Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Before the Throne of God Above"

It has been a long time since I've learned of a new (to me) hymn that is actually old, historically--that I like, that is. It turns out that the evangelical community of the 1980's was ahead of me on this one, and more power to 'em. As I've recently learned from Eldest Daughter, this hymn text written around the time of the U.S. Civil War by an Irish lady named Charitie Bancroft was revived and given a brand-new tune in the late 20th century. Here it is as sung by the Haven of Rest quartet:

Some brief but intense googling has failed to turn up reliable information on the tune the hymn text was originally sung to. This new (that is, 20th century) tune is by Vikki Cook.

Here are the lyrics:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased with His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Here is a post that has a pretty comprehensive list of the Scripture allusions and possible Scripture allusions in the lyrics. I haven't checked them out systematically, but they look accurate.


yankeegospelgirl said...

Actually, I believe this tune was written even more recently than the 80s. I think it may be as recent as the 2000s.

Lydia McGrew said...

I think I got the "80's" thing from Wikipedia (the article on Charitie Bancroft). I wasn't able to find an exact date on the Vikki Cook tune. I did hear a story about Bob Kaufman having to tell someone to give Vikki Cook credit for the tune, but I don't know exactly how that goes.

yankeegospelgirl said...

The article's exact wording is "a hymn which was revived in evangelical circles in the late Twentieth Century." It could have been written in the 90s.

Bob Kauflin on the tune:

"Writing a song that sounds
'timeless' is a mixed blessing. On the bright side, there’s a good chance that it will survive the changing winds of popular taste and be used by congregations for decades. On the down side, people can assume that the person who composed it is dead and the lyrics and melody are public domain.

That’s what’s happened recently on not one, but two CDs. We received word that Matt Papa and Chris Orr had released a hymns CD with Before the Throne of God Above on it, only crediting the lyricist, Charitie Lees Bancroft. Then Shane and Shane released their Pages CD, also including Before the Throne of God Above. Only this time Shane Barnard added a chorus and didn’t mention Vikki either.

After a little research I got Shane Everett’s cell phone number and called him to find out what had happened. Turns out that a worship leader in his church had used the song. He was so affected that he asked him where it had come from. “I dunno. I think it’s just an old hymn.” He was half right.

I’m happy to say that I also talked to Matt Papa as well, and everything’s been resolved in both situations. Vikki will receive credit for the tune on future printings of both CDs. But I wondered how many other people might hear Before the Throne of God Above and think the melody was written in the18th century.

Since I know that Vikki would never bring this to anyone’s attention, I wanted to do a post on it to clear up confusion."

Lydia McGrew said...

Huh. "The 80's" must have just come out of my own head after reading the Wiki article, then. Thanks for th ecorrection on Kauflin's name. Was Vikki Cook just a friend of his, or was she with his music company or something like that? (He means 19th century, I'm sure.)

yankeegospelgirl said...

Both, I think. They're both involved with Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Peter Stachelek said...

The song was originally written in 1863....and at that time was titled "The Advocate". It came back into popularity in the 1980's when several modern singers got hold of the old gem and revived it! It is correct that we do not know the original tune, and that the current one has only been in use since the early 1997, and yes it was written by Vikki Cook of Sovereign Grace....what a great "Old" song of faith and assurance!