Posted by: rcottrill | July 9, 2010

Today in 1838 – Philip Bliss Born

Philip Paul Bliss was one of the greatest hymn writers of the nineteenth century. He has written so many memorable songs it is impossible to mention more than a few. He was a fervently godly man. Even from his youngest years, Bliss seemed to have a spiritual outlook. He said later in life that he could never remember a time when he did not have a sorrow for sin, and a love for the Lord Jesus. But in 1852, at the age of 14, he publicly declared himself to be a follower of Christ.

Before his tragic death in a train accident at the age of 38, Philip Bliss wrote music for the songs of others, and added many for which he wrote the lyrics too. Here is a sampling:

Almost Persuaded
Dare to Be a Daniel
Hallelujah, ‘Tis Done
Hallelujah, What a Saviour! (Man of Sorrows)
Hold the Fort
Jesus Loves Even Me
Let the Lower Lights Be Burning
More Holiness Give Me
My Redeemer (I Will Sing of My Redeemer)
Once for All (Free from the Law)
The Light of the World Is Jesus
Whosoever Will
Wonderful Words of Life

Several of these songs will be commented on elsewhere, but consider for a moment Jesus Loves Even Me. In a way, it was created as a kind of “protest song.” Frederick Whitfield’s gospel song O How I Love Jesus had been published a few years before. And Bliss attended a meeting in which the song leader had them sing the chorus, “O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus,” over and over again. After this was done a number of times, the thought came to Philip Bliss, “Have I not been singing enough about my poor love for Jesus, and shall I not rather sing of His great love for me?”

It was this concern that led to the writing of Jesus Loves Even Me, a beautifully simple yet profound expression of an important Bible truth. That “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It has sometimes been classed as a children’s hymn, but this is unfortunate. It should be sung, and sung often, by all believers.

I am so glad that our Father in heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me;
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.

Oh, if there’s only one song I can sing,
When in His beauty I see the great King,
This shall my song in eternity be,
“Oh, what a wonder that Jesus loves me!”

In the video clip below, John Hong presents a masterful pipe organ improvisation on Philip Bliss’s tune.

(2) Today in 1838 – Robert Grant Died
Sir Robert Grant, a Christian layman, was a distinguished British civil servant. In 1826, he became a member of Parliament, then Privy Councilor in 1831, and Judge Advocate General in 1832. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1834, going that year to India to be Governor of Bombay.

Grant’s name is found in most hymn books today for his hymn O Worship the King. He based the text loosely on William Kethe’s version of Psalm 104 in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561.

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

Robert Grant wrote other hymns too, including the touching song When Gathering Clouds, in 1806.

When gathering clouds around I view,
And days are dark, and friends are few,
On Him I lean, who not in vain
Experienced every human pain;
He sees my wants, allays my fears,
And counts and treasures all my tears.

If wounded love my bosom swell,
Deceived by those I prized too well,
He shall His pitying aid bestow,
Who felt on earth severer woe,
At once betrayed, denied, or fled,
By those who shared His daily bread.

(3) Today in 1907 James McGranahan Died
McGranahan is a man to whom we owe a debt for his extensive contribution to Christian music. He supplied the melodies for dozens of texts written by others–Showers of Blessing, My Redeemer (by Philip Bliss), Christ Returneth, The Banner of the Cross, and many more.

Occasionally, he wrote both words and music, as he did for a hymn that asks a pointed question of the listener. Ira Sankey reports how the repeated questions of Shall You? Shall I? were heard by a man who attended a meeting in a drunken stupor. He remembered little of the occasion, but the questions kept bombarding his heart for days. Finally, he gave his life to Christ, and later entered the Christian ministry.

Some one will enter the pearly gates–
By and by, by and by,
Taste of the glories that there await,
Shall you? shall I? Shall you? shall I?
Someone will travel the streets of gold,
Beautiful visions will there behold,
Feast on the pleasures so long foretold:
Shall you? shall I? Shall you? shall I?

Someone will knock when the door is shut
By and by, by and by,
Hear a voice saying, “I know you not,”
Shall you? shall I? Shall you? shall I?
Someone will call and shall not be heard,
Vainly will strive when the door is barred,
Someone will fail of the saint’s reward:
Shall you? shall I? Shall you? shall I?


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