Posted by: rcottrill | September 6, 2010

Today in 1821 – Aaron Wolfe Born

Aaron Robarts Wolfe was an American Presbyterian clergyman who also established a ladies seminary. He wrote several hymns, but only one is in common used today, Complete in Thee. It is based on Col. 2:10, “You are complete in Him,” speaking of how the Father views us as to our standing. By faith, Christians are in Christ, and have a perfectly righteous standing in God’s sight, because the righteousness of Christ has been credited to our heavenly account (cf. II Cor. 5:21).

Later, a refrain was added to Aaron Wolfe’s hymn by James M. Gray, the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Complete in Thee! No work of mine
May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.

Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And glorified, I too, shall be!

Dear Saviour, when before Thy bar
All tribes and tongues assembled are,
Among Thy chosen will I be,
At Thy right hand, complete in Thee.

(2) Today in 1880 – Ira Wilson Born
Ira Bishop Wilson was taught to play the organ and the violin by his sister, and he began studying music theory in his youth. He entered Moody Bible Institute with the view of training to be a musical evangelist, but later accepted a position as a composer and editor with the Lorenz Publishing Company. There he wrote a large number of hymn arrangements, choral anthems and cantatas.

A friend named Phil Kerr came to visit him one day. Both men were gospel musicians and, at Ira’s invitation, the other man sat down at the piano to play and sing. He finished with a gospel song first introduced at a Sunday School Convention, in 1924. It has since challenged many to fuller service for Christ. Ira Wilson listened politely, but it was evident he did not know the song. His eyes widened in astonishment when Kerr said, “You wrote that. That’s one of yours.”

The song was being widely used, but its author had long forgotten it. Part of the reason is Ira Wilson’s main ministry was composing music for the lyrics of other people. Make Me a Blessing is one of the few numbers for which he wrote the words himself–back in 1909, about 35 years before the incident described. For many years, he had been a blessing without even knowing it.

Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, o Saviour I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

(3) Today in 1891 – John Charles Thomas Born
John Charles Thomas was one of the most popular singers of the early part of the twentieth century. Toronto music critic Clyde Gilmore described him as having a voice like a pipe organ! Another declared Thomas had one of the three greatest voices he had ever heard. The baritone was equally at home singing a part at the Metropolitan Opera, or entertaining on the concert stage. One of the first “cross-over” musicians, he sang not only a classical repertoire, but also popular songs. To get some idea of his voice, listen to the old ballad Bendemeer’s Stream, recorded in 1939.

As far as I know, he made no claim to being a born again Christian, but his father Milson Thomas was an itinerant Methodist clergyman, preaching in the mining settlements of the eastern United States. The son grew up loving the old hymns. As an adult, he had a weekly radio broadcast on which, with the King’s Men Quartet, he sang his way through the hymn book. Recordings of some of these broadcasts are still around. With his crisp diction, the message of the songs shines through. Interestingly, John Charles Thomas became the vocal coach of an up-and-coming gospel singer named George Beverley Shea.

At some point in 1934, Albert Hay Malotte heard the powerful voice of Mr. Thomas over the radio, and determined to write a song especially for him. Malotte worked at the Disney studios, creating background music for cartoons such as Silly Symphonies. But, as a Presbyterian layman and skilled organist, he also composed sacred music. The Bible passage Malotte selected to set to music in this case was this:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13, KJV)

Albert Hay Malotte’s setting of The Lord’s Prayer became popular for decades, largely due to Mr. Thomas’s recording of it. It’s still sung at weddings and other special occasions, and a basic hymn arrangement is included in some hymn books. John Charles Thomas – Prima Voce is a CD that contains the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, if you click here you can listen to short clips of the songs included.


  1. In scanning some blogs recently I came upon those who wondered how they could obtain a recording made by John Charles Thomas. Even though the man has been gone nearly half a century now, there are still wonderful examples of his work available. For his rendition of some great hymns and gospel songs, I recommend a CD called John Charles Thomas: Come Ye Faithful. It was put out by BCI Music in 2000 (Catalogue # EXL2-527), and can be purchased through Amazon.

    The Lord’s Prayer is not in this collection, but 20 other songs are, including: Where He Leads Me, I Love to Tell the Story, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, I Need Thee Every Hour, Take the Name of Jesus With You, and Standing on the Promises. Thomas is accompanied by the King’s Men Quartet, men that also worked with him on his radio program.

    A word of warning: If you’ve become accustomed to the current trend–breathy, sensual-sounding falsetto singing that makes you wonder if the singer is about to swallow the microphone…this isn’t that! If, on the other hand, you like to hear a man rear back and sing full out, from the diaphragm, with such crisp diction that every word is clear, then this recording is definitely for you. Get it, and listen to one of the very best singers ever. You will be blessed.

  2. do you know where I can get the music to this? There are several on the internet sites, but not the tune I have heard. Thank you.

    • The Cyber Hymnal gives several tunes for the hymn “Complete in Thee.” You can go to that site by clicking on the name in my sidebar. There, you can listen to the tunes played, and the CH also has printable PDF files of the tunes. But they do not include the refrain by James M. Gray. I will try to send you the latter by e-mail if I can.

  3. […] in a number of hymnals. It was written in the 1930′s especially for the great baritone John Charles Thomas. Thomas died in 1960, but if you want to hear the original version of the prayer I encourage you to […]

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber Hymnal (Ira […]

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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