William Howard Doane the Man of Melody

William Howard Doane was born in Preston, Connecticut, USA, February 3, 1832. He was to become one of the leading gospel songwriters of his era, writing more than 2,000 hymn tunes, and numerous cantatas. By the age of 14 he was conducting the choir of the Congregational school he attended, Woodstock Academy.

Converted a few years later, in his final year at school, he joined the Baptist Church (his mother was Baptist), where he served as a faithful layman for the rest of his life. For 25 years he was Sunday-School Superintendent and choir director at Mount Auburn Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Music was Doane’s ‘avocation’ (something done outside his vocation). He made his living by working for J.A. Fay & Co, which made woodworking machinery, where he excelled as a businessman. He became President of the large company.

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The music of his soul bubbled forth throughout his life. He composed his first piece at age 16 and in 1852 he was engaged as conductor at the Norwich Harmonic Society. His first published songs were for Sunday School use, reflecting his life-long interest in that ministry (as has been seen in other hymn-writers – such as Alfred Midlane 1825-1909 – see Jan 23, 2009 post).

Note the titles of his first book of songs, published in 1862, “Sabbath School Gems”. The second book, published two years later was “Little Sunbeams”, and in 1867 came perhaps the most popular Sunday-school book of its day, “Silver Spray”.

Doane’s first book of songs for adult use, “Songs of Devotion”, came in 1868 and was very popular.

Doane is noted for his creation of Christmas cantatas, which popularised the genre, especially through his work entitled, “Santa Claus”.

Doane married the daughter of his father’s business partner in Doane & Treat, cotton manufacturers. That union produced two daughters.

A personal friend of blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby, she would often ask him to compose a melody for words she had written. One evening, whilst she visited Doane’s home, they spoke of God’s nearness. Before retiring Miss Crosby penned the words:

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,

And it told Thy love for me…

Next morning she asked Doane if he would compose the tune, which he did.

On the other hand, he sometimes composed a tune and asked Fanny Crosby to supply the words. In 1869 he mailed her such a tune, and as she later sat in a New York Mission, the words came to her:

Rescue the perishing,

Care for the dying …

On another occasion Mr Doane composed a melody and played it to Miss Crosby on a small organ. “Why,” she at once exclaimed, “that tune says Safe in the Arms of Jesus. I’ll see what I can do about it.” (Sankey’s Story of Gospel Hymns, page 263).

Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross was also written by Miss Crosby to one of Doane’s previously composed melodies.

The melody of Katherine Hankey’s Tell me the Old, Old Story came from Doane’s pen.

This highly successful Christian businessman gave large sums of money to further the spread of the gospel, including a music building at Moody Bible Institute. The Doane Memorial Music Building in Chicago, Illinois, was named after him.

He died on Christmas Eve, 24 December, 1915.

Dr Doane compiled some forty books, and wrote about twenty-three hundred songs, ballads, cantatas, etc, also a number of vocal and piano pieces in sheet form. Millions of people across the globe have sung Doane’s tunes, even though they would not know his name.

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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

James Rowe is Lifted by Love

Hymn Writer, James Rowe was born in Devonshire, England on January 1, 1865.

At an early age Rowe entered the Government Survey Department, where he continued till 1890. when his family migrated to America and he settled at Albany, NY. There Rowe became a railroad employee and married Blanche Clapper.

He later devoted his life to literary pursuits and became famous for writing hymn lyrics, becoming one of the most prolific hymn poets of the twentieth century. By his own record, he produced more than 19,000 hymns for a number of different composers.

In 1896 he turned his hand to writing hymns. “Poetry, came easy to him”, said his daughter in one of her letters. His first song was “Speak it for the Saviour”.

“He delighted in composing extemporaneously a poem of some length as he spoke to an assembled audience.” (Songs of Glory by W.J. Reynolds, page 126). Not only gospel songs flowed from his pen, but also “humorous verse for greeting cards.”

Rowe wrote several enduring hymns with the assistance of a pianist, composes, Howard E. Smith, who was born on July 16, 1863. Smith was an active musician throughout his life and served many years as an organist in Connecticut.

In a letter dated 23 May, 1955, James Rowe’s daughter (Mrs. Louise Rowe Mayhew) wrote: “Howard E. Smith was a little man whose hands were so knotted with arthritis that you would wonder how he could use them at all, much less play the piano, but he could and did.” She goes on to describe how her father paced to and fro around the room composing the words of his best-known gospel song whilst Howard E. Smith, the local church organist, set them to music. The result?
I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore;
Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me … Now safe am I.

