Posted by: rcottrill | August 25, 2010

Today in 1945 – Harper Smyth Died

Harper Garcia Smyth was a gifted musician who played with the Metropolitan Opera Company. He also served as choir director in a number of churches, as well as a song leader for the Salvation Army, and for evangelist Wilbur Chapman. Interestingly, he also led songs at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1924. In 1945 he was leading singing with a group of army inductees when he suffered a debilitating stroke, dying four months later.

Though he wrote about 25 songs, Smyth is known in Christian hymnody largely for the words and music of one gospel song he wrote in 1903, Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?

Years ago, I used to visit a senior citizen whose final words to me many times were, “May the Lord bless you and make you a blessing. That identifies an important principle. It is only as the Lord blesses us that we have something we can pass on to others. God’s words to Abraham were, “I will bless you…and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). And in the words of the Lord Jesus, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). That is how it should be. We are to become channels of His blessing to others.

Is your life a channel of blessing?
Is the love of God flowing through you?
Are you telling the lost of the Saviour?
Are you ready His service to do?

Make me a channel of blessing today,
Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
Make me a channel of blessing today.

We cannot be channels of blessing
If our lives are not free from known sin;
We will barriers be and a hindrance
To those we are trying to win.

I have missionary friends serving in Brazil. This is especially for them, the singing of Harper Smith’s hymn in Portugese (called Vaso de Bencao in that language). This is a large Presbyterian congregation, and the hymn is well sung, with the pacing dead on. (Love the pipe organ, too!)

(2) The Bright Forevermore (Data Missing)
I can recall singing The Bright Forevermore, many years ago (#984 in Ira Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos). Since then, it has passed into virtual obscurity, a simple song about heaven, and the believer’s furture rewards. As Peter wrote to the church leaders of his day:

Shepherd the flock of God…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (I Pet. 5:2, 4).

Since this blog was posted originally, new information has come to light. Apparently, the author of the text is poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (circa 1864), and William Augustine Ogden composed the tune. Mr. Ogden (1841-1897) served in the American Civil War. Afterward, he taught school in both the United States and Canada. In 1887, he became Superintendent of Music in the public schools of Toledo, Ohio.

There is a land a sunny land,
Whose skies are ever bright,
Where ev’ning shadows never fall;
The Saviour is its light.

If the cross we meekly bear,
Then the crown we shall wear;
We shall dwell among the fair,
In the bright forevermore.

There is a clime, a peaceful clime,
Beyond life’s narrow sea,
Where ev’ry storm is hushed to rest:
There let our treasure be.

We long to leave these fading scenes
That glide so quickly by,
And join the shining host above,
Where joy can never die.


  1. This is a hymn I am unfamiliar with, Robert, but I appreciate the reminder it contains as well as your thoughts about passing on our blessings…most especially the blessings contained in the gospel. But even other blessings that God gives us. Sometimes I think we Christians feel some sort of guilt about praying that God would bless us and instead pray for the blessings of others. But if we are not experiencing His continual blessing, most especially intimate fellowship with our God, how can we possibly be a blessing to others?

    • Yes, I agree with you. But I think we make a mistake if we see God’s blessings as an end in themselves–that is, if our point in asking for them is that we might sit and soak and be comfortable until Christ returns. Rather, His blessings are a stewardship, an equipping, enabling us to have a further ministry for Him.

  2. dear mr. cottrill,
    i am so sorry that i didn’t reply to your kind comment on my blog.
    i just saw it now.
    i have changed my email address to gmail and so i don’t get the notifications of the comments.
    i will have to fix that in my blogger account settings.
    yes, i love that hymn, “majestic sweetness”.
    i tried to find it on you tube but i couldn’t so i just printed out the words.
    it is late here in ontario so i had better go to bed but i will return maybe tomorrow and read your blog.
    thanks for you visit…in christian love terry[teresa] shirkie.

    • I have my troubles too figuring out these new-fangled things called computers. No problem. Good to hear from you any time. And if you ever need the words or tune for a hymn, check the Cyber Hymnal. (You can click on it in my sidebar.) My friend Dick Adams has over 7,600 there, with pictures of the authors, and more. You can even click on the midi file and play the tune. God bless.

  3. I thank you for visiting my blog. Music speaks to my heart and soul. When reading about “Is Your Life A Channel Of Blessing” it reminded me of two other hymns “Channels Only” and also “Nothing Between” we must be cleaned vessels to be channels.

    • Thanks for your note. And you make a valid comparison to the other songs. The channel through which God’s love and grace ought to flow out of the believer’s life to others can be blocked by self and sin so easily.

  4. […] Garcia Smyth (b. Mar. 16, 1873; d. Aug. 25, 1945) Music: Euclid, by Harper Garcia Smyth Links: Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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