555. Lead On, O King Eternal

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1 Lead on, O King eternal,
the day of march has come;
henceforth in fields of conquest
your tents will be our home.
Through days of preparation
your grace has made us strong;
and now, O King eternal,
we lift our battle song.

2 Lead on, O King eternal,
till sin's fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper
the sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords' loud clashing
or roll of stirring drums
with deeds of love and mercy
the heavenly kingdom comes.

3 Lead on, O King eternal;
we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning
where'er your face appears.
Your cross is lifted o'er us,
we journey in its light;
the crown awaits the conquest;
lead on, O God of might.

Text Information
First Line: Lead on, O King eternal
Title: Lead On, O King Eternal
Author: Ernest W. Shurtleff (1888, alt.)
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: 76 76 D
Scripture: ; ; ; ;
Topic: King, God/Christ as; Love: Our Love for Others; Society/Social Concerns (5 more...)
Language: English
Tune Information
Composer: Henry T. Smart (1836)
Meter: 76 76 D
Key: C Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Eph. 6:10
st. 2 = Luke 4:18-19, Isa.61:1-2
st. 3 = 2 Tim. 4:7-8

With the encouragement of his fellow graduating classmates, Ernest W. Shurtleff (Boston, MA, 1862; d. Paris, France, 1917) wrote this text in 1887 for Andover Theological Seminary's commencement ceremonies. Winning immediate acclaim, the text was published in Shurtleff's Hymns of the Faith that same year. Since that publication it has appeared in many American hymnals.

Graduation is one milestone on our life's journey, a road sign that points to the future as much as it marks the end of formal education. Consequently, "Lead On, O King Eternal" is a battle call to go forward in Christian service. Initially laced with war imagery, the text moves on to biblical imagery-"deeds of love and mercy"-and concludes with a note of eschatological hope. This message is as urgent today as it was a hundred years ago.

Before studying at Andover, Shurtleff attended Harvard University. He served Congregational churches in Ventura, California; Old Plymouth, Massachusetts; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, before moving to Europe. In 1905 he established the American Church in Frankfurt, and in 1906 he moved to Paris, where he was involved in student ministry at the Academy Vitti. During World War I he and his wife were active in refugee relief work in Paris. Shurtleff wrote a number of books, including Poems (1883), Easter Gleams (1885), Song of Hope (1886), and Song on the Waters (1913).

Liturgical Use:
A fine recessional hymn; appropriate many other times of worship, including ordination/ commissioning, church education graduations, and occasions that mark the beginning of a church program.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

LANCASHIRE is a suitably rousing march tune to accompany this text. Henry T. Smart (PHH 233) composed the tune in 1835 for use at a missions festival at Blackburn, Lancashire, England. For that festival, which celebrated the three-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in England, the tune was set to Reginald Heber's (PHH 249) “From Greenland's Icy Mountains.” First printed in leaflets, LANCASHIRE was published In Smart's Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867). It was set to Shurtleffs text in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal. In some hymnals this tune is associated with "The Day of
Resurrection" (390).

Initially cast over a static bass, LANCASHIRE becomes quite animated in its third phrase. Sing and accompany with much energy and rhythmic vitality.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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