Christian Furchtegott Gellert’s father was a Lutheran pastor. For a time, Christian assisted him. But both physical and emotional maladies forced him to leave the ministry to take up the less demanding role of a private tutor. He also took on a minor post at the University of Leipzig, where he had trained. He lectured on poetry and rhetoric, and taught philosophy, and was apparently very popular with his students. Gellert wrote over 50 hymns, but only a few remain in common use. One is Jesus Lives and So Shall I, published in 1751.
Jesus lives! No longer now
Can thy terrors, death, appall us;
Jesus lives! By this we know
Thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us.
Jesus lives! Henceforth is death
But the gate of life immortal;
This shall calm our trembling breath,
When we pass its gloomy portal.
Jesus lives! Our hearts know well
Naught from us His love shall sever;
Life, nor death, nor powers of hell
Tear us from His keeping ever.
(2) Today in 1823 – William How Born
William Walsham How was a spiritually-minded Anglican clergyman. His son wrote of him:
It is the fate of a hymn writer to be forgotten. Of the millions who Sunday after Sunday sing hymns in our churches, not more than a few hundred know or consider whose words they are singing….Bishop Walsham How was prepared for this. His ambition was not to be remembered, but to be helpful. He gave free liberty to any to make use of his hymns. It was enough for him if he could enlarge the thanksgiving of the church or minister by song to the souls of men.
Few who have sung his hymns would doubt this goal has been achieved. (For more on Bishop How and his hymns, see the second item under Today in 1810.) Of the more than 50 How wrote, several are still in common use:
For All the Saints
Jesus, Name of Wondrous Love
O Jesus, Thou Art Standing
O Word of God Incarnate
Soldiers of Christ, Arise
We Give Thee but Thine Own
One of Bishop How’s hymns that is rarely used today is Jesus, Name of Wondrous Love. It contains allusions to the angel telling Joseph to name the coming One “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), and to Paul’s words, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
Jesus! name of wondrous love!
Name all other names above!
Unto which must every knee
Bow in deep humility.
Jesus! name of priceless worth
To the fallen sons of earth,
For the promise that it gave—
“Jesus shall His people save.”
Jesus! Only name that’s given
Under all the mighty heaven,
Whereby man, to sin enslaved,
Bursts his fetters, and is saved.
William Walsham How’s hymn on Christian stewardship issues an important reminder that all that we are and have comes from the Lord in the first place.
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.
In the following brief video clip, the first stanza of the hymn appears to be used as a musical prayer before the receiving of the offering. The other interesting thing here is the projection of the words above the choir. I wonder if that would help a congregation to focus more on the message of the words and less on the quality of the performance. It would certainly assist those who are hard of hearing.
(3) Today in 1847 – Daniel McGregor Born
Daniel Arthur McGregor grew up in rural Ontario with little education beyond his twelfth year. But a keen interest in reading gained him a great breadth of knowledge. Led to Christ at the age of 20 by his oldest brother, McGregor attended a church notable for both the holiness of its members, and their thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. It was said in that community that “every dinner table was a theological class.” (What a blessing!)
After some formal training, Daniel McGregor served as the pastor of several churches. His Christ-centred ministry brought many to the Saviour. During five years in the Ontario town of Stratford, 121 individuals were received into his church upon profession of faith. In 1886 he accepted a teaching position at Toronto Baptist College (associated with McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario). A former student said, “He not only thought out the doctrines upon which he lectured, but he felt their power, and falling tears often evinced his emotion as he spoke of some particular aspect of the truth.”
In 1889 McGregor took over as principal of the school, but he died a year later of tuberculosis of the spine and complications from surgery. It was during his confinement to bed in the autumn months of 1889 that he composed the hymn Jesus, Wondrous Saviour, expressing his deep love for Christ. His family donated the original manuscript of the hymn to the university in 1921 and it became known officially as “The McMaster Hymn.”
Jesus, wondrous Saviour! Christ, of kings the King!
Angels fall before Thee, prostrate worshiping;
Fairest they confess Thee in the heav’n above.
We would sing Thee fairest here in hymns of love.
All earth’s flowing pleasures were a wintry sea,
Heav’n itself without Thee dark as night would be.
Lamb of God! Thy glory is the light above.
Lamb of God! Thy glory is the life of love.
Life is death if severed from Thy throbbing heart.
Death with life abundant at Thy touch would start.
Worlds and men and angels all consist in Thee:
Yet Thou camest to us in humility.
Jesus! All perfections rise and end in Thee;
Brightness of God’s glory Thou, eternally,
Favoured beyond measure, they Thy face who see;
May we gracious Saviour, share this ecstasy.