, quoting Sunday School Magazine 2 (April 1872): 110). Though these songs are not specifically marked in the songbook, there is a group of 25 selections that have instructions to read a Scripture selection before singing the song based upon that text. All of these are by Mary Slade, and it seems likely that she was asked to produce songs on these particular passages to fit with the Sunday School lessons. Anyone who has taught children's classes can see the usefulness of such songs, especially those dealing with specific events in the life of Christ. 

Sinful citiesThou Bethsaida, the lovelyMt. 10:13-15
Come unto MeHark, the gentle voice of Jesus fallethMt. 11:28-30
The sowerHear how a sowerMt. 13:1-8,18-23
The mustard seedLiken the kingdom to the springingMatt. 13:31-32
The lost sheepThe ninety and nine, his dear ones that stayMatt. 18:12-14
The two sonsA man had two sonsMatt. 21:28-31
The marriage of the king's sonOnce a feast was madeMatt. 22:1-14
The ten virginsOnce, forth to meet the bridegroomMatt. 25:1-13
The seed growing silentlySo is the kingdomMark 4:26-29
Peace, be still!Rocked upon the raging billowMark 4:37-41
Blind BartimeusAs forth from the cityMark 10:46-52
Mary's memorialMary her dear Master soughtMark 14:3-9
The barren fig-treeIn the vineyard of the Master Luke 13:6-9
The prodigal sonThe younger son, unto his fatherLuke 15:11-32
The Pharisee and the publicanInto the temple of God, one dayLuke 18:10-14
Let them comeO I love to think how JesusLuke 18:15-16
Jesus at Jacob's wellO come to the beautiful valley with meJohn 4:4-42
The Master calleth for theeHer sad vigil keepingJohn 11:28-29
Behold I stand at the doorKnock! knock! hear Him knock!Rev. 3:20
Happy pilgrimsTo the heavenly JerusalemRev. 21:2, 18-27
The golden citySay, have you read in the story oldenRev. 21:18-23
To CanaanWe are marching to CanaanPs. 7:14, 15, 25-29
Praise the Lord!Praise the Lord, happy childrenPs. 149:1,2, 100:2, 18:1
The kingdom comingFrom all the dark places
Isa. 11:9, Rev. 11:15,
Ps. 20:5
The living watersThe prophet stands and he lifts his voice
Isa. 55:1, John 7:37,
Rev. 22:17

Most of Slade's texts in The Emerald (29 in all, by far the most by any single author) were set by Rigdon McIntosh this time. In the list above, however, we see the first appearance of another Slade/Everett perennial, "Hark, the gentle voice of Jesus falleth". Though it appears in only 38 hymnals in, it is probably still immediately familiar to anyone from the Churches of Christ in the U.S. Part of this popularity is owed to its usefulness as a song for "extending the invitation" at the end of a sermon (what others may refer to as an "altar call"). Its later publishing history was typical of Slade's more successful songs--retention by the Methodist hymnals, early adoption to Cincinnati/Louisville publishers associated with the Disciples, Christian Churches, and Churches of Christ, and adoption by the Southern Baptist publishers. But her most prominent new song from this collection would become "From all the dark places", a missionary call set to music by "Emilius Laroche" (a pseudonym of Rigdon McIntosh (Oswalt 41) lists 102 hymnals with this song. It should be noted that despite Slade's progressive views, the opening lines "From all the dark places / Of earth's heathen races" betrays something of the unfortunately typical Eurocentric conception of mission work in that era; that may be why it fell out of use in the 1960s after so many years of popularity.

McIntosh issued another Sunday School book for the Southern Methodists in 1873, titled The Gem. I have not had the opportunity to examine it, but according to Oswalt this was just a compilation from the previous two (with only 12 new songs) and done in shape notes (200ff.). This undoubtedly helped Mary Slade's songs reach an even greater audience in the South. McIntosh's next "new" endeavor, however, would turn to the Northern markets, in a publication that relied even more openly on the strength of Mary Slade's writing.

Cover of Good News (see References below)

Good News
 was publised in 1876 by the Oliver Ditson Company of Boston, one of the most prominent music publishers in the United States at the time. Oswalt provides evidence that McIntosh may have had leverage with Ditson because of an earlier copyright dispute (206-208), and that Ditson may have seen this as an opportunity to enter the Southern church music market with a recognized editor from the region (210). But McIntosh was also a proven success in producing good Sunday School music, not least because of the relationships he had built with lyricists. He noted in the preface of the work:
Most of the new hymns have been written by Mrs. Mary B. C. Slade, of Fall River, Mass., and Rev. Jos. H. Martin, of Atlanta, Ga., both of whom already occupy assured and leading positions in the hymnic literature of the country.

Mary Slade's work appears in 29 selections out of the 156 titles in Good News, and though she was exceeded in number by the aforementioned Joseph H. Martin with 35 songs, several of her new works proved to be far more lasting.

