Onward Christian Soldiers

Posted on 30th October 2020 under The Rectory Bulletin | Hymn Stories


“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfil all your petitions!” (Psalm 20:5)

In this country there used to be a tradition of processions on Whit Monday, the Monday after Pentecost. Sunday schools, churches and other organisations would walk on through a town or a village with banners. Some might even stretch to a float, and it was all accompanied with the singing of hymns and songs. The goal was twofold: to bear witness to the Christian life in the area; and also an almighty tea at the end of the day.

Should you have found yourself in Horbury Bridge (Yorkshire) in 1865 you would have seen such a procession in progress. The new curate in the parish, the Revd S Baring-Gould, had been asked to choose the hymns and choose them he had. There was a problem, though, with one of them. The tune was good for marching along (written by Haydn), but the words were somewhat lack lustre. The curate put pen to paper, and out came Onward Christian Soldiers.

So we had the same tune, but with new words. Then Aurthur Sullivan (of Gibert and Sullivan fame) came along, and wrote a new tune for the new words. And that’s what we sing today.

Whit Monday processions have all but died out now, but this hymn remains as an echo of that age.

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.

Refrain: Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the Cross of Jesus
Going on before.

At the sign of triumph
Satan's host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory.
Hell's foundations quiver,
At the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise. [Refrain]

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. [Refrain]

Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
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. [Refrain]

Onward, then, ye people,
Join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices,
In the triumph song--
Glory, laud and honour,
Unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages
Men and Angels sing. [Refrain]

Who Can Condemn?

29th October 2020

Sin

31st October 2020

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