December 3, 2023

Call To Worship

 Lord, We Come Before Thee Now: 419

A hymn which talks about our coming before the Lord in worship and prayer is “Lord, We Come Before Thee Now” (#68 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by William Hammond (1719-1783).  Originally in eight stanzas, it was first published in his Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of 1745. Later it was reduced and amended in A Collection of Psalms and Hymns of 1760 by the editor, Martin Madan (1726-1790). The tune (Hendon) was composed by Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, who was born at Geneva, Switzerland on July 7, 1787. Educated at the College of Geneva, where his father Jacques Imbert Malan was a faculty member, he was a man of many talents, being not only a preacher, writer, and musician, but also a printer, carpenter, blacksmith, mechanic, and artist.

     In 1810, Malan became a preacher first with the National Reformed Church of Switzerland, and began work with the Chapelle du Temoignage in Geneva, but in 1821 he withdrew from the established church due to his outspoken criticism of formalism and established his own independent chapel in his garden at Vandouvres where he preached for the next 43 years. This became the beginnings of the Evangelical Free Church.  Also, he made evanglistic trips throughout France, Belgium, and Great Britain, establishing a friendship with hymnwriter Charlotte Elliot, best known for “Just As I Am.”  Beginning in 1823 he started compiling several collections of hymns and tunes. This melody may have been produced as early as 1823 and seems to have been first published in 1827, appearing in one of his collections for which he provided both words and music. It was brought to America, arranged, and published in the 1841 Carmina Sacra by Lowell Mason (1792-1872).

     Besides the hymn “Lord, We Come Before Thee Now,” the tune has been used with “Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know” by Johann Christoph Schwedler; “Christ, Of All My Hopes the Ground” by Ralph Wardlow; “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare” by John Newton; and “Take My Life And Let It Be” by Frances Ridley Havergal. In both his preaching and his writing, Malan placed great emphasis on the doctrines of John Calvin. In 1826 the University of Glasgow gave him an honorary D. D. degree. Said to have produced over 1000 hymns, he is sometimes called the gratest name in the history of French hymnology. Many of these were published in his Chats de Sion in 1841. He died at Vandoeuvres on May 18, 1864. 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 1921 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 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch.  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 (same tune also used with “Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know”); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Let Him have His Way with Thee: 389

A song which encourages us to humble ourselves before God in submission to His will is “Let Him Have His Way With Thee” (#343 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #199 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (His Way With Thee, Consecration, or Nusbaum) was composed both by Cyrus Sylvester Nusbaum, who was born in the vicinity of Elkhart and Middlebury, IN, on July 27, 1861, to Jakob Nusbaum (1831-1900) and Caroline Hoover Nusbaum (1834-1918). After completing high school in Middlebury, he began teaching school in Marion County, KS, in 1885. The next year, he was married to Harriet E. Erwin and became a minister in the Methodist Church. For nine years, he served churches in Douglas, Goddard, Wichita, and Kingman, KS, during which time he and his wife had two children, Bertha and Mark. After also working as educational secretary of Southwestern College in Winfield, KS, from 1895 to 1897, he was minister at Ottawa, KS, from 1897 to 1903.

This hymn was produced in 1898 and was based on experiences in his first year as minister. Nusbaum had been serving in one of the poorest circuits in the district. At the end of the year, he and his wife attended the conference where he hoped to be appointed to a better charge. However, he was named to the same “hard-scrabble” circuit. After returning to their lodging, he was at first unhappy and even felt rebellious, but about midnight he knelt in prayer and told the Lord that he would be willing to let Him have His way with him regardless of the cost. That feeling of surrender later became the inspiration for the song. It was sold to Henry Lake Gilmour (1836-1920; see #365). The first appearance was in Gospel Praises, compiled for the Hall-Mack Co. of Philadelphia, PA, in 1899 by Gilmour, J. Lincoln Hall (1860-1930), and William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921; see #411).

Beginning in 1903 to 1907, Nusbaum was presiding elder of the Independent District, and then worked with the church at Parsons, KS, until 1914 when he became conference evangelist. During World War I, he was appointed by Woodrow Wilson as inspector of the American Red Cross in France, holding the rank of captain in the U. S. Army. After the war, he lectured on the Redpath Lyceum circuit and travelled throughout the United States. Also he conducted evangelistic meetings throughout Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. In addition, he wrote both words and music for a number of gospel songs. Southwestern College awarded him the D. D. degree. The latter part of his life was spent with smaller churches in Kansas, and he was serving at Lost Springs and Antelope at the time of his death, which occurred at Wichita, KS, on Dec. 27, 1937.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Let Him Have His Way with Thee” has appeared in the 1921 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 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both 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; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.


