Thursday, December 31, 2009

At the Close of the Year

At the Close of the Year

Let hearts and tongues unite,
And loud thanksgivings raise:
'Tis duty, mingled with delight,
To sing the Saviour's praise.

To Him we owe our breath,
He took us from the womb,
Which else had shut us up in death,
And prov'd an early tomb.

When on the breast we hung,
Our help was in the Lord;
'Twas He first taught our infant tongue
To form the lisping word.

When in our blood we lay,
He would not let us die,
Because His love had fix'd a day
To bring salvation nigh.

In childhood and in youth,
His eye was on us still:
Though strangers to His love and truth,
And prone to cross His will.

And since His name we knew,
How gracious has He been:
What dangers has He led us through,
What mercies have we seen!

Now through another year,
Supported by His care,
We raise our Ebenezer here,
"The Lord has help'd thus far."

Our lot in future years
Unable to foresee,
He kindly, to prevent our fears,
Says, "Leave it all to Me."

Yea, Lord, we wish to cast
Our cares upon Thy breast!
Help us to praise Thee for the past,
And trust Thee for the rest.

John Newton (1725-1807)
As posted on SongToTheLamb 30 December 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The rich sinner's death

PSALM 49, L. M.
The rich sinner's death, and the saint's resurrection.

Why do the proud insult the poor,
And boast the large estates they have?
How vain are riches to secure
Their haughty owners from the grave!

They can't redeem one hour from death,
With all the wealth in which they trust;
Nor give a dying brother breath,
When God commands him down to dust.

There the dark earth and dismal shade
Shall clasp their naked bodies round;
That flesh, so delicately fed,
Lies cold and moulders in the ground.

Like thoughtless sheep the sinner dies,
Laid in the grave for worms to eat:
The saints shall in the morning rise,
And find th' oppressor at their feet.

His honors perish in the dust,
And pomp and beauty, birth and blood:
That glorious day exalts the just
To full dominion o'er the proud.

My Savior shall my life restore,
And raise me from my dark abode;
My flesh and soul shall part no more,
But dwell for ever near my God.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
The Psalms of David, 1719

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Seven Sayings on the Cross

In this post I have tried to piece together portions of hymns that refer to the seven last sayings of Jesus on the cross. Some are "as is" and some were altered to continue a common meter throughout.

Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
Luke 23:43 Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise
John 19:26-27 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!
John 19:28 I thirst
Matthew 27:46 Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Luke 23:46 Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit
John 19:30 It is finished

Behold the Savior of mankind
Nailed to the shameful tree!
How vast the love that Him inclined,
To bleed and die for thee.

"Father forgive," the Saviour cries,
"They know not what they do."
And thus in pleading as He dies,
Has He so spoke to you?

As on the cross the Savior hung,
And wept, and bled, and died;
He poured salvation on a wretch
That languished at His side.

His prayer the dying Jesus hears,
And instantly replies,
"Today thy parting soul shall be
With me in paradise."

Mary 'neath the dying Saviour
Standing near another:
To her He said, "Behold thy son;"
John, "Behold thy mother."

I thirst, Thou wounded Lamb of God,
To be washed in Thy blood;
As I look on the cross and see
That Thou didst thirst for me.

See the Savior on the cross!
Hearken to His voice;
Hear Him cry, "Eloi, Eloi,
Lama Sabachthani."

'Tis done! the precious ransom’s paid!
Receive my soul, He cries:
"Father, to Thy hands I commend
My Spirit," as He dies.

On the bloody tree behold Him
Dying; aloud He cries;
"It is finished! (It is finished!)"
Dismiss His life and dies.

Tis finished, The Redeemer said.
Now we the sentence scan.
Behold the conquest of the Lord,
Complete for sinful man.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rejoicing in the Incarnation

Rejoicing in the Incarnation of Christ, Matt. 2:10

1- My God, my Creator, the heavens did bow,
To ransom offenders, and stooped very low;
The body prepared by the Father assumes,
And on the kind errand most joyfully comes.

2- O wonder of wonders! Astonished I gaze,
To see in the manger the Ancient of Days;
And angels proclaiming the stranger forlorn,
And telling the Shepherds that Jesus is born.

3-For thousands of sinners the Lord bowed his head;
For thousands of sinners he groaned and He bled,
My spirit rejoices—the work it is done!
My soul is redeemed----and salvation is won!

4-Dear Jesus, my Savior, thy truth I embrace
Thy name and thy natures, thy Spirit and grace;
And trace the pure footsteps of Jesus, my Lord
And glory in Him whom proud sinners abhorred!

5- My God is returned to His glory on high;
When death makes a passage, to HIM then I’ll rise
To join in the song of all praise through His blood,
To the Three who are One inconceivable God.

11s. E. L. Schlict, Gadsby's Hymn Book, No. 41

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Don't be so hard on Scrooge

I saw a card that gave the definition of a "scrooge": A scrooge is someone who has the same attitude the day before Christmas as everyone else has the day after Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sin's deceit

Sin's deceit.

Sin, when viewed by scripture light,
Is a horrid, hateful sight;
But when seen in Satan's glass,
Then it wears a pleasing face.

When the gospel trumpet sounds,
When I think how grace abounds,
When I feel sweet peace within,
Then I'd rather die than sin.

When the cross I view by faith,
Sin is madness, poison, death;
Tempt me not, 'tis all in vain,
Sure I ne'er can yield again.

Satan, for awhile debarred,
When he finds me off my guard,
Puts his glass before my eyes,
Quickly other thoughts arise.

What before excited fears,
Rather pleasing now appears;
If a sin, it seems so small,
Or, perhaps, no sin at all.

Often thus, through sin's deceit,
Grief, and shame, and loss I meet,
Like a fish, my soul mistook,
Saw the bait, but not the hook.

O my Lord, what shall I say?
How can I presume to pray?
Not a word have I to plead,
Sins, like mine, are black indeed!

Made, by past experience, wise,
Let me learn thy word to prize;
Taught by what I've felt before,
Let me Satan's glass abhor.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secular songs

Seeing that title on the blog of a hardheaded, hardshelled, conservative Baptist, you might expect a diatribe against secular songs. Though such might have its place, you won't find it in the post. Last week while driving to Galveston, I heard on the radio one of my old favorites, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. [For the 1976 recording, enter "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot" in Google and then in the hits you get click on "Play song from"]

Anyway, this got me to thinking about some "old favorites" which I enjoyed over my career of song listening (some which I would still listen to and some I might not). Some are:

"The Last Resort" by The Eagles
"I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones
"Love Hurts" by Nazareth
"Paradise" by John Prine (and others)
"Long Black Veil" by Lefty Frizzell
"Barbara Allen", (old folk song)
And many others

This list may reveal more about me than the songs -- an interest in a song that tells a story, often a sad song, or perhaps even a "negative" story. There is some disconnect, which is founded more in a feeling than the mental assent which I require in my Christian music. (I also get a feeling from the Christian music I enjoy.)

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is modern folklore, memorializing a Great Lakes ship wreck in the mid-1970s. I think its combined tune and lyrics ought to land it among the all-time classics. But I wonder how much "listening time" it actually gets??

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 20

The top twenty most-published Christmas hymns, according to the Dictionary of North American Hymnology.

1. Joy to the World
2. Hark, the herald angels sing
3. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning
4. When shepherds watched their flocks by night...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

res gestae

res gestae noun: facts incidental to a case, admissible as evidence in a lawsuit; e.g., exclamations uttered by a robber during a holdup.

From Latin, literally, things done.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Metrical Index of Tunes

The following from Wordwise Hymns by Robert Cottrill

"Tunes are grouped according to metre. This can be useful information if you wish to sing a particular set of words to a different tune. Perhaps the tune assigned to a hymn by the book is unknown, or more difficult for congregational use. This index will suggest alternatives.

