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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Phoebe Hinsdale Brown (b. May 1, 1783; d. Oct. 10, 1861)
Music: Woodstock (or Dutton), by Deodatus Dutton, Jr. (b. Dec. 22, 1808; d. Dec. 16, 1832)
Note: Most of Mrs. Brown’s hymns were written in Massachusetts. Through a life of poverty and trial she was described as a “most devoted mother, wife, and Christian.” Her son, Samuel R. Brown, became the first American missionary to Japan, and two of her grandchildren followed in his footsteps as missionaries to that same land.
Have you ever cried over a sad scene in a movie? Some of them certainly can tug at our emotions, even though they may be fictional stories. And sometimes our response is intensified by the awareness of things in our own lives.
In the 1976 boxing movie Rocky, there’s one such powerful moment. Rocky has come over to the home of his girlfriend Adrian for Thanksgiving dinner. Her brother Paulie also lives there. Paulie has some serious problems, but he’s in the mood to blame others for his troubles.
He loses his temper, rants on and on, and starts smashing furniture, at one point shouting at his sister, “You’re such a loser!” And if you’ve seen the movie you know that Adrian is a shy, gentle, caring soul, who’s begun to blossom in response to Rocky’s affection. But at her brother’s cruel treatment of her she stares him down, and explodes at the top of her voice, “I’m not a loser!”
I was going through an extremely difficult time when I watched that film years ago and, to be honest, I felt the sting of Paulie’s cruel words personally. At his insensitive rage, I wept for my own plight. But it was as though the Lord spoke to me through Adrian’s assured retort, encouraging me that, no, I wasn’t a loser, and He was still working in my life to bring blessing out of my struggles.
The Bible speaks of the Lord as “the God of all comfort,” and says He “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:3-4), which brings me to the story of American hymn writer Phoebe Brown and her many trials.
Both her parents died when she was two, and she was sent to live with a relative who kept the county jail. It was hardly a proper environment for a little girl. Her son said his mother experienced there, “such deprivations, cruel treatment and toil as breaks my heart.” The abuse continued until she was eighteen, when she was able to escape. She went to live for awhile with a sympathetic couple. It was at this time that she put her faith in Christ, but her education was limited to three months of schooling, where she learned to write.
In 1805 Phoebe married a house painter named Timothy Brown. The couple had four children, but Mr. Brown seems to have died soon after the last was born. Afterward Phoebe lived in a tiny unfurnished house. Her sick and bedridden sister stayed in the only finished room, while the mother and her children, one a babe in arms, crowded into the other room and managed as best they could.
It seemed there was no place indoors where Phoebe could have a little privacy for times of prayer and meditation on God’s Word. But nearby there was a fine house, the finest in the neighbourhood, with a beautiful, well-tended garden. To spend some time alone communing with the Lord, Phoebe would go each evening and walk up and down along the public path beside the garden, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers.
But the wealthy woman who lived there somehow became suspicious of Phoebe’s motives, and her harsh and critical words drove the author to back to her own house again. Holding the baby in her arms, she wept over the hardness of her lot. Then she wrote a poem about her experience called, “My Apology for My Twilight Rambles, Addressed to a Lady, August 1818.”
There is no record of whether the other woman read the poem, or responded to it. But several stanzas of it were turned into a hymn. In it God, by His grace, brings us blessing through sorrows, and comfort through tears. (And, incidentally, this is a fine piece of writing for someone who had only three months of formal schooling!)
CH-1) I love to steal awhile away
From every cumb’ring care,
And spend the hours of closing day
In humble, grateful, prayer.
CH-2) I love in solitude to shed
The penitential tear,
And all His promises to plead
Where none but God can hear.
CH-3) I love to think on mercies past,
And future good implore,
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On God, whom I adore.
CH-4) I love by faith to take a view
Of brighter scenes in heav’n;
The prospect doth my strength renew,
While here by tempests driven.
CH-5) Thus, when life’s toilsome day is o’er,
May its departing ray,
Be calm at this impressive hour,
And lead to endless day.
1) Have you had a personal time of tears that has led to a means of comfort for yourself and others?
2) What did you learn about the Lord in that experience?