Studies in Hymns

The Young Person's Guide to the Hymnbook

American Gospel Songs


by Wayne S. Walker

It was the last day of homeschool for the spring before taking a summer break. Dad came home a little early in the afternoon for a celebration of the school year's accomplishments. Mom was in the kitchen finishing up decorating a cake and Seth put down a book of late nineteenth century American poetry that he had been reading. He told Dad, "Many of the poems of that era seem overly sentimental to us today. Why is that?"

Dad responded, "I'm not sure, but it may have to do with the 'fin de siecle' phenomenon."

"What does that mean?" asked Seth.

Dad replied, "'Fin de siecle' is the French term for 'end of the century.' Historians have noted through the years that towards the end of each century, the literature, music, and other art forms tend to become very nostalgic as older people spend a lot of time looking back to their younger years in the earlier part of the century, often thinking of them as 'the good old days.'"

"Do we see anything of that sort in the hymns of that period?"

"Well, that is an interesting question, because the latter part of the nineteenth century did see the development of a new form of religious music, the 'gospel song,' which tended to be more emotional, and perhaps even nostalgic and sentimental, as opposed to the standard hymns which have usually been more objective in their praise to deity."

Andrew had a question too. "How did the gospel song develop?"

Dad answered, "Many scholars believe that several elements coalesced into the formation of the gospel song, such as an interest in folk music, the 'camp meeting' songs of religious revivals with their rousing choruses that everyone could memorize, and perhaps even the influence of the popular parlor songs of the day. The man credited with the invention of the gospel song was Maine-born William Batchelder Bradbury, who lived from 1816 to 1868. Bradbury had been a student of early American hymn composers Lowell Mason and Thomas Hastings. He basically took over their publishing interests and formed the William B. Bradbury Co. in New York City, NY. While Bradbury himself wrote no song texts that I know of, he did provide tunes for many hymns and gospel songs by others that made them very well known. There are some of the older style hymns for which he produced music, such as an 1822 poem by William B. Tappan, a Congregationalist minister in Massachusetts who lived from 1794 to 1849, which Bradbury set to music in 1853." Dad pulled a songbook off the shelf.

  1. ’Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow The star is dimmed that lately shone;
    ’Tis midnight, in the garden; now The suffering Savior prays alone.
  2. ’Tis midnight, and from all removed The Savior wrestles lone with fears
    E’en the disciple whom He loved Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.
  3. ’Tis midnight, and for others’ guilt The Man of Sorrows sweats as blood;
    Yet He Who hath in anguish knelt Is not forsaken by His God.
  4. ’Tis midnight, and from ether plains Is borne the song that angels know;
    Unheard by mortals are the strains That sweetly soothe the Savior’s woe.

Andrew had another question. "What's the difference between a hymn and a gospel song?"

Dad said, "That's a really good question to which there's no precise answer. Generally, hymns are considered statelier, often shorter, songs which are designed primarily to express praise and devotion to God. Gospel songs are usually a little longer, often faster, and more rhythmic in nature, and generally have a personal quality about them which expresses the beliefs or convictions of the writer. Gospel songs also tend to be less harmonically complex than the older hymn tunes and generally have a chorus or refrain sung after each stanza. However, these terms are not always used precisely and there really are no absolute, hard and fast rules to determine the two categories, so sometimes there's a lot of 'crossover.' Consider an early, very familiar, gospel song with tune by Bradbury and words by Anna Bartlett Warner, a novelist who lived from 1820 to 1915."

  1. Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so.
    Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.
  2. Jesus loves me! He who died Heaven’s gate to open wide;
    He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in.
  3. Jesus loves the children dear, Children far away and near;
    They are safe when in His care, Every day and every where.
  4. Jesus loves me! Loves me still, Though I’m very weak and ill,
    From His shining throne on high Comes to watch me where I lie.
  5. Jesus loves me! He will stay Close beside me all the way;
    That I might from sin be free Bled and died upon the tree.
  6. Jesus, take this heart of mine, Make it pure and wholly Thine;
    Thou hast bled and died for me, I will henceforth live for Thee.

"Miss Warner, and her sister Susan, who lived near West Point in New York, turned to writing popular novels of the day in order to make a living after their father died. In one of Susan's novels, Say and Seal published in 1860, a Sunday school teacher was reciting a poem to comfort a dying boy, so Susan asked Anna to provide the poem. Bradbury set it to music in 1862 and it was he who added the familiar chorus, 'Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.' Bradbury provided tunes for other well known songs such as 'Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us;' 'My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less;' 'Sweet Hour of Prayer;' and 'Just As I Am.'

