WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE written in 1874
As a child raised in a log cabin in rural Pennsylvania, Philip Bliss loved music. The only musical instrument he owned was a flute his father had whittled for him from his cane. Philip hoped to buy a cheap violin, so he picked a basket of berries in the swamps and sold them door-to-door. Hearing the music from a piano coming from one house, Philip went to the door and listened… until the pianist told the barefoot 10-year-old to go away.
2 decades later, Philip was directing the music in an evangelistic crusade led by Dwight L. Moody. Philip had become well-known for his singing voice… and for the gospel songs he wrote.
When Moody’s brother-in-law, Fleming H. Revell, was launching a new religious magazine, The Words of Life, he asked Philip to write a song for the first issue. Revell suggested both the title for the song, and the text – John 6:67,68. In these verses, Jesus sees many of His followers walking away, and He asks His core of 12: “You do not want to also go away, do you?” Peter answers on behalf of the group: “Lord, to whom should we go? Only You have the words of life.”
As Revell requested, Philip wrote this gospel song: “Wonderful Words of Life”.
A few years later, he wrote these words: “I carried that song through two seasons of evangelistic work, never thinking it possessed much merit, or that it had the element of special usefulness, particularly for solo purposes. It occurred to me to try it one day during the campaign in New Haven, [Connecticut, 1878,] and, with the help of Mrs. Stebbins, we sang it as a duet. To our surprise the song was received with the greatest enthusiasm and from that time on to the close of the meetings was the favorite of all the hymns used. As an illustration of the hold it got upon the people all about that section of the country, I received a letter from the Secretary of the Connecticut State Sunday School Association offering me what seemed an absurdly large sum of money, if I would, with Mrs. Stebbins, come to the State Convention and sing that one song.”
Read this hymn, and – today – sing them over again… these wonderful words of life.
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
all so freely given, wooing us to Heaven. (Refrain)
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever. (Refrain)