Posted by: rcottrill | October 21, 2010

Today in 1808 – Samuel Smith Born

Samuel Francis Smith is best known in America as the author of the patriotic hymn, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. But he had other hymns and other accomplishments to his credit. Smith attended Harvard University (was a classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes there), and graduated from Andover Theological Seminary. He became a Baptist clergyman in 1832, pastoring a church in Waterville, Maine, and he served as editor of the Baptist Missionary Magazine. Francis Smith was also Professor of Modern Languages at Waterville College, and contributed material to the Encyclopedia Americana.

His hymn, The Morning Light Is Breaking, is an enthusiastic paean to the great advances in the area of world missions that he witnessed in his day. The nineteenth century has been called, in fact, the Century of Christian Missions, the period of the most rapid development in world evangelism since apostolic times. It often coincided with the imperialist expansion of the British Empire, and the two were viewed by many as being intertwined. The notion developed that lands were to be conquered in order to Christianize them.

This misconception was frequently accompanied by another. As the good news of the gospel spread far and wide, some took the theological position that they were ushering in the kingdom of Christ, and soon all the earth would own Him as Lord, and peace would prevail everywhere. Not surprisingly, some of the hymnody of the time suited this view. For example, consider the refrain of Henry Ernest Nichol’s hymn, We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations:

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright,
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth,
The kingdom of love and light.

Well, yes it will. But it will not be brought in by the efforts of Christian missionaries. That is not what the Bible teaches. Rather, evil will advance and seem to threaten the very existence of truth until Christ comes to put down His enemies and usher in the kingdom by His almighty power. That is why the messianic kingdom in Daniel’s prophecy is pictured as a stone cut out without hands–meaning apart from human agency (Dan. 2:44-45). As for today, “Evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim. 3:13). And things will be so bad that the Lord Jesus asks the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).

With this background, we can consider Samuel Smith’s hymn as an encouraging picture of missionary successes. Yes, we praise the Lord for the fruits of the gospel. But that is not a guarantee of final triumph and the universal worship of Christ brought in by our efforts. The “darkness disappears” only when the Light of the World returns. The “morning light” of Christ’s kingdom will not dawn until the Dayspring from on High comes to reign.

The morning light is breaking, the darkness disappears;
The sons of earth are waking, to penitential tears;
Each breeze that sweeps the ocean brings tidings from afar
Of nations in commotion, prepared for Zion’s war.

Rich dews of grace come o’er us, in many a gentle shower,
And brighter scenes before us, are opening every hour;
Each cry to heaven going, abundant answers brings,
And heav’nly winds are blowing, with peace upon their wings.

Do you have some favourite carols or Christmas hymns? If so, I believe you’ll be blessed by this book. In Discovering the Songs of Christmas, I discuss the history and meaning of 63 songs, taking us on a journey that reveals the wonder of God’s love, and the reasons for Christ’s coming. (The book might make a great gift for someone too!) There are many fascinating stories. For instance, you’ll learn about a carol written while the author stood in line at a bus station, and another that became the first music ever played over the radio. Check the top of the sidebar for a link to order the book.

(2) More from Fanny Crosby
Spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Frances Jane Crosby became the preeminent gospel song writer in America. Her nearly 9,000 songs also makes her the most prolific, by far. Here are a couple more of her songs: Jesus Is Calling, and What a Gathering!

Jesus is tenderly calling thee home
Calling today, calling today,
Why from the sunshine of love wilt thou roam,
Farther and farther away?

Calling today, calling today,
Jesus is calling,
Is tenderly calling today.

Jesus is waiting, O come to Him now,
Waiting today, waiting today,
Come with thy sins, at His feet lowly bow;
Come, and no longer delay.

Jesus is pleading, O list to His voice,
Hear Him today, hear Him today,
They who believe on His name shall rejoice;
Quickly arise and away.

In addition to this fine invitation hymn, Fanny has given us the following joyful anticipation of the great reunion of the saints in heaven. To see the full song, and hear the tune, check the Cyber Hymnal.

On that bright and golden morning,
When the Son of Man shall come,
And the radiance of His glory we shall see;
When from ev’ry clime and nation
He shall call His people home,
What a gath’ring of the ransomed that will be!

What a gath’ring, what a gath’ring,
What a gath’ring of the ransomed
In the summer land of love!
What a gath’ring, what a gath’ring,
Of the ransomed in that happy home above.

When the blest, who sleep in Jesus,
At His bidding shall arise
From the silence of the grave, and from the sea,
And with bodies all celestial
They shall meet Him in the skies,
What a gath’ring and rejoicing there will be!

O the King is surely coming,
And the time is drawing nigh,
When the blessèd day of promise we shall see;
Then the changing “in a moment,”
“In the twinkling of an eye,”
And forever in His presence we shall be.


  1. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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