Vote for Your 3 Favorite Charles Gabriel Songs

Here are the titles of a dozen of the 8,000 gospel songs from the pen of Charles Gabriel. A  century ago the Iowa native was called “the king of gospel music.”  Which of his songs are your favorites?

Charles Gabriel       [PD-1923]

Charles Gabriel

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Born AUGUST 18, 1856

Charles Gabriel. [PD-1923]

Charles Gabriel. [PD-1923]

The Wilton, Iowa native, Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, is considered the most prolific writer of gospel music in the concluding years of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century. Skilled at penning both lyrics and music, Charles created hymns the world loved to sing; his songs became favorites in American churches, were introduced to other countries in revival campaigns, and were sung by soldiers on the battlefield. Charles’ name appeared on over 8,000 songs, many still sung today.


Charles grew up on a farm, but also in an environment rich in music. He frequently heard his father host singing sessions. By Charles’ early teens the family had both a reed organ and a piano, which he learned to play. One day Charles told his mother he wanted to grow up to be a songwriter. She encouraged him. In the next few years, he learned to compose music. In 1873, 18-year-old Charles left home to begin teaching singing.

He clearly surpassed his childhood goal. During his life, Charles wrote not only hymns but also cantatas and marches, and edited 159 songbooks. Along with 35 books for general singing, he edited songbooks specifically for male voices, female voices, and children’s voices.

His songs were lively, easy to sing, even fun. Let’s consider some of his best by looking at three songs for which he provided both words and music, then two to which he added only music.


“SEND THE LIGHT!” (1890)

Charles eventually moved to San Francisco, where he became the music director at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church. When a song for a missions emphasis was needed, he wrote what has become a missions service standard: “Send the Light!”

Adoniram and Anne Judson taking the  light of the gospel to Burma.                   [PD-US]

Adoniram and Anne Judson taking the light of the gospel to Burma.

Verse one jumps right into the urgency to send missionaries to other countries: “There’s a call comes ringing o’er the rest-less waves, ‘Send the light! Send the light!’ There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save, Send the light! Send the Light!”

Verse three begins with a challenge to every person in the pew: “Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound.” The fourth verse starts with a scriptural admonition for God’s laborers every- where: “Let us not grow weary in the work of love” (Galatians 6:9).


Painting titled The Holy City. [PD-USA]

Painting titled The Holy City. [PD-USA]

Ed Card, an enthusiastic Christian who ran a rescue mission in St. Louis, Missouri, inspired “O That Will be Glory.” Whenever Ed heard something in a sermon that rang true in is heart, instead of “Amen!,” he would call out “Glory!” When Ed prayed, he often included some statement about Heaven at the end and added, “That will be glory for me!”

Charles turned Ed’s excitement into a song that became one of the most popular hymns of the early 1900s. In the song’s first few years, Charles M. Alexander helped it become widely accepted. The husband of Helen Cadbury served as song leader for evangelist R. A . Torrey. Charles spread the joy of “The Glory Song” in revival campaigns that he and Mr. Torrey conducted in New Zealand, Japan, India, and the United Kingdom.

Recording of "The Glory Song." [PD-1923]

Recording of “The Glory Song.” [PD-1923]

Imagining the essence of arriving in Heaven, verse one states, “When all my labors and trials are o’er, And I am safe on that Heavenly shore, Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, Will through the ages be glory for me.” Every verse ends with the words, “Will through the ages be glory for me.” The chorus concludes with unbridled excitement in the words, “When by His grace I shall look on His face, That will be glory, be glory for me!”


By  1905 Charles had moved to Chicago. One thing that traveled with him no matter where he lived was the impact of Jesus’ love for mankind. He eloquently expressed those thoughts and put them to music in the song “I Stand Amazed.”

The first verse introduces the hymn’s mind-boggling theme: “I stand amazed in the presence, Of Jesus the Nazarene, And I wonder how He could love me, A sinner condemned, unclean.”

Photo by Gerardofegan.

Photo by Gerardofegan.

The next three verses review the extent of Jesus’ love. Here are verses two and four: “For me it was in the garden, He prayed, ‘Not My will, but Thine.’ He had no tears for His own griefs, But sweat drops of blood for mine;” “He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own; He bore the burden to Calv’ry, And suffered and died alone.”

Like so many of Charles’ songs, it boasts a rousing chorus: “How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!”


Charles became equally known for providing music to other people’s lyrics. Below are his best known music-only songs. I tell the stories behind two of them. For information about two of the other songs, follow the links to the posts about those who wrote them.

