Posted by: rcottrill | January 23, 2010

Today in 1717 – Benjamin Beddome Born

GGraphic Fountainod Is the Fountain is a hymn by Benjamin Beddome. (Originally, his first line was “Love is the fountain…” using the word love as a title for the Lord.) The hymn is perhaps better known in England than on this side of the Atlantic.

Beddome was a Calvinistic Baptist pastor, serving a church in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water for 55 years. A lovely stream flows through the centre of the town, and this may have been an inspiration for the hymn just mentioned. Pastor Beddome wrote over 800 hymns, most of them relating to his sermon on a particular Sunday, and to be sung at the close of the service.

God is the fountain whence
Ten thousand blessings flow;
To Him my life, my health, and friends,
And every good, I owe.

The comforts He affords
Are neither few nor small;
He is the source of fresh delights,
My portion and my all.

He fills my heart with joy,
My lips attunes for praise;
And to His glory I’ll devote
The remnant of my days.

(2) Today in 1825 – Albert Midlane Born
Albert Midlane has the distinction of being the only hymn writer I know of who lived his entire life on the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is a scenic island in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England. Queen Victoria had her summer home there in Midlane’s day, and Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield while staying there.

Mr. Midlane was a Christian business man who credited his Sunday School teacher with encouraging him to write poetry. He wrote over 300 hymns in his lifetime, but only one is in common use today, Revive Thy Work, O Lord, published in 1872.

Revive Thy work, O Lord,
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

Revive Thy work, O Lord,
Create soul-thirst for Thee;
And hungering for the Bread of Life
O may our spirits be.

(3) Today in 1893 – Phillips Brooks Died
PGraphic Church of the Nativityhillips Brooks had memorized around 200 hymns as a boy, and he was often heard singing them in his room at Harvard University. Later, he became an Anglican (Episcopal) pastor, and he has been called the greatest American preacher of the nineteenth century. He became known for the boldness of his evangelical sermons, calling people to faith in Christ in New England, a Unitarian stronghold at the time.

Though a lifelong bachelor, Brooks took a great interest in children. He wrote several hymns, but by far the most famous is his carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, a reminiscence of his visit to the Holy Land in 1865, and his attendance at a service in the Church of the Nativity. A star in the floor of that church (seen here) marks the place where it is believed Christ was born.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

(4) Today in 1993 – Thomas Dorsey Died
Thomas Andrew Dorsey (the hymn writer, not the famous band leader), was a black entertainer known professionally as Georgia Tom. He had been a blues singer for years, and even written popular songs. Then, during a period of serious illness, he gave his heart and life to Christ. From that day he went on to write about four hundred gospel songs, actively serving the Lord for nearly half a century. One of his compositions in particular has remained popular ever since. The writing of it came about as follows.

In 1932, Mr. Dorsey was invited to sing at a series of revival meetings in St. Louis. He did not want to accept, as his wife was expecting their first child at any time. But she urged him to go. Then, during the first or second night of the meetings, a telegram was brought to him. It conveyed the sad news that his wife had died giving birth to a son.  Grief-stricken, Dorsey drove back home. Within a few hours, his baby son died as well. He buried them both in the same casket.

In despondency, Thomas Dorsey went to visit a friend. As they talked the musician was encouraged with the thought that whatever happened, he was in the hands of a loving God. After awhile, he sat down at the piano and began to improvise the prayer-song, Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light:

Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall:

Here are two interesting versions of this song. In the first, Thomas Dorsey himself tells the story of how the song came to be written, followed by a distinctive black gospel version of the song. The second is a choral version, with quite different lyrics. But the main focus is on the conductor. I include it as an example of masterful choral conducting.


  1. I’d love to sing in that choir.

    • I must admit Bedomme’s hymn is relatively new to me. It wasn’t in the hymnals I grew up with. But then, given that approximately a million hymns have been written in the last 2,000 years (according to the Guiness Book of World Records), not surprising we come across new ones!

  2. […] Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, then rector of Trinity Church, Boston (where hymn writer Phillips Brooks pastored later). Dr. Doane also served as Episcopal bishop of New Jersey, and helped found […]

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  4. This is a stirring rendition of Dorsey’s song. Please advise what the abbreviation NIU stands for?
    Is there other recorded sacred music by this group?


    • Soul-stirring…and spine-tingling! Yes! This is choral work (and conducting) at its best. NIU stands for Northern Illinois University, and the Chamber Choir is made up of a select group of the very best students in their music program. The choir has won all kinds of awards and honours. The conductor is Eric Johnson. And just a further note on the song. It’s a version by Roy Ringwald, singer and acclaimed arranger with Fred Waring. He died in 1995.

      As to whether the NIU Chamber Choir has made recordings, I certainly hope so! Maybe you can find out more by going to their website here.

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