Winfred Scott Weeden Surrenders All

Winfred Scott Weeden was born in Middleport, Ohio, on March 29, 1847.

Early in life he showed musical ability, later teaching singing in schools, and as song leader and soloist in churches.  Various Christian organisations also used his talents in their conventions.

His friend, Judson Van de Venter, launched into full-time evangelistic work, preaching throughout the United States as well as England and Scotland.  Winfield Scott Weeden became his associate and soloist.

Billy Graham, in Crusade Hymn Stories, tells of Rev. J. Van de Venter, “who influenced my early preaching”.

Together, the evangelist and the soloist united in giving the church one of the great Gospel songs:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

The words were penned by Rev. Van de Venter, the music by Winfield Weeden. 

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They also collaborated on:……….

Sunlight, Sunlight, in my soul today,
Sunlight, Sunlight, all along the way;
Since the Saviour found me, took away my sin,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

Weeden’s published works include The Peacemaker (1894), Songs of the Peacemaker (1895) and Songs of Sov­er­eign Grace, (1897).

Winfield Weeden died at Bisby Lake in New York State on 31 July, 1908.  The words, “I surrender all”, are engraved upon his tombstone.

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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

George Matheson Blind Preacher

George Matheson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 27, 1842.

The story has been told of this Glasgow-born clergyman who was jilted by his fiancée, when she realised that he was going blind.  And how, saddened and alone, he penned the immortal hymn:

O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul on Thee …

True … he wrote the hymn.  But that was in 1882 – and he was “wholly blind by his 18th year”. Matheson himself tells us that his famous hymn was written on 6 June, 1882 – “the day of my sister’s marriage” – and it may well be that the events of that day evoked sad memories of a romance that came to naught 22 years earlier. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him all those years until her own marriage.

Despite his blindness, George Matheson became a pulpit giant, even being summoned to Balmoral Castle to preach before Queen Victoria. Matheson had learned to memorise well and so he would commit sermons and entire passages of scripture to memory. Consequently his listeners were often unaware of his blindness.

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For 13 years he ministered to crowds of over 2000 at St Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.  He was “one of the outstanding Presbyterian ministers of his day,” says one biographer. It is suggested that, had he not been blind, he would likely have led the Presbyterian movement of his day.

However another writer points out that Matheson’s book, Aids to the Study of German Theology (1875) tended toward Neo-Heglianism! Matheson gave up scholarly writing when one of his books, The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity, was heavily criticised for inaccuracies. This convinced him that his blindness kept him from that are of his interest.

However, in his pastoral ministry he shone with great effect.

He also wrote the moving hymn:
Make me a captive, Lord,
and then I shall be free.
Help me to render up my sword
And I shall conqueror be.

Matheson maintained a determination to serve the Lord despite his limitations. In the face of all obstacles he kept his eyes toward God’s promises, as expressed in his most famous hymn: “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain”.

George Matheson died in Edinburgh on 28 August, 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

Godfrey Thring Reworks Hymns

Godfrey Thring was born in the Alford rectory, at Somerset England, on March 25, 1823, where his father, Rev John Gale Dalton Thring, was the local Church of England clergyman.

Upon graduation from Balliol College, Oxford, he took ‘holy orders’ in 1846 and ministered at two Churches during his lifetime.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  During his first ministry at Alford with Hornblotton, near Glastonbury – the Church in which he had been born – he wrote numerous hymns. His published books of hymns date from 1866 – 1882, and feature hymns created for each day of the Church Calendar. His second post was as Prebendary at Wells Cathedral

Best known is the last verse of Crown Him with Many Crowns.  The first six verses had been penned by Matthew Bridges – an Anglican who had converted to Roman Catholicism.  Godfrey Thring “was not satisfied with six crowns, possibly because seven was the sacred Jewish number …” so he wrote:

Crown Him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died, eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.

Magnificent!  A fitting conclusion to Bridge’s stanzas.

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Thring’s “Hymns and Poems for the Holy Days and the Festivals of the Church” had wide impact and carried a fresh reflection of faith. Godfrey’s brother, Edward, a school master, sincerely believed the book would remain a lasting heritage to his brother’s ministry.

As editor of A Church of England Hymn Book, 1880, he made many alterations to existing hymns, and collated a collection of extremely high quality hymns. Many of his alterations were later used in other hymnals.

Godfrey Thring died on 13 September, 1903, in Shamley Green, Surrey, England.

A memorial window may be seen in All Saints’, Alford, Somerset.

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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

Frances Jane Crosby the Blind Hymnwriter

Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby was born on March 24, 1820, in Southeast, Putnam County, New York State.  We know her as Fanny Crosby, or Frances Jane Van Alstyne.  At the age of six weeks a medical charlatan treated her for an eye infection with hot mustard poultices, and as a result she was blinded for life!

Fanny’s father died about a year later.

At the age of eight her bent for poetry began to reveal itself.  She wrote:

Oh what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be …

A godly grandmother introduced explained what things looked like to her and taught to love and memorise the Bible … and Fanny managed to memorise large portions. As a child “she could repeat from memory the Pentateuch, the book of Ruth, many of the Psalms, the books of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and much of the New Testament!”

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Fanny often told her needs to God and saw him answer. One prayer was for the chance to go to school and learn. At about the age of 15 that prayer was answered and she attended a new school, The Institution for the Blind in New York City. Fanny spent 23 years there, first as a student and then as a teacher.

Despite her religious convictions and Bible knowledge it was not until 1850, at age 31, that she became assured of her soul’s salvation.

