Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul


Since the original posting of my article, Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul, on January 14, 2011, it has been read by internet users thousands of times. I suppose that is because a lot of lives were positively affected by this little song some time earlier in their lifetime. Or it could be that the song reminds folks of a special time in their lives which was very important to them. I am pleased that so many people have found the article worthwhile, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday which occurs in November in the USA. With this update, I am providing some additional background on the songwriters and their ministry. For convenience I first present the original article.

Special Note:  October 19, 2015 – This article was originally posted on January 14, 2011.  After a number of contacts with direct descendants of Seth and Bessie Sykes several corrections and updates have been included and are shown below in red.

———————————-  Original Article (edited) ————————————

John 4:29 (NIV) “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

Background: Sometimes things just pop into your head from the past and you don’t know why. Recently a chorus that I learned as a child just keeps ringing in my brain for no apparent reason. The tune and words are etched in my memory. In times when I least expect it, I find myself humming the tune and repeating the words over and over:

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul,
Thank You, Lord, for making me whole;
Thank You, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free.

The tune is simple and the words are easy to sing. But I’m not sure that I ever understood how profound these words really are. I recall learning this chorus in Vacation Bible School in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Later on I know that we regularly sang it in our youth group. And even later, our church would use it as part of our worship service, particularly after someone came forward to give their life to Christ.

SYKES copy.002

Campaign Photos of Seth and Bessie Sykes provided by Eva Sykes Campbell, daughter of Seth and Bessie.

I decided to do a little research on the origin of the chorus and have found that it is actually a part of a hymn written by Seth (1892-1950) and Bessie Sykes (1905-1982) copyrighted in 1940. The Sykes were traveling Evangelists well-known in the United Kingdom.  A number of their hymns including Thank You Lord and Love Wonderful Love made their way to the United States.  The Sykes were also invited to conduct services in the United States but according to a family member World War II “put a stop to that and the moment passed.”

SYKES copy.023

Seth and Bessie lead children to sing songs of the Savior. Note the small folding organ that Bessie is playing. This was taken at Largs Ayrshire – they held children’s seaside services there for 9 years 1941 – 1949. Source: Eva Sykes Campbell, daughter of Seth and Bessie Sykes.

The Sykes home base was located in Glasgow, Scotland the third largest city in the United Kingdom.  Seth Sykes  began his career as a conductor and motorman for Glasgow Corporation Tramways. He also served as Secretary for the Tramway Christian Association where he was allowed to hand out Christian literature and Bibles. In 1929 Sykes left his job and along with his wife became a full-time traveling evangelist. The Sykes were somewhat like today’s media Christian innovators in that they used lantern slides and rousing hymns played by Bessie on a small, folding organ to gain the full interest of their crowds. Seth’s sermons led countless people to Christ and this hymn was most assuredly sung as a regular part of their services.

The following description of the story behind Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul is taken from “A Great Little Man, A Biography of Evangelist Seth Sykes”, copyright 1958, written by Seth Sykes, Jr. and Bessie Sykes.

“Thank you, Lord was born in a railway carriage between Edinburgh and Glasgow and has been wonderfully used of God.  It has been translated into more than 70 different languages including French, German, Arabic and Chinese, and is sung both on radio and Television throughout the globe.  Many touching stories have been told of how it has brought comfort and cheer to those nearing the end of Life’s weary way.  One dear man heard it sung over a Canadian broadcasting network.  He had come from Scotland to Canada, and somehow had lost touch with Christ.  He determined to renew the covenant.  Seeking the origin of the chorus, he was put in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Sykes and memories of an old friendship were revived.”

Reflection: I thank God for giving … yes GIVING … me my salvation. There is no way I can take it for granted. It is God’s free gift. I simply must tell others what Jesus has done for me. I pray for the fervor that the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well had for telling others about Jesus after she encountered her Messiah. She left her water pot and ran back to town to tell everyone about what Jesus had done for her. John records the results of her testimony in John 4:39 (NIV) – “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” Her message was simple. She didn’t have Biblical training or a special calling. All she did was tell others what Jesus had done for HER in her own words. That’s all that is required. Tell others in your own words what Jesus has done for you and let Christ do the rest.

I wonder if Seth and Bessie Sykes knew what an impact their simple hymn and chorus would have on future generations. I, for one, am indebted to them for this wonderful hymn and chorus. Perhaps the full lyrics of the hymn would inspire you to tell others what Jesus means to you.

