Posted by: rcottrill | August 7, 2013

The Mercies of God

Words: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: Jesse B. Thomas (no information available)


Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Chisholm)
The Cyber Hymnal (Thomas Chisholm)

Note: The two links will tell you more about Mr. Chisholm–and yes, he died on February 29th. And because 2010, the year I wrote the Almanac, was not a leap year, I had to post his information at the bottom of the page for February of that year.

This hymn is not well known, and I could find no information on the composer of the music. However, the story behind it is so remarkable that I wanted to share it. A fuller account is given in Al Smith’s book Hymn Histories (pp. 136-139)-–a book I recommend.

The old man awoke to face another weary day. His wife had been seriously ill for a long time, and it was time to give her her medicine. But the bottle was empty, and he had no money for more. Thinking perhaps a little breakfast would lift her spirits, he returned to the kitchen. But the ice box was almost as empty as the pill bottle, and even buying groceries seemed beyond their means. Not only that, their rent was due that day.

A pretty bleak picture. But God knew the need even before they did. Nothing takes the Lord by surprise. He says, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:9-10). And “known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18).

That is why He is able to work through our circumstances, providing in advance for our needs to be met when the time comes. The word for that is God’s providence, meaning His before-seeing. It is the divine attribute behind Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good [or, He works all things together for good] to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Tom certainly believed that. He and his wife had come through many difficult times, though on this day in 1935 things seemed worse than usual. But see how the Lord was working!

Two days before, two men were attending to some necessary record-keeping for the Gideons Bible distribution ministry. They were going over the membership list for New Jersey. The policy was to remove anyone who had been contacted twice, but failed to send in the registration fee–five dollars in those days.

But just as Mr. Stam was about to cross off T. O. Chisholm, his friend said, “Jake, don’t you know who that man is? Why, he’s the fellow that wrote Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Saying that was his favourite hymn, Stam responded, “That sure is worth five dollars–I’ll pay the brother’s dues.”

However that was not to be the end of it. That night Stam had trouble sleeping. Tom Chisholm kept coming to his mind. Believing there might be a need there, he decided to send him a gift in the morning. Then the ringing of the phone at six roused him. It was his friend from the evening before. He had had the same experience in the night. Seeing this as the leading of the Lord, both men wrote cheques, mailing them off with a note.

The next day–the day the burden of the Chisholm’s meagre finances struck with full force, he got that letter. At first, his heart sank to see the return address on the envelope, Jacob Stam, Attorney at Law! He thought, “All the trouble I’m in, and now an attorney is after me!”

But when he tore open the envelope he read, “Dear Brother, we have never met you, but we love you in the Lord. Thank you so much for Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Enclosed is a little something the Lord told us to send you.” Mr. Chisholm was astonished to see that the “little something” covered not only the month’s rent, and the cost of his wife’s medicine, but provided enough to restock the pantry.

It was at the suggestion of his wife that the hymn writer penned The Mercies of God, in celebration of God’s amazing provision. Truly, “Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord!” (Ps. 119:156).

1) The mercies of God! What a theme for my song,
Oh! I never could number them o’er;
They’re more than the stars in the heavenly dome,
Or the sands of the wave beaten shore.

For mercies so great, what return can I make–
For mercies so constant and sure?
I’ll love Him, I’ll serve Him with all that I have
As long as my life shall endure.

3) His angels of mercy encompass me ‘round,
Wheresoever my pathway may lead;
Each turn of the road some new token reveals–
Oh! For me life is blesséd indeed.

1) What example of God’s tender mercies did you experience in the last couple of weeks?

2) Is there someone the Lord has brought to your mind that you could be God’s agent in blessing or encouraging (perhaps even anonymously)?

Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Chisholm)
The Cyber Hymnal (Thomas Chisholm)


  1. Sir, Thank you for posting this specific hymn. I could find the lyrics nowhere on the Internet, till I found Wordwise Hymns. Not even Cyberhymnal has it. I have contributed to that site also, as you have, but with photographs of authors.

    Question: My family hails from Guelph…. long time ago. I see that you have been a Baptist pastor for 40 years. By any chance, did you ever come across a man named Howard Chipchase? He, too, was a Baptist Pastor. Just wondering. He was my grandfather, and a powerful preacher.

    I read your bio and I am also in that same “camp” as you describe:

    “When I call myself a Christian, I mean that I have put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal and only Saviour from sin. My theology is conservative and evangelical. I hold to a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and the fundamentals of the apostolic faith.” ….. Praise the Lord!

    Thanks for your posts. I love hymn sites and I love to sing the praises of our God.

  2. What a wonderful testimony to God’s merciful provision this hymn story is. I posted the lyrics on my blog today, working my way through Al Smith’s Inspiring Hymns. Thank you for posting this.

    God is providing me with shift work from week to week, or sometimes day to day, to meet my needs. Every day He mercifully gives me the strength to do what is before me. His mercy knows no limit!

    • Yes, the experience of Mr. Chisholm is amazing. There’s a phrase used in the Psalms that I think of often. Nine times (in the NKJV) the psalmists refer to the “tender mercies” of God. “His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Meaning, I think, that the compassionate care of our heavenly Father overshadows all He does. In times of severe trial (such as my wife and I are experiencing presently) we may not recognize the tender mercies of God for what they are. At such times we need to cling to Him in faith, confident the future may well reveal the wonderful things the Lord was doing. God bless.

      • Sorry to hear of your trial but thank you for your encouraging words in the midst of it. God’s ways are not ours. They are beyond understanding, but not beyond believing. And His grace is sufficient for our every weakness. He is God indeed!


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