Grace Livingstone Hill Writes Christian Fiction

Grace Livingstone Hill was born on April 16, 1865, in New York State. Her father, Rev Charles Livingston, was initially a Congregational minister but the church became Presbyterian, and he, along with Grace’s mother had achieved some fame as an author. They both wrote for publications like “The Pansy” and Mrs Hill had a few books published.

Grace’s ‘Auntie Belle’, Isabella Macdonald Alden, sister to Mrs Marcia Hill, was known as Pansy and wrote an abundance of Christian Literature, while also speaking at conferences such as Chautauqua meetings.

On a Remington typewriter (a new invention at the time), Grace was soon churning out her novel, A Chautauqua Idyll, which was accepted by the publisher, the first of over 100 books to come from her fertile mind – and most of them are still in print over half a century later.  They are romantic novels with a strong Christian emphasis, emphatic in their faithfulness to Scripture.

Her biography, by Robert Munce, Grace’s grandson, was published in 1986. Munce also established the large Christian bookstore distribution business, Munce Marketing Group.

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A certain 19 year-old student wrote in his journal, on 8 February, 1931: “Read Grace Livingston Hill’s ‘The Witness‘, and it shook me to the core.” That student was Francis Schaeffer, who was destined to be come one of Christendom’s leading apologists.

And Dr J Dwight Pentecost testified that Mrs Hill “was instrumental in setting the course of my entire ministry…” (Confident Living, May, 1987).

Grace married Rev Thomas Guthrie Franklin Hill, who wrote for the Christian Endeavour movement. Together they wrote two volumes of a guide book for Christian Endeavor youth group leaders, ‘Christian Endeavor Hour with Light for the Leader’.

Rev Frank Hill died in 1899 and Grace received $3,000 in insurance payout. Then, in 1904m Grace married again, to FJ Lutz, who insisted that she use his name. However the couple parted ways and Grace continued to be known by her first married name.

Apart from her extensive fictional and historical fiction writings Grace was a keen artist. She even engaged in creating chalk drawings during sermons, to illustrate the message to the audience. Several of Hill’s books were made into movies.

Grace Livingston Hill died on 23 February, 1947, in Philadelphia, USA

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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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Samuel Rutherford Steers Scotland

Saintly Samuel Rutherford died, on March 30, 1661.  I know that Protestants do not usually use the word “Saint” for special folk, but if there is one who deserves it more than most others, let me suggest the godly Samuel Rutherford.

Spurgeon spoke of Rutherford’s letters as “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in the writings of mere men” (Holy Men of God, by E. Cumming, page 69).

Born in Scotland in 1600, Rutherford was converted some 26 years later – and became a minister of the Gospel. He was a brilliant scholar such that people expected him to excel. Following his studies at the University of Edinburgh he, as a young man, was then made Professor of Philosophy there. He then took the post of minister at Anwoth in Galloway and was a most diligent man. He rose often at 3am then spent his time thoroughly, “reading, praying, writing, catechising, visiting, and other duties belonging to the ministerial profession and employment”.

In June 1630 – and again in 1636 – he was tried by an ecclesiastical court for erroneous doctrine and irregularity of church practice, based around his book, Exercitationes de Gratia.  His first wife died at about this time and in banishment at Aberdeen he wrote the letters that have become a blessing to so many. Rutherford also contracted tertian fever and was so ill for thirteen weeks that he could barely have the strength to preach.

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Rutherford returned to his congregation at Anwoth and was made Professor of Divinity at St Andrews.

The complexities of the history of the church at this time need not concern us here. Rutherford’s stand against Arminianism ired some. He was charged with non-conformity. His stand for the right for families to establish private worship in their homes also received opposition. He opposed the Anabaptists and other sects in his book, Lex Rex. He participated in the Westminster Assembly, from which came the Westminster Confession.

He opposed the flourishing independent groups of worship which sprang up under Oliver Cromwell, but when Charles II gained the throne Rutherford was accused of high treason and his book, Lex Rex was burned as a public condemnation. However Rutherford did not get to face his kingly accusers.

Suffice to say, the saintly Samuel Rutherford entered into rest on 30 March, 1661.

So it was that Rutherford presided over the Lord’s work in a very troubled Scotland, refusing to take appointments abroad because he felt it his duty to endure on behalf of the Lord. History records that his faithful spirit did prevail, against the host of opponents and challenges.

His letters are still in print – “I am pained, pained with the love of Christ,” he writes.  “He hath made me sick and wounded me.  Hunger for Christ outrunneth faith … Oh, if they knew His kindness to my soul …”  (Life and Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by A. Bowen, page 22).

The hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking, by Mrs Cousins, is based on some of the best and sweetest parts of Rutherford’s letters.

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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

Frederick Brotherton Meyer Preacher and Writer

Frederick Brotherton Meyer died on March 28, 1929, at the age of 82.   This well-known preacher ministered worldwide, although his pulpit was in London.

Meyer was born in London on April 8, 1847 and became a Baptist pastor and English evangelist

While pastoring at Priory Street Baptist Church in York in 1872 Meyer met American evangelist Dwight L Moody, whom he befriended and promoted to other churches in England.

In 1895 Meyer took the pulpit at Christ Church in Lambeth. Within two years he grew the congregation from 100 to over 2,000 regularly attending. After fifteen years in that pulpit he began to travel and preach at conferences and evangelistic services.

Evangelistic tours took him to South Africa and Asia and he visited the USA and Canada several times.

From 1904-1905 he served as president of the National Federation of Free Churches.

He crusaded for temperance work, for homeless children, and other social problems.  He was president of the World Sunday-School Unions, president of Christian Endeavour, and founder of a missionary training college. He is credited with closing nearly 500 brothels and he worked to rehabilitate former prisoners.

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Many a time he spoke at Keswick conventions.  In 1923 he visited Australia (met in Melbourne by Dr F W Boreham), where he preached to crowded meetings.

Alexander Gammie describes him as “a lightweight evangelist”- no pulpit thumping, no raised voice, no wild gestures, no dancing around the platform – but he quietly, yet powerfully “held aloft a winsome Saviour.  Everything was intimate, tender and appealing.”

Through his 77 books, F B Meyer led a multitude of believers into a closer walk with the Lord.  Whilst no great pulpit orator, his saintly life gave power to the message.

The day prior to his death he said:  “I ought to be in Heaven now.  I have settled all my affairs and there is nothing to wait for.  I can’t understand it.”  And thus he departed to be with Christ, which is far better.

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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

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.

Charlotte Elliott the Devotional Invalid

This is the day that … Charlotte Elliott died in 1871.

Born in Clapham, England (18 March, 1789), she achieved some fame as the writer of frivolous verse and a portrait artist. But by the age of 30 she was a bed-ridden invalid.

The visit of Swiss evangelist Cesar Malan led her to a knowledge of sins forgiven. And from that turning point in her life came the hymn, “Just as I am, without one plea” – although it was not written until 14 years after her conversion experience.

This account of her conversion explains her focus on the now famous words. One evening, as they sat conversing, the servant of God (Malan) turned the subject to our personal relation with God, and asked Charlotte if she knew herself to be really a Christian. She was in poor health and often harassed with severe pain, which tended to make her irritable. A severe illness had left her a permanent invalid.

She resented the question thus pointedly put, and petulantly answered that religion was a matter she did not wish to discuss. Dr. Malan replied in his usual kind manner, that he would not pursue a subject that displeased her, but would pray that she might give her heart to Christ, and employ in His service the talents with which He had gifted her.

It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct towards God’s servant to show her what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. After several days of spiritual misery, she apologised for her unbecoming conduct, and confessed that his question had troubled her greatly. “I am miserable” she said, “I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus; but I don’t know how”. “Why not come just as you are?“, answered Malan. “You have only to come to Him just as you are”. Little did Malan think that his simple reply would be repeated in song by the whole Christian world!

Charlotte kept much of her writings for private use, expressing to the Lord her deep devotion to Him and not intending the texts to be used by others. At times people took her notes and spread them on her behalf, much to her displeasure.

In time, however, she became accustomed to others benefiting from her personal lines and in 1836 she became the editor of Yearly Remembrancer, in which she inserted some of her works, without identifying herself as the author.

One lady printed copies of “Just As I Am” as a leaflet and sent them out to towns and cities in England. A doctor took a copy and offered it to his aging patient saying it had been helpful to him and thought it might bless her. It did indeed, since it was Charlotte herself who was his patient.

Charlotte Elliott died at the age of 82 and is still regarded as “one of the finest of all English women hymn writers”. She wrote about 150 hymns. Her verse is characterised by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion and perfect rhythm.

The testimony of Miss Elliott’s brother, (the Rev. H.V. Elliott, editor of Psalms and Hymns, 1835) to the great results arising from just one of his sister’s hymns (Just As I Am) is very touching. He says, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit for my labours; but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s”.

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.