Here’s a link to HymnPod to play and sing along with the hymn “Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul.” Click on the link and then scroll down to the player and click on the start button.

Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul

Some thank the Lord for friends and home,
For mercies sure and sweet;
But I would praise Him for His grace —
In prayer I would repeat:

CHORUS
Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul,
Thank You, Lord, for making me whole;
Thank You, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free.

Some thank Him for the flow’rs that grow,
Some for the stars that shine;
My heart is filled with joy and praise
Because I know He’s mine.

I trust in Him from day to day,
I prove His saving grace;
I’ll sing this song of praise to Him
Until I see His face.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

 

————————Updated July, 13, 2012 & October 19, 2015———————–

Seth Sykes Train Conductor - Source Eva Sykes Campbell

Seth Sykes Train Conductor – Source Eva Sykes Campbell, daughter of Seth and Bessie – According to Mrs Campbell, Seth is the conductor in the upper left corner of the photo.

Recently I have come upon additional information about Seth and Bessie Sykes and want to share it with those who continuously search the internet for “Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul” and happen upon my blog. It is often helpful to explore the story behind a hymn to better understand the purpose of the songwriters in penning it to begin with. Figure 1. provides a picture of Seth Sykes in his full Glascow Corporation Tramway uniform. The picture was most likely taken prior to 1929 when Seth left his full-time job at the Tramway so he and Bessie could spend full-time on their already blooming ministry.

Evangelists Mr & Mrs Seth Sykes c.1929

Evangelists Mr & Mrs Seth Sykes c.1929 – Source Eva Sykes Campbell, daughter of Seth and Bessie Sykes

Seth was a slight man with a big heart for Jesus. Seth and Bessie never looked back after they started their full-time ministry. They spread the word of the Lord wherever they went. They wrote Christian hymns and even published songbooks.

Great Gospel Campaign Poster
Announcing services led by Seth and Bessie Sykes at the Belfast City Mission.

A poster announcing a “Great Gospel Campaign” led by the Sykes. Notice that the services were held daily for two full weeks with two services on Sundays. When I was young boy I can remember revival services lasting that length of time. I don’t believe that folks today would attend a series of meetings that would last that long … even for someone as famous as evangelist Billy Graham. Note the emphasis on a “Special Lantern Service” entitled “REVIVAL” that is highlighted on the poster. The “Lantern” was a big draw in that day … a multi-media event well ahead of its time. Today’s society has come to expect such multi-media events complete with Powerpoint presentations, sound, video and references to web sites. But in that day the Lantern was quite a novelty.

Bill Sykes the Burglar - Seth & Bessie Sykes

A promotional poster using a little humor to encourage folks to attend the Sykes evangelistic meetings.

The electric lantern was used by the Sykes to show slides during their religious services to enhance audience understanding and promote interest in the meetings. Use of the lantern was rather unique for that time and served as an additional draw to encourage folks to attend the special religious meetings conducted by the Sykes.

The Sykes wrote a number of hymns and choruses to use in their services. Seth wrote the lyrics and Bessie usually wrote the music. Many of these songs/hymns were published in an evangelists song book, “Songs of Salvation” also known as the S.O.S. songbook, the cover of which can be seen in Figure 5. The S.O.S. songbook is dated to 1930 by Mr. & Mrs. Seth Sykes, 363 Springburn Road, Glascow. I do not know if the Sykes wrote all of the hymns. Also included in Figure 5. is what I believe to be a one-page resume used by the Sykes to explain their background and promote their services with potential hosts.

Left: SOS Songs of Salvation – Song Book by Seth and Bessie Sykes; “A choice collection of Original Songs and Choruses for Evangelistic Meetings, Solo Singers, Choirs, and the Home by Mr. and Mrs. Seth Sykes, Scottish Evangelists, Authors and Composers of “Running Over”‘ “Love Wonderful Love”, “Listening Is”, etc. –
Right: One page resume with the title: The Gospel in Word and Song, Also Electric (see note at the end of this article)** Lantern. Some of the qualifications listed: Evangelists, Authors, Musicians, Composers. In the rectangular box at the top of the page: Christ for All, All for Christ, The Word of God; Undenominational but Fundamental. “We are not affiliated with any {unknown} or {unknown} but entirely dependent upon the Lord for our support.” Lower left corner at the bottom: “Highly recommended by the leading Evangelical Organizations.”

