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Onward Christian Soldiers Hymn Story and Lyrics

Sabine Baring-Gould and Arthur Sullivan composed this hymn. The words were written by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865 while the music to the song was added in 1871 by Arthur Sullivan. 

Arthur Sullivan added the tune of the song at his friend Ernest Clay Ker Seymer’s house. This later made him name his tune “St. Gertrude” after his friend’s wife.

This hymn is one of the commonly known gospel hymns, derived from the New Testament, where Christians are sometimes referred to as soldiers of Jesus Christ. This can be seen in verses such as II Timothy 2:3 (KJV): "Thou, therefore, endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

The hymn was originally meant for the procession with the cross by children who walked from Horbury Bridge to Horbury St Peter's Church near Wakefield, Yorkshire, at Whitsuntide in 1865. 

This hymn was originally titled, "Hymn for Procession with Cross and Banners" and Baring-Gould composed it in five minutes. He was later reported to have said that some of the original lines could have been faulty.

The original hymn was made to a different made which did not gain wide acceptance. It is only after  Sullivan added his tune that this song gained wide acceptance.

In 1941, Winston Churchill was on the Royal Navy ship, HMS Prince of Wales with  Franklin Roosevelt and he chose this hymn during a church service on the ship.

He later gave the following reason for his choice:

"We sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers" indeed, and I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we were serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high. When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals ... it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation".

Sabine Baring-Gould


Onward Christian Soldiers Hymn Lyrics

1 Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See, His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus,
Going on before.

At the name of Jesus
Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
At the shout of praise:
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise!

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God:
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one Body we—
One in faith and Spirit,
One eternally.

Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane;
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never
’Gainst the Church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise,
Which can never fail.

Onward, then, ye people!
Join our happy throng;
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor
Unto Christ, the King;
This through countless ages
Men and angels sing.

For more lyrics and stories, visit popular and old hymns History.

Onward Christian Soldiers Hymn Video

Below is a video of the Gaither Homecoming choir singing, "Onward Christian Soldiers."


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