April 7, 2024

Call To Worship

I Will Sing The Wondrous Story: 301 (V1,V2,V5)

A song which speaks about what will be sung by the sea of glass is “I Will Sing The Wondrous Story” (#149 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #22 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Francis Harold Rowley, who was born on July 25, 1854, in Hilton, NY. The son of Dr. John R. and Mary Jane Smith Rowley, he was educated at the University of Rochester and Rochester Theological Seminary, becoming a Baptist minister. His first two works were Baptist Churches in Titusville, PA, from 1879 to 1884, and North Adams, MA, from 1884 to 1892. It was while he was minister of the First Baptist Church of North Adams that he produced this hymn in 1886. The church was having a revival which caused the whole community to experience a period of unusual interest in religious matters. Rowley was being assisted by a young musician of Swiss-Bavarian parentage who served as the song director, Peter Philip Bilhorn (1865-1936).

     One Sunday following the service, Bilhorn asked Rowley to write a hymn for which he could provide the music. The following night, these stanzas came to him, and he gave them to Bilhorn who later composed the tune (Wondrous Story). Sometime afterwards, Bilhorn went to Brooklyn, NY, to meet with the famous song-leader, hymn-writer, and music publisher George Coles Stebbins (1840-1908). Stebbins asked if Bilhorn had any songs which he had written, and he showed him the one that he and Rowley had produced. Stebbins offered to render Bilhorn any assistance that he needed with regard to his singing and music, without charge, and Bilhorn accepted. Since Bilhorn had not studied any harmony to that point, Stebbins harmonized the song for him and then took him to see another famous song-leader, hymn-writer, and music publisher, Ira David Sankey (1840-1908). They showed the song to Sankey, who was impressed with it and thought that it would be useful.

     So Bilhorn, with Rowley’s approval, presented it as a gift to Sankey. It was first published in Sankey’s Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs No. 5 in 1887. Rowley’s original poem had begun, “Can’t You Sing the Wondrous Story,” but when it was published by Sankey it was changed to “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story.” This and other alterations in the original text were made apparently without the author’s knowledge or consent by Sankey, but the song in this form has been very popular. Following this, Rowley served Baptist Churches in Oak Park, IL, from 1892 to 1896; Fall River, MA, from 1896 to 1900; and Boston, MA, from 1900 to 1910.  Following his retirement from the ministry in 1910, he was elected president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals and remained in this capacity until 1945 when, at the age of 91, he was made chairman of the board. He died at Boston on Feb. 14, 1952.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Sing to Me of Heaven: 583

A song which expresses a desire for the place where the gates are pictured as pearls and the street as gold is “Sing To Me Of Heaven” (#208 in Hymns for Worship Revisedand #444 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Ada Powell (1882-?). No further information is available on this hymnwriter besides the fact that she’s written a couple of other songs which have appeared in various hymnbooks used by churches of Christ, such as “There’s A Crown for Your Cross” and “The Heart Shall Reap in Joy,” both with music by Austin Hazelwood.

     The tune (Beall) was composed by Benjamin Burke Beall, who was born on May 25, 1874, in Dallas, GA. Not much information is known about him either, other than that he graduated in music and elocution from the Texas Musical Institute and founded B.B. Beall and Co. which published hymnbooks in the early decades of the twentieth century. Probably his best-known tune is that used with the song “Lift Him Up,” which he published in 1903 with words by Johnson Oatman Jr.  Beall was living at Douglasville, GA, when “Sing to Me of Heaven” was copyrighted in 1914.  Its first known appearance in a songbook was apparently in Waves of Salvation, published at Dalton, GA, in 1922, by Anthony J. Showalter.  Beall died on Oct. 7, 1945, probably at Douglasville.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the song appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs both edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns, and the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion both edited by Will Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal and the 1978 Songs of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


When My Love to Christ Grows Weak: 752

A hymn which that is designed to remind us of what Christ suffered both when He prayed in agony more earnestly in the garden of Gethsemane and when He hung upon the cross of Calvary is “When My Love To Christ Grows Weak” (#159 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #297 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by John Reynell Wreford, who was born at Barnstaple, England, on Dec. 12, 1800, into a Unitarian family, and determined early to become a Unitarian minister.  Educated at the Unitarian Manchester College of York, England, he entered the Unitarian ministry and in 1826 began to serve as co-minister with John Kentish at the Unitarian “New Meeting” of Birmingham, succeeding John Yates. However, five years later, his voice gave out, so he relinquished the ministry for school teaching and opened a school at Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham, with Hugh Hutton, minister of the “Old Meeting,” in 1831.

     Wreford’s published works include several volumes of verse, mainly devotional; a translation of Cellerier’s Discourse on the Authenticity and Divine Origin of the Old Testament in 1830; A Sketch of the History of Presbyterian Nonconformity in Birmingham, published in 1832; and Lays of Loyalty, published in 1837. The latter work celebrated the accession of Victoria as Queen. Also in 1837, he contributed 55 hymns to J. R. Beard’s Collection of Hymns for Public and Private Use. “When My Love to Christ Grows Weak” was first published in it. The opening line originally read, “When my love to God grows weak.” I have been unable to find by whom or where it was first altered. Wreford’s most famous poem generally from this collection is “Lord, While For All Mankind We Pray,” which appears to have been intended as an ideal coronation hymn in which all classes of loyal Britishers might join with great enthusiasm. 

