February 25, 2024

Call To Worship

Anywhere with Jesus: 48

A song which reminds us of the promise of Jesus to be with us always is “Anywhere With Jesus” (#390 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #192 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The original text was written by Jessie H. Brown Pounds (1861-1921). A prolific author of gospel hymn texts in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, she is famous for such hymns as “The Way Of The Cross Leads Home” and “Beautiful Isle Of Somewhere.” The tune (Security) was composed by Daniel Brink Towner (1850-1919). Among his other well-known melodies are those for “Trust And Obey” and “At Calvary.” The song “Anywhere With Jesus,” in three stanzas, was first published in the Fleming H. Revel Company’s Hymns Old and New, No. 1, of 1887.

     Somewhere between 1910 and 1920, most likely around 1915, two more stanzas were added, and perhaps other adaptations made, to give this hymn a more “missionary” flavor, by Helen Cadbury Alexander Dixon, who was born at Birmingham, England, on Jan. 10, 1877. Heiress to the Cadbury chocolate fortune and the daughter of Richard Cadbury, a British industrialist and philanthropist who was also a Quaker with an interest in the cause of missions, she attended the University of Birmingham. Also she studied music and languages in Germany. In 1904 she married Charles M. Alexander, a well-known music publisher and the song director for the campaigns of evangelists Ruben Archibald Torrey and J. Wilbur Chapman, and came to the United States where she was active in the Pocket Testament League which she founded.

     In 1919, C. M. Alexander published the Conference Hymnal for Tabernacle Publishing Company of Chicago, IL. After his death in 1920, Helen assisted J. Kennedy McLean in writing the 1921 biography of her late husband, Charles M. Alexander: A Romance of Song and Soul-Winning. That same year, the Tabernacle Publishing Company acquired control of the American rights to Alexander’s large copyright library, providing the bulk of the contents for their Tabernacle Hymns Number Two, as well as the imported editions of some of his books used in campaigns in England and Australia. In 1924 his widow married Amsji C. Dixon. Later returning to England, she died there at Birmingham on Mar. 1, 1969. In those books which contain all five stanzas, usually numbers 1, 3, and 5 are by Mrs. Pounds, and numbers 2 and 4 are by Mrs. Alexander (as given below).

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 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both 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.

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

I Want to Be a Worker: 297

A song which indicates the need for each child of God to go work today in His vineyard is “I Want To Be A Worker” (#504 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #113 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Workman) was composed both by Isaiah Baltzell (sometimes spelled Baltzel; also some books have L. Baltzell, but this is probably due to a smudge in printing), who was born on Nov. 26, 1832, at Thurmont near Frederick City, MD, the younger son and second of seven children of Lorenz and Susanna Hann Baltzell. In 1854 he became a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Virginia Conference, and served several circuits and missions in that area. In 1858 he married Cecelia C. James, and they had five children: Margaret, Luella, Rolff, Rose, and Winton James.

     In 1862, Baltzell transferred to the Pennsylvania Conference, returned to the Virginia Conference in 1868, but in 1872 removed to the East Pennsylvania Conference, living near Harrisburg, where his children attended the common schools, and serving as presiding elder in several districts. During his lifetime, he produced several hymns and edited a number of gospel song books, most of them in connection with Edmund Simon Lorenz, for the United Brethren Publishing House, including Golden Songs in 1874, Heavenly Carols in 1878, Gates of Praise in 1884, Garnered Sheaves in 1888, Songs of the Morning in 1889, and The Master’s Praise in 1891. His best known song, “I Want to Be a Worker,” dates from 1880, but I have been able to find no information on its source of publication.  Another song in some of our books for which Baltzell provided music is “Is Your Lamp Still Burning?” He died at Annville, PA, on Jan. 16, 1893.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, “I Want to Be a Worker” has been in the vast majority of them. It appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 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 1938 Spiritual Melodies, the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs, and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 all edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal, the 1957 Revival Songs, and the 1959 Hymnal all edited by Marion Davis; the 1940Praise and Revival Songs, the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns, the 1955 Sacred Praise, and the 1959 Gospel Service Hymnal all edited by Will W. Slater; 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 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; 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.

The Old Rugged  Cross: 645  (V1, V 2 & V4)

What do the gospel hymns “The Old Rugged Cross” and “I Come to the Garden Alone” have in common? Both compositions were completed virtually at the same time (1913) by American Methodists. Each reflects on key symbols of Holy Week – the cross of Good Friday and the garden of the Resurrection. Both songs speak from a first-person perspective, composed in a ballad style (6/8 meter) with refrains. Both songs place the singer in the biblical scene, one at the foot of the cross where Jesus hung, and the other in the garden walking with the risen Christ following the Resurrection. The composers composed both the words and the music. Perhaps most of all, both George Bennard and C. Austin Miles wrote songs that many parishioners deeply love, and others love to hate.

George Bennard (1873-1958) was born in Ohio, but raised in Iowa. Converted at a Salvation Army meeting, he later became a Methodist evangelist. The composition of the song began in Albion, Michigan, late in 1912 and was finished during a revival in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where Bennard and his revival partner, Chicagoan Ed E. Mieras, premiered it as a duet on the last evening of the meeting, January 12, 1913. The famous gospel song composer Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932) assisted Bennard with the harmony and, as is often said, the rest is history.

The completed song was first published in Heart and Life Songs for the Church, Sunday School, Home, and Campmeeting (1915), edited by Bennard and two other colleagues. From this point, it became a staple of Billy Sunday’s evangelistic crusades, promoted by his chief musician Homer Rodeheaver (1880-1955), who eventually bought the rights to the song.

