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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Gospel Hymns Nos. 1 to 6

It was a game changer in 1870 when preacher Dwight L. Moody enlisted Ira D. Sankey to be the music director for his evangelistic services and mission work. In many ways, church music in evangelical churches owes much to this historic event.

In his training Sankey was affiliated with other musicians whose names are familiar to church musicians today such as Lowell Mason and William Bradbury. As revivalists, Moody and Sankey worked closely with Major D.W. Whittle and his musicians, first Philip P. Bliss and then James McGranahan. Another musician who was called upon to work with these men was George C. Stebbins.

Ira Sankey is best known for his song, "The Ninety and Nine." Another of his songs that is a favorite of mine is "Trusting Jesus." Sankey wrote the music for these. In fact, it's an interesting note that the music for "The Ninety and Nine" was written during it's first presentation. He placed a copy of the poem on his reed organ, then played and sang it for the first time in a service at Moody's request making it up as he sang.

James McGranahan's songs include "I Know Whom I Have Believed" and "There Shall Be Showers of Blessing," both of which he wrote with Major Whittle. Another of his tunes was MY REDEEMER which he wrote for the hymn "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" which was found after the death of Philip P. Bliss.

Philip Bliss, for the few years of his life, was a prolific hymn writer. The Baptist Hymnal 1991 includes 7 hymns of his including "'Man of Sorrows,' What a Name," "Wonderful Words of Life," and "Whosoever Will." Probably his best known tune is VILLE DU HAVRE which he wrote for the Horatio G. Spafford hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul."

George Stebbins was also a prolific musician. He provided the tunes for such great hymns as "Have Thine Own Way, Lord," "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling," and "Take Time to Be Holy."

In many ways, these musicians were just as much preachers as Moody and Whittle, they simply relied on a different medium to share the gospel of Jesus.

Since music was such a huge part of their evangelistic services, it was natural for these men to create songbooks to be used in their services and in the churches of their day.  One of these early books, Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs, published in 1875 was edited by Sankey and Bliss. They joined together to compile a supplemental song book in 1876, just before the untimely death of Bliss and his wife in a tragic train wreck, entitled Gospel Hymns No. 2.

An interesting note is that Harriet Tubman had a personal copy of Gospel Hymns No. 2 which is currently in the Smithsonian Library. (See the website.)

After this Ira Sankey, James McGranahan, and George Stebbins together published Gospel Hymns Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Finally, in 1894 Sankey, McGranahan, and Stebbins put together a compilation which they called Gospel Hymns Nos. 1 to 6 Complete (Without Duplicates) for Use in Gospel Meetings and Other Religious Services.

As were the previous volumes, this hymn book was published by both The Biglow & Main Co. and The John Church Co. These two publishers together with their respective audiences gave a great boost to the sales and distribution of these songbooks.

Among the 739 selections, we find a variety of hymns including, of course, Sankey's "The Ninety and Nine." There are also a couple of patriotic songs at the end of the book. I suppose because of the nature of the book Christmas selections are limited (in a cursory look, I saw only one and there is no listing in the Topical Index).

Of additional interest, there are words only hymns scattered among the words and music titles that we are more familiar with. I also found two different settings for the hymn, "The Palace of the King."

In addition to the hymns, there are two indices: a title index and a topical index.

Although I have heard these names and was familiar with some of their songs, it was fascinating to study the history of these men who did so much to influence the evangelical church and her hymnody. I would encourage you to look at biographical materials on each of these men. There was so much of their stories that I was unable to include in this already lengthy look at this hymnal, Gospel Hymns Nos. 1 to 6 Complete.



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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Faith of the Flawed

How often have I failed God? How often I have I been used of God?

We hear He's a God of 2nd chances. Oh, so much more, 3rd, 4th, 100th! 70 times 70?

There is good news, and there is hope in that.

I was reading in the Bible book of Hebrews, chapter 11, that which is the "roll call of faith."

Let's see who we have:

Noah "found favor in the eyes of the LORD."  Noah became drunk, "uncovered himself," and ended up placing a curse on his grandson.

Abraham "believed in the LORD; and He credited it to him as righteousness." Abraham, without a son, chose to father a son by his wife's handmaid.

Jacob favored one of his sons - Joseph.

Moses rashly struck the rock and was unable to enter the promised land.

Gideon who had to test God with the fleece - twice.

Jephthah who sacrificed his daughter.

David, the man after God's own heart, an adulterer and murderer.

These and more are listed in the roll call of faith. They had faith in God. All of them were flawed.

It is a blessing to know that God has used and blessed the flawed. That means that God can love us, lead us, and use us for we, too, are flawed.

