Charles McCallon Alexander Music and Bibles

This is the day that Charles McCallon Alexander was born in a log house near Cloyd’s Creek, East Tennessee, USA, in 1867.

His father, John Darius Alexander, played the ‘fiddle’ and led the singing at the local Presbyterian Church. He also taught Charles to read music at a young age and to beat time with his hands. His mother was also a great influence, reading Moody’s sermons and talking much with him and his siblings. By the age of 9, he had read the entire Bible.

At the age of 13 young Charles “rose and walked timidly to the front (of the church) and made his first public confession of Christ” (C.M. Alexander, by his wife, Helen, page 21).

He studied music at Maryville University and eventually became a Professor of Music. His father’s death was pivotal in clinching his life of ministry. Doubting his father’s salvation, Charles asked God to confirm it to him, promising to serve the Lord if He did. When that assurance came to his heart as he peered up to the stars, Charles kept his word and engaged in Christian ministry.

After studying at Moody Bible Institute, he did evangelistic work with Mr. M. B. Williams, Georgia State Secretary for the YMCA for 8 years. He was also Billy Sunday’s song leader in Chicago.

In 1902 he found himself on a worldwide tour with Dr R.A. Torrey, starting in Australia before heading to England the following year. It was Alexander who led the massed choirs (“The Glory Song” became a firm favourite!) – and compiled the hymnbook that bears his name.

In Birmingham he married Helen Cadbury (her family having revolutionised the chocolate industry), and later travelled the world again, leading choirs for J. Wilbur Chapman.

Charles wanted to promote Bible reading, confident that it would lead people to faith. In 1906 he heard news of the “Testament Circles” in Philadelphia and that prompted Helen to tell her husband about her school initiative with “The Pocket Testament League”.

Alexander decided to revive his wife’s earlier initiative and in 1908 it was launched in Philadelphia and actively begun in Melbourne, Australia in 1909. During The Great War thousands of British and American soldiers were impacted by the league, and many testimonies of salvations poured in.

C.M. Alexander died in Birmingham, England, on 13 October, 1920, at the age of 53.

Helen continued the work of The Pocket Testament League and by 1936, there were 5 million members in TPTL. She died in 1969 at the age of 92, having seen millions of New Testaments carried in many pockets.

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.

Stuart Hamblen Writes Songs for the World

This is the day that Stuart Hamblen was converted at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was 1949.

Under conviction of sin, 40 year-old Hamblen, the son of a Texas minister, telephoned Billy Graham, waking him up: “Pray for me,” he begged the evangelist.

Billy Graham was preaching in his “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” crusade, which had been scheduled to last for three weeks. It was about to close, and Hamblen’s wife, Suzy, had talked him into attending.

But the conversion of Hamblen and two other well-known identities in the Los Angeles area led to an extension of the crusade for another five weeks (Billy Graham, by John Pollock, page 80). Three thousand chairs were added to accommodate the crowds; 6000 people had already been attending the “canvas cathedral” each night.

Hamblen was born October 20th, 1908, in Kellyville, Texas, the son of a travelling Methodist preacher. Hamblen’s radio and movie career began in 1926 on radio KAYO in Abilene, Texas, where he became radio broadcasting’s first singing cowboy. In 1929, he won a talent contest in Dallas, Texas and with the $100 cash prize in hand headed for Camden, New Jersey, to the Victor Talking Machine Company to seek his fortune. Recording four songs for the forerunner of RCA Victor, Stuart then set out for Hollywood, California, where he auditioned at KFI and went on the air as “Cowboy Joe”. He also became a member of the original “Beverly Hillbillies”, radio’s first spectacularly popular western singing group.

In 1931, and for 21 years thereafter, Stuart stayed on top of the popularity charts on the West Coast with his radio programs. During that time, his motion picture credits included: “In Old Monterey” with Gene Autry; “The Arizona Kid” and “King of the Cowboys” with Roy Rogers; “The Plainsman and the Lady” and “The Savage Hord” with Wild Bill Elliott; “Carson City Cyclone” and “The Sombrero Kid” with Don ‘Red’ Barry; “King of the Forest Rangers” with Larry Thompson; and “Flame of the Barbary Coast” with John Wayne.

Stuart Hamblen achieved fame as a rodeo champion, a country/western singer and songwriter, a dance-band leader, a gambler, and a heavy drinker. His 1934 Decca recording, ‘Out on the Texas Plains’, was one of the year’s top selling discs.

But when he was converted, he told his radio audience: “I’ve quit smoking and drinking”. And he was going to sell all his racehorses, except one, “which would never race again”.

Shortly afterwards “he bumped into his friend, movie star John Wayne. ‘What’s this I hear about you, Stuart?’ Wayne asked. ‘Well, John,’ came the answer, ‘I guess it’s no secret what God can do!’ ‘Sounds like a song’, the tall movie star replied, and that remark started the musical notes ringing in Stuart’s mind …” (New Life in Country Music, page 64). As a result Stuart Hamblen wrote …
It is no secret what God can do;
What He’s done for others He can do for you…

Recorded by George Beverly Shea in 1951, this song soon became a firm favourite for thousands of Christians and has been translated into over 50 languages around the world. It was the first song to ‘cross-over’, becoming #1 in Gospel/Country/and Pop categories and starting the trend for ballad style gospel songs

He also penned ‘This Ole House’ which was awarded 1954 Song of the Year, and was number one song hit in seven countries at the same time. His 230 song titles also include ‘Open up your Heart and let the Sun (Son) Shine in’, ‘This Book’ and ‘Known only to Him’.

