March 10, 2024

Call To Worship

Blessed Assurance: 71

Tune composer Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839-1908) played a melody to Fanny Crosby and asked, “What does the melody say to you?” Crosby replied that the tune said, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” and proceeded to recite the entire first stanza of the now-famous hymn. Knapp was one of several tune writers that worked with Fanny Crosby. It was not unusual for one of her texts to be inspired by a preexisting tune. Knapp was the composer of more than five hundred gospel hymns and tunes.

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), blind at the age of six weeks, was a lifelong Methodist who began composing hymns at age six. She became a student at the New York Institute of the Blind at age 15 and joined the faculty of the Institute at 22, teaching rhetoric and history. In 1885, Crosby married Alexander Van Alstyne, also a student at the Institute and later a member of the faculty. He was a fine musician and, like Fanny, a lover of literature.

An author of more than 8,000 gospel hymn texts, she drew her inspiration from her own faith. Crosby published hymns under several pen names including “Ella Dale,” “Mrs. Kate Gringley,” and “Miss Viola V. A.” Her hymn texts were staples for the music of the most prominent gospel song writers of her day.

Frances Jane Crosby’s hymns have historically been among the most popular songs sung by Methodists. “Blessed Assurance” (1873) is one of the ten most popular hymns sung by United Methodists according to Carlton Young, and it is one of eight Crosby hymns in The United Methodist Hymnal.

“Blessed Assurance” was published in 1873 in the monthly magazine edited by Joseph Fairchild Knapp and Phoebe Palmer Knapp, Guide to Holiness. Editor John R. Sweney included it in Gems of Praise (Philadelphia, 1873), and Knapp also chose it for “Bible School Songs” (1873). Perhaps the biggest boost came when it appeared in Gospel Songs, No. 5 (1887) by Ira Sankey and was sung extensively in the Moody and Sankey revivals in Great Britain and the United States. It has been a part of Methodist hymnals since 1889.

This hymn has inspired many singers ranging from those in evangelistic crusades to theologians. Don E. Saliers, William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship Emeritus at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, borrowed a portion of the opening stanza for his liturgical theology text, Worship as Theology: Foretaste of Glory Divine (1994). If one enters “foretaste of glory divine” into a Google search, numerous sermon titles appear that incorporate this phrase. YouTube renditions of the hymn abound.

Crosby captured the poetic essence of the Wesleyan understanding of Christian perfection in the phrase, “O what a foretaste of glory divine!” The entire hymn is focused on heaven, a place where “perfect submission” and “perfect delight” [stanza 2] will take place. The earthly existence is one of “watching and waiting, looking above” [stanza 3]. As we submit ourselves to Christ and are “filled with his goodness” and “lost in his love” [stanza 3], we are remade in Christ’s image and are moving toward Christian perfection.

This hymn appeals to the senses in a rich way. Not only do we have a “foretaste of glory,” we experience “visions of rapture [that] burst on my sight,” and we hear “echoes of mercy, whispers of love” [stanza 2].

The refrain calls us to “prais[e]. . . my Savior all the day long,” echoing I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

Because of her long life, Fanny Crosby had an extraordinary relationship with several United States presidents, even penning poems in their honor on occasion, and she was influential on the spiritual life of or a friend to Presidents Martin Van Buren (8th), John Tyler (10th), James K. Polk (11th), and Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th). She addressed a joint session of Congress on the topic of education for the blind.

Middle class women in nineteenth-century United States had little voice in worship, however. One of the only ways for a woman to claim the authority to be heard was by direct personal revelation from God. Fanny Crosby readily claimed God’s personal revelation as a source for her hymns; her personal revelation then became a communal inspiration as Christians throughout the world sang her hymns and confirmed her faith experience as their own.

Dr. Hawn is distinguished professor of church music at Perkins School of Theology. He is also director of the seminary’s sacred music program.


Welcome and Opening Prayer
Scripture Reading

Count Your Many Blessings: 118

A song which encourages us to be joyful because of all the wonderful works which God has done is “Count Your Blessings (#392 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #68 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr., who was born near Medford, NJ, on Apr. 21, 1856, the son of Johnson (Sr.) and Rachel Ann Cline Oatman.  His father, a local merchant at nearby Lumberton, had a rich, powerful singing voice.  The son loved to hear his father sing and longed to become a singer like his father.  After being educated at Herberts’ Academy in Vincentown, NJ, and at the New Jersey Collegiate Institute in Bordentown, NJ, Johnson Jr. entered the Methodist Episcopal Church at the age of nineteen and later became a preacher but served without any permanent local assignment.