Charles added the music to “Higher Ground,” words by Johnson Oatman Jr. (1898); “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” written by Civilla D. Martin (1905); “The Way of the Cross Leads Home,” penned by Jessie Pounds (1906); “Just When I Need Him Most,” lyrics by William C. Poole (1907); “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?,” written by Ada R. Habershon (1907); “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” words by Ina Duley Ogdon (1913); and “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,” written by Rufus H. McDaniel (1914).


Photo by Steve K.

Photo by Steve K.

Civilla D. Martin sat at the side of a bedridden Christian friend. During her visit, she sang and read scriptures to the woman. Civilla asked her friend if she ever felt discouraged. She answered by referring to Matthew 6:26 and 10:31: “How can I be discouraged, when my Father watches the sparrows, and I know He loves and cares for me?”

Sensing instant inspiration, Civilla found a pencil and paper and worked the words into a poem. When she mailed it to Charles the next day, he added a tune with a slow, reflective tempo, then sent it to Charles M. Alexander. The song leader introduced it at Royal Albert Hall during the England phase of the Torrey-Alexander worldwide campaign.

In America, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” gained greater popularity after Ethel Waters sang it in the 1952 film The Member of the Wedding. She later used the phrase for the title of her autobiography. It has remained a favorite in African-American worship, continually popping up in surprising places like the 2014 Oscars broadcast.


It’s the song that became an anthem for American soldiers in World War I.

Ina Duley Ogdon wrote the lyrics in response to limitations in her own life. She wanted to travel and share God’s word with others, but that dream screeched to a halt when her father had a stroke. While caring for her father, Ina wrote the words to encourage him.

World War I soldiers.  [PD-1923]

World War I soldiers. [PD-1923]

When she sent her lyrics to Charles Gabriel, he added music and passed it on to Homer Rodeaver, Billy Sunday’s song leader. The most famous evangelist of that day (also from Iowa) made “Brighten the Corner Where You Are” the theme song of his meetings. It sold a lot of sheet music and was recorded by many through the years. One of the greatest tributes to the song was its words rising from the lips of soldiers risking their lives in the first world war.

Charles also wrote “He Is So Precious to Me” (1902) and “Pentecostal Power” (1912). From 1912 on, he was associated with the Homer Rodeaver Publishing Company. It was there he compiled many of the voice-specific collections.


Billy Sunday  [PD-1923]

Billy Sunday

Charles Gabriel       [PD-1923]

Charles Gabriel

In the early decades of the twentieth century thousands of Americas celebrated Iowa’s two best-known Christians of that day. They attended Billy Sunday’s revival services and sang Charles Gabriel’s latest gospel songs.

Since both were from Iowa and since Billy’s meetings often featured songs by Charles, it seemed natural that they would appear together. They did in 1914, in services Billy conducted in Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1926, Charles retired to California. He died at his son’s Hollywood home on Sept. 14, 1932. His ashes were interred at Los Angeles’ Chapel of the Pines.

LET ME KNOW: How has Charles’ story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


  • Kerr, Phil. Music in Evangelism. Glendale, California: Gospel Music Publishers, 1939.
  • Longden, Tom, “Famous Iowans: Charles Gabriel,” Des Moines Register, February 7, 2005,
  • Osbeck, Kenneth. 101 Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1982.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.

YouTube- Search for each song title by name. A variety of famous and not as famous individuals have recorded them.


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       Here are the stories of five well-known Christians, famous for their actions of faith. “What did they do during the war?” is a good question. In those terrible days of World War II, they made a difference. Some of them went on to serve God in wonderful ways after the war. Not all of them lived past April 1945.                               

                                        God   Prepared   Them   for   Their   Futures

Paul Brand. Image courtesy of The Leprosy Mission-

Paul Brand. Image courtesy of The  Leprosy Mission-


Learn what Paul Brand did during the nightly bombings in London that prepared him for his life’s work among the lepers of India.

Read about his life in London and the difference he later made to the lives of thousands.



John W. Peterson. Image: courtesy of

John W. Peterson. Image: courtesy of


Learn which branch of the military John W. Peterson joined when he received his draft notice in 1942.

Read about the miracle he experienced in the Himalayan Mountains and other miracles in his life that contributed to the recurring theme of the gospel songs he later wrote.





She   Served   and   Survived

Corrie ten Boom. Image courtesy of the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship-      

Corrie ten Boom. Image courtesy of the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship-


Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews in their Holland home. Where in the house was the actual hiding place?


Learn why the Ten Boom family did what they did and the price each of them paid for their convictions.




