Absalom Backus Earle Preaches With Power From High

Absalom Backus Earle was “endued with power from on high” on November 2, in the year 1863.

Born in Charlton, New York, in 1812, converted at the age of 16, Absalom Earle began preaching two years later. And seemingly he never stopped. For the next 58 years “he preached more frequently than any other man living at the same time” (Deeper Experiences, by J.G. Lawson, page 214). It has been estimated that he held 39,330 services and led 160,000 souls to Christ. He influenced 400 men to enter the ministry.

“I have reason to believe,” he is quoted as saying, “that a single sermon I have preached on ‘The sin that hath never forgiveness’ has been the means of more than 20,000 conversions” (Hall of Fame, by E. Towns, page 111).

It was “on the second day of November, 1863”, he tells us, that a new dimension was added to his spiritual life. “For the first time in my life I had the rest which is more than peace … Jesus has been my all since then. There has not been one hour of conscious doubt or darkness since that time. A heaven of peace and rest fills my soul… My success in leading souls to Jesus has been much greater than before…”

Theologians have called this experience by various names – but the history of the Christian church has shown that many saints have experienced this “second blessing” or whatever name they called it.

A.B. Earle also authored many hymns, the most well known being that which expresses the passion of his heart:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.

Earle’s evangelistic success is not due to special human skills. That power from on high made all the difference.

A British religious paper said of Mr. Earle: “His preaching was not eloquent. His delivery was not beyond the average. His voice had no special power. His large angular frame and passionless mouth were decidedly against him. His sermons seemed sometimes as though composed thirty years ago, before we so often heard, as now, the more clear and ringing utterances of free grace, and the name of Jesus in almost every sentence. He expressed his own emotions very simply, and did not often refer to them. His rhetoric was often at fault, and sometimes his grammar. Truly the enticing words of man’s wisdom were wanting in his case.”

Earle died at his home in Newton, Massachusetts, March 30, 1895, at the age of eighty-three.

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.

Thomas Hastings the Albino Musical Genius

This is the day that Thomas Hastings was born in Connecticut, in 1784.

At the age of 12 he and his family moved to Clinton, New York State, “by ox sledge”. He studied music from textbooks, without instruction, and in 1806 became the head of a singing school. Despite little education and “acute near-sightedness”, and the fact that he was an albino, he became a genius in the world of church music. He could read a page of music when placed upside down!” (Finney, by K. Hardman, page 252).

Hastings was married in Buffalo, N.Y., Sept. 15, 1822, to Mary Seymour. He taught singing in Troy, N.Y. during 1822-23, and was editor of the “Western Recorder”, a religious journal, at Utica, N.Y. from 1823-32, meanwhile lecturing on music in Albany, New York city, Philadelphia, Pa. and Princeton. N.J. He resided in New York city from 1832-72, where he held the position of choir master, first in Dr. Mason’s church, afterward in Dr. Hutton’s and finally in the West Presbyterian church.

He contributed frequently to the musical and religious periodicals, published the “Musical Magazine” for the years 1835-37 and edited many collections of music. He received the degree of Mus. Doc. from the University of the city of New York in 1858. Evangelist Charles Finney employed Thomas Hastings as music director at the Chatham Street Chapel, New York.

For 40 years Hastings taught music, trained choirs, composed, compiled and published hymnals, wrote 600 hymns for tunes and 1000 tunes for hymns!

The tune “Toplady” used for Rock of Ages… comes from his pen, as does “Ortonville”, to which we sing: Majestic sweetness sits enthroned…

Among his best known words are ‘Hail to the brightness of Zion’s glad morning’ and ‘Come, ye disconsolate’, in which he improved upon the work of an earlier poet.

One writer states that Thomas Hastings “did valuable service in his day in stemming the tide of deteriorating influences in American hymnody and maintaining the ideal of devoutness in church praise” (Handbook to the Hymnary, page 363).

One is tempted to add, “Oh, for another Thomas Hastings!”

He died in Vermont, USA, on 3 January, 1918.

