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Edward Hopper (1816-1888)

Edward Hopper (1816-1888)

by Terry Conley

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First published in The Sailor’s Magazine (1871) and The Baptist Praise Book (1871).  The Sailor’s Magazine was a periodical magazine which contained information regarding information and updates on commercial ships and their crews, and associated information.  It was available to the general public by subscription or purchase and the proceeds were used as a source of income for endeavors that provided a safe haven for sailors and their families during life’s difficulties and separations.  The magazine also kept everyone up to date on churches that had been established in cities and towns serving the sea-faring community.  At one time Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me was a popular hymn appearing in over 1,000 publications.

The text was written by Edward Hopper, who was born in New York City, on February 17, 1816.  He was the son of a merchant.  Following his education at New York University and Union Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1842, he became a Presbyterian minister.  He preached for about 10+ years at churches at Greenville, NY, and at Sag Harbor on Long Island.  In 1870 he became Pastor of a small congregation known as the Church of the Sea and the Land in New York City, where he served his remaining years of life.  This church was specifically located within walking distance of the harbor area and in an area frequented by the sailors.  The Church of the Sea and the Land had been established in 1866 at New York City harbor as a mission for sailors, in whom Hopper had always been deeply interested, probably through due to his contact with them through his father’s business. The congregation consisted mainly of seamen who made their way to and from their ships. In this way, Hopper ministered to sea-faring men from around the world.  He produced this hymn, probably in 1870, for the spiritual needs of his flock.  It first appeared anonymously in the March 1871, edition of The Sailor’s Magazine. Later that year, it was published in The Baptist Praise Book, with the tune (Pilot) composed by John Edgar Gould (1822-1875).

Edward originally wrote six stanzas, but today, only three of them are generally used for the hymn (1, 5, and 6).  I think that the other verses make an important component of his complete thought that even when we have smooth sailing for a time, we still need Christ as our Pilot, to be in control.  The complete song puts spiritual ideas in terms the men he ministered to could understand.  Every seasoned sailor knew what it was to face the peril of a storm and sea, and the hymn helped them to apply that imagery to their lives. The song is based on a couple of incidents recorded in the Gospels (Matt. 8:23-27; 14:22-33). The former passage says: “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”

To this we can add the assurance of the Lord’s presence with His children now, in His final promise given in Matthew’s Gospel, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). That’s like the pledge made to the nation of Israel, centuries before: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).  This scripture reference was also used for that wonderful hymn, How Firm a Foundation.

In original verse one (hymn stanza 1), Hopper began by writing of the reality of an unsettled life, of the seas being rough and stormy.  There are hidden and treacherous areas that capture us when we are least expecting it.  At any time, our life may be overturned by something that just seems to appear, but we are reminded that all our direction comes from our Lord and Savior.  From experience, we sailors know that there are treacherous parts of our journey.  We do not always know exactly what kind of waves the seas will bring with them, just as we do not know what the challenges of life will bring us.  However, whether facing storms of life or peaceful days, we can always look to the Lord to provide for what we need each day.

The original verse two follows up that idea with the story of Jesus calming the storm as an example of the promise that Jesus will use His power to help us as well.  I think this should remind us that we can struggle with the problem for as long as we like but when we look for Him in our storm, He is there with us.  This is amply illustrated by the fact that the Bible records that on least two occasions, Jesus was with the apostles during a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  On one of these occasions, He even walked across the water to aid and comfort them.  And He gave them that same opportunity while they kept their eyes on Him and looked to Jesus.  Nothing can hinder Him.  If we actively make Him our life’s Pilot, God has promised us He will guide and protect us.

The original verse three reminds us that we need to have Christ as our pilot even when there are no disturbing storms and life seems calm.  Hopper wrote: “Though the sea be smooth and bright, Sparkling with the stars of night, And my ship’s path be ablaze With the light of halcyon days, Still I know my need of Thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”  Paul wrote about this in Philippians.  He said he knew how to be abased and how to abound.  He knew that in life, whether he was facing the storms of life or peaceful days, he would always look to the Lord to guide him.

The original verse five (hymn stanza two) equates the love of Jesus and His actions to that of a loving mother hushing and comforting her child.  We have all witnessed this love in play when a parent takes a child and holds them and speaks softly and calmly to them in a time of trouble or hurt.  Jesus will do the same for His children if we let Him.  The same divine power which Christ manifested to still the storms on the Sea of Galilee is available to assist us in our problems if we ask.  We can make our journey on the seas of life with trust in God rather than in constant fear.

Verse six (hymn stanza three) talks about our destination, the shore where we will find peaceful rest.  The last promise is a blessed, blessed relief to all Christians: “When at last I near the shore, And the fearful breakers roar ‘Twixt me and the peaceful rest, Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

If we truly trust in the Lord, He will show us the path of life to a land where there will be the fulness of joy in His presence and pleasures evermore.  Luke recorded that promise Jesus made to the thief hanging next to Him:

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

So what are the duties of the pilot spoken of in the hymn?  Today we have aviation pilots and ship pilots but of course Hopper is writing of and the Bible is speaking of a ship’s pilots.  As an officer in the US Navy, I had primary responsibilities and duties and secondary ones.  My secondary duties included specific locations and responsibilities that came into play during emergency situations or as the ship was entering or leaving port.  They were different from my main duties and responsibilities.  When the ship was entering and leaving port or underway, I was part of the team that was stationed on the bridge of the ship.  The bridge is positioned at the highest point of the ship to provide clear vision.  Teams are trained and assigned “watches” to make sure everything was done correctly to ensure a safe transit.  As a junior officer, some of my duties included making sure all the other required stations were staffed and communications in place.  I also made sure the senior officer (Officer of the Deck) had all the correct, current information that was needed and during normal activity, he instructed me for my next step up in responsibility.  Of course, the Captain of the ship always had the ultimate and overall responsibility and authority, but he trusted the bridge crew.  We were all well trained and “in control.”  But as well trained and experienced as we all were, we were not qualified to provide the level of experience, safety, and security required and provided by the Pilot during those times that we were entering or leaving port.  In maritime law, a Pilot is a person who assumes responsibility for a vessel from a particular geographic point for the purpose of navigating the ship through a river or channel, to a particular point or place.  When this Pilot comes aboard, everyone on board is in “his hands.”  We placed our security and safety in his capabilities.

