The lyric to “I Love to Tell the Story,” a much beloved hymn, was derived from a poem written by an Englishwoman named Arabella Katherine Hankey in 1866, when she was convalescing from an illness at the age of 32. The full poem has 100 verses, and is divided into two parts, “The Story Wanted” and “The Story Told.” In the first part someone “weak and weary” is pleading to hear the “old, old story” of Jesus. In the second part, another voice tells the story, beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve and then jumping quickly to Bethlehem. Both parts inspired hymns; the first inspired “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” with a tune by Willam Howard Doane. Both are beautiful and have been popular for around 150 years now, but I suspect the second one, “I Love to Tell the Story,” with a tune by William G. Fischer, is somewhat better known and loved at this stage. Instead of a tone of pleading, it offers one of uplift (which we all can do with) and the soft and subtly mournful melody is a counterpoint which ensures that the song evades any hint of smugness.
From the Spanish guitar intro by Chet Atkins to the final harmonized line by Don and Phil Everly, there’s little that isn’t lovely about the live performance (embedded below via YouTube) of Mark Knopfler’s song “Why Worry.”
That’s from 1986, and the Everly Brothers recorded the song for their album from that same year titled Born Yesterday. Knopfler had recorded it with Dire Straits the previous year, but apparently had written it with the Everly Brothers in mind.
One of the songs on Bob Dylan’s upcoming album, Tempest, is called “Narrow Way.” I haven’t heard it yet, so I don’t now where Dylan takes it—quite possibly somewhere unexpected.
Yet the phrase is one of those immediately familiar ones that a different wordsmith came up with a little less than 2000 years ago. From Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV):
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
It’s one of the tougher statements of Jesus with regard to salvation, in that he seems to be saying quite bluntly that few will will be saved. It ain’t for me to argue with the Man, but there is a duality that believers wrestle with in Scripture, as in Mark 10:25-27:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”