Posted by: rcottrill | March 20, 2010

Today in 1861 – Charles Tillman Born

Among other things, Charles Davis Tillman was an evangelist, a gospel composer and soloist, and a music publisher. He was the first to publish the song Old Time Religion, after he heard African Americans singing it at a camp meeting in South Carolina. The refrain for the song has gone through some changes since the earliest version, which was:

Oh! This old-time religion,
This old-time religion,
This old-time religion,
It’s good enough for me.

This became in Tillman’s hands, “‘Tis the old-time religion,” and later still the refrain became the rather demanding (and rude?), “Gimme that ol’ time religion.” In the song, this refrain in each case is followed by simple stanzas such as:

It was good for our mothers…

Makes me love everybody…

It will take us all to heaven…

Though it says little, the repetitious song is important because it marks an early blending of traditional spirituals with gospel music that eventually became the genre Southern Gospel.

The following version of the song requires a bit of explanation. It comes from a scene in the award-winning motion picture, Sergeant York, the true story of the amazing exploits of World War I hero, Alvin York. (All the more incredible given that Mr. York was a pacifist and didn’t want to fight!) This remarkable man (played in the film by Gary Cooper) was a drunkard and a hell-raiser in the hills of Tennessee, until the Lord got hold of his life. I believe he was genuinely converted, and later in life he did a lot of good with the notoriety he’d gained. The film is well worth seeing.

Charles Tillman also wrote the music for Life’s Railway to Heaven. (For more about his life, and this song, see Today in 1943.) Another hymn for which he wrote the melody, Ready, is still found in a number of books. (Some credit the text to Mr. Tillman himself, others to A. C. Palmer, but it seems the author is uncertain. The letters S.E.L. or Sel. found in some books don’t signify a person’s name, but stand for “Selected”–another way of indicating Anonymous, or Author Unknown.)

Ready to suffer grief or pain,
Ready to stand the test,
Ready to stay at home and send
Others if He sees best.

Ready to go, ready to stay,
Ready my place to fill,
Ready for service, lowly or great,
Ready to do His will.

Ready to speak, ready to warn,
Ready o’er souls to yearn,
Ready in life, ready in death,
Ready for His return.

(2) Today in 1870 – May Moody Born
MGraphic Moment by Moment organay Whittle Moody was the daughter of evangelist and gospel song writer Daniel Whittle, and the wife of evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s son William. She attended the Royal Academy of Music, in London, and later assisted both her father and D. L. Moody in their evangelistic work. She also worked as a gospel song book editor, with Charles Alexander.

May wrote the tune for her father’s song, Moment by Moment. The music was composed on the little organ pictured here. I photographed it myself on a visit to Moody Bible Institute some years ago. (That’s Mrs. Moody’s picture on the wall above the organ.)

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.


  1. […] music company and published 20 gospel song collections. He was the first to publish the spiritual Gimme That Old Time Religion, after hearing a black congregation singing it at a camp meeting in South […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns (Daniel Whittle and May Moody) The Cyber […]


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