Low in the grave He lay—
Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day—
Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Christ Arose is a hymn that we joyfully sing almost every year at Easter. It was composed by Robert Lowry, a Baptist minister, in the Easter of 1874. While having his devotion one evening, Lowry was touched by the words in Luke 24: 6-8: “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words.” As he sat at the little pump organ in his home, the words and music flowed spontaneously, giving expression to the thoughts of Christ’s resurrection that had been so much on his mind.
This much-loved Easter hymn is one of the most dramatic ever written. The hymn begins on a dismal note and then rises with the exultant chorus proclaiming our Saviour’s victory over the grave and His “mighty triumph o’er His foes”.
One Christian website made this interesting comment: “There is no way we can sing this victorious hymn sitting down comfortably. We just have to stand in adoration to our Lord and King and sing this Christian hymn with much joy, and gusto in our voices unto our Risen Saviour” (www.greatchristianhymns.com)
o Early life and conversion
Born in Philadelphia on 12 March 1826, Lowry came to know the Lord at the age of seventeen. After his conversion, he left the Associate Presbyterian Church of North America, his parents’ church, and joined the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, where he served in the Sunday School and the choir.
o Call to the ministry
Some five years later, Lowry pursued higher studies at the University of Lewisburg (now known as Bucknell University) after his pastor encouraged him to enter the ministry. After his graduation in 1854 with high scholastic honours, he was ordained as a Baptist minister. Lowry continued his pastoral ministry until his death in 1899 at the age of seventy three.
o Talented composer
A gifted composer, Lowry is credited with the writing of the music for more than 500 hymns. In 1864, he wrote and composed his best-known hymn, Shall we Gather at the River? – “during a heatwave which accompanied an epidemic in the city which claimed many lives. Almost overcome by the heat, he suddenly envisaged the passage in the Book of Revelation chapter 22: ‘And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.’ Despite its popularity, Lowry did not regard the hymn highly: ‘It is brass band music, has a march movement, and for that reason has become popular, though for myself I do not think much of it’” (Wikipedia).
Lowry also wrote the words and music for the hymn, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus. In addition, he composed the music for All the Way My Saviour Leads Me, We’re Marching to Zion, Saviour, Thy Dying Love and I Need Thee Every Hour.
Though he was highly regarded as a hymn writer and composer, Lowry had always looked upon himself as a preacher. A brilliant and captivating orator, he “had great ability to paint word pictures and to inspire a congregation” (101 More Hymn Stories – Kenneth W Osbeck).
We thank God for using His gifted servant, Robert Lowry, so mightily in the music and pastoral ministries. Today, as we sing this glorious hymn composed by him, we rejoice that our blessed Saviour has conquered death and the grave. Because He arose, we, too will rise with Him! With joyful hearts, we echo the words of the chorus: “He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”