Jesus Is Tenderly Calling – written in 1882

JESUS IS TENDERLY CALLING                                                              written in 1882

The Story

A blind 60-year-old songwriter, Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), and a 34-year-old musician named George Stebbins (1846-1945) teamed up to produce this tender invitation hymn.

Fanny Crosby spent most of her life in New York City, where she went to rescue missions in the Bowery neighborhood to “tenderly call” alcoholics, homeless people, and wayward teens and children to the Savior.

George Stebbins had been raised on a farm and had been introduced to music by learning to play an accordion. Soon he began a new trend in church music (careful, now!) by arranging songs for male quartets. When evangelist Dwight L. Moody went to England and Scotland, he took George – as a young man – with him… and George saw thousands of people respond to the tender call of Jesus Christ.

Shortly after George returned from England, he was given the words that Fanny Crosby had written, and he wrote the music.

God sometimes speaks through thunder and lightning, but – more often – He speaks to our hearts tenderly… with a still, small voice, saying “Come home”.

The Song

            Read these words, and – today – listen for Jesus as He tenderly calls to you.

Jesus is tenderly calling you home – Calling today, calling today.
Why from the sunshine of love will you roam farther and farther away?

Calling today, calling today, Jesus is calling, is tenderly calling today.

Jesus is calling the weary to rest – Calling today, calling today.
Bring Him your burden and you shall be blest; He will not turn you away.  (Refrain)

Jesus is waiting, oh, come to Him now – Waiting today, waiting today.
Come with your sins, at His feet lowly bow; Come, and no longer delay.  (Refrain)

Jesus is pleading, oh, list to His voice: Hear Him today, hear Him today.
They who believe on His name shall rejoice; Quickly, arise and away.  (refrain)

Sunshine In My Soul – written in 1881

SUNSHINE IN MY SOUL                                                                 written in 1881

The Story

Being a school teacher has never been an easy profession. Eliza Hewitt (1851-1920) found that out by personal experience. As a young schoolteacher in Philadelphia, PA, she was disciplining a student who responded by hitting her across her back with a heavy chalkboard. For 6 months, she was in an upper body cast. All winter long she was confined to her room.

Finally she was released and was allowed to take a short walk outside. It was a bright spring day, a day she would never forget. After she took her short walk, enjoying the azaleas of the springtime, she sat down and wrote this joyful gospel song in praise to her Savior, “Sunshine in My Soul Today”.

Eliza enlisted the services of John R. Sweeney (1837-1899), composer of many songs, including “Beulah Land”, to compose a lively melody for this happy song. The result was this hymn that still brings a smile to the face of listeners and singers, young and old alike.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – enjoy your day, regardless of whether the sun is shining on you.

There is sunshine in my soul today, more glorious and bright
than glows in any earthly sky, for Jesus is my Light.


O there’s sunshine, blessèd sunshine, when the peaceful, happy moments roll;
when Jesus shows His smiling face, there is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King,
and Jesus, listening, can hear the songs I cannot sing.  (Refrain)

There is springtime in my soul today, for, when the Lord is near,
the dove of peace sings in my heart, the flowers of grace appear.  (Refrain)

There is gladness in my soul today, and hope and praise and love,
for blessings which He gives me now, for joys “laid up” above.  (Refrain)

Ye Must Be Born Again – written in 1881

YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN                                                           written in 1881

The Story

George Stebbins (1846-1945) was considered one of the better song leaders of his day. For a quarter-century, he led the music for the large Northfield Bible Conference, begun by Dwight L. Moody, and also led the music for many other Bible conferences.

George was leading the music for crusades meetings preached by Dr. George Pentecost when he heard him preach a sermon about Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7); he thought that should be made into a gospel song. With just a little moving around, he thought the words fell into a rhythmic form. But, George was a musician, not a songwriter… so he called on a local pastor, William Sleeper (1819-1904), to help him.

William’s call in life was to start churches. He planted 3 churches in Maine and 1 in Massachusetts. In the course of his work, he met George Stebbins. One day, George told William his idea concerning this song, and in a few days William wrote the words to this song.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – challenge yourself with this song’s message; have YOU been born again?

A ruler once came to Jesus by night

to ask Him the way of salvation and light;
the Master made answer in words true and plain,

“Ye must be born again.”


