We are indebted to William Chatterton Dix, the manager of a marine insurance company in Glasgow, for a couple of fine Christmas carols: What Child Is This? and As with Gladness Men of Old (see Today in 1898). But he wrote other hymns as well. One of these is a hymn for the Lord’s Supper–which in the song is called “the Eurcharistic feast.” (The Greek word eucharisteo means to give thanks, as Jesus did at the meal, I Cor. 11:24.) The hymn is Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, and it says in part:
Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the sceptre, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.
Alleluia! King eternal, Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary, earth Thy footstool, heav’n Thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.
Come Unto Me, Ye Weary (based on Matt. 11:28), a lesser known creation of William Dix, came to him in 1867, when he was, as he describes himself, ill and depressed. He says, “I had been ill for many weeks and felt weary and faint….Soon after its composition I recovered, and I always look back to that hymn as the turning point in my illness.”
“Come unto Me, ye weary, and I will give you rest.”
O blessèd voice of Jesus, which comes to hearts oppressed!
It tells of benediction, of pardon, grace and peace,
Of joy that hath no ending, of love which cannot cease.
“Come unto Me, dear children, and I will give you light.”
O loving voice of Jesus, which comes to cheer the night!
Our hearts are filled with sadness, and we had lost our way;
But He hath brought us gladness and songs at break of day.
“Come unto Me, ye fainting, and I will give you life.”
O cheering voice of Jesus, which comes to aid our strife!
The foe is stern and eager, the fight is fierce and long;
But Thou hast made us mighty and stronger than the strong.
“And whosoever cometh I will not cast him out.”
O welcome voice of Jesus, which drives away our doubt,
Which calls us, very sinners, unworthy though we be
Of love so free and boundless, to come, dear Lord, to Thee.
(2) Today in 1901 – Ralph Hudson Died
Hudson had a widely varied career. He was a nurse during the American Civil War. Then after the war he taught music at a college. In addition, he was a licensed preacher with the Methodist Episcopal denomination, was an evangelist, a singer, song writer, and compiler of the songs of others. Usually, he composed the tunes. But he occasionally wrote lyrics too, as he did for the song I’ll Live for Him.
My life, my love I give to Thee.
Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
Oh, may I ever faithful be,
My Saviour and my God!
Hudson also formed his own publishing company. A busy life! But he is not without his critics. He liked to take traditional hymns and turn them into gospel songs, by giving them an upbeat tune and adding a refrain. In so doing, he sometimes forgot that the music needs to suit the mood and subject of the words. The most painful example that comes to mind is his treatment of Isaac Watts’s great hymn of worship, Alas! And Did My Saviour Bleed?
With eloquent passion, Watts pictures himself standing before the cross, wondering at the love that led Christ to die for “a worm” such as he was. (Notice especially the first stanza below, omitted from hymn books today.) He writes:
Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine–
And bathed in His own blood–
While the firm mark of wrath divine
His soul in anguish stood.
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.
When the usual tune (Martyrdom) is used, this becomes a worshipful meditation on the reason for Christ’s terrible agony on the cross. But Ralph Erskine Hudson felt the hymn needed some adjustment. He gave it a new tune, with a jolly, bouncing chorus:
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away (rolled away).
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Congregations may enjoy singing Hudson’s creation, but I believe it does grave injustice to the song’s purpose! It minimizes our confrontation with the horrific nature of crucifixion, requiring, as it does, an almost impossible 180 degree emotional turn each time singers move from the chorus to the next stanza. And the text of the chorus isn’t even biblical, at that! Even Jesus wasn’t “happy all the day!”
In my view, Mr. Hudson should have left well enough alone. But having said that, singing Hudson’s version with extreme slowness could help. Just how that would go over with most congregations, I’m not sure, but here’s the Gaither Vocal Band singing it that way. (For me, a little less emotional grimacing and posing would have been preferable. But that’s not to suggest they aren’t singing sincerely, just that there may be a lot of theatrics in this presentation.)