Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hymns & Hymn Writers: Come to the Feast by David R. Kenney

Sometimes the title of this song is “All Things Are Ready”, but in V. E. Howard’s songbook it is “Come to the Feast”.  According to some songbooks, the words are by Charlotte G. Homer, but in other songbooks Charles H. Gabriel is credited with the lyrics.  Who really penned the words to this hymn?  The song was completed and published in 1895.  The answer is that Charlotte G. Homer was a pseudonym used by Charles H. Gabriel.
Each year, Americans set aside a day of Thanksgiving, a feast.  Even meals in our country which may appear modest to others are literal feasts in some parts of the world.  We truly have much to be thankful for, but we need to remember “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 12:48.
Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932), Lyricist
Charles Hutchinson Gabriel was born August 18, 1856 in Wilton, IA.  His father taught singing schools which provided the catalyst for Gabriel’s prolific career.  He would begin leading his own singing schools at the age of 17.  He eventually became the Music Director for the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in San Francisco.  He would go onto Chicago where he would work with Homer Rodeheaver’s publishing company. 
It is said a preacher gave him his sermon subject once, and Gabriel gave him the words and music for that sermon before the week ended for Sunday.  He was a prolific songwriter both in lyrics and music. One source suggests he had created nearly 8,000 pieces of music.  He edited some 35 songbooks, book on music instruction, and produced music for various group formats.  He wrote under pseudonyms including: “Charlotte G. Homer”, “H. A. Henry”, “S. B. Jackson” and possibly others.  We sing many of his songs to this day.
Charles Gabriel was married twice due to divorce.  His first wife was Fannie Woodhouse, the second was Amelia Moore.  He had a child with each woman.  Gabriel passed away September 14, 1932 in Hollywood, CA at the home of his son.  He did write an autobiography called Sixty Years of Gospel Song published by Hope Publishing Company that may be of interest for further information about his life.
William Augustine Ogden (1841-1897), Composer
William Augustine Ogden was born October 10, 1841 in Franklin County, Ohio (the Columbus area).  His parents moved to Indiana when he was six years old.  He served in the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and organized the Army of Cumberland which was an all-male choir. 
He was trained in the Boston Music School under teachers such as Lowell Mason, Thomas Hastings and others.  He was known largely for composing sacred music including both lyrics and music.  According to, his most popular lyrics were for “Sweet Are the Promises, Kind is the Word”.  He also published several songbooks.
He taught music in several places in the United States and even in Canada.  He was the Director of Music in Iowa starting in 1874, but he became the Superintendent of Music for the Toledo School System in 1887 where he would remain.  Ogden died October 14, 1897 in Toledo, Ohio.
Come to the Feast
Who does not like a feast at least once in a while?  We have holidays set aside for the purpose of feasting and festivity.  There is nothing wrong with this, provided sin is not involved.  The Lord provided festivities in the Old Testament, and Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper which is a spiritual feast.  Most people enjoy feasts and festivities, but there are exceptions.  Some may have had tragedy or loss that makes celebrating joyous occasions more difficult because it brings to their memory prior periods of joy and thanksgiving that have passed.  Because they miss those times and the people they enjoyed the fellowship with, these periods remind them of their loss. 
The subject of the song draws one to Jesus’s use of feasts in His teachings as illustrated by both the “Parable of the Wedding Feast” in Matthew 22:1-14 and “Parable of the Great Supper” Luke 14:15-24.  The two parables are very similar, but there are some key differences.  In the Parable of the Great Supper, people made excuses not to attend:  I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it”, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them” or “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come”.  These were not reasons but excuses; e.g., how many of our wives would pass on a nice supper and such a special event?  The Parable of the Wedding Feast includes people not just making excuses but mistreating the ones inviting them to the feast. 
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, people generally enjoy a good time.  We may find other matters that compete or demand our attention requiring us to miss a period of fellowship or festivity.  We may send our regrets, or not even show up, without much consequence; however, the stakes are much higher in the spiritual feast God has invited us to! 
Consider the preparations made for this eternal feast of God!  Preparations were being made before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 3:11).  The timing of the event was meticulously coordinated (Galatians 4:4).  The price for the feast and the admission was high, but God was the one who covered this (Acts 20:28).  Invitations were extended before the time of the feast (Luke 10:9), and the doors leading to the feast have been opened (Acts 2).  
There were those who rejected the Messiah leading to the crucifixion, as per the Parable of the Wedding Feast, and the Lord punished that generation for such rejection (a rejection that was prophesied!) This punishment was prophesied by the Lord on more than one occasion; e.g., Matthew 24:4-35.  The judgment of that generation of Jews serves as a type for the ultimate day of judgment which is also prophesied by the Lord in Matthew 24:36-51.  There is yet the eternal feast that awaits the faithful in Heaven.  Are we preparing to attend that feast?
A person has the freedom to decline the feast of God, but it is not a decision without consequence.  We may decline other people’s invitation, but this is not just any invitation from any other person!  This is an invitation to come to the Lord’s feast and enjoy His fellowship eternally.  We may have other “good events” competing for our attention in this life; however, there is none better or even close to the goodness of God.  Sadly, there will be what some would describe as “good people” who will be lost because they did not prioritize their lives in accordance to the One who is the highest order of good!  Do not treat the Lord’s invitation lightly—“…consider the goodness and severity of God...” (Romans 11:22, NKJV.)
Wayne Price, “All Things Are Ready,” Curtis A. Cates, Editor, Lessons in Lyrics, Memphis, TN:  Memphis School of Preaching, 1998, pp. 333-348.
V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX:  Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN:  Praise Press, 1997.

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