LEAD ON, O KING ETERNAL

Wayne S. Walker

“Who is the King of Glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty
in battle” (Psa. 24.8).

     INTRO.”  A song which asks the King of Glory to be our leader in the
battles of life is “Lead On, O King Eternal” (#494 in “Hymns for Worship
Revised”).  The text was written by Ernest Warburton Shurtleff
(1862-1917).  A native of Boston, MA, he did a lot of writing during the
years of his studies and had four published works by the time he
graduated from Andover Theological Seminary at the age of 26.  This hymn
was produced in 1887 as a graduation song to be sung at the commencement
of his class and was first published later that same year in his own
“Hymns of the Faith.”

     The tune (Lancashire) for which it was written had been composed
some 52 years earlier by a well-knwon British musician, Henry Thomas
Smart (1813-1879).  It sas produced for a music festival at Blackburn,
England, on Oct. 4, 1835, to observe the 300th anniversary of the
Reformation in England.  Printed in a leaflet for that occasion, its
first inclusion in a hymnbook was Smart’s “Psalms and Hymns for Divine
Worship,” published in 1866 at London, England.  Apparently, its first
use with Shurtleff’s hymn was in “The Methodist Hymnal” of 1905.

     This hymn identifies several aspects of the warfare in which
Christians must engage.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that we must be ready to go into battle
 A. As soldiers of Christ, we must be prepared to endure whatever
hardships come our way: 2 Tim. 2.3
 B. The primary means by which we make this preparation is by our
reading, studying, and learning God’s word: 1 Tim. 4.6, 13-15; 2 Tim.
1.13, 2.15, 3.14-17
 C. However, it is not enough just to prepare ourselves for the fight
through our study of God’s word; we must ultimately go out and fight the
battle: 1 Tim. 1.18, 6.12

II. Stanza 2 tells us that we must understand the nature of the King’s
warfare (we might talk about the heavenly kingdom, which Christ has
already established, as coming to those who hear, believe, and obey the
gospel that we preach)
 A. Jesus did not come to establish a literal, earthly kingdom where
there would be physical fighting to gain power: Jn. 18.36
 B. Therefore, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal–there are no
swords loud clashing or roll of stirring drums: 2 Cor. 10.3-5
 C. The reason is that our fight is not with enemy armies but with
spiritual forces of Satan and sin, which we can overcome only by lives of
holiness and deeds of mercy, as we use the spiritual armor and weaponry
that God provides: Eph. 6.10-17

III. Stanza 3 tells us that we must look to our King to provide the
reward for which we fight
 A. Because of the almighty power and promises of our King, we do not
fight with a constant attitude of fearing failure: 2 Tim. 1.7, 1 Jn. 4.18
 B.Of course, we do have to make sure that we are truly following Christ
in the fight in order to have the promise of His presence and blessings:
1 Cor. 9.24-27
 C. But just as the old soldier Paul looked forward to the crown of life
after fighting his fight, so all who faithfully serve Christ in this
spiritual warfare will gain the crown: 2 Tim. 4.6-8, Rev. 2.10.

     CONCL.:  While the metaphors and imagery of this hymn were intended
for a seminary graduation, the thoughts can well be applied to the life
of every Christian.  As one writer said, these things should not be
confined only to preachers because they represent the battle plan for all
of God’s people.  Thus, every child of God, as he faces the battles of
life against evil and seeks to gain the crown of life, should make his
petition to the Lord, saying, “Lead On, O King Eternal.”

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