This is a position you can’t just assume.  There are qualifications for a Ship’s Pilot license. The Pilot must exhibit skill in all areas related to providing a safe passage within his assigned area.  A pilot must have the highest degree of skill as a sailor and may be tested on that knowledge. The individual may be required to submit written references from persons who know of him and his abilities.  In addition, the applicant must obtain a reference from a licensed pilot.  The pilot may also be required to post a bond.  God gave those signs of approval and posted the bond in His Word in Matthew 3:17, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

How wonderful to know that we have a Pilot who is sovereign over the tempests and able to guide us safely to our final harbor!  We certainly do not expect Jesus to perform miracles today such as He did on the stormy Sea of Galilee. Those miracles are recorded in scripture as written references and directions and provide all the evidence that we need to believe on Him, His skills and abilities.  This hymn’s simple and direct statement and of the reality of the world today points me to the need to look to Jesus for guidance in my pilgrimage and should motivate me always to say, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.”

Source:

A Treasure of Hymns, Amos R. Wells; United Society of Christian Endeavor; 1914

The Story of Hymns and Tunes, Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth; American Tract Society, 1906

A Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian, D.D.; Dover Publications, Inc.; 1907

 

 

 

Kathrina von Schlegel (b. 1697)

Kathrina von Schlegel (b. 1697)

by Terry Conley

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Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

We know that the world is going through a time of unrest.  Neighbors against neighbors, friends against friends, and unfortunately, sometimes family against family.  I think history shows that if The Lord tarries, it will not be the last.  Sometimes, when this happens in the physical family or with our children, someone will try to take us aside and offer counsel, and offer to sit, to talk, to listen, and to help work the relationship back to where it needs to be which we can accept or reject.  Sometimes, it is just a simple “settle down”, in order to begin to listen and understand.  The Bible has its own version of “settle down!”  It’s the phrase “Be still!”  The Bible is full of these hard to understand and difficult to deal with phrases.  People may ask, “just what does it mean?”  Maybe, just settle down, sit down, and listen?

Along with everyone else, I have been thinking about the current situation in the world and this beautiful hymn came to mind.  It contains some wonderful thoughts teamed with a fantastic melody and it took four people, unknown to each other and in different countries, to bring this wonderful hymn to life over a period of about 300 years.

First is Kathrina von Schlegel.  Little is known of this lady.  According to various sources she was born October 22, 1697 in Köthen, Germany.  What is known is that she lived in a Lutheran Damenstift, a residential area for unmarried Protestant women.  This was not an unusual arrangement during this time.  Most of the ladies in these lodgings belonged to the nobility and enjoyed extensive freedom in their life.  Like many in that time, Kathrina’s spiritual life was influenced by the Pietist movement.  This was a group that believed that renewal would come through the study and preaching of God’s Word, the exercise of the priesthood of all believers, and they emphasized practical Christianity lived out in daily life. The Pietists also believed in the importance of congregational hymn singing and Kathrina spent much of her time writing hymns.  The only one which has passed into English is Be Still, My Soul!

Next is Jane Borthwick who gave us the first English translation of our song about a century later.  Her father, James Borthwick, was manager of the North British Insurance Office, in Edinburgh, Scotland.  She was born in that city, April 1813.  She was one of the leading translators of German hymns into English.  Along with her sister Sarah, she translated many hymns into English from the German Hymns from the Land of Luther, first published in 1854.  “Be Still My Soul” comes from the 1855 edition.

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957) is the third in line of this hymn’s history.  His composition Finlandia had its origins as a  form of political protest. It was written for the Finnish Press Pension Celebration (1899).  This was a rally in support of freedom of the Finnish press, then largely controlled by Tsarist Russia.  It became popular during this time and in 1900, Sibelius arranged Finlandia for solo piano.

Last, and certainly not least, is David Evans (1874-1948), an Oxford-trained organist-choirmaster and music professor.  He was the person who brought all the individual pieces together, matching the translation with the 1900 piano tune for the “Revised Church Hymnary” (London, 1927).  This hymn was then brought to the United States when it was used by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. for “The Hymnal” (1933).

So why does God command us in Psalm 46 to “be still”?  Not just simply be quiet, but relax, calm down, be still!  How can we be still at such a time?  Miss von Schlegel suggests many reasons why we should be still and trust God.

“Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side.  Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;”

In stanza 1 the most important reason for our stillness is that the Lord is on our side.  If God be for us, who can be against us?  It is because the Lord is on our side that we should be able to bear patiently whatever cross of grief or pain that we have.  He will always be faithful and since we know that the Lord is faithful, we should be patient to let Him fulfill His promise of a joyful end.

“Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past.”

In stanza 2, it states that we should be still because God is our guide.  Because of this, we can trust the future to Him and not worry about it.  We should let nothing shake our confidence in Him because He has promised us strength, guidance, and protection.

“Be still, my soul: When dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears,”

Stanza 3 tells us we should be still in times of trial because He is The Comforter through all that we might face.  And it is promised that all that we lose or suffer will be repaid!  Through all the trials we might have to endure, the Lord has promised His protection and comfort up to and including the time of death.  He offers comfort to soothe away our sorrows and fears.  Knowing that God has promised to repay anything that is taken away, we can always look to Him to renew our strength for our trials.

“Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord;”

Stanza 4 reminds us that we should be still and stay focused because time is quickly passing by.  When it is over, we shall be forever with Him.  Whether we die first or are alive when the Lord returns, the hour is hastening when we shall be with the Lord.  As Christians, we can look forward to that time when disappointment, grief, fear, and sorrow will all be forgotten.  But even more importantly, we can look forward to that time when we shall meet Him at last.

“Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise on earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;

Stanza 5 gives us the assurance that what we begin on earth will continue through eternity!  Through faith, we begin our song of praise to the Lord while on earth.  The promise is made that this faithfulness will be more brightly known through eternity.

I believe that part of the popularity of this song may be due in part to the beautiful melody to which it is sung. The talents of these people from different countries over a period of 300 years have produced a hymn that teaches us so well some Biblical principles that we need in our hectic daily lives.  But mostly, I believe it remains popular due to the fact that every day, I need to remember that no matter what problems and difficulties I might face, the Lord is on my side, to guide, comfort, and preserve me.  And with this knowledge, I should always be able to say to myself, “Be Still, My Soul.”

Source:

Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872.

Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian, 1907

Finlandia, Betsy Schwarm, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016

www.Wordwise Hymns.com

 

James Montgomery (1771 – 1854)

James Montgomery (1771 – 1854)

by Terry Conley

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James Montgomery (November 4, 1771 – April 30,1854) was a Scottish-born hymn writer, poet, and editor.  He followed in the footsteps of two British hymn writers, Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.  His father was a Minister in the Moravian Church and his hymns are firmly based upon the words he read and was taught from the Bible.  When he was 6 years old, his parents moved to the West Indies to serve as Missionaries.  He was later to join them but both died within a year of each other shortly after their arrival. He remained in Yorkshire and was raised in the boy’s boarding school established by the Brethren of Fulneck.  This school was organized in 1743 by Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, the same group that influenced John Wesley.  Montgomery later said, “There, whatever we did was done in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom we were taught to regard in the amiable and endearing light of a friend and brother.”

He did not do well in school and a few years later at age 14, he was apprenticed to a baker, then to a storekeeper in a nearby community.  His effort included an unsuccessful attempt to launch a literary career as a poet in London.  Failing in this, he moved to Sheffield in 1792 and became an assistant to Joseph Gales, an auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register.  In 1794, Gales emigrated to North Carolina and Montgomery assumed ownership of the paper, changing its name to the Sheffield Iris.  He was the sole editor for the next 31 years.

Our hymn, “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” was first published on Christmas Eve, 1816, in the Sheffield Iris.  It is considered by many to be one of the best Christmas hymns since it sets forth a logical progression for the true meaning of Christmas.  The hymn has a sense of urgency and excitement as it calls all men, even the lowest sinner, to action with the call: “Come and worship.”

Although it sets out the real reason for Christ’s birth, the original fifth stanza is omitted in many modern hymnals since it carries a perceived “negative” message.  That being the identification of the unsaved as “sinners” along with identifying their destination.  But, it is still an eternally vital message for today:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes your sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains . . .

In his hymn, Montgomery reminds us that the Nativity was more than a sweet manger scene.  As many texts from both the Old and New Testament remind us, the Birth of Christ was the love of God making itself known to mankind.  The author begins in verse 1 by calling our attention to the announcement of Christ’s birth by the angels (Lk. 2:10-14). The angels’ song of celebration at creation refers to the poetic words of Job 38:4-7, where “morning stars” is poetic imagery for the angels, called “the [heavenly] sons of God.”  Next, we see a pair of visiting companies come to the Child: the lowly shepherds (verse 2), and the more socially elite magi (verse 3). Then comes another pairing: the saints of God, elevated to sonship through grace (verse 4), and condemned sinners who turn to Christ for salvation (verse 5).

 

When it was printed in his newspaper on Christmas Eve, 1816, Montgomery called it simply “Nativity.” In later publications he changed the title to “Good Tidings of Great Joy to All People.” Currently, the song takes the opening line as its title.

 

 

Source:

A Treasure of Hymns; Amos R. Wells; United Society of Christian Endeavor; 1914

Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns; Faith Cook; EP Books; 2005

The Gospel In Hymns; Albert Edward Bailey; Charles Scribner’s Sons; New York 1950

The Story of the Hymns and Tunes (Brown & Butterworth); Zondervan Publishing House

 

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824 – 1908)

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824 – 1908)

by Terry Conley

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How do you express the inexpressible mystery of the Creator whose name could not be uttered in the Hebrew Scriptures except as the self-described “I AM?”  How do you put into words that which cannot be known or is beyond all words?  Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) attempted this in his classic hymn, “Immortal, Invisible.”

This hymn comes from his volume, Hymns of Christ and Christian Life, published in 1867.  Hymn Historian Robert McCutchan states that Smith’s hymns have a “richness of thought and a vigor of expression,” and this one is no exception.  A word of warning: the words in this hymn run counter to the casual prayers we sometimes hear and sometimes pray.

The opening line of Smith’s hymn is based upon the Apostle Paul’s words recorded in 1st Timothy 1:17 (KJV), “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”   Smith uses this verse to identify the One the hymn is intended to praise, not some mere mortal or lesser god, but the Eternal, Almighty, Ever Victorious God!  He who alone possesses and can be described with these qualities and yet is indescribable!

As the Apostle Paul continues, “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” (1st Tim. 6:15-16).  God in His essence is invisible and, in Smith’s word, “inaccessible” to us.  But by His incarnation, God the Son was translated into a form that human beings could see, touch, and know.  Even then, when He revealed Himself in His glory on the Damascus Road, Saul (later called Paul) was struck blind at the glorious sight.