She had a dream one night in the Blind School where she worked, a dream that spoke of death and readiness to meet the Lord.  And there was the singing of a hymn by Isaac Watts, at an evangelistic mission she attended:

Alas and did my Saviour bleed
And did my Sovereign die …

She left that meeting assured of sins forgiven.

At the age of 20 she fell in love with another blind student, Alexander VanAlstyne, and some years later she learned of his affection for her. At the age of 37, on March 5, 1858, she married her man and they enjoyed 44 years of happy marriage together. Their only child died as a baby. Her church connection was with the old John Street Methodist Episcopal Church of New York.

Fanny wrote poems and was privileged to recite them to Congress when she was 23, then to entertain Presidents in the years that followed. Her first book of poems appeared when she was 24, titled The Blind Girl and Other Poems.

But her calling to write gospel songs came later in her life. At the age of 44 she was introduced to well-known composer William B Bradbury who suggested that she write the lyrics for a hymn for him. That experience produced “We are going, we are going, To a home beyond the skies” which became a Sunday School favourite and confirmed to her she had found her life calling.

Thousands of Gospel songs flowed from her pen – sometimes seven or eight in a day.

A Shelter in the Time of Storm, Blessed Assurance, Rescue the Perishing, To God be the Glory, Pass me not O gentle Saviour, He Hideth my Soul, and many, many more – about 8,000 altogether.

Many moving testimonies came to Fanny to confirm the awesome spiritual impact her hymns had. She often wrote hymns based on her experiences at New York street missions for working class men. She also preached in these venues. Stories of souls saved due to the use of her hymns around the world testify to the divine destiny of her hymn-writing gift. Each account testified to God’s answer for her prayer that she would be instrumental in saving a million men.

Many composers brought her tunes or asked her for new songs for special occasions. These hymns flowed often in just 30 minutes and then were sung for the next century or so. For years she was under engagement with Biglow and Main to furnish them regularly three songs a week.

Fanny was sensitive to the Lord’s promptings. One night, while preaching in a mission, she felt impressed that some young man had abandoned his mother’s faith and must repent that very night. A 19 year old came forward and found God’s grace. From that experience she wrote “Rescue the Perishing”. On another occasion in 1874 she needed $5 and knelt to ask God to provide. A man visited soon after, just to meet this famous lady, and gave her $5 as he left. This led to her hymn “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me”.

The crusades of Moody and Sankey did much to popularise Fanny’s hymns on both sides of the Atlantic. She also composed much for Mr Doane’s evangelistic work. Music for her hymns was also contributed by such notables as Phoebe Palmer Knapp, George Stebbins, S J.Vail and Ira D Sankey.

At age 90 she declared, “My love for the Holy Bible and its sacred truth is stronger and more precious to me at ninety than at nineteen”. Asked about her long years, she said her secret was that she guarded her taste, her temper and her tongue.

Fanny outlived her husband by 13 years, dying at Bridgeport, Connecticut on Friday morning, February 12, 1915, not long before her 95th birthday.  And then – to paraphrase her own hymn – “she saw Him, face to face!”

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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

Phoebe Palmer Knapp Rich HymnWriter

Phoebe Palmer Knapp was born in New York City, on March 9, 1839. She was obviously named after – but not to be confused with – Phoebe Palmer, preacher of entire sanctification around the mid-19th century. Phoebe’s parents, Dr Walter C Palmer and Phoebe Worrall Palmer, were Methodist evangelists and founding members of the Holiness Movement, thus their choice of an evangelist’s name for their daughter.

Phoebe married 23 year old Joseph Fairfield Knapp when she was only 15, and he founded the Metropolitan Life Assurance Company and was its second president. They were members of the Methodist Church.

Wealthy and influential, the Knapps hosted four United States Presidents, many Civil War generals and other dignitaries at Knapp Mansion in Brooklyn, from 1860 -1894.

Phoebe had a love for music and considerable talent. While she was on holiday in Europe in 1882 her husband had a special music room built for her at the mansion as a surprise.

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When her husband died in 1891, Mrs Knapp inherited $50,000 – most of which was distributed to “religious and charitable causes”.  Her son, Joseph, headed up Collier’s Publishing Company.

The important thing is that she wrote hymn tunes.

In 1873 she composed a melody and played it to fellow Church member, and hymn writer extraordinaire, Fanny Crosby.  After listening to the tune played “two or three times”, the blind hymnist wrote the words …

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine …

It is still sung to Phoebe Knapp’s tune, called Assurance.

In 1894 Phoebe moved out of Knapp Mansion and ended up taking the entire top floor of the new Savoy Hotel, even moving her organ there. She continued with her extensive entertaining program. She also encouraged musical talent, although she was a firm believer in disciplined practice.

Emma Thursby (1845-1931) was a lifelong friend and “discovery” of Phoebe Palmer Knapp, becoming one of the world’s leading Opera Singers.

Phoebe also was the New York City head of the International Sunshine Society, which did international good deeds. Her charitable spirit may have prompted her son, Joseph, to start his own Knapp Foundation. Phoebe continued to travel to Europe with her friends and family but lived in the Savoy up until the spring of 1908.

By the time of her death in Poland Springs, Maine (10 July, 1908) about 500 tunes had been composed by Mrs Knapp, including Open the Gates of the Temple, which was also written with Fanny Crosby.

It has been said of Phoebe Knapp that she was not an amateur with her music, but a talented and dedicated professional musician who produced melodies of excellence.

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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