"Each tune has a metre. So many beats per line, and so many lines. For example, the metre for the tune Aurelia above is (“D” meaning doubled.) That tells us that each stanza of poetry has 7 or 6 sounded syllables, alternately, and each stanza has a total of 8 lines. For example:

The chur-ch’s one foun-da-tion (7)
Is Je-sus Christ her Lord; (6)
She is His new cre-a-tion, (7)
By wa-ter and the Word; (6)
From heav’n He came and sought her (7)
To be His ho-ly bride; (6)
With His own blood He bought her, (7)
And for her life He died. (6)

"These words could also be sung to the tune Missionary Hymn or the tune Webb, among others, as they also have the metre."

The Back of the Hymn Book

Friday, December 11, 2009

The art of composition

According to Francis H. Jenks, "William Billings...stands in our musical history as the first self-taught native composer." (The New England Magazine. Volume 17, Issue 5, January 1895) There will always be those who tout William Billings as some kind of eccentric native genius, yet all the while lamenting "What a god-send it would have been to him, what would he not have thought, what possibly have done, had there, by any chance, fallen into his hands some fugues or other compositions, some harmonized chorals even, of Sebastian Bach or Handel!" (The Atlantic Monthly - "Our Dark Age in Music" - Volume 50, Issue 302, December 1882) But such training can ruin as well as enhance genius. I am quite satisfied with undiluted, straight-up Billings.

"Perhaps it may be expected that I should say something concerning Rules of Composition; to those I answer that Nature is the best dictator, for not all the hard, dry, studied rules that ever was prescribed, will not enable any person to form an air...It must be Nature, Nature who must lay the foundation. Nature must inspire the thought...For my own Part, as I don't think myself confined to any Rules of Composition, laid down by any that went before me, neither should I think (were I to pretend to lay down Rules) that any one who came after me were in any ways obligated to adhere to them, any further than they should think proper; so in fact I think it best for every Composer to be his own Carver.

"Perhaps some may think that I mean and intend to throw Art entirely out of the question. I answer, by no means, for the more art is displayed, the more Nature is decorated. And in some sorts of composition there is dry study required, and art very requisite. For instance, in a fugue, where the parts come in after each other with the same notes, but even here, art is subservient to genius, for fancy goes first and strikes out the work roughly, and art comes after and polishes it over." (From the writings of William Billings)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Writing songs

For almost 30 years I have been "piddling" with the hobby of writing songs. Not that writing songs is a waste of time; but mine might be. I do not consider myself a songwriter, but rather someone who enjoys experimenting with songs and songwriting. All my attempts, save one, are intended to be "Sacred Harp style" songs (that is, songs for Sacred Harp singers).

My oldest left in written record, though undated, is from around 1980. It is not an original composition. It is an arrangement merging parts of Old Hundred and Coronation. "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, and crown Him Lord of all, &c." I'll called it New Fifty!* ;-) Following two more arrangements, in 1982 I tried to put down on paper an original tune that I had been singing to myself for awhile. I guess it had some redeeming value, and, with help from the Sacred Harp Book Committee, it remains my only published piece to date. Within a couple of weeks I had churned out another one. After that the process became a sporadic one, with about a dozen from then to 1993. Nothing to write home about -- a few that may be decent and some that shouldn't ever see the light of day. These are songs that actually reached completion. I also have this or that idea scrawled on various pieces of paper that I may or may not be able to find. I have no record of any completed tunes between 1993 and 2004. I'm not sure what I was doing. But recently -- the last 5 months -- I have gone on a spree that includes 14 completed tunes to date (and several unfinished). I really like a few of them, some bear the harsh metrical reality of being framed with no particular text in mind, some are mere exercises in curiosity, and some, well...are just bad. Some are directly inspired by another tune -- e.g. "Legion" is a minor tune inspired by "Unchanging Hand"** -- while many may reveal subconscious imitation of what I like best in songs and hymns. Don't hold your breath waiting for my chef-d'oeuvre. You might asphyxiate.

I admire those who have turned out masterful works of musical art. In the Sacred Harp field folks like B.F. White, M.M. Wynne, J.P. Rees, Edmund Dumas, Sarah Lancaster Hagler, A.M. Cagle, O.A. Parris, T.J. Allen, John W. Miller and on and on -- and many who are still living. As for myself, I am a plodder. I have little training in music and less in composing. I guess that never stopped a fool from rushing in where angels fear to tread. But the process is enjoyable, cathartic, and engages the mind in better pursuits than others it could be wasted on. Try it; you'll like it. Jump in. You'll learn to float, swim -- or drown.

I am not a rebel, but I'm not much of a follower of musical rules. Some I know and don't prefer. Some I don't know. For example, a standard rule in musical composition is to avoid parallel fifths and parallel octaves. Another is that the voices should not cross (alto should not go above the soprano, nor tenor above alto, etc.). Meanwhile, I write horizontally more so than vertically -- looking for four decent tunes that can be sung together rather than three parts that bring out a fourth part, the melody. I do not particularly conceive of the composition vertically, or as writing harmonies. I conceive of the task more horizontally, or as writing melodies. While I don’t want the tune to be an absolute vain jangling of inharmonious sound, I seek to write four parts that I think I would enjoy singing. I seek for the bulk of the tune to be concords, and confine discords usually to passing tones. To me anything but 2nd and 7th is concord. I tend toward the pentatonic scale when writing major, not using or using sparingly the fa (4th in the scale) and mi (7th in the scale). I don't use accidentals. While they may not be anathema to shape note, they are at least a nuisance.

I guess some things are or come close to being rules for me. These are generally attempts to follow the main framework of Sacred Harp tradition. Songs begin and end with a full measure; bass always ends on the tonic; minor tunes always end on the 1-5 dyad (or unison); the standard moods of time are 3 common, 2 triple and 2 compound (2/2, 4/4, 2/4, 3/2, 3/4, 6/4 and 6/8). I guess everything else in up in the air. The spirit of Billings should be good guide for composers – "I don’t think myself confin’d to any Rules for Composition laid down by any that went before me...I think it is best for every Composer to be his own Carver...Nature is the best dictator, for not all the hard, dry, studied rules that ever was prescribed, will not enable any person to form an air." Maybe you'll just naturally carve out something that no man has ever carved before.

An example of a recent attempt, dedicated to the Houston (TX) area singers
Above song © 2009. Click on the image to see a larger version

* Most of my tune names have serious underpinnings, but some, like "New Fifty", may seem a little silly. Some do not reveal the underpinning, as Ogilvie, the brand name of a hair permanent whose sweet fragrance was aromatizing the house while I was writing the tune with that name. A tune needs its own name in case it be separated from the words and joined to another.
** Hold To God's Unchanging Hand by Jennie Wilson (words), F. L. Eiland and Clyde Williams (music).
Hold To God's Unchanging Hand sung by Russ Taff is not exactly like we sang it, but will give you an idea. Another version, by Pastor Jerome Jackson
Some may be able to access a score HERE if you have the right software.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Iowa Baptist history

Some Iowa Baptist history by Brother Josh Davenport, including an 8 minute video presentation at the end of the post.

Monday, December 07, 2009

My, my

If liberal tampering with the Bible weren't enough, here come the conservatives! Conservative politically, that is. Blessed are the conservative in Bible translation tells of political conservatives who want to rinse parts of the Bible to cleanse it from things that might favor the liberals, politically.

Timothy Paul Jones, a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville -- who calls himself a theological conservative -- says, "This is not making scripture understandable to people today, it's reworking scripture to support a particular political or social agenda." The reply of Andy Schlafly, founder of, surely sounds as if they have a political agenda. He says, "The phrase 'theological conservative' does not mean that someone is politically conservative."


