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On May 4, 2013, the Anaheim Adventist Church hosted a Hymn Festival. Choirs from Orangewood Academy and San Diego Academy united to sing hymns from the Adventist Hymnal. In the introductory remarks, Orangewood Academy choir director James Woods stated that students have “discovered” the hymns in the Adventist Church Hymnal. “They love them,” he said.
 
This remark called to mind a study I did some years ago that examined early Adventist hymns and how they shaped people’s attitudes. I had read articles that addressed this subject, including one by S. T. Kimbrough, Jr.: “All Christians need to develop critical acumen about what they sing. Hymns are theology, and Christians tend to reflect the content and mood of their hymns in the way they think and live as a church and community…. There is a need to recognize hymns for precisely what they are, in both words and music, and to discard poetical and musical statements which perpetuate a static theology which never leads beyond self to service.” — Theology Today, April 1985.
 
From earliest times hymns have served to unite and inspire Adventist believers. Our hymns, whether by intent or default, express in subtle and direct ways our theology and practices. The hymns published in early Adventist hymnals reflect or, perhaps in stronger terms, shaped how the first Adventists understood their community, their mission and their world. The hymns sung by Adventist congregations Sabbath after Sabbath employ metaphors and similes to inspire church members to take advantage of the opportunities that await development for the church and the kingdom. The writers weigh in on opportunity that is within the community and the Advent believers are admonished to take immediate action. In the early hymns one looks in vain for hints that community needs or humanitarian response is part of the equation. The world is a field awaiting harvesters to go forth and reap. Earth is viewed as a lonely place and escape is near, even at the door. The early Adventist hymns suggests that the community and its people were to be more exploited than nurtured, ministered to or understood. At times, the hymns were counter to Adventist theology. Example: “Their souls shall never die,” from the hymn written by I. Watts published in the 1908 Christ in Song.
 
This examination of Adventist hymns may help us understand the suspicion Adventists have toward involvement in the larger community except to recruit members, and the reluctance Adventists have had to engage the local community or to be involved in the political arena. Personal comments are limited and noted by brackets. The reader can draw her/his own conclusions on the words of a hymn may have influenced Adventist theology and behavior. Have fun!
 
Chronology of the Early Adventist Hymnals
1849 – Hymns for God’s Peculiar People; That Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus, Based on The Millennial Harp or Second Advent Hymns published by Joshua V. Himes, 1842, 1843, 1848.
1855 – Hymns for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus.
1869 – Hymns and Tunes for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus. First Official General Conference Hymnal.
1886 – The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book (Hymns and Tunes)
1900 – Christ in Song  (Revised 1908)
1941 – The Church Hymnal (First official hymnal since 1886.)
1985 – The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal 

Samples from the 1849 Adventist Hymnal
 
Lo! Another angel follows
Lo an angel loud proclaiming
With the gospel of good news.
 
Yet, a third and solemn message,
Now proclaims a final doom
All who “worship Beast or Image;”
Soon shall drink the wrath of God:
Without mixture
Mercy now no longer pleads.
 
Here they are, who now are waiting,
And have patience to endure;
While the Dragon’s hosts are raging
Those confide in God secure:
Faith of Jesus;
And COMMANDMENTS, keep them pure.
 
Washing Feet—An Old Hymn
When Jesus Christ was here below,
He taught his people what to do.
And if we would his precepts keep,
We must attend to washing feet.
 
The Lord who made the earth and sky,
Arose and laid his garments by;
And wash’d their feet to show that we,
Like Christ, should always humble be.
 
He wash’d them all, tho’ all were clean,
Save Judas, who was full of sin.
May none of us, like Judas, sell
Our Lord for gold, and go to hell
 
The Seal
Behold a light appears,
The holy sabbath (sic) day,
And magnified so clear,
That none may need to stray;
Though small at first, as sun beam’s ray,
Its strength ascends to perfect day.
 
It is the message clear
Ascending from the east,
God’s servants now appear
Who will not worshipBEAST;”
 
Four angels hold the winds reveal’d
Until God’s servants all are seal’d
The Sabbath is a sign,
A mark which all may see,
 
And sure will draw a line
When servants all are seal’d
And while destruction’s in the land
This mark will guard the waiting band.
 