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.

George Blaurock Initiates Re-Baptism

This is the day that … George Blaurock was burned to death, in 1529.

Blaurock was born Jörg vom Hause Jakob, in 1492 in Bonaduz, a village in Grisons, Switzerland.

An ex-Roman Catholic priest, he had been converted to Protestantism when he was about 34 years of age.

That same year Conrad Grebel debated Ulrich Zwingli on the issue of infant baptism. Both were Protestant, but Grebel had become convinced that baptism was for believers only. Zwingli held to the belief that children of Christians were to be baptised as infants, on the same basis that the Old Testament required circumcision. Nothing was resolved by the debate.

Blaurock (so named because of a blue coat he wore on one occasion) went to Zurich to consult with Zwingli, but was disappointed in him. He then met with Grebel and Felix Manz and resonated with their commitment to Biblical truth.

Blaurock was already married at this time, so it appears that he had already abandoned the non-biblical practices of the Catholic church.

In a meeting in which the small group discoursed on their commitment to Biblical practice, rather than church tradition, they were deeply moved by this new conviction and Blaurock asked to be baptised as a believer, as the New Testament recorded. Once George was baptised the others asked him to baptize them.

Thus George Blaurock not only became an associate of Grebel but instigated the practice of re-baptism, becoming a vigorous preacher in the newly formed Anabaptist movement. At the time this rebaptism was performed by pouring, rather than total immersion.

There followed “tireless evangelism” around Switzerland, and clashes with the followers of Zwingli. Eventually Blaurock was arrested (on 8 October, 1525), escaped (on 21 March, 1526), re-arrested (in December, 1526) and sentenced to death (on 5 January, 1527). This sentence was, however, altered to a public flogging and exile from Zurich.

He maintained most of his ministry by dodging those who opposed him, preaching in a variety of places and using remote locations. His itinerant preaching ministry continued until he was arrested again in August, 1529. Death came at the age of 38.

A German historian identified Blaurock’s ideals as “freedom of religion, liberty of conscience, (and) the equality of all citizens before the law”. He also composed hymns which have endured in German worship to this day.

Georg Blaurock was one of the noblest martyrs of the Christian Church. For the brotherhood he helped to found he cheerfully sacrificed everything, honor and respect, freedom and comfort, property and goods, wife and child, body and life for the sake of his Lord and Saviour. Under the sign of adult baptism he gave the brotherhood its actual reason for existence in the world.

It was Blaurock’s falling away from the Catholic priesthood and from the Catholic Church, with his repudiation of the Mass, the confessional, and the adoration of Mary that marked him as a criminal worthy of death.

His biographer writes: “George Blaurock was a pioneer evangelist. His methods were sometimes crude and his remarks impolite. But he was sincere, untiring and courageous in spreading the gospel as he understood it. He was the apostle of the Anabaptists to the common people.”

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.

Henry Francis Lyte Abides with God

This is the day that … Henry Francis Lyte preached his last sermon. Three books give the date as the 4th, but the biography states it was the 5th. Certainly it was the first Sunday in September, in 1857.

Born in Scotland 64 years previously, 1 June, 1793, Lyte began life in an unhappy home. The father was a Captain in the Royal Marines, engaged in the Napoleonic Wars. While Henry was just a lad his father abandoned the marriage, leaving “a destitute wife.” Henry was at a boarding school. His mother and brother died soon after, leaving Henry an orphan at age 9. He deeply felt the loss of his mother who had taught him to pray and to love the Bible.

Under the care of the kindly Dr Robert Burrows, Lyte blossomed in a handsome man, six feet tall and excelling above his fellow students. He abandoned his plans medical studies and chose Divinity.

He became a Church of Ireland clergyman and during the early days of his first pastorate found himself trying to comfort a dying fellow minister.