Friday, December 04, 2009

Searchable hymn index

Timeless Truths Free Online Library

The music section allows the user to sort by lyrics, tune, author, subject, key, etc. The site appears to be affiliated with the Church of God holiness non-denominational body, founded in 1881 by Daniel Sidney Warner. The hymns probably lean toward that tradition, but probably include many that are familiar to all.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thy lovingkindness

Psalm 48:9-10 (metrically arranged) 9s.

We have thought of thy lovingkindness
O God, in the midst of thy temple.
According to thy name is thy praise,
O God, unto the ends of the earth:
Thy right hand is full of righteousness.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Two Sacred Harp links

Vancouver Sacred Harp: Shapenote singing in the Lower Mainland is a new Sacred Harp blog site.

Compositions in the Style of the Sacred Harp on currently contains 46 tunes by four different composers -- Lauren Bock, Aldo Thomas Ceresa, Gregory Mulkern, and Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg.

(and a third added later: Shapenote Singing in the U K

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The glory of God in creation and providence

The glory of God in creation and providence.

My soul, thy great Creator praise:
When clothed in His celestial rays,
He in full majesty appears,
And, like a robe, His glory wears.
Great is the Lord, what tongue can frame
An equal honor to His name?

In Thee my hopes and wishes meet,
And make my meditations sweet;
Thy praises shall my breath employ,
Till it expire in endless joy.
Great is the Lord, what tongue can frame
An equal honor to His name?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Singing in the Heights

The 6th Annual Heights Sacred Harp Singing will be held Saturday, December 5, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Heights Church of Christ on 1548 Heights Blvd. in Houston, Texas. Singing will be from both the 2006 (Cooper) Revision and 1991 (Denson) Revision. Loaner books will be available. Dinner will be provided by the church and local singers.

Note: there will not be a singing school at 9:00 this year as in years past. This differs from the information at the link above.

Houston Heights is an historic suburb of Houston dating back to the 1890s. The building in which we will sing was designed in 1924 by notable Houston architect Alfred Finn.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Random truth quotes

"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." -- Abraham Lincoln

"Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit." -- Edward R. Murrow

"Son, always tell the truth. Then you'll never have to remember what you said the last time." -- Sam Rayburn

Friday, November 27, 2009


Psalm 141:3 - Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

"Doing righteousness does not constitute one righteous before God, but proves that a man is already righteous before Him, and that he is already born of Him."
--Elder P. T. Oliphant, 1914

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We plow the fields and scatter

We plow the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above,
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
for all His love.

He only is the Maker
of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
the winds and waves obey Him,
by Him the birds are fed;
much more to us, His children,
He gives our daily bread. Refrain

We thank Thee, then, O Father,
for all things bright and good,
the seed time and the harvest,
our life, our health, and food;
no gifts have we to offer,
for all Thy love imparts,
and, what Thou most desirest,
our humble, thankful hearts. Refrain

Words: Matthias Claudius, 1782;
trans. Jane Montgomery Campbell, 1861

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Day set aside for thanks

I Thessalonians 5:18 - In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

God's people ought to be thankful people.
God's people ought to be thankful at all times.
God's people ought to be thankful in everything.

May you and yours have a blessed day tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random music articles/sites

The IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library is a free public domain sheet music library that has been online since February 2006. According to their site, their "goal is to create a virtual library containing all public domain music scores, as well as scores from composers who are willing to share their music with the world without charge."

Sixty-Sixth State Gospel Singing Convention Takes "Shape" in Dothan (October, 1996) by Stephen Grauberger

Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers (Southern Alabama)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Evangelical Lutheran split

We've not heard as much as this in the news as with the Episcopal Church a few years ago. But the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will probably split over gay marriage. In August the ELCA voted to allow gay and lesbian pastors. More conservative Lutherans will probably form a new denomination within the next year.

(It takes them much longer to split than it does Baptists!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

God's condescension to human affairs

Hymn 46

Up to the Lord, that reigns on high,
And views the nations from afar,
Let everlasting praises fly,
And tell how large his bounties are.

He that can shake the worlds he made,
Or with his word, or with his rod,
His goodness, how amazing great!
And what a condescending God!

God, that must stoop to view the skies,
And bow to see what angels do,
Down to our earth he casts his eyes,
And bends his footsteps downwards too.

He overrules all mortal things,
And manages our mean affairs;
On humble souls the King of kings
Bestows his counsels and his cares.

Our sorrows and our tears we pour
Into the bosom of our God;
He hears us in the mournful hour,
And helps us bear the heavy load.

In vain might lofty princes try
Such condescension to perform;
For worms were never raised so high
Above their meanest fellow worm.

O could our thankful hearts devise
A tribute equal to thy grace,
To the third heav'n our songs should rise,
And teach the golden harps thy praise.

Isaac Watts

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Taylor on call to preach

From John Taylor's History of Ten Baptist Churches:
"The next winter I travelled to South Carolina, either to live there, or get him to return with me. We returned in the spring, and the church called me forward to preach, at which I have continued for more than fifty years...I have said above I could get no satisfactory answer, as to my call to the ministry. My present impressions are, that the call lies in a good man's motives to the work, and the call of the church. If a christian has preaching talents, and the church says preach, he may go on safely. This is my call, and for no other do I look at present, though in my youth I laboured long for evidences of my call, of which a visionary something would then have satisfied me.

"I have said, a good motive to the work, and the call of the church, is all sufficient as to a man's authority to preach the gospel. By a good motive to the work, I understand, the man's own soul must be converted, for except he is born again, he cannot have a spiritually good motive, and is what Paul designs, by 'the husbandman that laboureth must first be partaker of the fruit.'

"It is this produces a desire in him, after what Paul calls a good work -- this is a feeling sensibility in him, that 'one man's soul is worth more than all the world,' and while the love of Christ constrains him, he will very gladly, or readily, spend and be spent, for the salvation of his fellow men. All this I felt for many months, to the amount of robbing me both of sleep and food; and adding to that the voice of the church -- but all did not satisfy me, for I was not called as the ancient prophets and apostles were, but to glorify God, and benefit men, is the sole ground of the ministerial motive, and there is no self serving, in all this sacred business -- in all this I have felt conscious for more than half a century.

"My own belief is, that none properly understands the gospel or voice of the shepherd, but his sheep, or the true christian. Therefore the voice of the church is very essential; in the call to the ministry, the bridegroom is out of the way; what the bride does in his absence, should be valid. The church ought to act under great responsibility, being accountable to the chief shepherd at his return; so help us Lord, that we may all have boldness in the day of judgement [sic]. The instruments of my encouragement, in my early days. I had three gospel fathers, to-wit : William Marshall, the instrument of my first awakening and convertion; James Ireland, the man who baptized me, and under whose pastoral care I lived for some time; and Joseph Reding, under whose care, and with whom I travelled near ten years, before I was a married man; all these men seemed tender towards me, as if I was their natural Son.

"But the greatest instrument of my encouragement after all, was the Bible itself -- there I saw the whole will of God at once; in point of both practice and opinion, what I saw in this heaven born book, I received as the voice of God to me, and was the invaluable guide of my whole man, both in motive and acctions; to this I appeal in all controversy, and by this I expect to be judged at the last day."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hear what the Lord hath spoken

Hear what God the Lord hath spoken,
"O my people, faint and few,
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Themes of heartfelt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be praise.

"There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow,
For the Lord, your faith rewarding,
All His bounty shall bestow;
Still in undisturbed possession
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.

"Ye no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But your griefs forever ending,
Find eternal noon in Me:
God shall rise, and shining o'er you,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the Lord, shall be your Glory,
God your everlasting Light."

William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Monday, November 16, 2009


adjective: Idyllically pastoral: simple, peaceful.
noun: One leading a simple rural life.

