Come, Christians, Join to Sing | Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Come, Christians, Join to Sing | Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Liturgy Lessons: April 30, 2017
Call to Worship: Hebrews 4:14-16
Opening Hymn: Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#302)
Confession: Rom 7:7-12 & 21-23
Assurance: Rom 7:24-25 & 8:1-4
Songs of Assurance: Rock of Ages (#500); We Will Glorify
Catechism/Congregational Prayers
Doxology: #731
Sermon: Pastor Irwin
Supper: Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands; We Will Feast in the House of Zion
Closing Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#598)

Come, Christians, Join to Sing
Words: Christian H. Bateman, 1843
Music: MADRID, Traditional Spanish Melody

Originally titled “Come, children, join to sing,” this is the most popular hymn of the 19th-century Scottish-born minister Christian Henry Bateman (1813-1889). After studying in the Moravian church (Czech Republic), Bateman was employed by congregational churches in Scotland and England before taking Holy Orders at the age of 56. He served the Anglican church as curate and vicar until his death in 1889. This hymn was originally published in the 1843 collection Sacred Melodies for Children, and it is a revised version of an earlier hymn “Join Now in Praise, and Sing,” published in the popular education songbook Singing Master (1836) by William Hickson. Google Books describes Singing Master as “The work of a wealthy radical, this book enjoyed immense circulation in schools throughout the English-speaking world for many years. The important preface presents new arguments for the teaching of music in schools; and the collection of children’s songs which follows established the Moral Song as standard fare in 19th-century classrooms.” We are uncertain of Bateman’s motivation in rewriting the text, but his revisions were welcome and necessary as the hymn found its way from schoolroom to sanctuary. He provided a slight theological upgrade, while still protecting the overall spirit of uncomplicated and simple language suitable for children. Compare the first verse of Hickson’s earlier text with Bateman’s rewrite:

Join now in praise, and sing:
Hallelujah, Amen!
Praise to our heavenly King,
Hallelujah, Amen!
By love and gratitude
Still be the song renewed,
And be our hearts subdued,
Hallelujah, Amen!
Come, Children, join to sing:
Alleluia, Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King:
Alleluia, Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice,
Before his throne rejoice;
Praise is his gracious choice.
Alleluia, Amen!

Notice how very few of the words have more than two syllables, and a simple response of “Alleluia! Amen!” is interjected three times in each stanza. With kid-friendly phrases like “loud praise,” this hymn is easy for children to learn and sing. Using exhortations to “Come” and “Praise” at the start of each stanza, it invites them to join readily into the congregational singing. The second stanza speaks of a King who will “condescend” to be our “guide and friend.” It would be worth noting to children that this word, often misunderstood in our modern context, does not mean “talk down to” or “patronize,” but indicates that Christ the King humbles himself to save us.

The melody for the hymn is an anonymous folk tune from Spain, and it is a perfect match for the text because of its simple, march-like rhythms and limited vocal range. This song is like a LEGO structure built with only three kinds of bricks. Though the melody itself is 16 measures long, it contains only three patterns of repeated 2-bar phrases (ABABCCAB). Can you find them? The most memorable of these phrases is the “Alleluia, Amen!” that appears three times in each verse, and I can think of no better verbal pinball to be bouncing around in our brains. After our Easter service, our children provided several spontaneously sung and hummed versions of the “Alleluia” refrain from Wesley’s “Christ the Lord is Risen today.” This was the lasting echo of Easter on our children’s lips, and I suspect some of yours as well. After all, “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord,” and “Amen” is simply an enthusiastic agreement, as if to say “let it be!”. For those of you who feel musically challenged, and have trouble learning many of the verses in some of these songs, just latch confidently onto those “Alleluia”s. You are in good company, and if you click here you will see and hear from Mr. Bean, who gives us a wonderful example of how to sing any “Alleluia” refrain with great confidence.

Link to sheet music:
Suggested recording:

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Words: William Williams(1745)
Music: John Hughes(1907)

A great song is like marriage. The words and music unite in a mystical way. They love and serve each other at every turn of phrase, and the result is like two tributaries flowing into the same river. And, when we sing these songs, we join with the saints and angels in the ceaseless flood of praise that flows straight to the “glassy sea” (Rev. 4:6) beneath the the throne of God. Hallelujah!

The words to this Welsh hymn took 160 years to find the perfect musical setting. But what a union! The vigorous, confident, rising melody undergirds a desperate prayer for God’s provision and guidance. Like the Israelites in the desert, we can trust that God hears our prayers, provides for our needs, and delivers us to the Promised Land. He is the source AND the recipient of our unending “Songs of Praises”!

Link to music:
Link to recording (accompaniment ONLY, try singing along!):