January 7, 2024

Call To Worship

A Wonderful Savior: 9 (V1 and V4)

Francis Jane Crosby was a 70-year old by the time she penned a song, using a method that was tried and true. Could it be that the environment in which she lived also played a part in “A Wonderful Savior”, perhaps more appropriately known as “He Hideth My Soul”? She may have known many people in places where she lived and ministered, among them the Bowery Mission in Manhattan (shown here),

whom she thought were ‘hidden’ in this life, perhaps better protected from the strain of life, and so better tools for Him to mold and use. Fanny Crosby may have even thought that about herself. Maybe that’s why she chose to be where she was in 1890.

Fanny Crosby was a multitalented figure by the time she reached the septuagenarian ranks, and she seemingly had no intentions of slowing down from what had spurred her onward to that point. The fact that she had begun writing hymns only at mid-life makes all the more astounding the prolific nature of her output – some 8,000-9,000 hymns. You might say these were messages that just burst forth from her spirit, after gestating for a lengthy time, nurtured by her life’s path. She had been involved with mission work for many years, but had apparently strengthened this commitment some 10 years prior to “A Wonderful Savior”, especially in her native area of New York. She lived among the poor and spoke publicly on many occasions to lift the people who needed hear her life’s example. But, you can tell from the verses she penned that it wasn’t her own life she offered as the solution to these needy people, but indeed God’s. And so, it was not a surprise when one of her musical collaborators, William Kirkpatrick, visited her with a brand new tune in his pocket, expecting Fanny to provide the words very quickly. She didn’t disappoint. Or, perhaps she would say God doesn’t disappoint. The words she employed about a ‘cleft in the rock’ imply that Fanny was consuming the Exodus story (the end of chapter 33), in which Moses was safeguarded by Him in this special place in a personal encounter. It didn’t matter that it was a barren place, as long as His presence was evident. And so, in a similar way, it didn’t matter to William Kirkpatrick that Crosby might have been in a slum, for he knew the Lord was near – indeed, inside—her. Fanny wrote something that would have inspired her neighbors too, a people who probably thought theirs was not a blessed existence.

Many people might think they are unnoticed deep inside a difficult situation, like a slum. This song’s story is a message for those people – you’re not forgotten, and not without His work among you. Flowers, in fact, can bloom only in dirty soil. By her 70th year, this fact must have been evident to Fanny too. Choosing to live and work among the needy wasn’t just an act of charity—though the crucial factor—for Fanny Crosby. Perhaps she had realized that’s really where He’s is, where she could be the channel for Him, overlooking a ‘dry, thirsty land’. Moses was protected in that spot, though in close proximity to His  presence that might have otherwise killed him. Where’s that cleft rock today for you and me?

Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Tell Me the Story of Jesus: 622

This narrative hymn was written by prominent two gospel songwriters, lyricist Fanny Crosby (1820–1915) and composer John Sweney (1837–1899). According to Crosby, her friendship with Sweney was formed during summer revival meetings held annually at the Methodist campgrounds in Ocean Grove, NJ.[1] She recalled being there as early as 1877; Sweney was appointed as song leader there in 1878 and served in that role for twenty years until his declining health prevented him from continuing.[2] Crosby said it was “one of the saddest duties of my life to recite a tribute to his memory” upon Sweney’s death.[3]

One of their most enduring collaborations is the hymn “Tell me the story of Jesus,” which was first published in The Quiver of Sacred Song (Philadelphia: John J. Hood, 1880 | Fig. 1).

II. Analysis

For over a decade, Sweney had been music director of the Sunday School program at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, which at one time was described as “one of the largest Sunday-schools in the United States.”[4] Crosby was a longtime member at Old John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. Both had a special interest in creating music for Christian education. The didactic nature of this hymn—and its fitness for Christian education—is simple and clear: it tells the story of Jesus’ life on earth, starting with his incarnation, followed by his temptation in the desert, his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It does this in the context of a person desiring to hear the story told, a story described as “precious” and “sweetest that ever was heard,” one which ought to be written on the heart, containing a love “so tender, clearer than ever,” which “paid the ransom for me.”

Notable Scripture allusions include Luke 2:8–14 (the angelic proclamation); Luke 4:1–14 (temptation; also Matt. 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13); Isaiah 53:3–4 (sorrows, despised, afflicted); and Matthew 8:20 (homeless; also Luke 9:58).

This earliest printing uses a visual solfege (Sol-Fa) system developed by the publisher, John J. Hood. Hood’s notation was intended as an alternative to the more prevalent shape-note system developed by William Little and William Smith in their Easy Instructor (1801), but Hood’s system was short lived and has not endured.