"After Arcadia, a region of ancient Greece whose residents were believed to have led quiet, unsophisticated lives of peace and happiness."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Toward a definition

Below are miscellaneous quotations dealing with the definition of "gospel song"/"gospel hymn". These are materials I gathered in trying to understand what others are saying about "gospel songs" and how they define them. There is a wide variety of usage of the terms.

"In comparison with hymns, which are generally of a statelier measure, the gospel song is expected to have a refrain and often a more syncopated rhythm." -- Wikipedia

"The folk hymn is known by its musical character. The melody, and it is usually assigned to the tenor, is often in one of the ancient modal scales. Certain tones are omitted or less conspicuously employed, giving the impression of a gapped scale of five or six notes." -- American Hymns Old and New, Vol. 2. Albert Christ-Janer. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 293)

"The gospel hymn was developed to meet the needs of revival and prayer meetings...The mood of the text might be optimistic or pleading; the music was tuneful and easy to grasp. The rudimentary harmonies, the use of the chorus, the varied metric schemes, and the motor rhythms were characteristic. A marchlike movement as in 'Shall We Gather at the River' was especially typical. The device of letting the lower parts echo rhythmically a motive announced by the sopranos became a mannerism which was abused by later writers...The best of the gospel hymns have a direct simplicity which has appealed to singers ever since the appearance of the first gospel hymnals." (He places George F. Root among the earlier composers of the style.) -- American Hymns Old and New, Vol. 2. Albert Christ-Janer. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, pp. 365-66)

Gospel songs revolve around the seminal three chords: the I, IV, and V chords. The first phrase very often ends on the V chord and the second phrase resolves back to the I-chord. -- Pierce Phillips

In close harmony, the alto and tenor parts largely parallel the melody so that all three parts may be played on a keyboard, while the bass part, though not melodically tied to the soprano, fulfills a harmonic function. This describes the hymn tunes of Mason, Hastings, Bradbury, etc. as well as much early gospel music, especially of the more homophonic variety. -- paraphrase of Warren Steel

"Variety notwithstanding, by the end of the twentieth century there were three main streams of gospel music stylistically, each with various subsets. The oldest is usually called gospel song or gospel hymnody. By the twenty-first century, it might be called traditional gospel, or, more properly, historic gospel, for from it flow the other two streams of black gospel and Southern gospel.

"Traditional gospel grew out of the Northern, urban revival tradition of evangelist Dwight L. Moody and his songleader/soloist Ira D. Sankey in the 1870s, and it remained the dominant musical style of revivalist-oriented churches for more than a century. Its rhythmic, melodic and harmonic structures were rooted in the European tradition of music composition and performance....The music was melodically tuneful, employing eighth notes more often than the slower-feeling quarters. Compound meters, particularly 6/8, were characteristic, producing a lilting quality for which gospel hymnody became famous (as in, for example, "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine"). The melodic range was designed for congregational song and was therefore limited to that of the untrained voice from about middle C to top-line F. Harmonies were generally primary triads, although secondary triads, borrowed minor chords, and secondary dominants became part of the harmonic vocabulary. The often-published characterization of gospel music employing 'barbershop' harmonies is inaccurate, however.

"Most characteristic of the gospel song was a contagious chorus or refrain that summed up the text's meaning in a succinct and memorable manner. The opening words of the refrain were usually the name of the song, unlike older hymns that were identifed by their opening words. The precedent for these choruses was the secular 'household' or 'parlor' song, composed by Stephen Foster and others. In fact, many of the first generation gospel hymnists such as George F. Root were successful composers of secular music in the verse/chorus mode. p. 293

"Aldine S. Kieffer was perhaps the single most important figure in the birth of Southern gospel music." p. 215, Encyclopedia of American gospel music by W. K. McNeil

"Gospel as a separate musical art form emerged primarily in the South and, as one music historian has argued, stands alongside jazz, blues, and country music as 'the fourth great genre of grass roots music' and 'the fourth major type of southern music'." p. 4, Close harmony: a history of southern gospel by James R. Goff

"12. The 'Gospel' Hymn...It came at last into world prominence with the work of the Evangelist Moody and his musical colleague, Ira D. Sankey, which was actively pursued in the United States and Britain during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s...widely circulated [in] Songs and Solos...drawing largely on a type of tune that had already become popular in the United States, the type with a lively rhythm and a harmonization consisting of little more than alternations of the three chief chords of the key (tonic, dominant, and subdominant). To this type the American W. B. Bradbury (1816-1868) had been a considerable contributor...When its history comes to be studied it will probably be found that behind Sankey and Moody lies the powerful influence of the American Camp Meeting." -- p. 504, The Oxford Companion to Music by Percy A. Scholes (10th edition revised and edited by John Owen Ward), London: Oxford University Press, 1975

"Musically, the typical gospel song is in a major key, in common (4/4) time, with numerous repeated notes in a melody that is more interesting than the parts that accompany it." p. 288 "Gospel songs of this type often display repetitive rhythmic and melodic features and rudimentary antiphonal and responsorial textures." -- p. 300, A Portion for the Singers, R. Paul Drummond, Christian Baptist Press, 1989

"The gospel song seems to embody all that the old Sacred Harp songs did not: close harmony, the use of accidentals, and in some cases the concentration of melodic interest into a single part." -- p. 153, Public Worship, Private Faith, John Bealle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Styles in the Sacred Harp

There are a number of musical "styles" contained in the Sacred Harp -- early American music, folk hymns, psalm & hymn tunes, fuging tunes, odes & anthems, campmeeting songs, gospel songs, among others. I will record some of my attempt to sort this out in my own mind, which may or may not prove helpful to others. I rely on R. Paul Drummond's exposition and definition of Primitive Baptist song, as well as comments from Dr. Warren Steel. Much of this is left up to wide variations of opinion. What follows is a hodge-podge I've collected.

A Portion for the Singers (Drummond) identifies four broad categories of music found in Primitive Baptist hymnals: Southern Folk Hymns (folk hymns, Sacred Harp, fuging tunes, anthems); Mason-Bradbury Hymns, Gospel Songs (Kieffer/Showalter variety, Sankey/Bliss variety, Stamps/Baxter/Brumley variety), and Traditional Protestant Hymns. This is very similar to what is found in Sacred Harp, with the exception of the Stamps/Baxter/Brumley variety. Attempts to categorize music can be fraught with difficulties. For example, Drummond points to "Ortonville" and "Toplady"/"Rock of Ages" as examples of the problems of such categorizations (A Portion for the Singers, R. Paul Drummond, 1989, p. 18) -- "Ortonville" long since becoming a part of "folk tradition" and "Toplady" being a very traditional Protestant hymn. Yet, because of their origins, both are part of the Mason-Bradbury category of song. There is no reason that some categories cannot overlap, or a some be found in more than one category.

Psalm and hymn tunes (Examples: Old Hundred, Ninety-Third Psalm, Bethel) -- generally short tunes designed for one stanza of metrical hymn.

Folk hymns (Examples: Wondrous Love, New Britain, Pisgah) -- contrafactum of a secular folk song, ballad of religious experience, and camp-meeting spiritual

Campmeeting Songs (Examples: Sweet Morning, Farewell Vain World, The Morning Trumpet)
Campmeeting songs incorporate simple words with "simple tunes and meters [that] required no skill and therefore invited everyone to participate in the service." -- Bernard A. Weisberger, They Gathered at the River, Boston, 1958, p. 148

"The refrain or chorus is perhaps the predominant feature, not always connected with the subject-matter of the stanza, but rather ejaculatory. In some instances such a refrain was merely tacked on to a familiar hymn or an arrangement of one." -- Louis F. Benson, The English Hymn, New York: George H. Dornan Co., 1915, p. 293 (The interrupting refrain is a short phrase interpolated between the lines of the primary text.)

