“THOU ART THE WAY”

Wayne S. Walker

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father,
but by Me” (Jn. 14.6)

     INTRO.:  A hymn that is based on this passage of scripture is “Thou
Art The Way” (#148 in “Hymns for Worship Revised”).  The text was written
by George Washington Doane, who was born at Trenton, NJ, on May 27, 1799,
and educated at Union College, Schenectady, NY, from which he graduated
in 1818, and at General Theological Seminary in New York City, NY.
Becoming a minister with the Episcopal Church in 1821, he served at
Trinity Church in New York City until 1824 when he was appointed
professor of Belles-Lettres at Trinity College in Hartford, CN.  Many of
his hymns, including this one, were published in his 1824 work, “Songs by
the Way, Chiefly Devotional with Translations and Imitations.”

     Others that have appeared in our books are “Fling Out The Banner”
and “Softly Now The Light Of Day.”  In 1828, Doane became minister at
Trinity Church in Boston, MA, and then became Bishop of New Jersey in
1832 at the age of 33, where he remained for the rest of his life.  Two
years later, in 1834, he published an American edition of “The Christian
Year” by English hymnwriter John Keble (1792-1866).  One of the foremost
promoters of the Episcopalian missionary movement and the establishment
of church-related schools, he was instrumental in founding St. Mary’s
Hall, a girls’ school, at Burlington, NJ, in 1837, and Burlington College
in 1846.

     Doane died at Burlington on Apr. 27, 1859.  His son, William C.
Doane, became Bishop of Albany, NY, and was also a hymnwriter.  “Thou Art
The Way” has the distinction of being the only hymn by an American author
in the original edition of the monumental English hymnbook “Hymns Ancient
and Modern” published for the Anglican Church in 1861.  The tune (Sawley)
was composed by an English musician who was well-known as an organist and
conductor, James Walch (1837-1901).  The usual date given for its first
publication is 1860, but it may have actually been produced as early as
1857.

      This hymn presents Jesus as the Word with three functions in His
relation to man.

I. From stanza 1 we see that Jesus is the Way
“Thou art the Way: to Thee alone From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek, Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.”
  A. The reason that we need a way is that we must flee from sin and
death: Rom. 3.23, 6.23
  B. In order to escape sin and death we must seek the Father: Acts 17.27
  C. Believing in Jesus is the only way that we can seek the Father and
pass from death unto life: Jn. 5.24

II. From stanza 2 we see that Jesus is the Truth
“Thou art the Truth: Thy word alone True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst instruct the mind, And purify the heart.”
  A. True wisdom, of course, comes only from God: Prov. 9.10, Jas. 1.5
  B. The scriptures, inspired by God, are given to instruct our minds in
righteousness: 2 Tim. 3.16-17
  C. It is only by the truth of Christ that we can be made free from sin
and purified in heart: Jn. 16.7-13, 1 Pet. 1.22

III. From stanza 3 we see that Jesus is the Life
“Thou art the Life: the rending tomb Proclaims Thy conquering arm;
And those who put their trust in Thee Nor death nor hell shall harm.”
  A. The empty tomb proclaims Jesus as the conquering Son of God: Rom.
1.3-4
  B. Therefore, we should put our trust in Him: Eph. 1.11-14
  C. Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, only those who
believe in Him can have eternal life where neither death nor hell can
harm them: Jn. 11.25-26

IV. From stanza 4 we see that Jesus is the true and living way.
“Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life: Grant us that way to know,
That truth to keep, that life to win, Whose joys eternal flow.”
  A. Through Jesus Christ alone we can know the way: Matt. 7.13-14
  B. Through Jesus Christ alone we can find the truth: Jn. 8.32
  C. Through Jesus Christ alone can we win eternal life by believing on
His name: Jn. 20.30-31

     CONCL.:  In an effort to shave hymns down to the bare minimum, some
of our books have used only stanzas 1-3.  Oddly enough a few have had
only 1, 2, and 4–it seems as though something is missing there!  One
characteristic of a truly good hymn is that it is based directly on the
scriptures.  This hymn takes a statement of Jesus and makes an
application of its meaning to each one of us, concluding with a summary
of the teaching and a request that it might become a part of us.  May all
of us accept His truth so that we might receive His life by saying to
Jesus, “Thou Art The Way.”

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