He “only hath immortality” in the fact that immortality has always been, inherently, a part of His nature, while we as believers have immortality (everlasting life) given to us through faith in Christ (Jn. 3:16).

The eternal God is always at work (“He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,” Ps. 121:4).  The phrases like “unresting, unhasting,” and “nor wanting nor wasting” are wonderful in their expression of God’s qualities.  God is never in a hurry like we as His creations sometimes are.  He is never caught off guard nor rushes frantically to catch up.

The Lord neither lacks nor does He waste anything.  Even in His love towards us as His children we can say the same of personal experiences the Lord takes us through, and the difficulties He allows to touch our lives.  He has a wise and loving purpose in such things and again it is the Apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, who reminds us that all will work for our good.

Smith also reminds us that God is the Source of all life.  And while aging, corruption, and death are a fact of this mortal existence, God is utterly changeless in His nature and righteous character. “We blossom and flourish,” then “wither and perish,” but nothing like that touches the eternal God.  He says, “I am the LORD, I change not;” (Malachi 3:6, KJV).

The original version in six stanzas appeared in his Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life (1867).  After a number of revisions, the four-stanza version that we sing was included in The English Hymnal (1906).

Walter Chalmers Smith was born in Aberdeen, Scotland.  His father, also Walter Smith, was a cabinet maker.  Walter Chalmers attended Aberdeen Grammar School and was educated at the University at Aberdeen and then at New College, Edinburgh.  He was ordained by the Scottish Church of Scotland but later, because of his personal convictions, he joined with the Free Church of Scotland.  He pastored at several churches in London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.  In respect for his dedication and sacrifice, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1893 for the church’s 50th Jubilee celebration.   He wrote a number of hymns, but this hymn is the only one in common use today.  Smith died September 19, 1908, and is buried in Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh.

Albert E. Bailey made this statement regarding the hymn: “One might say that the hymn is a rather florid attempt to express the inexpressible, and so rather a stimulus to the imagination than a clarifier of thought or an incentive to action.  But no doubt our programs of public worship occasionally need hymns of this kind.”  I say Amen to that!

Smith once wrote that his poetry was “the retreat of his nature from the burden of his labors.”  He published several collections, including Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life (1876), from which this well-known hymn is taken.

 

Sources:

A Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian, Dover Publications, NY, 1907

Our Hymnody, A Manual of the Methodist Hymnal, Robert McCutchan, Abingdon Press, NY, 1937

The Gospel in Hymns, Albert Edward Bailey, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1950

 

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

by Terry Conley

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It is difficult to determine how a young life will be lived.  Who knew that the child who once wrote during family prayers: “There was a mouse for want of stairs, ran up a rope to say his prayers,” would write many years later “See from His head, His hands His feet, Sorrow and love flowed mingled down.  Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown.”

In his later years, Isaac Watts once complained about hymn singing in church “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” 

He had bemoaned such since his late teens.  His father, tired of his complaints, challenged him to write something better. The following week, Isaac presented his first hymn to the church, “Behold the Glories of the Lamb,” based on Revelation 5:6-12.  He was only 15 years old but the career of the “Father of English Hymnody” had begun.  As Scottish Hymnist John Brownlie, D. D., later wrote, “The grey dawn is about to flee before the sunrise. With Isaac Watts the first golden streaks of morn are seen: when a greater than he, Charles Wesley, strikes the harp, day will have been ushered in.

Isaac Watts was born into a Dissenting Nonconformist family in Southampton, July 17, 1674.  He was the eldest of nine children.  Watts was in frail health all of his life, and at only five feet tall, he was not a physically imposing figure.  His father was imprisoned at least twice during Isaac’s infancy for his religious convictions and his public position against the Church of England.  Isaac always remembered and respected his father’s courage.

His abilities became obvious in early childhood.  He was taught Latin at age 4, Greek at age 9, French when he was 12, and Hebrew by the time he was 13.  His obvious abilities led to the offer of education at one of the universities for eventual ordination into the Church of England.  He refused this path and instead entered the Dissenting Nonconformist Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690.  He completed his studies in 1694 and he became a tutor to the family of Sir John Hartopp of Stoke Newington.  That family had long been involved with the Dissenting Nonconformist movement and this placed Watts at the center of religious dissent in the area.  He began preaching occasionally at the Hartopp family chapel  and in 1699, he was appointed assistant to the minister of Mark Lane Independent Chapel.  Mark Lane was then one of the city’s most influential Independent churches.  In March 1702 he became pastor.

Besides writing hymns, Isaac Watts was a theologian and logician, writing books and essays on these subjects.  One of his textbooks on logic was particularly popular.  The full title, Logick, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences was first published in 1724 and went through twenty editions.  It became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale.  He also wrote educational books on geography, astronomy, grammar, and philosophy.  Yet with all his many accomplishments as an author and a pastor, it is Dr. Watts’s amazing facility with poetry that has left a lasting imprint on history.

After suffering a physical breakdown in his health in 1712, he accepted an invitation to visit Sir Thomas Abney at his residence in Abney Park.  The original invitation was for a few weeks, but this visit extended and for the next 36 years, Abney, then his wife and daughter, kept Watts as guest and friend at their home.  He continued to write and preach as often as his health would permit.

Watts eventually wrote more than 750 hymns including, Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Am I a Soldier of the Cross; At the Cross; Joy to the World! The Lord is Come;  O God Our Help in Ages Past; We’re Marching to Zion; When I Can Read My Title Clear; Come We That Love The Lord; and I Sing the Mighty Power of God.  His model for the congregational song, the hymn, remains in current use throughout the English-speaking world.

