Posted by: rcottrill | November 6, 2010

Today in 1876 – James Nicholson Died

JGraphic Snowames L. Nicholson was born in Ireland, and came to America some time in the 1850’s. He lived for years in Philadelphia, then moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a clerk in the Post Office. As a Christian layman, he taught Sunday School, led the singing in church, and assisted in evangelistic work.

While in Philadelphia, Nicholson attended the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church, of which gospel musician William Kirkpatrick was also a member. Whether James Nicholson was encouraged to write hymns by Kirkpatrick, we do not know, but he wrote a number of them. However, only one seems to be in general used today, Whiter Than Snow.

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow.
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

It is an earnest plea. But who is the speaker here? Is this referring to a sinner coming to Christ, seeking salvation? Apparently not.  The one who has come seems to be a Christian who desires some kind of second experience that will render him “perfectly whole.” There is more than a hint of perfectionism in this hymn, and the concept of entire sanctification, with which I do not agree. The speaker wants Christ to live within him forever. But according to Scripture, this is a blessing common to each Christian, one that accompanies salvation (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27). If Christ does not live within, the person is not saved at all (Rom. 8:9).

The hymn concludes:

The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
O glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.

As an expression of the saint’s craving to live in obedience to God, we can appreciate the general sentiment of Nicholson’s song, but I do not feel comfortable with some of its theological assumptions.

(2) Today in 1836 – Theodore Monod Born
In 1874, Theodore Monod wrote a remarkable hymn that traces the struggles of a soul to surrender wholly to the will of God. Mr. Monod was born in Paris, France, where he also died in 1921. The son of a French Reformed pastor, he himself trained for the ministry at Western Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Theodore Monod became a pastor in 1860, and served for many years in Paris.

His thoughtful hymn was written during a series of deeper life meetings in England, when he was staying at the home of Lord and Lady Mount-Temple. He entitled the lines “The Altered Motto,” but the hymn now takes the first line as its title.

O the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered,
“All of self, and none of Thee!”

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on th’accursèd tree,
Heard Him pray, “Forgive them, Father!”
And my wistful heart said faintly,
“Some of self, and some of Thee!”

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
“Less of self, and more of Thee!”

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my supplication,
“None of self, and all of Thee!”

 (3) Today in 1935 – Billy Sunday Died
Billy Sunday was not a hymn writer. But as the most prominent evangelist of his day, he helped to popularize many gospel songs through his ministry, just as Dwight Moody did before him, and Billy Graham after him.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Billy Sunday was a pro ball player, with the Chicago White Sox of the National League. Though not a great hitter, he was known as the fastest man on the bases of his day. But when he came to Christ through the ministry of the Pacific Garden Mission, in Chicago, he soon left baseball behind.

Billy was converted around 1886, and for a number of years he served as an assistant to evangelist Wilbur Chapman. It was a significant internship. Sunday learned a great deal about Bible interpretation and sermon delivery, listening to Dr. Chapman night after night. Then, in 1896 Billy Sunday began his own evangelistic work. Over the next two decades he became the most popular preacher of his day (seen here addressing a large gathering of men). It is estimated that he spoke in person to 100 million people, and multitudes came to Christ through his ministry (including my parents’ long-ago pastor, Dr. William Ward Ayre).

Music played a prominent part in his meetings, and it is reported to have been sacred music of high quality, both from a large choir, and from all those assembled. (To learn about one of his song leaders, Homer Rodeheaver, and hear a bit of Billy’s preaching in old age, see the third item under Today in 1226.) Billy Sunday’s preaching style was dramatic. With a machine gun delivery, he heaped colourful phrases one upon another to make a point. He not only preached the need for personal faith in Christ, but called for Christians to live holy lives. He was also an effective supporter of Prohibition.

Here’s some practical advice from Billy Sunday:

Take 15 minutes each day to listen to God talking to you [through His Word]; take 15 minutes each day to talk to God; take 15 minutes each day to talk to others about God.


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