Jeremiah Eames Rankin Says Goodbye

Jeremiah Eames Rankin died on November 28, 1904, at the age of 76.

Born on January 2, 1828, at Thornton, New Hampshire, Jeremiah was educated at Middleburg College, Vermont. After his ordination to the American Congregational ministry in 1855 he pastored in various American states, including 15 years as minister of the First Congregational Church, Washington DC (1869-1884).

Rankin was of a literary bent and looked for useful ways to stimulate and minister to his congregants. He wrote poetry, compiled other people’s works and composed hymns. Among his works is The Babie, a poem composed to reflect awkward Scottish accent. Another book, The Journal of Esther Burr, is a biography of one of Jonathan Edwards’ daughters.

Rankin wrote hymns and added them to two collections which he edited, “The Gospel Temperance Hymnal” and “Gospel Bells”.

Yet Dr Rankin’s most enduring work, the hymn “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” came with no particular purpose or inspiration. He had simply noted in a dictionary that the word “Goodbye” was a conjugation of “God be with you”. So he decided to compose a benediction song that effectively said “Goodbye” in an appropriate manner for a congregation.

God be with you ’till we meet again,
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you –
God be with you ’till we meet again.

For all his literary talents Rankin could not compose the tune for himself. So he sent the text off to two prospective suppliers of melody. One was a well known composer and the other an unknown Methodist schoolmaster, who was a very amateur and by no means competent musician.

When the music was ready, Rankin preferred the schoolmaster’s tune, thus giving the otherwise unknown W.G. Tomer a share of the international limelight.

The song was popularized by Ira Sankey in D.L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings. And many a missionary sailing for an overseas field of service would hear friends singing it as the boat left the wharf.

A scout master visiting a dying lad in a London hospital heard the boy repeating “One Four One”. The man had no idea what the boy meant, but after the lad’s death the man discovered that Hymn 141 in the hymnbook was “God be with you til we meet again”. For a season some English scout groups began using “141” as their code for “Goodbye”.

In 1889 Rankin was elected to the Presidency of Howard College, Washington DC, a school originally founded as an African-American seminary after the Civil War, where he continued until his death.

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.

Samuel Davies Preaches His Own Funeral

Samuel Davies was born in Delaware, USA, on November 3, 1723.

His Welsh parents were deeply religious. Davies later said, ‘I am a son of prayer, like my namesake, Samuel the prophet, and my mother called me Samuel, because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord’.

Converted at the age of 12 he was admitted to the Presbyterian church at age 15.

When the Rev Samuel Blair opened his famous school at Fagg’s Manor, Pennsylvania, Samuel Davies was put under him and there completed his formal education. Rev Blair was an outstanding preacher and years later Davies, having heard preachers on the continent as well as in the USA he declared that none could compare with his old schoolmaster Blair.

He was ordained by the Presbyterians and became one of their outstanding evangelists. The year of his ordination, 1747, his wife of one year died. Bereaved and weak he thought he was going to die, so he determined to preach with as much effect as possible so he could have treasures in heaven.

One of Davies’ friends wrote of him, ‘’Finding himself upon the borders of the grave, and without any hopes of a recovery, he determined to spend the little remains of an almost exhausted life, as he apprehended it, in endeavouring to advance his Master’s glory in the good of souls; and as he told me — he preached in the day, and had his hectic by night and to such a degree as to be sometimes delirious’.

He did recover and a year after the death of his wife he married Jean Holt who bore him three sons and two daughters.

He took up a very effective pastorate in Hanover County, Virginia, where 150 families invited him to come. This placement proved to be very successful. At first he preached at five meeting houses, and then seven in six counties, and later as many as fourteen separate meeting places over which he had charge. Some of these were more than 30 miles from one another. Like Whitefield and Wesley, he read while riding on horseback from one charge to another, being all alone in that vast wilderness.

One preaching house accommodated 500 people, but at times the meetings had to be held outdoors to accommodate the crowds.