III. Legacy

Singer-evangelist Homer Rodeheaver (1880–1955) described his unique experience with this song during his service in World War I:

During the World War, I sang the song, “Tell me the story of Jesus” to many groups of soldiers in France—in the old, shell-torn barracks, in dugouts where there was only a little candle with which to see the words, or in the open as the line of soldiers, marching to the front, would stop for rest; and once, on October 4, 1918, in the Argonne Forest, just as a big drive had started. But no matter where I sang this song, the soldier boys would take off their dirty service caps or hang their trench helmets on their arms and remain perfectly quiet. There was no other song that I sang with this same effect. Many men have met me since the war and referred to the unusual situations in which it was sung and the impression the song made upon them at the time.[5]

Nothing but the Blood: 454

Robert Lowry (1826-1899) has provided us with many of the most venerable nineteenth-century texts and tunes from the United States. The Philadelphia-born author and composer of this hymn was a popular Baptist preacher and educator who served churches in Pennsylvania, New York City, Brooklyn, and Plainfield, New Jersey. Lowry, a graduate of Bucknell University, was a professor of belles lettres in the University, receiving a D.D. in 1875. He became known for his gospel songs while ministering in Brooklyn, collaborating often with William H. Doane in producing some of the most popular Sunday school song collections of his day.

The Rev. Carlton R. Young, editor of The United Methodist Hymnal, noted that “Nothing but the Blood” “was near the top of the list . . . on the most popular religious songs found in the five widely used hymnals and songbooks other than the 1957 Evangelical United Brethren and 1966 Methodist hymnals.” For many, however, this hymn is anathema, especially for those who loathe “blood” hymns.

“Nothing but the Blood” has all the earmarks of a classic gospel song. It focuses on a single theme and hammers it home. The singer will repeat the text, “nothing but the blood of Jesus” twelve times if he or she sings all four stanzas. The refrain is succinct and reinforces the theme. The language is direct and obvious, with all one- or two-syllable words. The theme of cleansing from sin is prominent in gospel song literature.

Hebrews 9:22 appeared originally above the hymn in the original publication by Lowry and William H. Doane entitled Gospel Music (1876). The passage reads: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.”

Lowry adapts a call-response pattern in the stanzas that immediately engages the singer. Stanza one begins with a question: “What can wash away my sin?” The answer is resounding and definitive: “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” This is followed by a second question: “What can make me whole again?” Once more, the answer is unequivocal, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” This call-response pattern, along with the sturdy, almost martial rhythms of the music, gives the effect of cheerleading.

Themes of pardon, cleansing, atonement, and righteousness permeate the remaining stanzas. The United Methodist Hymnal changes one word in the refrain. The original text is “white as snow,” an allusion to Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” The hymnal committee changed this to “bright as snow.”

Most hymnals wisely reduce the original six stanzas to four, as the song could become tedious. The omitted stanza five follows:

Now by this I’ll overcome –
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home –
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Heaven is the destination of many gospel songs; and this hymn, in its original form, continues this pattern.

It is perhaps this hymn, along with others such as William Cowper’s “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” (UM Hymnal, No. 622) that offends the sensibilities of many twenty-first-century singers and, as a result, causes them to reject any hymn that mentions blood. A more discerning singer will look at each occurrence of the word in its context. For example, Augustus Toplady’s eighteenth-century hymn, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” (UM Hymnal, No. 361) includes the phrase in the first stanza, “let the water and the blood,/from thy wounded side which flowed . . ..” This is a description of a biblical event, the crucifixion.

Charles Wesley often used the word “blood” in his hymns. However, it is not in a gory or gratuitous sense, but as a synonym for grace. One can often sing “grace” in place of “blood” in a Wesley hymn. For example, the last line of the fourth stanza of “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (UM Hymnal, No. 57) could be sung, “his grace availed for me” and maintain its theological intent. “And Can It Be that I Should Gain” (UM Hymnal, No. 363) clearly equates the results of the shedding of Christ’s blood with mercy and love.

Though many might relegate “Nothing but the Blood” to the past, it lives on in modern renditions, especially in evangelical contexts. Contemporary Christian artist Matt Redman incorporates this hymn into his song, “Nothing but the Blood.” The popular Australian group, Hillsong United, has a well-known rendition that may easily be found on YouTube.

Communion Meditation

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name: 19

The popularity of this late-18th-century hymn may be attested by the fact it appears in hymnals with as many as three different tunes: CORONATION, DIADEM and MILES’ LANE. Each tune reflects a different cultural and denominational context in which this text is sung.

Another unusual aspect of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the number of modifications that have been made from the original text.

The original hymn text dates from 1779 and 1780, and was first printed in November 1779 in the Gospel Magazine, a publication by “Rock of Ages” composer Augustus M. Toplady. An eight-stanza version appeared just a year later in the same magazine titled, “On the Resurrection. The Lord is King.”

