Posted by: rcottrill | July 23, 2010

Today in 1846 – William Featherstone Born

William Ralph (sometimes spelled Rolf) Featherstone lived with his family in Montreal. They attended the Wesleyan Methodist church there (now called St. James United Church). And there is some question about the years of his birth and death. Some list them as 1842-1870, others 1846-1873. It will be seen that in either case he died while still a young man in his late twenties.

Featherstone wrote the hymn My Jesus, I Love Thee when he was 16 years old, likely at the time of his conversion. He sent a copy to his aunt in California, and it was she who suggested he have it published. Reportedly, his descendants still treasure the original manuscript of the hymn.

A Methodist hymnal published early in the twentieth century has in interesting difference in the wording of the first stanza from what we’re familiar with today. It reads:

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine!
For Thee all the pleasures of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou.
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now!

“Pleasures,” rather than today’s word “follies” likely follows the author’s original. It fits the statement in Hebrews, where we read that Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God “than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). It can be argued that young Featherstone knew what he was doing, and the original, with its resignation of sinful pleasures, makes good sense.

(2) Today in 1847 – Lizzie DeArmond Born
Lizzie Douglas Foulks DeArmond was a school teacher who lived in Pennsylvania. She served the Lord in the children’s department of her Sunday School. DeArmond had enjoyed writing since her earliest years, but it was not until she found herself a widow in 1923, with 8 children to support, that she focused on this as a means both of ministry and livelihood. She produced children’s hymns, recitations, exercises, dialogues and so on, along with articles for newspapers and magazines, the text for cantatas, nature stories and more.

Mrs. DeArmond wrote of her work, “If anything I have written has helped to lift one soul above the cares and worries of everyday life, and brought it nearer to the great loving heart of Jesus, the joy is mine, but the glory belongs to God.” It was out of her grief over the death of her daughter that Lizzie DeArmond wrote the touching gospel song, Good Night and Good Morning.

When comes to the weary a blessèd release,
When upward we pass to His kingdom of peace,
When free from the woes that on earth we must bear,
We’ll say “good night” here, but “good morning” up there.

Good morning up there where Christ is the Light,
Good morning up there where cometh no night;
When we step from this earth to God’s heaven so fair,
We’ll say “good night” here but “good morning” up there.

(3) Today in 1856 – Frederick Graves Born
Frederick Arthur Graves was troubled from childhood with epileptic seizures–though they appear to have stopped for a time in his adult years. In his sixties, he became an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. Graves wrote a number of gospel songs, including Honey in the Rock in 1895.

I can recall a student in the Bible college where I taught discovering this song in a hymn book and wondering aloud (with something of a superior smirk) where such an odd idea came from. He was surprised to learn it was taken from the Scriptures. In the rugged Holy Land, bees build nests wherever they can, often hiving in a crevice of some rocky cliff. And when God gave His people “honey from the rock” (Deut. 32:13; Ps. 81:16) it was a way of showing that they could trust Him to provide for them, even in the most unlikely places and circumstances.

Graves takes the rock as a symbol of Christ, and speaks of the richness of spiritual provision found in Him.

O my brother, do you know the Saviour,
Who is wondrous kind and true?
He’s the “Rock of your salvation!”
There’s honey in the Rock for you.

Oh, there’s honey in the Rock, my brother,
There’s honey in the Rock for you;
Leave your sins for the blood to cover,
There’s honey in the Rock for you.


  1. Robert,
    How kind it was for you to contact me about the author of the hymn. I have always loved that hymn, as my Mother did, because the words are so simple…easy to understand…for adult and child. It is so interesting to know he was only 16 years old when he wrote that.

    It was especially hard for my friend to sing that day also, because she lost her Father on the same day Mother died…4 years ago…in much the same circumstances. She has not sung in public since then. She has said that she felt the arms of God around her as she sang.

    I read with interest about the ‘singing with understanding’. I have just recently retired from teaching music in a Christian school. One of the most important things to me has always been that the children understand what the words mean. We miss such an opportunity when we allow others to sing things that could be easily explained. They will never forget it and will remember it whenever they sing in the future.

    Again, thank you for this information. I would love to provide a link to your site through my blog, if this is OK with you. My sister is our church pianist and the lady that sang, Pam, is our church organist. ( We are conservative Southern Baptists. ) I am sure they will both be very interested in your writings.

    Thank you again for your kindness,

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful and encouraging note. As a pastor, director of music, and Bible college instructor, I have spent most of my adult life trying to help people sing sacred songs “with understanding.” I’ve often heard the complaint that “we don’t sing the old hymns because people don’t understand them.” My response is, “Don’t capitulate, educate!” Yes, you can definitely link to my blog site–with my thanks. Keep in touch, and God bless.

  2. […] Rodeheaver wrote the music for a number of gospel songs. Among them, Good Night and Good Morning, and Then Jesus Came. In later years he founded the Rodeheaver-Ackly Company (eventually […]

  3. Could you tell me how William R. Featherston died? I know he died in his 20’s, but how? An accident? Was he sick? Thank you. (I have been much taken up with his story. Carol

    • Wish I could help, but information on young Featherstone is hard to come by. I’m especially interested in his hymn because he was a Canadian, but all the sources I’ve checked offer no data on the manner of his death.

      For a time this hymn was designated as anonymous, but I think Ralph Featherstone’s authorship is pretty well established. Apparently his descendants still treasure the original manuscript, written in a boyish hand.

      John and Mary (Stephenson) Featherstone lived in Montreal, and attended what is now called St. James United Church. I will try to contact them and see if they know anything more.

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  5. […] 23, 1847; d. Oct. 26, 1836) Music: Homer Alvan Rodeheaver (b. Oct. 4, 1880; Dec. 18, 1955) Links: Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  6. My love for “My Jesus I Love Thee” came when I was Director of Music in an African Methodist Episcopal Church. I arranged it into an anthem and had our Mass Choir sing it. I can still hear the tenors singing “In mansions of glory’ I just happen to read the devotion for the day and read about this song. I just Got home from church and Satan was waiting for me. God knew that I needed this song. Bless you!!!

  7. Reblogged this on James1948's Blog.


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