Restitution
Oh, spare thy people, Lord,
and bring them full salvation;
Fulfill they faithful word,
 
Rescue the sleeping nation;
Thou voice of God should from on high;
The signal give for reaping;
 
Come thou and reap the harvest dry;
Oh, gather all the sleeping:
Spare now the “remnant” Lord
 
The foe doth yet pursue them.
Oh, for thy blessed word,
Do thou with strength renew them.
 
Have You Faith?
Jesus our Saviour (sic) says—I will appear!
Have you faith?
My trumpet is sounding majestic and clear!
Have you faith?
The faithful alone I come to see,
And they shall live and reign with me,
Only have faith!  [Three verses end with this imperative]
 
Armageddon
Ripe is the vintage of the earth;
Its clustering grapes are round and full;
And vengeance, vengeance bursts to birth,
Sudden and irresistible!
Messiah comes to tread amain, (sic)
The wine-press of the battle-plain
 
The cry is up, the strife begun,
The struggle of the mighty ones;
And Armageddon’s day comes on,
The carnival of Slaughter’s sons;
War lifts his helmet to his brow:
O God, protect thy people now!
 
This World Is Not My Home
Farewell! farewell! to all below,
My Jesus calls and I must go:
I’ll launch my boat upon the sea,
This land is not the land for me.
This world is not my home: (4 X repeated) (Sic)
 
Farewell! my friends! I’ll not stay here—
The home I seek will soon appear;
Where Christ is not I cannot be;
This land is not the land for me
This world is not my home, &c.
 
I’m A Traveler
I’m a lonely trav’ller here,
Weary, opprest;
But my journey’s end is near,
Soon I shall rest.
Dark and dreary is the way,
Toiling I’ve come—
Ask me not with you to stay—
Yonder’s my home.
 
The Jubilee Prayer
We are in the time of waiting;
Soon we shall behold our Lord,
Wafted far away from sorrow,
To receive our rich reward.
Keep us, Lord, till thine appearing,
Pure, unspotted from the world;
Let thy Holy Spirit cheer us,
Till thy banner is unfurl’d
 
Be of Good Cheer
Christian, thy warfare soon will be o’er;
Oh, do not fear, do not fear,
Soon thou shalt rest where thy foes come no more—
Be of good cheer, of good cheer.
 
Here Is No Rest
Here, o’er the earth as a stranger I roam,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here as a pilgrim I wander alone,
Yet I am blest—I am blest
 
Let them revile me, and scoff at my name,
Laugh at my weeping—endeavor to shame;
I will go forward, for this is my theme;
There, there is rest—there is rest
 
Here are afflictions and trials severe;
Here is no rest—is no rest;…
 
This world of cares is a wilderness state,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here I must bear from the world all its hate—
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
 
The Little Flock
How happy are the little flock,
Who, safe beneath their guardian Rock,
In all commotions rest;
When war’s and tumult’s waves run high,
Unmov’d above the storm they lie,
And lodge in Jesus’ breast
 
Such happiness O Lord, have we,
By mercy gather’d into thee,
Before the floods descend;
And while the bursting cloud comes down,
We mark the vengeful day begun,
And calmly wait the end.
 
The plague, and dearth, and din of war,
Our saviour’s (sic) swift approach declare,
And bid our hearts arise;
Earth’s basis shook, confirms our hope;
Its cities’ fall but lifts us up,
To meet thee in the skies.
 
A Pilgrim And A Stranger
1. I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger;
I can tarry, I can tarry, but a night;
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the fountains are ever flowing,
I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger, &c.
 
2. There the glory is ever shining!
O, my longing heart, my longing heart is there;
Here in this country so dark and dreary,
I long have wander’d forlorn and weary.
 
4. Farwell, dreary earth, by sin so blighted,
In immortal beauty soon you’ll be arrayed!
He who has form’d thee, will soon restore thee!
And then thy dread curse shall never more be:
I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger,
Till thy rest shall end the weary pilgrim night.
 
The Fall of Babylon
1. Hail the day so long expected,
Hail the day of full release;
Zion’s walls are now erected,
And her watchmen publish peace;
Throughout Shiloh’s wide dominion,
Hear the trumpet loudly roar,
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.
 
