Anne Ross Cousin Hymnwriter

Anne Ross Cousin was born on April 27, 1824, in Hull, England. Her father, Dr David Ross Cundell of Leith, who was a surgeon in the British Army and served at the Battle of Waterloo, died when she was only three years old.

Anne proved to be a highly gifted lady and became an expert pianist, and began writing poems and hymns. In 1847 she married Rev William Cousin, an honoured clergyman of the Free Church of Scotland. That marriage produced five children.

By the time Anne was 50 she had composed many devotional poems and in 1876, a volume was published called “Immanuel’s Land and other pieces” by Anne Ross Cousin. Critical review suggests that the title poem was by far the best of the collection of over 100 poems.

Among her contributions to hymnody is:
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head;
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead;
Didst bear all ill for me …

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Known as Substitution, this hymn was included in the Sankey Hymnbook (No. 128), Sankey himself composing the melody. It is also of interest that William Barclay, in his Testament of Faith (page 52), quotes this hymn and denies the truths it contains.

Mrs Cousin’s other magnificent hymn was originally a 19 stanza (152 lines) poem based on the dying words of Rev Samuel Rutherford, “Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land”. Rutherford was a saintly 17th century Scottish Covenanter; a Presbyterian who had been imprisoned during the reign of Charles II. From his prison cell there flowed letters so full of Christ that they have become classics of Christian literature.

And the hymn?

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair sweet morn awakes.
Dark, dark hath been the midnight;
but dayspring is at hand.
And glory, glory dwelleth
in Immanuel’s land.

Around 1856, Mrs. Cousin was meditating on Rutherford’s letters as she went about her daily chores. While sewing, she scribbled down lines of poetry, ultimately weaving together expressions from thirtysix of his letters and his final words to create a poetic tapestry.

Ann Ross Cousin continued to write poems, hymns and books, and died in Edinburgh at the age of 82, on December 6, 1906.

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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

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Marcus Dods Jnr the Scholar

Marcus Dods Jnr died, on April 26, 1909. He was born on April 11, 1834 at Belford, Northumberland in Scotland, where his father, Marcus Dods (senior) was a Scottish Church (Presbyterian) minister.

Young Marcus was trained at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University, and followed in his father’s footsteps, pastoring, and later teaching in New College, Edinburgh.

In 1864 Dods became minister of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow, where he worked for twenty-five years.

At New College, Edinburgh, in 1890, charges of heresy were brought against him (and dismissed) for denying the inerrancy of Scripture. The charge was based on a sermon on Inspiration which Dods delivered in 1878. The charge against him was dropped by a large majority.

One delightful story concerning Dods comes from The Speaker’s Bible (Romans, Vol. 2, page 143). There we read of his long Saturday walks with Alexander Whyte, a fellow Presbyterian clergyman, and of their discussion. “Whatever we started off with in our conversations” said Whyte, “we soon made across country, somehow, to Jesus …”

Dods devoted much time to the publication of theological books. He wrote, edited existing works, contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, and busied himself with many other publications.

Apart from his services to Biblical scholarship, providing resources for the scholarly, Dods sought to present to the less educated reader the benefit of insights not readily available to them.

Marcus Dods was 75 at the time of his death.

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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

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

John Duncan Missionary to the Hungarian Jews

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan died, on February 26, 1870. He was not really a rabbi, but such was the nickname by which he became known.

John Duncan was born to humble, pious parents, in Gilcomston, Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1796, his father, John, being a shoemaker. Young John was the only child of his parents to survive infancy. He was a sickly child and a bout of smallpox rendered him permanently blind in one eye. His biographer describes him as “a delicate, dreamy, clever, engaging, affectionate, high-spirited and occasionally passionate boy, sometimes crying bitterly under the severity of paternal discipline, sometimes abruptly laughing aloud at the brightness, or at the humour, of his own hidden thoughts”.

Duncan spent time in atheism, despite the faith of his parents. The cogent reasoning and prayers to the “Great King” by his lecturer, Dr Mearns, gave Duncan a logical acceptance of the existence of God.

Trained for the Presbyterian ministry, and licensed to preach on June 24, 1825, it was not until the following year that he was genuinely converted, due to the personal work of Rev Dr Caesar Malan of Geneva, who visited Aberdeen on an evangelistic tour. Duncan was at that time in a state of mental depression.

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In 1828 Duncan enjoyed an additional spiritual touch on his life, which he referred to as his “second conversion”, due to its profound impact. He had become stale in his faith and struggled with that until he came again to strong conviction and soundness of belief.

In 1830 he was given 10 months as minister at the Chapel of Persie, from which his reputation as a profound, deeply-taught preacher of God’s Word began to spread. Thus he was given the post of English Assistant to the Rev Robert Clark of the Duke Street Gaelic Chapel with the duty of leading an English-speaking congregation on Sunday afternoons. And from there he was promoted to his own church, Milton Parish Church, which was built for him through a Church Building Association which had started in Glasgow.

Duncan married Janet Tower, of Aberdeen, in 1837, and she proved a valuable helpmate. However, just over two years later she died in 1840, following the premature birth of their child.

There was great interest in Scotland at that time for the winning of Jews to Christ. Duncan was strongly motivated in that direction and so, after about a decade of ministry in Glasgow, Duncan was selected to mount an evangelistic endeavour to the Jews in Budapest, Hungary. He attended to that task in the years 1841-42, ably assisted by his second wife. The Archduchess of Hungary had long been praying for the help of a man of God in her city, so was delighted to have Duncan at his work.

This was the most fruitful and happy season of Duncan’s life and ministry. Duncan’s excellent knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, customs and beliefs fascinated the Jewish community and gave him ready access to them. Among his converts were Alfred Edersheim and Adolph Saphir; both of whom became outstanding Presbyterian theologians.

Duncan later became Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages in New College, Edinburgh. Previously, in 1839, he had applied for the post of Dean of the Hebrew Chair of the University of Glasgow, but was unsuccessful. Dr Duncan occupied this chair for twenty-seven years from 1843 till his death in 1870.

“His students did not get much Hebrew instruction, but they were inspired by his spirit, so eminently godly” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, page 673).

Biographer A. Moody-Stuart tells of Duncan’s strong Calvinistic views – “his aversion to Arminianism was intense” (page 192).

And the rather quaint story is told of his second marriage. Some years following the death of his first wife, Duncan married a widow named Mrs Torrance. But it nearly misfired. When the cab arrived to take him to the wedding, he was not to be found. “His niece found him in bed sound asleep with a Hebrew book in his hand” (Moody-Stuart, page 118).

And another story of his eccentricities (of which there are many) is that when asked if he would like another cup of tea – “having drained his cup 14 times, he replied, ‘No, thank you, I never take more than two cups of tea’” (page 117).

His strength waned in his later years and in January, 1870 his heart weakness significantly reduced his strength. From that time he ceased to attend the College. He passed away peacefully on the morning of February 26.

On his deathbed he said to his biographer, “I have been at the point of death. But I found that the one great mysterious death of Calvary was all I needed” (page 151).

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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

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.

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.