HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.
Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)
Note: Over the course of eighty years Oswald Smith preached more than 12,000 sermons in eighty countries, wrote thirty-five books (with translations into 128 languages), as well as 1,200 poems, of which around a hundred have been set to music. While leading his growing Toronto congregation in a program supporting over five hundred missionaries worldwide, Smith was instrumental in challenging others to follow his example.
Concerning the present song, Alfred Ackley (Bentley’s brother, and also a hymn writer–of He Lives! And many more) wrote to Smith:
“I am still humming The Glory of His Presence. No lovelier gospel song has appeared in twenty years. It probes the depths of my being with emotion and holy desire, every time I sing it.”
Some time ago there lived, down the street from us, a reclusive old man. He wasn’t dangerous; he bothered no one. He simply was rarely seen. When he died, the family invited neighbours to visit the inside of his tiny cottage. There, he had printed line upon line of mathematical calculations relating to molecular theory–all in tiny print, on dozens of huge sheets of paper about three feet by four feet. It was a dazzling display of a brilliant mind at work.
What do you think of when someone is called eccentric. The term comes from the Greek ekkentros, meaning out of centre. It usually refers to one whose lifestyle departs from the usual practice, one who doesn’t follow the conventional pattern of the society around him.
We can set aside mental illness. Believing you’re Napoleon isn’t eccentricity, it’s insanity. And superstition is not necessarily involved–like the hockey player who wears the same socks and underwear, for luck, every time he plays. No, there is likely a rationality to what we’re considering here, a difference of lifestyle that is embraced with sincerity and purpose.
Missionary to India Silas Fox (1893-1982) was like that. Born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, he became known as the White Fox of Andhara, preaching the gospel of grace in India for over half a century, proclaiming Christ with holy boldness and great effectiveness. One tribute in his later years described him as “a man with the heart of a Viking and the simple faith of a child.” But he was indeed a genuine eccentric.
I can recall him preaching in our church, many years ago. During his message, he suddenly donned a turban and sang a song in Telugu–which none of us understood. No explanation was given. At another point, he stopped his message to pray. For this, he asked us all to kneel down. This was not a church where kneeling was a regular thing. There were no kneeling benches in the pews, and we barely had room to do it, but we did. And I believe it was good for us. As a pastor, I’ve done it since, on occasion.
Oswald Smith was a pastor, missionary statesman, and hymn writer. But Dr. Smith had an interesting eccentricity when it came to prayer. In his personal prayer times he customarily prayed out loud, while walking up and down. One time when the Smiths were staying in a hotel, a friend noticed his wife Daisy sitting in the lobby. “What are you doing down here?” he asked. “Oh, Oswald is praying” she replied.
At home, the family was used to accommodating this. One morning, at breakfast time, they could hear him pacing back and forth in the bedroom. But it went on much longer than usual, so they started breakfast. When Oswald finally appeared, with a piece of cardboard in his hand (from a packaged shirt that had been taken to the laundry), his face was wreathed in smiles.
The book of Job speaks of God giving songs in the night (Job 35:10). So does David, in Psalms: “The Lord will send his mercy in the daytime, and in the night his song will be with me” (Ps. 42:8). And missionaries Paul and Silas sang “hymns to God” in a prison cell (Acts 16:25). Oswald Smith had a similar experience that day.
At a time in his ministry which Smith describes with words such as: disappointment, heartache, and despair, he prevailed in prayer with the Lord. God not only lifted his spirits that morning, He gave the pastor such an awareness of His glorious presence he simply had to express it. He read to the family from the piece of cardboard a song he’d just written.
1) I have walked alone with Jesus
In a fellowship divine;
Nevermore can earth allure me,
I am His and He is mine.
I have seen Him, I have known Him,
For He deigns to walk with me;
And the glory of His presence
Will be mine eternally.
O the glory of His presence,
O the beauty of His face;
I am His and His forever,
He has won me by His grace.
3) In my failure, sin, and sorrow,
Broken-hearted, crushed and torn,
I have felt His presence near me,
He has all my burdens borne.
1) Have you ever experienced deep disappointment, discouragement, or painful loss?
2) What did you do about it? (And did this help?)