We are told “his ministerial dignity and solemn demeanour inspired awe. Numbers flocked to hear a man … who preached the solemn truths of the gospel in a style that arrested their attention and impressed their hearts” (Cyclopaedia of Religious Biographies, page 155).

He visited England with fellow preacher, Gilbert Tennent, and his preaching was so outstanding that King George II heard him preach by royal invitation.

He was one of the preachers used by God in the Great Awakening, which resulted in the conversion of multitudes. He led many negroes to faith, teaching them to read and giving them books which were sent to him by supporters in England. His effectiveness in winning souls was exemplary.

Back in America Samuel Davies followed Jonathan Edwards to the presidency of “The College of New Jersey”, later to become Princeton University.

Early the following year he preached on “This year thou shalt die” (Jeremiah 28:16). He preached to the Princeton students saying, ‘And it is not only possible, but highly probable, death may meet some of us within the compass of this year. Perhaps I may die this year’. One month later (4 February, 1761) he was called home, so he effectively preached his own funeral service. He was just 36 years old.

His great hymn is still sung today:
Great God of wonders! All Thy ways are matchless, Godlike and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace more Godlike and unrivalled shine:
Who is a pardoning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?

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.

Samuel H. Hadley From the Guttermost to God’s Uttermost

This is the day that … Samuel H. Hadley was born in 1842, in Morgan County, Ohio, USA.

Sam Hadley was brought up in a log cabin. “In our log cabin,” he later wrote, “I could lie on my bed and see the stars through the cracks in the roof and feel the snow sifting down upon my face in the winter time. We were lulled to sleep by the barking of foxes and the hooting of the owls in the woods…” (Down in Water Street, page 60).

And there it was he promised his God-fearing mother (a direct descendant of Rev. Jonathan Edwards) that he would never drink alcohol … but at the age of 18 that promise was broken. “It isn’t the last drink that hurts a man … or the fourth or the fifth, but the first … that’s what ruins a man” (page 64). “That first drink changed my life”, Hadley testified later.

Sam Hadley wrote from experience. For 15 years he “rarely went to bed sober”. A medical career was forsaken. He worked as an insurance man, but gambling became his mainstay … he “lied, stole, and forged cheques.” His home was shattered – his wife had left him, and all the furniture was pawned to get money to buy drink.

In fear of going to prison Hadley fled interstate and so ended up in New York. In his desperate battle with booze he eventually went to the police and asked them to lock him up so he wouldn’t succumb to temptation. That night, Tuesday, 18 April, 1882, in a lonely prison cell he fell on his knees on the stone floor and cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (ibid, page 70).

The following Sunday he attended the Water Street Mission – the first Rescue Mission in the world, founded by a converted convict named Jerry McAuley some ten years previous. And so it was as Jerry preached and sang –
… And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains …
the Spirit of God laid hold of 40 year-old Sam Hadley, and he came to a place of assurance in his new-found Christian faith.

Listen to his own words: “Never with mortal tongue can I describe that moment … I felt the glorious brightness of the noon-day sunshine in my heart. I felt that I was a free man. Oh, the precious feeling of safety, of freedom, of resting on Jesus! … And I have been shouting ‘Glory’ pretty much all the time since!” (page 78).

Gone was the “hell-born desire for whisky. Gone the profanity – and a few weeks later – I threw my plug (of tobacco) away … and the desire was removed” (page 80).

Four years later Hadley became successor to Jerry McAuley as Superintendent of the famous Water Street Mission in Manhattan, and there he laboured faithfully for 20 years, pointing men and women to the One “who was able to save from the guttermost to the uttermost”. And “a century later it is still a vital outreach”, reaching those who need food and shelter with the good news of the gospel.

Later Sam Hadley became an ordained Methodist minister.

