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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.



Blessings,
Richard




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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)

Blessings,
Richard


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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)

Blessings,
Richard

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


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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...