Posted by: rcottrill | November 18, 2010

Today in 1849 – Kelso Carter Born

Few men have managed to have a varied career such as Russell Kelso Carter’s. He attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy, and was a star athlete there (in baseball and gymnastics). After graduation in 1867, he was hired to teach at the academy–chemistry, natural science, civil engineering, and higher mathematics.

Then, for three years, he was a sheep rancher in California. Later he was ordained as a Methodist clergyman, and was active in the camp meetings of the day. He wrote many books–on mathematics, science, and religion–and authored several novels. He helped A. B. Simpson edit the first edition of Hymns of the Christian Life, a hymnal still in use by the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. And finally, Kelso Carter became a medical doctor in Baltimore!

As if all of this were not enough, Kelso Carter also wrote dozens of hymns, often including both words and music. Most are forgotten today, but many hymn books still contain Standing on the Promises, for which he provided both words and music. It appears to have been written during his years at the military academy, and one can almost hear the steady march of the cadets in the 4/4 rhythm of the song.

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

That is a firm foundation on which to stand, the sure promises of the living God. As King Solomon put it, “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses” (I Kgs. 8:56). A stanza of Mr. Carter’s song not usually used today says:

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

CONGREGATIONAL SINGING TEMPO. In one of my topical articles I share a few thoughts about the speed at which we sing our hymns and gospel songs. (See The Tempo of Congregational Hymns.) To illustrate the extremes, here are a couple of versions of the above hymn.

1) The first might better be described as racing through the promises! If only out of consideration for us seniors who can’t think (or breath!) as easily as we could years ago, this is ridiculous! Click on Racing Through.

2) I must say I laughed heartily at the contrast between the former and this next one that seems more like dozing over the promises! Perhaps the intention is to make the song a meditative prayer. Fair enough. But this may go beyond reasonable limits. Click on Dozing Over.

3) Somewhere in between these two extremes seems about right to me, give or take a little. That gives us time to consider the words we are singing, without dragging the song out too much.

(2) Today in 1866 – I Love to Tell the Story
Graphic Story TellerThe painting to the left has been in our family for generations. I was told as a child that the one boy was sad because he had been unable to sell his papers. But the other boy encouraged him kindly by telling him of the love of Jesus.

We all enjoy a good story. And English hymn writer Arabella Katherine Hankey, the daughter of a banker, had one to tell. In her early thirties she contracted a serious illness that left her bedridden for an extended period. She determined to tell the story of the life of Christ by writing a long poem about it.

Two gospel songs have been taken from this poem. In the first section (completed Jan. 29, 1866), which the author called “The Story Wanted,” are found the words of Tell Me the Old, Old Story. From the second section (completed Nov. 18, 1866), “The Story Told,” we have the song I Love to Tell the Story.

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

(3) Today in 1945 – William Ovens Died
The background of a hymn attributed to Ovens came to light after a long search–a search that still goes on! William Gilbert Ovens was an English clergyman who, for over 30 years, conducted Graphic W G Ovenschildren’s meetings in Northern Ireland under the Children’s Special Service Mission (now a part of Scripture Union). The hymn that bears his name is Wounded for Me. But none of my resources gave any information on the song. Finally, contacting Scripture Union in Britain yielded the following story.

One day in the years following the First World War, W. G. Ovens saw a wounded veteran limping past on the street and was impressed by the thought that, in a sense, the young man had taken that wound for him. After the soldier passed by, he instantly drew a parallel to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible says was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5).

Ovens was a man with a single purpose in life. It was said of him “the consuming passion of his life was Jesus Christ–to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to share with others the joy he found in Him, to lead others to Him, and to draw still others nearer to Him.” And one observed, “There was no shadow of compromise with him. He had no time for half-heartedness or lukewarmness.” After the above incident, Ovens wrote a little chorus that says:

Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.

Later the chorus was expanded into a hymn by Gladys Westcott Dobson Roberts (1888-1983). She and her husband Watkin Roberts served as a missionaries in India.  Mrs. Roberts added four more stanzas that complete the picture of Jesus dying for me, risen for me, living for me, finally ending with:

Coming for me, coming for me,
One day to earth He is coming for me;
Then with what joy His dear face I shall see,
O how I praise Him–He’s coming for me!


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