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Onward! Christian Soldiers
Matthew 16:18
ST. GERTRUDE  |  Hymn History  |  Bible Passage
Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924
Musician: Arthur Sullivan, 1842-1900

  Play Music | MP3 • Click to listen to the music for this hymn.

Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus Going on before:
Christ the royal Master Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, See, His banners go.

Refrain:
Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

At the name of Jesus, Satan's host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, On to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver At the shout of praise:
Brothers, lift your voices; Loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army Moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided, All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus Constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never 'Gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ's own promise, And that cannot fail.

Onward, then, ye people, Join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices In the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor Unto Christ the King;
This thro' countless ages Men and angels sing.



HYMN HISTORY:

It was a sunny Sunday morning on August 10,1941. The British battleship Prince of Wales was at anchor in the spacious Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, and on her wide quarter-deck a happy crowd of British and American sailors were gathered for church parade. Facing the great camouflage guns were sitting two famous men - Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill - singing heartily with the sailors,

Onward! Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

Together the two men had chosen the hymns for this church parade at which the American and British sailors stood shoulder to shoulder, a symbol of what was to come later in the same year.

Churchill's choices were "Our God Our help In Ages Past", and "Onward Christian Soldiers." Roosevelt pleaded for "Eternal Father Strong To Save", too, and so the three great hymns rose through the still morning air at this historic meeting where the Atlantic Charter was signed.

After he returned home across the dangerous ocean waves Churchill broadcast to the British people about the hymn singing:

'We sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" and indeed, I felt that this was no vain presumption but that we had the right to feel that we were serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high. When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals... it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.'

So the hymn which Baring-Gould wrote in 1865 for his Sunday School children to march to in their procession through the village street of Horbury Brig was lifted on this occasion to a marching song for all the free peoples.
The hymn's third verse,

We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity

was certainly written with an eye on the Horbury children as they marched in unity and unison. No doubt it was that vision too which inspired Winston Churchill as he looked over the quarter-deck of the Prince of Wales on that sunlit morning in 1941 and saw the young sailors of the old and new worlds standing and singing together.


BIBLE PASSAGE:

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.



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