Paul Drummond sees a difference between "a first generation folk hymn" and those later composed "in the style". "Like most attempts at stylistic imitation these pieces tend to exploit clichés and most take on a rather uninspired, pedestrian quality." -- A Portion, p. 252 (In this he implicates a number of early Sacred Harp composers -- including both Rees brothers and Edmund Dumas. I would disagree with his assessment of their "pedestrian quality".)

Fuging tunes (Examples: Stratfield, Ocean, Mount Pleasant) -- usually begins with a homophonic section, in the course of which a definite cadence is reached; a new start is then made in which each individual part makes an entrance in succession, often utilizing some form of imitation; and the final phrase most often ending homophonically. (Irving Lowens and R. Paul Drummond)

Anthems (Examples: Easter Anthem, Rose of Sharon, David's Lamentation) -- "a musical setting for chorus of a non-metrical prose text, sectionalized by changes in tempo, meter, key, texture, and sonority." (John Worst)

Gospel song (Examples: Let Us Sing, Marriage in the Skies, Sweet By and By)

"Musically, the typical gospel song is in a major key, in common (4/4) time, with numerous repeated notes in a melody that is more interesting than the parts that accompany it." -- A Portion, p. 288 "Gospel songs of this type often display repetitive rhythmic and melodic features and rudimentary antiphonal and responsorial textures." -- A Portion, p. 300

"The gospel hymn was developed to meet the needs of revival and prayer meetings...The mood of the text might be optimistic or pleading; the music was tuneful and easy to grasp. The rudimentary harmonies, the use of the chorus, the varied metric schemes, and the motor rhythms were characteristic. A march-like movement as in 'Shall We Gather at the River' was especially typical. The device of letting the lower parts echo rhythmically a motive announced by the sopranos became a mannerism which was abused by later writers...The best of the gospel hymns have a direct simplicity which has appealed to singers ever since the appearance of the first gospel hymnals." (Janer places George F. Root among the earlier composers of the style.) -- Albert Christ-Janer, American Hymns Old and New, Vol. 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, pp. 365-66

"The melodic range was designed for congregational song and was therefore limited to that of the untrained voice from about middle C to top-line F. Harmonies were generally primary triads, although secondary triads, borrowed minor chords, and secondary dominants became part of the harmonic vocabulary...Most characteristic of the gospel song was a contagious chorus or refrain that summed up the text's meaning in a succinct and memorable manner. -- W. K. McNeil, Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, p. 293

The gospel song and Mason-Bradbury hymns tend to closer harmony than many of the early American tunes and folk songs. In close harmony, the alto and tenor parts tend to parallel the melody so that all three parts can be played on a keyboard. The bass part is not melodically tied to the soprano, yet fulfils a harmonic function. This describes the hymn tunes of Mason, Hastings, Bradbury, etc. as well as much early gospel music, especially of the more homophonic variety. (Warren Steel)

"The music of the 'Better Music boys' found in the hymnals of Primitive Baptists are typically short, strophic hymn-settings in major keys with limited ranges and easy tessituras." -- A Portion, p. 278 (Drummond gives "Brown" by Wm. Bradbury as an example.)

Methodist theatrical (Examples: Enfield, Dartmouth)

A few songs in the Sacred Harp are described by scholars as the "Methodist-theatrical style” of hymn-tune. These are imitations of those in 18th century British collections like Butts' Harmonia Sacra and Madan's Lock Hospital Collection. (Warren Steel) Someone described these as having "theatrical embellishments and a gallant cadence".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The American Fuging Tune

This conference paper compares and contrasts the American fuging tune with its British predecessors: The American Fuging Tune: ‘Marks of Distinction’ by Maxine Fawcett-Yeske

"...what strikes one as 'distinct' and 'emphatic' about American fuging tunes is the degree to which psalmodists employed certain procedures that were found only in limited usage in the early British prototypes and the innovative ways Americans developed those attributes into significant stylistic features. It is the creative patchwork of contrapuntal alternatives, the harmonic procedures that become refreshingly anachronistic (compared to contemporary developments abroad), and the expressive partnership of word and music wherein the American voice so loudly resounds."

{Added reading: The Sacred Harp: American Shape Note Hymns Cross the Atlantic by Lewis Jones}

Monday, November 09, 2009

Life the day of grace and hope

HYMN 88, L. M.

Life the day of grace and hope. Eccl. 9:4-6,10.

Life is the time to serve the Lord,
The time t' insure the great reward;
And while the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.

The living know that they must die,
But all the dead forgotten lie;
Their mem'ry and their sense is gone,
Alike unknowing and unknown.

Then what my thoughts design to do,
My hands, with all your might pursue;
Since no device nor work is found,
Nor faith, nor hope, beneath the ground.

There are no acts of pardon passed
In the cold grave, to which we haste;
But darkness, death, and long despair,
Reign in eternal silence there.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707

Friday, November 06, 2009

Patrick Henry’s Defense of the Baptist Ministers


Three Baptist ministers had been indicted at Fredericksburgh for preaching the Gospel contrary to the statute.

Patrick Henry hearing of this rode some fifty miles to volunteer his services in defence of the oppressed. He entered the court, being unknown to all present save the Bench and the Bar, while the indictment was being read by the clerk.

He sat within the bar until the reading was finished, and the king’s attorney had concluded some remarks in defence of the prosecution, when he arose, reached out his hand for the paper, and without more ceremony proceeded with the following speech:

“May it please your Worships, I think I heard read by the prosecutor, as I entered this house, the paper I now hold in my hand. If I have rightly understood the king’s attorney of the colony has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning and punishing by imprisonment, three inoffensive persons before the bar of this court, for a crime of great magnitude, as disturbers of the public peace.

May it please the court, what did I hear read? Did I hear it distinctly, or was it a mistake of my own? Did I hear an expression, as if a crime, that these men whom your Worships are about to try for a misdemeanor, are charged with - - - -What?” and continuing in a low, solemn, heavy tone, “Preaching the Gospel of the Son of God?” Pausing amidst the most profound silence and breathless astonishment, he slowing waved the paper three times around his head, when, lifting his hands and eyes to heaven, with peculiar and impressive energy, he exclaimed: “Great God!”

The exclamation, the burst of feeling from the audience were all overpowering. Mr. Henry resumed: “May it please your Worships: In a day like this, when truth is about to burst her fetters, when mankind are about to be aroused to claim their natural and unalienable rights, when the yoke of oppression, that has reached the wilderness of America, and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power are about to be dissevered, at such a period when liberty, liberty of conscience, is about to awake from her slumberings, and to inquire into the reason of such charges as I find exhibited here to day in this indictment!”

Here followed another long pause on the part of the speaker, while he again waved the indictment around his head, and a deeper impression was made on the auditory. Resuming his speech, “May it please your Worships; There are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the oppressor’s hand, becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him, he bows in passive obedience to the mandates of the despot, and, in this state of servility, he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage.

“But, may it please your Worships, such a day has passed away! From that period when our fathers left the land of their nativity for settlement in these American wilds, for liberty, for civil and religious liberty, for liberty of conscience to worship their Creator according to their own conceptions of heaven’s revealed will, from the moment that they placed their feet upon the American continent, and in the deeply imbedded forests, sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny, from that moment despotism was crushed, the fetters of darkness were broken, and heaven decreed that man should be free, free to worship according to the Bible.

“Were it not for this in vain were all their sufferings and bloodshed to subjugate this New World , if we their offspring must still be oppressed and persecuted.

“But may it please your Worships,” continued the speaker, “permit me to ask once more, For what are these men about to be tried? This paper says, “for preaching the Gospel of the Saviour to Adam’s fallen race.”

Then in tones of thunder he exclaimed; “What law have they violated?” While the third time, in a low, dignified manner, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and waved the indictment round his head.

