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The Midweek Hymn: Who is on the Lord’s Side?


TWENTY Tory MPs have urged the Prime Minister to allow churches to re-open as soon as next month. They ask why shoppers can go to a busy supermarket but worshippers in need of spiritual sustenance may not pray in a largely empty church.

Quite. It is in this spirit that I have chosen this week’s hymn as a question to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who went even further than the government in ordering clergy not to enter their own churches. What a message that sends! As I have said before, I find it shameful that the church has bolted its doors when it is most needed, and I know it has caused distress to clergy and congregations alike, not to mention those who are not churchgoers but who would have appreciated the solace.

The words of Who is on the Lord’s Side? were written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879). Her father was rector of St Peter’s parish church, Astley, Worcestershire. At the age of seven she wrote verses. As a child she felt herself a sinner, and this feeling was intensified when her mother died when Frances was only 11. At 14 she was sent to a boarding school run by a Mrs Teed, and she later wrote that the following year ‘I committed my soul to the Saviour, and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment’. She mastered French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the last two so that she might better understand the Bible.

Later she was sent to a boarding school in Germany where the other girls did not share her religious feelings. She wrote home that she found the atmosphere ‘very bracing’ and added: ‘I must walk worthy of my calling.’

Visiting Ireland when she was 20, Miss Havergal left this impression on an Irish schoolgirl: ‘We were in a great state of delight at the thought of seeing “the little English lady”. In a few seconds Miss Frances, carolling like a bird, flashed into the room. Flashed! Yes, I say the word advisedly, flashed in like a burst of sunshine, like a hillside breeze, and stood before us, her fair sunny curls falling around her shoulders, her bright eyes dancing, and her fresh sweet voice ringing through the room. I shall never forget that afternoon, never!’

Miss Havergal became involved with the cause of temperance, hospital visitation, foreign missions, Sunday school for boys and gospel work among sailors. Her health was not robust and ailments came more and more frequently. This did not stop her travelling around Britain and abroad.

In May 1879, when she was 42, she held an outdoor temperance meeting in Caswell on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. It was a damp day and she returned wet and chilly. Though feeling poorly, she insisted on going to communion the following day, and rode back on a donkey. Her donkey boy recalled that Miss Havergal told him, ‘I had better leave the devil’s side and get on the safe side; that Jesus Christ’s was the winning side; that He loved us and was calling us, and wouldn’t I choose Him for my Captain?’ Arriving at home, Miss Havergal went in for her book and the boy signed the pledge on the saddle.

Her illness (later said to be peritonitis) took a sudden turn for the worse. The vicar of Swansea hurried to her bedside. ‘Is Jesus with you now?’ he asked. ‘Of course he is!’ was the reply; ‘it is splendid! I thought He would have left me here a long while; but He is so good to take me now. Oh, I want all of you to speak bright, BRIGHT words about Jesus, oh, do, do! It is all perfect peace. I am only waiting for Jesus to take me in.’ A sharp spasm ensued, after which she sank back, folded her hands on her breast and said: ‘There, now it’s all over. Blessed rest!’ Those present said that her death was almost a visible meeting with her King. Her countenance lit up as if she were already talking to Him, a glorious radiance on her face.

She was buried with her father at Astley.

She wrote Who is on the Lord’s Side? in 1877,two years before her death, and it was first published in 1878 in a collection called Loyal Responses.

These are the words:

1. Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side – Saviour, we are Thine!

2. Not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm;
But for love that claimeth lives for whom He died:
He whom Jesus saveth marches on His side.
By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side – Saviour, we are Thine!

3. Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem,
But with Thine own lifeblood, for Thy diadem;
With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee,
Thou hast made us willing, Thou hast made us free.
By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side – Saviour, we are Thine!

4. Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe,
But the King’s own army none can overthrow;
’Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure,
For His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.
Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side – Saviour, we are Thine!

5. Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side – Saviour, always Thine!