TitleFirst LineComposer
The one astrayNinety nine in the safe fold abidingR. M. McIntosh
Tell it againInto the tent where a gypsy boy layR. M. McIntosh
Beautiful ChristmasO'er the hills and adown the snowy dellsR. M. McIntosh
Bring the childrenHow happy were theyR. M. McIntosh
Christmas carolOnce o'er Judea's hills by nightR. M. McIntosh
To whom shall we go?Hear, now, the blessed JesusR. M. McIntosh
Song for Centennial DayLet us raise a songR. M. McIntosh
Our choiceThou, O Lord, all our sin and sorrowR. M. McIntosh
Knocking at the doorWho at my door is standingA. B. Everett
SeekingWhat saith Jehovah, the holy oneR. M. McIntosh
Free watersThere's a fountain freeA. B. Everett
Hear Him callingAre you staying, safely stayingA. B. Everett
Summer landBeyond this land of partingA. B. Everett
Loved one, farewellBirds are rejoicingA. B. Everett
Follow thou meIf I, like Galilee fishersA. B. Everett
"Whosoever"O'er the desert and dreary wayA. B. Everett

One notable feature of this group is the strong contribution by Asa Everett. Looking at Slade's total output as recorded in, Everett was the most frequent composer for her hymn lyrics  after George F. Root, and she was the most frequently set author in Everett's output. McIntosh noted in the preface of Good News that Everett's death in late 1875 had interrupted the completion of the volume for a time, so perhaps it had been planned for Everett to compose even more of Slade's texts.

The most widely popular of these new songs (by number of instances recorded in was one I had never heard of: "Into the tent where a gypsy boy lay", with music by Rigdon McIntosh, appearing in 95 hymnals. A missionary song like "From all the dark places", it avoids some of the more overt condescension of the former but falls into the 19th-century poetic trope of the dying child. (To her credit, Slade more often than not avoided the overwrought sentimentality of popular lyrics in her era.) The next most popular of this batch of songs would be the perennial "Who at my door is standing" (88 instances in, set to music by Asa B. Everett. Less widely used, but successful enough to still be sung today, were "Beyond this land of parting" and "There's a fountain free", also set by Everett.

Rigdon McIntosh published another Sunday School book with Ditson in 1881, but with a much smaller contribution by Mary Slade--only 7 new songs and 2 reprints. It was their final active collaboration, for Slade's health was failing; we know at least that she was ill for "many months" prior to her her death on 15 April 1882. According to her obituary in Boston University's Journal of Education (for which she had edited a department), Slade was in the process of putting together another volume of her own Sunday School material and devoted her final months to that unfinished work ("Current events" 255). In addition to touching tributes in her home town, Mary B. C. Slade's death was noted in the Boston Globe (15 April 1882, page 4), The Brooklyn Union (15 April 1882, page 4), and The Montreal Star (17 April 1882, page 2). Thus came too soon to a close, at the age of 56, of a busy career of service to children's education.

Mary B. C. Slade, photo from

But her songs, of course, live on. Though the death of Rigdon McIntosh in 1899 seems to have ended the preferential use of her songs in Methodist songbooks, her work became enough a part of the Methodist repertoire that it crossed over from Sunday School songbooks to the official hymnal. The Methodist Hymnal editions of 1905 and 1935, published jointly by the Northern and Southern denominations prior to their reunification, included her missionary song "From all the dark places". And though her songs did not appear in the 1966 Methodist Hymnal or the 1981 United Methodist Hymnal, the popular Cokesbury Hymnal (1923) included "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling", as did Spiritual Life Songs (1930) and Upper Room Hymns (1942), jointly published by Cokesbury and Abingdon presses. 

Mary Slade's songs simultaneously fanned out beyond denominational borders into the burgeoning gospel music publishing in the North, and into the growing shape-note gospel tradition in the South. Two of her earlier works appeared in the six-part Biglow & Main Gospel Hymns series edited variously by Ira Sankey, Philip Bliss, and James McGranahan, and one of these, "With His dear and loving care" with music by James Murray, appeared in One Hundred Select Gospel Hymns in 1883. The missionary song "Into the tent where a gypsy boy lay" appeared in several late 19th-century publications by the John J. Hood Company in Philadelphia, edited by John R. Sweney, William J. Kirkpatrick, Tullius O'Kane, and others. 

Cover of Crowning Day no. 2 from Internet Archive,
In the South, Ruebush & Kieffer included Slade's "Hark! the gentle voice", "Who at my door is standing?", "From all the dark places", "Let them come", "There's a wail from the islands of the sea", and "Where the jasper walls are beaming" in their six-volume Crowning Day series (Dayton, Virginia, 1894-1904). Other regional shape-note publishers soon joined in, such as H. N. Lincoln's Songland Company in Dallas (Songland Melodies, 1900), and Eureka Carols, 1901, the first book from Indian Territory's Stephen Jesse Oslin. Anthony J. Showalter included Mary Slade's "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" in his anthology Best Gospel Songs and Their Composers (Dalton, Georgia, 1904). Her songs continued to appear in the following decades in books by the next generation of shape-note publishers, such as James D. Vaughan of Tennessee and Robert H. Coleman of Dallas, Texas. Coleman included "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" in 12 of his annual paperback songbooks between 1922 and 1939, often accompanied with "From all the dark places" or "Who at my door is standing?" 

