Posted by: rcottrill | November 11, 2010

Today in 1917 – Queen Liliuokalani Died

FGraphic Queen Liliuokalaniew hymns can boast a tune written by a queen, but He’s Coming Soon, by Thoro Harris can. Queen Liliuokalani, ruler of Hawaii before the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, took a horseback ride to the windward side of Oahu to visit the Boyd ranch. There, she observed Colonel Boyd embracing, and saying goodbye to a woman of whom he was obviously fond. That incident in 1877 inspired the queen to write the love song Aloha Oe (“Farewell to Thee”).

The tune has been used for a number of gospel songs. One of these, published by Thoro Harris in 1918, is He’s Coming Soon. It is based on the Bible’s teaching about the return of Christ.

If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thess. 4:14-18)

Thoro Harris was a writer and compiler of gospel songs, as well as serving as a church organist. He lived for many years in Chicago. Then, around the age of 60, he moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A local describes him in his latter years as follows: “A very energetic person, walking about the city almost constantly, carrying a little canvas handbag in which he carried copies of his songbooks–for sale.” Harris’s song He’s Coming Soon says in part:

In these, the closing days of time,
What joy the glorious hope affords,
That soon—O wondrous truth sublime!
He shall reign, King of kings and Lord of lords.

He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon;
With joy we welcome His returning;
It may be morn, it may be night or noon—
We know He’s coming soon.

And we, who living, yet remain,
Caught up, shall meet our faithful Lord;
This hope we cherish not in vain,
But we comfort one another by this word.

(2) Today in 1920 – Just for Today Author Revealed

The hymn Just for Today was written in 1877, and it appeared in a number of hymnals in the early part of the twentieth century, credited to a mysterious S.M.X. Famed baritone John Charles Thomas recorded a concert version of the hymn that was popular, but its authorship was for a time uncertain.

Finally, in an article in The Continent, Frederick M. Steele told how he tracked down the author and paid her a visit. “S.M.X.” turned out to be a Roman Catholic nun in England. Her birth name was Sybil Farish Partridge (1856-1917), but she had taken the title of Sister Mary Xavier. She was living in the convent of Notre Dame in Liverpool, and had devoted her life to teaching young girls.

The original poem has almost a dozen stanzas. And there is a line in it that would be unsuitable for Protestant use. The author requests that in death the Lord would grant her “the sacrament divine”–the last rites of the Catholic Church. But when it has been printed in Protestant hymnals, that stanza is simply omitted. The hymn has value in its reminder of the need for daily grace, and for a step by step walk of obedience and faith toward God.

Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray;
Keep me, my God, from stain of sin, just for today.
Let me both diligently work and duly pray;
Let me be kind in word and deed, just for today.

Let me be slow to do my will, prompt to obey;
Help me to sacrifice myself, just for today.
Let me no wrong or idle word unthinking say;
Set Thou a seal upon my lips, just for today.

Let me in season, Lord, be grave, in season gay;
Let me be faithful to Thy grace, just for today.
Lord, for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray;
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord, just for today.


  1. […] in common use. For more about Mr. Harris and the interesting story behind He’s Coming Soon, see Today in 1917.  Then there is the lovely All That Thrills My Soul Is […]


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