2. Come “my people” and forsake her,
Cast away our slavish fears’
Hear the voice from heaven proclaiming
It’s the end of all her years.
Raise your voices she is fallen,
Lift your banners up on high,
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen, &c.
 
[My observations on the 1849 hymnal: The hymns are doctrinal, state the transitory nature of this world, describe the believer’s isolation, or express their hope for a better land. No hymns promote outreach, care for others, saving the lost, going to the world.]
 
Samples from the 1852 Hymnal
 
Come To Reign
List again;–the low earth sigheth,
And the blood of martyrs crieth
From its bosom, where there lieth
Millions upon millions slain:
“Lord, how long, ere thy word given,
All the wicked shall be driven
From the earth by bolts of heaven?
Jesus come—oh! come to reign.”
 
Kingdoms now are reeling, falling,
Nations lie in woe appalling,
On their sages vainly calling
All these wonders to explain;
While the slain around are lying,
God’s own little flock are sighing,
And in secret places crying,
“Jesus come—Oh! come to reign.”
 
Here the wicked live securely,
Of to-morrow boasting surely,
While from those wh’re walking purely
They extort dishonest gain;
Yea, the meek are burden’d, driven;
Want and care to them are given,
But they lift the cry to heaven,
“Jesus come—Oh! come to reign.”
 
Despised Pilgrims
 1. What poor despised company
Of travelers are these,
Who walk in yonder narrow way,
Along the rugged maze?
 
2. Ah, these are of a royal line,
All children of a King….
 
3. Why do they then appear so mean,
and why so much despised?
Because of their rich robes unseen,
The world is not appriz’d
 
4. Why do they shun the pleasing path,
That worldlings love so well?
Because that is the road to death,
The open road to hell
 
5. What, is there then no other road
To Salem’s happy ground?
Christ is the only way to God,
No other can be found.
 
The Exile
There is a land, a better land than this—
There’s my home, there’s my home!
A land of pure, unbounded, perfect bliss—
There’s my home, there’s my home;
A captive on this desert shore,
I long to count my exile o’er,
And be where sorrows come no more:
There’s my home, there’s my home.
 
Far, far I am from my own happy shore—
I would go, I would go.
But yet my days of exile are not o’er:—
I would go, I would go.
I would not stay though earth were mine;
Though all its treasures for me shine,
A captive here I still should pine—
I would go, I would go.
 
I Walk Alone
1. I WALK a lonely pilgrim here
O’er life’s uneven way;
But my aching heart keeps hoping on
For the bright, the better day.
 
2. I walk alone and oft am sad,
And falls the briny tear;
My heart is grieved with trials sore,
And pressed with many a care.
 
Harvest Home
1. THOUGH in the outward church below,
The wheat and tares together grow;
Jesus ere long will weed the crop,
And pluck the tares in anger up.
For soon the reaping time will come,
And angels should the harvest home.
 
2. Will it relieve their horrors there,
To recollect their stations here;
How much they heard, how much the knew
How much among the wheat they grew?
For soon the reaping time will, &c (sic)
 
No! This will aggravate their case,
They perish’d under means of grace,
To them the word of life and faith
Became an instrument of death
For soon the reaping time will, &c.
 
Will You Go?
WE’RE going to see the bleeding Lamb,
Will you go? Will you go?
In rapturous strains to praise his name,
Will you go? Will you go?
The crown of life we there shall wear
The conqueror’s palms our hands shall bear,
And all the joys of heaven we’ll share,
Will you go? Will you go?
 
Ye weary, heavy laden, come,
Will you go? Will you go?
The Lord is waiting to receive,
If thou wilt on him now believe,
He’ll give thy troubled conscience ease,
Come, believe! Come believe!
 
Hymn 8
OUR bondage it will end by and by, when he comes
Our bondage it will end when he comes,
And from Egypt’s yoke set free,
Hail the glorious jubilee,
And to glory we’ll return by and by when he comes,
And to glory we’ll return when he comes.
 
Though our enemies are strong, we’ll go on,
Though our hearts do sometimes fear,
Lo Israel’s God is near,
And the fiery pillar moves, we’ll go on, &c.
 
Hymn 12
OH, no, we cannot sing our songs,
Our glad and cheerful lays;
Our sorrowing harps refuse their strings,
To Zion’s joyful strains.
They bid us be in mirthful mood,
And dry these tears so sad;
But Judah’s hearths are desolate
And how can we be glad?
 