A prominent Baptist leader in Texas, Coleman also edited hymnals for Broadman Press in Nashville, including the influential Modern Hymnal of 1926, in which he was assisted by his bright young employee B. B. McKinney (Music & Richardson 411-412). McKinney would later edit the widely popular Broadman Hymnal (1940), and Broadman Press would include Mary Slade's songs in Song Evangel (1940), Look and Live Songs (1945), Songs of Life (1946), Voice of Praise (1947), Evangelistic Songs (1948), Songs for Juniors (1953), Crusade Songs (1954), and Christian Praise (1964) as well. "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" appeared in all of these, and "From all the dark places" in all but a few. When the Southern Baptist Convention brought out its larger committee-edited Baptist Hymnal in 1956, these two Mary Slade songs were included, and "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" has appeared in each of the following editions down to the most recent in 2008.

It was among the Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, and Churches of Christ, however, that Slade's songs found the widest and most lasting popularity. Though the Christian Hymnal (descended from Alexander Campbell's venerable Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs) was still the "unofficial-official" hymnal in the immediate post-war era, the lack of a central organization meant that congregations adopted whatever was available and appealing, whether as supplementary to the Hymn Book or as a substitute. In addition to the Central Book Concern in Cincinnati (later the Bethany Press, then the Chalice Press), hymnals for these churches were often published by the religious papers, such as Christian Standard (Standard Publishing, Cincinnati), Christian Guide (Guide Publishing, Louisville, Kentucky), and Christian-Evangelist (Christian Publishing, St. Louis) (Mott 80). There were also significant contributions by independent music editors and publishers such as the Fillmores of Cincinnati, who issued hymnals and Sunday School books for their own brethren as well as a broader range of school and choral music (Wakefield).

Christian Sunday School Hymnal, cover image from LibraryThing
"Beyond this land of parting" appeared in the 1882 Christian Hymnal, but overall Mary Slade's songs were not widely used in the hymnals of the Central Book Concern and its successors, which were predominantly used in the (later named) Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) denomination (Wakefield). There may have been greater hesitation among these congregations to include the lighter gospel songs in the main hymnal, because a few more of her songs do appear in supplementary publications. The Morning Star, edited by Knowles Shaw had four of her songs, and  The Christian Sunday School Hymnal (St. Louis, Christian Publishing Co., 1883) was even more generous with eight of Mary Slade's songs included:
Who at my door is standing
Beyond this land of parting
From all the dark places
If I like Galilee fishers
Are you staying, safely staying
Praise the Lord
There's a beautiful place
We are marching to Canaan
Among the publishers later associated with the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (instrumental), however, her songs were taken up more enthusiastically. Popular Hymns (Louisville, Kentucky, 1883), edited by Christopher Columbus Cline and later published by the Guide Publishing Company of that city, included the following songs:
Who at my door is standing
Hark! the gentle voice
Beyond this land of parting
From all the dark places
In the desert days of old
Where the jasper walls are beaming
Photo of C. C. Cline, from
C. C. Cline
At around 300 songs, this book was a cheaper choice than the Christian Hymnal and was well received among smaller and less affluent congregations, which tended to be concentrated in the South. David Lipscomb, editor of the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, Tennessee and one of the leading voices among the most conservative congregations (later identified as the acapella Churches of Christ), endorsed Popular Hymns in an 1895 editorial (Bowman 62ff.). 

Cline carried over this usage of Mary Slade hymns into his editorial work for Standard Publishing of Cincinnati, which carried the imprimatur of the influential Christian Standard magazine and would become the unofficial house publisher for the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (instrumental). The Standard Church Hymnal (1888) included "Who at my door is standing?", "There's a wail from the islands of the sea", "Where the jasper walls are beaming", and "Rocked upon the raging billow." A companion book published the same year, the Standard Sunday School Hymnal, went much further into Mary Slade's catalog, with more of her songs than I have yet to find outside a songbook not edited by Rigdon McIntosh:
From all the dark places
In the vineyard of the Master
Rocked upon the raging billows
Come down beside the waters
Liken the kingdom to the springing
As forth from the city
Hear how a sower once
The Master stood at the vineyard gate
Once a feast was made
Her sad vigil keeping
Thou Bethsaida, the lovely
In the desert days of old
O I love to think
If I like Galilee fishers
Say, who hath sorrows
The sun is rising o'er the ocean
This regard for Mary Slade's songs would continue in Standard Publishing songbooks in the early 20th century, such as the Christian Church Hymnal (1906) edited by H. R. Christie, and though the usage dropped off as the decades went by, the Favorite Hymns songbooks of mid-century still carried "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" and "Hark! the gentle voice".