The court and audience were now wrought up to the most intense pitch of excitement. The face of the prosecuting attorney was pallid and ghastly, and he seemed unconscious that his whole frame was agitated with alarm; while the judge, in a tremulous voice, put an end to the scene, now becoming excessively painful, by the authoritive declaration: “Sheriff, discharge those men.”

-- From Reminiscences of Baptists Of Virginia by William Smoot

Thursday, November 05, 2009

John Waller on Matthew 16:18

"Did God then leave Himself without a witness? Did the gates of Hell prevail against His church? Were the foundations of His kingdom laid in sand, that it yielded to the storms of persecution which befell it during the reign of the Man of Sin? Or did the church exist and stand, as firm as the rock of its foundation? And where was it in the long and dreary night, from the revelation of the Son of the Perdition until until the Reformation of the sixteenth century? There inquiries demand serious consideration and satisfactory answers.

"It will not do, be the way of response, to urge the existence of an 'invisible church.' This is to evade and not to meet the difficulty. The Savior did not build an 'invisible church' upon the 'rock' confessed by Peter. The Church of Christ on earth is visible. The light of the gospel was not given to be put under a bushel. The Church of the Redeemer is as a city set upon a hill, whose light cannot be hid. . . It is certain from the positive testimony of the Scriptures, that the adherents of Popery from the beginning, saw, and hence pursued and persecuted the saints of the Most High -- the people or church of the Redeemer -- those who followed the Lamb whithersoever He went -- who would not worship the beast, neither his image -- and who refused to receive his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands."
-- John L. Waller

{John L. Waller (1809-1854) helped to found the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky where he served as clerk, general agent, and moderator of that body. He also founded and edited the "Western Baptist Review" from 1845 – 1851 and later served as the first editor of the "Western Recorder." Notice that Waller denied that Matthew 16:18 referred to the invisible church. He also believed this verse was scriptural proof that true churches existed from the origins of Popery until the start of the Reformation. The above quote is from the Southern Baptist Review, August-September, pp. 560-561.}

---Copied The Landmark Southern Baptist forum

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Singing in Dallas

Singers will gather Saturday, November 7 (d.v.) to sing from the 1991 Revision of the Sacred Harp at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church on 9200 Inwood Rd. in Dallas, Texas. The gathering will be in the Wesley Chapel and is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

Official Singing Flyer

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Let patience have her perfect work

"The only thing worse than not having any patience, is having patience, and being mad about having to have it." -- Copied

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Random Sacred Harp quotes 2

"I have seen this music go from a national curiosity to a cool pursuit. Keep it healthy by singing it, loving it, and contributing to its future." -- Martha Beverly

"Nothing is weirder than Sacred Harp. Its favored subject matter--the pilgrim, the grave, Christ's blood--is stark; its style--severe fourths and otherworldly open fifths--has been obsolete for more than a century. Its notation, in which triangles, circles and squares indicate pitch, looks like cuneiform. Yet it exudes power and integrity. Five people sound like a choir; a dozen like a hundred." -- From "Give Me That Old-Time Singing"

"Be sure not to force the Sound thro' your Nose; but warble the Notes in your Throat" -- William Billings

"Shape note singing is one way to recapture the sense of happiness and participation that was common to all Americans long ago during the great age of participatory singing." -- Bruce Hayes

"I’m not trying to write any jawbreakers; I like a good plain tune best." -- Marcus Cagle

"European music is less agreeable to the American ear than her own." -- Abraham Maxim, in The Northern Harmony, 2d ed. (Exeter: Norris and Sawyer, 1808). I think a lot of Americans have flip-flopped on this issue since 1808.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Portal to Texas History

Here is a helpful site for Texas history and genealogy:
The Portal to Texas History

Searches books, maps, photos, newspapers, etc.

Granny Russell Singing

Lord willing, come sing with us tomorrow at the Granny Russell Singing held at the Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church meeting house on Farm to Market 1669 near Huntington, Texas. Singing starts around 10:00 a.m. and we usually quit around 3:00 p.m. We will be using the 2006 Cooper Revision Sacred Harp book.

The singing is held in memory and honor of Nancy Amelia "Granny" Russell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beebe on freedom of religion

Gilbert Beebe: "To protect the people from coercive interference with the sacred rights of conscience in matters of religion, the first Congress of the United States that ever assembled under the Constitution was convened in the city of New York, March 4, 1789, at which time and place the following amendment to the Constitution was proposed and submitted to the several states for their approval and was concurred in by the states and became a part of our Constitution: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof'. What is now sought for is to so change our Constitution as to indicate that the United States 'are a Christian Nation'. The scriptures of truth recognize but one such nation, and that is called, 'A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people'. Into that nation can none enter except they be born of water and of the Spirit, and none can ever see it except they be born again. A Christian nation must be an establishment of religion, and no law concerning it has Congress any power to make, nor have any power to prevent the free exercise of it." -- Originally from The Signs of the Times and reprinted in the Old Faith Contender, October-December, 1980, edited and published by W. J. Berry

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To pray or not to pray

I had a brief chuckle this morning when I heard on the radio that the Houston city council is being sued because their prayers are "too religious". I wondered what kind of non-religious prayers there are. To whom do atheists pray?

Seems the radio station botched the wording a bit, and the real claim is that the prayers are "too Christian". Kay Staley has sued the city (and specifically named council member Anne Clutterbuck). Staley says the prayers are too Christian and that they violate the First Amendment. Anne Clutterbuck was singled out because she quoted the Lord's Prayer.

To add to my chuckle, I found Staley is offended by watching this on TV: "I've been aggravated about it for some time watching City Council on access television." Watching city council on TV would probably aggravate me too. But instead of changing channels, she sues! This possibly is a dual purpose suit -- on the one hand to oppose Christianity and on the other (bigger hand) to grab a little publicity for the sewer (uh, I mean, sue-er; how do you spell that?). I mean, pu-leeze; Staley said, "I'm offended. I don't like people telling me when and how to pray." No one is telling her how to pray, or even that she has to pray. Furthermore, this person who doesn't want the council praying to Jesus says she is offended "because the praying goes against the teaching of Jesus. Heavily quoting the Bible, the lawsuit argues Jesus taught praying was not to be flaunted in public but to be done in private." Come on, Kay, why do you want these public officials to follow the teachings of Jesus? Isn't there some kind of hypocrisy there in your own thinking? If you believe prayers at city councils and other government functions are unconstitutional just say that and leave off the other mumbo-jumbo.

I could care less whether the members of the Houston city council have prayer at their meetings. It's not a religious gathering, and I'm not really all that keen on things that politicans may be doing just for show. But they are grown people who can pray if they want to. If they're mostly Christians, then the prayers will be mostly Christian (there have been some prayers of Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths). If there is a council member of another faith, Christians should not complain if he or she prays according to his or her faith. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld prayer at government meetings, but also say it must not promote any particular religion. If people simply pray according to their own beliefs, are they then promoting a particular religion? Or are they just praying?

Poor Clutterbuck -- she has "worked hard not to invoke a particular deity". The lawsuit contains transcripts that show she "never invoked a particular deity's name and one time read from Abraham Lincoln". And yet she gets special mention in the lawsuit above all the other council members!

Courthouse Bible plaintiff now targets Houston council prayer by Mary Flood

"Every prayer is an acknowledgement of our weakness and dependence . Who would ask that of another which he thinketh to be in his own power?" -- Thomas Manton

Monday, October 26, 2009

In memory 1916-2009

Myra Smith Palmer was an active Sacred Harp singer for many years. She was born Nov. 15, 1916, and passed away Oct. 22, 2009 at age 92. Myra was the daughter of the late Austin Asberry and Vicy Lorraine (Getty) Smith. Her funeral was held Sunday the 24th in Lindale, and she was buried at the Union Chapel Cemetery. She was one of the few remaining students of Tom Denson. She was an accomplished singer and leader; among her favorite songs were Morning Sun, The Bitter Cup, Morgan and Shades of Night.