I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Praise for Creation and Providence) appeared in his book Divine Songs attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children (1718).  Divine Songs is recorded as the first English hymnal written especially for children.  The song was written to be used to teach Biblical principles about creation to a child.  In this “children’s song” we see many major truths presented about God.  We see His: Creative power (v1), Wisdom (v2), Sovereign authority (v2, 5, 7), Goodness (v3), Wonders (v4), Glory (v5), Omnipresence (v6, 8), Love (v7), Wrath (v8), and Protection (v8).  It is amazing to realize the level of understanding Dr. Watts expected in the young.  In the book’s Preface he writes, “[These songs] will be a constant furniture of the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.”

Watts wrote hymns that departed from the psalms and included more personal expressions. This did not please everyone.  Some felt his hymns were “too worldly” for the church as they were not based on the Psalms. Yet Watts felt strongly that the Christian church congregation and not just the choir should sing of Christ.  He explained it this way: “Where the Psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it.  Where he speaks of the pardon of sin through the mercies of God, I rather choose to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God.  Where He promises abundance of wealth, honor, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament.”  He noted in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs: “While we sing the praises of God in His church, we are employed in that part of worship which of all others is the nearest akin to heaven, and ’tis pity that this of all others should be performed the worst upon earth. That very action which should elevate us to the most delightful and divine sensations doth not only flat our devotion but too often awakens our regret and touches all the springs of uneasiness within us.”

Of course, that is still today our command as Christians, especially Christian parents.  “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6-7)

To the extent they accurately reflect what the Bible has to say, the great hymns of the church are a useful tool in this. Whether in the family circle, or the house of God, we are admonished: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16)

It is worthwhile to pause a moment and remember Watts’s words recorded on his deathbed.  They reveal the faith and dedication of this great servant of God:  “If God should raise me up again, I may finish some more of my papers, or God can make use of me to save a soul, and that will be worth living for. If God has no more service for me to do, through grace I am ready; it is a great mercy to me that I have no manner of fear or dread of death….I trust all my sins are pardoned through the blood of Christ….I have no fear of dying.”

Watts died quietly in the afternoon of November 25, 1748, at the Abney’s home in Stoke.  He was buried at Bunhill Fields in London, the Dissenter’s Graveyard.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Hymnology; John Julian, Dover Publications; 1907

Annotations of the Hymnal; Charles Hutchins, M.A.; 1872.

The Gospel In Hymns;  Albert Edward Bailey, Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1950

The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church Hymnary; John Brownlie, D.D.; Henry Frowde; 1911

 

Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby (1820 – 1915

Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby (1820 – 1915)

by Terry Conley

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This hymn has an interesting history of its travels.  To God Be the Glory was written in the United States some time before 1873 but it had not become popular.  Fanny Crosby does not mention it in any of her writings, nor does William H. Doane, the composer of the tune.  Apparently, it first became popular when Moody and Sankey took the song to the British Isles in the 1873 for their campaigns.  The song became very popular there but remained virtually unknown in America.  Many years passed but in 1954 it was “rediscovered” in England when a local Pastor suggested it to Cliff Barrows who was putting together a song book for Billy Graham’s first London Crusade.  Barrows liked the strong words and he agreed.  It became the theme hymn and was sung nearly every night of the London Crusade.  On the team’s return to America, the hymn was reintroduced to the nation where it had been born during the August 1955, Nashville Crusade.

This is a wonderful, joyous song of praise.  The theme and abundant source of all that God has done and will yet do for us as fallen human beings is made possible by the saving work of His Son. That is the central theme of Fanny Crosby’s song.  She exalts the Lord because the multiplied blessings of salvation are “through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Heb. 13:21)  To God be glory, the Greek word ‘doxa’, has to do with the revelation of God’s distinctive excellence and praising Him for these things.  All that God is and does, and all He has created, reflect glory to Him.  Some of the verses Fanny used as the foundation thought include, but not limited to the following.  Romans 11:36: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever.”  The infinite wisdom God has shown, and will forever demonstrate, in doing things as He has, is also forever glorious.  Jude wrote in verse 25: “To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.”  To God belongs eternal glory for His preservation of the saints, and for their coming exaltation. As the Apostle Paul was led to write, “And The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom Him be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” (II Timothy 4:18)  And our worship doesn’t stop at death.  John wrote in Revelation 1:6, And hath (v. 5: Jesus Christ) made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”  And in eternity we’ll praise Him because He “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)

Fanny was born in Putnam County, New York in 1820.  Hers was not to be an easy, early life.  She became ill shortly after birth.  She was misdiagnosed and the prescribed treatment was ill-conceived by a man purporting himself to be medically trained.  He recommended hot mustard poultices on her eyes.  Her illness eventually became better, but the treatment left her blind.  When the doctor was revealed to be a quack, he disappeared.  A few months later, Fanny’s father died, and her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family.  Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother, apparently the one who provided the early grounding in her education of the Bible.   Shortly before her fifteenth birthday, Fanny’s mother was able to enroll her in the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind.  That would be her home for 23 years, 12 as a student and 11 as a teacher.  It was there that she also met her future husband, Alexander Van Alstine who was an accomplished organist and a member of the Institute, as well as a former pupil.  They were married in 1858.

Her love of poetry began early.  Her first verse, written at age 8, echoed her lifelong refusal to feel sorry for herself: “Oh, what a happy soul I am, Although I cannot see!  I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be.  How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t, To weep and sigh because I’m blind I cannot, and I won’t!”

While she enjoyed her poetry, she always read and memorized the Bible.  She would memorize five chapters a week.  Even as a child she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many Psalms, chapter and verse.  Of course, this would lead her in the direction of her life’s work.

