By Hymn Stories
Author and Composer --Alfred H. Ackley, 1887-1960
"He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Matthew 28:6
"Why should I worship a dead Jew?"
This challenging question was posed by a sincere young Jewish student who had been attending evangelistic meetings conducted by the author and composer of this hymn, Alfred H. Ackley.
In his book, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, George W. Sanville records Mr. Ackley's answer to this searching question, which ultimately prompted the writing of this popular gospel hymn:
"He lives! I tell you, He is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands."
Mr. Sanville continues:
"Mr. Ackley's forthright, emphatic answer, together with his subsequent triumphant effort to win the man for Christ, flowered forth into song and crystallized into a convincing sermon on 'He Lives!' His keenly alert mind was sensitive to suggestions for sermons, and sermons in song. In his re-reading of the resurrection stories of the Gospels, the words 'He is risen' struck him with new meaning. From the thrill within his own soul came the convincing song--'He Lives!' The scriptural evidence, his own heart, and the testimony of history matched the glorious experience of an innumerable cloud of witnesses that 'He Lives,' so he sat down at the piano and voiced that conclusion in song. He says, 'The thought of His ever-living presence brought the music promptly and easily.'"
The hymn first appeared in Triumphant Service Songs, a hymnal published by the Rodeheaver Company, in 1933. It has been a favorite with evangelical congregations to the present time.
The names of the two Ackley brothers, Alfred Henry and Benton D., have long been prominent in the gospel music field. Both were long-time associates with the Rodeheaver Publishing Company in the compilation and promotion of gospel music, and each contributed many songs to these publications. (See "God Understands" No. 29).
A. H. Ackley was born on January 21, 1887, at Spring Hill, Pennsylvania. He received a thorough education in music, including study in composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. As a performer, he was recognized as an accomplished cellist. Following graduation from the Westminster Theological Seminary, he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry, in 1914. While serving Presbyterian pastorates in Pennsylvania and California, Ackley always maintained a keen interest in the writing of hymns and hymn tunes. It is estimated that he wrote well over 1,000 gospel songs and hymns in addition to aiding in the compilation of various hymnals and songbooks for the Rodeheaver Company. In recognition of his contribution to sacred music, he was awarded the honorary Doctor of Sacred Music Degree from John Brown University. Mr. Ackley died at Whittier, California, on July 3, 1960.
Recently, I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land and of standing in the garden tomb, where it is believed our Lord was buried and resurrected. What a spiritual blessing it was to realize anew, that we worship and serve One who broke the bonds of death and now ever liveth to make intercession for us.
THE LORD IS RISEN
"The Lord is risen indeed;
Now is His work performed;
Now is the mighty Captive freed,
And death's strong castle stormed.
"The Lord is risen indeed:
The grave has lost its prey;
With Him is risen the ransomed seed,
To reign in endless day.
"The Lord is risen indeed:
He lives, to die no more;
He lives, the sinner's cause to plead,
Whose curse and shame He bore.
"Then, angels, tune your lyres,
And strike each cheerful chord;
Join, all ye bright celestial choirs,
To sing our risen Lord!"