Born around 1720, Joseph Grigg was the son of poor parents. He worked as a mechanic until he was 25 years old. (A “mechanic” in those days was a manual labourer, or an artisan.) At that point, he turned to full-time Christian ministry, becoming the assistant of a Presbyterian pastor in London. When the pastor died, Grigg retired from pastoral work. He married a wealthy widow and spent his latter years writing. At the time of his death, a friend described him as “the friend of the poor, the charm of the social circle, and the attractive and useful preacher.”
Joseph Grigg wrote quite a number of hymns, but few remain in use today. One that does is Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be, said to have been written when the author was only 10 years old. He called the hymn, Ashamed of Me, and the poetry was rather rough–understandable, given his age. For example, his opening stanza said:
Jesus! and shall it ever be!
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Scorn’d be the thought by rich and poor;
O may I scorn it more and more!
However, the basis of a powerful and important message was there. Later revisions improved upon Grigg’s poetry, while retaining his message. It issues a challenge to us to be faithful witnesses for Christ.
Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man, ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?
Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may
When I’ve no guilt to wash away;
No tear to wipe, no good to crave,
No fears to quell, no soul to save.
Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heav’n depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.
(2) Today in 1869 – Ernest Sellers Born
Ernest Orlando Sellers worked for a time as a surveyor and civil engineer, becoming city engineer and superintendent of public works in Lansing, Michigan. In 1895, he became a student at Moody Bible Institute. Then Sellers joined the faculty, serving in both the music and Christian education departments. Later in life he became director of music at the Baptist Bible Institute, in New Orleans. The school named the E. O. Sellers Music Building after him.
Mr. Sellers had a part in the production of the New Baptist Hymnal. He wrote a number of hymn tunes. But the one song still in common use, for which he wrote both words and music, is Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart. It is based on several verses of Scripture, including Ps. 119:105, 9 and 11.
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet,
A light to my path alway,
To guide and to save me from sin,
And show me the heav’nly way.
Thy Word have I hid in my heart,
That I might not sin against Thee;
That I might not sin, that I might not sin,
Thy Word have I hid in my heart.
Forever, O Lord, is Thy Word
Established and fixed on high;
Thy faithfulness unto all men
Abideth forever nigh.
(3) Today in 1954 – Anna Russell Died
Anna Belle Russell lived in Corning, New York, where she belonged to the First Methodist Church. She and her sister Cora wrote a number of hymns. One of these is Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus, for which Ernest Sellers (see above) wrote the tune. He wrote to the author some years later to ask if there was any story behind the writing of the hymn, but she said there was nothing she could tell him. The song became a favourite of evangelist Gypsy Smith, and was much used in his meetings.
There is never a day so dreary,
There is never a night so long,
But the soul that is trusting in Jesus
Will somewhere find a song.
Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,
In the heart He implanteth a song:
A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength,
In the heart He implanteth a song.