“Ye must be born again.  Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee, ye must be born again.”

Ye children of men, attend to the word

so solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
and let not this message to you be in vain,

“Ye must be born again.”  (Chorus)

O ye who would enter that glorious rest,

and sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
the life everlasting if ye would obtain,

“Ye must be born again.”  (Chorus)

A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see,

at the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
then list’ to the note of this solemn refrain,
“Ye must be born again.”  (Chorus)

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus – written in 1880

TELL ME THE STORY OF JESUS                                               written in 1880

The Story

            Most people like to listen to stories. In this gospel song, Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), the blind hymn-writer, asks to be told the story of Jesus (as I’m sure she’d asked others to read stories to her many times throughout her life)… and in the process of asking, she tells the story of Jesus herself.

The first verse of this song tells of the birth, with the choir of angels singing.

The second verse tells of His ministry on earth; despised, afflicted, homeless, rejected, and poor.

The third verse tells of His death and resurrection, concluding with that great line: “Love paid the ransom for me.”

The fourth verse tells of His continued ministry for us from Heaven.

Many people today do not know that wonderful story. We often find it easier to talk about our church instead of talking about Jesus. But, is it possible there are many around us who are asking us to tell them the story of Jesus? Let’s tell them the story!

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – tell someone the story of Jesus!

Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;
tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!  Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word;
tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.

Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past,
how for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor, tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.  (Refrain)

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain;
tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see;
stay, let me weep while you whisper, “Love paid the ransom for me.”  (Refrain)

Tell how He’s gone back to heaven, up to the right hand of God:
how He is there interceding while on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit He has poured out from above;
tell how He’s coming in glory for all the saints of His love.  (Refrain)

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling – written in 1880

SOFTLY AND TENDERLY JESUS IS CALLING                       written in 1880

The Story

Will Thompson (1847-1909) was called “the Bard of Ohio”. Leaving his home in East Liverpool, Ohio, he went to New York City to sell some of the secular songs he had written. Music people picked them up, and soon people across the country were singing “My Home on the Old Ohio” and “Gathering Shells from the Seashore”. He made so much money from his compositions that newspapers called him “the millionaire songwriter”.

But Will was a Christian, and he soon turned his focus more to hymnwriting. After he set up his own firm for publishing hymnals, he sold 2 million copies of his gospel-quartet books. Sometime around 1880, when Will was 37-years-old, he wrote this invitation hymn, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”.

Recognizing that many people in the rural parts of the United States would never hear evangelists like Moody or song-leaders like Sankey in person, “the millionaire songwriter” loaded an upright piano on a 2-horse wagon and drove into the Ohio countryside to sing his gospel songs in the smaller villages and towns of his state.

Will was a member of the Churches of Christ, where several of his hymns and gospel songs continue in use. “Softly and Tenderly” is the most widely known of his compositions, and has far-outlasted its origins in the American Restoration Movement. It is among the most widely translated gospel songs, and has spread appealingly into the repertoire of various congregations.

Allegedly, when evangelist Dwight L. Moody was in the hospital – barred from seeing visitors, Thompson had arrived; Moody insisted that Thompson be let in, whereupon Moody told him: “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

“Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home”.  The invitation still stands…

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – listen for the soft and tender call of Jesus.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, mercies for you and for me?


Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me;
shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me.  (Refrain)

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me.  (Refrain)

Hymns Of The 1880s

            The 1880’s is often a neglected decade in the study of American history. Lying between Reconstruction and “The Gay Nineties”, it is largely ignored by historians. There were no big wars, and no serious financial depressions; yet, during this 10-year period, there were many significant beginnings and endings.  There was a unique financial problem in the federal government, and there were a host of personalities who are still famous today.

In 1889, four states joined the Union (North & South Dakota, Montana, and Washington), and the population increased 13 million to a total of 63 million.  It was the height of the Victorian Age (named after Queen Victoria of England).  It was a time of sentimental songs and “gingerbread” architecture… a time when small boys were dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits, women wore corsets and bustles, and boxers and baseball players didn’t wear gloves.  Doctors ran the local drugstore, teachers received a 25-cent/week raise after teaching 5 years, and there was no personal income tax.  Railroads were moving into their glory years, steamboats were on the decline, and city transportation consisted mostly of trolley cars and bicycles.

