Posted by: rcottrill | August 28, 2010

Today in 1796 – William Bathurst Born

William Hiley Bathurst was the son of a British member of parliament. He served for some years as a clergyman in the Church of England, but resigned over some differences of doctrine relating to baptism and the burial of the dead. He wrote over 200 hymns, though only one is found in most hymnals today.

O for a Faith That Will Not Shrink was published in 1831 with the heading “The Power of Faith,” and reference to Lk. 17:5, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” One of Bathurst’s stanzas, omitted now, speaks of a faith…

That bears unmoved the world’s dread frown,
Nor heeds its scornful smile;
That sin’s wild ocean cannot drown,
Nor its soft arts beguile.

Those lines may not be worthy of a place in our hymnals, but they do make a point about the way in which faith is opposed, by outright hostility, and by mocking ridicule, as well as by temptations that can either come forcefully or subtly.

O, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by many a foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!

Lord, give me such a faith as this,
And then, whate’er may come,
I’ll taste, e’en here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.

(2) Today in 1827 – William Hutchings Born
William Medlen Hutchings was a printer and publisher in London. He wrote the following hymn for an anniversary of St. Paul’s Chapel Sunday School. (“Salem,” in the hymn is a shortened name for Jerusalem, cf. Ps. 76:2.) The song is based on the following incident in the Gospels.

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them. (Mk. 10:13-16)

Luke’s Gospel calls them “infants” (Lk. 18:15), so at least some of them were quite young. The Jewish Talmud says, “After the father of the child had laid his hands on the child’s head, he led him to the elders, one by one, and they also blessed him, and prayed that he might grow up famous in the Law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works.” It could well be with this in mind that the parents brought their children to Christ.

They sought a “touch,” but He so often “does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). The Lord Jesus catches them up in His loving arms and brings them eye to eye with Him. It is typical of His abundant grace.

When mothers of Salem their children brought to Jesus,
The stern disciples drove them back and bade them to depart:
But Jesus saw them ere they fled and sweetly smiled and kindly said,
“Suffer little children to come unto Me.”

Here are those truly remarkable children, Elaine and Derek. The recording is old and worn, and is distorted particularly on the high notes, but it is worth a listen anyway.

(3) Today in 1840 – Ira Sankey Born
Ira David Sankey was one of the most prominent gospel songsters of the late nineteenth century. As a young man, he served in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He often helped the unit chaplain and led his fellow soldiers in hymn singing. After the war, he became a soloist and song leader working with Dwight L. Moody in his evangelistic campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic.

But Ira Sankey did far more than that. A composer of many tunes, and the writer of a number of song texts as well (about 1,200 in all, of words or music), he sometimes used the pen name Rian A. Dykes, an anagram using the letters of his actual name. Ira Sankey published a song book, Sacred Songs and Solos, that became a standard for many years afterward. (For more about the man and his songs, see the second item under Today in 1878.)

At the close of the century, when he was an elderly man, blind with glaucoma, he became one of the first to make gospel recordings. I have in my library a CD entitled There’ll Be No Dark Valley which contains a number of these songs put on the old wax cylinders in 1898-1900. To his other achievements, Sankey added becoming a published author with his book, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns. It contains some fascinating stories.

One of the songs on the above recording is A Shelter in the Time of Storm, for which Sankey composed the tune. In his book, he says,

I found this hymn in a small paper published in London….It was said to be a favourite song of the fishermen on the north coast of England, and they were often heard singing it as they approached their harbours in the time of storm. As the hymn was set to weird minor tune, I decided to compose one that would be more practical, one that could be more easily sung by the people.

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A shelter in the time of storm.

Here is a Country version of this song. And give attention to the comments at the beginning. The singer suggests one of the reasons why our traditional  hymnody still has merit, and why at least some contemporary offerings do not. Interesting!


  1. I’m currently teaching the kids in the junior voices choir “A Shelter In The Time Of Storm”. It has a nice catchy tune to it. The kids enjoy this gospel hymn too.

    • Good. There are some worthwhile opportunities for teaching in that song. About the value of coming upon a sheltering rock in open country–and the application of this to what the Lord Jesus means to us.

      I would also ask your service leader to include “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” in the adult service some time soon. The kids will be thrilled with their ability to sing along. May even want to tell Dad and Mom what the song means.

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