Joy To The World

Issac Watts included this hymn in his Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719, as part of his version of Psalm 98 (vv. 4-9). Despite the fact that some words in the hymn also appear in the psalm, it is difficult to find any close connection between the two.

While the initial stanza announces that “The Lord is come,” it is the only stanza that is related to Christmas and the birth of Jesus. The other stanzas could easily be appropriate for any season of the year.

There is no mention of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the manger or the wise men. Yet, who would deny this hymn a choice place among the traditional carols?

The exuberant joy that permeates the psalm as it lauds the God of the Old Testament is present in the hymn but in praise of Jesus Christ. A marvelous climax occurs in the final couplet:

The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love.

For more than a century the hymn was sung to numerous tunes which fit its poetic structure (Common Meter). Then, in 1839, Lowell Mason, a New England music educator, published in Boston a tune that has become indelibly associated with these words.

Mason indicated that it is “from Handel,” for he borrowed two musical phrases from Handel’s Messiah (“Lift Up Your Head” and “Comfort Ye”) and wove them into a joyful song for Christmas.

Mason named the tune “Antioch” for the ancient Syrian city that was the point of departure for Paul’s first two missionary journeys and where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Day By Day

The waves of revival that swept the Scandinavian countries during the latter half of the nineteenth century were greatly influenced by the wealth of fine hymns which flowed from the pen of Lina Sandell, born on October 3, 1832 at Froderyd, Sweden. She was a daughter of the pastor of the parish church of that community. Being a frail youngster, she usually preferred to spend her time in her father’s study rather than to join her comrades in play. When she was twenty-six years of age, she accompanied her father on a journey to Gothenburg, but tragedy occurred before the destination was reached. The ship gave a sudden lurch and Lina’s father fell overboard and drowned before the eyes of his devoted daughter.

Although she had written hymns prior to this tragic experience, more songs began to flow out of her broken heart which reflect a simple, child-like trust in Christ and a deep sense of His abiding presence in her life. The remarkable popularity attained by her hymns has been due, to a large extent, to the simple but melodious music written for them by such musicians as Oscar Ahnfelt. He was known as a “spiritual troubadour” in his day. Not only did he possess the gift of writing pleasing melodies that caught the fancy of the Swedish people, but he also traveled from place to place throughout the Scandinavian countries singing these folk-like songs to the accompaniment of his home-made ten-string guitar. Miss Sandell once said, “Ahnfelt has sung my songs into the hearts of the people.”

Not only Ahnfelt, but also Jenny Lind, affectionately known as the “Swedish Nightingale,” used her sweet voice in the singing of these heart-warming hymns. Though she was internationally known for her formal concertizing, it is said that she would sit with the common work-men at their crude benches and sing these simple hymns about the Savior she loved and served.

It is often true that whenever revival fires begin to glow, there is Satanic opposition. The account is given that at one time King Karl XV was petitioned to forbid Ahnfelt’s preaching and singing throughout Scandinavia. The king called for Ahnfelt to appear before him. Being considerably perturbed as to what he should sing to his monarch, Ahnfelt requested Lina Sandell to write a special hymn. She was equal to the occasion, and within a few days the song was ready. With his guitar under his arm and the new hymn in his pocket, Ahnfelt appeared at the palace and sang these words: Who is it that knocketh upon your heart’s door in peaceful eve? Who is it that brings to the wounded and sore the balm that can heal and relieve? Your heart is still restless, it findeth no peace in earth’s pleasures; Your soul is still yearning, it seeketh release to rise to the heavenly treasures.

The king listened with moist eyes. When Ahnfelt had finished, King Karl gripped him by the hand and exclaimed, “You may sing as much as you desire in both of my kingdoms.”

The name of Andrew L. Skoog, the translator of this hymn, was well-known to the immigrant Swedish community in midwestern America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born in Sweden and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, at the age of twelve. He had only a sixth grade education, yet he edited seven hymnals, numerous works of the masters, and wrote a textbook on theory. For the last fifty years of his life he was active in the religious life of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where he was associated with the illustrious Pastor E. August Skogsberg. The two men were frequently described as the Swedish counterpart of the Moody and Sankey team. Lina Sandell was married to a Stockholm merchant, C. O. Berg, in 1867, but she continued to sign her hymns with the initials “L. S.” by which she was affectionately known throughout Sweden. She has often been called the “Fanny Crosby of Sweden” for her many fine contributions to gospel hymnody.

Lina Sandell Berg is also the author of the beloved Swedish hymn “More Secure Is No One Ever”.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Give unto each day what He deems best;
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure,
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in ev’ry tribulation,
So to trust Your promises, O Lord;
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus has become a familiar hymn, that has been widely used in Christian circles to challenge believers musically, with the necessity of making Christ the paramount priority in their lives, and then living each day with eternity’s values in view. The author and composer of this hymn, Helen H. Lemmel, relates that one day, in 1918, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled Focused. The pamphlet contained these words: “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

These words made a deep impression upon Helen Lemmel. She could not dismiss them from her mind. She recalls this experience following the reading of that tract:

“Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit.”

The hymn was first published, in 1918, in the form of a pamphlet in London, England. Four years later, it was included in a collection titled, Glad Songs, a book containing sixty-seven songs by Mrs. Lemmel. This hymn became especially popular that same year at the Keswick Bible Conference in northern England, where it was first introduced. It first appeared in the United States, in 1924, in a song collection called, Gospel Truth in Song, published by Harry Clarke in Chicago, Illinois. Since that time, the song has been included in most evangelical hymnals and has been translated into many languages around the world.