In my research I found additional songs by Seth and Bessie Sykes. A number are discussed in “A Great Little Man, A Biography of Evangelist Seth Sykes”, copyright 1958, written by Seth Sykes, Jr. and Bessie Sykes. Some of the most well-known include Love, Wonderful Love, Out of the Mud and the Mire, Sonny Boy, The Last Milestone, Wonderful Place called Calvary, Memories, Everybody’s Loved by Someone and Running Over. Seth wrote the lyrics to Running Over and H. G. Hunter (and not Bessie) wrote the music. Quoting the biography: “Running Over has been running all over the world for a number of years and is a great favourite among the boys and girls who at an early age learn to lisp out the words of this simple little chorus with the deep, deep meaning.”

Running Over, Running Over

Music by H. G. Hunter, Lyrics by Seth Sykes

Running over, running over,
My cup’s fill’d and running over,
Since the Lord saved me, I’m as happy as can be,
My cup’s fill’d and running over.

Telling others, telling others,
My life’s work is telling others,
Since the Lord lives in me, I’m as happy as can be,
My life’s work is telling others.

To sing along with this hymn use this link “Running Over, Running Over”

All accounts indicate that many, many people were saved and/or blessed under the ministry of Seth and Bessie Sykes and remember those days fondly. Below are a couple of testimonies in their own words that I located in the public domain of the internet at this link.

Ruth Millar
22nd Oct 2007, 07:57pm
I am remember the Sykes very well. I lived in Guernsey Channel islands and I remember them coming twice in 1935 and 1937. I am now 76 years old and can still hear Mrs Bessie Sykes powerful voice singing “There were Ninety-and-nine” and “[The Land where the Roses never fade”. Both my parents and some of their friends were saved under their ministry in 1935, and I was saved in 1937. They were wonderful days with we little ones singing “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful love” also “Thank You Lord for Saving my Soul” The Lantern Slides which they showed as Bessie sang were very real and moving.
Jessie76
2nd Feb 2009, 01:20pm
Hi Heather,
I have just discovered your correspondence by email. I was born in Springburn, and lived up the same ‘close’ as Molly Weir’s mother. We knew Mrs Weir quite well, and she was so proud of her daughter, Molly. I also played in Paddy’s Park and jumped the ‘midins’ – For many years I was a Gospel singer and was a member of the Garngad Foundry Boys, where my father was treasurer for 40 years (William Robertson). At seveteen I joined the Springburn Gospel Hall. I sang many of Seth and Bessie Sykes songs, and listened to some of her lantern talks, sorry I can’t remember any of them now. They were a most remarkable couple, and have left a legacy of Christian music.
Family Portrait 1949 - Seth, Bessie, Seth Jr., Evangeline

Family Portrait 1949 – Seth, Bessie, Seth Jr., Evangeline – provided by Eva Sykes Campbell

The Sykes celebrated their 20th year of full-time ministry together in October, 1949. Seth Jr. and Evangeline (Eva) are pictured in a family photo shown on the left. Seth’s biography tells us that he and Bessie celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on July 16, 1950 while “in the midst of a campaign in the Seamen’s Chapel, Brown Street, Glasgow.” Though Seth began suffering declining health, their busy evangelical ministry continued its demanding pace. Unfortunately, in the midst of an active campaign at Port Glasgow Seth “took suddenly and seriously ill” and after “immediate surgery” for a perforated colon passed away a few days later on November 29, 1950. As Seth wished, Bessie continued their ministry for many years writing in the Epilogue to Seth’s biography in 1958:

“How has the work gone since 1950? The Lord enabled me to fulfill the engagements which were in our diary and before they were completed other doors had opened up, and through the succeeding years it has been like that. He has set His seal upon the ministry in the salvation of precious souls. … I thank God for every remembrance of my husband and partner and look forward to our re-union which is sure. Together we shall stand in His presence never to part again, and until then, may God help me to keep that memory sweet and green of “A great Little Man.”

Finally, I ran across a blogger, Mark Thompson, who is interested in Scottish history and in particular history related to evangelists from Scotland. You can read Mark’s blog on Seth and Bessie Sykes at this link.

Your comments and contributions to the collective knowledge about Seth and Bessie Sykes are most welcome. Please use the comment section below to communicate with me.

_______________

Jim Davenport is Christian Author who writes on many timely topics from a layman’s viewpoint. View all of Jim’s articles at the links below:

Christian Articles and Books by Jim Davenport:

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  • Listen to The Good News includes over 2 hours of southern gospel music recorded by The Good News quartet; once you are there scroll down and click on the tune you want to hear. Share “the good news” from The Good News with your friends.

