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Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul – Seth and Bessie Sykes

*As a special treat you can listen to an 
original recording provided by the 
Sykes family of Bessie 
singing Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul here.

Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul – Seth and Bessie Sykes

Foreword:  Since the original posting of my article, Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul, on January 14, 2011, and a subsequent update on July 14, 2012 the article 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 (October 21, 2015), I am providing additional background on the songwriters and their evangelistic ministry gained through personal communication with direct descendants of Seth and Bessie Sykes, authors of Thank You Lord. 

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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

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 andLove 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.”

Seth and Bessie lead children to sing songs of the Savior. Note the small folding organ that Bessie is playing. 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 1940] 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 their faithfulness and this wonderful hymn and chorus. Perhaps the full lyrics of the hymn would inspire you to tell others what Jesus means to you.

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.

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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.

© Copyright 1940, 1945. Renewal 1968, 1973 by Bessie Sykes.  Assigned to Singspiration, Inc. All rights reserved.

As a special treat you can listen to an original recording provided by the Sykes family of Bessie singing Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul here:

Audio Player

According to daughter Eva Campbell, Bessie was “accompanied on that recording by a friend Bob Christie who is an excellent musician, although she usually played for herself.”

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.

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Additional insight into the lives of Seth and Bessie Sykes

Seth Sykes Train Conductor - Source Eva Sykes Campbell

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

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.

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

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 thislink.

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

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.

Original post from Christian blogger Jim Davenport here.

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Quote

The world sings…

The world sings: the millions have their songs; and I must say the taste of the populace is a very remarkable taste just now as to its favourite songs. They are, many of them, so absurd and meaningless as to be unworthy of an idiot. I should insult an idiot if I could suppose that such songs as people sing nowadays would really be acceptable to him.
Yet these things will be heard from men, and places will be thronged to listen to hear the stuff. Now, why should we, with the grand psalms we have of David, with the noble hymns of Cowper, of Milton, of Watts—why should we not sing as well as they? Let us sing the songs of Zion; they are as cheerful as the songs of Sodom any day. Let us drown the howling nonsense of Gomorrha with the melodies of the New Jerusalem.
Charles Spurgeon

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