William P. Merrill (1867-1954) was a Presbyterian pastor who served several churches during his lifetime—most notably Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he served from 1911 until his retirement in 1938.
Merrill wrote several hymns during his lifetime, to include “Rise Up, O Men of God.” He wrote it to support a burgeoning men’s movement within the church.
This hymn encourages men to rise up, to “have done with lesser things,” and to serve the King of kings (v. 1).
It calls them to “bring in the day of brotherhood” (v. 2)—one of the strong emphases of Merrill’s ministry.
It reminds them that the church faces great challenges, and calls them to “rise up and make her great!” (v. 3)
And finally, it says:
Lift high the cross of Christ,
Tread where his feet have trod;
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of god!
This song’s emphasis on men’s ministry obviously fails the litmus test of inclusive language, so some people would change men to saints—and others would drop the song entirely.
But we need to remember that men have an important place in the church—and it is appropriate to challenge men to fill that place.
Those who are concerned with inclusive language might ask, “But how can we ask women to sing a song that excludes them?” But this song doesn’t exclude anyone. It calls men to an active faith. Is there something wrong with that?
I believe that it is fully appropriate for women to sing this song. Women need men to share the burden of leadership in the church—and that is what this song asks men to do.
Copyright, 2014, Richard Niell Donovan