Hymn of the Republic: The Story Behind the Song
Kenneth W. Osbeck
-- To have implicit trust in God's faithful care and protection is never easy
in times of danger or strife. Yet even in the midst of the terrible Civil War
between the Northern and Southern states, a remarkable woman named Julia Ward
Howe proclaimed her confidence in God's triumphant power in this inspiring text.
Deeply anguished at the growing conflict between
the two sections of the country, Mrs. Howe watched troops marching off to war
singing "John Brown's Body," a song about a man who had been hanged in his efforts
to free the slaves. Julia felt that the catchy camp meeting tune should have better
words. In a desire to phrase her own feelings about the dreadful events of the
time, she "scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper." The national
hymn first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862, as a battle song
for the republic. Before long the entire nation became inspired by her text and
united in singing the new words with the old tune.
Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic
songs. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President
Abraham Lincoln. After the audience had responded with loud applause, the President,
with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again. And after
more than a hundred years, Americans still join often in proclaiming, "Glory!
Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"
have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.
have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
they have builded
Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence
by the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on.
has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting
out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer
Him! Be jubilant my feet
Our God is marching on.
the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in His
bosom that transfigures you and me;
as He died to make men holy, let us die
to make men free,
while God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
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