The conservative acappella congregations, predominantly Southern and later to be identified as the Churches of Christ, generally used publications from Standard Publishing or the Fillmore Bros. in the post-Civil War era (Bowman 57). But as the 19th century drew to a close, the rift over the evolving role of the American Christian Missionary Society (which controlled the Christian Hymnal following the death of Alexander Campbell), and the growing discord between Isaac Errett of the Christian Standard and David Lipscomb of the Gospel Advocate, caused the conservatives to sour on the Cincinnati publishers and seek their own hymnal. Lipscomb, in fact, had retained the services of C. C. Cline as early as 1884 to edit such a songbook, but after numerous delays Cline instead threw in his lot with Errett as editor of the Standard Church Hymnal and Standard Sunday School Hymnal

Photo of David Lipscomb,
David Lipscomb
Cline did, however give Lipscomb the valuable advice to seek the services of Rigdon McIntosh (Bowman 63ff.) McIntosh had delivered the Southern Methodist Hymn and Tune Book (1874) less than a year after he was brought in to revive the floundering project (Oswalt, 100ff.), and Lipscomb probably saw McIntosh as the solution to his own similar difficulties. Typical for the practical- and profit-minded music editor, McIntosh supplied much of the material from his own recent publications, employing his own works and those of his cadre of favorite lyricists and composers (Oswalt 142). The result was  the  previously mentioned Christian Hymns (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1889), with its group of 25 Mary Slade songs that made her the largest contributor of lyrics in the book:
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling
Who at my door is standing?
Hark! the gentle voice
Beyond this land of parting
There's a fountain free
From all the dark places
There's a beautiful place 
I've stayed till late
Are you staying, safely staying
Rocked upon the raging billow 
In the desert, days of old
Look abroad o'er the fields
Liken the kingdom to the springing 
The ninety and nine
As forth from the city
Say, who hath sorrow
Where the jasper walls are beaming
Say, have you read 
In the vineyard of the Master
To the heavenly Jerusalem 
Once a feast was made 
There's a wail from the islands of the sea
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Once, forth to meet the bridegroom
Great Songs of the Church, 1921, cover image from LibraryThing
Of course the presence of the songs does not mean they were learned and sung, but they were in the hands of the congregations for many years; despite some flaws, Christian Hymns was reasonably successful, and Gospel Advocate was still advertising it for sale as late as 1921 (Bowman  67). In the meantime Mary Slade's songs had begun to appear in the songbooks by Firm Foundation in Austin, Texas: the New Gospel Song Book (1914), edited by Austin Taylor and G. H. P. Showalter, included "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling" and "There's a fountain free", and their Gospel Songs no. 2 (1919) added to these "Beyond this land of parting" and "From all the dark places". In 1921 the first edition of the influential Great Songs of the Church edited by Elmer Jorgenson was published, and included "Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling", "Who at my door is standing?", and "Hark! the gentle voice". Most familiar in its "No. 2" edition with the dark blue cover, this hymnal was the most widely used in Churches of Christ during the 20th century, and was taken up in some Independent Christian Churches as well.

In the 1920s the hymnal business at Gospel Advocate fell to the able hands of Charles Mitchell Pullias, a noted preacher and writer who was also a gifted song leader. Pullias continued the strong representation of Mary Slade's songs in Choice Gospel Hymns (1923) with the following lyrics:
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling
Who at my door is standing?
Hark! the gentle voice
There's a fountain free
From all the dark places
There's a beautiful place
Are you staying
Where the jasper walls are beaming
Pullias brought out a completely new Christian Hymns in 1935 with the help of a young assistant named Lloyd Otis Sanderson, who would take over hymnal editing for the Christian Hymns no. 2 (1948) and Christian Hymns III (1966). All three editions contained the classic five Mary Slade songs that would be common repertoire in the Churches of Christ for the rest of the century:
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling
Who at my door is standing?
Hark! the gentle voice
Beyond this land of parting
There's a fountain free
All five would appear in later hymnals from a variety of publishers:
New Wonderful Songs for Work and Worship (Firm Foundation, 1938)
Standard Gospel Songs (Tillit S. Teddlie, 1940?)
Gospel Songs and Hymns (Will W. Slater, 1944)
Sacred Selections for the Church (ed. Ellis J. Crum, 1956)
The Hymnal (Marion Davis Co., 1957)
Majestic Hymnal no. 2 (Firm Foundation, 1959)
Christian Hymnal (ed. J. Nelson Slater, 1963)
The Great Christian Hymnal (ed. Tillit S. Teddlie, 1965)
Songs of the Church (Howard Publishing, 1977)
Church Gospel Songs & Hymns (ed. V. E. Howard, 1986)
Hymns for Worship (ed. R. J. Stevens & Dane K. Shepard, 1988)
Praise for the Lord (Praise Press, 1992)
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Sumphonia, 2012)
I would list Songs of Faith and Praise (Howard Publishing, 1994) as well, but it inexplicably omits "Who at my door is standing?", perhaps through editorial oversight. 