By age 23, Fanny was addressing Congress and making friendships with presidents. In fact, she knew all the chief executives of her lifetime, especially Grover Cleveland, who served as secretary for the Institute for the Blind before his election.

She was under contract to submit three hymns a week to her publisher and often wrote six or seven a day (for a dollar or two each), many became incredibly popular.  When Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey began to use them in their crusades, they received even more attention. Among them are “Blessed Assurance,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “To God Be the Glory,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.”  Her favorite type songs were simple, sentimental verses that could be used for evangelism. She continued to write her poetry up to her death, a month shy of her ninety-fifth birthday.  Her desk held what was the beginning of the last song she was working on.  The lyrics showed that she was still thinking and writing about heaven: “You will reach the river brink, some sweet day, bye and bye.”

The most of Fanny’s published hymns have appeared under the name of Fanny J. Crosby or Mrs. Van Alstyne, but quite a large number have appeared under the nom de plumes of Grace J. Frances, Mrs. C. M. Wilson, Lizzie Edwards, Ella Dale, Henrietta E. Blair, Rose Atherton, Maud Marion, Leah Carlton, nearly two hundred different names.  She once said that she used those names so her name did not appear more often than the better writers.

Source:

Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers; J. H. Hall; Fleming H. Revell Company; 1914

Crusader Hymns and Hymn Stories; Cliff Barrows; Hope Publishing Company; 1967

Holy Bible, King James Version, Scofield Reference Bible; Oxford Press; 1996

Music in Evangelism, ; Phil Kerr; Zondervan Publishing House; 1962

The Romance of Women Hymn Writers; F. W. Pitt; Fundamental Truth Publishers

 

John Rippon (1751 – 1836)

John Rippon (1751 – 1836)

by Terry Conley

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Mysteries remain regarding the origin of this wonderful hymn and its tune.  The hymn first appeared in Rippon’s most famous work, A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended as an Appendix to Dr. Watts, published in 1787 under the title, Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises.  It was eventually published 27 times.  In early editions the words were accompanied by the letters “K.” or “Kn.”  We do know that Robert Keene was the song leader or precentor in Pastor Rippon’s church. He may, or may not, have supplied the text for this hymn.  The origin of the tune is also obscure.  It comes from A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, published by Joseph Funk in 1832.

In spite of the uncertainty about its origin, this remains one of the greatest hymns in the English language. Almost every line is a quotation of, or allusion to, some text in the Word of God.  Each stanza but the first is a poetic quotation of Scripture giving assurance to the believer.  The first poses the question and is answered in the following verses.  It’s unfortunate that most hymn books limit themselves to using only three or four stanzas.  All are worthy to be included and each adds to the thought.

The modern trend is to shorten our hymns. Sometimes the words of only a verse or two are projected on the wall sometimes with the refrain.  Seven stanzas must seem like far too much work!  But there is an irony to this, since some of the contemporary choruses are sung over and over again, repetitiously.  We should want to hear the entire thought that was laid on the writer’s heart.  By omitting parts of our better hymns, we definitely miss a blessing.

The opening stanza of our hymn reminds us that the Scriptures are trustworthy, and a firm foundation on which to stand. It asks the question: What more can He say than to you He hath said?  The following verses supply the Scripture to support that statement.  When the Bible speaks of the household of God being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), it means that our foundation is the Word of God revealed through them (cf. vs. 5). And since the Lord Jesus is central to that revelation, it’s equally true to say that He Himself is our foundation (I Cor. 3:1).

John Rippon (29 April 1751 – 17 December 1836) was an English Baptist minister.  He was born at Tiverton, Devon, England.  In 1768, at about age 17, he enrolled in and was educated for the ministry at the Baptist College, Bristol.  More than 250 years later (2020), this school is still in existence and educating students.  In 1773, Rippon became Pastor of the Baptist church in Carters Lane and he continued to preach and care for the congregation until his death on December 17,1836.  Pastor Rippon was one of the most popular and influential Dissenting Ministers of his time.  From 1790 to 1802 he issued the Baptist Annual Register, a periodical containing an account of the most important events in the history of the Baptist Denomination in Great Britain and America during that period.  He published another hymnal, Selection of Hymns for Public Worship, in 1787.  In the 1791 edition, and on-going, the names of tunes were prefixed to the hymns which began to establish some consistency in the hymn singing.

After the death of John Gill, he assumed Gill’s pastorate at the Baptist Meeting House in Carter Lane, Tooley Street, Southwark, from 1773 at the age of 20 until his death in 1836.  During these times, the church experienced great growth and became one of the largest congregations in the country. The congregation moved to New Park Street from Carter Lane in 1833. The New Park Street Chapel could seat 1,200 people. Rippon’s church was later pastored by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  It was under his leadership that the church moved to its current location as Metropolitan Baptist Church in London at Elephant and Castle.  Rippon’s Selection of Hymns was used by the congregation until 1866 when Spurgeon produced an update called Our Own Hymn Book which borrowed much from Rippon and Watts.  Rippon was buried in London’s Dissenter Cemetery, Bunhill Fields, London.

was sung at the funerals of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.  It was the favorite hymn of Rachel Jackson, wife of President Andrew Jackson, and on his deathbed the warrior and statesman called for it.  It was also sung at the funeral of General Robert E. Lee.

