Posted by: rcottrill | June 10, 2010

Today in 1579 – William Whittingham Died

Little is known about William Whittingham, but his work lives on long after him. In the mid-1600’s, committees of men associated with the Church of Scotland worked to render the Psalms in a poetical English translation. They hoped to create songs that were both accurate and singable. It took them several years of painstaking labour drawing on the work of others, eventually producing The Scottish Psalter.

Though this is a great and historic contribution to English hymnody, only one selection from it is commonly sung today outside of Scotland. That is the well-known 23rd Psalm. And the version we have is a composite of seven other renderings of the psalm, including work by William Whittingham.  Whittingham’s quaint opening stanza began:

The Lord is only my support,
And He that doth me feed;
How can I then lack anything,
Whereof I stand in need?

The final composite verson of the hymn follows the text of Scripture pretty closely. It begins:

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.

(2) Today in 1921 – Edwin Excell Died
Edwin Othello Excell made a dramatic career change. For the first 12 years of his adult life he worked as a plasterer and bricklayer. But the Lord had other plans for him. It was during those years that he put his faith in Christ, eventually turning his attention to a music ministry. After receiving extensive training, he began to publish dozens of popular gospel song books. He was also a skilled song leader, assisting several evangelists in that way. And Excell composed the music for about 2,000 songs, occasionally writing the words himself as well.

One song for which he provided both words and music is Since I Have Been Redeemed. Presenting some of the blessings enjoyed by the child of God, it begins with what the Bible calls our “new song”:

I have a song I love to sing,
Since I have been redeemed,
Of my Redeemer, Saviour King,
Since I have been redeemed.

In another stanza the hymn testifies: “I have a Christ who satisfies.” And in still another, “I have a home prepared for me.” Most hymn books include only four stanzas, but there is one more. It talks about the basis for our standing before God. The Bible says that “He [God the Father] made Him who knew no sin [the Lord Jesus] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). And “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

With these things in mind, Edwin Excell’s hymn ends:

I have a joy I can’t express,
Since I have been redeemed,
All through His blood and righteousness,
Since I have been redeemed.

In 1900, Edwin Excell provided the tune for the Sunday School song, I’ll Be a Sunbeam (also known as Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam). He dedicated the result to his grandson, Edwin Junior. The words came from rural Missouri Sunday School teacher Nellie Talbot, who wrote them for the children she taught.

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him,
At home, at school, at play.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.

Jesus wants me to be loving,
And kind to all I see;
Showing how pleasant and happy
His little one can be.

I will ask Jesus to help me
To keep my heart from sin,
Ever reflecting His goodness,
And always shine for Him.


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