"Someone who was associated with the Bradbury Co. and in fact became chief editor of its successor after Bradbury's death was Robert Lowry, who lived from 1826 to 1899. A Baptist minister in Brooklyn, NY, at the time, he had been hard at work one hot day in the summer of 1864 visiting the sick and burying the dead during an epidemic. That afternoon, as he was lying on his couch in a state of physical exhaustion, he thought about all the people who were dying and then began thinking about the great reunion at the river of life. Many hymn writers had said much about the river of death, so a hymn developed in his mind about gathering at the river of life."

  1. Shall we gather at the river, Where bright angel feet have trod,
    With its crystal tide forever Flowing by the throne of God?
  2. On the margin of the river, Washing up its silver spray,
    We will talk and worship ever, All the happy golden day.
  3. Ere we reach the shining river, Lay we every burden down;
    Grace our spirits will deliver, And provide a robe and crown.
  4. At the smiling of the river, Mirror of the Savior’s face,
    Saints, whom death will never sever, Lift their songs of saving grace.
  5. Soon we’ll reach the silver river, Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
    Soon our happy hearts will quiver With the melody of peace.

"The stanzas present a question of inquiry, 'Shall we gather?' and the chorus breaks out in answer, 'Yes, we'll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river, Gather with the saints at the river That flows by the throne of God.' Other famous songs by Lowry include 'Christ Arose;' 'Nothing But the Blood of Jesus;' and the melodies for 'We're Marching to Zion;' 'I Need Thee Every Hour;' and 'Something for Jesus.'

"Another individual who was very active in producing gospel songs was Horatio Richmond Palmer, a New York native who lived from 1834 to 1907 and settled in Chicago, IL. A well known music teacher of his day, he was working one day in 1868 on the dry subject of music theory when an idea for a song flashed upon his mind, so he laid aside his theoretical work and hurriedly penned both words and music."

  1. Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; Each victory will help you some other to win;
    Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue, Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
  2. Shun evil companions, bad language disdain, God’s Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
    Be thoughtful and earnest, kindhearted and true, Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
  3. To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown; Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down;
    He Who is our Savior our strength will renew; Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

"The chorus points out that we need the Lord's help in overcoming temptation, saying, 'Ask the Savior to help you, Comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.' My piano teacher when I was a boy told me that her father, who was a state representative, always said that every young person should memorize and practice the words of this song. Palmer also provided the tune for the well known song 'Peace, Be Still.'

"Probably the individual most associated with the gospel song of the late 1800s and very early 1900s was Fanny Jane Crosby, who was born in New York state and lived from 1820 to 1915. Blind from six weeks old due to an illness and a misdiagnosis by a country doctor, she became a teacher in a blind school and began writing poetry in the 1850s after moving to New York City. In the 1860s Bradbury, who was introduced to her by a mutual friend engaged her to produce gospel song texts for his composers, including one entitled 'Holy Is the Lord' for which he provided the tune. This relationship continued with Bradbury's successor, Biglow and Main. One of her earliest published songs dates from 1868 and has a tune by one of her favorite collaborators, William H. Doane."

  1. Pass me not, O gentle Savior, Hear my humble cry;
    While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
  2. Let me at Thy throne of mercy Find a sweet relief,
    Kneeling there in deep contrition; Help my unbelief.
  3. Trusting only in Thy merit, Would I seek Thy face;
    Heal my wounded, broken spirit, Save me by Thy grace.
  4. Thou the Spring of all my comfort, More than life to me,
    Whom have I on earth beside Thee? Whom in Heav’n but Thee?
    Refrain: Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry;
    While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

"It is said that more than any other writer, Miss Crosby captured the spirit of the nineteenth-century American gospel song. Nearly every religious music publisher in the country asked her to provide lyrics for them, with the result that her texts number in the thousands. For Biglow and Main, she wrote 'All the Way My Savior Leads Me' with music by Robert Lowry; 'Blessed Assurance' with Phoebe P. Knapp; 'Praise Him! Praise Him!' with Chester Allen; 'Close to Thee' with Silas Vail; 'I Am Thine, O Lord,' 'Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,' 'Rescue the Perishing,' 'Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet,' 'The Blessed Hour of Prayer,' 'To God Be the Glory,' 'To the Work!,' 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus,' and 'Will He Find Us Watching There?" all with Doane; and some of her later works, 'Jesus Is Tenderly Calling' and what she called her 'heart song' 'Saved by Grace' with George C. Stebbins. For Praise Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, PA, she wrote 'He Hideth My Soul' and 'Redeemed! How I Love to Proclaim It' with William J. Kirkpatrick; and 'My Savior First' and 'Tell Me the Story of Jesus' with John R. Sweney. In fact, a survey of the vast majority of hymnbooks published even today would show more songs written by Fanny Crosby than any other single writer.

