English clergyman Edward Henry Bickersteth Jr. was an honours graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge. He serve as vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead, was later dean of Gloucester and bishop of Exeter. He edited three hymn books and wrote about 30 hymns himself. In his editorial capacity, he did not hesitate to add words of his own when he sensed a particular hymn was either weak, or its thought incomplete. He did this with both Lead, Kindly Light, and Nearer, My God, to Thee. Two hymns of his own creation are Saviour, Breathe an Evening Blessing, and Till He Come (a lovely Communion hymn).
“Till He come,” O let the words
Linger on the trembling chords,
Let the “little while” between
In their golden light be seen;
Let us think how heaven and home
Lie beyond that, “Till He come.”
See, the feast of love is spread,
Drink the wine, and break the bread;
Sweet memorials, till the Lord
Calls us round His heavenly board;
Some from earth, from glory some
Severed only, “Till He come.”
Another of Bickersteth’s hymns, Peace, Perfect Peace has a unique structure. Each two-line stanza except one begins with a question, and then provides the answer. It may be effectively sung responsively by a congregation, either dividing men and women’s voices or, in a larger group, assigning different sections of the congregation to sing question and answer.
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to Heaven’s perfect peace.
This covers many situations that concern us. But when a sister of the bishop’s read the text she noted there is nothing there about physical suffering. “That is soon remedied,” he responded, and jotted down the following. As far as I know, it has never been included with the published hymn, but it would fit nicely after the fifth stanza.
Peace, perfect peace, ’mid suffering’s sharpest throes?
The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.
(2) Today in 1941 – Eugene Bartlett Died
Eugene Monroe Bartlett Jr. wrote a gospel song, published in 1939, that celebrates the victory won at Calvary. Bartlett is considered one of the founding fathers of Southern Gospel music. He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2000. He served several American churches with a music ministry, and was the Director of Church Music for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He was a much sought-after music teacher, and wrote several hundred songs. Two years before he died of a brief illness, Bartlett wrote Victory in Jesus.
I heard an old, old story, how a Saviour came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus, my Saviour forever!
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
3) Today in 1986 – Oswald Smith Died
Oswald Jeffrey Smith was a Canadian pastor and hymn writer, ministering for years in the city of Toronto. Each year, the Bible college where I trained used to present a Christmas concert at the People’s Church, where he served. Pastor Smith was in attendance, then about 80 years of age. He was the embodiment of his song, Joy in Serving Jesus–written when he was in his early twenties. Another hymn of his he simply called Saved! It has an interesting story associated with it.
Even though he would eventually be used of the Lord to accomplish great things, Smith was struggling in his early days. In 1919 evangelist Paul Rader had come to Toronto to hold an evangelistic campaign in Massey Hall. Oswald Smith wanted to be involved, but it was at a difficult period in his life. Out of work, and discouraged, he offered to usher at the meetings, but was told he was not needed. He tried to do some counseling, but says he was ignored. Finally he took on the job of selling souvenir song books. At least he would have some part in the event. But he continued to feel, as he put it, “out of everything.”
Then, at one meeting, the song leader announced they were going to sing a new song included in the crusade song book. Pointing down to where Smith was standing with his stack of books he said, “That young man down there wrote this hymn!” (Though it was newly published, Smith had actually penned it in 1917.) So they sang it. The melody poured forth from the 3,400 people gathered, and it almost seemed, the author recalls, “as though they would lift the roof.” The experience encouraged him, and he felt energized to continue serving the Lord. The song begins:
Saved, saved, saved! My sins are all forgiv’n;
Christ is mine, I’m on my way to heav’n;
Once a guilty sinner, lost, undone,
Now a child of God, saved through His Son.”
Saved! I’m saved through Christ, my all in all;
Saved! I’m saved, whatever may befall;
He died upon the cross for me,
He bore the awful penalty;
And now I’m saved eternally–
I’m saved! Saved! Saved!