Posted by: rcottrill | April 7, 2010

Today in 1786 – William Shirley Died

William Walter Shirley was a friend of George Whitefield and the Wesleys, often preaching in their chapels. He was also a cousin and a friend of the Countess of Huntingdon, and assisted her in the revision of a collection of hymns used in her chapels.

We need to take a moment to add a note about this remarkable woman. Selena Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, was a deeply spiritual believer and active in the early Methodist movement. She was, however, a Calvinist, and did not agree with the Arminian doctrines of the Wesleys. When a split came about between the John and Charles and George Whitefield, she identified herself with the latter. Through the years, the Countess used her wealth to build or acquire 60 chapels, and support chaplains for them. She also established a seminary in South Wales for training the chaplains.

It was the Countess’s Select Collection of Hymns that Shirley edited, contributing the lovely little hymn Sweet the Moments Rich in Blessing, editing and adding to previous work by James Allen. (For a bit more on James Allen, see Today in 1734. And for an touching story of William Shirley’s family difficulities, check out the Cyber Hymnal.)

Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross we spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend.

Here I stay, forever viewing
Mercy streaming in His blood;
Precious drops, my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God.

Here we find our hope of heaven,
While upon the Lamb we gaze;
Loving much, and much forgiven,
Let our hearts o’erflow with praise.

(2) Today in 1870 – Jay Stocking Born
Jay Thomas Stocking was an American Congregational clergyman. From 1903 to 1936 he pastored at least seven churches, for whatever reason rarely staying at each for more than a couple of years. Stocking also served as a trustee of Oberlin College, and was involved with the Congregational Conference of Missouri, and the Congregational Annuity Fund. From 1934 -1935 he was moderator of the Congregational Christian Churches.

Pastor Stocking went on a fishing trip in 1912, and witnessed some carpenters rebuilding a cabin near the fishing spot he had chosen. It got him thinking of the Lord Jesus, as a boy, growing up in the home of Joseph the carpenter, and perhaps learning the trade (cf. Matt. 13:55). Out of his meditation he created the hymn Master Workman of the Race.

O Master Workman of the race, Thou Man of Galilee,
Who with the eyes of early youth eternal things did see,
We thank Thee for Thy boyhood faith that shone Thy whole life through;
“Did ye not know it is My work, My Father’s work to do?”

O Thou Who dost the vision send and givest each his task,
And with the task sufficient strength, show us Thy will, we ask;
Give us a conscience bold and good, give us a purpose true,
That it may be our highest joy our Father’s work to do.


  1. One of the tunes for Sweet the Moment drives me “Batty!” 😉

    This text was in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) with this tune. Neither text nor tune made it into Lutheran Worship (1981) or Lutheran Book of Worship (2006).

    The best hymns in The Lutheran Hymnal were in the Lent and Good Friday sections. Sweet the Moment ranks among my favorites from that hymnal.

    • Ah, a pun! 🙂 Actually, I was quite surprised at the number of tunes that have been used for this hymn. Just a quick check of a few books yielded: Batty (or Elerker); Brocklesbury; Evening Prayer; Love Divine (by Stainer); Merton; Sicilian Mariners (the one I’ve been used to using); Tamar; and Vermont . Likely, if I checked further, there’d be a few more. Thanks for sharing, as always.


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