The composer employs the poetic device of hypotyposis – painting a scene – in his text. In stanza one, he describes the cross “on a hill far away,” though one may still picture the scene as if kneeling at the foot of the cross. Stanzas two and three refer to Christ on the cross. In stanza two, Christ is called the “dear Lamb of God” (John 1:29). The reference to Jesus is more direct in stanza three. Furthermore, he adds to the hypotyposis by noting that the cross is “stained with blood.”

Another poetic technique employed effectively by the composer is that of paradox. In stanza one, though the cross is an “emblem of suffering and shame,” the singer still “loves that old cross.” In stanza two, though the cross is “despised by the world,” it still “has a wondrous attraction to me.” In stanza three, though the cross is “stained with blood,” for the singer, it still has a “wondrous beauty.”

In many ways, this hymn stands in a long line of devotional poetry that venerates the cross in some way. The refrain begins, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.” One finds some similar sentiments in “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” by Elizabeth Clephane (1830-1869). Let us look even further back in time for a similar theme.

Communion Meditation

Soldiers of Christ Arise: 585  (V1, V2, V3 & V5)

With the expansion of Methodist societies and bands in England, the open-air preaching by John Wesley in Bristol and elsewhere, the first commissioning of Methodist lay preachers and leaders, and the dynamic growth of the New Room meetings, early Methodists experienced persecution from clergy, press, and people in the community. This was often a response to the Anglican Church’s disenchantment with Wesley’s reformational efforts and some doctrinal differences of Methodism. Reports from this time detail riots, mob attacks, stonings, clubbings, intentional tramplings by livestock, vandalized homes and meeting houses, and verbal attacks in sermons and print articles against Methodist preachers and their audiences. It was in the midst of these turbulent times, yet times of growth, that Charles Wesley (1707–1788) wrote his hymn, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.”

Initially published as a poem titled “The Whole Armor of God” at the end of John Wesley’s tract The Character of a Methodist (1742), its first hymnal appearance was in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1749) in the section of “Hymns for Believers.” Eight stanzas (in two parts) return in John Wesley’s monumental A Collection of Hymns for Use by the People Called Methodists (1780) in the section “For Believers Fighting.” Hymnary.org reports that this hymn, in various stanzas, has been published in 826 hymnals, an astonishing number. The original version, a sixteen-stanza poem—each stanza constructed of eight lines in a pithy S.M.D. (—was modeled after Paul’s description of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 (For complete hymn text, see Wesley, “Whole Armour,” 18–20). George Findlay points out that S.M.D. was “Charles Wesley’s fighting metre” because simplicity of the short lines leant themselves to terse commands rather than longer and more complex theological ideas (Watson, 2002, p. 179). Wesley scholar Frank Baker refers to S.M.D. and this hymn as one of Charles’s “magnificent marching poems” (Baker, 1988, p. 71). Charles bases his first twelve stanzas of his original poem on each line of Ephesians 6:10–18 in sequential order, invoking the petitionary and supplicatory posture of prayer in stanzas 12–15. In stanza 16, Wesley encourages Christians to heed the call of the Spirit, persevere in the work of fending off darkness, and live in the hope that Christ will come to take “the conquerors home.”


All to Jesus I Surrender: 29

Songs of personal commitment to Christ often stem from a particular experience in the life of the author. This is a good example. Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck cites an account left by Van DeVenter:

The song was written while I was conducting a meeting at East Palestine, Ohio, and in the home of George Sebring (founder of Sebring Campmeeting Bible Conference . . .). For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became and evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, he caused me to sing.


This testimony makes more sense when knowing more about the author’s life. Judson Van de Venter (1855-1939) was raised on a farm near Dundee, Michigan. After graduating from Hillsdale College, he taught art in public schools in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Van Deventer was active as a layman in his Methodist Episcopal Church, including participation in revivals held at the church.

Based on his fervent faith and service to the church, friends encouraged him to leave his field of teaching and become an evangelist. It took five years for him to finally “surrender all” and follow the advice of his friends. His ministry took him to various places in the United States, England, and Scotland.

Perhaps the most important influence that Van de Venter had was on the young evangelist Billy Graham. The Rev. Graham cites this hymn as an influence in his early ministry. His account appears in Crusade Hymn Stories, edited by Graham’s chief musician, Cliff Barrows:

One of the evangelists who influenced my early preaching was also a hymnist who wrote “I Surrender All” — the Rev. J. W. Van de Venter. He was a regular visitor at the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity Bible College) in the late 1930’s. We students love this kind, deeply spiritual gentleman and often gathered in his winter home at Tampa, Florida, for an evening of fellowship and singing.

More than sixty of Van de Venter’s hymns appeared in various twentieth-century hymnals, but “I Surrender All” (1896) is his most famous.

One of the characteristics of many gospel songs is the repetition of a key word or phrase throughout the hymn. Each of the five stanzas begins with the line, “All to Jesus I surrender.” The refrain includes the phrase, “I surrender all” three times in the melody and an additional two times in the men’s part. This means that the one who sings all five stanzas would sing the word “surrender” thirty times. The other key word – “all” – would be sung forty-three times!

The stanzas all revolve around the key word. Stanza one stresses complete surrender: “all to him I freely give.” In stanza two, the singer forsakes “worldly pleasures.” Stanza three prays to “feel the Holy Spirit.” Stanza four asks for Jesus’ empowerment, to be filled with “thy love and power.” In the final stanza, the singer “feel[s] the sacred flame,” an image of the Holy Spirit. The result of feeling Christ’s “full salvation,” is to sing “glory to his name.”

Announcements & Closing Prayer