Only Remembered

DESCRIPTION: "Up and away like the dews of the morning, Soaring from earth to its home in the sun, Thus would I pass from the earth and its toiling, Only remembered for what I have done." An exhortation to good works, with a promise of reward for those who do them
AUTHOR: Words: Dr. Horatio Bonar/Music: W. W. Bentley
EARLIEST DATE: 1886 (sheet music reprinted in Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Randolph 627, "Only Remembered" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Pete Seeger, _Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Musical Autobiography_, A SIng Out Publication, 1993, 1997, pp. 176-177, "Only Remembered" (1 text, 1 tune, plus a sheet music print)

Roud #7557
NOTES [812 words]: For more about Horatio Bonar, see the notes on "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,"
There have been several settings of Bonar's text. For a long time, I listed the tune as by W. W. Bentley. Pete Seeger, however, says that the "ancestor" of the tune is by John R. Sweney, and Sweney's does appear to be the earliest, since it was copyrighted in 1886. In a fascinating side note, Seeger says that Sweney was Joe Hickerson's great-grandfather.
Although this song has been fairly popular with folk revival singers, it bears noting that it does not conform with the theology of any major branch of Christianity. Catholics and Orthodox believe in the salvific power of the church, as do (for the most part) Anglicans. Lutherans believe in justification by faith alone (Luther in fact declared the Letter of James "an epistle of straw" because it seemed to support salvation on the basis of works); the Reformed churches (e.g. Presbyterians) believe in predestination to grace.
Indeed, as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you are being saved through faith... not because of works, lest someone should boast...."
The technical name for the heresy that men could accomplish their own salvation is Pelagianism, after its founder. Bettenson, p. 52, gives this capsule biography: "Pelagius was a British monk, probably of Irish origin. He came to Rome in 400 and was distressed at the low state of conduct there. Feeling that there was need of more moral effort, he was shocked by the prayer in S. Augustine's Confessions, 'Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.' His teachings seem to have aroused no stir until he went to Carthage after the sack of Rome in 410."
On p. 53, Bettenson quotes the key to Pelagius's doctrine: "Everything good and everything evil, in respect of which we are either worthy of praise or of blame, is done by us, not born with us." Thus Pelagius denied Original Sin, one of the key elements of orthodox Christian doctrine. (This is one of the reasons for the emphasis in many sects on the Virgin Birth, and the Catholic idea of the Immaculate Conception. It flows from the doctrine of Augustine, which was heavily based on the idea that men are born in sin. Jesus was free of this taint because was the son of a virgin herself born of a virgin; Christie-Murray, p. 88. Pelagius explicitly denied that human nature was inherently corrupt; Chadwick, p. 228.)
Qualben, p. 124, says, "Pelagian centered on the question: how is man saved? Three general answers were given. Pelagius ascribed the chief merits of conversion to man. Augustine gave God all the glory and made freedom the result of divine grace. The Semi-Pelagians co-ordinated the human will and the divine grace as factors in the work of salvation.
Boer, p. 161, has perhaps the best one-sentence summary of Pelagianism: "[Pelagius] taught that God gave to every man the *possibility* of living a sinless life."
According to O'Grady, p. 113, he "abjured" the title of monk, and held that anyone could be a teacher -- thus in effect anticipating Luther. He also anticipated Luther in claiming there was no difference in kind between priest and laity. Is it any wonder the clerical hierarchy sought to control him?
Pelagianism was formally condemned by the third council of Ephesus in 431 (Qualben, p. 125), even before Pelagius died (Qualben, p. 124, estimates his dates as 370-440). By then, he had done quite a job of producing controversy in the Larin church, with various popes and councils condemning or condoning him (Christie-Murray, pp. 90-91; Chadwick, pp. 196-198). Making matters worse is the fact that Pelagius's chief disciple Celestius settled at Carthage (Chadwick, p. 227), very near Augustine's home of Hippo. The need to respond to these two gave rise to many of Augustine's most fervent writings, in which he declared man utterly degenerate and gave forth (e.g.) the view that unbaptized infants are automatically damned.
Pelagius had no desire to create such conflict in the church, and a slightly more Pelagian doctrine might have been accepted in the West had the matter not caused so much controversy that the Imperial government exiled Pelagius (Chadwick, pp. 229-232). As O'Grady says on p. 112, "The Pelagian dispute did not arouse such fierce antagonisms among the people as did the disputes in the Eastern Empire." But because Pelagianism was forced from the field, Augustine's views became Catholic doctrine -- and, because the doctrine is so radical, has left many people semi-Pelagian to this day (as this song attests). Christie-Murray, p. 95, notes a trace of Pelagianism in most of the Puritan sects.
Unlike most other early heresies, such as Arianism, Monophysitism, and Gnosticism, Pelagianism did not result in the formation of a separate church. I can't help but wonder if this isn't a major reason why it so readily re-emerges today. - RBW
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File: R627

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