In the 1880’s the great cattle drives from Texas were dying out, buffalo were being killed to the point of extinction, and the remaining Indian nations were once again “resettled” into smaller reservations.  The Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had previously guaranteed Negroes equal accommodations in public facilities, was declared unconstitutional.

Immigrants from Europe were flooding into the country, unions were organizing to fight low wages and unsafe working conditions, and people were moving from farms to cities, building the urban base that was to become 20th-Century America.

Standard Oil Co. controlled 90% of the nation’s oil business.  By 1889, four railroads had been built to the west coast (meaning one could travel coast to coast in 7 days).  Women could vote in some states, but not in national elections.  The following magazines began publishing in the 1880’s: National Geographic, Popular Science, Cosmopolitan, McCalls, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping.

Most schools consisted of 1 or 2 rooms.  In rural areas, classes were held for about 5 months each year, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day.  Colleges were not co-ed.  There were no medical schools; doctors learned from on the job training.  Postage was reduced from 3 cents to 2 cents.  The most popular novel was Ben Hur.

1880: Salvation Army was established in America; James Garfield was elected President; Electric street lamps were introduced in Wabash, IN.

1881:  A famous Gunfight was held at the O.K. Corral; The American Red Cross was Founded; President Garfield was assassinated; Chester A. Arthur became President; Sitting Bull surrendered; Billy the Kid was killed.

1882:  Jesse James was killed; The Knights of Columbus was established; Congress passed an Immigration Act that established a 50-cent head tax on each immigrant.

1883:  The Brooklyn Bridge was completed; The US was divided into 4 time zones.

1884:  Grover Cleveland was elected President; Baseball pitchers were now allowed to throw overhand; Mark Twain completed “Huckleberry Finn”.

1885:  The Washington Monument was complete; Low-wheeled bicycles were introduced; Electric trolley cars were introduced.

1886:  The Statue of Liberty was dedicated; Richard Sears published his first mail order catalog; Geronimo was captured; the A.F. of L was founded.

1887:  The Surplus in the US Treasury reached $100 million; the Interstate Commerce Act passed.

1888:  Benjamin Harrison was elected President; the Catcher’s mitt was introduced; Casey at the Bat was written; George Eastman introduced the “Kodak” camera.

1889:  The Johnstown Flood happened; John L. Sullivan won the last bare-knuckle championship; the Oklahoma Land Rush occurred; Edison put motion pictures on film.

By 1890: The frontier was “officially” closed.


But, there were also many great hymns written in the 1880s.  Check out these hymns … just a few of those written.  One of the hymns written in the 1880s is usually picked in most people’s Top 3 Favorite Hymns (I’ll let you decide which one that is)!  Maybe your favorite was one of those new songs written in the 1880s…

1880:  Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling; Tell Me the Story of Jesus

1881:  Ye Must be Born Again; Sunshine in My Soul

1882:  Jesus Is Tenderly Calling; O Love That Will Not Let Me Go;

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Faith Is the Victory; Take Time to Be Holy;


1883:  There Shall Be Showers of Blessing; I Know Whom I Have Believed;

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

1885:  How Great Thou Art ; The Unclouded Day; At the Cross

1886:  Standing on the Promises; Higher Ground; I Will Sing the Wondrous Story;

Holy Spirit, Breathe on Me

1887:  Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; Trust and Obey; Lead On, O King Eternal;

More about Jesus; I’ve a Message from the Lord

1888:  O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Breathe On Me, Breath Of God – written in 1878

BREATHE ON ME, BREATH OF GOD                                        written in 1878

The Story

Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), the writer of this hymn, was a very educated man. He could string together sentences filled with polysyllabic words. He was a distinguished lecturer in ecclesiastical history at Oxford and a professor of classics at Trinity College in Quebec, Canada. His lectures “On the Organization of Early Christian Churches” were translated into German by the noted theologian Harnack. Few other English theologians had won European recognition for original research.

But, when it came to expressing his faith, Edwin was “as simple and unaffected as a child”. This hymn is filled with one-syllable words and is a simple, heartfelt prayer.

Edwin knew that, while the words of his hymn were simple, the meaning was profound. At man’s creation, God breathed and man “became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). At our re-creation through Jesus, the breath of God brings spiritual life and power.

