Posted by: rcottrill | June 24, 2010

Today in 1734 – James Allen Born

James Allen began in the Church of England, but later joined first the Inghamites (a group that combined Methodist and Moravian doctrine), and later still the Sandemanians (a Scottish sect believing in community property to be shared by the members). Allen’s hymn, which originally began, “While my Jesus I’m possessing…” was revised and improved about 20 years later by Walter Shirley, becoming Sweet the Moments, Rich in Blessing.

A line in the second verse below (“Loving much, and much forgiven”) alludes to an incident in the Gospel of Luke. A Pharisee named Simon invited the Lord Jesus to his home for a meal. But he was indignant when the Lord allowed a woman to anoint His feet with costly perfume. He thought to himself, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Lk. 7:39).

Knowing what was in his mind, Christ told a story about two debtors, one who owed a great deal of money, the other who owed little. Then came the question, “Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love [the forgiving creditor] more?” And Simon replied, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more” (vs. 40-43). Then came the Lord’s pointed application: “To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (vs. 47).

But of course there is an irony here. The Pharisee might have thought he had little need for God’s forgiveness and cleansing, but he seemed totally insensitive to the sinful pride in his heart. The more we are aware of our own weakness and imperfection, the more we’ll appreciate and revel in the grace and mercy of God.

Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross we spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend.

Here we find our hope of heaven,
While upon the Lamb we gaze;
Loving much, and much forgiven,
Let our hearts o’erflow with praise.

(2) Today in 1822 John Burton Sr. Died
Holy Bible Book Divine was published in 1803 as a children’s hymn. John Burton was a dedicated Christian layman who wrote many songs for use in Sunday Schools.  But this hymn has a message for all, young and old. In the short span of 4 stanzas, the song lists about 10 things the Bible can do for us. Among them, it tells us where we came from, and where we’re going. And God uses it to guide and guard us on the Christian way, and reprove us when we get off course.

In the words of the Bible itself, “All Scripture is given my inspiration of God [it’s God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). The Word of God is a treasure indeed. In the words of the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Ps. 119:72).

Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou holy Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.

Here are a couple of renditions of the song that may be of interest. In the first, a young man sings the song with a slightly contemporary style. Nicely done. He has a few comments at the end about the ministry opportunity he believes God is giving him. (Just one correction regarding what he says: the tune was composed by William Bradbury; the words are by John Burton Sr.) If you have never heard a bell choir, you may enjoy the lovely version of the tune in the second clip.


  1. […] For a couple of interesting renditions of this fine hymn, see the second item under Today in 1734. […]

  2. Angolan Cardinal do Nascimento dead at 85…

    My blog readers will be interested in your post so added a trackback to it on CatholicTide…

    • Interesting, thanks. As must be obvious to you, I’m not a Roman Catholic, or an ecumenicist, or even a liturgical Protestant. But I know we do have some beliefs–and even some hymns–in common. Hope your readers profit from another point of view.


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