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January 01, 2006

331R Onward Christian Soldiers

It may surprise some to learn that Hymns of the Spirit Two (1937) included "Onward Christian Soldiers" in addition to "Forward Through the Ages" for use by Unitarians and Universalists, given its absence from later denominational hymnals published by the Unitarian Universalist Association, and indeed given its absence from hymnals lately published other moderate and liberal Christian groups. Below are lyrics that take on a nearly impossible (and mostly thankless) task, seeking to be true to the original's "church militant" imagery while being useful for worship in the liberal church. Although the original lyrics were neutral, in content, on the efficacy of war, the images in the minds of some have not seemed neutral (many hear "off to war" rather than "as to war" in the hymn's first line, for example). The revised lyrics have sought to make clearer this neutrality, and make a bit more explicit the spiritual and moral goals of the liberal church.


1. On-ward, Christ-ian sol-diers, march-ing as to war,
With the crown of jus-tice go-ing on be-fore.
Christ, the roy-al rab-bi, leads a-gainst the flow;
For-ward through dis-trac-tion see love's mes-sage go!
On-ward, faith-ful sol-diers, on-ward, we im-plore,
With the crown of jus-tice go-ing on be-fore.

2. Like a swift up-ris-ing moves the church of God;
Kin-dred, we are tread-ing where the saints have trod.
May we be u-nit-ed, all one bo-dy be,
One in hope and free-dom, one in char-i-ty.
On-ward, faith-ful sold-iers; whose hearts on high soar,
With the crown of jus-tice, go-ing on be-fore.

3. Rich re-gimes may per-ish, thrones may rise and wane,
But the church of free-dom con-stant will re-main.
Tri-als shall not ev-er 'gainst that church pre-vail;
We have Christ’s own pro-mise, and that shall not fail.
On-ward, faith-ful sol-diers, dream-ing war no more,
With the crown of jus-tice, go-ing on be-fore.

4. On-ward then, all peo-ples, join our hap-py throng,
Blend with ours your voi-ces in this good-will song.
Glo-ry, laud and hon-or to your God do bring,
This through count-less a-ges, earth and an-gels sing:
On-ward, on-ward, sol-diers, seek peace ev-er-more,
With the crown of jus-tice, go-ing on be-fore!

Posted by rehurst at January 1, 2006 10:28 PM

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