Hymn 30
I LOVE this pure religion,
Soldiers of the jubilee;
I love this pure religion,
Soldiers of the cross.
 
Remember me while toiling here,
Soldiers of the jubilee
Remember me while toiling here,
Soldiers of the cross.
 
We’ll preach a coming Saviour,
Soldiers of the jubilee;
We’ll preach a coming Saviour,
Soldiers of the cross.
 
[My observations about the 1852 hymnal:  Like previous hymns these are doctrinal, state the transitory nature of this world, describe the believer’s isolation, or express their hope for a better land. No hymns promote outreach, care for others, saving the lost, going to the world.]
 
Samples from the 1886 Hymnal
 
No. 381
1. GOD’S holy law, transgressed,
Speaks nothing but despair;
Burdened with guilt, with grief oppressed,
We find no comfort there.
 
2. Not all our groans and tears,
Nor works which we have done,
Nor vows, nor promises, nor prayers,
can e’er for sin atone.
 
3. Relief alone is found
In Jesus’ precious blood;
‘Tis this that heals the mortal wound,
And reconciles to God.
 
4. High lifted on the cross,
The spotless Victim dies
This is salvation’s only source
Whence all our hopes arise.
 
No. 1023
1. Let party names no more
The Christian world o’erspread;
Gentile and Jew, and bond and free,
Are one in Christ, their Head.
 
2. Among the saints on earth
Let mutual love be found
Heirs of the same inheritance
With mutual blessings crowned.
 
3. Thus will the church below
Resemble that above
Where streams of pleasure ever flow,
And every heart is love.
 
4. And till we reach that place,
Our daily prayer shall be
That we may dwell before thee Lord
In love and unity.
 
No. 1032
“Go, preach my gospel,” saith the Lord,
Bid the whole world my grace receive;
He shall be saved who trusts my word,
And they condemned who disbelieve.
 
 
No. 1038
Go, messenger of peace and love,
To people plunged in shades of night;
Like angels sent from fields above
Be thine to shed celestial light.
 
Go to the hungry, food impart;
To paths of peace the wanderer guide;
And lead the thirsty, panting heart,
Where streams of living water glide.
 
O, faint not in the day of toil,
When harvest waits the reaper’s hand,
Go gather in the glorious spoil
And joyous in his presence stand.
 
No. 1042
Convert and send forth more,
To spread thy truth abroad;
And let them speak thy word of power,
As workers with their God.
 
No. 1048
The vineyard of the Lord
Before his laborers lies,
And lo! we see the last reward
Which waits us in the sky.
 
No. 1053
Ho! Reaper’s of life’s harvest,
Why stand with rusty blade,
Until the night draws round thee,
And day begins to fade?
 
Thrust in your sharpened sickle,
And gather in the grain;
The night is fast approaching,
And soon will come again.
 
The Master calls for reapers,
And shall he call in vain?
Shall sheaves lie there ungathered,
And waste upon the plain?
 
No. 1058
In the vineyard of our father
Daily work we find to do;
Scattered gleanings we may gather,
Through we are but young and few;
Little clusters, little clusters
Help to fill the garners too.
 
No. 1068
Brother, you may work for Jesus;
God has given you a place
In some portion of his vineyard,
And will give sustaining grace.
 
He has bidden you to labor
And has promised a reward—
Even joy and life eternal
In the kingdom of your Lord.
 
No. 1069
Hark! the voice of Jesus calling,—
“Who will go and work today?”
Fields are white, the harvest waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?
 
Loud and long the Master calleth,
Rich reward he offers free
Who will answer, gladly saying,
“Here am I, O Lord, send me”?
 
If you cannot cross the ocean
And the heathen lands explore,
You can find the heathen nearer,
You can help them at your door;
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say he died for all.
 
Samples from the 1908 Hymnal, "Christ in Song"
 
No. 817, Our Exiled Fathers  (Rev. Leonard Bacon)
O god beneath thy guiding hand, Our exiled fathers crossed the sea; and when they trod the wintry strand, With pray’r and psalm they worshiped thee.
 
Truth, freedom, justice, faith in God, Come with those exiles o’er the waves; And             where their pilgrim feet have trod, The God they trusted guards their graves.
 