"Another individual who helped to popularize the gospel song was Philip Paul Bliss, a Pennsylvania native who lived from 1838 to 1876. After a successful career as a music teacher and secular song writer, he joined the evangelistic team of D. L. Moody and D. W. Whittle in Chicago, IL, and worked with their main song director, Ira D. Sankey. Many of Bliss's songs were the results of stories that he heard told by preachers. In 1871, he was waiting to change trains in a small Pennsylvania town, stopped in a church, heard a minister talking about Paul's defense before King Agrippa, with Agrippa's haunting statement, 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,' and wrote a well known invitation song. Notice, unlike most of the rest of these songs, it doesn't have a refrain."

  1. “Almost persuaded” now to believe; “Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
    Seems now some soul to say, “Go, Spirit, go Thy way, Some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call.”
  2. “Almost persuaded,” come, come today; “Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
    Jesus invites you here, Angels are lingering near Prayers rise from hearts so dear; O wanderer, come!
  3. “Almost persuaded,” harvest is past! “Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
    “Almost” cannot avail; “Almost” is but to fail! Sad, sad, that bitter wail—“Almost,” but lost!

"Usually, Bliss produced both words and music for his hymns, such as 'Let the Lower Lights Be Burning,' 'Hallelujah! What a Savior,' 'More Holiness Give Me,' 'Wonderful Words of Life,' and 'Whosoever Will May Come.' However, he also provided tunes for texts by others, such as Francis Havergal's 'I Gave My Life for Thee' and Horatio Spafford's 'It Is Well with My Soul.' Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he and his wife were killed when he was just 38 in a train wreck near Ashtabula, OH. A poem by him, beginning 'I Will Sing of My Redeemer,' that was later found in his trunk was set to music by his successor with Moody and Whittle, James McGranahan.

"The driving force behind the gospel song movement was still the Biglow and Main Company of New York, successors to William Bradbury. Bradbury had found a trio of poetesses to write the kind of texts that were popular at the time, and these continued with Biglow and Main. In addition to Fanny Crosby, there was Josephine Pollard, who lived from 1834 to 1892. One of her best known songs, published in 1871 with music by William O. Perkins, likens the end of life to the sunset of the day."

  1. Beyond the sunset’s radiant glow There is a brighter world, I know,
    Where golden glories ever shine, Beyond the thought of day’s decline.
  2. Beyond the sunset’s purple rim, Beyond the twilight, deep and dim,
    Where clouds and darkness never come, My soul shall find its heav’nly home.
  3. Beyond the desert, dark and drear, The golden city will appear;
    And morning’s lovely beams arise Upon my mansion in the skies.
  4. Those golden glories ever shine Beyond the thought of day's decline;
    And Jesus bids my soul prepare To gain a happy entrance there.
    Refrain: Beyond the sunset’s radiant glow, There is a brighter world, I know;
    Beyond the sunset I may spend Delightful days that never end.

"A couple of Pollard's other songs that have appeared in some of our books are 'Joy Bells' and 'There are Lights by the Shore.' The third of this trio was Mary Ann Pepper Kidder, who lived from 1820 to 1905. She was also blind for part of her life but, unlike Miss Crosby, eventually regained her sight. Probably her best known hymn was published in 1875, with music also by William O. Perkins, reminding us of the importance of prayer."

  1. Ere you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray?
    In the name of Christ our Savior, Did you sue for loving favor, As a shield today?
  2. When you met with great temptation, Did you think to pray?
    By His dying love and merit, Did you claim the Holy Spirit As your guide and stay?
  3. When your heart was filled with anger, Did you think to pray?
    Did you plead for grace, my brother, That you might forgive another Who had crossed your way?
  4. When sore trials came upon you, Did you think to pray?
    When your soul was bowed in sorrow, Balm of Gilead did you borrow At the gates of day?
    Refrain: O how praying rests the weary! Prayer will change the night to day;
    So when life seems dark and dreary, Don’t forget to pray.

