The Story Behind Onward, Christian Soldiers
"Onward, Christian Soldiers" is a 19th-century English hymn. The words were written by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865, and the music was composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1871. Sullivan named the tune "St. Gertrude," after the wife of his friend Ernest Clay Ker Seymer, at whose country home he composed the tune. The Salvation Army adopted the hymn as its favored processional. The piece became Sullivan's most popular hymn.
The lyric was written as a processional hymn for children walking from Horbury Bridge to Horbury St Peter's Church near Wakefield, Yorkshire, at Whitsuntide in 1865. It was originally entitled, "Hymn for Procession with Cross and Banners." According to the Centre for Church Music, Baring-Gould reportedly wrote "Onward, Christian Soldiers" in about 15 minutes, later apologizing, "It was written in great haste, and I am afraid that some of the lines are faulty." He later allowed hymn-book compilers to alter the lyrics. For example, The Fellowship Hymn Book, with his permission, changed the phrase "one in hope and doctrine" to "one in hope and purpose." For the 1909 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, he changed the fifth line of the same verse from "We are not divided" to "Though divisions harass." However, Baring-Gould’s original words are used in most modern hymnals.
Watch 'Onward Christian Soldiers' videos below!
Popular Hymn Lyrics with Story and Meaning
Day by Day and With Each Passing Moment
Jesus Loves Me
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Nearer My God to Thee
Abide with Me
His Eye is On the Sparrow
Be Thou My Vision
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty