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Thursday, February 6, 2014

In the Prison

The Salvation Army, as a Christian denomination, is something of an oddity in the Christian community – in several regards, but perhaps most distinctively in regard to our songs.  In the Salvation Army we have a tradition of warfare songs – combat songs.  We sing about ourselves, The Salvation Army, going into battle against sin and despair, of fighting against the forces of darkness and liberating the captives of sin. 

In 1965 the Salvation Army published a sort of companion to its songbook, entitled Combat Songs,  a collection of songs presented to the soldiers (lay members) of the Salvation Army  as a challenge “to fight harder in the battle for mankind’s spirit.”

“These pioneer songs are echoes of some of the fiercest battles in The Salvation Army, particularly in the United States.  A few remain in the contemporary song book as they were composed; others have been contemporized.  Many, conceived in the heat of the conflict and inattentive to sentence construction and grammatical correctness, never reached print.  Some are the melodic sob of soldiers in search of the anguished, but all strike a note of victory.  They are Salvationalia at its best – yearning, spirited, determined.  They embody the spirit of William Booth, who ordered his soldiers forward despite privation, heartache, disillusionment, and brutal attack, with words that kept them marching: ‘Go on!’” [i]

One of the songs in this collection, In the Prison, was written by the “Newton, Iowa Lassies” in 1894.  And since that is the corps to which I am currently appointed, I am delighted to share it with you.  It is sung to the hymn tune Slade (also sometimes known as Over Jordan.)

With cheerful hearts the soldiers
To prison they did go,
Of victory they are sure in the prison.
Though our hides they are sore,
For we've been sleeping on the floor,
But we never will give o'er in the prison.

In the prison, in the prison,
In the Jasper county jail,
Where we never will give bail;
In the prison, in the prison,
We are hallelujah soldiers in the prison.

The hoodlums they did roar,
Till their throats were getting sore,
But they can't do any more, hallelujah!
With Jesus as our friend, He'll guide us to the end,
And on Him we will depend, in the prison.

It is not so very well,
To be lying in a cell,
But we're saved from sin and hell in the prison;
The devil tries his best
Our souls to distress,
But Jesus gives us rest in the prison.

“Sing to make the world hear!

The highest value of our singing after all has not been the mere gladness we have felt because of our own salvation, but the joy of pouring out the praise of our God to those who have not known Him, or of arousing them by our singing to new thoughts and a new life.

Sing till your whole soul is lifted up to God, and then sing till you lift the eyes of those who know not God to Him who is the fountain of all our joy.  I cannot imagine that in Heaven itself we can cease to remember and repeat to each other the strains our souls have reveled in most here below.

Till then, let us sing.”   
- William Booth (founder of The Salvation Army)

I want to thank my friend Sean W. for passing this along to me. 

[i]  From the Foreward

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