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HYMN FOR PENTECOST 20 Fight the Good Fight

Text: John D. Monsell (1811-1875). Tune: William Boyd (1847-1928)

The Pharisee and Publican James Tissot

1 Fight the good fight with all your might, Christ is your strength and Christ your right. Lay hold on life, and it shall be your joy and crown eternally.

2 Run the straight race through God's good grace; lift up your eyes, and seek his face. Life with its way before us lies; Christ is the path and Christ the prize.

3 Cast care aside, lean on your guide; his boundless mercy will provide. Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove Christ is its life and Christ its love.

4 Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near; he changes not, and you are dear. Only believe, and you will see that Christ is Lord eternally.

REFLECTIONS The Christian life is hand to hand battle with the evil one.Just plain life is a battle as well. I have spent the last years during the pandemic hearing lectures on how the cells in our body work to keep us well. If one thinks about it, our bodies are battlefields. The immune system, a wonder we are only beginning to understand, has guards that live to defeat any virus or bacteria that invades out bodies. On instant alert, they attack infections and literally eat up that which is attacking us. A good immune system is armed to the teeth and ready to do battle against any invader that penetrates its walls.

The Christian life is like that. We are to be poised to defend ourselves from the evil one who roams about seeking whom he may devour. The devil has done a lot to convince us that evil is simply people making mistakes, or illness, or any number of explanations that put us off guard. But that is what the devil does—he seeks to disarm us and make us scoff at the idea there is a devil or hell.

When people are at ease and have laid down their arms, the devil can do the greatest harm. He is always in sheep’s clothing and deceiving us. He puts us to sleep and deludes us into thinking he does not exist.

This hymn is a call to arms and describes the Christian life in a bracing fresh way. We are to run this race boldly and without fear because the ending is sure in Christ. “Cast care aside, lean on your guide/His boundless mercy will provide.” This hymn reminds me of many Christian saints, those who have gone forth to certain death with confidence and good cheer because they knew what lay on the other side. Dietrich Bonhoeffer went to his death joyfully because he viewed it as the beginning of eternal life, and a life of utter completeness.

I haven’t looked at this hymn for a long time, but reading it over again and hearing it sung, I am struck by the freshness of it, its brisk confidence and trust in the Lord. It brings us through the ultimate battle with joy and hope. I can be quite dour in the midst of all the threats I see up ahead, despite my faith. I need to hear hymns like this often to give me new joy and a clear sense of what I believe as I venture forth, even into suffering and death. It is for this our Savior came. “Only believe, and you will see/that Christ is Lord eternally.” Amen!


J. S. B. Monsell

John Samuel Bewley Monsell attended Trinity College in Dublin. An Anglican, he served in both Ireland and then England after his ordination in 1835. He became rector at St. Nicolas Church in Surrey and was rector of St. Nicholas Church in Guilford from 1870. He suffered a tragic accident falling from the roof of the church that he was helping to restore. Monsell was a prolific writer of poetry and hymns. Like many of his time, he focused on the Church year. His works included Hymns and Miscellaneous Poems(1837), Spiritual Songs (1857), Hymns of Love and Praise (1863), and The Parish Hymnal (1873). William Boyd wrote a tune for a Pentecost text, but it has been frequently associated with this hymn. Boyd, a student of Sabine Baring-Gould, was a church musician in England and composed many tunes for the hymns of his day. Duke Street is another popular tune for it.

See below my hymn on the parable of the pharisee and the publican. Fits pretty much any fall time or text.


Organ playing the Pentecost tune

Choir and Congregation from Lincoln Nebraska singing the Duke Street setting

The London Fox Choir



For those thinking of Christmas gifts, you might consider the book Jesus the Harmony. It has a poem for every day of the year and Bible references for each poem that put Jesus in what has been called "the red thread of salvation." Many have been using it for daily devotions; others in group Bible studies.

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