THE SON OF GOD GOES FORTH TO WAR
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
This text was written in 1812 by Reginald Heber, an important 19th century Anglican church hymn writer. Heber wrote it especially for use on St. Stephen’s Day, which occurs the first day after Christmas. On this day the liturgical churches honor the memory of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
The hymn’s first stanza portrays Christ as the leader of a great army going forth to win His kingly crown. The challenge is given: “Who follows in His train?” The response: Those who demonstrate that they can bear the cross patiently here below.
The second stanza reminds us of Stephen’s martyrdom. The scriptural account tells us that Stephen saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand,” with Stephen praying for his murderers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54–60).
The third stanza refers to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to “the chosen few.” The verse then reminds us of the twelve apostles and their martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. The final stanza is a picture in heaven of the noble martyrs throughout the ages before God’s throne—men, boys, matrons, maids—dressed in robes of white.
The Son of God goes forth to war, a kingly crown to gain: His blood-red banner streams afar: Who follows in His train? Who best can drink His cup of woe, (Christ’s suffering on the cross) triumphant over pain? Who patient bears His cross below, he follows in His train.
The martyr first, whose eagle eye could pierce beyond the grave, who saw His Master in the sky and called on Him to save—Like Him, with pardon on his tongue in midst of mortal pain, he prayed for them that did the wrong: Who follows in his train?
A glorious band, the chosen few on whom the Spirit came, twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew, and mocked the cross and flame—They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane. They bowed their necks the death to feel: Who follows in their train?
A noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid, around the Savior’s throne rejoice, in robes of light arrayed—They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n thru peril, toil and pain: O GOD, TO US MAY GRACE BE GIVEN TO FOLLOW IN THEIR TRAIN!
For Today: Ephesians 6:10–20; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3, 4
Let this musical statement be your response of faith—
Osbeck, K. W.
- Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the assaults of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, which are in the high places. For this cause take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to resist in the evil day, and having finished all things, stand fast. Stand therefore, and your loins girded about with verity, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Above all, take the shield of Faith, wherewith ye may quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of Salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray always with all manner prayer and supplication in the spirit: and watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all Saints, And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to publish the secret of the Gospel, Whereof I am the ambassador in bonds, that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10–20
- Fight the good fight of faith: lay hold of eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12
- Thou therefore suffer affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth, entangeleth himself with the affairs of this life, because he would please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3, 4