What a note of praise on which to begin the New Year! John Newton wrote Amazing Grace to go with a sermon preached on this date. The hymn was inspired by the wonderment of King David at receiving the promises of God contained in what is now known as the Davidic Covenant.
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.” (I Chron. 17:16-17)
The author of the final stanza of the song, as printed in most of our hymn books (“When we’ve been there ten thousand years…”) is unknown, and it does not appear with the hymn until about 50 years after its creation. Even so, it makes a fitting conclusion to this great song, beginning:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
(For a little about John Newton’s conversion see Today in 1748.)
(2) Today in 1850 – Elizabeth Head Born
Elizabeth Ann Porter Head was the wife of London insurance broker Albert Head, who also served as the chairman of the Keswick Convention. Elizabeth (Bessie) wrote a number of hymns, but only one is widely used today, a song about the work of the Spirit of God called O Breath of Life.
O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
Revive Thy church with life and power;
O Breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us,
And fit Thy church to meet this hour.
(3) Today in 1882 – Thomas Tiplady Born
Thomas Tiplady was born in Yorkshire, England, one of a family of ten children. In those days of child labour, he was working in a cotton mill by the age of ten. Tiplady served as a Methodist clergyman for many years, and was one of the first to pioneer the use of films in evangelism. He also authored a number of books, and several hymns. The only one of the latter in common use today is Above the Hills of Time, to go to the tune Londonderry Air, considered one of the most beautiful melodies ever written.
Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming,
Fair as the sun when night has turned to day;
And from it love’s pure light is richly streaming,
To cleanse the heart and banish sin away.
To this dear cross the eyes of men are turning,
Today as in the ages lost to sight;
And so for Thee, O Christ, men’s hearts are yearning,
As shipwrecked seamen yearn for morning light.
(4) Today in 1919 – Lewis Hartsough Died
Lewis Hartsough was an American Methodist clergyman. For 15 years he pastored churches in New York State. Then he requested a transfer out west, for health reasons, going on to minister in various capacities in Utah, Wyoming, Iowa and the Dakotas. He served as music editor of a hymn collection called The Revivalist, and Hartsough wrote a number of hymns himself, but only one is in common used today, I Am Coming, Lord. It is a response to the Lord’s assurance, “The one who comes to Me I will be no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37).
I hear Thy welcome voice
That calls me, Lord, to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming Lord!
Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary!
Though coming weak and vile,
Thou dost my strength assure;
Thou dost my vileness fully cleanse,
Till spotless all, and pure.