Posted by: rcottrill | August 24, 2010

Today in 1795 – Samuel Stennett Died

Samuel Stennett was a pastor in England who came from a long line of Baptist clergyman. He had a personal friendship with King George III, and with the famous philanthropist John Howard, a member of his congregation. Stennett was also an author of considerable skill who wrote books on a variety of spiritual topics, and produced 38 hymns. Two of them deserve at least a brief comment.

Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned, published in 1787, is a beautiful hymn of worship. The author’s original title was “Chief among Ten Thousand; or, The Excellencies of Christ,” with a reference to the Song of Solomon 5:10-16, where Solomon’s betrothed describes him as “Chief among ten thousand.” Stennett takes the bridegroom in the story as a picture of Christ.

Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Saviour’s brow;
His head with radiant glories crowned,
His lips with grace o’erflow.

No mortal can with Him compare
Among the sons of men;
Fairer is He than all the fair
Who fill the heav’nly train.

To Him I owe my life and breath
And all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death
And saves me from the grave.

Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be Thine.

The other song of Samuel Stennett’s found in many hymn books is On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

It was the Jordan River that the nation of Israel crossed to enter the promised land of Canaan. And it is a fitting symbol of death–death to the old life of slavery and of wandering in the wilderness. However, Canaan does not make the most appropriate symbol of heaven. Canaan was full of wicked people, and warfare with the forces of evil lay ahead. In spite of a few hymns that identify Canaan with heaven, it is better to see it as a picture of abundant spiritual life, with the Jordan typical of conversion or dedication to Christ, and leaving the old life behind.

Having said this, we can still appreciate the sentiment of the hymn, and see Canaan as an imperfect foretaste of a more perfect dwelling place and greater blessings yet to come.

(2) Today in 1879 – Paul Rader Born
As a college athletics coach, Daniel Paul Rader knew what physical strength and ability could accomplish. Rader trusted Christ as his Saviour at an early age, but then he seemed to lose his way spiritually. And, in his own strength, he was able to do a lot of things. He once described himself as an “ex-bellboy, ex-cowboy, ex-prospector, ex-football player, and ex-pugilist”!

Then he went to New York and found a job that he believed would make his fortune. He wired his wife with the news, a bold telegram that said, “We are fixed for life.” But an error was made in the transmission, and the message received was “We are fixed for like.” Imagine his wife’s puzzlement. She immediately sent a reply asking, “Fixed for what?” And God used that message to change Paul Rader’s life.

He says, “There I was, standing on Wall Street, with a telegram held in my trembling hand. Three little words. Yet the question they asked shook me to my soul’s boots! They showed me up. They challenged all my philosophy of life. They challenged all my plans.” Fixed for…what? It was as he pondered that innocent query that God touched his life in a new way.

When Paul Rader came back to the Lord, he put the same kind of energy and commitment into serving Him that he had into his other pursuits. He became one of the most dynamic gospel preachers of his day. He pastored some large churches, headed up a whole denomination, toured the mission fields of the world, founded a Christian music publishing company, and pioneered Christian broadcasting in the earliest days of radio.

But through all of his many endeavours, Paul Rader never again lost sight of the real source of power. It wasn’t in radio waves, or printer’s ink, or even in his preaching. With another Paul long before, he would say, “Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:5). It was out of that conviction Pastor Rader wrote the hymn Old-Time Power around 1916. (And for another of Paul Rader’s songs, see the second item under Today in 1884.)

We are gathered for Thy blessing,
We will wait upon our God;
We will trust in Him Who loved us,
And Who bought us with His blood.

Spirit, now melt and move
All of our hearts with love,
Breathe on us from above
With old time power.


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