He went to his reward on 9 February, 1906. The press report of his death in the New York Times of February 10, 1906 stated that Hadley’s wife stood by him “even in the dregs” and that students of sociology from around the world attended his mission to study his amazing impact on others. “It is estimated that Mr Hadley obtained 75,000 conversions during his work at the mission, a great part of them resulting in new and clean lives and profitable, happy citizenship.”

Hadley described his methods: “We generally hit a man in the stomach with a beefsteak or a loaf of bread, or both, before we pray for him.”

While suffering from the fatal effects of appendicitis a nurse saw his lips moving and listened close enough to hear him whispering, “My poor bums; who will look out for them for me?”

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.

David Brainerd and the Indians

John Wesley said, “Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd,” and distributed his life story to all his societies. So while this post is only a summary, I commend to you a review of David Brainerd’s biography.

This is the day that … the “fire fell” at Crossweeksung, in 1745.

Twenty-seven year-old David Brainerd had been expelled from Yale College three years earlier, and had turned his eyes toward the mission field, among the Red Indians.

His diary almost becomes monotonous with “spent the day in prayer and fasting for my beloved Indians.”

He tells of preaching through a drunken interpreter, of riding 50 miles a day to Indian encampments “down hideous steeps, through swamp and most dreadful and dangerous places … pinched with cold … an extreme pain in my head.” At times he coughed up blood.

But on 8 August, 1745, about 64 Indians – men, women and children – gathered around him. He preached to them on the parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14:16-23) and, to use his own words:

“The power of God seemed to descend like a rushing mighty wind… Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarcely one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation. Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for many years and some little children, not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress for their souls… There was almost universal praying and crying for mercy … numbers could neither go nor stand…”

In the days that followed more and more Indians cried: “Guttummaukalummeh!” (“Have mercy on me!”).

By October, 1747, Brainerd was on his deathbed in the home of the famous Jonathan Edwards, and on 9 October all the trumpets sounded as this 29 year-old man of God passed to his Heavenly reward.

William Carey read Brainerd’s Journal, and went to India. Robert Murray McCheyne read it, and went to the Jews. Henry Martyn read it, and went to India and Persia. Jim Elliott was also motivated by David Brainerd’s example. May it inspire you also.

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.

The Spirit Came

History accounts many instances when God’s Holy Spirit fell on people and changed their world forever. From the Day of Pentecost and Cornelius’ house in New Testament times to the Cane Ridge Revival, the home of Jonathan Edwards, the life of Wesley, the ministry of Sister Etter, the Welsh Revival, Azusa Street, George Mueller’s orphanage, and a multitude of other times and places, the Holy Spirit has fallen with amazing impact.

Since the days of the Pentecostal outpourings, over this past century, through the Charismatic Renewal Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and the more recent visitations, people in churches, homes and meeting rooms have experienced times of awesome visitation by the Living God.

The poem I have just penned is my limited attempt to encapsulate those experiences and touch a chord with those who resonate with this wonderful grace. If this is not your experience then I encourage you to press in for the chance to be part of such a time and place as the manifested presence of God.

The Spirit Came

They stumbled and they fell, undone like drunken men!
Laughing to their knees to weep gratitude again.
Lost in adoration and found before His throne
These worshippers of Most High God found heaven as their own.

Enthralled by deepest senses of things too grand to share
They swooned and laughed and chortled, hands stretched to the air.
Singing inspiration in word and tongue and cry,
Heaven’s sweetness drugged them as happy hours slipped by.

The tempest passed, and crumpled lives hung on the ebbing breeze.
No mortal joy compared with that which brought them to their knees.
Stillness held command where silent tears did spill
And foreign words from trembling lips tumbled headlong still.

Exhausted and enthralled each held their heaving chest;
They had met with Daddy God and tasted of His best.
Transfixed in transformation they dared not stir this place
For each felt wonder undescribed now showing on their face.

And in the coming days, they’ll thrill to still recall
The sweeping of the Spirit and how it hit them all.
They’ll shed a tear of gratitude and feel a bond with men
Who joined them at God’s footstool
there, and long to go again.

Thank You, Lord for the privilege of being there.