Anne Ross Cousin Hymnwriter

Anne Ross Cousin was born on April 27, 1824, in Hull, England. Her father, Dr David Ross Cundell of Leith, who was a surgeon in the British Army and served at the Battle of Waterloo, died when she was only three years old.

Anne proved to be a highly gifted lady and became an expert pianist, and began writing poems and hymns. In 1847 she married Rev William Cousin, an honoured clergyman of the Free Church of Scotland. That marriage produced five children.

By the time Anne was 50 she had composed many devotional poems and in 1876, a volume was published called “Immanuel’s Land and other pieces” by Anne Ross Cousin. Critical review suggests that the title poem was by far the best of the collection of over 100 poems.

Among her contributions to hymnody is:
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head;
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead;
Didst bear all ill for me …

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Known as Substitution, this hymn was included in the Sankey Hymnbook (No. 128), Sankey himself composing the melody. It is also of interest that William Barclay, in his Testament of Faith (page 52), quotes this hymn and denies the truths it contains.

Mrs Cousin’s other magnificent hymn was originally a 19 stanza (152 lines) poem based on the dying words of Rev Samuel Rutherford, “Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land”. Rutherford was a saintly 17th century Scottish Covenanter; a Presbyterian who had been imprisoned during the reign of Charles II. From his prison cell there flowed letters so full of Christ that they have become classics of Christian literature.

And the hymn?

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair sweet morn awakes.
Dark, dark hath been the midnight;
but dayspring is at hand.
And glory, glory dwelleth
in Immanuel’s land.

Around 1856, Mrs. Cousin was meditating on Rutherford’s letters as she went about her daily chores. While sewing, she scribbled down lines of poetry, ultimately weaving together expressions from thirtysix of his letters and his final words to create a poetic tapestry.

Ann Ross Cousin continued to write poems, hymns and books, and died in Edinburgh at the age of 82, on December 6, 1906.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Marcus Dods Jnr the Scholar

Marcus Dods Jnr died, on April 26, 1909. He was born on April 11, 1834 at Belford, Northumberland in Scotland, where his father, Marcus Dods (senior) was a Scottish Church (Presbyterian) minister.

Young Marcus was trained at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University, and followed in his father’s footsteps, pastoring, and later teaching in New College, Edinburgh.

In 1864 Dods became minister of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, where he worked for twenty-five years.

At New College, Edinburgh, in 1890, charges of heresy were brought against him (and dismissed) for denying the inerrancy of Scripture. The charge was based on a sermon on Inspiration which Dods delivered in 1878. The charge against him was dropped by a large majority.

One delightful story concerning Dods comes from The Speaker’s Bible (Romans, Vol. 2, page 143). There we read of his long Saturday walks with Alexander Whyte, a fellow Presbyterian clergyman, and of their discussion. “Whatever we started off with in our conversations” said Whyte, “we soon made across country, somehow, to Jesus …”

Dods devoted much time to the publication of theological books. He wrote, edited existing works, contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, and busied himself with many other publications.

Apart from his services to Biblical scholarship, providing resources for the scholarly, Dods sought to present to the less educated reader the benefit of insights not readily available to them.

Marcus Dods was 75 at the time of his death.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Robinson Crusoe the Christian Classic

Robinson Crusoe was published, on April 25, 1719.

Based loosely on the real life adventures of one Alexander Selkirk, Daniel Defoe penned this best seller, which became one of the world’s greatest adventure stories – at the age of 54, in poor health and confined to this bedroom.

In today’s reprints much of the religious element has been omitted, but in the original version Defoe “produced one of the world’s wisest and most tolerant books in the whole field of applied Christianity”.  In the original preface to his work Defoe tells us that, whilst historically basing much of his research on the life of Selkirk, yet at the same time he was revealing something of his own spiritual pilgrimage through his writing. Defoe records his castaway’s conversion, of his leading Man Friday to faith in Christ, and of his constant calling upon the Lord in times of trouble.

Crusoe’s eventual rescue by a Spanish galleon posed problems … “I had rather be delivered up to savages and be devoured alive, than fall into the merciless claws of the priests, and be carried into the Inquisition…”

Thus it was in thousands of Christian homes, that the adventures of Robinson Crusoe became Sabbath afternoon reading material.

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Adam Clarke, Wesleyan commentator par excellence, tells how he “learned more of his duty to God, his neighbour and himself from Robinson Crusoe than from all the books except the Bible that were known in his youth”.

Daniel Defoe had been born into a non-conformist family, and in later life displayed fanatical anti-High Church views. Romanism likewise was anathema to him.

He was an enterprising man who made several attempts at business, which left him deeply in debt. He found in life’s experience the forge in which the real lessons are learned. He said, “In the School of Affliction I have learnt more Philosophy than at the Academy, and more Divinity than from the Pulpit: In Prison I have learnt to know that Liberty does not consist in open Doors, and the free Egress and Regress of Locomotion. I have seen the rough side of the World as well as the smooth, and have in less than half a Year tasted the difference between the Closet of a King, and the Dungeon of Newgate.”

He was also no stranger to controversy, engaging in the various political issues of his day. On one occasion, hiding in a graveyard, he saw the name Robinson Crusoe engraved on a tombstone. That is where he took the name of his famous fiction character.

