Posted by: rcottrill | September 4, 2010

Today in 1835 – Edwin Hatch Born

English scholar Edwin Hatch was that happy combination of great learning and simple faith. James Moffatt said of him, “Profound as his learning was, his published sermons show that his piety was as simple and unaffected as a child’s.” Dr. Hatch was professor of classics at Trinity College in Toronto for a time, then rector of the Quebec High School. He returned to England and to Oxford University in 1867, coincidentally the year of the birth of the Dominion of Canada.

Edwin Hatch was an acknowledged master of historical research. His Brampton Lectures “On the Organization of Early Christian Churches” were influential in Europe. He wrote a concordance of the Septuagint, as well as essays on biblical Greek. He wrote a few hymns as well, but only one has remained in common us, Breathe on Me, Breath of God.

The hymn is based on John 20:22, which records how the Lord Jesus met with His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, and “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” No further explanation is given. This may have been a special endowment of power in preparation for Pentecost a few days later.

It is presented as a historical incident. There is no evidence that Christ’s action was ever repeated, or that it’s something to be claimed by believers today. However, we know the indwelling Spirit of God works to produce the fruit of Christlikeness in us (II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22-23). And we could take Hatch’s hymn simply as a prayer for the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

(2) Today in 1847 – Henry Lyte Preached Last Sermon
Henry Francis Lyte was an esteemed and godly English pastor. He wrote many hymns, including Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven, and Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, but the most familiar by far is the lovely Abide with Me.

Lyte suffered from asthma, and toward the end of his life contracted tuberculosis.  As his condition deteriorated, he reluctantly agreed to move to the south of France, in hopes that the warmer climate would help. When he preached his last sermon, he was so weak he had to be assisted into the pulpit. In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a relative the text of this hymn, along with a tune he had written for it. (It is now sung to Eventide, a tune by William Henry Monk.)

Unfortunately, the change of climate did little help Henry Lyte. He died and was buried in Nice, France, less than 3 months after he left England. But his stirring prayer hymn lives on long after him.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

This prayer echoes the words of two disciples (possibly husband and wife) long ago. Following Christ’s resurrection, they met Him on the road to the village of Emmaus where their home was. There, “they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went in to stay with them” (Lk. 24:29). A poetic answer to Lyte’s plea was written by an anonymous World War One soldier. As though the Lord Jesus is speaking, it says, in part:

I will abide, though night is drawing nigh;
Though cloud and darkness now obscure the sky.
I know thy sorrows, see thy falling tear,
Give Me thine hand, for I am ever near.

A little while, and then it will be light;
Thy faith shall be exchanged for perfect sight;
No fears to vex thee, nothing to molest,
For thou shalt be with Me in perfect rest.


  1. […] or three of his hymns are found in many hymn books: Abide with Me; Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken; and Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. The latter, published in […]

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