What enabled Mary Slade's songs to catch on, and to continue in use for so long? I can suggest a variety of reasons:
  • Her language is direct and simple, but not childish. Slade was writing for youth, and mostly avoided the rhetorical flourishes of Victorian poetry, but she also avoided "cutesiness" and talking down to her readers. Her lyrics are understandable to children and still relevant to adults.
  • She wrote close to Scriptural subjects, often with specific Scripture readings in mind, and led the reader to make application. When Jesus said "Follow Me," what might that require us to do? When He said, "I stand at the door and knock," what will be our answer?
  • She often captured a certain spiritual longing, yet without becoming maudlin. In "There's a fountain free" the inclusiveness of the gospel call combines with a weariness and longing for rest and fellowship: "'Tis for you and me, and its stream I see / Let us hasten joyfully there." The third stanza of "Who at my door is standing?" plaintively expresses the frustration of a struggling believer, asking, "Jesus, art Thou not weary / Waiting so long for me?"
  • Many of her best lyrics were set to attractive, singable, and appropriate music by Asa B. Everett, who will be the subject of a later post.
In closing this review of some of the contributions of this remarkable lady, I can do no better than to quote from her obituary in Boston University's Journal of Education, a department of which she edited for a number of years. Her peers noted her editorial work and contributions to teaching material, and closed their tribute with the thought-provoking observation that, "Her life was so full of good works that we cannot call it short" ("Current events" 255). May we all live lives of such usefulness, to be so remembered! 


"Albion King Slade", FamilySearch.

Blood, William W. Apostle of Reason: a Biography of Joseph Krauskopf. Philadelphia: Dorrance & Co., 1973.

Borden, Alanson. Our Country And Its People: a Descriptive And Biographical Record of Bristol County, Massachusetts. [Boston]: Boston History Company, 1899.

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

A Centennial History of Fall River, Mass. New York: Atlantic Publishing, 1877.

Champlin, Kenneth. The Underground Railroad in Fall River, supplemented by the Fall River Historical Society.

"Current events." Journal of Education (Boston University, School of Education), vol. 15, no. 16 (20 April 1882), page 255.

The Emerald, edited by Atticus G. Haygood and R. M. McIntosh. Nashville, Tennessee: Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1873.

Fall River, Massachusetts. School Committee. Report of the General School Committee of the town of Fall River, 1845-46. Accessed via Sabin Americana Collection,

Fowler, Orin. History of Fall River: With Notices of Freetown And Tiverton. Fall River, Massachusetts: Almy & Milne, Printers, 1862.

Good News, edited by Rigdon McIntosh. Boston: Oliver Ditson Co., 1876.

Gross, Jeanne Bilger. Benjamin Russel Hanby, Ohio Composer-Educator, 1833-1867: His Contributions to Early Music Education. Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1987.!etd.send_file?accession=osu148758461216499&disposition=attachment

Hall, J. H. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1914.

Harp, Scott. "Charles Mitchell Pullias." History of the Restoration Movement,cm.htm 

Jones, F. O. A Handbook of American Music and Musicians. Canaseraga, N.Y.: F. O. Jones, 1886.

Massachusetts. General Court. House of Representatives. 1842 House Bill 4. Petition of Citizens of Fall River regarding children in factories.

McIntosh, Rigdon M., editor. Good News : Or, Songs and Tunes for Sunday schools, Christian Associations, and Special Meetings. Boston: Oliver Ditson & Company, 1876

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. [vol. 3], 1865-1885. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1956.

Music, David W., and Paul A. Richardson.  I Will Sing the Wondrous Story : a History of Baptist Hymnody in North America. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2008.

Oswalt, Lewis Earl. Rigdon McCoy McIntosh: Teacher, Composer, Editor, and Publisher. D.M.A. dissertation, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1991.

Pappas, Nikos. "Rigdon McCoy McIntosh and the Tabor." Commonplace: the Journal of Early American Life. Accessed 2 May 2022.

Root, George F. Story of a Musical Life: an Autobiography. Cincinnati: John Church Co., 1891.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. The Underground Railroad: an Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Operations. London: Routledge, 2008.

Wakefield, John C. "Stone/Campbell Movement: Early Years through 1955." Dictionary of North American Hymnology (now part of (Word document download)

Wilhoit, Mel R. "Root, George Frederick (1820-1895), composer and music educator." American National Biography. Oxford University Press. Date of access 1 May. 2022 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Stephen J. Oslin and the Eureka Music Company

 The following video is a recording of a presentation I gave at the 2020 meeting of the Mountain Plains Music Library Association, as part of my day job.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fight the Good Fight

Praise for the Lord #152

Words: John S. B. Monsell, 1853
Music: William Boyd, 1864

John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875) was an Irish Anglican born at St. Columb's, Londonderry, the son of Archdeacon of Londonderry Thomas Bewley Monsell. He attended Trinity College in Dublin, receiving a doctorate in 1856, and served parishes in Ireland and England (Julian 762). Monsell was a prolific writer, producing eleven volumes of poetry between 1837 and 1874, with approximately 300 hymns to his credit (Julian 762). According to the instances listed at, his most popular work by far is the hymn under discussion, as well as "Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness," both found in many hymnals published in our century. Other still popular hymns by Monsell include "Sing to the Lord of Harvest" and "Ask Ye what Great Thing I Know."

