Posted by: rcottrill | June 19, 2010

Today in 1844 – John Wigner Born

John Murch Wigner worked with the India Home Office in London. His father, a Baptist minister, was one of the compilers of an English hymnal called Psalms and Hymns for School and Home. The son was a lay preacher. He was active in the Children’s Special Service Mission (C.S.S.M.) with which W. G. Ovens (author of Wounded for Me) was later involved. Wigner’s interest in children began at home. He and his wife had 12 of them!

John Wigner penned a fine hymn of invitation in 1871 entitled Come to the Saviour Now. In succeeding stanzas it appeals to sinners to trust in Christ, to backslidden believers to return to God, and to all who are burdened to cast their cares on the Lord. The song begins:

Come to the Saviour now,
He gently calleth thee;
In true repentance bow,
Before Him bend the knee;
He waiteth to bestow
Salvation, peace, and love,
True joy on earth below,
A home in heav’n above.

(2) Today in 1954 – William Merrill Died
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many churches in Christendom were emphasizing what they called the brotherhood of man [using that term generically to include women]. The movement was, as one publication put it, “concerned with man’s brotherly relation to man, and with the redemption through human effort of every sphere of man’s activity on earth.”

One who supported this concept was American pastor and hymn writer William Pierson Merrill. (For another of his hymns, see Today in 1867.) A magazine editor remarked to him one day that there was an urgent need for a hymn to express this philosophy. Shortly after reading an article entitled “The Church of Strong Men” in 1911, the lines for the hymn Rise Up, O Men of God came to him. It has since been included in many hymnals.

Most evangelicals would likely have no trouble with the first and last stanzas of the song. It is a ringing challenge to serve the Lord.

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

But notice carefully: the hymn addresses “men of God.” Various ones are described that way in the Bible. Moses is the first (Deut. 33:1), followed by a number of prophets, sometimes unnamed, as well as Elijah, Elisha, David, and Timothy. These are all godly leaders, men of faith. Men who walked in obedience to God’s Word. Servants of God. In fact, the Scriptures were specifically given “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17).

Never is it suggested that everyone on earth is a “man [or woman] of God.” We are only “brothers” with all in the sense that we were created by God, and He “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). But that is a physical relationship, not a spiritual kinship. Human beings, by nature, are “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), and “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). And there is no “redemption through human effort” for anyone (Eph. 2:8-9).

In the two stanzas omitted above, Merrill calls us to: “Bring in the day of brotherhood / And end the night of wrong.” And picturing the church as being weak, the author says: “Her strength unequal to her task; / Rise up and make her great!” At the very least, this is a very one-sided look at things. How man-centred it seems! Where is the need for our utter reliance on the wisdom and power of Almighty God?

In contrast to Merrill’s view we hear the Lord declaring, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). “Christ also loved the church and [He] gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church” (Eph. 5:25-27, italics mine, for emphasis).

If the church is to be made great, it will not be feeble man’s doing, but the Lord’s. And it is only in dependance on Him that born again, Spirit-filled individuals can be instruments in His hands to accomplish this (Jn. 15:5; I Cor. 2:1-5). Then it is Christ who will finally “end the night of wrong” at His glorious return.


  1. […] nonetheless. (For a fuller discussion of the doctrinal issues, see the second item posted on Today in 1844.) To be sure, the Lord’s work needs committed […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns (and see here) The Cyber […]


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