Helen Howarth Lemmel was born on November 14, 1864, in Wardle, England. She was the daughter of a Wesleyan Methodist pastor, and she came to this country with her family at the age of twelve. Helen lived briefly in Mississippi before settling in Wisconsin. Soon she developed a reputation as a brilliant singer, even studying private voice in Germany for four years. She traveled widely throughout the midwest during the early 1900’s, giving concerts in many churches. Later, Mrs. Lemmel taught voice at the Moody Bible Institute and then at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. In 1961, Helen Lemmel settled in Seattle, Washington, where she remained active with Christian activities, as a member of the Ballard Baptist Church of that city, during the last days of her life.

In addition to being known as a brilliant singer and musician, Mrs. Lemmel was also widely recognized as a woman with remarkable literary ability. She wrote more than five hundred hymns and poems. Mrs. Lemmel also authored a very successful book for children entitled, Story of the Bible and composed many children’s musical pieces. She remained active for God in her musical and literary pursuits, until her home-going at the age of ninety-seven.

How easy it becomes even for those of us who profess to be faithful followers of Christ to get caught up in the things of earth, so that our heavenly vision and values become blurred and dull. This often happens even when we are active in our Christian activities, we become so involved in merely doing things for God that we miss the real blessing of enjoying the personal fellowship of Christ Himself in our daily lives. Troubles, sufferings, persecution, broken relationships; fix our eyes on our unchanging, faithful Savior and all the things of earth will grow dim in the light of His glory and grace!

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

It Is Well With My Soul

The hymn “It is Well with My Soul” becomes closest to heart for one undergoing grief. Written by a Presbyterian lawyer Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) and composed by Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876), this deeply touching gospel song has long been loved.

The scripture reference is Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Text Author and Hymn – Writer Horatio G. Spafford

Spafford was born on October 20, 1828 in North Troy, New York. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago who maintained a keen interest in Christian activities, deeply spiritual and devoted to the scriptures.

Chicago Fire and a Son’s Loss – Sometime in 1871, a fire in Chicago heavily devastated the city, and months before that, Spafford had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Before the fire, Spafford also experienced the loss of his son.

A Calm and Worst Life Storm – Two years after the fire, Horatio Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. He was not meant to travel with his family. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters to travel as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and sank in few minutes.

Wife “Saved Alone” – After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford’s wife cabled her husband with two simple words, “Saved alone.” Shortly after, Spafford left by ship on his way where his beloved four daughters had drowned, and pen at hand, wrote this most poignant text so significantly descriptive of his own personal grief – “When sorrows like sea billows roll…” The hymn “It is Well with My Soul” was born.

It is Well with My Soul – It is noteworthy that Horatio Spafford did not dwell on the theme of life’s sorrows and trials, instead, focused in the third stanza on the redemptive work of Christ, and in the fourth verse, anticipates His glorious second coming.

Composer Philip Bliss – Philip P. Bliss, the hymn composer, was a prolific writer of gospel songs. He was so impressed with the experience and expression of Spafford’s text that he shortly wrote the music for it, first published in one of the Sankey-Bliss Hymnals, Gospel Hymns No. 2. Shortly after writing ‘It is Well With My Soul,’ Bliss died in a tragic train accident.

On reflection, it is divinely amazing that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford, yet, able to say with such convincing clarity, “It is well with my soul.” In a world dominated by evil, catastrophes, government instabilities, acts of injustice and carnal sins, it is indeed an enormous challenge to embrace the significance of this hymn. It is well with my soul, because Jesus paid it all and holds me now in the midst of all these.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

“Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” was written in 1882 by Louisa M.R. Stead. As the story goes, Louisa had always felt a calling to be a missionary and go to China. But due to fragile health she was kept home in the US. She married Mr. Stead and had a daughter named Lily. When Lily was 4 yrs old the family went on vacation to a nearby beach. While there, relaxing and enjoying their vacation, they saw a young boy drowning in the ocean. Mr. Stead swam out and tried to rescue him, only he was pulled under by the boy and both Mr. Stead and the boy drowned as Louisa and her daughter watched from shore.

Louisa was left without any means of support except for God’s care. She and her daughter were in dire poverty – one day when there was no food in the house and no money to purchase any, Louisa opened the front door to find someone had left groceries and money sitting there for her.

That same day she sat down and wrote “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus…”. She later became a missionary to Africa, remarried and once again was forced to stay in the US due to her health. But once recovered she went back into the missionary field in Rhodesia and later died in Zimbabwe. Her daughter Lily married and became a missionary as well.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

Hymnbook 219 – August 2008

He Keeps Me Singing

A Methodist preacher by the name of Luther Bridges, was born in 1884, he married Sarah Veatch and three lovely sons were born of their union. Pastor Bridges accepted an invitation to minister at a conference in Kentucky in the year 1910, so he left his family in the care of his father-in-law and made the trip to Kentucky. There, two wonderful weeks of ministry resulted. The last service closed with great joy and he was excited to be called to the telephone. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife about all the blessings.

But it wasn’t her voice on that long distance line. He listened in silence to the news that a fire had burned down the house of his father-in-law and his wife and all three of his sons had died in the blaze. That distraught father leaned heavily on His Savior and expressed his faith in God during a tearful moment by penning these words:

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace,
be still, In all of lifes ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting beneath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.

Hymnbook 339 – July 2008

I Need Thee Every Hour

Annie Hawks wrote:
One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me.

After writing the lyrics, Hawks gave them to her pastor, Robert Lowry, who added the tune and refrain. The hymn was first published at the National Baptist Sunday School Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in November 1872.

Some years later, after the death of her husband, Hawks wrote:
I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

Hymnbook 255 – June 2008