In the Hour of Trial: 328

A hymn that talks about coming boldly to the throne of grace to ask Jesus to plead for us is, “In The Hour Of Trial” (#83 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #536 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). He was the son of the only Moravian minister in Scotland and became a newspaper editor who also wrote many hymns. This one was produced in 1834 but was not published until 1853 in his Original Hymns for Public, Private, and Social Devotion, where it appeared in four stanzas. The original of stanza 1, “Jesus, pray for me,” was altered in 1880 for A Church of England Hymnal by Godfrey Thring (1832-1903). The original of stanza 2, “With bewitching pleasures,” was altered and major revisions in stanzas 3 and 4 were made by Frances A. Hutton (1811-1877). The hymn in its present wording is first found in H. W. Hutton’s Supplement and Litanies of the late 1800’s. Mrs. Hutton’s arrangements are so different that they are often used as separate stanzas along with all of Montgomery’s.

     The tune (Penitence or Lane) was composed by Spencer Lane, who was born at Tilton, NH, on Apr. 7, 1843. After serving as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War for three years, he studied music at the New England Conservatory and became a vocal and instrumental teacher in New York City, NY. Later he moved to Woonsocket, RI, where he opened a music store and became song director at St. James’ Protestant Episcopal Church for thirteen years, during which time he produced a number of hymn tunes. One Sunday in 1875, following the close of the morning service, the minister gave him the hymns for the evening service. He found that he disliked the tune used with “In the Hour of Trial,” so that afternoon, while his wife was cooking dinner, he provided this melody as a substitute.

     The song was sung with his tune during the evening service that Sunday and then first published in Charles L. Hutchins’ The Church Hymnal of 1879. After leaving Woonsocket, Lane served churches in Monson, MA, and Richmond, VA, and then moved to Baltimore, MD, where he became a business associate with the Sanders and Stayman music firm and also served as song director for the All Saints’ Protestant Episcopal Church.  His death occurred in Readville, VA, on Aug. 10, 1903. Through the years, this hymn has been a source of comfort when believers have faced crisis situations that often become turning points in their lives, such as the loss of a loved one, serious illness, economic difficulties, or mistreatment by friends. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1921 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, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Communion Meditation

The Battle Belongs to the Lord: 977

July 4th. American Movie Classics channel. What do you guess is on? Midway…Patton…Glory…The Battle…(you complete the title of that last one). A war movie stirs my patriotism, but does it really convey the reality of what war does to someone? Can it prompt courage? How would you confront death? Or, if it’s more than just theory for you, how do you currently confront a death-struggle? Jamie Owens-Collins has written a song, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”, that echoes how Israel faced its enemy (2 Chronicles 20) in battle – with divine protection. It reminds us that God, while often mysterious and invisible to us, can still overpower whomever He chooses, by Himself.

Jamie Owens-Collins comes from a musical family, so it’s no surprise that she might also use this medium to tell us her thoughts. Her father Jimmy wrote “Holy, Holy”, and her mother Carol wrote “Freely, Freely”, so we know Jamie observed their lives as musicians and worshippers. We might also say she saw them, or someone close by, as warriors, too when she wrote “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”. She shares with us that the Lord’s protection is not just for someone who wears a uniform, but also for me, a civilian in the secular, daily-grind world. What she says about the song’s origin, and how her own life has played out in its aftermath, is also instructive about how God speaks to those He chooses to use. Unlike many of the songs she’s written, Owen-Collins says this song was composed in short order, during a brief car ride to a church concert in 1985. “Boom! It was just there. By the time I got to the church, I had it finished.” Great! That makes me want to take up the pen and compose my own ditty, how about you? But, wait. Five years after its inception, Jamie was struck with depression, a four-year battle of her own. Was it her own? She admits that she discovered anew how weak she was, and how strong and dependable God is, during her illness. Could God have been trying to tell Jamie this, in a personal way, when she wrote “The Battle…” in 1985? One wonders.
Owens-Collins says this straightforward song speaks to her about God’s ways. “There are times when God comes in and just, boom!, answers your prayer right now and gives you a miracle. But, most of the time, He lets us really walk through the process.” The song Owens-Collins wrote wasn’t easily accepted by producers, she recounts, but “…the funny thing is, it’s such a simple song. You know, I’ve written other songs I feel were much more cleverly put together and crafted. This thing (the ‘Battle…” song) is just as simple as it can be, but that’s the one. I don’t know exactly how a song takes off.” God is often inscrutable, an enigma. And, He’s probably a vexation for the unbeliever who seeks the ultimate answers. Even for believers, this is often true, especially when trouble looms, or pounces. My only rational response is to cry ‘Help!’. I take heart that God does not fear in battle. He, as perfect love, casts fear aside (1 John 4:18). And so I hide myself in Him, and yield my freedom and the battlefield to Him, even if it is Independence Day.

The Battle Belongs to the Lord: Music Unavailable

Sermon

O They Tell Me of a Home: 502

A song that describes the eternal city where the tree of life yields her fruit every month is “The Unclouded Day” (#221 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #408 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Josiah Kelley Alwood, who was born in the vicinity of Cadiz, Harrison County, OH, on July 15, 1828. Becoming a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, he spent many years as a circuit rider, travelling on horseback to his several preaching appointments. Because he held a great deal of revival meetings and lectures on Christian doctrine, he would be gone from his family for weeks at a time. Later, he became a presiding elder in the North Ohio Conference and was a delegate to several general conferences.

