Posted by: rcottrill | June 8, 2010

Today in 1915 – Margaret Clarkson Born

Grain Elevator

Grain elevators like this once dotted the Saskatchewan prairies

Margaret Clarkson was born in Melville, Saskatchewan, a small city on the western prairies of Canada. She was a school teacher, an acclaimed author (of 17 books), and a hymn writer. I met her around 1985, and found her to be a sharp, no-nonsense kind of person. (I wondered if she  could have been a bit of a tyrant when she taught school!)

Margaret died in 2008. It is a mark of her personality that she had prepared her own funeral service, years in advance–prepared it to last exactly one hour. (And it did!) All these things aside, she wrote a number of fine hymns. (Check the Cyber Hymnal for a list of some of these.)

During her early years, she taught school in a remote lumber camp, and then a mining camp, in Northern Ontario. She says, “I experienced loneliness of every kind–mental, cultural, but particularly spiritual. I never found real Christian fellowship. Churches were modern [liberal in doctrine] and born again Christians almost non-existent.”

But one evening, meditating on the Scriptures, she came across Jesus’ words in John 20:21, “As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you.” She relates, “God seemed to tell me that night that this was my mission field, and this was where He had sent me.” Encouraged by the thought, she wrote a hymn poem entitled So Send I You. Presenting a starkly realistic picture of the painful sacrifice some have undergone for the cause of Christ, it says in part:

So sent I you to labour unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing–
So send I you to toil for Me alone.

But that is not quite the end of the story. In later years, the author viewed her song with a critical eye. She came to the conclusion that, while such things were often true, they only give one side of the story. There are many positive blessings in the Lord’s work as well. So Margaret Clarkson wrote another similar hymn to balance the first. It says in part:

So send I you–by grace made strong to triumph
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin,
My name to bear and in that name to conquer–
So send I you, My victory to share.

So send I you–My strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, My perfect peace in pain,
To prove My pow’r, My grace, My promised presence–
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.

 (2) Were You There? (Data Missing)
When telling others about God’s salvation, the true believer is not speaking merely of an intellectual assent to some facts. He is recounting his own experiences of a personal relationship with the living Christ. By faith, he stood before the cross and the empty tomb, and applied the reality of them to his own heart and life.

There is a song which calls us to consider whether we have had this kind of personal spiritual experience. It is Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? a song originating with the African-American slaves of the early 1800’s (though the tune may actually be of prior British origin). The earliest known printed version of this anonymous song is found in a book called Old Plantation Hymns, published in 1899.

The slaves could identify in a powerful way with the sufferings of Christ. His abuse at the hands of both the Jews and the Romans seemed to echo their own mistreatment. The simple song takes us through the Easter story with succeeding stanzas:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …

Were you there when they pierced Him in the side? …

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? …

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? …

After each of these is the exclamation:

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble,
Tremble, tremble!
Were you there when…?

And finally, the song ends with a message of hope and joy:

Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Oh! Sometimes I feel like shouting glory,
Glory, glory!
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?

Tomorrow: Learn about a man restored to fellowship with the Lord by means of his own hymn!


Responses

  1. I found this article very interesting in the depth that you researched your material and the author that wrote these words. Her Faith in God came across very strongly. As a person that enjoys music I really found this quite interesting. I hope that I will get to see many more articles like this one.
    God Bless
    Lorraine Shepherd

    • Thanks Lorraine. I always feel that knowing a bit about the author of a hymn gives me a better understanding of its meaning. And yes, there will be new articles on the site every day, about something that happened that particular day in hymn history.

  2. We just came from a mission conference at Prairie Tabernacle in Three Hills, and this was our theme song. They gave this background too, which we found very interesting, having lived in several small northern towns in Ontario when Gary was flying. We sang both versions of the song. It sure makes the songs more meaningful when you know something about the author and background.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree. Years ago, I taught hymnology to Grades 7 and 8. Parents reported later (with some amazement) that now their children opened their hymn books in church, and actually sang! That’s part of what the Bible means by “singing with understanding.”

  3. […] of my favourites so far, the story of Margaret Clarkson, author of "So Send I You": Margaret Clarkson was born in Melville, Saskatchewan, a small […]

  4. Several years ago I came across additional lyrics for ‘So Send I You’ which were written from the view of parents entrusting their children to God’s care on the mission field. The words were poignant yet hopeful and powerful. I’ve long since lost them. Do you know of any such lyrics?

    • Wow! No. Interesting. I only know of the two versions Margaret Clarkson gave us. If you can track the other version down, I’d love to see some information on it.

  5. I found this article while researching for my college hymnology class project. I enjoyed this article and found some information about Margaret Clarkson I had not seen before. Thank you for this article.

    Riley Hendricks asked about the other set of lyrics to this song. The book 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck and published by Kregel Publications in 1982 has an article on this song along with the original five verse to this song and the five verses Margaret later composed in 1963. There are also several websites that have the original 5 verses along with the tune of the hymn and I found one website that has four of the five verses which were composed later. I just used an internet search engine to find these.

    • Thanks for sharing. Have a joyous Resurrection Sunday!

  6. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber Hymnal (Margaret […]

  7. Hi. I love this song and would like to teach my choir this one for a programme where we have been invited to sing a welcome song for 3 newly ordained bishops. Can someone please share the music sheet of this song so that I could teach the parts to the choir?
    Thanks in advance!

  8. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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