2008-05-02 / Columns

Stories Behind The Hymns

Stories Behind The Hymns By: Warren Shiver



Sabine Baring-Gould was born January 28,1834 in Exeter, England. He was a brilliant child and was credited with having one of the most brilliant, eclectic minds of Victorian England. He attended schools in Germany and France. He then went to Clare College at Cambridge, England. He learned six languages, entered the ministry at age thirty, and pastored in Yorkshire, Essex, and Devonshire. Rev. Baring-Gould lived to be 90 years old. He was a very busy man writing over 100 books. Many were of a religious nature, he also wrote thirty novels, and a large sixteen-volume set of books entitled "Lives of the Saints." His works covered several topics including, theology, folklore, social commentary, travel and history. He was not only an author but he was also an archaeologist, architect, artist, teacher, and a collector of English folk songs.

Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, the minister of a village church in England, was sitting up one night in 1865, to write a marching song for the children of his church to use as they paraded and marched from their village to a neighboring village, for a "Whitmonday Festival" at another church. The walk was to be a beautiful one, through country lanes, past green English meadows, and over babbling brooks with sheep grazing on the hillside. Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould thought, " If only we had a hymn to march to, it would make the trip more enjoyable for the children". He could not find a hymn that he felt was appropriate, so he decided to write one himself. He sat up most of the night writing the hymn while the children were sleeping.

It took him several hours to write the hymn, but it was finished by the time the children awoke at dawn. He taught them his new song in just a few hours, and they marched to the next village joyously singing the words: " Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war with the cross of Jesus, going on before."

These children did not have the lively music that we have today, but sang it to another tune named "St. Albass", and while it was moving and beautiful, it did not have the marching spirit as the tune we sing it to today. The tune we sing it to was written six years later in 1871, and was called "St. Gertrude".

The composer was Arthur Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan was a versatile musician from the British Isles, and his stirring music has helped to make the song enduring. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883 in recognition of his musical ability, and this was when he became Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Another favorite hymn that he wrote was "Now the Day Is Over", which is soft and gentle

in contrast to the powerful, "Onward Christian Soldiers". This song was so popular that it was sung at the Sixth World's Sunday School Convention held in Washington, D. C. on May 1910. It had been specially arranged that this hymn be sung in Sunday Schools all over the world on Sunday, May 22, 1910. For this great occasion the hymn was translated and printed in more than 100 languages and dialects.

Rev. Baring-Gould born January 28,1834- - Died January 2, 1924

Arthur Seymour Sullivan born May 13,1842- -Died November 22,1900

Stories Behind The Hymns is written by Warren Shiver of Biscoe,NC. Shiver has been fascinated with the true stories behind the hymns since he was a 12-year old attending East Gaffney Baptist Church in Gaffney, S.C. He began studying the stories behind the hymns in 1957. If you have questions or comments, he can be reached by email at wshiver99@embarqmail.com or by mail at PO BOX 775,Biscoe,NC 27209.

The 300-page softback book, 104 Of My Favorite Hymn Stories, costs $14.95. The book will be shipped to Gaffney Ledger and Weekly Ledger readers postage free or books may be picked up at The Gaffney Ledger office on Floyd Baker Boulevard. Books may also be ordered on the website, www.myfavoritehymnstories.com., or by sending a check or money order to Warren Shiver, P.O. Box 775, Biscoe, N.C. 27209.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Verse 1
Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ the Royal Master leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus,
Going on before!
Verse 2
Like a mighty army, Moves the church of God;
Brothers we are treading Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.
Verse 3
Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and
But the Church of Jesus Constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never "Gainst that Church prevail;
We have Christ's own promise, And that cannot fail.
Verse 4
Onward, then, ye people! Join our happy throng!
Blend with ours your voices In the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor, Unto Christ the King;
This thro' countless ages M`cen and angels sing.
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