                                                     They   Served   to   the   End

Eric Liddell in Xiaochang, China

Eric in Xiaochang, China

………………………………………………………….. After winning Olympic gold in 1924, what happened to Eric Liddell?


Read about his life before, during and after the Olympics and his final years as a prisoner of the Japanese.





Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Photo courtesy of Peter Frick.


Why did Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other pastors so strongly resist Hitler?


Learn what it meant for Dietrich to be declared an “enemy of the state” in Germany and his cost of discipleship.



LET ME KNOW: How have these stories informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


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Born JULY 24, 1874

Oswald Chambers  [PD-1923]

Oswald Chambers

Here are a few things you may not know about devotional author, Oswald Chambers.

1) He didn’t sit down and write My Utmost for His Highest. How it came about is one of Christian literature’s great behind-the-scenes stories (and a fine love story).

2)  He became a Christian after hearing Charles Spurgeon preach.

3) Oswald and his wife, Biddy, operated a Bible College in Clapham, a part of England formerly associated with Christian social reformer, William Wilberforce.

4) He played an important role in Africa during World War I.

5) Oswald died at age 43.

For further details about My Utmost for His Highest, including 8 great quotes, and more about what made Oswald the man he was, read his bio.



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It happened July 11, 1924

800px-Olympic_flagNinety years ago in Paris, France, God rewarded Olympiad Eric Liddell for following his Christian conscience. The Scottish runner risked the ire of his countyrmen by choosing not to run in the qualifying heats on Sunday.

Because Eric took a stand for Sunday, God arranged for him to qualify on a different day. In the actual race, Eric set a new record for the 400 meters race while winning a gold medal on Friday, July 11.

I celebrate Eric’s win in the remainder of this post with three things. I’ve included  someone’s written description of his finish, a YouTube link showing original film footage of Eric winning his medal, and a link to short a bio of the Christian athlete who went on to become a missionary.

  1. In her book, The Flying Scotsman, Sally Magnusson captures the dramatic conclusion of Eric’s medal-winning race: “Eric Liddell somehow summoned up hidden reserves of strength and stamina. Head back, chin forward, mouth open, knees jumping, arms waving, he put on a spurt and started to increase his lead over Fitch. At the tape he was all of five metres ahead, and had won the Olympic title in a world record time of 47.6.” (page 53)
  2. Watch Eric’s actual win at
  3. You can read more about Eric’s faith and his running skill in this biographical post.


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Born JULY 9, 1896

 “The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is   never considered a foreigner.”

William Cameron Townsend. [PD-USA]

William Cameron Townsend. [PD-USA]

Those words became the motto of the man behind Wycliffe Bible Translators,  without a doubt the 20th century’s greatest Bible translating organization. William Cameron Townsend, like missionary James Hudson Taylor,  is often not known by his first name. He became “Cameron” to many and simply “Cam” to others.

Both his general and spiritual education began in his hometown of Downey, California. As a teenager, he joined the Presbyterian church his family attended.


To further his education, Cameron entered the Presbyterian-owned Occidental College in Los Angeles. In his junior year, he heard guest speaker John Mott of the Student Volunteer Movement. Mott challenged students to commit their lives to missionary service. His passion captured Cameron’s attention. He personally met with John and signed up to go to those who had never heard the gospel.

At that time, America’s involvement in World War I seemed inevitable. Cameron enlisted in the National Guard.  When America entered the war, a missionary pressed upon him to seek a deferment so he could instead serve God in the fight for souls. His captain accepted Cam’s request, telling him, “Go. You’ll do a lot more good selling Bibles in Central America than you would shooting Germans in France.” So instead of Europe, Cameron headed for Latin America to hold services and sell Bibles in Guatemala.

A Guatemalan marketplace. [Photo by Chensiyuan]

A Guataemalan marketplace. [Photo by Chensiyuan]

His breakthrough came toward the end of his first year in the villages of the Cakchiquel Indians. On that day Cameron walked into a beer garden to distribute the gospel. He offered a tract to a native sitting at one of the tables, drinking. The man said, “Sorry senor, but I cannot read.” However, when Cameron left, the man followed him, saying, “Amigo, I have a friend who reads. If you will sell me the little book, por favor?” Cameron gave the native the tract and invited him to a Sunday service. The man showed up and responded at the close of the service to become a Christian.


Nearly a year of travelling through other Latin American countries increased Cam’s desire to take the gospel to that part of the world. The extended assignment led to another aspect of his future: He met a young female missionary who felt the same call. Cameron and Elvira married in July of 1919. Together, they started a mission school.

