Hymn Story: Onward Christian Soldiers

This popular hymn was written without the intention of ever being published.

Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould

Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould

Written for the English holiday, Whitmonday in 1865.  Whitmonday is a day for festivals in Yorkshire.

Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould recalled, “one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join its forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing when marching from one village to the other, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was the result. It was written in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Certainly nothing has surprised me more than its great popularity.”

Later that year the song was published in a local periodical and later made it’s way to an English hymnal.  Scholars believe it caught on in the U.S. because it tapped into the spirit of the soldiers during the Civil War.

Arthur Sullivan wrote a tune, St. Gertrude, for the hymn in 1871.

The hymn was adopted by The Salvation Army as a favorite processional song.

The hymn focuses on the spiritual battle we face as Christians.  A battle that seems to be intensifying in this day and age.


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