Posted by: rcottrill | April 30, 2010

Today in 1854 – James Montgomery Died

James Montgomery was born in Scotland. He was the son of Moravian missionaries to the West Indies, where both husband and wife died. Young Montgomery seemed to drift in his early years. He attended a Moravian school, but the brethren were dissatisfied with his progress. They apprenticed him to a baker, but he ran away. Montgomery then secured a position in a ship’s chandler’s shop (a dealer in candles, soap, oils and paints). He left that job behind too. He tried to find a publisher in London for some poems he had written, but failed. Then he went to Sheffield and began work at The Sheffield Register (a newspaper).  Eventually, he became editor of the paper and worked there for 31 years.

James Montgomery contributed many fine hymns to our traditional hymnody. Angels from the Realms of Glory is considered his best, but he also wrote Stand Up and Bless the Lord, Go to Dark Gethsemane, and We Bid Thee Welcome. For more about his work, see Today in 1771 and Today in 1816,

Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

We Bid Thee Welcome is an unusual hymn. It is a challenge and petition from a congregation, addressed to their pastor. (It works very well at an induction service for a new pastor.)

We bid thee welcome in the name
Of Jesus, our exalted Head.
Come as a servant, so He came,
And we receive thee in His stead.

Come as a shepherd—guard and keep
This fold from hell and world and sin;
Nourish the lambs and feed the sheep;
The wounded heal, the lost bring in.

Come as a teacher—sent from God,
Charged His whole counsel to declare.
Lift o’er our ranks the prophet’s rod
While we uphold thy hands with prayer.

(2) Today in 1868 – Safe in the Arms of Jesus written
The author of the words of this song is Frances van Alstyne. We know her better as Fanny Crosby, but ten years before she had married a musician named Alexander van Alstyne. Amazingly, both of them were blind. It is estimated that Fanny Crosby wrote close to 9,000 hymns. The exact total may never be known, because she used a bewildering assortment of pen names. Dozens of them. For instance, if you see hymns by Carrie Bell, or Louise W. Tilden, or Leah Carleton, or Edna Forest, you are looking at the work of Fanny Crosby! For the story of her life and conversion, see Today in 1850.

On April 30th, 1868, composer William Doane (no relation to George Washington Doane) paid Fanny a call. With hardly a “How’d you do?” Doane said, “I have exactly forty minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati. Here’s a melody. Can you write words for it?” And seating himself at the little pump organ he played it. At once she exclaimed, “Why that tune says ‘Safe in the Arms of Jesus.’ I will see what I can do.” Fanny started to work, continuing for a few minutes. “At the end of that time,” she says, “I recited the words. Mr. Doane copied them. And had time to catch his train!”

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.

Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is over;
Wait till I see the morning break on the golden shore.

(3) Today in 1946 – John Thomas Died
John Edmond Thomas was raised on farms in Texas and Arkansas. When his father died in 1875, being the eldest son, he took over the role of supporting the family. He also began music training and eventually entered a career in music in 1890. He helped to found the Trio Music Company, and went on to establish the Quartet Music Company. Thomas was a teacher, composer, music compiler and publisher for over 40 years. One gospel song for which he wrote both words and music is We Shall Rise. It became a popular male quartet piece.

In the resurrection morning,
When the trump of God shall sound,
We shall rise, Hallelujah! we shall rise!
Then the saints will come rejoicing
And no tears will e’er be found,
We shall rise, Hallelujah! we shall rise.

We shall rise, Hallelujah!
We shall rise! Amen!
In the resurrection morning,
When death’s prison bars are broken,
We shall rise, Hallelujah! We shall rise.

In the resurrection morning,
We shall meet Him in the air,
We shall rise, Hallelujah! we shall rise!
And be carried up to glory,
To our home so bright and fair,
We shall rise, Hallelujah! we shall rise!

Here is a massed men’s choir of a hundred or so voices singing this gospel song. The presentation is a bit ragged in spots, but I’m assuming they had little time to rehearse. (On a personal note, I attended a conference in this church, some years ago.)


  1. […] James Montgomery became one of the great hymnists of the evangelical church. (For a bit more, see Today in 1854.) In his Christian Psalmist, published in 1825, he included a beautiful hymn for the Lord’s […]

  2. […] We know that the Lord Jesus prayed much while on earth. The Gospels show us that. But does He pray for us now? Even James Montgomery seems to have been uncertain about that. A year later, he rewrote the opening line as: “In the hour of trial, / Jesus, stand by me.” The Holy Spirit prays for us (Rom. 8:26-27). But Christ’s advocacy with the Father on our behalf seems more related to the eternal effectiveness of His payment for our sins (I Jn. 2:1-2). And it is the Spirit of God who strengthens us in trials (Eph. 3:16). Even so, there is much to recommend at least the sentiment of this hymn. (For a little more about James Montgomery and his hymns, see Today in 1854.) […]

  3. […] The circumstances of the writing of the last last hymn listed above are unusual. One day in April of 1868 William Doane paid Fanny a call. With hardly a “How’d you do?” Doane said, “I have exactly forty minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati. Here’s a melody. Can you write words for it?” The hymn became Safe in the Arms of Jesus. For the full story of what happened, see the second item under Today in 1854. […]

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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