Posted by: rcottrill | September 26, 2010

Today in 1863 – Frederick Faber Died

Frederick William Faber was a Roman Catholic clergyman who sought to create hymns for Catholics to sing similar to those of the Protestants. He produced several volumes of them. His best known, Faith of Our Fathers, was first published in his book Jesus and Mary–Or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading, in 1849. The original had a strong Catholic flavour, stating,

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

Editors subsequently removed this Romish and strictly national sentiment. The stanza has been amended as follows,  providing us with a hymn that can have a much wider usefulness.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
Mankind shall then be truly free.

(For more about Faber and a beautiful hymn, see Today in 1814.) Another hymn of his is Hark, Hark, My Soul. In spite of the fact that one English clergyman opined, “We inquire in vain into the meaning of Pilgrims of the Night [Faber’s original title],” the hymn seems clear enough, and encouraging. It is describing in flowery poetical terms the anticipation of heaven.

Hark! hark, my soul! angelic songs are swelling,
O’er earth’s green fields and ocean’s wave-beat shore:
How sweet the truth those blessèd strains are telling
Of that new life when sin shall be no more.

Angels of Jesus, angels of light,
Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night!

Far, far away, like bells at evening pealing,
The voice of Jesus sounds o’er land and sea;
And laden souls, by thousands meekly stealing,
Kind Shepherd, turn their weary steps to Thee.

Onward we go, for still we hear them singing,
“Come, weary souls, for Jesus bids you come”;
And through the dark, its echoes sweetly ringing,
The music of the gospel leads us home.

Rest comes at length: though life be long and dreary,
The day must dawn, and darksome night be past;
Faith’s journeys end in welcome to the weary,
And heaven, the heart’s true home, will come at last.

Here is the hymn sung at the Presbyterian’s beautiful Evangelical Cathedral, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The hymn, I think, is sung in Portugese. And notice the song leader at the front. He may be doing a fine job, but no one (except perhaps the choir members) seems to be watching or heeding him. If you’re going to lead, lead. And teach and encourage folks to follow you.

(2) Cast Thy Bread Upon the Waters (Data Missing)
There is a song of the same name written by Phebe Hanaford, but the one I have in mind is found in Ira Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos (#771). The authorship of the words is unknown; Sankey himself supplied the tune. The song is based upon Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days.”

Most often this has been taken to mean that if we are generous, we will one day be rewarded. (“Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later,” NLT.) However, I’ve often wondered at the wisdom of throwing bread into the sea. It would either simply feed the fishes, or wash up on shore as soggy bread!

The NET Bible suggests a reasonable interpretation. That the proverb has more to do with trade and commerce: “Send your grain overseas, for after many days you will get a return” (NET). Even if the latter is correct, the principle remains, that our labours will be rewarded, and we know God has promised that.

“Cast thy bread upon the waters,”
Ye who have but scant supply;
Angel eyes will watch above it,
You shall find it by and by.
He who in His righteous balance
Doth each human action weigh,
Will your sacrifice remember,
Will your loving deeds repay.

“Cast thy bread upon the waters,”
You who have abundant store;
It may float on many a billow,
It may strand on many a shore.
You may think it lost forever;
But, as sure as God is true,
In this life, or in the other,
It will yet return to you.


  1. Hello again, Robert. Are you familiar with a hymn with some lines something like, “Crowns and thrones may crumble; kingdoms may rise and fall”? I probably don’t have the words quite right since I cannot locate it with those I remember. My thanks in advance. MM

    • Thanks for the question Marjorie. The hymn you’re looking for is Onward, Christian Soldiers. And in case your hymn book doesn’t include the lines you refer to, below is the complete hymn.

      Incidentally, I recently came across an odd fact about the author, Sabine Baring-Gould. He was a man from an upper class family, but he fell in love with a beautiful girl who worked at the local cotton mill. Before he would marry her, he insisted that she take lessons to learn to speak English like an up-crust snob (not his words, of course!). George Bernard Shaw used the couple as a model for Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in his play, Pygmalion, that later became the musical, My Fair Lady.

      Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
      With the cross of Jesus going on before.
      Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
      Forward into battle see His banners go!

      Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
      With the cross of Jesus going on before.

      At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
      On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
      Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
      Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

      Like a mighty army moves the Church of God;
      Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
      We are not divided, all one body we,
      One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

      What the saints established that I hold for true.
      What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
      Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
      Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.

      Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
      But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
      Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
      We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

      Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
      Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
      Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
      This through countless ages men and angels sing.

      • I just found your site (2/14/10)

        The hymn I’m looking for also has the words like “crowns and thrones may crumble” but it isn’t Onward Christian Soldiers. After the first phrase, the hymn continues with “kingdoms may rise and fall, but the throne of Emmanuel shall flourish above them all. Hallelujah. He is king forever, o’er his vast domain. Though the stars may fall, fall above them all King Emmanuel shall reign. He shall reign (repeat 3x), King of kings and Lord of lords (repeat), he shall reign forevermore, his reign shall extend from shore to shore. Hallelujah (repeat 2x) Hallelujah he shall reign, (repeat) Hallelujah he shall reign forever and evermore. Forevermore (repeat 3x).”

        I can’t remember whether or not there were other verses.

        I sang this in a youth choir at camp meeting in Massachusetts in the late 1940s or very early 1950s and have remembered the above words and melody ever since.

        I hope you can help locate it. If and when you do, I would appreciate your contacting me by email.

        Many thanks.

      • Is there anyone out there who can help this individual? I checked a number of resources, but came up empty. If you know the song, please let me know.

  2. […] Today in 1814 – Frederick Faber Born Frederick William Faber began his career as a Calvinist and a clergyman in the Church of England. Later in life, under the influence of John Henry Newman, he got involved in the Oxford Movement and became a Roman Catholic. He was re-baptized a Catholic, and took the name of Wilfred. His followers were known as Wilfridians. He was an admirer of the hymns of John Newton and William Cowper and, though he confessed a lack of any musical ability, he tried to create some hymns that would be acceptable in his new-found religious orientation. (For more of Faber’s hymns, see Today in 1863.) […]

  3. “Cast thy bread upon the waters” … what an encouragement to me this morning! Thanks for the post.

    • Appreciate the encouragement in return–an illustration of the principle! 🙂 Call again!

  4. […] (or with certain stanzas omitted) they sometimes work quite well. (See, for example, the note on Faith of Our Fathers.) It is worth remembering that there are areas of doctrine where Catholics and Protestants share […]

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  6. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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