Posted by: rcottrill | August 10, 2010

Today in 1810 – Mary James Born

Mary Dagworthy James became a Sunday School teacher at the age of 13, and went on to be a leading figure in the Wesleyan holiness movement in the United States. She wrote about 50 hymns, and a couple of them are still in use.

Most hymnals include Mary James’s hymn, All for Jesus, a fine song of dedication. A hymn with the same metre, but different words, was used to conclude Sir John Stainer’s oratorio The Crucifixion. The tune also fits Mary James’s song. And in my view, Stainer’s tune (now called Wycliff) is superior to the one found in most hymn books with James’s song. Give Wycliff a try, if you can. (You can hear it played on the Cyber Hymnal.)

Less familiar but worth a look is Mary James’s Sweetly Resting. Below is a beautiful rendering of the song by the Charity Homeschool Chorus, singing unaccompanied. With the music are visuals noting various martyrs for the faith, down through the centuries. It’s an interesting combination. As the Bible says, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). And as Paul testified, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

In the rifted Rock I’m resting;
Safely sheltered, I abide.
There no foes nor storms molest me,
While within the cleft I hide.

Now I’m resting, sweetly resting,
In the cleft once made for me.
Jesus, blessèd Rock of Ages,
I will hide myself in Thee.

(2) Today in 1897 – William How Died
William Walsham How was an Anglican clergyman in Britain. A humble and unassuming man, he was admired for his ministry in the slums of East London, where he was known as “the Poor Man’s Bishop.” He also wrote over 50 hymns, several of which remain in common use. Below are a few of the hymns he gave us. (For a bit more on Bishop How, see the second item under Today in 1769.)

For All the Saints
O Jesus, Thou Art Standing
O Word of God Incarnate
We Give Thee but Thine Own

O Jesus, Thou Art Standing depicts Christ knocking at the door as we have it recorded in Rev. 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine [fellowship] with him, and he with Me.” Sometimes this is used as a salvation verse, and sinners are called upon to invite the Lord Jesus into their hearts. But Rev. How has it right. In the context, these words are spoken to members of a church that has become self-satisfied and shut the Lord out (vs. 17-19).

O Jesus, Thou art standing, outside the fast closed door,
In lowly patience waiting to pass the threshold o’er:
Shame on us, Christian brothers, His Name and sign who bear,
O shame, thrice shame upon us, to keep Him standing there!

Published in 1867, How’s hymn O Word of God Incarnate was based on Ps. 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It is addressed to Christ, the living, incarnate Word (Jn. 1:1, 14), but it concerns the written Word of God, the Bible.

O Word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky:
We praise Thee for the radiance that from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.

The Scripture is a banner before God’s host unfurled;
It is a shining beacon above the darkling world.
It is the chart and compass that over life’s surging tide,
Mid mists and rocks and quicksands, to You, O Christ, will guide.


  1. Robert, again I find myself carried away in time (“back in time”, would be more accurate!) as I’ve just been reading your blog entries for the last 4-5 days. Just now I’ve read regarding the tune Wycliff by John Stainer — If Jesus does not return before I die, this is one I long ago selected to be sung at a “celebration” service! THANK you for mentioning this (Wycliff) tune here — I agree w/you that many don’t even *know* that there is another tune! p.s. Hope to get some music to you before the wkend! Thanks for your patience!

    • Thanks Gracie. I love Wycliff too–though my friend who mans the Cyber Hymnal plays it too quickly. A more majestic walking pace is required, in my view.

      I recall when we had a homecoming week-end celebration at one college where I taught. I led the singing, but thought it would be nice to invite a more experienced conductor from another Bible college to lead a pick-up choir of alumni. He and his wife accepted and came. All for Jesus (to Wycliff) was one of the congregational hymns we used. He told me later that he turned to his wife and said, “Bob must have chosen these hymns!” I took it as a compliment. 🙂

      Funny you should mention plans for a “celebration” of your life, if you’re promoted to Glory while the Lord tarries. I’ve been thinking myself of which hymns I’d like to have sung at my memorial service. (Must be a symptom of old age–in my case, not yours!) There are certainly lots of them! If I have my way, there’s going to be a lot of singing at the event! My wife and I were at such a service recently for a Christian friend of ours. A large congregation, singing many hymns, with simple accompaniment–no drums or wailing guitars! What a blessing!

  2. A belated “Happy Birthday in Christ!” to you, Robert! Just saw that day of 32 years ago (you are 39, right? ;-)) you accepted God’s great and amazingly free, free, FREE gift of salvation in Christ then! (Your loyal blog readers’ eyes will bug out here, trying to comprehend your 39-ish-ness…!)

    On a slightly different note (different “system”!), I have spent a rather lengthy amount of time searching for an e-mail address for you — all to no avail! It must be ***right in front of me here***, somewhere on your blogsite? I have also looked for a “Contact me” link, but alas! I am unsuccessful in that regard, as well! It is impossible for me to send you a .pdf file or two without an e-mail! Please feel free to e-mail me at when you receive this message; thanks!

    • Ah, if only I was born on February 29th. Then I’d still be a teen-ager! But reality stares me in the bathroom mirror and I know it isn’t so. Thanks for your comments, and I forwarded the address you need.

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