Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!

By Benjamin Russell Hanby – 1833-1867
(1) Who is He in yonder stall?
At Whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is He in deep distress?
Fasting in the wilderness?

‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!

(2) Who is He the people bless
For His words of gentleness?
Who is He to Whom they bring
All the sick and sorrowing?

(3) Who is He that stands and weeps
At the grave where Lazarus sleeps?
Who is He the gathering throng
Greet with loud triumphant song?

(4) Lo! at midnight, who is He
Prays in dark Gethsemane?
Who is He on yonder tree
Dies in grief and agony?

(5) Who is He that from the grave
Comes to heal and help and save?
Who is He that from His throne
Rules through all the world alone?

This was the last song Benjamin Russell Hanby wrote before he died, at the age of 33.”Who is He in Yonder Stall?”. I first learnt of this hymn during my University days. It was in a hymn book called Mission praise. It is one of the clearest expositions of the life and work of Christ. We used to teach this hymn to children when we did children’s work because it so clearly outlines the key aspects of the life of Christ. All it is missing is a verse about Christ’s promised return. It is usually sung as shown above, but often musical artists sing it as a series of questions with each question followed by the answer given in the refrain.

Here is a link for this wonderful hymn.

Here is a brief bio of the writter. Benjamin Russell Hanby (July 22, 1833 – March 16, 1867), was a Son of a United Brethren min­is­ter and an American composer who wrote approximately 80 songs, the most famous of which are “Darling Nelly Gray”, the Christmas song “Up On The House Top”, and the hymn “Who Is He In Yonder Stall?”.

Benjamin R. Hanby actually composed his song “Santa Claus” (now known as “Up on the House Top”) in December 1864 when he was living in New Paris, Ohio. He had resigned from ministry in the United Brethren Church the previous summer. The house in Westerville was his parents’ home. Ben lived there from 1854 to 1858 when he graduated from Otterbein University. He did assist his parents in their Underground Railroad activities. The home is one of three United Methodist Heritage Landmarks in the state of Ohio. Benjamin’s father, William Hanby, was the fifteenth Bishop of the United Brethren Church.  You can read more about him on this link. www.hanbyhouse.org

Hanby died from tuberculosis in Chicago on March 16, 1867. He is buried in Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville.

Briefly  what was the life and work of Christ?

God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe. Like rays of light from the sun, like the streams of water bursting from a living spring, blessings flow out from him to all his creatures. And wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others in love and blessing.

Our Saviour  came from heaven to earth, to show the way. From the earth to the cross, our debt to pay. From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky to prepare a home for us and one day he is coming oh what a glorious day that will be.

Our Saviour’s joy was in the uplifting and redemption of fallen men. For this he counted not his life dear unto himself, but endured the cross, despising the shame. That which selfish hearts would regard as humiliating service, ministering to those who are wretched, and in every way inferior in character and rank, is the work of the sinless angels.

The Saviour’s life on earth was not a life of ease and devotion to himself, but he toiled with persistent, earnest, untiring effort for the salvation of lost mankind. From the manger to Calvary he followed the path of self-denial, and sought not to be released from arduous tasks, painful travels, and exhausting care and labour. He said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”* This was the one great object of his life. Everything else was secondary and subservient. It was his meat and drink to do the will of God and to finish his work. Self and self-interest had no part in his labour.

So those who are the partakers of the grace of Christ will be ready to make any sacrifice that others for whom he died may share the heavenly gift. They will do all they can to make the world better for their stay in it. This spirit is the sure outgrowth of a soul truly converted. No sooner does one come to Christ, than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus; the saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart. If we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and are filled with the joy of his indwelling Spirit, we shall not be able to hold our peace. If we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we shall have something to tell. Like Philip when he found the Saviour, we shall invite others into his presence. We shall seek to present to them the attractions of Christ, and the unseen realities of the world to come. There will be an intensity of desire to follow in the path that Jesus trod. There will be an earnest longing that those around us may behold “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”*

And the effort to bless others will re-act in blessings upon ourselves. This was the purpose of God in giving us a part to act in the plan of redemption. He has granted men the privilege of becoming partakers of the divine nature, and, in their turn, of diffusing blessings to their fellowmen. This is the highest honour, the greatest joy, that it is possible for God to bestow upon men. Those who thus become participants in labours of love are brought nearest to their Creator.

God might have committed the message of the gospel, and all the work of loving ministry, to the heavenly angels. He might have employed other means for accomplishing his purpose. But in his infinite love he chose to make us co-workers with himself, with Christ and the angels that we might share the blessing, the joy, the spiritual uplifting, which results from this unselfish ministry.

We are brought into sympathy with Christ through the fellowship of his sufferings. Every act of self-sacrifice for the good of others strengthens the spirit of beneficence in the giver’s heart, allying him more closely to the Redeemer of the world, who “was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” And it is only as we thus fulfill the divine purpose in our creation that life can be a blessing to us.

If you will go to work as Christ designs that his disciples shall, and win souls for him, you will feel the need of a deeper experience and a greater knowledge in divine things, and will hunger and thirst after righteousness. You will plead with God, and your faith will be strengthened, and your soul will drink deeper draughts at the well of salvation. Encountering opposition and trials will drive you to the Bible and to prayer. You will grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and will develop a rich experience.

The only way to grow in grace is to be disinterestedly doing the very work which Christ has enjoined upon us,–to engage, to the extent of our ability, in helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them. Strength comes by exercise; activity is the very condition of life. Those who endeavour to maintain Christian life by passively accepting the blessings that come through the means of grace, and doing nothing for Christ, are simply trying to live by eating without working. And in the spiritual as in the natural world, this always results in degeneration and decay. A man who would refuse to exercise his limbs would soon lose all power to use them. Thus the Christian who will not exercise his God-given powers, not only fails to grow up into Christ, but he loses the strength that he already had.

Many have excused themselves from rendering their gifts to the service of Christ because others were possessed of superior endowments and advantages. The opinion has prevailed that only those who are especially talented are required to consecrate their abilities to the service of God. It has come to be understood by many that talents are given to only a certain favoured class, to the exclusion of others, who, of course, are not called upon to share in the toils or the rewards.
With a loving spirit we may perform life’s humblest duties “as to the Lord.”* If the love of God is in the heart, it will be manifest in the life. The sweet savor of Christ will surround us, and our influence will elevate and bless.

You are not to wait for great occasions or to expect extraordinary abilities before you go to work for God. You need not have a thought of what the world will think of you. If your daily life is a testimony to the purity and sincerity of your faith, and others are convinced that you desire to benefit them, your efforts will not be wholly lost.

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