John Julian said of Monsell's hymns,
Dr. Monsell's hymns are as a whole bright, joyous, and musical; but they lack massiveness, concentration of thought, and strong emotion. A few only are of enduring excellence (763).  
For Julian, in my experience, this is nearly a compliment! D. J. O'Donoghue, writing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, stated it in kinder fashion: "He urged that hymns should be fervent and joyous, and that congregations should abandon their sense of distance and reserve in singing." Monsell himself was characteristically modest about his abilities, stating with wry humor in the preface to one of his hymnals:
The Parish Hymnal claims, above those Hymnals which have preceded it, these advantages only: i. It is the latest; ii. The simplest; iii. The shortest extant (Monsell PH 1873).
But his earnest commitment to hymn-singing, as well as his bright, cheery nature, is evident from the preface to the work in which "Fight the Good Fight" appears:
The following Hymns were written to illustrate an idea which has long filled their author's mind, that such portions of our Divine worship should be more fervent and joyous, more expressive of real and personal love to God than they are in general found to be.
We are, alas! too distant and reserved in our praises. We sing not, as if our hearts were on fire with the flame of Divine love and joy; as we should sing to Him, and of Him, Who is Chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. If we loved Him as we ought to do, we could not be so cold.
Toward the removal of this dulness and formality, few things are more helpful than glowing tender Hymns; they quicken as well as convey the desires of the soul, they say for us what many are unable to say for themselves, what a lifted eye, a voiceless breathing, has often said to God for us all; and in the use of them the spirit catches their heavenly fervour, and  draws nearer to Him it is adoring (Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church's Year, London: Bell and Daldy, 1862, preface). 
With respect to Dr. Julian's exacting critical opinion, I believe a careful look at this hymn by Monsell reveals not only a cheery and positive attitude, but a solid intellectual and doctrinal underpinning based on Scripture. It is an admirable combination.

File:St John the Baptist, Egham - - 1521104.jpg
St. John's Church, Egham, where
Monsell served as vicar 1853-1870.
Photo by Michael Ford, Wikimedia Commons. 

Stanza 1:
Fight the good fight 
With all thy might; 
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.

The first line is a direct quotation of Paul's command to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, and ties as well to Paul's self-description in 2 Timothy 4:7. This pair of related texts are central to the hymn, with recurring ideas in the succeeding stanzas.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12). 
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
The Greco-Roman world of Paul's upbringing was as sports-minded as any culture today, and his home town Tarsus was no exception, having a stadium by the river Cydnus where games were periodically held (Taylor 5). Not surprisingly, Paul frequently borrows the language of competitive sports to illustrate aspects of the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians 9:26 he even refers to literal fighting as sport, drawing on the difference between training and the actual match: "I do not box as one beating the air." The kind of "fighting" he describes in the letters to Timothy is a different word in Greek, agōnizomai, which is obviously related to our English words "agony" and "agonize," depicting a sustained, punishing effort that requires both physical and mental toughness. In the context of boxing, I am reminded of Muhammad Ali's famous "rope-a-dope" strategy, in which he fought defensively through several rounds until his opponent had tired himself out, counting on his own reserves of strength and determination to bring about a late victory.

Monsell, quoting Paul, reminds us that this is the Christian life--it is never a first-round knockout, you have to fight all the way to the end. Paul could speak of his fight in the past tense in 2 Timothy 4:7, because he knew he was near the end of his life and could do little more. The rest of us need to keep our heads in the game. How often have you seen an immature team become careless because they had built up a lead in the score, and then lose the game to an opponent that found a second wind? We need to be prepared for a long, hard fight, for however long our Lord sees fit to leave us in the game.

This fight, says Monsell's hymn, must be fought with all our might. Fortunately it is not our might alone that is involved--Christ is our strength. Perhaps the author had in mind Paul's statements on this topic in Ephesians and Colossians, two letters that so often run in parallel thoughts:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father ... that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:14, 16). 
We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be ... strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:9, 11).
Paul knew what it was to need this strengthening. Though his writing can give us the image of a strong, confident man with an overpowering personality, the same Paul admitted to the Corinthians that "I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). He was not a superman--he was just a man who relied on the Lord's strength in spite of his own weakness. In a far more dire situation in Rome, he informs Timothy of a similar situation:
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
To Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) was much more than a motivational poster; it was how he survived day to day, hour to hour.

The third line of the stanza makes a turn from the admonition to fight, to the prize for which we fight: not only is Christ our strength to fight, He is also the source of the "right" or righteousness to which we aspire. Paul wanted this: "[to] be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:9). Jesus "became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).