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary's mount out-poured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

2. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
Whiter than snow you may be today.

3. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe;
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;<
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

("Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord" by Julia H. Johnston)



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Monday, May 3, 2021

Is It God's Church?

One day, several years ago, we had made a change in some aspect of our worship at the church I was serving, and a dear, sweet lady came to me and said, "Richard, you know that's not right. That's not who we are."

Of course, we don't like change. Of course, we like to be comfortable. Absolutely, we like things to be the way we like things to be. It's our church, and we know what it should be like.

And please know that ministers are not immune to this way of thinking either.

Before your mind starts running in some awkward direction, this is not an article about church music, genre, or style. It is an issue that is bigger than any of  those and more.  I'm pretty sure it's also not just a contemporary problem. Having read some church history, I believe that it was an issue in the first centuries after the beginning of the church.

I will say that God is not surprised by any of this, but on many occasions I've thought, and even stated, that I'm not sure that the church today is what God had in mind when He started it.

A few things this past week brought this to the forefront of my thinking.

One day my niece posted an article by Russell Moore entitled "Losing Our Religion" and on another day our eldest daughter posted an article by Greg Trimble with the title "If You're Going to Be A Christian...Then Act Like It!" (I'll post links to both of these at the end of this article.)

I was also reading in Isaiah 48 and was challenged by these verses:

Hear this, house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came from the waters of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the Lord
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness.
(Isaiah 48:1 NASB)

This is what the Lord says, He who is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to benefit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
(Isaiah 48:17-18 NASB)

Do you see how the prophet has declared that the people who claim to be followers of God call on Him, "but not in truth nor in righteousness"? And, then God says to them "If only you had paid attention to My commandments!" If you read the entire chapter, you'll also see where He called His people obstinate.

At what point will we be held accountable to God? Are we already coming under His judgement? I'm reminded of this verse in First Peter:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17a NASB)

We claim that the church is God's or Christ's church. Some state it in their name and others of us believe in our hearts, our words, and our actions that only our church is God's church. But, when compared with scripture and the commands of God's Word, is it a reality?

How often do we confuse what we think church should be like with what God has intended church to be like? Does our worship reflect the greatness and holiness of God or does it just feel right to us?

Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not speaking of specifics, of the rightness or wrongness of what we do or how we do it.

I'm challenged by these thoughts. I don't have answers to this issue. However, I do believe it's worth our consideration, our thoughts, and most definitely our prayers.

Is it our church, or is it God's church?

1. The church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation,
By Spirit and the Word;
From heav'n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

2. Elect from ev'ry nation,
Yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With ev'ry grace endued.

3. 'Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.

("The Church's One Foundation" by S. J. Stone)


Here are the articles I mentioned above:

"Losing Our Religion" by Russell Moore

"If You're Going to Be A Christian...Then Act Like It!" by Greg Trimble


If you have not done so, subscribe to my email newsletter to receive information on additional posts designed to encourage and inspire you. Just click this link to go to the subscription page: Subscribe to Richard's Newsletter Now!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Age is Relative, the Goal is Not!

Let's see:

Sometimes in the morning when I get up, I feel like I'm about 110 years old. By lunch, I can be about 59. On a good day, I can be reaching for 43 in the mid-afternoon. In the evening, I can even be feeling those twenties again. But by bedtime, I'm closer to reality.

Then, I look around me at the "old" people. Some of them have a few years on me and others, surprisingly, are actually younger than I. Next I see the youngsters, those in their forties and the children still in their twenties on down.

Of course, for children, teenagers, and young adults, I'm probably ancient.

In so many ways, age is relative!

I think the first time it struck me was the day I realized that I was as old as my mother was when I first married. It was amazing because I was pretty young!

In the Bible I'm currently reading - a Christmas gift from my wife of a New American Standard 2020 Edition - I came to Psalm 71. Now don't stop reading because of this next statement, but in this edition, this psalm is headed "Prayer of an Old Man for Rescue." (Note that this heading is not part of God's Word - it's from the editors, who are probably still youngsters or children. See above.)

Not to rush you through the first part, as I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I want to jump to verse 20 and work backwards.

I don't really think you have to be very old to have experienced what this verse is talking about. Sure a few more years means you've probably seen it a few more times.

You [God] who have shown me many troubles and distresses
Will revive me again,
And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
(Psalm 71:20 NASB)

Sickness, pain, death. Sweat, toil, trouble, and heartaches. These are the lot of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. As they say, "if you live long enough, you will experience them all."

But note the goodness of God expressed here. In fact, I saw these verses as I looked at the musical verses that followed and I was reminded of a hymn that I'll share at the end of this article.

