William Shrubsole Jnr Writes Hymns

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.

Blind Helen Howarth Lemmel Turns Our Eyes

Helen Howarth Lemmel was born in Wardle, England to a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and his wife on November 14, 1863.

Twelve years later the family migrated to America. Helen lived briefly in Mississippi before settling in Wisconsin. Helen’s singing ability soon became evident, gaining her a reputation as a brilliant singer, even studying private voice in Germany for four years. She traveled widely throughout the midwest during the early 1900’s, giving concerts in many churches.

In time, she married a wealthy European and taught voice at the Moody Bible Institute and then at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. When she became blind her husband abandoned her, which was just one of the many heartaches Helen struggled with during midlife.

A brilliant singer and musician, Mrs. Lemmel’s remarkable literary abilities were also widely recognized. She composed more than 500 hymns and poems and also authored a very successful book for children, ‘Story of the Bible’, and composed many musical pieces for children. She continued her musical and literary pursuits until her death just 13 days before her ninety-eighth birthday.

One day, in 1918, when Helen was aged 55, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled “Focused.” It contained a statement that had a profound impact on her. “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

“I stood still, ” Helen recalled, “and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but nonetheless dictated by the Holy Spirit.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

Helen’s new hymn was published in London, England in 1918, in the form of a pamphlet. Four years later, it was included in a collection of sixty-seven of Helen’s songs, titled Glad Songs. This year at the Keswick Bible Conference in northern England the hymn was introduced and became immediately a popular favourite. It has since been included in most evangelical hymnals and been translated into many languages.

Those who knew Mary in her later years tell of her joy and enthusiasm. Though living on government welfare in a sparse bedroom, whenever asked how she was doing, she would reply, ‘I’m doing well in the things that count.’ Mary was always composing hymns but she had no way of writing them down so she would call friends at all hours and get them to record her lyrics before she forgot them.

Helen had a small plastic keyboard by her bed. There she would play, sing and cry. “One day God is going to bless me with a great heavenly keyboard,” she’d say. “I can hardly wait!”

Helen died on November 1, 1961, in Seattle, Washington, almost 98 years of age.

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.

Henry Cutler Brings English Tradition to USA Choirs

This is the day that Henry Stephen Cutler was born in Boston, USA, in 1824.

Cutler studied organ under A.U. Hayter, organist of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1844, he went to Europe to continue his studies in Frankfurt am Main. While abroad, he visited many English cathedrals and be came familiar with their style of music.

He became famous as an organist, then as choir conductor, at Boston’s Church of the Advent, commencing there is 1852. It was here he introduced the first surpliced male choir in America, and was criticised for it! A surplice is a loose fitting ecclesiastical gown – what we might now call a choir-robe. “Some people considered using robes in a church service to be overly formal!” (Treasury of Great Hymns, by G. Johnson, page 278).

Not to be discouraged, Cutler was appointed organist/choir master at New York City’s Episcopal Trinity Church in 1858. And this time, in honour of a visit by the Prince of Wales, he had his choir clothed in “cassocks and cottas” (a short white linen or lace garment worn over a cassock).

Again it caused a stir … and is thought to have been the cause of the church members “voting him out” at the next meeting, although a different reason was given!

Cutler also played at churches in Brooklyn, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Troy, New York; and Newark, New Jersey.

Henry Cutler wrote the melody “All Saints New”, to which Reginald Heber’s words, “The Son of God goes forth to war”, is set in some hymnals.

Henry Cutler died on 5 December, 1902.

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.

Grant Colfax Tullar with Tunes and Songs

This is the day that … Grant Colfax Tullar was born in Connecticut, in 1869. At that time Grant was President, and Colfax was Vice-President, hence the little fellow’s name!

His mother died when he was only two years of age, and he was reared by “unsympathetic relatives”, worked in a woollen mill, then a shoe store. At the age of 19 he was converted at a Methodist camp meeting, and went on to become a Methodist minister.

In 1898 he was in the home of a pastor and his wife in New Jersey. Tullar tells the story in his book, Written Because, that at the tea table there was only “a wee dab of jelly” left. The hosts, knowing his love for jelly, insisted that he have it. As he started to scoop it onto his plate he asked, “So this is all for me, is it?”

And immediately the theme of a gospel song suggested itself to him. He went to the piano and wrote words and music:
All for me the Saviour suffered,
All for me He bled and died …

That night the pastor, Rev. C.L. Mead, sang it as a solo at the evangelistic meeting.

Next morning a letter arrived from Mrs Carrie Breck, including the words of a poem she had just written. And those words fitted the melody Grant Tullar had composed the previous evening. So he discarded his “All for me” words, and today many a gospel singer has sung Mrs Breck’s words to Grant Tullar’s melody –
Face to face with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face – what will it be …

Grant Tullar pastored a Methodist Church for some time before entering full-time evangelistic work. In 1893 he founded the Tullar-Meredith Publishing Company of New York. Through that enterprise he edited many hymnals and gospel songbooks and wrote both words and music to a number of hymns. He died on 20 May, 1950.

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.