Posted by: rcottrill | November 1, 2010

Today in 1921 – John Peterson Born

John Willard Peterson is probably the most influential hymn writer of the latter part of the twentieth century. Certainly among the most prolific. By the time of his death in 2006, he had written well over a thousand songs, as well as 35 cantatas and musicals. His songs are singable, and their declaration of Bible truth is clear and helpful. Little wonder that his music is still in wide use. (For more about Mr. Peterson and his songs, see the third item under Today in 1908.) Here is just a sampling of the hymns he wrote:

A Flag to Follow
All Glory to Jesus, Begotten of God
All Things Work Out for Good
God’s Final Call
Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul
Isn’t the Love of Jesus Something Wonderful
It Took a Miracle
It’s Not an Easy road
Jesus Is Coming Again
Jesus Led Me All the Way
Over the Sunset Mountains
Shepherd of Love
Springs of Living Water
Surely Goodness and Mercy

As with many hymn writers, Peterson was sensitive to the spiritual application of events happening around him. Sometimes a random comment, or a meaningful phrase, gave him the idea of a song. On one occasion he was assisting with the music at the Montrose Bible Conference. In a morning meeting, time was given for testimonies. Peterson says:

An old gentleman rose to his feet to tell of the saving work of God in his heart. As he spoke, his face glowed, especially when he rehearsed the night when he came to Jesus Christ. “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul” was the way he explained it.

John Peterson jotted down the phrase, and later that week wrote both words and music for a joy-filled gospel song.

O what a wonderful, wonderful day–
Day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Jesus my Saviour I met.
O what a tender, compassionate Friend–
He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling,
He made all the darkness depart.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Saviour made me whole;
My sins were washed away,
And my night was turned to day–
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

It may be helpful at this point to mention the hymnal that John Peterson compiled, Great Hymns of the Faith. In my view, it is one of the two or three best options on the market today for an evangelical local church. It contains a good selection of the traditional hymns and gospel songs of the faith. And the musical arrangements are often in slightly lower keys than are used in most older hymnals, making the songs easier to sing. Also, it may be the least expensive hymn book of its size (over 500 songs), a bonus for the smaller church on a limited budget. Mr. Peterson did a great job! Highly recommended.

CHOOSING A HYMNAL. While we are on the subject, if your church is considering the purchase of a new hymn book, I encourage you to check out my article. It will give you many good tips as to what to look for, and how to make the final decision.

(2) Saviour, My Heart Is Thine (Data Missing)
Here is a truly beautiful hymn of dedication. We do not know who wrote the text of Saviour, My Heart Is Thine, but George Stebbins provided the tune. It takes us through heart, will, life, and all of the believer–dedicated to the glory of God, and invested in His service. It’s a song that deserves to be better known and more often used.

Saviour, my heart is Thine,
Keep it for me;
May every thought of mine
Glorify Thee.
Glorify Thee, glorify Thee;
May every thought of mine
Glorify Thee.

Saviour, my will is Thine,
Keep it for me;
May every act of mine
Be done for Thee.
Be done for Thee, be done for Thee;
May every act of mine
Be done for Thee.

Saviour, my life is Thine,
Keep it for me;
May every hour of mine
Be lived for Thee.
Be lived for Thee, be lived for Thee;
May every hour of mione
Be lived for Thee.

Saviour, my all is Thine,
Keep it for me;
May all I have, O Lord,
Be used for Thee.
Be used for Thee, be used for Thee;
May all I have, O Lord,
Be used for Thee.


  1. JW Peterson also wrote many cantatas. At the church where I grew up, it was tradition for the choir to sing one of his cantatas for Easter Sunrise Service. Of the 4 or 5 that they cycled through, “No Greater Love” was quite memorable.

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