"A couple of other songs by Mrs. Kidder that have appeared in our books are 'The Christian's Welcome Home,' and 'We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever.' Of course, neither Pollard nor Kidder achieved the same degree of fame as Fanny Crosby.

"About this same time, another popular author of gospel songs was William Orcutt Cushing, who lived from 1823 to 1902. Originally from a Massachusetts Unitarian family, he became a minister among the Disciples of Christ in New York state, but after the death of his wife in 1870 he lost his voice and prayed for the Lord to give him something else to do. So he turned to hymn writing, and at the insistence of Ira D. Sankey, who in addition to his work with Moody and Whittle also served with Biglow and Main, he began providing texts for Biglow and Main, one of which was published in 1876 with music by Sankey."

  1. O safe to the Rock that is higher than I, My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly;
    So sinful, so weary, Thine, Thine, would I be; Thou blest “Rock of Ages,” I’m hiding in Thee.
  2. In calm of the noontide, in sorrow’s lone hour, In times when temptation casts o’er me its power;
    In tempests of life, on its wide, heaving sea, Thou blest “Rock of Ages,” I’m hiding in Thee.
  3. How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe, I've fled to my refuge and breathed out my woe;
    How often, when trials like sea billows roll, I've hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.
    Refrain: Hiding in Thee, hiding in Thee,
    Thou blest “Rock of Ages,” I’m hiding in Thee.

"Other well known Cushing songs are "There'll Be No Dark Valley,' 'Under His Wings,' both with tunes also by Sankey, 'When He Cometh,' and 'I Will Follow Jesus.'

"Another Moody composer with Biglow and Main, George C. Stebbins, teamed up with a Congregational minister named William True Sleeper, who lived from 1819 to 1904, to produce a couple of famous songs. They met around 1877 in a meeting with evangelist George F. Pentecost in Worcester, MA, with whom Stebbins was then working. After Pentecost preached on John 3:3-7, Stebbins asked Sleeper, a local minister who was also known as a poet, to give him a text on the subject."

  1. A ruler once came to Jesus by night To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
    The Master made answer in words true and plain, “Ye must be born again.”
  2. Ye children of men, attend to the Word, So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
    And let not this message to you be in vain, “Ye must be born again.”
  3. O ye who would enter that glorious rest, And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
    The life everlasting if ye would obtain, “Ye must be born again.”
  4. A dear one in Heaven thy heart yearns to see, At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
    Then list to the note of this solemn refrain, “Ye must be born again.”
    Refrain: “Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again,
    I verily, verily, say unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

"About ten years later, Sleeper sent Stebbins another set of words that were set to music as the invitation song 'Jesus, I Come.'

"Still another composer sometimes associated with Biglow and Main was George Frederick Root, another Massachusetts native who lived from 1820 to 1895 and settled in New York City. A beloved music teacher, he also composed cantatas and minstrel songs, but today is best remembered for his gospel songs, such as this one published in 1878."

  1. Why do you wait, dear brother? O, why do you tarry so long?
    Your Savior is waiting to give you A place in His sanctified throng.
  2. What do you hope, dear brother, To gain by a further delay?
    There’s no one to save you but Jesus, There’s no other way but His way.
  3. Do you not feel, dear brother, His Spirit now striving within?
    Oh, why not accept His salvation, And throw off your burden of sin?
  4. Why do your wait, dear brother? The harvest is passing away,
    Your Savior is longing to bless you, There are danger and death in delay.
    Refrain: Why not? Why not? Why not come to Him now?
    Why not? Why not? Why not come to Him now?

Seth had a question. "Why does an invitation song ask a brother to come?"

Dad answered, "Of course, the word 'brother' here is not being used in the spiritual sense of a fellow believer in Christ, but in the sense of general address as was common in former times, such as the old Depression era song, 'Brother, can you spare a dime?'

"Another very popular gospel song composer of this period, though not associated with Biglow and Main but with the Evangelical Publishing House of Cleveland, OH, was Pennsylvania-born Evangelical preacher Elisha Albright Hoffman, who lived from 1839 to 1929. In 1878 he published one of his best known hymns."