“My blood almost curdled,” writes Lyte, “to hear the dying man declare and prove (from the Scriptures) that he and I had been utterly mistaken in the means we had adopted for ourselves and taught to others. The teachings of St Paul reveal the false basis of our means of salvation…” (H.F. Lyte, by H. Garland, page 23). Lyte continues: “The poor man died, I rejoice to say, under the belief that although he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his sins and fit him to spend Eternity in the presence of God.”

All of which led to Lyte’s conversion also, and to an evangelical emphasis in his preaching. Then, as Lyte carried the load of two parishes his health failed and he was advised to seek warmer climate than England afforded.

Returning from France and Italy, where he convalesced over his lung trouble, he took a parish in Cornwall where he met Miss Anne Maxwell. They wed in Bath, 21 January, 1818. Theirs was a happy marriage and Anne’s economy as a home manager greatly assisted them.

Lyte was musical and composed many songs, including sea shanties for the sailors in his sea-side parish. He produced a metrical version of psalms and many hymns for church use including “Praise my soul the King of Heaven“, “God of Mercy God of Grace”, “Sweet is the solemn voice that calls The Christian to the House of Prayer”, “Pleasant are thy courts above” and many others.

He was hard working and diligent in his parish, literary and tutorial duties, which led to a further collapse of his health in his 40’s, necessitating trips to the Continent to recuperate. His faithful wife enabled them to save the money and also held the home front while he was away through the winters.

He pastored two churches following his marriage, the latter being for 23 years at Lower Brixham, Devon. It was here he preached his last sermon – and on the same evening handed his newly written hymn to his daughter.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide …”

It was prophetic, as well he probably knew, for “life’s little day” was soon to “pass away.”

A trip to the Continent for health reasons was too late. He died on his way to Nice on 20 November, 1847.

Among his dying words were these, “Oh, there is nothing terrible in death; Jesus Christ stepped down into the grave before me…”

His final hymn was first performed at his memorial service in England. “Abide With Me” became an enduring favourite and is recorded as King George V’s favourite hymn.

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.

Mary Artemisia Lathbury’s Ministry with Pen

This is the day that … Mary Artemisia Lathbury was born in Ontario County, New York State, in 1841.

Her father was a Methodist minister … and her two brothers would also become Methodist ministers later in life. However pulpit ministry was not available to women, so Mary found her own way to touch lives.

Despite poor eyesight, Mary Lathbury became a professional artist, and even an art teacher at an academy in Vermont. She edited the Methodist Sunday-School Union magazine. She was a pioneer in the field of book and magazine illustration by women.

One day she heard a voice she believed was God, saying: “Remember, my child, that you have a gift of weaving fancies into verse and a gift with the pencil of producing visions that come to your heart; consecrate these to Me as thoroughly as you do your inmost spirit.”

She was one of the founders of the Chautauqua Movement, aimed to promote spiritual and cultural values to Methodists. During the summer months 50,000 people would attend the great convention meetings at this camp site at Lake Chautauqua (New York State).

In 1877 a Methodist bishop suggested that it would be good if the Chautauqua Movement had its “own vesper hymn”. As the sun set across the lake that night, Mary Lathbury penned the now well-known hymn, “Day is dying in the west, Heaven is touching Earth with rest…” The melody, called “Chautauqua” in some books, and “Evening Praise” in others, was composed by the camp Music Director, William Fiske Sherman. Note her words of praise to God in the chorus…
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!

Heaven and earth are full of Thee!
Heaven and earth are praising Thee,
Our Lord most high!

Seven years later, at the same camp-site, Mary Lathbury again set pen to paper, this time to write a special study song for those who attended the Chautauqua meetings, “Break Thou the Bread of Life, dear Lord, to me…” Again it was set to music by William Sherman.

Thus she became known as the poet laureate of Chautauqua.

She remained single, dedicating her work, “to Him who is the best friend that woman ever knew”. She also founded the “Look Up Legion”, based on four rules promoted in Edward Everett Hale’s “Ten Times One is Ten”. These are:

Look up, and not down;
Look forward, and not back;
Look out, and not in,
And lend a hand.

Mary Lathbury died on 20 October, 1913, in New Jersey.

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.