'Thy Loving Kindness is Better Than Life' (A little tribute to Ps Hugh Mitchell)

06:00

We're going to have a wee break from our current series today for a wee tribute. Today's the funeral of Pastor Hugh Mitchell, who died at the age of 100. If Apostolic pastors were the House of Commons, Hugh Mitchell would have been the Father of the House. But he wasn't simply the eldest pastor in the church. He was a faithful servant of God who had a significant impact on the life of the Apostolic Church, not only in the UK, but also around the world as Missionary Secretary. And his impact went far beyond the Apostolic Church as well.

These last two Sundays we've been singing one of his best-known choruses, Thy Loving-Kindness is Better than Life, in church (as well as using the patten he and the other members of the Gospel Quintet gave to the church at Easter 75 years ago). And when I went on the internet to see if I could find the song anywhere, I found it everywhere: from Lutheran hymnbooks, to recordings by the Maranatha Singers. From renditions by black gospel choirs to translations into Spanish and Chinese. A friend who used to pastor in the Highlands told me of his amazement when he went to a meeting in a little Presbyterian church up there and the launched into Thy Loving-Kindness is Better than Life. It seems Hugh Mitchell's paraphrase of Psalm 63:3-6 has managed to belt the globe.

Pastor Mitchell was born in 1914 in Bradford, and ordained to the ministry in the early 1940s. He was called as an Apostle in the Body of Christ, and served the Apostolic Church as Missionary Secretary from 1942-1949. In his Annual Report of the Apostolic Church Missionary Movement at the beginning of 1945, Ps Mitchell reported that, from the beginning of the Missionary Movement in 1922 until then, the Apostolic Church had sent out over 100 missionaries to foreign fields, with 25 new missionaries preparing to go (which is all the more astonishing as WW2 was still going on as he was writing!).

In that report Ps Mitchell wrote of our overseas work:
It should not be thought that the Apostolic Church Missionary Movement is yet another society seeking to add a contribution to the already vast missionary enterprise undertaken by the Christian Church. Neither should its merit be judged by income or expenditure. Such would only tend to underestimate its value and importance, and would certainly misconstrue its mission. Those acquainted with the vision of the Apostolic Church and its mission throughout the world will recognise the fact that its missionary work is not regarded as a sideline. It is more than that. It is a vital life-line. For the very nature of the church's vision permits no local or national interpretation to the evangel committed to her. And certainly no less its doctrines concerning the Church of Christ.
Up here in the Bradford Area, Hugh Mitchell was as well known for mission at home as for mission abroad. He and the other members of the Gospel Quintet had a dynamic (and for the time, cutting-edge) evangelistic ministry in Yorkshire and were responsible for the opening of several new assemblies (what we'd call church planting today).

Hugh Mitchell in 1962.
Ps Mitchell was also a pioneer when it came to the church's attitude to theological education. (Now, I should note that in the beginning the Apostolic Church seems to have had a rather positive attitude to theological study, with the desire from very early on to have our own Bible College with a robust curriculum, including biblical languages, and some well-trained lecturers being brought in from outside the Apostolic Church to teach in it alongside our own teachers. But somewhere along the way, during the middle of the twentieth century, a suspicion seems to have crept in about theological training.) In 1969 Hugh Mitchell (along with a confirmation through one of the prophets) was responsible for Council reversing the position it had taken 18 years earlier, and finally agreeing that 'theological degrees can be of advantage with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.'

Hugh Mitchell also served as a pastor in Bradford, Newport, Glasgow, London, and Eastbourne. He retired in 1979, but until just a few years ago would drive down from his home in London to Eastbourne every Sunday to help the pastor there!

Despite all that varied service over so many years in the ministry, he's probably best remembered for the songs he started writing and singing up here in Yorkshire. Even if you've never heard of Hugh Mitchell, you probably know some of his songs. Most of the songs in the 16 Gospel Quintet Choruses books, used by Pentecostals in Britain and around the world, were written by him. The same was true of the subsequent series Gates of Praise. He also produced 5 children's chorus books here in the UK, and a few in America (published by Zondervan). He also composed some hymns, including the hymn for the opening of the new Convention Hall in Penygroes in 1962.

While Thy Loving-Kindness is Better than Life is probably his most widely known chorus, you might also know some of his children's songs, like How Did Moses Cross the Red Sea or Whisper a Prayer in the Morning or (as I've just discovered, despite singing it with the kids in church all the time!) I believe the Bible (surely one of the greatest children's songs of all time!) from Good News Clubs or Sunday School growing up.

Anyway, here is a fantastic piano rendition of Thy Loving-Kindness. (I've put the words further down this post, so scroll down here for them.):



And here is a little boy who can sing the first verse:



Thy loving-kindness is better than life,
Thy loving-kindness is better than life:
My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee
Thy loving-kindness is better than life.

I lift my hands, Lord, unto Thy name,
I lift my hands, Lord, unto Thy name:
My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee
Thy loving-kindness is better than life.

Rememb'ring thee, Lord, I'm satisfied,
Rememb'ring The, Lord, I'm satisfied:
My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee
Thy loving-kindness is better than life.

Safe in Thy shadow I will rejoice,
Safe in Thy shadow I will rejoice,
My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee
Thy loving-kindness is better than life.

And here's Whisper a Prayer (the words are on the video, although I've never heard the third verse before, and it's not in the the 1944 version printed in Gospel Quintet Choruses 3, so I'm not sure if it's been added by someone else or not.):


How Did Moses Cross the Red Sea:


I can't find a video of I believe the Bible, but come to Leeds and we'll sing it for you ;)

Ps Hugh Mitchell retired several years before I was born, and I never met him. Yet, through his songs he taught me, and thousands of other children around the world, about Jesus, the Son of God who died for our sins, rose again from the dead, and is coming back again. And that evangelism continues today in my church, and many others, where children are still learning about Jesus by singing Hugh Mitchell songs.

Jesus died for sinners,
Jesus died for sinners, 
Jesus died for sinners, 
Jesus died for me.

So let me just finish with some advice for evangelism from Hugh Mitchell's pen, back in 1941:
The evangelist should, to the utmost of his ability, portray the Lord Jesus as a Saviour on the cross, and the vision of Him there will bring forth an answer from the most stubborn of silent, hardened souls. (Art Thou in Health My Brother, p.18)
With thankfulness to God for such a faithful gospel servant.
And with prayer for his family.

Thy Loving-Kindness is better than life. (Ps. 63:3)

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The Tenets of the Apostolic Church


The Unity of the Godhead, and Trinity of the Persons therein.

The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for repentance and regeneration and the eternal doom of the finally impenitent.

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