Posted by: rcottrill | June 3, 2010

Today in 1851 – Theodore Baker Born

A skilled musical scholar, Mr. Baker wrote his doctoral dissertation on the music of the Seneca Indians of North America. He also served as an editor for music publisher G. Schirmer Incorporated. Baker has given us English translations of two carols: How Great Our Joy! and, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. He also translated the 1597 Dutch hymn of thanksgiving, We Gather Together. This was originally written to celebrate that country’s deliverance from Spain, but it’s often used today in Thanksgiving Sunday services.

The fitness of gratitude to God for all His blessings is a frequent theme of the Psalms (e.g. Ps. 30:4; 35:18; 50:14; 90:1-2). In contrast, thanklessness is described as one of the base sins of the unsaved (Rom. 1:21). Believers are exhorted, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:18). And, “therefore by Him [Christ] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

Whether it is praising God for deliverance through a military victory, or for His abundant mercies day by day, bringing glory to God is always appropriate. Baker’s hymn begins:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His name; He forgets not His own.

(2) Today in 1879 – Frances Havergal Died
Though she lived only into her early 40’s, English author Frances Ridley Havergal is considered one of our greatest hymn writers. The poetic beauty, warmth, and devotional power of her writing is outstanding. (For a bit more about her and her hymns, see Today in 1836–the year of her birth.)

Though they never met, Miss Havergal was an admirer of Fanny Crosby, and wrote a touching poem to her. It says in part:

Dear blind sister over the sea,
An English heart goes forth to thee.
We are linked by a cable of faith and song,
Flashing bright sympathy swift along;
One in the East and one in the West,
Singing for Him whom our souls love best,
Singing for Jesus, telling His love,
All the way to our home above.”

Frances Havergal wrote many hymns, and quite a few are still in use. Take My Life, and Let It Be; Like a River Glorious; I Gave My Life for Thee; and Who Is on the Lord’s Side? are several examples of her work. For Golden Harps Are Sounding, she wrote both words and music.

Frances Havergal was one of those authors who could write quickly, on a sudden inspiration. One day she walked to a boys’ school with a friend, waiting outside while he attended to some business. Weary from the walk, she leaned against the playground wall to rest. But returning to her ten minutes later, her friend found her busily penciling a hymn poem on an old envelope. It is a fine hymn about the ascension of Christ and His present ministry in heaven.

What is the Lord Jesus doing now? And how many sermons have you heard on this important subject? The Lord Himself said to His followers, “I go to prepare a place for you…[and] I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3). And we are told, “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I Jn. 2:1)–One who “is also able to save to the uttermost [completely and forever] those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Here, in part, is Havergal’s hymn on the subject:

Golden harps are sounding, angels voices sing,
Pearly gates are opened, opened for the King;
Jesus, King of glory, Jesus, King of love,
Is gone up in triumph, to His throne above.

Pleading for His children in that blessèd place,
Calling them to glory, sending them His grace;
His bright home preparing, faithful ones, for you;
Jesus ever liveth, ever loveth, too.


  1. Bob, I think you have done a great job of presenting this info on hymns and hymn writers. When we lived at Caronport in 1997-2000, we were in a care group with a student who was doing a thesis on Francis Havergal and Fanny Crosby.

    • Thanks for the good word. And yes, Fanny Crosby certainly gives lots of material for study. She, and Isaac Watts, and Charles Wesley are significant pillars of hymn history.

  2. With your permission, bob I may borrow some of your hymn stories for Nursing home ministry

    • Absolutely. The information is there to be used. As a senior I used to visit would say when I was leaving, “May the Lord bless you, and make you a blessing.”

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns: Though they never met, Miss Havergal was an admirer of Fanny Crosby, and wrote a touching poem to her. It says in part: Dear blind sister over the sea, An English heart goes forth to thee. Here Barbara at Stray Thoughts reviews the book In Trouble and In Joy by Sharon James which tells the stories of four Christian women, including Frances Ridley Havergal. […]

    • Looks like you have an interesting blog! Lots of book reviews, and your comments on many hymns. I write a weekly newspaper column on hymns (have done over 600 of them), and am always interested in people wanting to promote our traditional hymnody. I don’t see a link to the Cyber Hymnal on your site. If you don’t have it, you can find the link in my sidebar. Dick Adams, the editor, has information on over 7,600 hymns there.

  4. […] more about this significant hymn writer, see: Today in 1836;  the second item under Today in 1851; and a list of her hymns at Today in […]

  5. […] hymn writers of the nineteenth century. (For a bit more about her, see the second item under Today in 1851.) Here are a couple more songs from her […]

  6. […] as it tends to be. (For more about this author and her hymns, see the second item under Today in 1815.) Before we leave Miss Havergal, let me add two more songs of hers that have merit: O Saviour, […]

  7. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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