Archive for March, 2009

Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs: the Music of Early Oneness Believers

6 March, 2009

Music has always been an integral part of the Pentecostal Movement. Bro. Howard Goss, an early Pentecostal pioneer, devoted a chapter of his book, Winds of God, to the advent of Pentecostal music, which he described as “joyous” and an attractive alternative to the mournful worship of traditional churches. Songs were sung “almost at breakneck speed,” and the passionate praises penetrated the souls of saints and sinners alike:

This crescendo of joyous, happy people singing unto the Lord was infectious. The sound of victorious Christian living wrapped around you. Unperceived, it seemed to slip down gently into the deeps of your affections, to tap at your heart’s door, and unsuspected, spread warmly through your entire being. (Goss 208-209)

Bro. Goss saw Pentecostal music as an important and indispensable element of the early revival: “Without it the Pentecostal Movement could have never made the rapid inroads into the hearts of men and women as it did. Neither could we have experienced a constant, victorious revival over the ensuing fifty years, one in which thousands have been accepted, sealed, and shipped through the world in bond, waiting for the appearance of the Lord” (Goss 212).

The centrality of music in the promotion of Pentecostal worship and an abiding spiritual anointing have produced a number of prolific songwriters. When the Oneness Movement emerged after 1913, Apostolics began to pen new hymns intimating the Oneness stand for full Bible truth and melodiously conveying the doctrines of the Mighty God in Christ, the New Birth, and holy living.

The catalog of Apostolic songwriters is an impressive roll call of some of God’s finest preachers and early Pentecostal laborers including: Garfield THaywood, Sis. S.K. Grimes, Alexander R. Schooler, Thoro Harris, Robert C. Lawson, William Booth-Clibborn, and George Farrow. *

G.T. Haywood, first Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is perhaps the most beloved of all Oneness composers. His songs “I See a Crimson Stream of Blood” and “Jesus, the Son of God” gained widespread popularity even outside of the Oneness movement. Many of his hymns, published in The Bridegroom Songs, a hymnal printed at Christ Temple, his Indianapolis church, are distinctly Apostolic. The chorus of “Do All in Jesus’ Name” copyrighted in 1923 says:

Preach in Jesus name, teach in Jesus name,
Heal the sick in His name and always proclaim
It was Jesus’ Name in which the power came;
Baptize in His Name, enduring the shame,
For there is vict’ry in Jesus’ name.
Similarly, the refrain of Haywood’s “The Lord of Lords” says:
He’s Lord of lords and King of kings,
The Beginning and the end,
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The dying sinner’s Friend.
If you will hear His voice,
Be buried in His name,
Then the Comforter will come to abide.

Haywood was a tireless defender of Oneness doctrine; and when he died in April 1931, he left behind not only scores of hymns and a large body of apologetic tracts, sermons, and books.

Sis. S.K. Grimes also authored many songs. She and her husband, Samuel J. Grimes, served as Apostolic missionaries in Liberia for a number of years, and Grimes succeeded Bishop Haywood as leader of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1932. One of her most poignant hymns is aptly entitled “Acts 2:38”:

O what will you do with Acts two thirty-eight?
The way that leads to life is narrow and straight.
“Repent and be baptized,” God is speaking do not wait.
He gives you full directions there in Acts two thirty-eight.

Other significant hymns celebrating the Oneness of God and the Name of Jesus include “The Great I Am” and “Jesus, the Joy of My Soul.”
A.R. Schooler, one of the original PAW bishops from Cleveland, Ohio, wrote a number of distinctly Apostolic songs such as “The Name”, and “God Died for Me.” His 1920 hymn “The Author and the Finisher” proclaims in part: “His word we will obey/In the water we’ll be buried in His name.” Schooler’s “The Bible Manifestation” is an interesting example of Apostolic hymnody. The lyrics are openly critical of apostate denominationalism, which have “left the path apostles trod.” The song defends Pentecostal norms such as speaking in tongues, the anointing “of the sick/By the bishopric”, foot washing, and communion, and militantly declares: “I’ll arise and stand by the Bible manifestation/I’ll stand until the Lord shall come.”
Schooler also co-wrote many hymns with Thoro Harris, pastor of the Lake Street Mission in Chicago, Illinois, and one of the most fruitful and widely published Pentecostal musicians. Harris, whose most famous tune is unquestionably “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, wrote scores of hymns like “Pentecost in My Soul” and “All That Thrills my Soul is Jesus.” He was one of the first musicians to produce exclusively Pentecostal hymnals: The Blessed Hope (1910), Jesus Is Coming Soon (1914), Songs of His Coming (1919), and Songs We Love (1921).

