Scripture Verse

Do not be discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Introduction

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Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924)
National Portrait Gallery

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Words: Sa­bine Bar­ing-Gould. First pub­lished in The Church Times, vol­ume 2, num­ber 89 (Lon­don: Oc­to­ber 15, 1864), page 331. The orig­in­al ver­sion was ti­tled Hymn for Pro­cess­ion with Cross and Ban­ners.

Music: St. Ger­trude Ar­thur S. Sul­li­van, 1871 (🔊 pdf nwc).

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Arthur S. Sullivan (1842–1900)

Origin of the Hymn

Whit-Monday is a great day for school fes­tiv­als in York­shire. One Whit-Mon­day, thir­ty years ago, it was ar­ranged that our school should join forc­es with that of a neigh­bor­ing vil­lage. I want­ed the child­ren to sing when march­ing from one vil­lage to an­oth­er, but couldn’t think of any­thing quite suit­able; so I sat up at night, re­solved that I would write some­thing my­self. On­ward, Chris­tian Sol­diers was the re­sult. It was writ­ten in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Cer­tain­ly noth­ing has sur­prised me more than its po­pu­la­ri­ty. I don’t re­mem­ber how it got print­ed first, but I know that ve­ry soon it found its way into sev­er­al Col­lect­ions. I have writ­ten a few other hymns since then, but on­ly two or three have be­come at all well-known.

This hymn was played in 1941 for Am­er­ican Pre­si­dent Frank­lin Roo­se­velt at the re­quest of Brit­ish lead­er Win­ston Church­ill, when the two met on board the HMS Prince of Wales to cre­ate the At­lan­tic Char­ter.

In the 1939 film Stan­ley and Liv­ing­stone, there is a scene where Dr. Liv­ing­stone (played by Ced­ric Hard­wicke) leads Af­ri­can na­tives in sing­ing this hymn. It was al­so sung at the end of the 1942 Aca­de­my Aw­ard-winn­ing mo­vie Mrs. Mi­ni­ver, and at the fun­er­al of Ame­ri­can pre­si­dent Dwight Eis­en­how­er at the Na­tion­al Ca­thed­ral, Was­hing­ton, DC, March 1969.

Lyrics

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!

Refrain

Onward, Chris­tian sol­diers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Je­sus
Going on be­fore.

At the sign of tri­umph,
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.

Refrain

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 hope, in doc­trine,
One in cha­ri­ty.

Refrain

What the saints es­tab­lished
That I hold for true.
What the saints be­liev­èd,
That I be­lieve too.
Long as earth en­dur­eth,
Men the faith will hold—
Kingdoms, na­tions, em­pires,
In de­struc­tion rolled.

Refrain

Crowns and thrones may per­ish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Je­sus
Constant will re­main.
Gates of hell can ne­ver
’Gainst that church pre­vail;
We have Christ’s own pro­mise,
And that can­not fail.

Refrain

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.

Refrain