It is usually sung to the tune Armageddon which was originally written by Luise Reichardt (1779-1826), a German composer and conductor, though owing to prevailing attitudes she was not allowed to conduct in public, only at rehearsals. It was arranged as a hymn tune in 1871 by John Goss (1800-1880), professor of music at the Royal Academy of Music and organist of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Here it is performed by Saint Michael’s Singers:

I love this one by the Winneba Youth Choir of Ghana:

This may not be the most accurate performance but you can’t fault them for enthusiasm:

Some readers may know another tune called Rachie by Welsh composer Caradog Roberts (1878-1935), but I prefer Armageddon.

PS: Last week I mentioned a poem called The War Dog by Jennie Evelyn Hussey. I could not find the complete words but reader NL Wennberg has kindly supplied them:

Sallie was a lady; she was a soldier too—
She marched beside the colors, our own red, white and blue.
It was in the days of our Civil War that she lived her life so true.
She was named ‘Sallie Ann Jarrett,’ for some Pennsylvania belle—
Who lived in old West Chester where many knew her well.

And Sallie loved the colors, the uniforms she knew
Of every fighting soldier, the gray as well as blue.
There is nothing inconsistent in Sallie’s double role,
For in these days of Wacs and Waves, the Army Auxiliary Corps,
Women with men together, marched as they never did before.

In feed box, and haversack she rode, or in some soldier’s arms,
When on forced marches she must go, to keep her safe from harms.
One of the men of Company I, was called the ‘Dageroon’
And with his knapsack carried a lantern, in case of need real soon.
With haversack and canteen, which often would prove a boon.

With musket and accoutrements, I think a full load had he;
But Sallie was not a burden, because she was loved, you see.
At Williamsport she rode in a baggage wagon tossed,
And the waters of the wide Potomac were thus in safety crossed.
‘Twixt pet and loving master, a bond is never lost.

Once for just a little while, Sallie seemed lost at last,
Until she was found in a root-bound cave, when the dead leaves aside were cast.
But Sallie was not as proud of her pups as a mother you’d wish to see;
Their feeding time she would neglect when in the ranks, she would be.
And the poor little hungry puppies might not be very full of play.
But I think they lived to grow up, just the same.
And to proudly march was more than just a game.

The regiment was mustered out at Harrisburg, we are told—
And Sallie’s good friend, the ‘Dageroon,’ was killed ere he enrolled
In a regiment he was to join, and taps for him were played.
But soldier Sallie marched away and through more battles stayed—
At Camp Curtin and Annapolis, in Provost Guard she shared
In drilling fatigue and railroad still her happy life was spared
Though from the wagon back, once, with rope tied around her neck
A sudden jolt threw her, suspended in air, nearly ending her army trek.

At Gettysburg she waited by the dying and the dead—
Licking the wounds of those, from whom life had not yet fled.
Sallie was fond of making friends, of first one and then another
To whom partiality she would show more than to any other
Annapolis, Manassas Junction, Falmouth and Aquia Creek—

Rapidan, Cedar Mountain, as well as many a goal to seek,
At Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Chantilly and Bull Run, too.
Sallie followed faithfully as good soldiers all must do.
With the company on dress parade, white gloved and paper collared
Sallie wore a paper collar, as well, for Sallie was no dullard.

At Gettysburg historic, the battle and the place,
Where she had marched with the regiment at a long and rapid pace.
From Fredericksburg, well known to all-now entering the first front line,
She boldly went into the thick of the fight, close following every sign.
From a hill she looked down again on the dying and the dead.
Returning to soothe the wounds that cruelly smarted and bled.

When she herself fell, she was tenderly laid ’neath the sod
By comrades who led in the paths where her willing feet had trod.
Now in closing the story of Sallie, what better than to say—
That ‘A soldier most true to the Union was buried here, this day!’

Too many were her experiences to place in order here
In any kind of danger it seemed Sallie never knew fear.
But at last death came to this soldier as it comes alike to all.
And her comrades gently buried her, near the place where she had to fall
And I’m sure, if there is a heaven for dogs, the loyal ones and the true,
Soldier Sallie will answer to her name, in that final grand review.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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