William Shrubsole Jnr was born on November 21, at Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England in 1759. His father was a churchman and hymn writer who raised his son in the faith. When young William became a hymn writer in later years there arose confusion as to which of the two Williams actually wrote various works.
Young William was originally employed as a shipwright and in 1785 he went to London and became a clerk in the Bank of England. His career prospered until he eventually became secretary to the Committee of the Treasury.
In London he forsook the Church of England, spending the last 20 years of his life with the Congregationalists.
He took an active role in the Bible Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Religious Tract Society, holding offices in these organisations. And he was a lay preacher.
He was a director and secretary of the London Missionary Society, and contributed hymns to the Evangelical Magazine, Christian Magazine, Theological Miscellany, Christian Observer and Youth’s Magazine.
About 20 hymns were written by him, but only one is in some of today’s hymnbooks:
Arm of the Lord, awake! Awake!|
Put on your strength, the nations shake,
And let the world, adoring, view
Triumphs of mercy done by You.
Some authorities consider this to have been actually written by his father (of the same name), who is best known for the hymn tune he composed, “Miles Lane”.
It is interesting to see a verse of “Arm of the Lord, awake” that is no longer included in today’s hymnals:
Arm of the Lord, Thy power extend,
Let Mahomet’s imposture end!
Break papal superstition’s chain
And the proud scoffer’s rage restrain.
The hymn was written in 1780 – and both William Shrubsoles (Senior and Junior) were living at that date.
It is interesting also to note the fervour of the day as expressed in hymn lyrics. The notion of England being the great missionary force to the nations is captured in the final verse of Shrubsoles’ Missionary Hymn.
Oh that from Britain now might shine,
This heavenly light and truth Divine,
Till the whole universe abroad
Flame with the Glory of the Lord.
William Shrubsole Jnr died at Highbury on August 23, 1829.
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.