Posted by: rcottrill | January 10, 2010

Today in 1867 – William Merrill Born

William Pierson Merrill was an American Presbyterian clergyman, who served in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. Considered an outstanding preacher, he was also an author and a hymn writer. One of his songs, Not Alone for Mighty Empire, is a call to his nation (applicable to any nation) to set righteous priorities.

Not alone for mighty empire, stretching far o’er land and sea,
Not alone for bounteous harvests, lift we up our hearts to Thee.
Standing in the living present, memory and hope between,
Lord, we would, with deep thanksgiving, praise Thee more for things unseen.

Not for battleships and fortress, not for conquests of the sword,
But for conquests of the spirit give we thanks to Thee, O Lord;
For the priceless gift of freedom, for the home, the church, the school,
For the open door to manhood, in a land the people rule.

God of justice, save the people from the clash of race and creed,
From the strife of class and faction, make our nation free indeed;
Keep her faith in simple manhood strong as when her life began,
Till it find its full fruition in the brotherhood of man!

When an editor told Dr. Merrill that there was a need for more hymns on Christian brotherhood, he responded by writing Rise Up, O Men of God, another hymn that emphasizes human priorities and responsibilities. While I would argue some points of doctrine implied by the hymn, it is a stirring challenge nonetheless. (For a fuller discussion of the doctrinal issues, see the second item posted on Today in 1844.) To be sure, the Lord’s work needs committed men.

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

(2) Today in 1877 – Helen Alexander Born
Helen Cadbury was born in England, heiress to the immense Cadbury chocolate fortune. But she clearly had higher goals in mind. She married gospel musician Charles Alexander in 1904. When he died in 1920, she married A. C. Dixon, a well-known pastor, Bible expositor, and evangelist. (Along with Reuben Torrey, Dixon helped to compile and edit The Fundamentals, an influential set of books defending the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.) But Charlie Alexander seems to have remained the love of her life. Years after, she loved to sing the old songs and reminisce about the old days with him. And biographer Simon Fox says of her, “She never lost her youthful love of music and retained a fine singing voice well into her old age, continuing to sing in one of the local choirs until she was ninety!”

Helen Alexander is responsible for at least a couple of hymn texts. In particular, she seems to have edited and augmented the work of others, as she did with Carrie Breck’s little song, Make Him Known.

Tell of Christ Who saves from sin;
Make Him known—make Him known!
He has called you souls to win,
Make Him known!

Make the blessèd Saviour known,
Till all hearts shall be His throne;
Till He rules the world alone,
Make Him known.

For the world God gave His Son,
Make Him known–make Him known!
With the message quickly run,
Make Him known!

Perhaps a more widely used example is the third and fourth stanzas that Mrs. Alexander added to Jesse Pounds’s song, Anywhere with Jesus. Her contribution says:

Anywhere with Jesus, over land and sea,
Telling souls in darkness of salvation free;
Ready as He summons me to go or stay,
Anywhere with Jesus when He points the way.

Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep,
When the darkening shadows round about me creep,
Knowing I shall waken nevermore to roam;
Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home.

(For another story about this hymn, see item three unday Today in 1859.)


  1. Thank you for the information on Helen Alexander. I read the biography of Charles Alexander several years ago, but it said nothing of the hymnwriting of Mrs. Alexander, who later became Mrs. Dixon. (But then again, maybe she didn’t write her hymns until later . . .) Two hymnals at hand contain “Anywhere With Jesus”; one lists Jessie B. Pounds as the sole author; the other lists Pounds and Helen C. Dixon.

    I have always liked the challenge to men in “Rise Up, O Men of God,” and I especially like the way Hale and Wilder sing this hymn. If men of God rise to the challenge, the women will follow. Alas, however; to accommodate the feminists, the hymnal my church uses has changed the words to “Rise Up, O Church of God.” This change caused a problem in the third verse, so they used “sons” in the first phrase, and retained the original wording in the second phrase. The liberties some editors take!

    • Thanks for your coments. Helen Dixon seems to have added a bit more of a missionary emphasis to Jessie Pounds’s hymn. Good addition to a fine song.

      As to “Rise Up, O Men of God,” I still have my doctrinal concerns about the middle verses. But I agree wholeheartedly that the “Political Correctness” folks have swung to pendulum too far the other way, not allowing some good strong hymns that are directed specifically to men! What’s wrong with that? We need men who will be strong spiritual leaders in the home and in the church. Rise up, indeed! Rise up with holy boldness and stand for the truth!

  2. […] concept was American pastor and hymn writer William Pierson Merrill. (For another of his hymns, see Today in 1867.) A magazine editor remarked to him one day that there was an urgent need for a hymn to express […]

  3. The lyrics of this song both parts are powerful witnessing tools. It helps us understand our purpose in this world. I am further encouraged to go light my world.

    • Thanks for your input. Drop by any time. 🙂

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