The end result of this fight is found in the second half of 1 Timothy 6:12, to "lay hold on eternal life." A little later in the chapter Paul expands on that theme, telling Timothy to admonish the Christians (the well-to-do especially) to make this their aim, rather than any lesser goal found in this life only:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Now by the circumstances of the life he had chosen, Paul was not likely to be tempted to turn back from his goal by mere material wealth. No, his struggles were with his own past--Paul, formerly Saul, described himself as once a "blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent" (1 Timothy 1:13), who "was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). Paul could not undo those things in his past, no matter how he wished he might; but instead of being paralyzed by the past, he "laid hold" on the future his Lord had promised, and fought on.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
In the Christian race, as in many athletic competitions, it is more important how we finish than how we began.

Stanza 2: 
Run the straight race 
Through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies:
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

The second stanza of Monsell's hymn probably refers to another of Paul's passages regarding one of the favorite Greco-Roman sports, the foot race.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
The Corinthians would have ample reason to relate to this topic, since their city hosted the Isthmian Games, one of the premier athletic and musical competitions of the ancient world. The city's location at a land and sea crossroads drew famous competitors from all of Greece, and it was understandably a major part of civic life (Taylor 10).

Paul's quote implies the need for correct training, but adherence to the rules was also necessary to win; judges were chosen from among the most respected and prominent citizens of the community, and cheating was met with disdain. In Galatians 2:2 Paul explains that he discussed the gospel with the other apostles he met in Jerusalem, "in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain." This is the "straight race" of which Monsell writes, because it is possible to run in vain. Paul applies the metaphor to the Galatians themselves later, sounding very much like a frustrated coach: "You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?" (Galatians 5:7).

The hymn encourages us to avoid missteps by lifting up our eyes. It seems obvious enough that we should look up when running, but I have had the unfortunate experience of running into trees, fences, and even a parked truck while jogging at night, because I tend to stare at the road right in front of me and let my attention drift off. Metaphorically speaking, this is even more common in daily living. It is not necessarily a major setback that will throw us off course (we may in fact draw closer to God under severe trials), but rather, the frustrations small and large that face us every day make it difficult to keep our eyes on the goal. We need to be reminded of what we are doing; as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says (I almost wrote "as Paul says" since it sounds so much like him):
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
When we remember why we are really here, we begin to seek that true path again, focusing on our goal--Jesus Christ. He is the goal we seek to meet someday in heaven, and He is the goal we seek (always imperfectly) to imitate. Not only is He the prize, He is also the path, because He is "Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). In His perfect life He shows us where we are headed, how to get there, and what to strive to become along the way.

Stanza 3: 
Cast care aside, 
Upon thy Guide
Lean, and His mercy will provide;
Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove
Christ is its life, and Christ its love.

The third stanza opens with a reference to the admonition of Peter:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). 
It is such a beautiful Scripture, it is easy to miss the fact that it is a command! The same is true of Paul's well known statement,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). 
The words of Jesus are also imperative in Matthew 6:25, "Do not be anxious!"

As my friend and brother Eddie Parrish has said many times from the pulpit, this has to be one of the most ignored commands Jesus ever gave, at least among Christians. I wish I could say he was talking about someone else. I have clung to my worries as desperately as an alcoholic holds on to his bottle. Like many an alcoholic, I have tried to do better, and fallen back into it, even though I know it is hurting me and everyone who loves. I'm not saying it is the same, because the mechanisms of addiction are at work in the one and not in the other; but it is convicting that I would recognize the seriousness of the struggle with alcohol and yet turn a blind eye to worry and anxiety as a "little sin." God help us to recognize our failings in this area personally, and to support one another in overcoming this sin by God's help.

The Psalms in particular are full of language about God as our Guide and Leader. Perhaps David's experiences leading his sheep, and later leading his army, made him especially aware of the need for careful guidance in finding the right paths, which set this trend in the Psalter's description of God.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake (23:2-3).
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way (25:9).
For You are my Rock and my Fortress; and for Your name's sake You lead me and guide me (31:3).
You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory (73:24).
Instead of trusting our own wisdom and strength, Monsell's hymn tells us to lean upon God. No doubt the most often quoted verse on this subject is Proverbs 3:5,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
Along the same line of thought is this unusual proverb from Isaiah 50:10,
Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of His Servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. 
The quote from Proverbs tells us that just as a general principle, we should lean on God and not on ourselves. How much more so when we are in the darkness of uncertainty? Here is the help we need against worry and care--a God who is there, even when we cannot see the way ahead.

The second half of the stanza reminds us of the strength and security of that upon which we lean and trust. "God will provide" echoes down through the ages, from Abraham on Mount Moriah when he declares in faith, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering" in place of Abraham's precious son Isaac. (How heavily those words and that scene should rest on us who view them from this side of the Cross!) God still provides. No matter how we are tempted in this world to think we provide for ourselves, Paul reminds the well-to-do "not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17). Rather than trusting in ourselves or our own achievements, we need to trust in His promises and grow in the graces He sets before us as our goals; "for in this way there will be richly provide for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).

In the final lines of this stanza we read that for the soul leaning upon God, "Christ is its life, and Christ its love." This is a goal far in advance of most of us (certainly myself), but one for which we strive. Paul could say that he had reached it--"for me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21)--but after how many years of struggle? We know from Romans chapter 7 that Paul struggled as we all do with sins that threatened to draw him away from his course, but we are confident from his inspired words that he achieved his goal, a life in which Christ was all that mattered. God grant us all such an end!