In addition, Oatman was associated with his father in the mercantile business and after his father’s death went into the insurance profession with an office in Mt. Holly, NJ.  Not being able to sing like his father, beginning about 1892, when he was 36, he did start writing hymns for others to sing, and his words proved highly successful as texts for gospel songs.  It was in 1896 or 1897 that he penned this song about counting our blessings, which many critics regard as his best.  The tune (Blessings) was composed by Stark County, OH, native Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921).  The hymn first appeared in Excell’s Songs for Young People, published in 1897 at Chicago, IL.

Oatman never became a famous preacher or even a famous singer, but he did produce over 5,000 hymns with such well-known gospel composers as John R. Sweney, William J. Kirkpatrick, and Charles H. Gabriel, including texts for “Higher Ground,” “No, Not One,” “Hand In Hand With Jesus,” “Sweeter Than All,” “The Last Mile Of The Way,” “What Shall It Profit?”, “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus,” and “Lift Him Up.”  After spending most of his life in and around Mt. Holly, Oatman moved west in later life and died at Norman, OK, on Sept. 25, 1922 (although some sources give the year of his death as 1926 and the place as Mt. Pleasant, NJ).

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Count Your Blessings” 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 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 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; 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.


Do All in the Name of the Lord: 121

A song based upon the thought of this passage is “Do All In The Name Of The Lord” (#416 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #551 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Austin Taylor (1881-1973). Born at Morgantown, KY, Taylor moved with his family to Sherman, TX, in 1890 and spent much of his adult life in Uvalde, TX. A well known songleader and music teacher among churches of Christ, he published some 25 songbooks and around 200 hymns beginning in 1905. “Do All In The Name Of The Lord” was copyrighted in 1916. I did not know brother Taylor, but my good friend, the late Robert C. Welch, did know him, having preached regularly in Uvalde, TX, for a few years. In the Jan., 2000, issue of Faith and Facts, brother Welch wrote a tribute to Taylor and said, “He once told me that of all his songs which others requested to publish, the most popular which was among the Oneness people, was ‘Do All in the Name of the Lord’….That is not what he had in mind as he wrote it, but that is what they made of it. They had in mind: only in the name of the Lord.”

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song apppeared in the 1927 Sweeter Than All Songsedited by C. M. Pullias; the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1983 edition of the 1978 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 Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Communion Meditation

Farther Along: 138

A song which looks forward to that time and place where there will be no more death, sorrow, and crying is “Farther Along” (#473 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text and the tune are both attributed to W. B. Stevens (1862-1940). I have been able to find very little information about this author and composer except that he must have been a minister of some kind because many older books list him as “Rev. W. B. Stevens.” It seems that the text, apparently attributed to Stevens, first appeared in the 1911 Select Hymns for Christian Worship edited by Barney Elliot Warren (1867-1951). However, in New Songs of Inspiration Book 6 from John T. Benson Publishing Co. a song entitled “Farther Along” with the same first stanza, two additional stanzas, and three more stanzas similar to the stanzas 2-4 with which we are familiar, are attributed to Warren (perhaps because he edited the book in which the original appeared?), set to a tune by Robert E. Winsett, and copyrighted in 1944 by Winsett for his book Radiant Joy with the note “Original words owned by R. E. W.” Here are those six stanzas:
1.” Tempted and tired we’re oft made to wander (I think “wonder” is what is meant)
Why it should be thus all the day long,
While there are others living about us,
Never molested though in the wrong.”
2. “Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the cold, the rain, and the show,
While many wicked live in great splendor,
Heedless of where at last they must go.”
3. “Tempted and tried how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we walk in God’s holy fear.”
4. “Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year.”
5. “’Faithful till death,’ saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait.
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.”
6. “Soon we shall se our dear loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
And we shall know and understand why.”

The chorus is the same as in our books. I have not been able to determine exactly how this evolved into the version which we know, but the arrangement of at least the tune, which is now sometimes simply called an “American melody,” used in our books was made by Jessie Randolph Baxter Jr. (1887-1960). It was first published in the 1937 Starlit Crown edited by Baxter and Virgil O. Stamps for the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. However, there have been other arrangements. The Stamps Quartet Music Co.’s Select Radio Songs compiled by Albert Brumley in 1946 has the usual four stanas attributed to Stevens with an arrangement made by Robert E. Arnold (author of “Lovest Thou Me More Than These?” or “Feed My Sheep,” not the same as Robert Sterling Arnold who wrote “No Tears in Heaven”) and copyrighted by Stamps Quartet Music Co. that year.

