Higher Ground

There are many songs in our repertoire that are favorites of individuals and congregations because they contain the magic combination of an upbeat tempo, a positive message and generally memorable lyrics. “Higher Ground” is one such song. In fact, it is so well-liked that we have two versions in circulation, the original version and a more recent version that changes the musical time signature from 3/4 to 4/4 and has the male voices singing a counter-melody. The original is a staple of hymnals, while the variation appears in Hymns for Worship (Supplement) and some “home-made” church supplements. The overall message of the song is the Christian’s desire to continue to move toward the goal of heaven. Continue reading

In the Hour of Trial (1)

James Montgomery (1771–1854) is considered by many to have been one of the foremost hymnists of the first half of the 19th century. He was both a lyricist and an editor of hymnals, perhaps best known on the latter front for The Christian Psalmist (1825), wherein he penned an essay that offered a commentary on quality in the writing of sacred verse. He is generally credited for some 400 texts; some sources list more than 650, but in scanning the list, many appear to be variations of the same base text.

There are several of Montgomery’s texts which endured in the repertoire of God’s people. One such is the hymn, “In the Hour of Trial.” The title itself comes from Revelation 3.10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (NKJV). The focus of the text, especially in the first verse, is Peter’s denial of Jesus at the latter’s trial. Thus, the title takes on a double meaning. On one hand, it can refer to the literal hour in which Jesus was being tried by the Jews. On the other, the primary meaning is our own “hour of trial,” when we face temptation. Continue reading