Above song © 2009. Click on image to enlarge the picture.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Random Sacred Harp quotes 1

"Let music charm me last on earth and greet me first in heaven."

"This kind of music here, it comes out of you. There aren't any guitars or musical instruments, it comes from within you." -- Sam Craig, President, East Texas Sacred Harp Convention

"A living tradition changes. If it stopped changing, it would be because it died." -- David Lee

"....every letter has its own peculiar air, which air is very much hurt if the tune is not rightly pitched." -- William Billings

"What a beautful ramshackle racket. Needs to be heard loud." -- Paul in Nottingham

"When in doubt, sing loud." -- Robert Merrill, American operatic tenor

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Flu shot??

"Desiree Jennings, 25, says that she started to develop symptoms for a rare and debilitating muscular disease, called dystonia, after receiving seasonal flu shots from two months ago."

Cheerleader Develops Dystonia After Receiving Vaccine
NFL Cheerleader says Flu Shot Caused Rare Neorological Disease

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's (gonna be) the law

Liberals prove time and again that they have a different vision for America -- it's not the act that is a crime, but thinking differently than they do. A new hate crimes bill violates the letter and spirit of our First Amendment, and abandons equal rights in favor of special class rights. Figuring they might not pass it in a fair vote, today the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 by tacking it on to a defense spending bill. It is fairly certain the President will sign it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goings on

There's always lots of things going on in our world, and for the most part I don't comment too much. But here are some of my rambling thoughts on five diverse current events.

Medical marijuana
A new policy memo memo was issued October 19 by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden concerning the pursuit of marijuana cases. The policy (memo linked
HERE) is intended as "...guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana." Basically it says it is not a wise use of time and manpower to prosecute those who are in compliance with their state's laws on the medical use of marijuana. This is a change of direction from the former administration's policy of enforcing federal laws against marijuana regardless of state medical-use laws.

Makes sense to me. Let the federal government recognize these state laws and not criminalize those who are making medical decisions strictly in accordance with their state's laws.

Publicity, publicity, publicity
Richard and Mayumi Heene of Colorado reported that their 6-year-old son disappeared in a helium-filled balloon that became untethered and floated away. Following the report a wild rescue effort ensued with multiple entities concerned for the life and safety of the child. The Denver airport was even shut down for awhile.

Hang 'em high. If reports pan out, this was not a momentary lapse of judgment, but these folks conspired in a planned publicity stunt -- including encouraging 3 sons lying in a deliberate hoax -- for nothing but greedy gain.

Unsafe schools
Back in September,
Todd Henry of nearby John Tyler High School was stabbed to death by a student with a butcher knife. The student had a history of violence, and evidently Mr. Henry had previously reported serious concerns about this student.

Don't know enough about all this, but it looks like a number of people may have had momentary lapses of judgment in dealing with this child. But hindsight is 20-20, they say. Despite the student's so-called illnesses, this was a deliberate violent act and I favor his being tried as a adult.

Interracial marriage
A Louisiana Justice of the Peace recently refused to marry an interracial couple. According to his claim, he recused himself for conscientious reasons and recommended another JP who would marry them.

Don't know the legalities of this. The JP maintains he can recuse himself, but attorney Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, says "A justice of the peace is legally obligated to serve the public, all of the public." Certainly preachers, priests and rabbis can marry or refuse to marry whom they choose, based on reasons of faith and conscience. But a justice of the peace? Being a creature of the state (and I assume paid by the state/parish/people) seems to not leave the same option. The fact that the couple is now consdering legal action against him makes me wonder whether they were/are initially looking for publicity or if they just stumbled on to this and are now being pressured to make a big deal out of it. I'm sure they were offended, but the JP did nothing to deter them from being married. Allowing people to have their own opinions is part of what a free country is about. Do they think he is incompetent and should be removed, are they trying to make a statement on race/marriage, or do they think there is money to be made here?

Easy conversion
The Vatican announced a stunning decision Tuesday to make it easier for Anglicans to convert... Read about it
HERE. Well, Anglicanism is just an English version of the Roman Church anyway, as far as I can tell. One is as well off in one as the other.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Random preaching quotes 2

"If the truth were known, many sermons are prepared and preached with more regard for the sermon than the souls of the hearers." -- George F. Pentecost

"There is a difference between preaching because you have to say something and preaching because you have something to say." -- Warren Wiersbe

"A kick that scarce would move a horse, May kill a sound divine." -- William Cowper

"Hear how he clears the points o' Faith Wi' rattling an' thumpin'! Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath, He's stampin', and he's jumpin'!" -- Robert Burns

"I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way: The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear." -- Edgar A. Guest

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Frozen heart

Lord, shed a beam of heav'nly day
To melt this stubborn stone away;
And thaw, with rays of love divine
This heart, this frozen heart of mine.

To hear the sorrows Thou hast felt,
All but an adamant would melt;
Goodness and wrath in vain combine
To move this stupid heart of mine.

But One can yet perform the deed;
That One in all His grace I need;
Thy Spirit can from dross refine
And melt this stubborn heart of mine.

O Breath of life, breathe on my soul!
On me let streams of mercy roll;
Now thaw with rays of love divine
This heart, this frozen heart of mine.

(This hymn was written by English hymnwriter Joseph Hart. I wonder if he had in mind any play on words: frozen heart/frozen Hart; stupid heart/stupid Hart; stubborn heart/stubborn Hart? Frozen Heart in The Sacred Harp The original consisted of 5 stanzas. Through the years the words have been slightly altered -- e.g., it originally became "Oh! for a Glance of heav'nly Day." The 4th stanza found in The Sacred Harp, 2012 is not part of Hart's original, but was added to it at least by 1826. See The American Seaman's Hymn Book by Noah Davis, 1826.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sacred Harp of Hoboken

Will Payne and WaterTower Films have placed the following on YouTube:

The Sacred Harp of Hoboken (part 1 of 2)
The Sacred Harp of Hoboken (part 2 of 2)

"An Emmy Award-winning look at a small Southeastern town and the music that has served as its soundtrack for 150 years."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Exploding Pyrex

There has been a lot of recent talk about exploding Pyrex dishes. Apparently it is some truth mixed with some error (sounds a lot like religion!). You can read about it HERE and HERE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Taylor

After a lengthy sermon by Joseph Buchanan, John Taylor prayed, “Oh, Lord, teach Brother Joe what to preach, and how to preach, and to quit when he is done. Amen.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Deep enough: advice for young preachers

John Taylor (1752--1836), a pioneer Baptist preacher (mostly in Kentucky) was reputed to be warm and encouraging to young preachers, but could also be severe when he thought it warranted.

A young preacher at an associational meeting took his text from Ezekiel 47:3-5, the vision of the waters from the temple becoming a river. He divided his subject into four parts -- ankle-deep, knee-deep, loin-deep, deep enough for swimming. For about an hour he developed his first two points. Ankle-deep was repentance from sin. Knee-deep was assurance of salvation.

Taylor and other preachers, as was common in that day, were sitting behind him on the stand. Finishing his second division, the young preacher said, "Thirdly, we go a little deeper -— where the waters reached the loins."

At this point John Taylor straightened up, pointed his finger, and spoke up, "Young man, come ashore. You are deep enough, deep enough."

-- From S. H. Ford's The Christian Repository, June, 1859

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Love suffers long

Love suffers long with patient eye,
Nor is provoked in haste;
She lets the present injury die,
And long forgets the past.

She lays her own advantage by
To seek her neighbor's good;
So God's own Son came down to die,
And bought our lives with blood.

