The hymn “Standing on the Promises” was written in 1886 based on a study of 2 Corinthians. Some sources suggest this passage as the basis for the hymn—“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV.)
Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928), Lyricist & Composer
Russell Kelso Carter was born November 18, 1849 in Baltimore, MD. At the age of 15 he joined the Presbyterian Church which is where his parents attended. He graduated from the Pennsylvania Military Academy (now Widener University) in 1867. He as commissioned a Captain in the Pennsylvania State Line so there may be reference to him as “Captain R. Kelso Carter” in some writings. Upon graduation, he became a teacher of chemistry and natural sciences until his health forced him out to California for three years to regain his strength, but apparently this did not help his condition. He would regain his health and go onto teach civil engineering and advanced mathematics. He resigned from the Pennsylvania Military Academy in 1887.
Carter would eventually leave the Presbyterian Church and joined the Methodist Church seeking more of an experience driven religion. He believed in divine healing and worked to promote these views. He held the incorrect position that Jesus not only took our sins to the cross but also our sicknesses too. He believed that prayer would lead to forgiveness and result divine healing. In 1887 he became a licensed preacher with the Methodist Episcopal Church which was just after the publication of “Standing on the Promises”. In 1898 he contracted tuberculosis (also called consumption), but he recovered due to a medical breakthrough to combat this illness. This led him to believe that God could heal through medicine as He can do so through prayer. His first wife was Josephine E. Carter. Around 1897, he divorced her which was a major scandal at the time. Some sources suggest that his wife suffered from mental illness. He remarried, and his second wife’s name was Elizabeth H. Carter. Carter’s view on healing would swing from the extreme of divine healing to advocating “medical devices” that the USPS sued to have these devices banned as mail fraud. He would go onto study and practice medicine which sources state he did until his death on August 23, 1928 in Catonsville, MD. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, MD with the words “Standing on the Promises” on his tombstone.
He is credited with writing and composing 52 hymns, but he worked on writing and composing with others so he has been involved with nearly 100 hymns. His most well-known is “Standing on the Promises”. He was known for writing on subjects relating to religion, science, mathematics, and novels. Widener University still confers the R. Kelso Carter Award annually to a citizen, who is not an alumnus, who has brought honor to Widener University.
Standing on the Promises
The concept of “Standing on the Promises” reminds me of this statement by the evangelist Walter Scott preaching on November 18, 1827 in Lisbon, OH. A man came in late, missing
most of the lesson, and sat in the back. When Walter explained the plan of salvation as it appeared in Acts 2, he asked if anyone would come forward and accept it by being baptized. The man came forward requesting to be baptized. The man explained that if he ever heard the gospel presented as it was in the New Testament, he would not hesitate to obey it. Here is what that man, William Amend, wrote of that night:
I had read the 2d of the Acts when I expressed myself to my wife as follows: "Oh, this is the gospel - this is the thing we wish - the remission of our sins! Oh, that I could hear the gospel in these same words - as Peter preached it! I hope I shall someday hear it; and the first man I meet who will preach the gospel this, with him will I go." So, my brother, on the day you saw me come' into the meeting-house, my heart was open to receive the Word of God, and when you cried, "The Scriptures no longer shall be a sealed book. God means what he says. Is there any man present who will take God at his word, and be baptized for remission of sins?" - at that moment my feelings were such that I could have cried out, "Glory to God! I have found the man whom I have long sought for." So I entered the kingdom where I readily laid hold of the hope set before me. (William Baxter, Life of Elder Walter Scott, p. 113)
According to some restoration historians, William Amend was the first documented person to be immersed “for the forgiveness of sins” in the Campbell Movement. (The Stone Movement had done so a year prior.)
Our faith is not based on some “leap in the dark” but upon the promises of God! The Bible is filled with verifiable example after example that the Bible is trustworthy. It contains the promises that God has made for us that we can stand upon. Will you take that stand today?
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.