Posted by: rcottrill | February 17, 2010

Today in 1647 – Johann Heerman Died

Johann Heerman was born in Silesia, the fourth son of a Protestant couple. None of the Heerman’s other sons had survived childhood, and when Johann took seriously ill, his mother vowed that if God would spare him she would pay to have him educated. Heerman began writing poetry at the age of 17, and became a Lutheran pastor at the age of 26.

During the Thirty Years’ War, Pastor Heerman’s home was plundered several times and he lost all his possessions. He was troubled with ill health, and finally a chronic nose and throat infection made it necessary for him to give up preaching in 1634. He retired a year later.

Johann Heerman wrote some fine devotional poetry, publishing it, along with the collected poems of others in Devoti Musica Cordis (Music for a Devout Heart). Some 16 of his poems have been translated and have become English hymns. One of these is the startling confession, Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended?

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

(2) Today in 1840 – Jonathan Atchinson Born
Jonathan Burtch Atchinson, a veteran of the American Civil War, was a Methodist clergyman, serving churches in New York and Michigan. He was a strong supporter of Sunday School ministry, and the author of many gospel songs.

His hymn of invitation, Let Him In, was used with great blessing in the Moody-Sankey evangelistic meetings. I have a recording of famed operatic baritone John Charles Thomas singing this hymn. However, musically, its repeated leap from an A flat to a high F may be too much for some congregations!

There’s a Stranger at the door,
Let the Saviour in, O let the Saviour in;
He has been there oft before,
Let the Saviour in, O let the Saviour in.
Let Him in, ere He is gone;
Let Him in, the Holy One,
Jesus Christ the Father’s Son,
Let the Saviour in, O let the Saviour in.

Another of Mr. Atchinson’s contributions is In the Shadow of His Wings. I’ve heard it used effectively as a men’s quartet number.

In the shadow of His wings
There is rest, sweet rest;
There is rest from care and labour,
There is rest for friend and neighbour;
In the shadow of His wings
There is rest, sweet rest,
In the shadow of His wings
There is rest (sweet rest).

There is rest, there is peace,
There is joy, in the shadow of His wings:
There is rest, there is peace,
There is joy, in the shadow of His wings.

(3) Today in 1903 – Joseph Parry Died
Joseph Parry was born of poor parents in the iron district of southwest Wales. At the age of 10 he left school to begin work in the iron furnaces. But with the singing culture of Wales, and the fact that his mother was a fine singer, it was not long before Joseph’s unusual gifts in the area of music were revealed and put to use.

After his thirteenth birthday, the family moved to Pennsylvania, but Joseph Parry spent most of his adult life in Wales, as a university professor and a composer. He wrote light operas, 11 cantatas, 3 oratorios, choral anthems, and piano pieces, as well as over 400 hymn tunes. From 1873 to 1879, Joseph Parry was Professor of Music at the Welsh University College at Aberystwyth–a school still known for its academic excellence. Aberystwyth is a resort town on the west coast of Wales. Joseph Parry named his most widely used and admired hymn tune after the town.

The tune Aberystwyth is used in many hymn books with Charles Wesley’s hymn, Jesus, Lover of My Soul. It is an inspired pairing. Wesley’s hymn is considered by some one of the greatest hymns in the English language. It has been a spiritual help and encouragement to many over the years. Charles Spurgeon recounted the following incident relating to it:

An ungodly stranger, stepping into one of our services at Exeter Hall, was brought to the cross by the words of Wesley’s verse, Jesus, Lover of My Soul. “Does Jesus love me?” he said; “then why should I live in enmity to Him?”

Parry’s majestic tune is worthy of this great hymn. If you are not used to singing in a minor key, it may take a bit of getting used to, but give it a try. (And please don’t sing the hymn too fast.)

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.


  1. […] is a simple tune for this hymn. More dramatic and powerful by far is Aberystwyth, by Welsh composer Joseph Parry (1841-1903). Aberystwyth is a city in the north of Wales, where Mr. Parry was a professor of music. […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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