Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hymns & Hymn Writers: Why Keep Jesus Waiting? by David R. Kenney


The song “Why Keep Jesus Waiting?” was published in 1882.  According to, this song is the most popular of Cline’s works to be published in hymnals. 
Christopher Columbus Cline (1848-1920), Lyricist & Composer
Christopher Columbus Cline was born near Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio on November 21, 1848.  He was educated in a log schoolhouse and attended the College of the Bible where J. W. McGarvey served as the Head of the Bible Department.  He also studied at the University of Kentucky.  He is listed in John T. Brown’s Churches of Christ.  He was described in John Brown’s biographical work on churches of Christ as “…uncompromising as to the truth, yet gentle and pleasant in social life” (p. 517.)  Keep in mind that this work was made at about the time that churches were digressing through the introduction of the instrument, so some in this book may be more aligned with the Christian Church today.
Cline was a professional educator, hymnbook publisher and preacher.  Interestingly, he served in the Palestine Exploratory Committee that organized J. W. McGarvey’s famous trip to the Holy Lands in 1879 which served as the basis for McGarvey’s classic work Lands of the Bible.  Cline taught music in the College of the Bible upon graduation from his studies.  He obviously had a great amount of respect for McGarvey, having named one of his sons McGarvey Cline.  He taught at Christian College of Columbia, MO; Hamilton College in Clinton, NY; and Maddox Seminary in Little Rock, AR.  He also assisted his three daughters in establishing the Little Rock Conservatory and College for Women. 
He married Barbara Jane Gibbany Cline.  They had at least one son and three daughters.  His three daughters, Effie, Martha and Sarah were recognized as professional musical educators in Little Rock, AR from their effort to establish a Conservatory of Music. 
Christopher Columbus Cline passed away on December 14, 1920 in Little Rock, Arkansas.  He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Why Keep Jesus Waiting?
The question “Why keep Jesus waiting?” is a powerful question and makes a powerful invitation song.  It reminds me of the passage--“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20, NKJV.)  This passage not only reminds one of this song but also reminds me of a famous painting I recall from my younger days.  There are several versions of artwork with Jesus standing at a door, without a doorknob, knocking.  Warner Sallman (1892-1968) made his painting, “Christ at Heart’s Door”, in 1942 after he survived a life or death battle over tuberculosis.  The painting is very popular and illustrates a great truth—it is up to you whether or not you will obey the gospel.  The choice is your choice.  Atheists like to mock the message of this painting, stating “Let me in so I can save you from what I am going to do if you do not let me in.”  Their mockery may be cute to some, but it is really no laughing matter.  Recall what the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and the saints of Achaia“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, NKJV.)
Jesus certainly came the first time to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); however, when He returns it will be to gather the redeemed to Himself and punish those who have rejected His work of salvation—“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28, NKJV.)
Give this matter serious thought as we sing these lyrics:  “Why keep Jesus waiting—Knocking at the door?  Soon He’ll cease His pleading, Yes, forevermore; Come poor soul, obey Him, Open I implore.”  Be sure to know that the word “implore” means to beg, plead, beseech and entreat.  Sure.  It is your decision, but we are pleading with you not to keep Jesus waiting. 


John T. Brown, A Historical, Biographical, and Pictorial History of Churches of Christ in the United States, Australasia, England and Canada, Louisville, KY:  John P. Morton and Company, 1904, p. 512.

John William McGarvey, Lands of the Bible, Louisville, KY:  Guide Printing and Publishing Company, 1893.

John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN:  Praise Press, 1997.

V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX:  Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.

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