This hymn was produced sometime around 1880. While Alwood was returning home from a preaching appointment on a cloudless, moonlit night, the words came to him as he rode along on horseback. The next morning, he set them down on paper and picked out the melody on a small parlor organ. Always a staunch supporter of the original constitution of his denomination, Alwood was a delegate to the general conference at the time of the separation of the church into two groups at York, PA, in 1889. Sometime later, he met Ft. Wayne, IN, born John F. Kinsey (1852-1915). Kinsey had founded the Echo Music Company of Chicago, IL, producing a number of songs and compiling more than thirty collections.

Alwood showed his song to Kinsey, who served as editor of The Echo, a musical journal, for a number of years. Kinsey harmonized Alwood’s tune and decided to publish the song, which seems to have first appeared in Kinsey’s 1890 book Living Gems. Further arrangement was done by Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921). Alwood died at Morenci, MI, on Jan. 13, 1909. His son, O. G. Alwood, was like his father a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, serving also as an elder and a bishop. His granddaughter, Mrs. Marjorie Alwood Johnson, the daughter of O. G. Alwood, lived in Hillsdale, MI. In 1987, Willie Nelson sang this song in a “Farm Aid” concert that was broadcast all over the United States.

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; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. 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; 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

Joy to The World: 376

“Joy to the world” is perhaps an unlikely popular Christmas hymn. First of all, it is based on a psalm, and, second, it celebrates Christ’s second coming much more than the first. This favorite Christmas hymn is the result of a collaboration of at least three people and draws its initial inspiration not from the Christmas narrative in Luke 2, but from Psalm 98.

The first collaborator was the English poet and dissenting clergyman, Isaac Watts (1674-1748). He paraphrased the entire Psalm 98 in two parts, and it first appeared in his famous collection, The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719).

“Joy to the world” was taken from the second part of the paraphrase (Psalm 98:4-9), entitled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.” Watts, commenting on his paraphrase of the psalm, notes: “In these two hymns I have formed out of the 98th Psalm I have fully exprest what I esteem to be the first and chief Sense of the Holy Scriptures . . ..” For Watts, the psalms were not to be viewed as biblical material in their own right, but had value only inasmuch as they pointed toward the New Testament.

A comparison between Watts’s psalm paraphrase and the original verses in the King James translation of Psalm 98:4-9 demonstrates considerable freedom:

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together. Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.” (KJV)

Curiously, stanza three is the exception. It is not based on Psalm 98 and is sometimes omitted:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

The “curse” is a reference to Genesis 3:17 when God says to Adam following the eating of the apple from the tree, “Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (KJV) As a part of “five-point Calvinism,” the “total depravity of man”, the curse is a significant part of classic Reformed theology, Isaac Watts’ theological perspective.

Though The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) retains the original text, the hymnal of the United Reformed Church in the UK, Rejoice and Sing (1991), altered the stanza as follows:

No more let thorns infest the ground,
or sins and sorrows grow;
wherever pain and death are found
he makes his blessings flow.

The second collaborator was an unwitting one, George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), the popular German-born composer residing in London. Though contemporaries in England, they did not collaborate on this hymn. Another pieced together portions of Handel’s Messiah to make up the tune that we sing in North America. The opening bars for the chorus, “Lift up your heads,” was adapted to the incipit “Joy to the world.” An instrumental portion of the opening tenor recitative, “Comfort ye,” provides a basis for the text “heaven and nature sing.” Such borrowings were common, the aesthetic notion being that the music of great musicians had in itself an innate beauty. Even a crude pastiche of “great music” implied that the result would also be of high quality.

The third collaborator who assured that this tune and text would appear together in the United States was the Boston music educator, Lowell Mason (1792-1872). It was Mason, a musician with significant influence in his day, who published his own arrangement of Handel’s melodic fragments in Occasional Psalms and Hymn Tunes (1836) and named the tune Antioch. While this is not the only tune to which Watts’s text is sung, it is certainly the dominant one. Actually, this tune remains virtually unknown in Great Britain.

When sung to Antioch, the text is repeated in the second section, reflecting a particular early American treatment of the melody called a “fuging tune.” A fuging tune was a compositional device initiated by American-born composer William Billings (1746-1800) where voice parts enter one after the other in rapid succession, usually repeating the same words.

The result of the fuging tune section is quite effective for the first stanza—“heaven and nature sing”—and the second stanza—“repeat the sounding joy”—and the fourth stanza, “wonders of his love” For the third stanza, with the text “far as the curse is found” echoing of Genesis 3:17-18 and Romans 5:20, the fuging compositional device seems a bit rollicking.

The result is a favorite Christmas hymn based on an Old Testament psalm, set to musical fragments composed in England, and pieced together across the Atlantic in the United States!