Supporting the previous phrase, a testimony left by the hymn’s author, Van Deventer goes:
“The song was written while I was conducting a meeting at East Palestine, Ohio, and in the home of George Sebring (founder of Sebring Camp meeting Bible Conference). For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became and evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, he caused me to sing.”
The Author’s Life
The author’s life supports his testimony. Judson Van de Venter (1855-1939) grew up on a farm near Dundee, Michigan. He taught art in public schools in Sharon, Pennsylvania after graduating. He was an active layman in his Methodist Episcopal Church and he also contributed to revivals held at the church. Because of these services, friends encouraged to become an evangelist and leave his field of teaching. It took him five years to finally “surrender all” and follow his friends. His ministry took him to various places in the United States, England, and Scotland.
As an evangelist, he also wrote hymns. More than sixty of Van de Venter’s hymns appeared in various twentieth-century hymnals, but “I Surrender All” (1896) is his most famous.
A Powerful Hymn
The rendition of Joey + Rory struck as the most. Remembering how she fought cancer, the hymn helped in her healing. She surrendered her everything to God and prayed for the Holy Spirit to be her strength throughout the battle. They were still able to record songs even if Joey was very ill that time.
One of the features of many gospel songs is the recurrence of a keyword or phrase all through the hymn. Each of the five stanzas begins with the line, “All to Jesus I surrender.” The refrain also comprises the phrase, “I surrender all” three times in the melody and an additional two times in the men’s part. This means that the one who sings all five stanzas would sing the word “surrender” thirty times. The other keyword – “all“, would be sung forty-three times! The stanzas all rotate around the keyword. Cutting it into pieces,
First stanza. “All to him I freely give.”
Second Stanza. The singer rejects “worldly pleasures.”
Third stanza. Pleads to “feel the Holy Spirit.”
Fourth Stanza. Requests for Jesus’ empowerment, to be filled with “thy love and power.”
Final stanza. The singer “feels the sacred flame,” an image of the Holy Spirit.
The result of feeling Christ’s “full salvation,” is to sing “glory to his name.”
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