Posted by: rcottrill | August 31, 2010

Today in 1824 – Anna Warner Born

Anna Bartlett Warner was the poet in the family. Though Anna did write stories too, her sister Susan was recognized as a popular novelist of the day. Their father, Henry Warner, was a wealthy lawyer in New York City, but he lost most of his fortune in the 1837 depression. With that the family moved to their summer home (Good Craig), on Constitution Island in the Hudson River.

There, the women, both sincere Christians, began holding Bible studies for the cadets at West Point Military Academy nearby. Their home is now a historical site. In part, it was financial necessity that motivated the two sisters to write, though both used their gifts to produce spiritual and morally edifying material, so that their creations became a ministry as well.

In 1860, Susan began work on a new book entitled Say and Seal. In it, a Sunday School teacher she called John Linden goes to visit one of his students named Johnnie Fax. The boy is dying–an all too common reality in those days. But Mr. Linden tries to encourage him, reminding him of the love of the Saviour. At that point, Susan wanted the teacher to sing a song they had learned in Sunday School. But what could he sing? She turned to her sister Anna for help. In response, Anna Warner penned the words of a now well-known hymn.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

The stanza that begins, “Jesus loves me, loves me still, / Though I’m very weak and ill” (sometimes omitted by our hymnals) was specifically intended to relate to the story of the sick little boy, but it continues to bless. And the hymn should not be relegated to use with children only. Christ’s love is needed by us all.

I had a friend years ago named Marion Newby (now with the Lord) who was a marvelous singer. She often used Anna Warner’s song as a solo number. On one hot summer day, she was singing Jesus Loves Me in a church service. All the windows were open to capture any breath of air. During her solo a man walked by the church in deep despair. He was planning to commit suicide, but was arrested by the message that the Lord Jesus loved him still.  That truth turned him back from his plan, saving his life.

We must not miss the importance of that last clause–that the Bible tells us so. Where is faith to rest? It rests on the abiding truth of the Word of God. “The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (I Pet. 1:24-25). That is our anchor.

Anna wrote another hymn, published in 1852, that is well worth mentioning. Based on a phrase from the Gospels (Jn. 12:21, KJV), it speaks of our tendency to cling to earthly things, when God has something far better for us. What will restore a proper perspective is to see Christ again, with the eyes of faith.

We would see Jesus; for the shadows lengthen
Across this little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
For the last weariness, the final strife.

We would see Jesus; yet the spirit lingers
Round the dear objects it has loved so long,
And earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers;
Our love to Thee makes not this love less strong.

We would see Jesus: sense is all too binding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away;
We would see Thee, Thyself our hearts reminding
What Thou hast suffered, our great debt to pay.

We would see Jesus: this is all we’re needing;
Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight;
We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell mortal night.

(2) Today in 1861 – Jessie Pounds Born
Jessie Brown suffered from poor health as a child, and she was educated at home. At the age of 15 she began submitting articles to newspapers and magazines. In 1896 she married a pastor named John Pounds. Over her lifetime she authored 9 books, and wrote over 400 gospel songs, as well as cantatas and operettas.

Among the songs of Jessie Pounds that are still in use are:

Anywhere with Jesus
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere
I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
The Touch of His Hand on Mine
The Way of the Cross Leads Home

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth is from an Easter cantata the author published in 1893. It is based on the words of Job in Job 19:25-26, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (KJV). (For another of Mrs. Pounds’s hymns, see the second item under Today in 1841.)

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know eternal life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

I know, I know, that Jesus liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know, I know, that life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

(3) Today in 1923 – Benjamin Ramsey Died
Benjamin Mansell Ramsey was for many years a well known teacher near Bournemouth, England. He wrote choral music, and music for the piano, as well as hymns and carols. He retired in 1916. In the last year of his life he was in poor health, but at the age of 74 he organized and conducted a choir in the village of Chichester.

His fine hymn, Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord, echoes the words of the psalmist, “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth” (Ps. 86:11).

Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!


Responses

  1. I found you! That is fantastic information! Praise the Lord for the saints who have gone before writing the songs of His grace, mercy and love. Thank you for writing these great articles. I hope to be stopping in regularly!

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Drop by any time. 🙂

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