Massive alterations began as early as 1787 when the text was included in John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns with the title “The Spiritual Coronation, Canticles 3:11”—a reference to the Song of Songs: “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”

British hymnologist and literary scholar J.R. Watson notes, “By applying Solomon’s crowning to this hymn, the Old Testament reference is seen as Solomon’s prefiguring of Christ.”

Among the most notable changes made by Rippon was the final stanza. Perronet originally wrote:

“Let every tribe and every tongue
That bound creation’s call,
Now shout in universal song
The crowned Lord of all.”

Rippon’s version, which took hold in the early 19th century and remains in constant use today, is:

“O that with yonder sacred throng
We at his feet may fall,
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all.”

Perronet (1726-1792) was born in Sundridge, England, and died in Canterbury. His family came from the Huguenots of Switzerland, and according to The UM Hymnal editor Carlton Young, “was closely associated with and esteemed by the Wesleys.”

Against the desires of John Wesley, Perronet promoted the idea that Methodist preachers should be able to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In another controversial act, Perronet published a satire on the Church of England, The Mitre, angering the Countess of Huntingdon in whose chapel he served. As a result, he left to become a minister in the independent chapel in Canterbury.

Working together for a time, Wesley encouraged Perronet to preach, but Perronet preferred to defer to Wesley. The Methodism founder persisted, however, and announced that, “Brother Perronet will now speak.” Perronet stood before a large crowd and declared, “I will now deliver the greatest sermon ever preached on earth.” He then read the Sermon on the Mount and promptly sat down.

The tunes commonly associated with this famous text reveal much about this joyful expression of the 18th-century evangelical revival movement. CORONATION is a tune by American Oliver Holden (1792) and was first published in Boston in 1793. A stately tune in duple meter, it has the character of a coronation march.

DIADEM was composed by James Ellor in 1838 at the age of 19 for the anniversary of a Wesleyan Sunday school in his hometown of Droylsden, Manchester. This tune, in triple rhythm, has the feel of a stately minuet and suggests an anthem to be sung by a choir, especially with the independent parts of the refrain. It is indeed thrilling to hear congregations or church musicians sing this version in four parts.

The tune originally paired with this text, MILES’ LANE, does not appear in The United Methodist Hymnal. Written by William Shrubsole (1760-1806), it is less favored, in light of the other more buoyant tune options.

Regardless of the tune, the version we sing today leaves no doubt that the entire earth—from the “chosen seed of Israel’s race” and “sinners” and “martyrs” to “every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball”—will sing the “everlasting song” at Jesus’ feet. Now that will be a song to hear!


‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus: 687  (V1, V2, V4)

The Story Behind: Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus ‣


Take the Name of Jesus with You: 611 (V1, V2, V4)

A song which encourages us to give due consideration to that name by which we are saved is “Take The Name Of Jesus With You” (#430 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #661 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Lydia Odell Baxter, who was born at Petersburg, NY, on Sept. 8, 1809.  As young women, she and her sister were converted by the preaching of a traveling Baptist missionary, Eben Tucker.  A little while later, the two sisters were mainly responsible for the establishment of a Baptist church in their hometown.  After her marriage, Lydia moved to New York City, NY, with her husband, where she zealously continued to carry on her religious work.  Due to a serious illness, she became a partial invalid and was confined to her bed much of the time, but her home was a gathering place for preachers and other religious workers who came to her for advice.

Though Lydia was simply a housewife, all who knew her said that her radiance was an inspiration to them.  Because of her patient cheerfulness, people often visited her sickroom not so much to comfort her as to be blessed by her.  In 1855 she published a collection of religious poetry, Gems by the Wayside.  Also she produced a number of gospel songs, such as “There Is a Gate Ajar for Me,” which were widely used.  In 1870 she penned “Take the Name of Jesus With You” while she was on her sickbed just four years before her death.  An avid student of the Bible, she often engaged in discussions of scriptural names with her friends and felt that the very utterance of the name of Jesus carried her to a deeper understanding, saying, “When the tempter tries to make me blue or despondent, I mention the name of Jesus, and he can’t get through to me anymore.”

The tune (Precious Name) was composed by William Howard Doane (1832-1915).  The song first appeared in Pure Gold, edited in 1871 at New York City for Biglow and Main, by Doane and Robert Lowry (1826-1899).  Mrs. Baxter, who never permitted her physical disability to stop her active mind from studying God’s word and writing about it or to quench her spiritual joy, died in New York City on June 22, 1874, at the age of 65.  This song became widely known in evangelical churches through its use in evangelistic campaigns during the latter nineteenth century by revivalist Dwight Lyman Moody and his music director Ira David Sankey (1840-1908).  It has become a very popular closing hymn.  In many places, congregations do not sing the melody as it was originally and is usually written but follow some slight alterations that are attributed to Austin Taylor (1881-1973).

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ,  “Take the Name of Jesus With You” 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. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; 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; 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.


Announcements & Closing Prayer