Posted by: rcottrill | October 18, 2013

Blessed Be the Fountain

Words: Eden Reeder Latta (b. Mar. 24, 1839; d. Dec. 21, 1915)
Music: Henry Southwick Perkins (b. Mar. 20, 1833; d. Jan. 20, 1914)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This 1881 gospel song is sometimes titled, Whiter Than the Snow, using the first line of the refrain. It has a strong message regarding the substitutionary death of Christ, and the cleansing available to sinners, through His shed blood. Around 1950, my father was asked to train a Youth for Christ quartet that would accompany Canadian evangelist Barry Moore on an evangelistic tour in Europe. This is one of the songs that they used. I still have a scratchy 78 rpm recording of it.

Graphic Eden LattaEden Latta’s photograph shows him to be a striking looking elderly gentleman, with a forked beard. He was born in a beautiful part of Indiana known as “The Haw [Hawthorn] Patch. He and William Ogden (who wrote He Is Able to Deliver Thee, and many other gospel songs) were close boyhood friends.

In later years, Ogden purchased a great number of hymn texts from Eden Latta and set them to music. He commented, “They are the very cream of Sunday School song.” Of the sixteen hundred songs he produced, Latta wrote for other tune-smiths as well, including James McGranahan–for whom he accomplished the amazing feat of writing nine hymns in a single day!

In his early days as a hymn writer, Mr. Latta composed Blessed Be the Fountain for Dr. Henry Perkins in Chicago, with the latter providing the music. The song gained immediate popularity. Not only was it published in many song books, but it was also translated into other languages for the use of missionaries.

Eden Latta graciously credited the song’s singable tune for the wide favour it gained. That, however, fails to recognize the strong lyrics of many of his songs. Another that was popular in his day was Latta’s No More Good-byes, with a tune composed by James Filmore. It begins:

Where life’s crystal stream doth flow,
And the tree of life doth bloom,
Where no chilling frost can fall
On flow’rs that sweetly bloom;
Where the glory of the Lord
Shines through all the cloudless skies,
There, as endless ages roll,
Shall be no more good-byes.

Regarding the present hymn, the use of the word “fountain” in connection with cleansing from sin is found in a prophecy of Zechariah’s:

“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).

This is a New Covenant promise to be fulfilled by the nation of Israel in the future (Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 26:28; Rom. 11:25-29). The fountain was opened at Calvary, and cleansing was made available. However, Israel as a nation will not experience cleansing and restoration until they repent of their rejection of Christ (Zech. 12:10), at His coming again (14::4, 9).

Meanwhile, the cleansing is available to all sinners today, on an individual and personal basis, through faith in Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:13-14; I Jn. 1:7, 9). In CH-1, Eden Latta also alludes to the Shepherd seeking to bring the lost into His fold (Lk. 15:4, 7; cf. Jn. 10:16), to the spiritual healing made available through Christ’s suffering (I Pet. 2:24), and to the thoroughness of that cleansing pictured by the metaphor “whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7; Isa. 1:18).

CH-1) Blessèd be the fountain of blood,
To a world of sinners revealed;
Blessèd be the dear Son of God;
Only by His stripes we are healed.
Though I’ve wandered far from His fold,
Bringing to my heart pain and woe,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than the snow,
Whiter than the snow,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

CH-3) Father, I have wandered from Thee,
Often has my heart gone astray;
Crimson do my sins seem to me–
Water cannot wash them away.
Jesus, to the fountain of Thine,
Leaning on Thy promise, I go;
Cleanse me by Thy washing divine,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

1) In addition to the imagery of washing whiter than snow, what other pictures does the Bible use to portray what God does with our sins when we come to Him?

2) Sadly, some today want to avoid talking about the blood of Christ, feeling it is a distasteful subject. What other hymns do you know and use that remind us of its importance?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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