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

Sabine Baring-Gould, 1864. First published in in The Church Times, Volume II, Number 89 (London: October 15, 1864), page 331, titled Hymn for Procession with Cross and Banners.

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.

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

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Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900)

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Ggoing 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