This hymn is a beautiful hymn to hear… and to sing.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – imagine God breathing into you what you need for today.

Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure,
until with Thee I will one will, to do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God, blend all my soul with Thine,
until this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God, so shall I never die,
but live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.

A Child Of The King – written in 1877

A CHILD OF THE KING                                                                   written in 1877

The Story

When Harriett Buell (1834-1910) walked home from her Methodist church in Manlius, New York, one Sunday morning, she was still thinking about her pastor’s sermon. That afternoon, she wrote these words. She wanted to share the blessing she had received, so she sent her poem to her denominational magazine, The Northern Christian Advocate. A few months later, her poem was published… and Harriett assumed that was the end of it.

But, without her knowledge, a music teacher, John Sumner (1839-1918), had been praying to receive a song to replace the one he had commissioned his friend, Philip Bliss (who had recently died an untimely death), to write. When John saw the poem in the magazine, he knew his prayer had been answered… and wrote music to go with those words. And, soon, Harriett’s poem was being sung all over the country.

When Harriett wrote her poem, she entitled it, “The Child of a King”. But, in later years, the song’s title was changed to reflect the fact God is THE King of many children.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – ask yourself if you are 1) a child of the King, and – if so – 2) living like His child.

My Father is rich in houses and lands,

He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,

His coffers are full, He has riches untold.


I’m a child of the King, a child of the King:
with Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.

My Father’s own Son, the Savior of men,

once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
but now He is pleading our pardon on high,

that we may be His when He comes by and by.  Refrain

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
a sinner by choice, an alien by birth,
but I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
an heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.  Refrain

A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They’re building a palace for me over there;
though exiled from home, yet still may I sing:
all glory to God, I’m a child of the King.  Refrain

Break Thou The Bread Of Life – written in 1877

BREAK THOU THE BREAD OF LIFE                                          written in 1877

The Story

Mary Lathbury (1841-1913) was the daughter of a Methodist minister, and the sister to 2 Methodist ministers. She was better known as a commercial artist than as a hymnwriter, and her illustrations appeared regularly in popular American magazines. But she was concerned about superficial Christianity. So many Christians didn’t seem to have any depth. Their Bible reading only scratched the surface, and they had no understanding of how culture and education could enrich their Christian lives.

During the summers, Mary often vacationed at Lake Chautauqua in New York, and shared her burden with others who vacationed there at the same time. Soon the Chautauqua movement was founded. Mixing Christian inspiration, culture, and education, the movement spread rapidly across the country. Knowing Mary’s concern that people study the Bible to get into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, the leader of the movement asked her to write a hymn that would serve as their Assembly Anthem.

This hymn is often sung as a Communion hymn in churches today, primarily because of its reference to “bread”. But Mary actually wrote it to encourage Christians to go “beyond the sacred page” of their Bible and let Jesus reveal Himself to them as they read the “bread of life”.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – thank God for the gift of Scripture.

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
my spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!

Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
as Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my all in all.

Thou art the Bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
give me to eat and live with Thee above;
teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.

O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
that He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
and in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.

Trusting Jesus – written in 1876

TRUSTING JESUS                                                                                      written in 1876

The Story

            Edgar P. Stites (1836-1921) was active in the Civil War… and then was later a riverboat pilot… and still later became a missionary to the frontier churches in South Dakota.

The lyrics of this hymn first appeared as a poem in a newspaper; the poem was written by Edgar. They were given to Ira Sankey’s partner, Dwight Moody, an evangelist, who then asked Sankey (1840-1908), who was the soloist and song leader for Moody’s crusades, to write music for them. Sankey said he would, on the condition Moody would vouch for the doctrine taught in the verses… and Moody said he would. This hymn was published in 1876.

This hymn has a difficult timing to lead… a slow, rhythmic timing.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – focus on trust Jesus… that is all.

Simply trusting ev’ry day, trusting thro’ a stormy way;

even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus, that is all.


Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by;

trusting Him whate’er befall, trusting Jesus, that is all.


Brightly does His Spirit shine into this poor heart of mine;

while He leads I cannot fall; trusting Jesus, that is all.  (Chorus)


Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear;

if in danger for Him call; trusting Jesus, that is all.  (Chorus)


Trusting Him while life shall last, trusting Him till earth be past;

till within the jasper wall, trusting Jesus, that is all.  (Chorus)