Posted by: rcottrill | January 15, 2010

Today in 1841 – Sarah Doudney Born

English author Sarah Doudney was known in her own time for several works of fiction, and for articles and poems published in various magazines. She wrote a number of hymns as well. Published in 1871, The Master Has Come makes use of the tune of the old ballad The Ash Grove. It is one of those extremely singable melodies, the kind you find yourself humming for hours after you hear it.

The Master hath come, and He calls us to follow
The track of the footprints He leaves on our way;
Far over the mountain and through the deep hollow,
The path leads us on to the mansions of day:
The Master hath called us, the children who fear Him,
Who march ’neath Christ’s banner, His own little band;
We love Him and seek Him, we long to be near Him,
And rest in the light of His beautiful land.

The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary
And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
We follow the Saviour and cannot turn back;
The Master hath called us, though doubt and temptation
May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:
“Press onward, look upward,” through much tribulation;
The children of Zion must follow the King.

Sarah Doudney also wrote The Christian’s Goodnight, a moving funeral hymn for which Ira Sankey wrote the tune. The latter sang it at the funeral of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Sleep on, belovèd, sleep, and take thy rest;
Lay down thy head upon the Saviour’s breast;
We love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best—
Good night! Good night! Good night!

Only “Good night,” belovèd—not “farewell!”
A little while, and all His saints shall dwell
In hallowed unison indivisible—
Good night! Good night! Good night!

Until we meet again before His throne,
Clothed in the spotless robe He gives His own,
Until we know even as we are known—
Good night! Good night! Good night!

(2) Today in 1985 – Lance Latham Died
I met Lance Latham around 1980, when he was in his mid-eighties. He was still vital and energetic, even in old age, and a marvel at the piano. Meeting him and listening to him I felt a bit like a young Timothy at the feet of an aged Paul. I count our brief encounter as a privilege and a special blessing.

Lance Brenton Latham was a child prodigy. No doubt about it. At the age of thirteen he took the entrance exams for the University of Pennsylvania and achieved the highest scores on record at that time. But his unusual gifts were demonstrated long before that.

His father was a Presbyterian clergyman named Abraham Lathem (they later changed the spelling of the last name). And Rev. Lathem was a strict disciplinarian, demanding a high academic standard of his son. As a little boy, Lance would rise at 4:55 a.m. to begin reciting his daily lessons five minutes later. Saturday mornings, from six o’clock till noon, he reviewed the entire week’s work with his father.

At the age of five, Lance could recite the 107 questions and answers of The Shorter Catechism. And each day, he was also required to memorize two verses of Scripture, studying them until they could be recited perfectly. The scope of his accomplishments in this respect is indicated by a book awarded him by Abraham Lathem when Lance was six years old. On the flyleaf are these words: “This book is presented to you for having memorized and recited correctly the Gospel by St. John, the Epistle to the Romans, the Epistle of James, each entire on one occasion”!

But for all this, there was something still missing in Lance’s spiritual makeup. His mastery of Scripture, and of Bible doctrine was an intellectual wonder, but Lance Latham had never come as a sinner to the cross and personally put his faith in Christ. He was not born again. All that changed when he was engaged as a pianist for a prominent evangelist of the day. Night after night, the young man heard the gospel, and finally, on September 18th, 1915, when he was 21 years of age, Lance Latham put his faith in the Saviour.

Through his later ministry, the Awana Youth Association was founded. Not surprisingly, the week-day club program puts an emphasis on Bible memorizaton (A-w-a-n-a stands for “approved workmen are not ashamed,” from II Tim. 2:15.) Having been the Commander of Awana Clubs in two different churches, I can personally testify to the way in which the Lord uses the ministry to transform the lives of children and young people, and of whole families.

Lance Latham has also made a mark, though a less significant one, in the area of sacred music. The boy’s mother was his first piano teacher. By the age of five he could play any hymn in the hymnal, and he was the regular pianist of the Primary Department of the Sunday School. By the age of twelve, his dazzling renditions of Bach, Beethoven and Liszt were enjoyed by his friends. He has found his way into many of our hymn books by writing the tune for Avis Christiansen’s gospel song, Blessed Calvary. (To learn a bit more about Mrs. Christiansen, see Today in 1895, and Today in 1985.)

I look at the cross upon Calvary,
And oh, what a wonder divine,
To think of the wealth it holds for me—
The riches of heaven are mine.

Blessèd Calvary! Precious Calvary!
’Neath thy shadow I’ll ever abide.
Blessèd Calvary! Precious Calvary!
’Twas there Jesus suffered and died.

And after this all- too-brief review of some of Mr. Latham’s accomplishments, let me leave him the last word. The comment on the value of having children memorize the great hymns of the faith still has resonance, though the words were written a generation ago.

Boys and girls should be encouraged to learn and sing hymns….“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart” is such a vital part in the growth of young believers. We do not include in this recommendation most of the modern folk song-hymns which have very little spiritual truth and are consequently of no value. Some will argue, “But the young folks love to sing these songs.” We are responsible to train them another way than the ways of the world. They are not our leaders; we are their leaders.


  1. […] comment Go to comments On January 15 Robert Cottrill, at the always interesting and informative Wordwise Hymns blog, featured Sarah Doudney author, of the hymn ‘The Master Has Come’, which is sung to the […]

  2. […] (For more about this great servant of God, see the second item under Today in 1849.) […]


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