Posted by: rcottrill | June 18, 2010

Today in 1677 – Johann Franck Died

Johann Franck was born in Germany. After attending university, he was elected to the town council of his home city of Guben. In 1661, he was elected mayor. Respected as a lawyer and civil servant, he was also an ardent Christian, and he wrote 110 hymns.

Among the mostly commonly used today is the beautiful Jesus, Priceless Treasure, translated into English by Catherine Winkworth. It is patterned after a love song, and some Lutherans have considered it too subjective and emotional for congregational use. See what you think.

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.

In Thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Evil world, I leave thee;
Thou canst not deceive me,
Thine appeal is vain.
Sin that once did bind me,
Get thee far behind me,
Come not forth again.
Past thy hour, O pride and power;
Sinful life, thy bonds I sever,
Leave thee now forever.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whatever we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!

(2) Today in 1830 – Elizabeth Clephane Born
Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane was born in Melrose, Scotland. Although orphaned at an early age, and in poor health all of her brief life (she died when she was only 39), she loved the Lord and shared His love with those around her, often visiting the sick and dying. People in the community nicknamed her “Sunshine,” because of the joy she brought to others. So dedicated were she and her sister to helping the poor that they sold their horses and their carriage and used the money for that purpose.

The two songs for which she is known are The Ninety and Nine, and Beneath the Cross of Jesus. Both were published after Elizabeth Clephane’s death. (For Miss Clephane’s inspiration for The Ninety and Nine, see the second item under Today in 1790. For amazing incidents connected with Ira Sankey, the composer of the tune, see Today in 1899.) Beneath the Cross of Jesus appeared in The Family Treasury, a popular magazine in Scottish homes in that day. Under the heading “Breathings from the Border,” the editor wrote the following introduction:

These lines express the experiences, the hopes and the longings of a young Christian lately released. Written on the very edge of this life, with the better land fully in view of faith, they seem to us footprints printed on the sands of time, where those sands touch the ocean of eternity. These footprints of one whom the Good Shepherd led through the wilderness into rest may, with God’s blessing, contribute to comfort and direct succeeding pilgrims.

That they certainly have done. The hymn says, in part:

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

The word “fain” in the opening line means gladly. And let me add two other comments on this lovely hymn. First, you will find that some hymn books have retained these original lines that end one of the stanzas (italics mine):

And from my stricken heart, with tears, two wonders I confess–
The wonders of redeeming love, and my own worthlessness.

But many take issue with the idea that God would ever create something worthless! We’re of great worth to the Lord. Worthless? No! But unworthy, yes. Only God’s grace could save us, because we could offer nothing in ourselves to merit His love (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). This has led many editors to alter the line to: “The wonders of redeeming love, and my unworthiness.”

As is often the case with older hymns, stanzas of this one are omitted from most hymnals. The following example shows us a woman who was not only literate, but had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Elizabeth Clephane writes:

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Saviour’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

What a description of the cross this is! What worthy thoughts for our meditation–a “safe and happy shelter,” a “refuge tried and sweet.” And a “trysting place”! Not a term we see much today. It refers to an appointed meeting place, especially one arranged by those who love one another! And the meeting of love and justice? A whole treatise could be written on that! (Some have changed the word “trysting” to “holy,” which is certainly acceptable.)

Then, Miss Clephane takes us to the time when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau. Out in the wilderness, he slept on the bare ground with a stone for his pillow. During the night, God gave him a strange dream, described this way: “Behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Gen. 28:12).

The dream reassured Jacob that God was with him. However, it is given a particular New Testament application by the Lord Jesus. He says to Nathanael–who would later become one of Christ’s disciples–“Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:51). It is in Christ Himself and His work on the cross, that we have a bridge to heaven and eternal life.


  1. […] loving concern for him that prompted her to write The Ninety and Nine. (Miss Clephane also wrote Beneath the Cross of Jesus. To learn the remarkable story behind the writing of the tune for The Ninety and Nine, see Today in […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns (Elizabeth Clephane, and her brother George) The Cyber […]


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