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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Sunday, May 21, 2017


        At six weeks old Fanny Crosby developed an infection in her eyes.  Her doctor treated them with a mustard paste.  Fanny screamed with pain and her parents begged the doctor to remove the ointment. 

       But he insisted that it be left on her eyes for a full day to kill the infection.  When it was finally removed, the damage was done.  Her corneas were severely burned and Fanny spent her entire life in total blindness.

       About a year later her father died and her 21-year-old mother took a job as a maid to provide for herself and her daughter.  So Fanny was left in the care of her grandmother, Eunice, who devoted her life to raising and educating her granddaughter.  Eunice spent many hours reading the Bible to Fanny.  She taught her the importance of prayer and a close relationship with God.  

       Fanny had an amazing capacity for memorizing large passages of Scripture. She could quote the entire Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.  

       She considered her blindness a blessing from God.   She wrote, "It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it.  I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things around me."

       That attitude was evident early in her life.  When she was just eight years old, she wrote this poem:
"Oh, what a happy soul am I!   
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world,  
Contented, I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,  
That other people don't.
To weep and sigh because I'm blind,  
I cannot and I won't."

       Those words remind us of Paul’s admonition to the church in Philippi.  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.”

       Fanny Crosby was the most prolific gospel songwriter in American History.  She wrote nearly 9000 hymns.  Her eyes were blind but her spiritual sight was razor sharp.  Many of her songs contain allusions to the day when she would finally see her Savior.   Here are some examples that you might recognize:

In “BLESSED ASSURANCE,” she wrote, “Visions of rapture now burst on my sight.

Or “HE HIDETH MY SOUL in the cleft of the rock, where rivers of pleasure I see.”

In ALL THE WAY MY SAVIOR LEADS ME, are the words, “Lo! A spring of joy I see.

And in, TO GOD BE THE GLORY, “But purer and higher and greater will be, Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Or in, TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS; a story of love “so tender, clearer than ever I see.”

“NEAR THE CROSS! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;”

REDEEMED has this phrase, “I know I shall see in His beauty, the King in whose law I delight;”

And in GIVE ME JESUS, these words; “let me view His constant smile.”

       Fanny once told her mother, "if I had a choice, I would choose to remain blind ... for when I die; the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my blessed Saviour."

       That remark may have been her inspiration for at least a couple songs; MY SAVIOR FIRST OF ALL has these great lyrics; “When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide, when the bright and glorious morning I shall see; I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, and His smile will be the first to welcome me.”

Or this one that we will sing today; And I shall see Him Face to Face and Tell the Story, SAVED BY GRACE.

1.  Someday the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

2.  Someday my earthly house will fall;
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in heav’n for me.
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

3.  Someday, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessed Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

4.  Someday: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior ope's the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

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