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Words: Warren Donald Cornell (b. Apr. 25, 1858; d. some time after 1920)
Music: William Gustin Cooper (b. July 15, 1861; d. Oct. 17, 1938)
Note: As a young man, Cornell was a school teacher. But he’s identified in the 1880 census as a minister of the gospel, and he served a number of congregations as pastor. The hymn was written in 1889. Originally, in CH-4, the song called the Lord the “Author” of peace, rather than the Anchor. Both are true.
A number of topics are often in the news. One is the economy. People are worried about whether they’ll be able to keep paying the rent, and put food on the table. Another common subject is terrorism, and the threat posed by conflicts in various places around the globe. Stated another way, the latter concerns a search for peace. Read the newspaper, or watch the news on television, and peace is discussed repeatedly as something that’s desired, but too often lacking. The subject keeps coming up.
The Scriptures deal with the spiritual dimensions of peace hundreds of times. Fifty-eight of the sixty-six books of the Bible have something to say about peace. And dozens of our hymns make reference to it as well. If you are a regular reader of this column, you may know that there is more than one hymn with the title of today’s selection, Wonderful Peace. (See the blog for September 23, 2015.)
Why is it such a frequent theme in the spiritual realm, as well as in the secular world? Again, it’s because peace is something we want, and so often don’t have. Augustine said, long ago: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” Without God, the heart is an empty well, and all of life is out of joint.
Attempts are made, of course, to find a substitute. Money and possessions, pleasures–licit and illicit, a relentless climb to new heights of power and success, none can take the Lord’s place. Even friendship’s bonds, warm and wonderful in themselves, cannot do what God can do. He has put eternity in the hearts of men (Ecc. 3:11). Unlike the animals, we have an eternal spirit, and a capacity to have a relationship with the eternal God. This begins with the new birth.
But it would be naive and short-sighted to claim that no Christian has a struggle to maintain inner peace. Through personal faith in Christ, we gain peace with God (Rom. 5:1). But we maintain inner serenity and live peacefully only through an ongoing walk of faith that commits life’s challenges and obstacles to Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7), and claims His daily grace (Heb. 4:15-16). Author George Sanville wrote that “peace is frictionless motion.” Too many of us find instead that we’re regularly, and painfully, scraped and scoured by life’s troubles.
The present song called Wonderful Peace was written by Warren Cornell, who was born in Michigan in 1858. Cornell was a pastor, an evangelist, an eloquent preacher, and a poet. But the creation of this hymn involved another pastor as well.
Rev. William Cooper (1861-1938) was conducting camp meetings in Wisconsin, in 1889. It was a time of special blessing for all in attendance. Among those gathered was Warren Cornell, who one day remained sitting in the large tent used for the meetings, after others had gone. Following a period of meditation, he jotted down some lines describing the peace of God in the heart of the believer. Leaving the tent afterward, he didn’t realize that he’d dropped the paper on which he’d written his thoughts.
Pastor Cooper entered the tent an hour or two later and spotted that piece of paper. He picked it up, likely in the process of tidying the tent for the next service. But he was fascinated by what he saw written there. It was the rough beginnings of a poem. He not only sat down and completed the lines of verse, he went to the organ and wrote a tune for them. That is how Cornell’s Wonderful Peace came to be. It says:
CH-1) Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.
Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!
CH-2) What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!
CH-4) And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Anchor of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:
1) Regarding the word change in CH-4, what is the difference between Christ being the Author of our peace and the Anchor of it?
2) What would you tell a Christian who seemed to lack God’s peace to help him gain it?