Stanza 4:
Faint not, nor fear, 
His arms are near;
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe, and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.

Monsell concludes his hymn with a final appeal to renewed courage and activity. Paul addressed this topic often, reminding the Galatians,
Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (6:9). 
It was a message for the individual Christian, and for the church as a whole; to the Thessalonian church Paul to "encourage the fainthearted" (1 Thessalonians 5:14) as well. But the call for Christian renewal is not just a hollow pep talk of positive thinking. This endurance is based on something much greater than ourselves and our own abilities:
Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3). 
Our capacity for renewal relies (thankfully) in One whose mercies are "new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23). Isaiah addressed this topic beautifully in a well known passage:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Because God "changeth not" we need not fear change, whether in the world around us or in our personal lives.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). 
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet (Hebrews 12:12-13b). 
The race lies clearly before us, and Jesus Christ who "fills all in all" will provide us the strength to reach the goal.

About the music:

William Boyd (1847-1928), an Anglican vicar by profession, had the unusual fortune to write one famous hymn tune--PENTECOST--which became so associated with him that his obituary in the London Times was headlined "The Rev. William Boyd: composer of a famous hymn tune." Born in Jamaica to Scottish parents, he was tutored by Sabine Baring-Gould (author of "Onward, Christian soldiers), and came to be friends with such musical worthies as Sir Arthur Sullivan (who wrote the tune for Baring-Gould's famous hymn) (Times obituary).

Though I ordinarily refrain from extensive quoting of another's work, in this case I can present no better background to this hymn tune than what was given by the composer in an interview published in The Musical Times (1 December 1908, pages 786-787):
The Rev. William Boyd, who comes from old Scots stock of lowland border thieves--as he is wont to say--and is now Vicar of All Saints', Norfolk Square, Hyde Park, has been kind enough in pleasant conversation with the present writer, to tell the story of his popular tune. "I began to compose," he says, "when I was a boy of ten years of age. Some of my youthful attempts you will find in Iceland, its scenes and sagas (1863), by Baring-Gould. He was my tutor at Hurstpierpoint, and during his stay in Iceland (in 1862) he wrote to me often, exemplifying his letters by characteristic pen-and-ink sketches to describe men and things. For that his first book, I put into harmonized shape some of the tunes he had noted down during his Icelandic tour. I went up to Oxford in 1864, and was organ scholar of my college (Worcester), and I also played at St. Edmund Hall, Trinity and Pembroke."
"Baring-Gould asked me to compose a tune to 'Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,' to be sung at a large meeting of Yorkshire colliers at Whitsuntide which he had organized. I walked, talked, slept and ate with the words, and at last I evolved the tune which I naturally named 'Pentecost,' which had an enormous vogue in Yorkshire. One day, during my undergraduate period at Oxford, G. A. B. Beecroft, a Christ Church man and an amateur musician, came to me and said: 'I want some fellows who write hymn tunes above the average to contribute to a book I am getting up--write me three.' I agreed and sent him four tunes from Clent, in Worcestershire, where I was spending Christmas with my friend John Amphlett--now a well-known literary figure in the country. One of these tunes was 'Pentecost,' which I had previously composed for Baring-Gould but which remained in manuscript. Beecroft's collection was published by Bowden, of Oxford, in the sixties."
"How came the tune to be associated with 'Fight the good fight'?" we ask Mr. Boyd. "Ah! that is a funny thing," he replies. "One day as I was walking Regent Street, I felt a slap on my back, and turning round I saw my dear old friend Arthur Sullivan. 'My dear Billy,' he said, 'I've seen a tune of yours which I must have.' (He was then editing Church Hymns.) 'All right,' I said, 'Send me a cheque and I agree.' No copy of the book, much less a proof, was sent to me, and when I saw the tune I was horrified to find that Sullivan had assigned it to 'Fight the good fight'! We had a regular fisticuffs about it, but judging from the favour with which the tune has been received, I feel that Sullivan was right in so mating words and music."
"The tune was printed in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern without my permission. In their last edition they turned me out, also without my permission. Still they had to come back, I rejoice to say, for people said 'the old was better.' Since then it has found its way into most collections, Church of England and Nonconformist, and has gone all over the English-speaking world. There is hardly a week that I do not get a couple of letters from far or near asking me to allow of its insertion in some new publication. And I do, in most cases, allow it, but with the proviso that the tune must be set to the words 'Fight the good fight'."
William Boyd, 1847-1928


Taylor, Elias L. "The Christian Marathoner: Athletic References in Paul's Epistles." Journal of Arts and Humanities, vol. 4, no. 11, 2015.

"Fight the good fight." The Musical Times (London), no. 790,  vol. 49 (1 December 1908), pages 786-788.

Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology. New York: Dover, 1957.

Monsell, John S. B. Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church Year. London: Bell and Daldy, 1863.

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