Ada Habershon the Hymn Writing Theologian

Ada Habershon was born in London, England, on January 8, 1861, the youngest daughter to “earnest, uncompromising parents”. She devoted her life to the Lord’s service and became a keen student of the Bible.

As a schoolgirl she sat under the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and in 1884 found herself helping in the Dwight Moody/Ira Sankey meetings, when that American duo arrived in England. “On several occasions she sang with Mr Sankey”! (The Romance of Sacred Song, by D. Beattie, page 61).

Whilst not being able to testify to a specific date for her conversion, she knew that she had passed “from death unto life”, and sought to lead others to that life-changing experience.

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Her wealth of Biblical insight is evidenced in the books which she wrote, with an emphasis on Biblical types and such themes as “How the New Testament is Concealed in the Old Testament”. It is said of her that “Few women have made a contribution to the cause of biblical scholarship equal to that of Ada Habershon”.

Following her meeting with Moody, he invited her to the USA to deliver lectures on the Old Testament.

Her first hymn was written in 1901 at the suggestion of Charles M. Alexander, and in the following twelve months 200 Gospel songs flowed from her pen. From that time on, until her death seventeen years later, there came a steady stream of over 1000 Gospel songs. Charles Alexander, famous for the Alexander Hymn Book, once described her as the “best Gospel song-writer in the world.” He continued, “She was an invalid all the time, but those who suffer best know how to touch the heart. Miss Habershon is well read, too; she has the Bible in her head as well as in her heart, and all her songs have a Scriptural foundation.”

Among those great hymns is …
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m climbing every day,
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on Higher Ground!”

Also from her pen came such Gospel songs as:
He will hold me fast, and
Come to the Saviour, make no delay.

Besides her hymn writing Miss Habershon also penned some helpful volumes … The Study of Types, Outline Studies on the Tabernacle, Studies in the Parables, .. and others.

This remarkable Bible student/hymn writer was called Home on 1 February, 1918.

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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

Charles McCallon Alexander Music and Bibles

This is the day that Charles McCallon Alexander was born in a log house near Cloyd’s Creek, East Tennessee, USA, in 1867.

His father, John Darius Alexander, played the ‘fiddle’ and led the singing at the local Presbyterian Church. He also taught Charles to read music at a young age and to beat time with his hands. His mother was also a great influence, reading Moody’s sermons and talking much with him and his siblings. By the age of 9, he had read the entire Bible.

At the age of 13 young Charles “rose and walked timidly to the front (of the church) and made his first public confession of Christ” (C.M. Alexander, by his wife, Helen, page 21).

He studied music at Maryville University and eventually became a Professor of Music. His father’s death was pivotal in clinching his life of ministry. Doubting his father’s salvation, Charles asked God to confirm it to him, promising to serve the Lord if He did. When that assurance came to his heart as he peered up to the stars, Charles kept his word and engaged in Christian ministry.

After studying at Moody Bible Institute, he did evangelistic work with Mr. M. B. Williams, Georgia State Secretary for the YMCA for 8 years. He was also Billy Sunday’s song leader in Chicago.

In 1902 he found himself on a worldwide tour with Dr R.A. Torrey, starting in Australia before heading to England the following year. It was Alexander who led the massed choirs (“The Glory Song” became a firm favourite!) – and compiled the hymnbook that bears his name.

In Birmingham he married Helen Cadbury (her family having revolutionised the chocolate industry), and later travelled the world again, leading choirs for J. Wilbur Chapman.

Charles wanted to promote Bible reading, confident that it would lead people to faith. In 1906 he heard news of the “Testament Circles” in Philadelphia and that prompted Helen to tell her husband about her school initiative with “The Pocket Testament League”.

Alexander decided to revive his wife’s earlier initiative and in 1908 it was launched in Philadelphia and actively begun in Melbourne, Australia in 1909. During The Great War thousands of British and American soldiers were impacted by the league, and many testimonies of salvations poured in.

C.M. Alexander died in Birmingham, England, on 13 October, 1920, at the age of 53.

Helen continued the work of The Pocket Testament League and by 1936, there were 5 million members in TPTL. She died in 1969 at the age of 92, having seen millions of New Testaments carried in many pockets.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.