Cameron and Elvira Townsend in Guatemala. [PD-1923]

Cameron and Elvira Townsend in Guatemala. [PD-1923]

Cameron wanted to create a written language for the Cakchiquel Indians. He developed a method for gradually introducing the language in written form, writing primers to aid both children and adult students.

His biggest dream (up to then) was to translate the entire New Testament into the Cakchiquel language. Cameron tackled his vision with fervor. However, there were delays. Among other setbacks, Cameron contracted tuberculosis. He returned to California to recover, eventually completing the Bible in 1929, after ten full years.


Cameron’s dream expanded. Why shouldn’t other tribes without written languages have translations in their native tongue? So in 1934, he initiated the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) on a farm in Arkansas to train workers to translate. SIL grew year after year.

John Wycliffe. [PD-1923]

John Wycliffe. [PD-1923]

He named the location Camp Wycliffe, after John Wycliffe, the 14th century translator of the English Bible. In 1942, Cameron incorporated his missionary work as Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Lazaro Cardenas, the president of Mexico, invited Cameron in 1936 to bring a team to help those of his country who had no written language. Cam agreed.

After World War II, the ministry grew even further.  One boost in interest and support came in 1956 after the violent deaths of SIL graduate Jim Elliot and his fellow martyrs. Their deaths at the hands of the Ecuadorian Indians that they were trying to help inspired others to willingly commit to the cause of spreading the gospel to those who had never heard it.


In 1942, the year Cameron incorporated Wycliffe Bible Translators, American universities began requesting classes teaching the SIL linguistics method. The following year Elvira died, adding sorrow to the joy of those years of progress and expansion.

A JAARS King Air in the Hangar. [PD-USA]

A JAARS King Air in the Hangar. [PD-USA]

Cameron formed the final arm of his ministry in 1948: Jungle Aviation and Radio Service. He started JAARS to pilot and keep in contact with missionaries in the jungle.

During the 1960s, Wycliffe gained a presence in Africa and Asia.

When Cameron died from leukemia on April 23, 1982, he’d given over 60 years of his life to helping groups of people around the world receive God’s word in their native language. By the year 2000, Wycliffe Bible Translators had made the New Testament accessible in nearly 500 languages.

LET ME KNOW: How has Cameron’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.





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Born June 10, 1920

Ruth Bell Graham. Coourtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-

Ruth Bell Graham. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-


Seventeen-year-old Ruth Bell had to flee her birth country of China. When the Japanese invaded in 1937, it was no longer safe for her to remain. Her missionary parents secured her passage to the United States. The adventure she’d lived so far wouldn’t compare to the unexpected life that awaited her as the future wife of evangelist Billy Graham. Here are five phases in the unique life of one of Christianity’s most effective  ambassadors, although she  often worked behind the scenes.

                                                                                                            ROOTS IN THE ORIENT

China's Kiangsu province around the time of Ruth's birth. [PD-USA]

China’s Kiangsu province around the time of Ruth’s birth. [PD-USA]

Nelson Bell served as superintendent of Tsingkiang General Hospital  in the Kiangsu province. He treated the Chinese for various conditions from tuberculosis to malaria, always addressing their spiritual needs as well. On June 10, 1920, he responded to a call to his own home where he delivered his second child, Ruth. She brought great joy to her father, her mother  Virginia, and her older sister, RosaThe Nelson girls attended school in North Korea. One day Ruth realized that she couldn’t simply rely on her parent’s faith for salvation. She asked Rosa what to do. Taking her sister’s advice, Ruth read a favorite Bible verse with her name inserted into it.

She read Isaiah 53:5 as, “He was wounded for Ruth’s transgressions, He was bruised for Ruth’s iniquities: the chastisement of Ruth’s peace was upon Him; and with His stripes Ruth is healed.” Her personal faith grew ever stronger from that moment on.


Wheaton College [PD-USA]

Wheaton College [PD-USA]

Ruth’s journey to the United States led her to Wheaton College in Illinois. At Wheaton, she would fall deeper in love with God and fall into love with a lanky young man from North Carolina.

Before Ruth met Billy, he’d attended college in Florida, gained experience holding evangelistic services, and had been serious enough about a young lady to propose to her. She had turned him down. The reason: she preferred to marry a man who would amount to something.

From the beginning, Ruth Bell believed Billy Graham would amount to something. Meet-ing him caused her to drop her life’s goal to become a missionary spinster in Tibet. After their first date she prayed, “God, if you let me serve you with that man I’d consider it the greatest privilege in my life.”