  1. Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
    Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
  2. Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
    Do you rest each moment in the Crucified? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
  3. When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
    Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright, And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?
  4. Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin, And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
    There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean, O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!
    Refrain: Are you washed in the blood, In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
    Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

"Hoffman often wrote both words and music for his songs, such as 'What a Wonderful Savior,' 'I Must Tell Jesus,' 'Is Your All on the Altar?,' and 'That's Enough for Me.' However, he also provided texts for other composers, such as 'Down at the Cross' for John H. Stockton and 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms' for Anthony J. Showalter.

"Another popular songwriter of the late 1800s who turned from writing secular music to publishing sacred music, for which he usually provided both texts and tunes, was Will L. Thompson, who lived from 1847 to 1909. A native of East Liverpool, OH, he opened an office in Chicago, IL, which was then a major center for religious music publishing. A couple of his songs which have stood the test of time are 'Lead Me Gently Home, Father' and 'Jesus Is All the World to Me,' but his best known song was published in 1880 and used as an invitation song in evangelistic campaigns."

  1. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me;
    See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.
  2. Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, Pleading for you and for me?
    Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, Mercies for you and for me?
  3. Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, Passing from you and from me;
    Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, Coming for you and for me.
  4. O for the wonderful love He has promised, Promised for you and for me!
    Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, Pardon for you and for me.
    Refrain: Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home;
    Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!

"It is reported that when Thompson visited Dwight L. Moody on the evangelist's death bed, Moody told him, 'Will, I would rather have written "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling," than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.'

"As I mentioned earlier, a close associate of Chicago-based Moody in holding evangelistic campaigns was Massachusetts native Daniel Webster Whittle, who lived from 1840 to 1901. Both were regarded as excellent preachers, but while Moody was the more famous Whittle had the additional talent of writing gospel songs, such as 'Showers of Blessing' and 'The Royal Banner,' mostly with one of the evangelistic team's song directors James McGranahan, who succeeded Philip Bliss. Another of their collaborations was published in 1883."

  1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known,
    Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own.
  2. I know not how this saving faith To me He did impart,
    Nor how believing in His Word Wrought peace within my heart.
  3. I know not how the Spirit moves, Convincing us of sin,
    Revealing Jesus through the Word, Creating faith in Him.
  4. I know not what of good or ill May be reserved for me,
    Of weary ways or golden days, Before His face I see.
  5. I know not when my Lord may come, At night or noonday fair,
    Nor if I walk the vale with Him, Or meet Him in the air.
    Refrain: But I know Whom I have believèd, And am persuaded that He is able
    To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.

"Some people have questioned almost every one of these stanzas at some time or another, but unless we claim to know everything about how God works and what He does, each stanza talks about something that we do not know in our relationship with God. However, the chorus is a direct quotation from 2 Timothy 1:12 about what we do know that will put to rest everything that we don't.

"Still another popular gospel song publisher of this era was Edwin Othello Excell of Canton, OH, who lived from 1851 to 1921. While he often provided tunes for lyrics by different writers, such as Johnson Oatman Jr.'s 'Count Your Blessings' and J. B. Atchinson's 'There's a Stranger at the Door' and 'In the Shadow of His Wings,' among others, he published a well known song for which he produced both words and music in 1884."

  1. I have a song I love to sing, Since I have been redeemed,
    Of my Redeemer, Savior King, Since I have been redeemed.
  2. I have a Christ Who satisfies Since I have been redeemed,
    To do His will my highest prize, Since I have been redeemed.
  3. I have a witness bright and clear, Since I have been redeemed,
    Dispelling every doubt and fear, Since I have been redeemed.
  4. I have a home prepared for me, Since I have been redeemed,
    Where I shall dwell eternally, Since I have been redeemed.
  5. I have a joy I can’t express, Since I have been redeemed,
    All through His blood and righteousness, Since I have been redeemed.
    Refrain: Since I have been redeemed, Since I have been redeemed, I will glory in His Name,
    Since I have been redeemed, I will glory in the Savior’s Name.

"An author of many gospel songs, though not himself a publisher but a music teacher in schools, was William Augustine Ogden, also a native of Ohio, who lived from 1841 to 1897. Sometimes he provided tunes for songs by others, such as 'Come to the Feast' with Charles H. Gabriel and 'Bring Them In' with Alexcenah Thomas, but most often he produced both words and music, as in 'Jesus, the Loving Shepherd,' 'O If My House Is Built Upon a Rock,' 'Seeking the Lost,' 'Where He Leads, I'll Follow,' and perhaps his best known gospel song, published in 1887."

