Do not be discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.@2 Chronicles 20:15
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Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924)
© National Portrait Gallery

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.

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

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Arthur S. Sullivan (1842–1900)

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.

There is a scene in the 1939 film Stan­ley and Liv­ing­stone 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, & at the fun­er­al of Am­er­i­can pre­si­dent Dwight Eis­en­how­er at the Na­tion­al Ca­thed­ral, Was­hing­ton, DC, March 1969.

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