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Weekly Devotions

Weekly articles written to encourage, challenge, and inspire Christians.

Bringing Back the Lost Art of Hymn Writing Part 3

Langstaff Oversight

  It is great to see all of the new hymns that are starting to be developed  from those in the assembly and I trust this will only continue.  Like many things in assembly life, hymn writing does take practice and oftentimes, life experience. This devotional is dedicated to one final principle of hymn writing, and that is in the area of collaboration and team work.  Like in assembly life, no one brother or sister has been given all of the spiritual gifts.  It is really only through a healthy assembly that we see how God is truly able to use us all to our full potential through the Spirit's leading power.  With that said, I will end this study on hymn writing by telling a story of how team work was so integral to a great hymn of the faith we often sing today.


Elisha A. Hoffman

Elisha Hoffman was born to Christian parents on May 7th 1839 in Pennsylvania, USA.  As a young boy, Elisha always remembered his parents devotional time with the family, both in the morning and in the evening.  At each opening of God's word to the children, the family would sing a few hymns together.  His parents were great singers and though Elisha never undertook formal musical studies, he had a natural musical talent that started to develop itself in the home.  After undertaking his school studies in Philadelphia, Elisha went on to become a full time preacher like his father.  During those years of preaching, he further developed his musical skills and ended up writing over 2,000 hymns, many of which are still in print today.  In addition, he also compiled over 50 different song books, some of which went into large print and were of great benefit to many believers in his time.  Some of his more famous gospel hymns that we often sing today in our assembly and that you would likely recognize include:

Are you washed in the blood?

First Verse:

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in blood of the Lamb?

Down at the cross

First Verse:

Down at the cross where my Saviour died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

Where will you spend Eternity?

First Verse:

Where will you spend eternity?
This question comes to you and me!
Tell me, what shall your answer be?
Where will you spend eternity?

Eternity! Eternity!
Where will you spend eternity?

What a wonderful Saviour!  

First Verse:

Christ has for sin atonement made
What a wonderful Saviour!
We are redeemed, the price is paid
What a wonderful Saviour!

There is one hymn, though, of Elisha Hoffman that comes to mind, which took team work and collaboration to fully develop.  That help came from Anthony J Showalter.  

Anthony Showalter

Anthony Showalter was born on May 1st, 1858 in Virginia, USA.  Unlike Elisha, he was formally trained at Ruebush-Kieffer School of Music and though he was almost 20 years younger than Elisha, the two of them would work together on what would become one of the greatest hymns for generations.  In fact, as a music composer, this would be the most famous hymn that Anthony Showalter would be associated with among his many works. 

The Hymn

Elisha Hoffman wrote a poem with three verse, entitled: 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms'.  The poem turned out to be a great resource for a number of people experiencing trials.  Two men, who had both lost their wives, were greatly comforted by the words of the poem, and so they asked their mutual friend, Anthony Showalter, if he could establish a tune and write a chorus to the beautiful verses.  Anthony Showalter did just that and from the work of both Elisha and Anthony, we now enjoy this beautiful hymn:

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.



Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.


O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Many hymns were fully composed by more than one contributor like this beautiful hymn.  May the history behind this hymn teach us all the importance of team work and collaboration in christian living.  It just might be that the Lord will use a number of us together to fully develop a devotional or meditation into a spiritual song like Elisha and Anthony; one that can be used for the generations to come (if the Lord does not return), in worship, praise, and in future gospel endeavours.