Posted by: rcottrill | December 21, 2010

Today in 1849 – Shepherd of Tender Youth published

TGraphic Clement of Alexandriahe hymn Shepherd of Tender Youth (sometimes rendered Shepherd of Eager Youth) was written by Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens) around the year AD 200. That is only about a century after the death of the Apostle John, making it the earliest post-apostolic Christian hymn we know of that is still in common use. The English paraphrase of the original Greek hymn, by Henry Dexter, was published in The Congregationalist on this date in 1849.

Clement is thought to have been born in Athens around the year 170. Before his conversion to Christ he was a pagan philosopher. Afterward, he became head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria, and wrote ten books. The hymn we know him by he called simply a Hymn of the Saviour Christ. It is found in an appendix to his book, The Tutor.

Shepherd of tender youth, guiding in love and truth
Through devious ways; Christ our triumphant King,
We come Thy name to sing, and here our children bring
To join Thy praise.

Thou art our holy Lord, O all subduing Word,
Healer of strife. Thou didst Thyself abase
That from sin’s deep disgrace Thou mightest save our race
And give us life.

(2) Today in 1807 – John Newton Died
John Newton spent his early life as a profane sailor and a slave trader. Even his fellow crew members, a blaspheming lot themselves, shuddered to hear some of the terrible oaths that came from his mouth. But the Lord got hold of his life, and he was dramatically saved. He studied Greek and Hebrew and eventually entered the ministry, becoming the pastor of the little church in Olney, England. For the rest of his life, he marveled at the amazing grace of God, making it the subject of his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace–though he wrote at least 280 others. (For more about Newton and his hymns, see Today in 1725.)

Newton wrote the inscription for a memorial plaque found in the last church he served. It is his testimony:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.
He ministered,
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church.

When he was in his eighties, someone suggested it was time Newton retired. The pastor retorted, “What! Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?” Preaching one of his last messages, the pastor directed attention to his text. It was First Peter, Chapter 2, verse 7, “To you who believe, He is precious.” “Jesus Christ is precious,” said the old preacher with deep feeling. And there was a lengthening pause. And he said again, “Jesus Christ is precious.” “You’ve already said that twice,” whispered his assistant. “Go on!” “I said it twice, and I’m going to say it again,” replied Newton. And with that he shouted at the top of his voice, “JESUS CHRIST IS PRECIOUS!”

What would be your request if the Lord said to you, as He did to Solomon, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (I Kgs. 3:5)? John Newton considered that text, and out of his meditation produced the hymn, Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare–with the word “suit” being used in the sense of a petition made in court (i.e. a law suit).

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

Another of Newton’s creations is the beautiful prayer hymn Great Shepherd of Thy Chosen Flock. You can hear the tune on the Cyber Hymnal.

Great Shepherd of Thy chosen flock,
Thy people’s Shield, their shadowing Rock,
Once more we meet to hear Thy voice,
Once more before Thee to rejoice.

Now may Thy Spirit, by the Word,
Refresh each wearied heart, O Lord,
Wearied of earth’s vain strife and woe,
And longing more Thyself to know.

Thine is the heart our griefs to feel,
And Thine the love each wound to heal;
Home Thou art gone for us to care,
Returning soon to take us there.


  1. And John Newton is the author of my favorite hymn: “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” Rich with Scriptural imagery; poetry of highest quality; and set to the music of Franz Joseph Haydn; it is indeed a glorious hymn. Here’s the fifth verse, typed from memory:

    Saviour, if of Zion’s city, I through grace a member am,
    Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name.
    Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all its boasted pomp and show,
    Solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.

    And among the solid joys of my life is this website. Thank you, Mr. Cottrill, for your work.

    • Thanks for the encouraging compliment! And isn’t it interesting that many hymn book editors have chosen to omit the stanza of Newton’s hymn that you quote! I picked up 3 hymnals here in my office, at random. None includes it. I realize the problem with limited space. (And some of those old hymns had 8 or 10 verses or more.) But sometimes great things are lost on the chopping block.

  2. […] of John Newton’s hymns, his birth (see Today in 1725), and his death (see second item under Today in 1849) reveal the tremendous contribution he has […]

  3. […] (For more about John Newton and his hymns, see Today in 1725, and the second item under Today in 1849.) […]

  4. […] John Newton’s testimony was much like that of the Apostle Paul whose reputation in the early church was, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23). Both men were objects of God’s amazing grace! To read about Newton’s death, see the second item under Today in 1849. […]

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  6. […] Wordwise Hymns (Newton born, hymn written, Newton died) The Cyber […]

  7. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


%d bloggers like this: