I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, August 1, 2016


(This was another service in which I featured the testimony and music of a prolific hymn writer.  All of the songs, in this service, were written by Charles Gabriel.) 

The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [or Gentile]” (Rom. 1:16).

Charles Gabriel wrote SINCE JESUS CAME INTO MY HEART in the spring of 1914 and it was taught to those gathered for a series of Billy Sunday evangelistic meetings in Philadelphia, the following year.  A police officer, named Fowler, had been assigned to the meetings, each night, to maintain order.  God used the message of this song to convict and convert him.  Not only did he put his faith in the Savior, but during the remaining two weeks of meetings, he convinced many of his fellow officers to attend, and more than a hundred of them professed their faith in Christ.

The theme of the song is the transforming power of the gospel; Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17).  When God saves us, He works a “wonderful change” in our lives.  That is one of the evidences of true salvation.


Charles H. Gabriel was born on a farm in Iowa in 1856 and, like typical farm children, he rose before dawn to do chores before going to school.  And after school, there were more chores to be done and he often worked until dark.

When he was a teenager, Charles taught himself to play the family’s reed organ.  At age seventeen he left home and began organizing singing schools.  He had a great love for Sunday school, and although he was writing hymns, he also wrote many songs and published 24 books of music for Sunday School classes and evangelistic ministries.  He has been credited with writing between 6 and 7 thousand songs.  One of the remarkable things about Charles is that, as a self-taught musician, not only could he write good songs, he also wrote great music scores for many of them.
MY SAVIOR'S LOVE is one of our finest hymns of praise.  In it, Gabriel captured the humiliation of the Savior in His work for our salvation.  He suffered and died a terrible death under the wrath of God, as our substitute, so that we, through faith in Him, might be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life.  “How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior's love for me.”


There are many people, today, who think it’s cool to sneer at those stuffy old hymnbooks; they want to sing a lot of contemporary, ego-centric, songs that make them feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves.

Well, HE LIFTED ME is not one of those songs.  It is a classic, long-forgotten treasure that I had rediscovered just a few years ago.

Psalm 40:2 says,  "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
I was discussing this great song with a friend who explained it something like this:

“It's not like we were in danger of drowning and God threw us a lifeline to grab so that

we could save ourselves.  NO, we were hopelessly buried in the deepest sea, helplessly mired in the sand and mud.  We were dead.   And God reached down, picked us up, brought us up, and breathed new life into us.”

This is an amazing hymn.  It doesn't do much for my own self-esteem, but it does make me feel all warm and fuzzy about my Savior.


Charles Gabriel had a good friend, a minister with the Sunshine Rescue Mission in St. Louis.  His name was Ed Card; a man with an ever smiling expression that earned him the nickname, “Old Glory Face.”  It was his custom to always end his prayers with a reference to heaven, saying, "And that will be glory for me."   Also, during sermons, he would often shout, "Glory," instead of "Amen" to express his agreement.  These recurring statements of Card's faith, hope, and joy became his characteristic “signature” and that was the inspiration that moved Gabriel to write this hymn which describes that time when we shall see the Lord as He is and be like Him. 

Closing Song, SEND THE LIGHT   
Mr. Gabriel believed that his first, really successful, sacred song was SEND THE LIGHT.

Today, this hymn about world evangelism is considered one of the best missionary hymns ever written.  In a four stanza outline, he notes that some need to go, some need to give, some need to pray, but all need to persevere.

The chorus urges us onward to let the light of the Gospel of Christ shine everywhere. None of us can do everything but each can do something.  We have a great God and we are all called to be His witnesses.  We can all share the message of salvation in our world of friends and acquaintances, and where we cannot go, we should do whatever else we can to SEND THE LIGHT.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite Charles Gabriel hymns is "Where The Gates Swing Outward Never." We incorporated it into our hymnal. He wrote it after saying goodbye to his son as the son went off to fight in WW1.