By 1952 he was a candidate for the office of President of the United States – on a Prohibition ticket! He came in fourth in an election won by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Married to his wife, Suzy, for over 55 years, Stuart lived with her on their horse ranch in Canyon Country (Los Angeles), California, where he produced his weekly nationally syndicated “Cowboy Church of the Air” program. They also bred Peruvian Paso Horses. Stuart Hamblen died on March 8, 1989.

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 Marriott Gives Us Hymns

This is the day that … John Marriott was born near Lutterworth, England, in 1780.

Marriott apparently displayed both a strong academic bent and an interest in music from his youth.

He was educated at Oxford and was the second student to attain first class honours there. He was then ordained to the Anglican ministry, and became chaplain to a Scottish duke. During this time he became a close friend of Sir Walter Scott.

Scott honoured Marriott’s love of music and interest in the music of the Scottish Border region, by the following reference in his work, “Marmion”:
Marriott, thy harp, on Isis strung,
To many a Border tune has rung.

In 1808 he became minister in the parish of Warwickshire, but his wife’s illness made it necessary to move to Devon.

“He wrote a number of hymns but modesty prevented his permitting publication of them during his lifetime …” (Companion to the Baptist Hymnal, page 367).

His best known hymn is categorised as a Missionary Hymn and was written in 1813 and published 42 years after his death … (this is an updated version of the hymn)

Thou, Whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight,
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And, where the gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
Let there be light!

Savior, you came to give
Those who in darkness live
Healing and sight;
Help those who seek to find,
Heal those whose hearts are blind,
And in each humble mind
Let there be light!

Marriott originally set the hymn to the English National Anthem, God Save the King, but it was later given other tunes.

John Marriott died on 31 March, 1825.

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.

Henry Francis Lyte Abides with God

This is the day that … Henry Francis Lyte preached his last sermon. Three books give the date as the 4th, but the biography states it was the 5th. Certainly it was the first Sunday in September, in 1857.

Born in Scotland 64 years previously, 1 June, 1793, Lyte began life in an unhappy home. The father was a Captain in the Royal Marines, engaged in the Napoleonic Wars. While Henry was just a lad his father abandoned the marriage, leaving “a destitute wife.” Henry was at a boarding school. His mother and brother died soon after, leaving Henry an orphan at age 9. He deeply felt the loss of his mother who had taught him to pray and to love the Bible.

Under the care of the kindly Dr Robert Burrows, Lyte blossomed in a handsome man, six feet tall and excelling above his fellow students. He abandoned his plans medical studies and chose Divinity.

He became a Church of Ireland clergyman and during the early days of his first pastorate found himself trying to comfort a dying fellow minister.

“My blood almost curdled,” writes Lyte, “to hear the dying man declare and prove (from the Scriptures) that he and I had been utterly mistaken in the means we had adopted for ourselves and taught to others. The teachings of St Paul reveal the false basis of our means of salvation…” (H.F. Lyte, by H. Garland, page 23). Lyte continues: “The poor man died, I rejoice to say, under the belief that although he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his sins and fit him to spend Eternity in the presence of God.”

All of which led to Lyte’s conversion also, and to an evangelical emphasis in his preaching. Then, as Lyte carried the load of two parishes his health failed and he was advised to seek warmer climate than England afforded.

Returning from France and Italy, where he convalesced over his lung trouble, he took a parish in Cornwall where he met Miss Anne Maxwell. They wed in Bath, 21 January, 1818. Theirs was a happy marriage and Anne’s economy as a home manager greatly assisted them.

Lyte was musical and composed many songs, including sea shanties for the sailors in his sea-side parish. He produced a metrical version of psalms and many hymns for church use including “Praise my soul the King of Heaven“, “God of Mercy God of Grace”, “Sweet is the solemn voice that calls The Christian to the House of Prayer”, “Pleasant are thy courts above” and many others.

He was hard working and diligent in his parish, literary and tutorial duties, which led to a further collapse of his health in his 40’s, necessitating trips to the Continent to recuperate. His faithful wife enabled them to save the money and also held the home front while he was away through the winters.

He pastored two churches following his marriage, the latter being for 23 years at Lower Brixham, Devon. It was here he preached his last sermon – and on the same evening handed his newly written hymn to his daughter.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide …”

It was prophetic, as well he probably knew, for “life’s little day” was soon to “pass away.”

A trip to the Continent for health reasons was too late. He died on his way to Nice on 20 November, 1847.

Among his dying words were these, “Oh, there is nothing terrible in death; Jesus Christ stepped down into the grave before me…”

His final hymn was first performed at his memorial service in England. “Abide With Me” became an enduring favourite and is recorded as King George V’s favourite hymn.

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.