Then for more on the goodness of God, we have to look no further than the previous verse:

For Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
You who have done great things;
God; who is like You?
(Psalm 71:19)

In fact, if you go back and review those verses we jumped over, you'll see many of these "great things" that God has done listed. Once again, you don't have to be old to have experienced God's goodness, but a few more years can give you a greater sense of His presence and His action in the world around you, as well as within you and those you care for.

So, we've looked at a few things:

  • God is good!
  • Life is filled with blessings and difficulties.
  • Age is relative.

But, what is the purpose, the reason, the GOAL of it all for us?

Regardless of our age, the verse that precedes both of these gives us this purpose, this goal:

And even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation.
(Psalm 71:18 NASB)

It doesn't matter our real age, or our relative age. If you are younger with less experience of the goodness of God, or older with many years of knowing God's strength and help, we have the same job.

We are to tell the generations that follow about our God, about His love, about His care, about His provision, about His strength. For when they encounter the trials of this life, they need to know that God is able to handle them all.

Child of God, it's our job. In words, actions, AND attitudes, let's tell those who are younger than us that GOD IS GOOD!! Amen! Amen!

1. We praise Thee, O God! for the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus who died, and is now gone above.

2. We praise Thee, O God! for Thy Spirit of light,
Who hath shown us our Savior, and scattered our night.

3. All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain,
Who hath borne all our sins, and hath cleans'd ev'ry stain.

4. Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Hallelujah! Amen.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory,
Revive us again.

("We praise thee, O God! For the Son of thy love" by W. P. Mackay (1863, 1867))



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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Popular Hymnal

The Popular Hymnal is another of my hymnals from the publisher, Robert H. Coleman.

For some reason this name strikes me as being a little odd in this day and age. In some way, it's similar to mentioning The Modern Hymnal from 1926 in the year 2021.

However, reading the Foreword, one finds validity in this title:

It is our belief that in "The Popular Hymnal" will be found a satisfying variety of meet the demands of any congregation.

Especially have many of the older and statelier hymns been added to the newer and more popular songs.

I was interested to see that this Foreword was written and attested by no less than Dr. J.B. Gambrell and Dr. George W. Truett. It caused me to go into a brief study of the history of these two illustrious figures within the Southern Baptist Convention.

At the time of this hymnal's publication, Dr. Gambrell was serving as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a position that he held for four consecutive terms. I was very interested to see that he was born in Anderson County, South Carolina which lies just across Lake Hartwell and the Georgia state line from where I am writing this article. It was also noteworthy that he served 3 years as the president of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

During part of his career, Dr. Gambrell, a distinguished writer, served as the editor of The Baptist Standard, a Texas Baptist newspaper. It's interesting to note that at this time, the owners of this paper hired Robert H. Coleman as their business manager.

Dr. Truett also had his Georgia roots. As a young man from North Carolina just above the Georgia state line, he taught in Townes County and became the founder and principal of Hiawassee Academy. He was looking at going to Mercer and becoming a lawyer, but when his parents moved to Texas, he followed them. There he became one of the great preachers of his day when after graduation from Baylor he was called as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas where he served for 47 years until his death. During his pastorate, he grew the church membership from 715 to 7,804.

It's also notable that he was among the owners of The Baptist Standard when they called on Dr. Gambrell and Robert Coleman. For our purposes, he was serving as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Dallas when he co-wrote the Foreword for The Popular Hymnal.

Unlike the other hymnals in our series, The Modern Hymnal, The American Hymnal, Reapers, and Coleman's Songs for Men, this hymnal was not edited by B.B. McKinney. Published in 1918, it is the earliest of our series and was printed before McKinney was hired by Robert H. Coleman. However, it appears from my copy that it was among those books that was reprinted by the Baptist Sunday School Board after they purchased the publisher, Robert H. Coleman. I am including links to other articles in this series below.

Among the many hymns, recognizable or not, I was interested to see "O Columbia! the gem of the ocean," titled here "The Red, White and Blue," among the other patriotic selections.

As to readings, The Popular Hymnal includes both Selected Psalms and Responsive Readings. Unlike any hymnal I've seen so far, there are two musical selections that are included between the Responsive Readings and the Index. And for Indices we are given the Index, an alphabetical listing of the hymns, an index of the Selected Psalms and Responsive Readings, a Metrical Index, and a Topical Index.

I am grateful to have this hymnal in my collection thanks once again to the generosity of Bill Coen.

If you have seen or used this hymnal, I would appreciate your sharing your experience with it below in the comments.


