Posted by: rcottrill | May 22, 2010

Today in 1724 – Henriette Von Hayn Born

Born in Germany, Henriette Luise Von Hayn was the daughter of Georg Heinrich von Hayn, master of the hounds to the Duke of Nassau. In 1746, she was formally received into the Moravian community at Herrnhaag. After the dissolution of that community, she went to Grosshennersdorf, and after that, in 1751, to Herrnhut. There she taught at the Girls’ School. After 1766 she cared for the invalid sisters of the community. Von Hayn is considered a gifted hymn writer, though little of her work remains in use today.

The title of I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb perhaps makes it sound as though it is a children’s song. But the text, based on the 23rd Psalm, seems intended as the author’s own tender expression of humility and personal need.

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my Staff and Stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

(2) Today in 1868 – William Newell Born
Dr. William Newell was an exceptionally fine Bible teacher and author in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. I have made use of his commentaries on Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation many times. (In the 1950’s I had the privilege of hearing his son Philip speak–also a Bible teacher and author.)

One day in 1895, on his way to teach a class at Moody Bible Institute, Newell was meditating on the sufferings of Christ. On a sudden inspiration, he stepped into an empty classroom, and jotted down some simple lines of poetry on that theme. Then, continuing on his way down the corridor, he came upon Daniel Towner, the Institute’s Director of Music. He passed the new poem to the other man, suggesting maybe he could provide a tune for it. By the conclusion of Dr. Newell’s lecture, the work had been done, and the two men sang the hymn, At Calvary, for the first time. (For more on Daniel Towner, see the second item under Today in 1830.)

Newell’s hymn poem proclaims the gospel in simplicity. It reminds us that in his sin-darkened state the sinner neither knows or cares about the meaning of the cross (I Cor. 2:14). Illumination, and conviction of sin, and the ability to reach out to Christ come from the Spirit of God, working through the Word of God (I Cor. 2:9-10; II Tim. 3:14-15). It  is only then we begin to realize something of “the mighty gulf,” the monstrous chasm, that separates the sinner from a holy God.

In ourselves, we are incapable of bridging that great divide. But God has done it for us, in grace. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly….[And] God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6, 8).

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!

There is a problem with Daniel Towner’s tune for this hymn. It is very singable. But it doesn’t entirely suit the subject, certainly not of the first two stanzas. That hippety-hop of the repeated dotted eighth and sixteenth notes is not appropriate, in my view, for solemn confessions such as, “Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified,” and the second stanza about trembling before God’s broken law.

And because of the bouncy rhythm, the hymn is usually sung too quickly. (I even saw a couple of video clips on YouTube on which the opening lines were sung with beaming smiles!) The mood should be subdued and reverent–though not solemn and depressed, since the singer has found the answer to his great need. But thoughtful and earnest.


  1. Robert,

    Thanks again for the comment on my blog. I am glad you jogged my memory about your website so I can begin following it. You have much here that I could learn and incorporate in the homeschooling of my son. Thanks for the correction on my post regarding “refrain” and “chorus”. I am not a music major or expert in any way and just jotted that note a few months ago when my heart was full after singing hymns with my son. I do sing the hymns with my son because my church (as many today) doesn’t give full attention to the old hymns and I don’t want him growing up not hearing them. We have what they call “blended” music and we do occasionally sing the old hymns, but sadly, not as often as I wish. Certainly, not enough for them to become part of my son’s fabric for life as they are mine so I am teaching them at home. He is almost 3 years old and it thrills my soul to hear him singing, “I come to the garden alone where the dew is still on the roses” as we go down the road. He knows it almost completely by heart. Anyway, thanks again for reading and following my blog and thanks for this great website. Can’t wait to dig around a bit more and learn a few things.

    • The comments of this blogger about the state of things in her church are all too familiar. For a discussion of the roots of the problem, see my article, Ignorance–Blissful or Otherwise

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

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