Hymn of the week: Send the fire!

With Pentecost Sunday fast approaching today’s hymn of the week is a rousing hymn calling for the fire of the Holy Spirit to descend afresh upon the church. Originally written by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, a version of the hymn set to a new tune by New Frontiers pastor and worship leader Lex Loizoides has brought it back into widespread circulation.

William Booth (1829-1912) was an apprentice pawnbroker in Nottingham when he was converted to Christianity and became a Methodist. He became a preacher in the Methodist New Connexion but was frustrated in his calling to become a full time evangelist without the ties of a pastoral charge and resigned from the ministry in 1861. By 1865 Booth had begun open-air preaching in the East End of London and later that year formed the organisation that would become known as the Salvation Army. From the beginning the Army was characterised by its evangelistic fervour and social outreach. After early criticism and suspicion appreciation for the work of the Salvation Army grew and by the time of Booth’s death in 1912 Salvationist meetings had been established in 58 countries.

‘Thou Christ of burning, cleaning flame’ was first published in the Salvation Army publication The War Cry in 1894, on the 50th anniversary of his conversion. As well as Luke’s account of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the other main scriptural reference is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:16-45. Not only is Elijah specifically mentioned in verse 2, but it is the influence of the Old Testament story that transforms Acts’ tongues of fire into a ‘burning, cleansing flame’. The hymn also echoes the famous motto of the Salvation Army: ‘Blood and fire’.

As the Lex Loizoides version of the hymn is in copyright, I am reproducing Booth’s original words here. A link to the Loizoides version can be found here. Note that in the new version the first line has been altered to ‘O God of burning, cleansing flame’.

Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire!
Thy blood-bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost,
We want another Pentecost,
Send the fire!

God of Elijah, hear our cry:
Send the fire!
To make us fit to live or die,
Send the fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The revolution now begin,
Send the fire!

‘Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
Send the fire!
The fire will meet our every need,
Send the fire!
For strength to ever do the right,
For grace to conquer in the fight,
For power to walk the world in white,
Send the fire!

To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
Send the fire!
To live a dying world to save,
Send the fire! O see us on thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day,
To crown the offering now we pray,
Send the fire!

William Booth (1829-1912)


About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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One Response to Hymn of the week: Send the fire!

  1. Lex Loizides says:

    Hi there Paul! Thanks so much for using the song. A link to a streaming version performed by Stuart Townend is here: Send the Fire! A modern rendering of an old Salvation Army classic.

    I hope you enjoy it.

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