  1. ’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung; ’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
    ’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung, “Our God is able to deliver thee.”
  2. ’Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main; ’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
    ’Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again, “Our God is able to deliver thee.”
  3. ’Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll, To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
    Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole, “Our God is able to deliver thee.”
    Refrain: He is able to deliver thee, He is able to deliver thee;
    Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest; “Our God is able to deliver thee.”

This time it was Andrew who had a question. "What does it mean 'earth or main'? What does the word 'main' mean?"

Dad responded, "The word 'main' here means the seas or the oceans. Do you remember reading in any of your history or hearing on old movies about 'the Spanish main?' That simply means all the seas or oceans that were controlled by Spain. The song is saying that this is the greatest message on land or sea, or in other words, on the entire earth.

"Also in 1887, a younger man of Swiss-Bavarian descent, Illinois-born, Chicago-raised Peter Philip Bilhorn, who lived from 1865 to 1936, published a gospel song that has appeared in most all of our books. It was produced while he and Daniel Whittle were riding on a train to a campaign in Keokuk, IA."

  1. There comes to my heart one sweet strain, A glad and a joyous refrain,
    I sing it again and again, Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
  2. Through Christ on the cross peace was made, My debt by His death was all paid,
    No other foundation is laid. For peace, the gift of God’s love.
  3. When Jesus as Lord I had crowned, My heart with this peace did abound,
    In Him the rich blessing I found, Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
  4. In Jesus for peace I abide, And as I keep close to His side,
    There’s nothing but peace doth betide. Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
    Refrain: Peace, peace, sweet peace, Wonderful gift from above,
    Oh, wonderful, wonderful peace, Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.

"Bilhorn actually got his start in music publishing the year before by providing a tune for words by Francis H. Rowley that became the song 'I Will Sing the Wondrous Story' which he gave to Ira D. Sankey, but he went on to found his own music publishing business.

"One other well known gospel song comes from 1887 and was written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt, of Philadelphia, PA, who lived from 1851 to 1920. She was a schoolteacher who was seriously injured when a boy in her class hit her over the back with a heavy slate. After a long period of confined convalescence, she was allowed to go for a short walk in a park one spring day and one of her first songs was the result."

  1. There is sunshine in my soul today, More glorious and bright
    Than glows in any earthly sky, For Jesus is my Light.
  2. There is music in my soul today, A carol to my King,
    And Jesus, listening, can hear The songs I cannot sing.
  3. There is springtime in my soul today, For, when the Lord is near,
    The dove of peace sings in my heart, The flowers of grace appear.
  4. There is gladness in my soul today, And hope and praise and love,
    For blessings which He gives me now, For joys “laid up” above.
    Refrain: O there’s sunshine, blessèd sunshine, When the peaceful, happy moments roll;
    When Jesus shows His smiling face, There is sunshine in the soul.

"She submitted the words to John R. Sweney of Praise Publishing Co., who set it to music. Other Hewitt-Sweney collaborations include 'More About Jesus,' and 'Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?' In addition, Hewitt provided the texts of 'For Christ and the Church,' 'Stepping In the Light,' 'A Blessing in Prayer,' 'Who Will Follow Jesus,' and 'Give Me Thy Heart' for Praise Publishing Co. president William J. Kirkpatrick, and "When We All Get to Heaven" for Emily Wilson.

"One of the greatest promoters of the gospel song in the latter part of the nineteenth century was Ira D. Sankey who, as I've pointed out, was the chief song director for the evangelistic campaigns of Dwight L. Moody and Daniel Whittle. Others such as Bliss, McGranahan, and Stebbins, worked with him. Although Sankey produced no song texts that I'm aware of, he was always searching about for good lyrics by others that he could set to music, both in this country and in the British Isles. He provided tunes for 'The Ninety and Nine' by the Scottish orphan girl Elizabeth Clephane, 'I Am Praying for You' by the Irish minister Samuel O'Cluff, and 'A Shelter in the Time of Storm' by the English orphan-home superintendent Vernon Charlesworth. In this country, he asked religious poets of all stripes to send him texts. One of them was a life-long inhabitant of Batavia, NY, named John Henry Yates, who lived from 1837 to 1900 and was also a store clerk, newspaper editor, and part-time Baptist minister. One of Sankey's most stirring and best-known tunes accompanies a text that Yates submitted to Sankey in 1891."