Source:

A Dictionary if Hymnology; John Julian; Dover Publications, 1907, New York

Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns; Henry S. Burrage, D.D.; Brown, Thurston & Co. 1888, Portland, ME

The Story of Hymns and Tunes; Theron Brown & Hezekiah Butterworth; American Tract Society, 1906, Boston, MA

 

 

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836 – 1879)

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836 – 1879)

by Terry Conley

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Frances Ridley Havergal, daughter of the Rev. W. H. Havergal, was born at Astley, Worcestershire, England, December 14, 1836.  Her father, Rev. W. H. Havergal, was a vicar and a hymn writer. The name Ridley came from her Godfather, W. H. Ridley, Rector of Hambleden, who was descended from Bishop Ridley, the martyr.  She was nicknamed “Little Quicksilver,” because she was bright, quick, and clever.  She possessed gifted intelligence and was reading at age three.  Her mother, Jane, died when she was 11 years old and she was sent to various boarding schools.   Intelligent and educated, her life was characterized by a deep, earnest consecration to Jesus.  In August 1850, she entered Mrs. Teed’s school.  In the following year her diary says, ” I committed my soul to the Savior, and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment.”  She was confirmed in Worcester Cathedral, July 17,1853.  She died at Caswall Bay, Swansea, June 3,1879, at the age of 43 years.  Her epitaph, as she requested, reads “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”.

Frances’ scholastic achievements were many including several modern languages together with Greek and Hebrew.  She did not claim to be an achieved writer or poet but allowed God to use her distinct individuality to serve her God and Savior.  Simply and sweetly she wrote of the love of God and His way of salvation.  She dedicated her whole life to this end.  Her writings are permeated with her passionate love of Jesus.  The burden of her writings is a free and full salvation, through the Redeemer’s merits, for every sinner who will receive it.  Her life was devoted to the proclamation of this truth by personal labors and her writing.

She wrote many devotional books and hundreds of hymns and poems.  Her religious views are clearly stated in her poems with the main emphasis being a free and full salvation offered through the Savior for every sinner who will receive it.  Favorite hymns of hers include Who is on the Lord’s Side, Lord Speak to me, and Take My Life and Let It Be.  One of Miss Havergal’s best known hymns was written shortly before her death in 1879.  In one of her last letters to a friend who was struggling with life’s issues, she quoted from Romans 5:1 – “We have peace with God” and went on to say it was perfect peace.  Frances was still struggling in her personal life with the results of an earlier bout with typhoid fever.  It was during this time of distress that she felt that the Lord gave her the thoughts that were eventually written as the hymn Like A River Glorious.  She noted that she was burdened by the fact that she could not do all she desired for her God and Savior but that she felt God’s love and power sweep over her while she prayed for those around her.  She wrote: “Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace, over all victorious in its bright increase.  Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest, finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.”

References:

A Dictionary of Hymnology; John Julian; Dover Publications, 1907, New York

The Hymns & Hymn Writers of the Church Hymnary; John Brownlie, D.D.; Henry Frowde, Publisher OUP, 1911; London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, New York, Toronto and Melbourne

The Romance of Women Hymn Writers; F. W. Pitt; Fundamental Truth Publishers, Findlay, Ohio

 

G. F. Handel

G. F. Handel

by Terry Conley

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(February 1685 – April 1759)

It is true that for many of the wonderful Gospel Hymns and Songs we know and sing, it is the combination of the words and music that thrills and blesses us.  No less so than in the music we know as Handel’s Messiah.  All we need to hear are the first few notes or words and immediately, our spirit is touched.  But in truth, Handel’s Messiah should be better called Handel’s and Jennens’ Messiah.  We shall see why.

Handel was born in Halle, Germany, February 23, 1685, the son of a barber-surgeon.  He showed an early gift for music and learned to play the violin, organ, harpsichord, and oboe at an early age.  He also learned the principles of keyboard performance and composition.  But George Handel’s father did not see that music was a way to support a family and he wanted more for his son.  His plans were for his son to be a lawyer and he discouraged George’s study of music at every turn.  In order to please his father, George studied law until he was 18, even though his father died when Handel was 11.  His musical ability would not be denied.  During the next five years, he was employed as a musician, composer, and conductor at various courts and churches throughout Italy and Germany.  During one period, he also was the organist of the Reformed (Calvinist) Cathedral (Market Church) in Halle, known as The Cradle of the Reformation.

In 1710, at age 25, he was appointed orchestra and choir director to the Elector of Hanover, the future King George I of England.  In 1712 Handel moved to London and became a permanent resident.  The next year, he gained royal favor with his Ode for the Queen’s Birthday and was granted an annual allowance of £200 by Queen Anne.  In February 1727, he became a British subject and was appointed composer of the Chapel Royal.  His life had many interruptions but the year 1741 gave the world what many consider to be his greatest oratorio, Messiah.

Charles Jennens (1700 – 1773), the man behind the words, was an English landowner and patron of the arts.  Jennens was brought up in Leicestershire, in the mid-lands of England.  He was educated at Oxford but did not graduate.  He was known in the community as a devout Christian and identified as an anti-Deist with an interest in primitive or early Christianity.  Jennens had a deep knowledge of the Bible and from about 1735, he contributed many Biblically-based books to Handel’s music.  These include oratorios such as Esther, Saul, Samson, Joseph and His Brothers, and Belshazzar.  He had a background in music and literature and always made notes on his copies of Handel’s works giving suggestions that he thought would make the entire work more Scriptural.

Their most famous collaboration is Jennens’ text for Messiah.  By his account, he wrote the book focusing on Jesus as Messiah with the text taken entirely from the Bible.  The work is structured in three parts originally named The Promise of Redemption, The Price of Redemption, and The Power of Redemption.  Part I begins with the prophecy of the Messiah and his birth, the annunciation to the shepherds, and reflects the Messiah’s deeds on earth.  It is taken from the books of Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, and Luke.  Part II covers the Passion and includes mentions of Jesus being despised of men, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in Heaven.  Part II also includes a section on the spreading of the Gospel and its rejection.  The Hallelujah Chorus concludes Part II in a scene called God’s Triumph.   Part II includes Psalms, Lamentations, Isaiah, John, Romans, and Hebrews.  The Hallelujah Chorus was drawn from the Book of Revelation.  Part III includes verses from Job 19 concerning the coming Messiah.  The remainder is drawn from Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven from Romans, I Corinthians, and Revelation.  The work concludes with the Amen Chorus.  Jennens described his work as “a meditation of our Lord as Messiah in Christian thought and belief.”  Handel first estimated that it would take a full year to compose the music, but the 260 pages were completed in an astoundingly short period of about 24 days during August and September 1741.  He made a note in his writings when he finished writing what would become known as the Hallelujah Chorus.  He said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself”.

