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The Tolling Bell

Representative Text

1 Oft as the bell, with solemn toll,
Speaks the departure of a soul,
Let each one ask himself, "Am I
Prepared, should I be called to die?"

2 Only this frail and fleeting breath
Preserves me with the jaws of death;
Soon as it fails, at once I'm gone,
And plunged into a world unknown.

3 Then, leaving all I loved below,
To God's tribunal I must go;
Must hear the Judge pronounce my fate,
And fix my everlasting state.

4 Lord Jesus! help me now to flee,
And seek my hope alone in Thee;
Apply Thy blood, Thy Spirit give,
Subdue my sin, and let me live.

5 Then, when the solemn bell I hear,
If saved from guilt, I need not fear;
Now would the thought alarming be,
Perhaps it next may toll for me.

Source: The Book of Worship #418

Author: John Newton

John Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumul¬≠tuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas √† Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Oft as the bell, with solemn toll
Title: The Tolling Bell
Author: John Newton
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


Oft as the bell with solemn toll. J. Newton. [Death and Burial.] First published in his Twenty Six Letters on Religious Subjects by Omicron. 1774, in 7 stanzas of 4 lines, and entitled "The Passing Bell." It was repeated in the same year in R. Conyers's Collection of Psalms & Hymns, No. 364, and again in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Book ii., No. 74. It is found in its full, or in an abridged form, in a few modern collections. In R. Bingham's Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, stanzas i., iii., v., vi. are rendered into Latin as "Ah! quoties animam solito campana sonore."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



Composed by George J. Elvey (PHH 48) in 1862 for 'Just as I Am, without One Plea" (263), ST. CRISPIN was first published in the 1863 edition of Edward Thorne's Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes. The tune title honors a third-century Roman martyr, Crispin, who, along with Crispinian, preached in Gaul…

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Lowell Mason (PHH 96) composed HAMBURG (named after the German city) in 1824. The tune was published in the 1825 edition of Mason's Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music. Mason indicated that the tune was based on a chant in the first Gregorian tone. HAMBURG is a very simple tune with…

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Instances (1 - 1 of 1)

The Cyber Hymnal #8563

Include 77 pre-1979 instances
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