That song. “Love Lifted Me”, was written in 1911, or 1912 and was copyrighted in 1912.

Other gospel songs written by James Rowe include:
Be like Jesus … this my song,
In the home and in the throng…

And the grand old Elim chorus…
I walk with the King …Hallelujah!
I walk with the King, praise His name…

Rowe not only composed songs and poems, but he was also an effective singing teacher. It is recorded on one singing instructor named Eugene Monroe Bartlett that “his schools brought together such well known singing teachers as James Rowe and Homer Rodeheaver”.

Rodeheaver, a popular gospel singer, recounts an occasion when he sang Rowe’s song, “I walk with the King”, “to a great crowd of coloured folks one night”. He explains that “one of the good old-fashioned aunties got up from the back row, taking off her sun-bonnet, waving it in the air, and stepping high down the aisle, she exclaimed, ‘Hallelujah! I walk wid Him too, brudder!’ Then there came the chorus from all over the house, ‘Yeah! we all walk wid Him down here!’”

Gypsy Smith had a favourite song among Rowe’s 8,000 hymns and poems that were circulated, being…
“Be like Jesus, this my song,
In the home and in the throng;
Be like Jesus, all day long!
I would be like Jesus.”

Many of Rowe’s best songs owe much of their popularity to the attractive musical settings of Mr. B. D. Ackley, who was at one time pianist for Billy Sunday.

James Rowe went Home to walk the golden street with his King on 10 November, 1933, in Vermont, USA.

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

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.

John Nelson Darby Births Brethrenism

John Nelson Darby was born on November 18, 1800, at his Irish parent’s London home.

From fifteen to nineteen years of age he studied at Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained many honours including the gold medal in the classics. He studied law at Trinity and was admitted to the Irish Chancery Bar, but he left shortly to pursue spiritual matters. His conscience stopped him from practicing law, for fear that he would end up “selling his talents to defeat justice” (We wish this concern afflicted the entire legal profession).

In 1825, soon after conversion, and much to his father’s annoyance, young Darby applied for Deacon’s Orders in the Church of Ireland. He was a High Churchman, so devoted to church tradition that he even disowned the name Protestant. He “thought much of Rome, and its professed sanctity, and catholicity, and antiquity….I held apostolic succession fully, and the channels of grace to be there only.”

From this closed position, thinking of true church authority coming only by successive transfer from Christ’s apostles, Darby swung to building a movement which is counter to that stance, yet displays its own exclusivism, as seen in the Exclusive Brethren.

Beginnings of the swing were evident when he started meeting with the others for the Lord’s table beginning in the winter of 1827. He resigned his curacy in 1828, yet still kept one foot in the state church, while meeting informally with the brothers around the Lord’s table. Though Darby was still a Churchman, the Lord was gradually opening insights to him concerning the Church. In 1928 he wrote a document called “Considerations of the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ” which the Brethren regard as their first published pamphlet.

A forceful personality, Darby was not shy to express his opinions. He wrote a treatise titled “The Archbishop of Dublin is a Sabellian!” – and Darby would have no fellowship with heretics. (A Sabellian believed that Father, Son and Spirit were but modes of God, not distinct personalities making up the one, triune God.)

As Darby met to break bread with a small fellowship of earnest believers in Dublin his teaching gift quickly became evident. He also met with a similar group in Plymouth, England, led by Benjamin Wills Newton, but by 1845 a split took place over some prophetic issues and how ‘closed’ the fellowship should be.

At the age of 30 his contemporary, Francis W Newman, tells of their first meeting: “His bodily presence was indeed ‘weak’. A fallen cheek, a bloodshot eye, crippled limbs resting on crutches, a seldom-shaved beard, a shabby suit of clothes, and a generally neglected person, drew at first pity, with wonder, to see such a figure…”

This unimposing figure, yet distinguished scholar, was to influence the evangelical world with his Christ-exalting ministry, his emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, and his dispensational prophetic teachings.

Thus we have the early days of the Christian Brethren Movement, and Darby was certainly their most gifted teacher in those early days.

“He was an itinerant man of few domestic pleasures, a man with magnetic electric personal qualities combined with a tyrant’s will to lead…” is Ernest Sandeen’s appraisal of him (The Roots of Fundamentalism, page 31).