Robert C. Lawson, who left the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World to found the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, also contributed a large number of songs to the Pentecostal repertoire. In “Praise Our God”, Lawson summates the Oneness view of Jesus Christ:

He overshadowed the Virgin Mary,
Was born a babe in Beth’lem cradle
God vailed [sic] in flesh,
His name was Jesus
Being interpreted was God with us.

Two of his most memorable hymns are “God is Great in My Soul” and “His Name Should be Praised” which boldly states: “I will praise Him for the ev’ning light/That I have entered in/Which shows us that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are One;/Oh praise the Lord ‘’tis finished’, On Calvary ‘twas done!”

William Booth-Clibborn was the grandson of William Booth, the illustrious founder of the Salvation Army. Booth-Clibborn was a powerful Pentecostal evangelist and authored one of the most beloved Oneness compositions, “Down from His Glory.” This majestic song inspired in 1921 declares the glory of Christ, the incarnate God:

Down from His glory, ever living story,
My God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name;
Born in a manger to His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony!

What condescension, bringing us redemption,
That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight,
God gracious, tender laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul!

Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan;
O glorious myst’ry sacrifice of Calv’ry!
And now I know He is the great “I AM”!
Chorus: Oh how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!

Perhaps the most well-known anthem of Oneness Pentecostalism is George Farrow’s “It’s All in Him”, which so clearly delineates the inter-testamental Oneness revelation of Jesus Christ as the manifest Jehovah God:

The Mighty God is Jesus, the Prince of Peace is He
The Everlasting Father, the King eternally,
The wonderful in wisdom by whom all things were made.
The fullness of the Godhead in Jesus is display’d.

Emmanuel, God with us, Jehovah Lord of hosts,
The omnipresent Spirit who fills the universe,
The Advocate, the High Priest, the Lamb for sinners slain,
The Author of redemption, O glory to His name!

The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End,
The Living Word incarnate, the helpless sinner’s Friend.
Our wisdom and perfection, our righteousness and pow’r
Yea, all we need is Jesus, we find this very hour

‘Our God for whom we’ve waited,’ will be the glad refrain
Of Israel recreated when Jesus comes again.
Lo! He will come and save us, our King and Priest to be,
For in Him dwells all fullness, and Lord of all is He!

Chorus: It’s all in Him, it’s all in Him,
The fullness of the Godhead is all in Him.
It’s all in Him, it’s all in Him,
The Mighty God is Jesus, and it’s all in Him!

The hymns of early Apostolic believers were inspired by deep spirituality and the freshness of Bible revelations. They were simultaneously anointed and apologetic, glorifying Christ and intimating the deep truths of the Scriptures. The popularity of many of these hymns lasted throughout the early decades of the Oneness movement. Sadly, today their lyrics and tunes are virtually unknown to Apostolic young people, and many of the Oneness songs are indeed endangered. But the musical contributions of our Pentecostal predecessors make up an important part of our Apostolic heritage, and it is the responsibility of the contemporary Church to rediscover and revive the powerful songs of Zion that remain relevant to our strong stand for Acts 2:38 salvation and New Testament doctrine of the Mighty God in Christ, passing from generation to generation the “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” that so clearly articulate the message of “the faith once delivered unto the saints”, born in the Spirit-fueled conflagration of early Pentecostalism and the rich experiences of our Apostolic ancestors.

Sources:

Goss, Ethel. The Winds of God: the Story of the Early Pentecostal Days (1901-1914) in the Life of Howard A. Goss. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1977.

Hymns taken from The Bridegroom Songs Indianapolis: Christ Temple, 1924 and Pentecostal Praises. St. Louis: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1947.