About jimdavenport

Jim Davenport resides in the USA in Northeast Georgia, is a member of a Southern Baptist Church and is a retired Christian business man. Jim and his wife Charlotte have one son and daughter in law, Keven and Amy, four grandchildren - Ashlyn (Davenport) & Josh Murphy, and Mason & Rebecca Davenport. We have three great-grandchildren, Rhory Camile Murphy, Rhett Levi Murphy and Sawyer Joshua Murphy. Jim and Charlotte own a mountain get-away home located on Lookout Mountain in Alabama where they spend many spring, summer and fall days working in their raised bed organic garden. Jim has served as a Deacon and Trustee in his local church most of his adult life and on the Executive Committee and Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees of Shorter University, an intentionally Christian institution located in Rome, Georgia. Jim has a passion for the word of God and has always believed that Christian principles should guide every aspect of his life. He also loves Christian music and often served as a tenor soloist in his church. One of the highlights of his life was the nearly 20 years he spent singing with The Good News, a Southern Gospel quartet. Jim served as an Information Technology professional his entire working career of 50 years holding senior positions in and consulting with hundreds of world-class organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand. Jim remains as President and CEO of InfoSys Solutions Associates, Inc. and is a retired partner of IT Governance Partners, LLC, both of which are “Trusted Advisor” technology and business consulting firms. Jim has authored a number of books available at www.jimdavenport.me/jims-books. His blog has ben read by readers from more than 170 countries. Jim holds both a BS and an MS in Mathematics from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia and completed Management Development Training at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
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11 Responses to Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul

  1. Ruth Millar says:

    I now live in the UK but was born and lived most of my life in Guernsey Channel Islands. In 1935 both my parents were saved under the ministry of Mr nd Mrs Seth Sykes, and two years later, at the tender age of 7 I too gave my heart to the Lord. I am now past 81 years old, and am grateful that my parents Ran the Race and Finished the Course and I still go on in the strength of the Lord. Every time I hear Thank you Lord for Saving my Soul I think of the couple Sykes and how God used them to bring Salvation to our home. They had two children, still iving, young Seth became a doctor even though crippled and his sister Evangeline lives in the West of England. I would love to get a copy of his song book, did have several copies but over the years they have been lent out and never returned. Now out of print.

    Thank you for printing this, it was a real blessing to me today.
    Ruth Millar

    Like

    • jimdavenport says:

      I am thrilled by your comment regarding the Sykes!! The article has been read literally by thousands of people from all over the world. Their testimony lives on today. God is still working through their faithful ministry. They laid up treasures in heaven that will last for eternity. Praise God for their faithfulness and a selfless witness that lives on even after they have passed on to glory!!!

      Like

  2. Thank you so much for posting, even if I am finding a year later! Such a blessing to me to read the hymn in its entirety. I grew up on the chorus part, but never knew the rest existed!

    Like

  3. Helen Adams says:

    Jim, This is one of my favorite songs too and I remember singing it all my life. Thanks for the background.

    Like

  4. Irvin & Zandra Mathurin says:

    Jimmy, this post has come at a time in our lives, when Zan and myself are seeking strength and encouragement from the Lord. Sometimes, even the ones that God has placed in our lives to comfort and strengthen us, disappoint us. In fact, the truth is that the world will always fail us, but God never will. We are who we are and forever will be, because of God’s mercy, grace, and love for us. We already are far richer than we could ever dream of being because of the sacrifice made by his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. I can’t wait for the moment when I can at last sit at his feet.
    Thanks my brother, and I continue to pray for you and your health.
    Give our warm regards to your lovely wife, and God Bless.

    Like

  5. Beth Pisani says:

    Jim, This is one of my family’s favorite songs. My mother and father would sing it around the house and so we grew up singing it. We often sang it as a family at special church events. Thanks for sharing the background of the song. It always makes the song sweeter.

    Like

  6. Jim,
    This is a very inspiring message and testimony. Most important, it reminds me of what he is all about.
    Thanks for sharing and I will share it with others,
    John and Judy Hayes

    Like

    • jimdavenport says:

      John, that is exactly what I hoped to accomplish as a result of writing this article. Take a look at the others and let me know what you think about them as well when you have time.

      Like

  7. Earlene Danner says:

    this is a great one Jimmy , Thanks

    Like

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