His hymns are still sung in Brethren meetings, and his translation of the New Testament is still used by some of the old-timers in Brethren circles. One of his hymns is:
Jesus, we wait for Thee, With Thee to have our part,
What can full joy and blessing be But being where Thou art.

About 40 volumes also came from his able pen, his Synopsis of the Bible probably being his best-known work.

Darby’s dogged commitment is evident in such exchanges as one recounted by Francis Newman, who expressed that he wanted his children to be rich enough to get a good eduction. Darby replied: “If I had children, I would as soon see them break stones on the road, as do anything else, if only I could secure to them the Gospel and the grace of God.”

Neatby gives this grand summary of Darby’s life: “the maker of Brethrenism as a system, its guiding and energising spirit throughout, was John Nelson Darby. In the grandeur of his conceptions, in the irresistible vehemence of his will, in his consummate strategical instinct, in his genius for administration, and most of all in his immense personal ascendency, he stands unrivalled amongst the Brethren. His energy was stupendous. He was working for Brethrenism before he was thirty, and when he was eighty he was working as hard as ever; nor had he been known to relax his efforts—efforts put forth up to the full measure of his great strength, and often beyond it—during the whole of the intervening time.”

About the time of his death at the age of 82 there were some 1,500 assemblies across the world which esteemed him as their founder or guide.

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.

Horatio Gates Spafford Turns Tragedy into Song

This is the day that Horatio Gates Spafford was born in New York State, in 1828.

He was to become a well known Christian businessman in Chicago; professor of medical jurisprudence at Chicago Medical College; director of a Presbyterian theological seminary; and active in the YMCA. He was a close friend of Moody and Sankey.

The young lawyer moved to Chicago to start a legal business. In 1861 he married Anna Tuben Larssen and they established a prosperous home. Anna bore Spafford a son and four daughters. Horatio junior, however, died of scarlet fever in 1870, aged four. Apart from their business income Spafford had built up a sizable property portfolio.

The Great Chicago Fire swept through the city on 8-10 October 1871, killing 250 people and rendering 90,000 homeless, destroying about a third of the city. While the Spaffords sustained significant personal loss, Horatio and Anna worked tirelessly for two years to help the victims put their lives back together.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody based his worldwide ministry in Chicago and the Spaffords were good friends of Moody and his ministry. In 1873 they decided to travel to England to participate in the Moody/Sankey revival meetings there, before touring continental Europe.

The family of six travelled to New York to board their ship. Horatio was called back to Chicago by last-minute business obligations, but he saw no reason for the entire family to delay their travel, so he sent his family on ahead, planning to join them as soon as he could.

Anna Spafford, the couple’s four daughters, the children’s governess and two others in their party boarded the French steamship Ville du Havre on 22 November 1873, along with 307 other passengers and crew. At about 2 am on 22 November 1873, in the eastern North Atlantic, the Ville du Havre collided with the British iron clipper Loch Earn, then sank in a mere 12 minutes. 226 people perished, including the four Spafford daughters. Survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales, where Anna Spafford cabled her husband on 1 December 1873 with the following devastating message: “Saved alone. What shall I do.” Horatio Spafford took the next available ship to join his wife.

It was two years later that Horatio Spafford wrote one of our great gospel songs:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows, roll –
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say:
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The daughters had all been converted in Moody-Sankey meetings shortly before their deaths.

Ira Sankey, who incorporated this gospel song into his Sacred Songs and Solos, writes: “In 1876, when we (Moody and Sankey) returned to Chicago, I was entertained in the home of Mr and Mrs Spafford for a number of weeks. During that time Mr Spafford wrote the hymn ‘It is well with my soul’, in commemoration of the deaths of his children. P.P. Bliss composed the music and sang it for the first time at Farwell Hall” (My Life …, by I. Sankey, page 191).

Once reunited, Horatio and Anna Spafford returned to Chicago, and by 1880, they had another daughter, Bertha, and another son, also called Horatio. This son, too, died in infancy of scarlet fever.

The Spaffords also had another daughter, Grace, born in Chicago in January 1881. When Grace was just seven months old, the Spaffords moved to the Holy Land in August 1881. They helped to found a group called the American Colony in Jerusalem, with the mission to serve the poor.

Sometime during the 1880s, in Jerusalem, Horatio Spafford suffered a mental illness that caused him to believe that he was the second Messiah.

There he died of malaria on 16 October, 1888, at the age of 60. He is buried in Jerusalem.

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.