Posted by: rcottrill | December 3, 2010

Today in 1841 – Clara Scott Born

Clara H. Fiske was a trained musician who taught at a Ladies Seminary in Lyons, Iowa. She married Henry Clay Scott in 1861. Two decades later, she published a popular collection of songs by many authors on both sides of the Atlantic. Called the Royal Anthem Book, it was the first of its kind to be published by a woman. Gospel music composer Horatio Palmer was a great encouragement to Mrs. Scott, and helped her publish many of her songs. But the only one of them in common use today is Open My Eyes That I May See.

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

(2) Today in 1850 – Frank North Born
Frank Mason North was a Methodist Episcopal clergyman who pastored churches in New York City and elsewhere for twenty years. He also served as secretary of the Church Extension and Missionary Society of New York City, and was corresponding secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

It was a meeting of Pastor North with Caleb Winchester that led to the writing of a stirring hymn. Winchester was compiling hymns for the Methodist Hymnal to be published in 1905, when he met North in New York City. He asked him to write a hymn to be included in the book. The latter protested that he was not a hymn writer, but he agreed he would try to come up with something.

Graphic Busy StreetFrank North was preparing to preach a sermon on Matt. 22:9, “‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’” A verse from Jesus’ parable of the Marriage Feast, it pictures for us the gospel call. And Mr. North was particularly struck by the American Revised Version which says, “Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways.”

Other Bible versions use words such as street corners, intersections, and crossroads. North pictured in his sermon some of the world’s great crossroads, and discussed the particular spiritual problems found in the cities of the world. These concerns were then eloquently expressed in his moving hymn, Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life.

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear your voice, O Son of Man.

In haunts of wretchedness and need,
On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed,
We catch the vision of Your tears.

The cup of water given for You,
Still holds the freshness of Your grace;
Yet long these multitudes to view
The sweet compassion of Your face.

The video clip below comes from St. John’s Episcopal Church, in Detroit, Michigan. It is interesting for several reasons. I certainly enjoy the dignity and power of a great pipe organ, well played. The choral descant is lovely, too.

You will note that there is a lot going on, during the singing of the hymn. In my own church experience, the choir usually slips into their places from side doors on the platform, and during the prelude, not during the singing of a hymn. (And exactly what the gentleman on the platform is doing at times, I’m not sure. But it is sometimes distracting!)

Finally, we get not only the hymn here, but the American National Anthem to begin this service. Though I’m not from a liturgical tradition, I can recall as a small boy that our morning worship services for many years began with Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow, God Save the King, and O Canada. (A bit much, I think!–though I’m grateful for my country, and do believe we should pray for God’s blessings on our Queen.)

(3) Today in 1884 – Jane Bonar Died
Jane Catharine Lundie was born in Scotland. After losing her father and mother in 1832, she was sent to school in London. On her return, she lived for a time with her sister Mary. When Mary died, Jane married famed Scottish hymn writer and pastor Horatius Bonar. The latter wrote dozens of fine hymns, but his wife is remembered today chiefly for one, Jesus Is Mine (or Fade, Fade, Each Earthly Joy).

Fade, fade, each earthly joy, Jesus is mine!
Break every tender tie, Jesus is mine!
Dark is the wilderness, Earth has no resting place,
Jesus alone can bless, Jesus is mine!

Tempt not my soul away, Jesus is mine!
Here would I ever stay, Jesus is mine!
Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day,
Pass from my heart away, Jesus is mine!

Farewell, ye dreams of night, Jesus is mine!
Lost in this dawning bright, Jesus is mine!
All that my soul has tried left but a dismal void;
Jesus has satisfied, Jesus is mine!


  1. Robert, this is fabulous. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting yesterday. I am part of that in-between generation, loving both the old hymns and contemporary worship music, but I have to say the hymns always have been so meaningful to me. When one considers the history of the writer or the hymn, the words become even moreso. You have a wealth of wonderful background here sure to bless those who read.

    I’m going to pass your blog along to my dad who is also a great lover of the hymns.

    Thank you for your work!

    • Thanks for the kind words. And I hope your dad enjoys the blog too. Many of our hymns were written out of significant times of blessing or crisis. Even if the language is dated, they have the ring of truth that attracts folks to them again and again. God bless.

  2. Well, Robert–you do make one go looking for your blog site. But I did find it.
    Thanks for stopping by an old blog of mine Yes, I do love hymns. I grew up where singing was a most available form of celebration–no radios, no TVs–not because I avoid them…they just weren’t available.
    I also read your profile–I too am Christian, but liberal–not theologically conservative. And I do love hymns.
    Music speaks all across theological spectrums.
    One of my personal favorites is the one you picture on your blog heading–It is Well with My Soul.

    • You mention music speaking across the theological spectrum. One of the things I’ve noted in about 40 years of studying and singing our traditional hymns and gospel songs is the many different denominational associations of the authors. I’m sure I would have points of disagreement with many, but there are also areas of agreement. Because of that, conservative evangelical Baptist folks such as I am can sing many hymns by Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and even Roman Catholics and more. All truth is God’s truth they say.

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