Posted by: rcottrill | February 14, 2010

Today in 1884 – Luther Bridgers Born

Luther Burgess Bridgers fell in love with a beautiful Kentucky girl. After a romantic courtship, the two were married. Bridgers was a pastor, and even served briefly on the foreign mission field. But wherever the Lord led him, since the age of seventeen, he had been a zealous preacher of the gospel, calling others put their faith in Christ. As the years flowed by, God gave the happy couple three little boys, and the Bridgers prayed they would grow up to honour and serve the Lord.

One morning in 1910, Luther Bridgers left home to conduct some gospel meetings in another town. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw his wife standing at the gate with the baby in her arms and a boy on each side. All were blowing kisses to Daddy as he headed for the train. Then two weeks went by. After the last meeting on his schedule, he went to his lodgings to sleep, but was wakened by a phone call at one in the morning. “Is this Mr. Bridgers?” He responded that it was. “Well, we are sorry to tell you that your house caught fire tonight, and your wife and children have burned to death.”

He stood in shattered silence, holding the receiver. He says it seemed to him the devil was laughing at him and saying, “God doesn’t love you. Are you going to worship a God like that?” But Pastor Bridgers dropped to his knees by the telephone and prayed, “Lord, I have preached the gospel to other people, and told them it would comfort them in every hour of sorrow. Grant that this same gospel may comfort me.” And the Lord answered his prayer.

It’s been widely reported that it was at this time that the Lord gave Bridgers a new song called He Keeps Me Singing, born out of a deeper love for the Lord. However, thanks to correspondent Alec Stevens for his convincing evidence, this does not seem to be so. The hymn was published in 1910, selection 21 in a songbook called The Revival #6, edited by Charles Tillman. The Breckenridge News (Vol. XXXV) reported the tragic fire about a year later, March 29, 1911.

My guess is that the song may have been used at the memorial service, as a testimony to Luther Bridgers faith, and that someone assumed it had been written for the occasion. I know of another instance where this seems to have happened–with Lina Sandell’s beautiful hymn, Day by Day. Many came to believe the song was written after the tragic drowning death of her father, but it was actually written some years before.

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

(2) Today in 1914 – Ira Stanphill Born
Ira Forest Stanphill was an evangelist who preached the gospel in more than 40 countries around the world. But he is best known today as a song writer. (For a list of some of Mr. Stanphill’s better known songs, see the second item under Today in 1678.) Beginning at the age of 17, he wrote over 600 hymns before he died in 1993. Happiness Is the Lord, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, Room at the Cross, and Mansion Over the Hilltop are several of his songs that are quite well known. The story behind the creation of the last of these is as follows:

At an evening meeting in Dallas, in 1945, a young businessman rose to give his testimony. He told how he had gone through a period of severe financial reversal. As things grew worse, he became despondent. Though he was a believer at the time, he could not understand why God was allowing this to happen. One day, to get away from the discouragements at work, he decided to take a drive out into the country. There, on a lonely road, he came upon a dilapidated shack. Half the windows were broken, and it looked as though the hovel was ready to collapse.

In the yard a small child was playing with her doll–which seemed in a similar state of decay, with its stuffing falling out. But what impressed the man was that the girl seemed cheerful in her play. Greeting her, he asked if he could speak with her a moment. “No!” she said sharply, obviously warned not to talk to strangers. But he persisted. “I just wondered how you can be so happy, living in a broken down house like that.” “Oh,” she said brightly, “my daddy’s come into a lot of money now, and he’s building us a brand new house just over that hilltop.”

The Lord spoke to the man through those words. He suddenly realized that whatever problems he might face here, there was a glorious future awaiting him. He said it was like God was saying, “Son, don’t you know I have a mansion prepared for you just beyond those clouds?”

Seated in the audience that night, listening to the testimony, was Ira Stanphill After the meeting, he went home to bed. But he awoke early the next morning with that testimony still on his mind. Inspired by it, he created the gospel song. One stanza says:

Though often tempted, tormented and tested,
And like the prophet my pillow a stone;
And though I find here no permanent dwelling,
I know He’ll give me a mansion my own.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where I’ll never grow old;
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk the streets that are purest gold.

Here is some down-home Country–laid on about as thick as you’ll find it anywhere–by a husband and wife team on their cable TV program. They strike me as totally sincere, and would be a lovely couple to get to know. Country is not particularly my cup of tea, but the young lady has a lovely voice, and this song seems to call for that style of music.


Responses

  1. […] This hymn has a lovely cheerful melody. Nobody would ever guess the tragedy faced by the author. Read more about Luther B. Bridgers over here. […]

    • Here’s the March 12, 1910 Library of Congress entry for copyright of Luther B. Bridgers’ “He Keeps Me Singing”:
      http://tinyurl.com/pe4pd5s

      And here is a scan of the entire volume of THE REVIVAL #6, published by Charlie D. Tillman in 1910:
      https://archive.org/details/revivalno600till

      “He Keeps Me Singing” is on page 21.

      And here is a March, 1911 newspaper article detailing the tragic fire that occurred a year after Bridgers’ song was published:
      http://tinyurl.com/kv3bsto

      • Excellent. Thanks for the convincing evidence. As you’ll see, I’ve amended the article, and given you credit for your helpful research. God bless.

  2. […] (2) Today in 1993 – Ira Stanphill Died Ira Forest Stanphill was born in 1914 to homesteaders on the plains of New Mexico. He went on to become an author, composer, singer, and preacher of the gospel. Stanphill wrote his first gospel song in 1930, and went on to give us dozens more. His music often has something of a western flavour, and his most popular song is likely Mansion Over the Hilltop. (For the full story of how this song came to be written, see the second item under Today in 1884.) […]

    • Hi, Robert,
      This song strikes me as a little bit shallow and materialistic, just as you said you feel about it in your blog. Nevertheless, I know this song brings great comfort to some people, and knowing the story behind it helps.
      Thanks for sharing this story and song.

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  4. […] Ira Forest Stanphill (b. Feb. 14, 1914; d. Dec. 30, 1993) Music: Ira Forest Stanphill Links: Wordwise Hymns The Cyber Hymnal (Ira […]

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns (Ira Stanphill born, died) The Cyber Hymnal (Ira […]


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