ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
Suggested topics: commitment, courage, encouragement, praise, unity
Suggested occasions: missionary farewell/homecoming, Pioneer Day
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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 through countless ages
Men and angels sing.
"Onward, Christian Soldiers" was written in 1865 with no intention of ever being published, especially in adult hymn books. Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, its author, was at that time the curate of a parish in Yorkshire county in the north of England, and he recounts how and why he wrote it:
'It was written in a very simple fashion … Whitmonday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join its forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing when marching from one village to the other, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. 'Onward, Christian Soldiers' was the result. It was written in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Certainly nothing has surprised me more than its great popularity.'
Though it was never meant for publication, it was nevertheless found its way into a periodical later that year, and soon it became included in English hymnals around the world. Louis Benson suspects that it caught on in the United States, at least in part, because it tapped into the “soldier-spirit left in the hearts of young and old Americans by the four years of the Civil War” which had just ended.
In 1871 Arthur Sullivan wrote the tune “St. Gertrude” for the hymn, which further popularized the hymn and has ever since been its standard melody.
Due to its militaristic theme and martial melody, the hymn has encountered some resistance in recent years, and some church denominations have removed it from their hymn books entirely. However, it is appropriate to remember that Paul commands Timothy to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3), and that he instructs the church to “put on the whole armor of God” because we wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6).
The words of the hymn make it clear that the focus is on this spiritual battle–that our foe is Satan, not men, and that our King and Commander in Chief is the eternal, omnipotent Christ whose kingdom cannot fail.
LDS hymn number: 246
Text: Sabine Baring-Gould
Music: Arthur S. Sullivan
Meter: 6565D/6565 (12 lines)
Tune: St. Gertrude
"The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould is best known for writing the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers.
But he is also thought to have inspired his friend George Bernard Shaw to write Pygmalion - which was later made into the film, My Fair Lady.
Baring-Gould was himself a prolific writer and was said to be the tenth most popular novelist of his day.
At one point there were more books listed under his name in the British Museum Library than any other English writer. Baring-Gould was a prolific writer
He was born in Exeter in 1834, and his family owned the Lewtrenchard Estate near Lydford in west Devon.
He took Holy Orders in 1864 and became a curate at Horbury in Yorkshire. It was in Horbury that he met mill girl Grace Taylor. He sent her away to be educated and then married her in 1868.
The couple were married for 48 years until Grace's death in 1916 and they had 15 children!
However Baring-Gould appears to have had little understanding of his offspring. Apparently at a children's party one evening he called to a young child "And whose little girl are you?" The child burst into tears and said "I'm yours Daddy".
Baring Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers while at Horbury, and was amazed at its popularity.
He said he had dashed the words off in no more than 10 minutes as an occasional piece for a procession of school children.
He returned to Lewtrenchard in 1881, where he was the squire and parson.
It's believed he had more than 200 works published, but the thing he was most proud of was his collection of folk songs from Devon and Cornwall, called 'Songs of the West.'
He spent 12 years travelling in the two counties, learning the songs from old singers and then publishing them.
Baring-Gould died at Lewtrenchard in 1924 aged 90, and his body was buried in his own churchyard."
"Arthur Seymour Sullivan was born in 1842 in Lambeth, London, to a very musical family. His father was the bandmaster at the Royal Military College. He composed music when he was 8 years old and had mastered all of the wind instruments in his father's band by the time he was 10. At the age of 14 he was the first recipient of the Mendelssohn Scholarship. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and later at the Leipzig Conservatory. He remained there until 1858, writing an overture, which was performed at one of the concerts of the Academy. He won scholarships at several other prominent academies and conservatories.
Sullivan became the organist at St. Michael's, London in 1861 and professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in 1866. He was conductor of the Leeds Festival and the Royal Philharmonic of London. From 1876 to 1881 he was principal of the National Training School of London. He received several honorary doctorates and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883.
Sullivan was regarded as the leading composer of his day. He composed several major choral works, including The Light of the World, The Martyr of Antioch, The Golden Legend and his lone grand opera, Ivanhoe. From 1871 to 1896 he collaborated with W. S. Gilbert. Together they produced fourteen comic operas, including Trial by Jury (1875), H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), and others. He felt his best work was his serious music, his oratorios, including among others, Kenilworth (1864), The Prodigal Son (1869), and The Light of the World (1873) and his serious opera. He composed many songs, hymns, anthems, ballets and dramatic music."