  1. Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers, rise.
    And press the battle ere the night Shall veil the glowing skies.
    Against the foe in vales below Let all our strength be hurled.
    Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world.
  2. His banner over us is love, Our sword the Word of God.
    We tread the road the saints above With shouts of triumph trod.
    By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath, Swept on o’er every field.
    The faith by which they conquered death Is still our shining shield.
  3. On every hand the foe we find Drawn up in dread array.
    Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray.
    Salvation’s helmet on each head, With truth all girt about,
    The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread, And echo with our shout.
  4. To him that overcomes the foe, White raiment shall be given.
    Before the angels he shall know His name confessed in Heaven.
    Then onward from the hill of light, Our hearts with love aflame,
    We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night, In Jesus’ conquering Name.
    Refrain: Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
    O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

"Sankey went on to become President of Biglow and Main until his death when his son, Allan I. Sankey, took over. Another well known tune by Sankey, besides the ones that I've already mentioned, include that used with Edgar Page Stites's 'Trusting Jesus, That Is All.'

"One of the chief competitors to Biglow and Main was the Praise Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, PA. The President of this firm was William James Kirkpatrick, a native Pennsylvanian who lived from 1838 to 1921. Most often, he provided tunes for texts by others, such as several that I mentioned earlier by Fanny Crosby and Eliza Hewitt, as well as Priscilla Owens's 'Jesus Saves,' Louisa Stead's 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,' and Jennie Hussey's 'Lead Me to Calvary.' However, he occasionally produced both words and melody, as he did in 1892 while participating in a camp meeting at Rawlinsville, Pennsylvania, for an invitation song which was designed to encourage a young unbelieving man for whom he was praying to be led to the Lord."

  1. I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home;
    The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home.
  2. I’ve wasted many precious years, Now I’m coming home;
    I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I’m coming home.
  3. I’m tired of sin and straying, Lord, Now I’m coming home;
    I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy Word, Lord, I’m coming home.
  4. My soul is sick, my heart is sore, Now I’m coming home;
    My strength renew, my hope restore, Lord, I’m coming home.
  5. My only hope, my only plea, Now I’m coming home;
    That Jesus died, and died for me. Lord, I’m coming home.
  6. I need His cleansing blood, I know, Now I’m coming home;
    O wash me whiter than the snow, Lord, I’m coming home.
    Refrain: Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam,
    Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.

"Another prominent gospel song writer of the time, though today known primarily for one song, was James Milton Black, who lived from 1856 to 1938. A New York native, he was living and teaching Sunday school at the Methodist Church in Williamsport, PA, in 1893, when he invited a poor girl named Bessie, the daughter of a drunkard, to attend his class. After coming for several weeks, she failed to respond to the roll one day. Black remarked to the class how sad it would be if when our name is called before the throne of God we should be absent. He looked for a song on the subject to sing and found none, so after going home he decided to make one himself. The words came to him in fifteen minutes and shortly after he composed the melody."

  1. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
    And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
    When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  2. On that bright and glorious morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
    And the glory of His resurrection share;
    When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  3. Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
    Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
    Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
    Refrain: When the roll, is called up yonder, When the roll, is called up yonder,
    When the roll, is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

"Later, when he went to visit Bessie, he found her very sick, and shortly afterwards she died. Moody and Whittle with Sankey, Bliss, McGranahan, and Stebbins were not the only evangelist-song leader teams doing campaigns in the late 1800s. Another evangelist was Judson W. Van de Venter, who lived from 1855 to 1939. A Michigan native, he was first a high school art teacher but eventually decided to become a full time preacher and worked with musician Winfield S. Weeden. In 1896, while involved in a campaign at East Palestine, OH, he produced a hymn in memory of that past time when, after a long struggle, he had surrendered to the Lord and devoted his life to active service. Weeden provided the tune."

  1. All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give;
    I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
  2. All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow,
    Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now.
  3. All to Jesus, I surrender; Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
    Let me know the joy of living, Truly know that Thou art mine.
  4. All to Jesus, I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee;
    Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me.
  5. All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame.
    O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His Name!
    Refrain: I surrender all, I surrender all,
    All to Thee, my blessèd Savior, I surrender all.