Messiah was originally conceived as an Easter oratorio and was first performed at the Music Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742.  Later, Handel conducted 30 performances of Messiah but not at Christmas since both Handel and Jennens had composed it as music for Easter.  On August 17, 1758, in the year preceding Handel’s death, John Wesley attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Cathedral in Bristol, England, after the yearly Methodist Conference ended.  Wesley wrote about the performance, “I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance.  In many parts, especially several of the choruses, it exceeded my expectation.”

At first all his oratorios were met with outrage from the established Church with many leaders prohibiting their members from participating in any way.  They did not think it appropriate that a Bible story was being told by common actors and singers and the Word of God being used as the text.  The Bishop of London prohibited the oratorios from being performed.  When Royal Family attended, they were met with success but despite the support of the Royal Family, churches remained angry and continued to tear down the advertisements and disrupt the performances.

On April 6, 1759, while directing a performance of Messiah, Handel was taken ill.  He died in his London home on April 14.  One of his last statements recorded his hope to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection.”  His funeral was attended by about 3,000 people with music by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey in the Poet’s Corner.  Handel had previously paid for and given instructions for the statue that stands over his grave.  It shows him working on the score for Messiah with the score open at the passage “I know that my redeemer liveth. (Job 19)”

 

Hallelujah Chorus

(excerpts and verse source)

And he shall reign forever and ever,

King of kings and Lord of lords.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

 

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ;

and He shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, KJV)

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.

(Revelation 19:6, KJV)

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

(Revelation 19:16 KJV)

 

Sources:

Christianity Today website, November 2018

  1. F. Handel, Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com

The Story of the Hymns and Tunes, Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth; New York, 1906

The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah, Jonathan Kandell, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2009

 

 

Elisha Hoffman

Elisha Hoffman

by Terry Conley

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Elisha Albright Hoffman was born May 7, 1839, in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania.  Hoffman’s parents, Francis and Rebecca Hoffman, were of German descent.  His father worked as a minister in the Evangelical Association for more than 60 years.  This group was founded in 1800 by the Rev. Jacob Albright, a German-speaking Christian of Pennsylvania.  Albright was influenced by John Wesley and the Methodist movement.

Hoffman never attended a music school.  He was apparently a natural musician with his musical direction and education obtained from his parents at home during their daily family worship time and hymn singing or from his experiences at his father’s church.  It was during those times that he developed a love for sacred music and a belief that singing was a natural function of the soul, used to express his love for his Savior.

Hoffman attended public school in Philadelphia and graduated from Central High School. He then attended Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pennsylvania.  Upon graduation, he began working with the Evangelical Association’s publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio.   After serving in this position for 11 years, he followed his father’s footsteps and surrendered his life to the preaching of the gospel.  He was ordained by the Presbyterian Churches in 1873, at the age of 34.  From 1880 until his retirement in 1922, Hoffman pastored several churches in Cleveland and Grafton, Ohio; Benton Harbor, Michigan; and Central Illinois.  His longest ministry position was held at the Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church in Michigan where he served as Pastor for 33 years.

It was during these years in ministry that Hoffman composed the bulk of his more than 2,000 hymns.  Many of these hymns composed by Hoffman are still being used today.  Among his most popular and widely recognized songs are: What a Wonderful Saviour!, Are You Washed in the Blood?, No Other Friend Like Jesus, I Must Tell Jesus, and Is Your All on the Altar?  Hoffman also assisted in the compilation and editing process of 50 different song books.

In the majority of his compositions, Hoffman is the author and composer of both the words and music.  In his songs, he sought to create music for congregational worship.  According to Hoffman, a hymn is “a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, which is designed to be sung and which expresses the worshipper’s attitude toward God or God’s purposes in human life. It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it.”  This is most evident in his recounting of how he was led to write I Must Tell Jesus.  As he often did as a Pastor, he spent hours visiting those who could not come to the services.  One day he was visiting and talking with people from the poorer communities.  He was visiting with a poor mother who was in much mental suffering and distress.  As was his habit, he prayed with her and read the Bible but she remained in much mental distress.  He then suggested the best she could do was take it to Jesus.  He urged her to “take it to Jesus and tell Him of her sorrows.”  As they prayed together, he said he sensed a relief coming over her spirit as she told Jesus of all her trials, heartaches, and sorrows.  He said that he carried that with him the rest of the day and later was able to capture that memory in song.

While his ministry in the churches where he served was fruitful, his songs continue to reach and preach to many thousands who never heard his voice.  Elisha Hoffman was 90 years old when he died November 25, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois.  During his life, he composed over 2,000 hymns, and edited 50 gospel song books.  What a song service we could have with: Are You Washed, What A Wonderful Savior, Glory to His Name, Is Thy Heart Right with God?, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, When I See the Blood, Is Your All on the Altar?, and, of course,

I Must Tell Jesus

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.

 

References:

Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers; Jacob Henry Hall; Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, NY; 1914.

Gospel Songs and Their Writers; Charles H. Gabriel; The Rodeheaver Company, Chicago, IL; 1915.

Hymn Stories For Programs; Ernest K. Emurian; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1963

Music in Evangelism; Phil Kerr; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1962