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.

Alexander’s Hymns and Her

This is the day that … Charles McCallon Alexander was married, in Birmingham, England, in 1904.

“Charlie”, as he was known, followed his musical training with evangelistic preparation at Moody Bible Institute. He spent 3 months as a singing associate of Quaker evangelist John Kittrell, and in 1893 was associated with Dwight L. Moody in the revival services connected with the World’s Fair at Chicago.

A new style of hymn had recently been developed, dubbed revival songs. These were more rhythmically interesting, often involving change of rhythm within a song. As a result these songs required a song leader to keep everyone in time. Alexander was gifted in this role and so became a popular choir leader.

For seven years Alexander travelled with revivalist Milan B. Williams, principally in Iowa, but also around the USA. Between 1902 and 1904 he travelled with Rev Dr R.A. Torrey to Australia, New Zealand, India and England.

With Alexander as soloist/song leader/choir director and Dr Reuben A. Torrey as evangelist the scene was set for their second Britain campaign.

During a lonely Christmas (1903) Alexander, then 36 years of age, had prayed for a wife. And the following month, as he trained a 1600-voice choir for the Birmingham meetings, he spied Helen Cadbury. Before the month was over he had proposed … and they were married the following July.

Helen Cadbury was 27, of Quaker extraction, and she was from the famous Cadbury Chocolate family. She had been converted as a child, going forward to confess Christ at a meeting run by her father for down-and-outers.

In 1908 Mrs Helen Alexander founded the Pocket Testament League, a non-denominational organisation dedicated to distributing the Word of God.

Alexander published hymnbooks, commencing with Revival Songs (Melbourne, 1901); Revival Hymns (London, 1903); and Revival Hymns (another collection; Chicago, 1906). His final contribution was Alexander’s Hymns No 3 (1915) which became famous internationally and was popularly used for more than half a century.

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.