"There were two very prolific gospel song text writers from this time period, one a little older, and the other a little younger, who wrote songs in 1897. The older was Johnson Oatman Jr., who lived from 1856 to 1922. Born in New Jersey, he wanted to become a powerful singer like his father, but he did not have the voice, so he turned to producing hymn texts instead. He provided words for many composers, such as 'Hand In Hand With Jesus,' 'Higher Ground,' 'I'll Be A Friend To Jesus,' 'Lift Him Up,' 'Sweeter Than All,' 'The Last Mile Of The Way,' 'No, Not One,' and 'What Shall It Profit?' However, perhaps his best known song dates from 1897 and has music by Edwin O. Excell."

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
    Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one,
    Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
    Count your blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

"The younger of these two was Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, who was born in Kentucky and lived from 1866 to 1960. Although he became a Methodist minister, his health broke down after a year of work so after that he made his living selling life insurance. However, he provided many gospel song texts for various composers, including 'Bring Christ Your Broken Life' and others for L. O. Sanderson, 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness' for William Runyan, 'Living for Jesus' for Harold Lowden, and 'Only in Thee' for Charles Gabriel. However, one of his best known songs was produced in 1897 for composer William J. Kirkpatrick."

  1. O to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer;
    Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
  2. O to be like Thee! full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
    Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
  3. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
    Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save.
  4. O to be like Thee! Lord, I am coming Now to receive anointing divine;
    All that I am and have I am bringing, Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.
  5. O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
    Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling, Fit me for life and Heaven above.
    Refrain: O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
    Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

"A year after these two songs were published, another beloved gospel song was written by Carrie E. Breck, who lived from 1855 to 1934. A native of Vermont, she married Frank A. Breck and moved to Portland, OR, where she produced gospel song lyrics often while doing her daily housework. Most of her poems were sent to composer Grant Colfax Tullar. In 1898, Tullar was assisting in a meeting at Rutherford, NY, and one evening wrote a hymn, 'All for me the Savior suffered,' with both words and music but was not satisfied with his own words. The next morning, several poems from Mrs. Breck arrived in the mail, and one of them fit perfectly with the tune that he had composed the night before."

  1. Face to face with Christ, my Savior, Face to face—what will it be,
    When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ Who died for me?
  2. Only faintly now I see Him, With the darkened veil between,
    But a blessèd day is coming, When His glory shall be seen.
  3. What rejoicing in His presence, When are banished grief and pain;
    When the crooked ways are straightened, And the dark things shall be plain.
  4. Face to face—oh, blissful moment! Face to face—to see and know;
    Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ Who loves me so.
    Refrain: Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky;
    Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!

"Other Breck-Tullar collaborations include 'Nailed to the Cross' and 'Shall I Crucify My Savior?' The nineteenth century ended, of course, with the year 1900. Another prolific gospel song writer of that day whose work continued on into the twentieth century was Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, a native of Iowa who lived from 1856 to 1932 and was primarily associated with Homer Rodeheaver. In 1900, he wrote a song about the glory of heaven. The inspiration was his friend Ed Card, of St. Louis, MO, whose constant smile earned him the nickname "Old Glory Face," and who always ended his prayer with 'and that will be glory for me.'"

  1. When all my labors and trials are o’er, And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
    Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, Will through the ages be glory for me.
  2. When, by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in Heaven a place,
    Just to be there and to look on His face, Will through the ages be glory for me.
  3. Friends will be there I have loved long ago; Joy like a river around me will flow;
    Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know, Will through the ages be glory for me.
    Refrain: O that will be glory for me, Glory for me, glory for me,
    When by His grace I shall look on His face, That will be glory, be glory for me.

"Usually, Gabriel provided both words and music for his songs, as in 'God Is Calling the Prodigal,' 'He Lifted Me,' 'I Stand Amazed,' 'Where the Gates Swing Outward Never,' 'More Like the Master,' 'Only a Step,' 'Send the Light,' and 'I Will Not Forget Thee.' However, quite often he also set texts by others to music, such as Mary Brown's 'Harvest Time,' Johnson Oatman's 'Higher Ground,' Civilla Martin's 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow,' Maude Batterby's 'If I Have Wounded Any Soul Today,' Ida Guirey's 'Jesus, Rose of Sharon,' Thomas Chisholm's 'Only in Thee,' Rufus McDaniel's 'Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,' and Jessie Pounds's 'The Way of the Cross.' On one occasion, he even provided a text, 'Come to the Feast,' for composer William A. Ogden. Well, it looks as if Mom has the cake finished. Shall we go have some?"

The boys did not need a second invitation.