And here thy name, O God of love, May we, their children, still adore, Till these   eternal hills remove, And spring adorns the earth no more.
 
N. 818, Brotherhood of Men (J. S. Dwight)
God bless our native land! May Heaven’s protecting hand Still [guard (sic) our      shore.   May peace her pow’r extend, Foe be transformed to friend, And all our rights depend On war no more.
 
May just and righteous laws Uphold the public cause, And bless our name; Home of the brave and free, Stronghold of Liberty, We pray that still on thee May rest           no stain.
 
And not this land alone, But by they mercies known From shore to shore; O that   all men would see That they should brothers be, And form one family, Thy wide             world o’er!
 
No. 809, What Is the Chaff?  (I. Watts)
What is the chaff, the word of man, When set against the wheat? Can it a dying soul sustain, Like that immortal meat?
 
Thy word, O God, with heav’nly bread Thy children doth supply; And those who             by thee are fed, Their souls shall never die.  [Bold mine]
 
No. 819, Let us Work Too (F. E. Beldon)
 
The Lord worketh, let us work too; In his vineyard there’s much to do,
And Souls perish for need of you: The Lord worketh, let us work too.
 
They world moveth, let us move too, The sun’s glory that we may view. From night turning to day-dawn new: the world moveth, let us move too.
 
The wrong speaketh, let us speak too; The worst error is bright with dew: Shall truth slumber the whole day thro? The wrong speaketh, let us speak too.
 
The Christ liveth, let us live too, From death waking, his work to do,
With hearts loving and pure and true: The Christ liveth, let us live too.
 
No. 813, Above These Shades (Anne Steele)
O could our thoughts and wishes fly, above these gloomy shades; To those bright worlds beyond the sky, Where sorrow ne’er invades!
There, joys unseen by mortal eyes, or reason’s feeble ray,
In ever blooming prospect rise, Exposed to no decay
 
No. 596, Buy Up the Opportunity (J. R. Clements)
Buy up the opportunity, O Christian, buy today! For Heaven’s ageless mansions buy, buy treasures while you may.
 
Buy up the opportunity, It may not long remain! The evil hosts are bidding, too, These precious souls to gain.
 
Buy up the opportunity, Pay any price to win!
With Heaven’s legions watching you, To falter will be sin.
 
Buy up the opportunity, At home; in lands afar; Go quickly! Find the jewels rare,–            each soul a glowing star.
 
Chorus:  Buy up the opportunity, The souls from whom Christ died, Buy up the     opportunity, Buy for the Crucified.
 
No. 548, Where Are the Reapers? (E. E. Rexford)
O where are the reapers that garner in The sheaves of the good from the fields of   sin? With sickles of truth must the work be done, And no one may rest till the “harvest home.”
Go out in the highways and search them all; The wheat may be there, though the weeds are tall;
The fields are all rip’nng, and far and wide The world now is waiting the harvest tide; But reapers are few, and the work is great, And much will be lost should the harvest wait.
So come with your sickles, ye sons of men, And gather together the golden grain; Toil on till the Lord of the harvest come, Then share ye his joy in the “harvest    home.”
Chorus: Where are the reapers? O who will come And share in the glory of the       “harvest home” O, who will help us to garner in The sheaves of good from the fields of sin?
 
No. 570, Hold On (J. P. Ellis)
If your hand’s on the plow, hold on, hold on; Tho’ the soil may be sterile and hard,           The plowshare will make the fallow ground break, And the plowman will have his                   reward; Earth’s bosom will sparkle with emerald green, And its grain will be golden king; The reapers will come, with loud “Harvest Home,” and the gleaners will joyfully sing.
 
No. 715, Sow In the Morn (W. F. Lloyd)
Sow in the morn thy seed; At eve hold not thy hand; To doubt and fear give thou no heed; Broadcast it o’er the land.
Then, when the glorious end, The day of God, shall come, The angel reapers shall descend, And heav’n shout “Harvest Home.”
 
No. 718, The World Is Very Evil (J. Neale)
The world is very evil, The times are waxing late; Be sober and keep vigil; The Judge is at the gate,—The judge who comes in mercy, The Judge who comes in Might,—Who comes to end the evil, Who comes to crown the right.