Posted by: rcottrill | January 11, 2010

Today in 1791 – William Williams Died

WGraphic William Williamsilliam Williams, known as “the sweet singer of Wales,” was a much traveled evangelist and revivalist preacher in that country. For forty-five years, Williams averaged 2,230 miles on horseback annually, sharing the gospel.  He also wrote many Welsh hymns, but most remain unknown in the English speaking world.

There is one notable exception. His great hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. It not only became virtually a second national anthem to the Welsh, it is highly regarded in English hymnody as well. Taking the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness as a picture of our Christian walk, Williams wrote:

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

The instructions of the director before the following, and the kind of informal atmosphere suggest this may have been recorded at a choir practice. Whatever the case, great singing, well led!

(2) Today in 1799 – Charles Purday Born
English composer, Charles Henry Purday wrote and lectured on music, and was a fine singer as well. He wrote the beautiful hymn tune Sandon, which is sometimes used with Lead, Kindly Light. Better still, John Campbell’s hymn Unto the Hills is often partnered with this tune. If you can get hold of an old recording of the Black Dyke Mills symphonic band playing Nightfall at Camp, you’ll hear a memorable rendering of Sandon, intertwined with a bugler playing Taps. (I’ve tried to find this on YouTube, but so far it’s not there.)

Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes
O whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God, the Lord, doth come my certain aid,
From God, the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made.

The text for this hymn was written by an early Governor General of Canada. To learn more, see Item #3 under Today in 1821.

(3) Today in 1843 – Francis Scott Key Died
Francis Scott Key is best known for being the author of the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner (see Today in 1814). However, he was a dedicated Christian, and has given us a couple of fine hymns as well, Before the Lord We Bow (see Today in 1779), and Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee.

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee,
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavour;
This dull soul to rapture raise:
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.


  1. “Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through” is a prayer I have prayed many times. And how I miss the kind of congregational singing shown in these clips! Praise choruses and contemporary music have feminized and emasculated the church to the point that I don’t think we’ll ever again have congregational singing such as this.

    “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” — Years ago I was stunned to learn that Francis Scott Key had also written some hymns — and that one of them was in some hymnals today! I have loved singing this hymn, and I like equally both tunes to which I have seen it set: Al Smith’s tune, found in his hymnals, and the tune RIPLEY, found in the Trinity Hymnal.

    And worthy of printing here in full *and memorizing* is the fourth verse of our National Anthem:

    O, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand,
    Between their lov’d homes, and the war’s desolation.
    Blessed with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land,
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause, it is just,
    And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
    And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,
    O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

    • As to the last stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner, I did deal with that briefly on October 14th, here:
      and I agree that it should be better known and more often used. (We have a similar prayer in our Canadian National Anthem that I’ll bet 98% of our people don’t even know exists!)

      As to congregational singing, “feminized and emasculated”–Ouch! And dead on. So many male soloists, in the contemporary gospel scene, sing with a breathy, falsetto, little-boy (or little-girl!) voice. (Yuck!) Anyway, don’t get me started! I agree, and wish I could do more to change the trend.

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  3. […] Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling (to William Rowlands’ tune Blaenwern) Jerusalem […]

  4. […] something about each on this blog: All People That on Earth Do Dwell; O Praise Ye the Lord; and Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (the latter amended to “Guide us O Thou great […]


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