They were married August 13, 1943, in North Carolina, at the Montreat Presbyterian Church.


Billy pastored a church in Illinois for a while. When God opened doors for him to evangelize fulltime, Ruth traveled with him at first. As their family grew, she found that traveling didn’t fit who she was.

Ruth and Billy with Anne, Bunny, Gigi, and Franklin. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-

Ruth and Billy with Anne, Bunny, Gigi, and Franklin. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-

The more Billy’s ministry expanded, especially internationally, Ruth came to accept his long absences by fulfilling her service to God while he fulfilled his. She summed up her feelings with the words, “Mine has been the task of staying home and raising the family. No higher calling could have ever been given me.”

Their children eventually numbered five: Virginia (GiGi), Anne, Ruth (Bunny), Franklin, and Ned. Raising her brood brought plenty of challenges. The Graham children were normal, not always understanding the Bible’s teachings.

For example, one day Ruth heard a loud cry from the kitchen. She ran in to find Anne and her younger sister. Anne admitted to her mother, “I’m teaching Bunny about the Bible. I’m slapping her on one cheek and teaching her to turn the other one so I can slap it too.”


As Billy’s popularity grew, tourists began dropping by, hoping to get their pictures taken with the Graham family. To gain more privacy, Billy and Ruth purchased land further up the mountain. Ruth personally oversaw the construction of a log cabin. She named the place Little Piney Cove. The home provided protection her young family needed from well-meaning yet intrusive tourists.

Ruth was also a resourceful Christian. She touched hundreds of lives one-on-one. She addressed various needs with Christian faith, from helping a poverty-stricken family on the mountain to visiting a convicted criminal in prison, to talking anonymously to people about their need for God while at her husband’s crusades.

To further share her faith, Ruth wrote 14 books. Her writings include memories of hard to forget experiences, journal entries, and poems she penned. Ruth infused many lessons from her life with scriptural insights.

One of her quotable observations is, “It takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God.” Another is, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”


Ruth and Billy at home. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-

Ruth and Billy at home. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-

With time, the Graham children grew into adults, married, and started their own families. The Graham boys, Franklin and Ned, survived rebellious teen years to surrender their lives to God. Both eventually became leaders of large ministry organizations.

Ruth’s world changed further when her parents died. Her father passed away in 1973, a year before her mother. For years, they’d lived in Montreat, not far from Ruth and her family.

The same year her mother died, Ruth had a serious accident while playing with her grandchildren. She fell fifteen feet out of a tree, hitting her head on the ground. She lay in the hospital for a week, unconscious. When she came to, Ruth couldn’t recall any of the Bible verses she’d committed to memory over the years. She prayed, “Lord, you can have anything I’ve got, but please give me back my Bible verses.” Instantly, scriptures started popping into her mind.

Two of the happiest weeks of Ruth’s life unfolded in 1980. She and her siblings returned to China, the land of their roots. Much had changed, but the most important thing hadn’t. A nurse who use to work with her father told her, “We are still Christians.” Ruth was disappointed that so much of the neighborhood of her younger years was either torn down or run down. But she concluded, “God’s work is not in buildings, but in transformed lives.”

Billy and Ruth Graham's Congressional Gold Medal.   [PD-USA]

Billy and Ruth Graham’s Congressional Gold Medal.

In the last few decades of her life, Ruth returned to traveling with Billy. During a nine month period in the late 1980s, she and Billy traveled around the world twice. In 1996, both were honored in Washington D. C. with a Congressional Gold Medal.

Ruth died on June 14, 2007. She’d suffered for years from spinal meningitis, which was aggregated by her fall from the tree thirty-three years earlier.


Ruth Bell Graham's Gravestone. [photo by Billy Hathorn]

Ruth Bell Graham’s Gravestone. [photo by Billy Hathorn]

LET ME KNOW: How has Ruth’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


  • Cornwell, Patricia Daniels.  A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983.
  • Graham, Billy. Just As I Am. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997.
  • Graham, Ruth Bell. It’s My Turn. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1982.
  • Graham, Ruth Bell. Legacy of a Pack Rat. Nashville, Tennessee, 1989.


Websites- Check these websites for more about Ruth Bell Graham:

  • Note the final source in the bibliography for information about Ruth at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It features a number of pages worth exploring.
  • The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College features magazine articles by Ruth and audio clips of her speaking-
  • Here are articles by and about Ruth at Christianity Today-
  • Here’s the Ruth Bell Graham youTube page-




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