So many in North America recognize this day as Hallowe’en. Costumes and candy have become big money-makers in the retail trade. But the emphasis, more and more, seems to be on gruesome death and the occult. As a result, many Christians have either restricted their children’s involvement or have forbidden it altogether.
But there is another event, largely unrecognized, for which this day should be remembered. On this day, nearly five centuries ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (subjects for debate) on the door of Wittenberg Church. (Church doors in those days served as community bulletin boards.) The wooden doors from Luther’s time are gone. They have been replaced by the bronze doors, pictured here, which have been engraved with the text of Luther’s theses.
Martin Luther wanted to debate the abuses and false doctrines of the church of his day. And though he originally hoped to bring about reform in the Church of Rome, he was eventually forced to break with it. There were scattered reformers before this (such as Wyclif and Hus), but the day is usually recognized as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The changes that followed affected our hymnody profoundly. Not only did Luther himself write hymns. He encouraged congregational singing, which had been abandoned by the Church of Rome for a thousand years. Further, his emphasis on the authority of the Scriptures, and salvation by God’s grace, through personal faith in Christ, laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Hymnody, the two centuries between 1700 and 1900.
(2) Today in 1875 – Lawrence Tuttiet Born
English hymn writer Lawrence Tuttiet was the son of a surgeon in the British Navy. He trained to be a physician himself, but abandoned this goal to become a clergyman in the Church of England. He also wrote many hymn texts. Among them is his fine New Year’s hymn, Father, Let Me Dedicate, written, he said, to remedy a lack of good hymns for that occasion. (For the full hymn and the tune, see the Cyber Hymnal.)
Father, let me dedicate, all this year to Thee,
In whatever worldly state Thou wilt have me be:
Not from sorrow, pain or care, freedom dare I claim;
This alone shall be my prayer, glorify Thy name.
Can a child presume to choose where or how to live?
Can a Father’s love refuse all the best to give?
More Thou givest every day than the best can claim
Nor withholdest aught that may glorify Thy name.
(3) Today in 1907 – Daniel Roberts Died
Daniel Crane Roberts served as a private in the American Civil War. Later, he became an American clergyman, and also president of the New Hampshire State Historical Society. Only one hymn is credited to him, God of Our Fathers, a strong national hymn written for the July 4th celebration in 1876. Any nation would do well to espouse the prayer of the second stanza below that God would be “our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,” and that our lives would be directed according to His Word and in His paths. (For a bit more detail on the hymn, see Today in 1828.)
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendour through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.