Posted by: rcottrill | January 7, 2010

Today in 1829 – Frederick Whitfield Born

English clergyman and hymn writer Frederick Whitfield was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and went on to hold various positions in the Church of England. He published about 30 volumes of prose and verse, and a couple of his songs can be found in some hymnals today. Most familiar to us is O How I Love Jesus.

There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest name on earth.

O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

This is rather unsubstantial fare, as far as any depth of teaching is concerned. It’s focus on me and my weak love for the Lord so bothered a well known hymn writer that he created a song with a different perspective to counter it. You can check it out at Today in 1838. But there is another of Whitfield’s hymns, I Saw the Cross of Jesus, that makes a much stronger gospel statement.

I saw the cross of Jesus, when burdened with my sin,
I sought the cross of Jesus, to give me peace within;
I brought my soul to Jesus, He cleansed it in His blood;
And in the cross of Jesus I found my peace with God.

I love the cross of Jesus, it tells me what I am–
A vile and guilty creature, saved only through the Lamb;
No righteousness, nor merit, no beauty I can plead;
Yet in the cross of glory, my title there I read.

Sweet is the cross of Jesus! There let my weary heart
Still rest in peace unshaken, till with Him, ne’er to part;
And then in strains of glory I’ll sing His wondrous power,
Where sin can never enter, and death is known no more.

(2) Today in 1868 – Austin Miles Born
Charles Austin Miles trained to be a pharmacist, but once he began writing gospel songs he abandoned that career to devote his time to sacred music. As well as writing many songs himself, he served as an editor at Hall-Mack Publishers for decades, even after its merger with the Rodeheaver Company.

Among Miles’s contributions to our hymn books are: A New Name in Glory, Dwelling in Beulah Land, If Jesus Goes with Me, and In the Garden, as well as the music for Still Sweeter Every Day, and words and music of the little chorus Wide, Wide as the Ocean.

In the Garden is extremely popular, but it really contains little in the way of biblical truth, being more of a sentimental ballad. Austin Miles wrote it after meditating on the meeting of Mary Magdalene with the risen Christ, as recorded in Jn. 20:11-18.

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

The book of Revelation pictures the Lord giving to each of the saints in heaven a white stone, with a new name written on it (Rev. 2:17). The stone seems to be what we might call a “new birth” certificate, and a reminder of the saint’s acceptance by God. Perhaps that new name is also the one recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27) which lists all of the redeemed. That thought captivated Charles Austin Miles. He published A New Name in Glory in 1910.

I was once a sinner, but I came
Pardon to receive from my Lord:
This was freely given, and I found
That He always kept His word.

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
And the white robed angels sing the story,
“A sinner has come home.”
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven,
Never more to roam.


Responses

  1. Several years ago I wrote a commentary on the old chorus “Wide, Wide as the Ocean.” Here it is:

    You probably remember this old chorus, but like me, haven’t sung it in years. Maybe decades. I found it in an old hymnbook recently, and the words and music really captured my heart. I caught myself singing it many times over the next few days, as well as thinking about the theology, and the poetry, and the music.

    Wide, wide as the ocean, High as the Heaven above;
    Deep, deep as the deepest sea Is my Saviour’s love.
    I, though so unworthy, Still am a child of His care;
    For His Word teaches me
    That His love reaches me
    Everywhere.

    The theology is excellent. (Based on Psalm 139 and Romans 8:35-39) So is the poetry (note the word arrangement, rhyme scheme, symmetry, and balance, above). And the music beautifully complements the theology and the words, with the high point being the word “everywhere”–thus creating an
    eminently singable Gospel song.

    • I agree. Some of these little choruses seem to be mindless ditties that we can well do without. Climb, Climb Up Sunshine Mountain will not teach children any important truths of God’s Word–even if it is explained, if it indeed can be! But Wide, Wide As the Ocean is different. You suggest a couple of Scriptures that may relate. But to me it seems to be based on Ephesians 3:17-19, and it helps to give us a picture of the infinite love of the Lord.

  2. I checked out your link for “Today in 1838” that you referenced above, and I got a 404 “File Not Found” error. Would you mind relinking the file so that I can read that other hymn, please?

    Thanks!

    By the way, “Oh How I Love Jesus” just drives me nuts because it is so theologically vapid. “I Saw the Cross of Jesus” moves me. I guess no hymn writer can hit a home run with every outing. 🙂

    • Thanks for catching that. I’ve been moving some former blogs and updating the information, and it gets a little complicated! See if you can open the linked file now. It’s actually dated to appear as a blog in a couple of weeks (July 9), but I’m hoping it will work as a link until then. (I’m still learning!) Let me know if it’s not accessible now. I may have to give the process more thought and study.

      As to your comment: No, even our greatest hymn and gospel song writers had some poorly written numbers, or ones that have fallen by the wayside for other reasons. Charles Wesley’s “Ah, Lovely Appearance of Death!” may be of historical interest, but it’s morbid in the extreme!

      Ah, lovely appearance of death!
      What sight upon earth is so fair?
      Not all the gay pageants that breathe
      Can with a dead body compare.

      • Nope. Still not working.

        As to Wesley’s “Ah, Lovely Appearance of Death!” can you tell me why he wrote that hymn? It does indeed sound morbid!

      • A young fellow died in Cardiff, Wales, in August of 1744. Apparently Wesley wrote “Ah, Lovely Appearance of Death” as a funeral hymn. He called it “On the Sight of a Corpse,” and wrote in his Journal, “The spirit at its departure had left marks of its happiness on the clay. No sight upon earth, in my eyes, is half so lovely.” For your interest, here’s the entire hymn.

        Ah lovely appearance of death!
        No sight upon earth is so fair;
        Not all the gay pageants that breathe
        Can with a dead body compare:
        With solemn delight I survey
        The corpse when the spirit is fled,
        In love with the beautiful clay,
        And longing to lie in its stead.

        How blest is our brother, bereft
        Of all that could burthen his mind,
        How easy the soul that hath left
        This wearisom body behind!
        Of evil incapable thou,
        Whose relicks with envy I see,
        No longer in misery now,
        No longer a sinner like me.

        This earth is affected no more
        With sickness, or shaken with pain,
        The war in the members is o’er,
        And never shall vex him again:
        No anger henceforward, or shame,
        Shall redden this innocent clay,
        Extinct is the animal flame,
        And passion is vanish’d away.

        The languishing head is at rest,
        Its thinking and aching are o’er,
        The quiet immovable breast
        Is heav’d by affliction no more:
        The heart is no longer the seat
        Of trouble and torturing pain,
        It ceases to flutter and beat,
        It never shall flutter again.

        The lids he so seldom could close,
        By sorrow forbidden to sleep,
        Seal’d up in eternal repose,
        Have strangely forgotten to weep:
        The fountains can yield no supplies,
        These hollows from water are free,
        The tears are all wip’d from these eyes,
        And evil they never shall see.

        To mourn, and to suffer, is mine,
        While bound in a prison I breathe,
        And still for deliverance pine,
        And press to the issues of death:
        What now with my tears I bedew,
        O might I this moment become,
        My spirit created a-new,
        My flesh be consign’d to the tomb.

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