     Through the years, I have heard brethren’s objections to this song as being at best improper because of the questions that it raises and, even worse, possibly unscriptural. For example, the following comment was taken from a website that criticizes several songs in one hymnbook (some of which, by the way, are just criticisms). “’Farther Along’ by W. B. Stevens (1911): ’Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder why it should be thus all the day long, while there are others living about us, never molested tho’ in the wrong. Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why.’ On the one hand, a similar question is asked in Jeremiah 12:1. Yet, on the other hand, I think that we as Christians have the answer to this now and don’t need to wait until we are farther along to understand why.” Yes, I would assume that through the revelation of Jesus Christ we do know more about it than perhaps Jeremiah did. But do we really know “all” about it? Do we really have all the answers now? Or is there something that we still do not fully understand? Will we know even more about it “Farther Along”? The song does not say that in heaven we shall know everything that God knows.  That may or may not be the case; we shall not find out until we get there, but the Bible does not actually say so, and neither does the song.  So, what does the song say? It is making a contrast. As Christians trying to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, we are often tempted and tried. Yet there are others about us who never seem to face such problems though they are in the wrong and in sin. We suffer grief, pain, and anguish in various situations. But we see others who, while living wickedly, appear to prosper and be blissfully happy.  This can puzzle us and make us wonder about the inequities of life. It is a natural human reaction that no doubt strikes all of us at one time or another. But “Farther along we’ll know all about it.” Know about what? This simply refers to an understanding of the meaning of our toils and trials and of their relative insignificance in view of the glories of heaven. The song is telling us that we can use this fact to encourage us in our journey.

Where is the scripture for this idea? In Luke 16:19-31 the same contrast is presented as in the song. Lazarus was evidently a righteous man but had to live the life of a beggar and suffer in various ways physically. It may be that he often wondered why such was so in view of the fact that others, like the rich man from whom he begged, had is so much better. The rich man, on the other hand, was not righteous but fared sumptuously in life. Following their deaths, Abraham explained in verse 25 the situation so that both of them might “know all about” their present state in Hades compared to their former lives. There are other passages as well. In Matt. 7:21-23, Jesus explains to several in judgment as to why their lives on earth were not in harmony with His will and why they were being told to depart. Now admittedly this refers to individuals who had transgressed His word. But if Christ is going to reveal such things to those who will suffer punishment in hell, is it not reasonable that He will much more do so for those who will experience bliss in heaven? And in the judgment scene of Matt. 25:31-46, He explains to both the unrighteous and the righteous about their lives on earth and how their deeds affected their eternal sentence so that they may “understand why.” Thus, “Farther Along” is merely the songwriter’s way of stating this contrast and saying, in poetic and figurative language, that there are some things which we will realize after death which we do not now. As a result, I see nothing wrong with this particular song and am persuaded that a person can sing it “in spirit and in truth” with the understanding heretofore set forth.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “Farther Along” appeared in the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs both edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Praise and Revival Songs, the 1944Gospel Songs and Hymns, the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion, and the 1955 Sacred Praise all edited by Will W. Slater; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons (with the note “as sung by the Burnette Sisters,” though I fail to see why this would be important); the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. 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 last with three stanzas and the tune arranged by Howard); the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lordedited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Sacred Selections, the 2007 Hymns for Worship Supplement edited by R. J. Stevens and others, the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr..

MUSIC UNAVAILABLE


Sermon

Are You Washed in the Blood: 50

A hymn which asks if we have been washed from our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God is “Are You Washed In The Blood?” (#307 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #613 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Washed in the Blood) was composed both by Elisha Albright Hoffman (1839-1929). A minister in the Evangelical Church, he is perhaps best-known for his “I Must Tell Jesus,” but he also provided words or music or both to a number of other beloved hymns, such as “Glory To His Name,” “Is Thy Heart Right With God?”, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms,” and “To Christ Be True.” “Are You Washed In The Blood” was first published in the 1878 Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meeting and the Sunday School edited at Cleveland, OH, for Barker and Smellie by Hoffman and John Harrison Tenney (1840-1918). Its popularity is likely due in part to its inclusion in Ira D. Sankey’s 1881 Sacred Songs and Solos. The American poet, Vachel Lindsey, used part of the text in his poem “General William Booth Enters Heaven.”

     Among songbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ the has appeared in almost every one beginning with the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson, including the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 also edited by 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 for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.


Announcements & Closing Prayer

How Great Is Our God: (Tom)