Posted by: rcottrill | December 4, 2010

Today in 1820 – Charles Deems Born

Charles Force Deems was a Methodist clergyman and college professor. For a time, he served as president of the Women’s College, in North Carolina. Later he moved to New York City, where he edited a newspaper called The Watchman, and founded the Church of Strangers. (Unusual name!)

Deems wrote a number of hymns, but we’ll look at one. In 1872, when he was serving the church just mentioned, he became  discouraged by the struggles of the new work. In his troubled mood Pastor Deems was much helped by a phrase in the 23rd Psalm, “I shall not want,” and he wrote a hymn about it.

I shall not want: in deserts wild
Thou spread’st Thy table for Thy child;
While grace in streams for thirsting souls,
Thro’ earth and heaven forever rolls.

I shall not want: my darkest night
Thy loving smile shall fill with light;
While promises around me bloom,
And cheer me with divine perfume.

I shall not want: Thy righteousness
My soul shall clothe with glorious dress;
My blood-washed robe shall be more fair
Than garments kings or angels wear.

I shall not want: whate’er is good,
Of daily bread or angels’ food,
Shall to my Father’s child be sure,
So long as earth and heaven endure.

(2) Today in 1844 – John Norris Born
John Samuel Norris was born on the Isle of Wight, but he attended school in Canada, and was ordained as a Methodist clergyman in Oshawa, Ontario, in 1868. Afterward he pastored churches in Canada and the United States (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa).

Pastor Norris wrote the tune for Ernest Blandy’s 1890 gospel song Where He Leads Me. In many churches, this simple hymn is used on the occasion of a believer’s baptism. It expresses the saints’ desire to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). (And Mr. Blandy got the order right: grace now, glory to come, Ps. 84:11.)

I can hear my Saviour calling,
I can hear my Saviour calling,
I can hear my Saviour calling,
“Take thy cross and follow, follow Me.”

Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow;
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
And go with me, with me all the way.

(3) Today in 1859 – Joseph Cook Born
Graphic Manger Scene2The Lord Jesus Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:14). In order to do this, He had to be sinlessly perfect Himself–otherwise He would have deserved to die for His own sins. The Bible describes the perfection that enabled the Lord Jesus to take our place under the wrath of God. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In another place it says He is “holy, harmless [blameless], undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). That truth is brought out in a Christmas hymn.

It was for a Christmas card competition in 1919 that a pastor named Joseph Simpson Cook (1859-1933) wrote the poem Gentle Mary Laid Her Child. His entry won the competition, and it was subsequently turned into a carol, borrowing the tune Tempus Adest Floridum, used also with Good King Wenceslas. Dr. Cook was born in England, but came to Canada as a young man. He was educated at McGill University in Montreal, and served a number of churches in Canada. His carol twice makes reference to the sinless “undefiled” nature of Christ that qualifies Him to die for us.

Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger;
There He lay, the undefiled, to the world a stranger:
Such a Babe in such a place, can He be the Saviour?
Ask the saved of all the race who have found His favour.

Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger;
He is still the undefiled, but no more a stranger:
Son of God, of humble birth, beautiful the story;
Praise His name in all the earth, hail the King of glory!

Here is a choral arrangement of this hymn. I’m sure this little church choir is doing their best, but the rendition seems a little slow and plodding. This is especially noticeable, given that the tune is also used with Good King Wenceslas, which is usually sung much more brightly


  1. Random thoughts, trying to keep them on topic…

    The tempo is perfect for the accompaniment, which is nearly flawless. If a flute or other solo instrument played the melody and there were no vocals, I think the tempo would be fine. It would sound like elevator music, though.

    Regarding the tune for “Where He Leads Me,” I would like someone to compose a countermelody for the refrain. Hmm… maybe I should work on that… I find that my ear thinks I am singing twice as many stanzas when the melody for the text is the same as the refrain.

    • H-m-m-… I listened to the video clip again yesterday, and waffled a bit on my original comment. It still does seem a bit…plodding is the best word that comes to mind. It doesn’t feel “gentle” to me. If I were conducting, I think I’d try picking up the pace just a little.

      As to “Where He Leads Me,” I agree. The tune is already somewhat repetitive. To use it for the refrain as well means singing it eight times! What I’ve sometimes done is treat the refrain as a fifth stanza, and sing it only once. But see what you can do with a fresh tune for the refrain. Great idea!


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