William Dunn Longstaff heard Dr. Griffith John, a missionary to China, use the interesting phrase, “Take time to be holy,” while the latter was speaking at a conference in England. The same evening, Longstaff wrote a poem on the theme.
William Longstaff was a rich man who used his wealth to benefit others. He was a friend of Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, and of William Booth. He attended the Bethesda Free Chapel, providing funds for the renovation of the church building, and acting as treasurer of the congregation.
The poem mentioned was handed to gospel musician George Stebbins, and he composed a tune to suit it, giving us the hymn Take Time to Be Holy. It presents an important truth. God does not simply “zapp” us, and make us spiritually mature and Christlike. It requires a consistency of time with the Lord and in His Word, and the daily application of the truths we learn.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
This hymn usually appears in hymnals with the tune Longstaff, written for it. But, with some slight adjustments, it also works well with the tune Slane, as this video clip shows.
(2) Today in 1920 – William Reynolds Born
William Jensen Reynolds wrote a number of hymn tunes, but he is also known as a capable hymn historian. During the time when he received a college education, Reynolds served as a part-time director of music, later becoming Minister of Music at two successive Baptist churches in Oklahoma. In 1955, he joined the Church Music Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board, in Nashville, eventually becoming the department head. He served as music director for various conventions and conferences, and composed and arranged sacred music.
His Companion to Baptist Hymnal (Broadman Press, 1976) is an excellent resource. As to a contribution in the area of music, he has given us an arrangement of an early American song (from around 1811), What Wondrous Love Is This. (For a bit more about the origin of this song see Today in 1809.)
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.