George Frederick Root was born with a talent for making music. At the age of 13 he was able to play 13 different instruments. In adult life, he played the organ in a church in New York City, and taught music at a women’s institute. He also taught at the New York Institute for the Blind, where Fanny Crosby was one of his students.
Root worked with hymn writer Lowell Mason at the Academy of Music in Boston. He wrote some popular songs for the secular market (such as Rosalie, the Prairie Flower), and patriotic songs around the time of the Civil War (such as Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching). But he is best known for his many hymns, sometimes providing words and music, other times composing tunes for the words of others.
As examples of his work, he wrote the tunes for Ring the Bells of Heaven and When He Cometh. And Root wrote words and music for Why Not Now? and Come to the Saviour. The latter is a simple invitation hymn, with a pretty tune. (See the Cyber Hymnal for the full hymn and tune, and an interesting story connected with the song.)
Come to the Saviour, make no delay;
Here in His Word He has shown us the way;
Here in our midst He’s standing today,
Tenderly saying, “Come!”
Joyful, joyful will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Saviour, with Thee,
In our eternal home.
Another of his songs, The Hem of His Garment is based on an incident in Matt. 9:18-26. The author uses the faith of the woman in the story to illustrate our need to reach out in faith to the Lord.
She only touched the hem of His garment
As to His side she stole,
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him,
And straightway she was whole.
Oh, touch the hem of His garment!
And thou, too, shalt be free!
His saving power this very hour
Shall give new life to thee!
(2) Today in 1854 – Edmond Budry Born
Edmond Louis Budry was a pastor in Switzerland. The single hymn for which he is known today to English hymn lovers was written first in French (A Toi la Gloire), and translated four decades later as Thine Be the Glory, Risen Conquering Son.
It’s reported that Pastor Budry wrote the hymn following the death of his first wife, Marie de Vayenborg. Apparently he gained comfort and strength from the assurance of the resurrection. His song is a rousing, triumphant hymn on that theme, and on the eternal triumph of Christ over death and the grave. It should be more familiar than it is. “Death is swallowed up in victory” through Christ (I Cor. 15:54, 57).
Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the victory, Thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes where Thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.
(3) Today in 1914 – William Martin Died
American, William Clark Martin was a Baptist pastor and hymn writer. A number of his many gospel songs have remained in use. Among these are The Name of Jesus, Still Sweeter Every Day, and My Anchor Holds.
The latter, with its colourful imagery of a stormy sea, can certainly be sung by a mixed congregation, but its muscular resonance seems especially suited to men’s voices.
Years ago, I often sang the hymn with a male choir in the city of Toronto. We used to sing the first part of the final stanza slowly and quietly, gradually surging into full volume with “But in Christ I can be bold!” With a bit of prior instruction, a congregation can do the same, and it is most effective. The song also seems to call for a hold on the word “holds” in the middle of the last line of the refrain.
Though the angry surges roll
On my tempest driven soul,
I am peaceful, for I know,
Wildly though the winds may blow,
I’ve an anchor safe and sure,
That can evermore endure.
And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
On my bark so small and frail;
By His grace I shall not fail,
For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.
Troubles almost ’whelm the soul;
Griefs like billows o’er me roll;
Tempters seek to lure astray;
Storms obscure the light of day:
But in Christ I can be bold,
I’ve an anchor that shall hold.