Henrietta Cornella Mears Tells it Like it Is

This is the day that Henrietta Cornella Mears was born in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, in 1890. “Praise God,” said her father, “it’s a girl! I couldn’t face rearing another son.”

Her biographers, E. Baldwin and D. Benson, in Henrietta Mears, and How She Did It, tell the remarkable story of this lass – “ready to become a Christian and join the church” at the age of five! (page 33), of miraculous healing when she accidentally jabbed a hat pin into the pupil of her eye (page 35), of her incredible personal work – leading thousands of men and women to the Saviour (page 39).

Her education at the University of Minnesota was threatened when the doctor warned her of blindness “unless you discontinue reading and studying”. But she persevered – reading by daylight – and graduated with excellent grades.

As a Sunday-School teacher in W.B. Riley’s First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, she saw her class grow “from 5 to 500” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 722).

In 1928 Pastor Stewart MacLennan invited her to take over as director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, with its 6000 members. The entire Sunday-School grew from 450 to 4000 in less than three years! It was also the launching pad for graded Sunday School lessons and Forest Home Christian Conference Center, which she founded as a retreat centre for all believers.

Her book, What the Bible Teaches, is an excellent survey of Holy Scripture. “God’s Word must be our only infallible guide,” she wrote. “To reject His Word is to be rejected” (page 55).

In 1933 she co-founded Gospel Light Publications, a source of reliable Christian literature. She was prompted to this step by the reluctance of the Presbyterian church to make her materials available to the wider church. In typical forthright manner she took the matter in hand and created a solution, even though some did not like it.

On the evening of 19 March, 1963, Miss Mears retired to her room and not only fell asleep … but fell “asleep in Jesus” (she was 73 years of age) … “and 2000 people – hundreds of whom she had personally led to Christ – filed silently into the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood to honour her memory” (Women to Remember, by N. Olson, page 121).

Writes Billy Graham concerning this remarkable lady: “She had a remarkable influence on my life. In fact, I doubt if any other woman outside of my wife and mother has had such a marked influence … She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!”

Henrietta was a woman of intense conviction and she instilled, or should we say ‘injected’ that conviction into her students. Some of those she taught said, “She ruined my life!” because of her insistence on total commitment to Biblical truth.

Henrietta taught that you are never to be a pushover when serving God, but rather be strong, unafraid and unyielding when doing things according to his will.

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.

Cleland Boyd McAfee Presbyterian Leader and Hymn Writer

This is the day that … Cleland Boyd McAfee was born in Montana, USA, in 1866.

The son of a minister, Cleland pursued ministry, as did his brothers and other relatives, and rose to the pinnacle of the American Presbyterian Church which he served. His life was spent in the pulpit, the class and the study. Four others in his generation with ministers as well.

At the age of thirty-five, whilst pastoring the First Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois, he wrote a hymn, words and music. He received news that two nieces had died from diphtheria. Grieving from the loss, he turned to the words of the Psalmist. As he read the scriptures, he was inspired to write the words and the tune to “Near to the Heart of God.” “the choir learned it on the Saturday night,” his daughter later recorded – and they went to the McAfee home and sang it under the stars outside the quarantined house …”

And the hymn?

There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God…

The first public performance of the hymn was at the girls’ funeral. The hymn became popular immediately and spread quickly.

McAfee married Canadian born Harriet and together they produced three daughters, Ruth, Catherine and Mildred. Thus his desire to have the family name continued was defeated.

Cleland B. McAfee is described as “an eminent theologian, a brilliant speaker, author of numerous books, and honoured by his denomination to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly … yet today, Dr McAfee is best remembered for this one simple, unassuming, devotional hymn” (101 More Hymn Stories, by K. Osbeck).

McAfee lived on the Seminary Campus and maintained a genuine pastoral rapport with his students. As moderator he had a keen sense of when to lower the boom on the fundamentalist controversy.

His books are freely available as e-books from many sites on the internet, revealing a studious mind and an excellent communicator.

Dr McAfee died on 4 February, 1944.

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.