Posted by: rcottrill | August 16, 2010

Today in 1786 – John Wade Died

The song discussed here, written by Wade, is the only one for which we know him today. In the early part of the twentieth century it appeared among the “Top 10” songs on the American hit parade not once, but on three separate occasions! It has been translated into over 100 languages and is sung in churches across Christendom–and across a wide theological spectrum.

Yet it was not until after World War Two that we knew who the author was. Careful research finally revealed his identity. John Francis Wade (1711-1786) was a music teacher and a copier of music. We can thank him for his work of preserving some of the ancient music of the church. And around the year 1743 he created both words and music for a Christmas carol called in Latin Adeste Fideles (which could be translated: Be Near, Faithful Ones). A century after Wade wrote it, it became our carol O Come, All Ye Faithful.

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created...

(2) Today in 1859 – Carl Boberg Born
The hymn How Great Thou Art was unknown in America until the Billy Graham team introduced it in Canada at their Toronto Crusade in 1955. However, it had a long journey before that.

Carl Gustaf Boberg (1859-1940) was a Swedish pastor, and later a senator in the Swedish parliament. He went for a walk one summer day in 1886 and got caught in a sudden thunderstorm. The rolling thunder and torrents of rain, followed by the return of the sunshine and the singing of the birds, overwhelmed him. He dropped to his knees in worship. Later, out of that experience, Pastor Boberg created a lovely poem about the greatness of God.

Several years after he penned the words, Boberg attended a church service and was surprised to hear his poem sung to an old Swedish melody. Shortly after the hymn was introduced in Sweden, it was translated into German. Then the German version was translated into Russian and published in a Russian hymn book in 1922. That is how it came to the attention of English missionary Stuart Hine a year or so later. He and his wife were serving in the Ukraine when they heard the song, and they began using it as a duet in evangelistic services.

When war broke out in Europe in 1939, the Hines returned to England.  There Mr. Hine translated the hymn into English, adding a verse of his own about the return of Christ. The song was printed in leaflet form, and one of those leaflets was given to Cliff Barrows in 1954. He introduced the “new” hymn to an appreciative audience, a year later. From that point its popularity grew steadily. By 1974, it was voted the number one hymn in America.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Carl Boberg’s original poem had nine stanzas. Here is the translation of another, which has not been included as part of the hymn.

When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance,
“My child, for thee, sufficient is My grace.”

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!


  1. Regarding John Francis Wade being known for only one hymn, as long as that is the one, I think its more than enough!

    • You call my attention to an interesting fact. There are hymn writers who have written songs in the hundreds, and in the thousands (such as Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby). But, when I think about it, there are quite a few who are known for one song only. (I’m tempted to add that it’s like our son being an only child. Couldn’t improve on perfection! I’m tempted…But I guess I won’t say it)

  2. […] Today in 1802 – Frederick Oakeley Born Frederick Oakeley was an English pastor who worked among the poor. He is known in hymnody for translating the carol O Come, All Ye Faithful from Latin into English in 1841. However, his original began with the cumbersome, “Ye faithful, approach ye.” Thankfully, when the hymn was published in 1852, this was changed, becoming the familiar hymn found in hymnals today. (To read a bit more about the orgin of this hymn, see Today in 1786.) […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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