Love is the grace that keeps her power
In all the realms above;
There faith and hope are known no more,
But saints for ever love.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Random preaching quotes 1

"It really doesn’t matter how many sheep we gather if we don’t intend to feed them." -- Stan Toler

"I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men." -- Richard Baxter

"But in his duty prompt at every call, He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt for all." -- Oliver Goldsmith

"The preacher’s work is to throw sinners down into utter helplessness that they may be compelled to look up to Him Who alone can help them." -- Charles Spurgeon

"The easiest way to stay awake during a sermon is to deliver it." -- Unknown

"The world looks at preachers out of church to know what they mean in it." -- Richard Cecil

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Have sins to confess?

"In those days they still believed they had sins to confess; and when they got into trouble, they had not learned to hire an alienist [psychiatrist] to blame their misdeeds on their grandfathers and hang their guilt on their family tree." -- From Rest Awhile by Vance Havner, 1941

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Declaration and Address

Members of the Restoration Movement are recently celebrating Thomas Campbell's "Declaration and Address". It was written in 1809 and was the founding document of the Christian Association of Washington. The Christian Association was a forerunner of what is now called the Restoration Movement.

Declaration and Address

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

25 years before

Interesting account of Southern Baptist life before the Cooperative Program:
The Year 25 B.C.P. by Bart Barber

Monday, October 05, 2009

Two Watts' hymns

HYMN 163, C. M.
Complaint of desertion and temptations.

Dear Lord! behold our sore distress;
Our sins attempt to reign;
Stretch out thine arm of conquering grace,
And let thy foes be slain.

The lion with his dreadful roar
Affrights thy feeble sheep:
Reveal the glory of thy power,
And chain him to the deep.

Must we indulge a long despair?
Shall our petitions die?
Our mournings never reach thine ear,
Nor tears affect thine eye?

If thou despise a mortal groan,
Yet hear a Savior's blood;
An Advocate so near the throne
Pleads and prevails with God.

He brought the Spirit's powerful sword
To slay our deadly foes;
Our sins shall die beneath thy word,
And hell in vain oppose.

How boundless is our Father's grace,
In height, and depth, and length!
He makes his Son our righteousness,
His Spirit is our strength.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

How did my heart rejoice to hear
My friends devoutly say,
"In Zion let us all appear,
And keep the solemn day!"

I love her gates, I love the road;
The church, adorned with grace,
Stands like a palace built for God,
To show His milder face.

Up to her courts with joys unknown
The holy tribes repair;
The Son of David holds His throne,
And sits in judgment there.

He hears our praises and complaints;
And while His awful voice
Divides the sinners from the saints,
We tremble and rejoice.

Peace be within this sacred place,
And joy a constant guest!
With holy gifts and heav'nly grace
Be her attendants blest!

My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life or breath remains;
There my best friends, my kindred dwell,
There God my Savior reigns.

Isaac Watts
The Psalms of David, 1719

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Joist or Joyce

Not only do we misunderstand songs, we often mishear or misunderstand words used in conversation, business, etc. One I'll never forget reading is about a person who responded strangely to the observation "no man is an island", thinking he heard "no mayonnaise in Ireland".

When I started as a teenage carpenter's helper, there was a lot of technical jargon used that I had neither read nor heard. I misunderstood quite a bit, if I remember correctly. One of the most memorable to me is that I thought a "joist" (a horizontal timber at the ceiling) was a "joyce" (as in the women's name Joyce).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Misunderstood songs

At a recent singing I attended, before leading Farther Along, a man told that singing this as a child he heard and thought it was "Father, alone, will know all about it; Father, alone, will understand why..." rather than "Farther along we'll know all about it, Farther along we'll understand why." In language/grammar this is called a mondegreen -- repeating the mishearing of a phrase in such a way that it acquires a new meaning.

Some misunderstood songs are misunderstandings of a word's meaning. Many a child not raised on a farm* have envisioned sheep being brought in to the fold as they sang "Bringing in the sheaves". But that is "sheaves" -- bundles of grain -- rather than the plural of sheep (which is sheep).

Readers, as a child did you ever misunderstand some song or songs, either mishearing the phrase or misunderstanding a meaning? Tell us about it.

*And I can testify for those raised on a farm which didn't harvest wheat. The only things I think we bundled were put up in bales (hay) or shocks (corn).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Smyrna singing Saturday

This coming Saturday, October 3, 2009, the Smyrna Memorial Sacred Harp Singing will be held (d.v.) at the Smyrna Baptist Church near Mount Enterprise, Texas. The church building is located on FM 2496, about 5 miles west of Mount Enterprise. The 2006 Sacred Harp (Cooper Revision) will be used. Singing begins at 10:00 a.m. and continues until about 3:00 p.m., with dinner on the ground. All welcome.

No new revelation

In another blog, a brother writing against the idea of near death experiences stated the following:
Since the Bible has been completed and while the church is on the earth today, a person receives NO revelation outside of the general revelation and specific direct revelation of God's Word which is assigned to all men...a person can not receive revelation outside of the general revelation (displayed in nature and in men's laws) and specific direct revelation (God's Word and the preaching thereof.)
I thought this would make an interesting discussion.

Is there NO revelation outside of general and direct revelation (the Bible)? I equate 100% truth and accuracy to God's revelation through His Word. And most of us agree that there is general revelation -- through God's creation, for example. What revelation is the Spirit giving when He guides us into all truth? What about revelation through God's providential guidance? Do we not learn of things that are not revealed in the Word in specifics through His opening & closing of doors and other providential factors in our lives? What about the "call to preach"? Is there one, or is it just a professional decision? If you are a preacher, why are you? We cannot read our names in God's Word. It does not say "_Your name_, you have been called to preach." How do you know? Was it just an occupational/professional decision, or do you believe there was some kind of spiritual guidance? If so, why was it not a "new revelation"? What about changing pastorates? Again, just a business decision, or perhaps some spiritual guidance there? Is this "new" revelation, or something different?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More School?

"[President] Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe."

"'Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today', Education Secretary Arne Duncan said."

"Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school."

"Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."
-- More school: Obama would curtail summer vacation

There is much that could be said about this, but the first two that jump out at me is that the reasoning is sloppy and that it's not the federal government's business anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Online Bible Study Tools

According to Crosswalk, this King James Dictionary contains over 800 words whose definitions have changed since 1611. I would guess that in many cases, the definitions may still be in unabridged dictionaries but we just don't commonly use them that way today. I haven't used this tool, so can't really recommend it but am rather just pointing out that it is there. If some of you use it, you might stop back by and comment on it. Thanks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Loss of ability

agnosia. noun. any loss of ability to recognize objects, people, sounds, etc., but most often caused by brain injury.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I've never changed!

Over the years I've heard preachers, and sometimes other Christians, speaking of what they believe, emphatically avow, "I've never changed!" One still ringing in my mind is an older Baptist minister at a Bible conference that I attended as a young man. At the time my reaction was "Amen!" Now my reaction is closer to a guarded "Oh, my."


Unless you already knew everything about God and His Word, then perhaps you are:

1. Too stubborn to change.
2. Too proud to admit you've changed.
3. Too ignorant to know you've changed.

I've tried to think of a more positive explanation. The only thing I've come up is that one saying this possibly doesn't really mean never changed anything.

God alone is immutable and can say, "I change not."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interesting find

Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in UK, By Raphael G. Satter

"LONDON – An amateur treasure hunter prowling English farmland with a metal detector stumbled upon the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, a massive seventh-century hoard of gold and silver sword decorations, crosses and other items, British archaeologists said Thursday."

Particularly interesting to me is the following related to religious history:
"Leslie Webster...said the crosses and other religious artifacts mixed in with the mainly military items, might shed new light on the relationship between Christianity and warfare among the Anglo-Saxons...

"One of the most intriguing objects in the hoard is a small strip of gold inscribed with a warlike Latin quotation from the Old Testament, which translates as: 'Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face'."