There is a great song in the Baptist Hymnal titled, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross.” The tune is stale; so, our music leader freshened it up. Our musicians livened it up even more with a military-sounding cadence, which simulates the church militant, striving to be faithful as soldiers of Christ in truth arrayed.
Just this past week, however, we learned that the song has been altered. Not only have some very fine verses been taken out of the hymn, but the words of the title line have also been altered from the original. Originally, Isaac Watts’ question was not about “me”; it was about “us.” The original line asks, “Are WE the soldiers of the cross?”
This switching of pronouns seems peculiar, but it is also profound. Whereas those in Watts’ day sang with a communal understanding of themselves as part of the church, Christians today sing with an individual understanding of themselves as going to church to sing songs which are meaninful to ME. I do not doubt but that the song was changed to accommodate ME and make ME think of myself. Me and my God are all the tunes we subjectively sing. Lost is the idea that I belong to others, namely, the body of Jesus Christ.
I am very glad to say that this Sunday we will sing a new song: “Are WE the soldiers of the Cross.” And, we have some glorious new lines to add to an already glorious song. Listen closely to these words from Isaac Watts:
Are we the soldiers of the cross?
The followers of the Lamb?
And shall we fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?
Now must we fight if we would reign
Increase our courage, Lord!
We’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they’re slain;
They see the triumph from afar,
And shall with Jesus reign.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all thy armies shine
In robes of vict’ry through the skies
The glory shall be thine.
(We have changed the music and added this glorious chorus from Revelation 19):
Yet my bloodguilt’s gone, now washed away
By the white-robed righteous lamb,
Who is coming back with eyes aflame,
Truth and justice in His hand.