Along with Samuel Richardson, Defoe is considered the founder of the English novel. Earlier prose was usually written in the form of long poems or dramas. Defoe produced some 200 works of non-fiction prose in addition to almost 2,000 short essays in publications, some of which he also edited.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Augustine and his Writings

Augustine was baptised by Bishop Ambrose of Milan, on April 24, in the year 387AD. It was Easter Sunday. “Augustine of Hippo … is one of the central pillars on which our entire Western civilisation is built…” (Christian History Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 3). His “massive intellect” shaped Western theology (Latourette). His “significance in the church is difficult to overestimate!” (Christianity Today, December, 1987).  Such quotations could be multiplied.

His book, Confessions, written in 401AD is regarded as a classic among Christian literature, powerfully sharing his personal journey and spiritual growth. Roman Catholicism regards him as one of their ‘saints’, whilst many a Protestant finds his theology embedded in Augustine’s writings.

He waged war – verbally and with his pen – against pagans, astrologers, Manichees, Donatists, Pelagians, Arians, Apollinarians, and a host of other beliefs that opposed the Christian faith.

“One statistician counted in his writings 13,276 quotations from the Old Testament … and 29,540 from the New Testament!”  (And that was before the days of Cruden’s Concordance!)

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In his ‘De Civitate Dei’, The City of God, written between 413-427AD and inspired by the fall of Rome to the Visigoths in 410, Augustine separated the moral and spiritual realities of Christianity from political elements. He sought to find the proper relationship between the two forces and saw the church as independent from, if not superior to, the civil state.

One may not agree with all of Augustine’s teaching; nevertheless his impact on the church (one way or another) merits him a place in Christian history.

More information about Augustine’s life and conversion is presented in another post on his life, found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/aurelius-augustine

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Sarasvati Ramabai and Mukti Mission

Pundita Sarasvati Ramabai Dongre was born in the forests of Southwest India to Brahmin parents. It was April 23, 1858. By the age of 12 years she had committed to memory 18,000 verses from the Hindu scriptures (Famous Missionaries, Famous Missionaries, by J.C. Lawson, page 53).

When she was 16 famine struck and the family lived on water and leaves for 11 days. When both her parents died she was protected by her older brother, who later died, leaving her alone. Her education enabled her to gain respect and she married an educated Bengali who had also thrown off Hindu teaching. Nineteen months later her husband died and Ramabai was unprotected once again. She also had a baby daughter to care for. Such a situation is shameful in Indian culture and young widows are in a very vulnerable state.

Visiting Calcutta in 1878 the educational leaders bestowed upon her the title “Pandita”, meaning “Learned” (English pundit) – the first woman in the world to have received such an honour.

But further study of the Hindu writings – and the realisation that they held “little or no hope of salvation” for women – led her to turn her attention to investigate Christianity. Widowed, the mother of a small child, she visited England and was impressed by Anglican “Sisters of the Cross“, and their devoted Rescue Mission work. In 1883 Pandita Ramabai was baptised into the Church of England.

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Eight years later she chanced upon the book, From Death to Life by Rev. William Haslam – and to quote Pandita Ramabai: “I read the account of his conversion and work for Christ. Then I began to consider where I stood and what my actual need was…  I took the Bible and read.  One thing I knew by this time, that I needed Christ, not merely His religion” (Pandita Ramabai, by H. Dyer, page 35).

So this brilliant Indian lady came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. When she visited the USA she studied their education system and determined to return to India to educated widows, so they would not be at the mercy of those who would exploit them.

She returned to her native land and, in 1896, commenced the Mukti Mission. “Mukti” means “Salvation” (literally the escape from reincarnation’s horrible repeated cycle of life and death), and from that centre the old time gospel was faithfully proclaimed to thousands of women and children.

In 1905 “a Holy Ghost revival swept over Mukti and hundreds of girls and some boys were gloriously saved” (Herald of Hope, by John Ridley, December, 1959). Ramabai had heard of the revivals in Wales and elsewhere and was desperate to see the power of God. She organised the children to pray.

Thirty young women met for prayer every day. On the morning of June 29 a missionary working at the Mission “was awakened at 3.30, by one of the senior girls saying, ‘Come over and rejoice with us, J. has received the Holy Spirit. I saw the fire, ran across the room for a pail of water and was about to pour it on her, when I discovered that she was not on fire.’ When Miss Abrams arrived, all the girls of that compound were on their knees weeping, praying, and confessing their sins.”

The next evening, during a message on the adulterous woman “the Holy Spirit descended with power, and all the girls began to pray aloud so that she had to cease talking. Little children, middle-sized girls, and young women, wept bitterly and confessed their sins. Some few saw visions and experienced the power of God, and things that are too deep to be described. Two little girls had the spirit of prayer poured on them in such torrents that they continued to pray for hours. They were transformed with heavenly light shining on their faces.”

The girls called the revival “a baptism of fire. They say that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them it is almost unbearable-the burning within. Afterwards they are transformed, their faces light up with joy, their mouths are filled with praise.”

Ramabai also had inexplicable ecstatic experiences: “a consciousness of the Holy Spirit as a burning flame within her and times when, alone in prayer, she involuntarily uttered some sentences in Hebrew.” This Pentecostal revival was marked by confession of sins, prayers, much singing, dancing, clapping, speaking in tongues, and sensations of being consumed by fire.

Before her death on 5 April, 1922, apart from impacting so many lives that would otherwise have been ruined, Pandita Ramabai had also translated the Bible into the Marathi language.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history