Wreford’s zeal for Unitarianism led him to reject, in his hymns and in the hymnbook that he helped to compile, all “Trinitarian” formulas and the sentiments of Evangelical hymns, and to reconstruct a Unitarian hymn tradition out of materials exclusively Unitarian. After he reached the age of retirement, he went to live at Bristol, within the sight of the sea, in his later years, and died at St. Marylebone, England, in 1881.  The tune (Albertson) was composed by Mrs. Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1838-1908). No other information is available on this tune, but it is thought that Mrs. Knapp, who is best remembered for the music that is used with Fanny J. Crosby’s hymn “Blessed Assurance,” may have produced it toward the end of her life, perhaps in 1908 shortly before her death.  This song has been in almost all of our hymnbooks of recent years.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1922 Supplement and the 1925 combined edition of Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.  Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship (where the same tune is used with Psalm 136–”Let Us With a Gladsome Mind,” “Soldiers Who Are Christ’s Below,” and Psalm 148–”Praise the Lord, His Glories Show”), Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Communion Meditation

No Tears In Heaven: 456

A song which reminds us that God shall wipe away all tears in the after awhile is “No Tears In Heaven” (#214 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #403 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (No Tears) was composed both by Robert Sterling Arnold, who was born one of five children to Millard Franklin and Rowena Victoria (Lawrence) Arnold at Coleman, TX, on Jan. 26, 1905. While attending the public schools of Coleman, Silver Valley, and Brownwood, he became interested in music and began singing at age sixteen or seventeen.  At about the same time, he attended music normals sponsored by the Central Normal Music School of Little Rock, AR, and studied under many outstanding teachers, including Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Carr, L. A. Gordon, Dr. J. B. Herbert, Sam S. Lash, John McClung, Will M. Ramsey, Frank White, and William W Combs, the noted music instructor for both the Vaughan Music Company and the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. At the age of eighteen, Robert began singing tenor in various quartets and doing radio work. Among his singing jobs in the late 1920s and early 1930s were stints with the Carr Quartet, the Central Quartet and the J. C. Penney-sponsored Overall Quartet, a group that sported overalls, complete with white shirt and black bow tie, in each of their concerts. In 1928 Robert married Cora Angie McDonald, whom he had met in 1926 at a gospel singing at Veribest, near San Angelo, TX.

     The Arnolds lived in Fort Worth, where he had a studio and taught piano and voice for about twenty-four years, Kennedale, and Jefferson, TX, returning to Coleman in 1975, where they were members of the Elm St. Church of Christ. “No Tears in Heaven” was produced in 1935. It was originally copyrighted by the Stamps-Baxter Music Company and first published in their “Harbor Bells No. 4”. After being a partner with Albert E. Brumley and W. Oliver Cooper in the Hartford National Company, Arnold, along with Cora and several other gospel music loving families, organized the National Music Company was at Fort Worth, TX, in 1937.  Their first publication was entitled Echoes of Heaven. For a number of years, they published two books each year, had two quartets which had a weekly radio program, and later carried on a daily program over KFJZ in Ft. Worth. The company also held a school, the National School of Music, each summer for many years and published The National Music News each month. During World War II, situations arose which caused members of the company to leave for other work. In 1945, the Arnolds bought all the interest from other members, but later that year sold 49% of the company to three other families. However, the following year they bought back all interest and became sole owners and operators of the company until his death. Through the 1940s and 1950s, Arnold managed and sang as a member of the National Quartet.

All this time, Arnold continued to teach local singing schools as well. In fact, he taught at least one singing school in each year since 1924 at the age of 19 until his death at the age of 98. His extensive travels resulted in teaching about 300 shape note singing schools. Arnold spent his entire life promoting the expansion of Southern Gospel Music. One of his major contributions to gospel music was in perpetuating shape-note singing schools and publishing annual convention books. The National Music Company published approximately sixty class and convention books, a hymnbook, sheet music, and several special books, including a book of Arnold’s songs entitled Robert S. Arnold Writes. A noted songwriter, Arnold is credited with more than 400 songs, the best known of which is probably “No Tears in Heaven.” In addition to its popularity at shape note singing conventions and inclusion in Stamps-Baxter’s popular Heavenly Highway Hymns, “No Tears in Heaven” has been recorded by gospel quarters and artists such as Buck Owens, Skeeter Davis and Red Foley. The National Music Company renewed the copyright to the hymn in 1963. Some of other popular songs Arnold, who was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame on September 14, 1985, include “Did You Repent, Fully Repent?”, “Have You Thought, Really Thought?”, “If I Could But Just Take One Soul To Heaven,” and “I Want to Get Right.”  Cora died in 1988, and Robert died in Coleman County at age 98 on February 8, 2003, with burial in the Silver Valley Cemetery. Two years after his death, he was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “No Tears in Heaven” appeared in the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into His Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. Before his death, I contacted the author asking permission to reprint the words in a book that I was preparing about the hymns which we sing. He wrote back, “If not to be sold, you have my permission.” So the words are reprinted by permission.


Sermon

Heaven Holds All to Me: 225

A hymn which expresses the desire which all of God’s people have, or at least should have, for that better country is “Heaven Holds All To Me” (#191 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #355 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Tillit Sidney Teddlie (1885-1987).  A native of Swan, TX, he was baptized into Christ by A. M. Shelton at Golden, TX, in Aug., 1903, and produced this song in 1912 on an envelope with a pencil stub, both of which he carried in his helpers overalls while sitting under a hickory tree on his farm near Golden, north of Tyler. It was copyrighted by the Gospel Advocate Co. in 1932, and is probably his best-known gospel song. During his lifetime, Teddlie was not only a songwriter and hymnbook publisher, but also gospel preacher.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies, the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs, and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 all edited by Teddlie; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praiseall edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Announcements & Closing Prayer