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 Higher Ground

by Johnson Oatman Jr., 1856-1922


How sad it is to observe someone who has never lived up to his real potential.  It is tragic to watch an individual who has great ability that is never used simply because he or she lacks the incentive to pursue a worthy goal.  Similarly, it is disappointing to see a Christian fail to evidence spiritual growth of any kind.  Scripture teaches that Christian maturity or Christ-likeness is a process in which we advance form one level to the next, step by step.  But the secret of such development is to have an intense desire to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives.


“Higher Ground” has been a favorite with many Christians since it was first published in 1898.  It expresses so well this universal desire for a deeper spiritual life, continuing on a higher plane of fellowship with God than we have ever before experienced.


The author of this text was Johnson Oatman, Jr., a businessman who wrote 3,000 gospel songs in his leisure time.  Oatman was ordained but never pastored a church.  His hymns were always well received, even though he was paid no more than $1.00 for his lyrics.


The music for “Higher Ground” was composed by Charles H. Gabriel, music editor of the Rodeheaver Publishing Company.  He wrote the music and sometimes the texts for more than 8,000 gospel songs, many of which were especially popular in the Billy Sunday-Homer Rodeheaver campaigns from 1910-1920.  This song was used often in the great camp meetings of this era and the singing of it would often bring forth shouts of “Glory, hallelujah!”