Posted by: rcottrill | September 17, 2010

Today in 1973 – Mary Edgar Died

MGraphic Nature Sceneary Susanne Edgar was a Canadian poet and hymn writer, and a member of the Anglican Church. She received her education at Havergal College and the University of Toronto, and graduated from the training institute of the Y.W.C.A. in New York City. The great love of her life was camping. A list of some of her writings reflects this: Once There Was a Camper, Wood-Fire and Candle-Light, and Under Open Skies. In 1922, Mary Edgar established Glen Bernard Camp for Girls in Northern Ontario. It has become a leader in environmental education

Though she wrote a number of hymn poems, only a couple are in common use. And Edgar’s life-long affection for the outdoors is evidenced even here. One is her national hymn, O God of All the Many Lands. It begins:

O God of all the many lands,
We lift our hearts to Thee,
For this fair land our Canada,
A country wide and free;
For mountain heights and northern lights,
For prayer, lake and sea,
For lavishness in all the gifts
That find their source in Thee.

At the beginning of earth’s history we read, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). And the psalmist declares, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions” (Ps. 104:24). We can draw many parallels and spiritual lessons from nature. Mary Edgar understood that. In her hymn God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty, a nature theme again comes to the fore. It says, in part:

God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
With Thy Spirit recreate me
Pure, and strong and true.

Like the birds that soar while singing,
Give my heart a song;
May the music of thanksgiving
Echo clear and strong.

(2) Life at Best Is Very Brief (Data Missing)
This gospel song is found in Ira Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos hymnal (#437). The tune, by William Kirkpatrick, is the same one used for Fanny Crosby’s Meet Me There. (You can hear the tune on the Cyber Hymnal.)

To some, the message of Life at Best Is Very Brief may seem a bit morbid. But it is intended as a warning to sinners to respond to the gospel of grace before it is too late. There is a notion that it is wrong to “scare people into heaven” by telling them about coming judgment. But the Lord Jesus certainly did not hesitate to warn of judgment to come (Matt. 13:40-43; 25:41; Jn. 3:17-18; cf. II Thess 1:7-10).

It is certainly possible to be overbalanced in the other direction, to preach fiery judgment and fail to present the wonderful grace of God. But it is important to warn people that our destiny depends on what we do with Jesus (Jn. 3:36).

Life at best is very brief,
Like the falling of a leaf,
Like the binding of a sheaf:
Be in time!
Fleeting days are telling fast
That the die will soon be cast,
And the fatal line be passed:
Be in time!

Be in time! Be in time!
While the voice of Jesus calls you,
Be in time!
If in sin you longer wait,
You may find no open gate,
And your cry be just too late:
Be in time!

Time is gliding swiftly by,
Death and judgment draweth nigh,
To the arms of Jesus fly:
Be in time!
Oh, I pray you count the cost,
Ere the fatal line be crossed,
And your soul in hell be lost:
Be in time!

Sinner, heed the warning voice,
Make the Lord your final choice,
Then all heaven will rejoice:
Be in time!
Come from darkness into light;
Come, let Jesus make you right;
Come, and start for heav’n tonight:
Be in time!


  1. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my post about Mary Edgar. I will have to forward the link to this post to my mother who knew her personally when she attended Glen Bernard Camp many years ago. I love hymns which celebrate creation.

    • Thanks for sharing the connection of Mary Edgar with your mother. It would be interesting to hear some personal reminiscences of the woman, if she’d like to pass them along to me. I’ve known a few hymn writers in my lifetime–mostly in my youth and their elder years, and I treasure the memories.

    • My mother also attended her camp for girls in the late 30’s and loved Mary Edgars hymns and poems. Mom is 87 and still remembers her wonderful days at camp.
      Sherry Grizzel

      • Thanks so much! I love to hear of these personal connections with hymns and hymn writers. God bless.

  2. I attended GBC during the 60’s. I have fond memories of Mary S. Edgar, as a Young Bunny my first overnight trip was to her porch across the lake. I remember the beautiful Sunday services ‘Under Open Skies’. The camp hymn God Who Touchest Earth Goes through my head often. So glad it is in the Presbyterian hymnal, though never song enough. In my mind it needs to be song outdoors with the towering pine trees. Thank you for allowing me to remember my days at GBC. We will be singing God Who Touchest Earth this coming Sunday.

    • Thanks so much for your personal reminiscences. They certainly enhance the articles that I’ve been putting together. God bless.


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