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By Taylor Brantley
If a small essence of Christ’s victory over the grave could be captured in a song, this is perhaps the one that comes closest. One might think the author of such a song would have needed to work tirelessly at the art of songwriting to create it. But that is not the case at all.
Robert Lowry was born in Philadelphia in 1826, and he put great effort into living a successful life. As a teen, he taught Sunday school and was part of the church choir. As a college student, he excelled in all he was taught and graduated with the highest honors. As an adult, he became a literary professor and a very popular preacher. Preaching is where the majority of Lowry’s efforts soon went. He worked exceptionally hard on his sermons, and it showed. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers had this to say about them: ‘Very few men had greater ability in painting pictures from the imagination. He could thrill an audience with his vivid descriptions, inspiring others with the same thoughts that inspired him.’ Busy as Lowry was with sermons, he still found some time to pursue another of his passions: music.
Music was always close to Lowry’s heart, but he thought it to be of lower importance than putting a sermon together and delivering it. For this reason, he did not give songwriting nearly the same level of attention as sermon writing. Despite this, he produced many popular hymns for his congregation to sing. ‘Nothing But the Blood of Jesus,’ ‘I Need Thee Every Hour,’ ‘Shall We Gather at the River?’, and ‘We’re Marching to Zion’ are some of Lowry’s best works.
The year of 1874 saw the conception of ‘Christ Arose,’ and in a rather simplistic way. It was spring, near Easter Sunday, and Lowry was reading the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He had read it a hundred times before, yet something about this time opened his eyes to the significance of the event. He took out pen and paper, and thus one of Easter’s greatest hymns was born.
It is easy to believe that we must work tirelessly to bring God glory. That it is up to our own efforts. After all, He is a very big God, and we are very small, so why wouldn’t we have to break our backs to please Him? But Robert Lowry’s hymns shows us that that is not the case. All we have to do is give God our devotion, and He will do the rest. Lowry loved both sermon and songwriting, yet he did not have the time to dedicate himself to both. But God found a way to give inspiration to Lowry’s hymn writing, even in the little time Lowry had to give to it.
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