Here are additional posts in the Robert H. Coleman Series:
Robert H. Coleman, Publisher of Hymnals
The Modern Hymnal
The American Hymnal
Coleman's Songs for Men


If you have not done so, subscribe to my email newsletter to receive information on additional posts designed to encourage and inspire you. Just click this link to go to the subscription page: Subscribe to Richard's Newsletter Now!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Can We Be Honest?

To be honest with you, I have to say that I...

Have you ever noticed how brutally honest scripture is?

Currently I'm using Psalms and Lessons for the Christian Year from The Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA as my daily Bible reading plan.

Today's reading from Psalms was chapter 40. In verse 1, David writes, "I waited patiently for the LORD." Why that's a good start! He continues by speaking of all the good things that God has done. It's interesting to me that The Book of Common Prayer reading stops with verse 16. It's very encouraging that God has been good to David. Then there's verse 17. David gets a bit more gut-wrenchingly honest: "But I am afflicted and needy."

Next is Exodus, chapter 16 to be exact. Let's review: (1) God brought the people out of Egypt after sending a lot of plagues on the Egyptians, (2) God lead them through the divided waters of the Red Sea on dry land and then drowned the Egyptian army, (3) God miraculously turned bitter water sweet so they could have a drink, and now, the people are saying they wished they had died in Egypt where there was plenty of food to eat. Complain, complain, complain. So, God provides quail and manna (but it doesn't stop the disobedience and grumbling).

In fact, its consistency in showing the dark side of its heroes and the people of God is one of the arguments for the truthfulness of scripture. Let's see, Abraham whose faith proclaimed him righteous didn't trust that God would provide a son through Sarah, so he had a child with her maid. Then Judah, the ancestor of Jesus, led in selling his younger brother into slavery. And David, a man after God's own heart, committed adultery and had a man murdered.

Finally, we move into the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, where the author writes about the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel during the days of the exodus.

I wonder how honest we really like to be. Did Honest Abe have shortcomings and failures that he didn't want to share with anyone else? You and I are in that same boat. We don't want to be completely honest with everyone (possibly anyone) around us. We like to hide parts of our lives from others. It's just natural. But, we can have a problem when we fail to be honest with ourselves.

Of course, an even bigger issue is when we try to be dishonest with God. That one doesn't work. Ever!

Hebrews 4:13 says, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer." Ouch!

So, to be honest with you, I have to say that I... oh my, that list has gotten longer since I started this article. Let's just say that I am a sinner and that God knows all the details. He sees my failure. He sees my sin.

I do like the last verses of this chapter, because they give us hope.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let's approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NASB)

So, can we be honest? It may still be hard to do. However, we should at least be honest with ourselves and recognize that we have to be honest with God.

1 I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how he could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

2 For me it was in the garden
He prayed, "Not my will, but thine;"
He had no tears for his own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

3 He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them his very own;
He bore the burden to Calv'ry,
And suffered and died alone.

4 When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
'Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of his love for me.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be;
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!

("I Stand Amazed in the Presence" Words and Music by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932)


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Coleman's Songs for Men

This hymn book or song book, Coleman's Songs for Men, is not like the hymnals that Robert H. Coleman published, nor is it like the paperback songbook, Reapers. It is, however, a specialty songbook as it is designed for men.

B.B. McKinney was working as musical editor for Robert Coleman when this little book was published in 1932 as we can see from the title page and the Foreword page. However, this was one of those publications that was reissued by Broadman Press after the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention purchased the publisher, Robert H. Coleman.

In fact, I gather from the quality of the two copies that I have that this edition was available until fairly recently. This seems to be born out in the 1981 dissertation of Dr. Terry C. Terry, B.B. McKinney: A Shaping Force in Southern Protestant Music, as he indicates that this volume was available from the Sunday School Board at the time he wrote the paper.

Coleman's Songs for Men contains 196 selections. And, the short index at the back shows that many of them were intended to be used as "Solos, Duets, and Specials." As a songbook for men, I also note that not all of the songs are hymns or songs for worship. Among the selections are "Old Folks at Home," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny."

With this little volume being available so long, it's possible that some of my readers have used this songbook. If you have experience with Coleman's Songs for Men, please share in the Comments below.


Here are additional posts in the Robert H. Coleman Series:
Robert H. Coleman, Publisher of Hymnals
The Modern Hymnal
The American Hymnal
The Popular Hymnal


If you have not done so, subscribe to my email newsletter to receive information on additional posts designed to encourage and inspire you. Just click this link to go to the subscription page: Subscribe to Richard's Newsletter Now!

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Gospel Hymns Nos. 1 to 6

It was a game changer in 1870 when preacher Dwight L. Moody enlisted Ira D. Sankey to be the music director for his evangelistic servi...