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Patriotic Hymns of Faith 5: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Patriotic Hymns of Faith Day 5 – Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe

Who doesn’t get goosebumps when they hear a moving rendition of this beautiful song! I readily confess that I do—partly for the powerful lyrics and partly for the musical arrangement. But the story behind this song is equally powerful, beginning with the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. For four solid years, our nation was divided and both sides at war against each other. At the root of the issue was slavery. 

In 1861, a woman named Julia Ward Howe and her husband visited Washington, D.C. During their visit, they heard Union troops singing a song called “John Brown’s Body,” which was about well-known abolitionist John Brown. As she listened, a preacher encouraged her to write new lyrics to this powerful piece, and she later wrote these words in reply:

“I… awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don’t write it down immediately. I began to scrawl the lines almost without looking. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling that something of importance had happened to me.”

In February 1862, she sold those penned words to the Atlantic Monthly for $5. The Union adopted the new lyrics in which Julia’s abolitionist views were loudly voiced. One particular line says, “Let us die to make men free.” 

In a similar way, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us? His death opened the way of freedom for all, whether rich or poor, slave or free. The social ranks that separate us and the disagreements that lead us into war against one another are all leveled at the cross. That’s the beauty of freedom in Christ; none is exempt. Yet it is our own personal choice to accept it or reject it. 

“Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Mine eyes 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.

Glory, glory, 
hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires 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.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before 
His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In 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 holylet us die to make men free,[15]
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

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