Posted by: rcottrill | June 15, 2010

Today in 1893 – John Ellerton Died

Arecognized authority on the hymns of the church, John Ellerton was an Anglican clergyman who either wrote or translated about 80 hymns. He gave us The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended (see the second item under Today in 1770), and also added this fourth and strongly Trinitarian stanza to Dorothy Gurney’s O Perfect Love (see below):

Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.

The Latin original of the resurrection hymn Welcome, Happy Morning was written by Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus. Precise dates for him are unknown. He lived about AD 530 to 609, and served as bishop of Poitiers, France, near the end of his life. The hymn of Fortunatus was translated into English by John Ellerton.

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:
“Hell today is vanquished, heav’n is won today!”
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

“Welcome, happy morning!”
Age to age shall say;
“Hell today is vanquished!
Heaven is won today!”

Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,
Thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,
Of th’eternal Father true and only Son,
Mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

Thou, of life the author, death didst undergo,
Tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show;
Come then, True and Faithful, now fulfil Thy Word;
’Tis Thine own third morning; rise, O buried Lord!

(2) Today in 1932 – Dorothy Gurney Died
The daughter of an English clergyman, Dorothy Gurney is known for one hymn only. She and some others were enjoying a time of hymn singing, and came to one called O Strength and Stay, written long ago by Ambrose of Milan (AD 340-397). Someone commented that the tune was a fine one, and they wished it had words that would particularly suit a wedding service. Dorothy’s sister was actually about to be married. The sister turned to Dorothy and said, What is the use of a sister who composes poetry if she cannot write new words to a favourite tune?”

Accepting the challenge, Mrs. Gurney left the room, returning within 15 minutes with the text for the hymn O Perfect Love. (It was later given its own tune, written by Joseph Barnby.)

Notice how the two words Light and Love are capitalized in the text. The author is using them as titles for the Lord Jesus Christ, expressing the thought that the full blessing of marriage requires His active presence in the couple’s lives. The song was for a time a common part of traditional Christian weddings. Not so much now. Perhaps the poetry is dated, and perhaps it has been overused, but the need for Christ-centred homes remains.

O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.


  1. […] (2) Today in 1826 – John Ellerton Born John Ellerton was a preacher, teacher and author, as well as being a fine hymn writer. He wrote or translated 86 hymns, and as an editor of hymn books and a consultant in the editorial process, he held a prominent place in church music for decades. Interestingly, he refused to copyright his songs, saying that if they were “counted worthy to contribute to Christ’s praise in the congregation, one ought to feel very thankful and humble.” (For more about Ellerton and his hymns, see Today in 1893.) […]


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