Philip Bliss

  • Birth: July 9, 1838, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania
  • Death: December 29, 1876, Ashtabula, Ohio

Philip Bliss was born in 1838 to a dedicated Christian family living in Pennsylvania’s mountains. His first memories of his father, Isaac, were of daily family prayers. His father also loved music and ingrained a love of singing in Philip.

Bliss had little schooling, mostly his father’s singing and his mother’s teaching. At age eleven, he left home to make a living for himself. For five years he worked in logging and lumber camps and sawmills. He made a public confession of Christ as his savior at age twelve, although he never knew a time when he did not love Christ.

In 1851, Bliss became assistant cook in a lumber camp and was later promoted to log cutter and then sawmill worker. Between these jobs he attended school. He was undecided as to what vocation he wanted, so he prepared himself for whatever might come. Along with this, he spent some money on his musical education and began to participate in Methodist camp meetings and revival services.

At age seventeen, Bliss went to Bradford City, Pennsylvania and completed his requirements for teaching credentials. He obtained a teaching position at Hartsville, New York. In 1857 he met J.G. Towner, who conducted a vocal school in Pennsylvania.

Towner recognized Bliss’ unusually fine singing voice and offered to provide formal voice training. He also made it possible for Bliss to go to a musical convention, where he met William B. Bradbury, a noted composer of sacred music. It was Bradbury who convinced Bliss to surrender his talents to the Lord.

Bliss eventually met and married Lucy Young, a poet who also came from a musical family and encouraged his musical talents. Bliss took music pupils to supplement his income and later became an itinerant music teacher, traveling with a $20 melodeon and an ancient horse.

Though he enjoyed teaching music, Bliss recognized his limitations and longed to study under an accomplished musician. His wife’s grandmother provided him with $30 to attend the Normal Academy of Music of New York, after which he became a professional music teacher in earnest. He also began to compose music at this time.

One night, while passing a revival meeting where D. L. Moody was preaching, Bliss went in to listen. As the singing was weak, his voice stood out. Moody sought him out and asked him to come to his Sunday evening meetings. He urged him to become a singing evangelist.

In 1873 Bliss joined his friend Major Whittle at a revival. The Holy Spirit filled the hall and many souls were brought to Christ that night. The following afternoon, as they met for prayer, Bliss surrendered his life to Jesus Christ anew, giving up his secular song writing, his business position, and his church work so that he could devote full time to singing of sacred music in evangelism.

Using his talents for the Lord, Bliss wrote many hymns and other songs. He published “Gospel Songs,” “Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs” in 1875, and was co-editor of “Gospel Hymns No. 2” a year later. He labored for the love of God, declining copyright benefits. The royalties, an amount of about $60,000, were distributed to worthy charities instead.

In December of 1876, Bliss died in a train wreck near Ashtabula, Ohio. Though he had survived the wreck, he went back to rescue his beloved wife and they both perished in the flames.

 

 

” William H. Doane: 1832-1915

by Henry S. Burrage

Dr. William Howard Doane, musical composer, was born in Preston, New London County, Connecticut, [United States], February 3, 1832. He received his education in the public schools of that place, and subsequently he attended the Academy at Woodstock, where he was graduated in 1848.

His father was an extensive cotton manufacturer, and at an early age William was placed in an important position in his counting-room. About three years later he accepted a still higher and more responsible position in the counting-room of James S. Treat, an extensive manufacturer of cotton goods in Voluntown.

After remaining there three years he was called to Norwich to take charge of the books and finances of J. A. Fay & Co., at that time extensive manufacturers of wood-working machinery. He remained with them about five years and then was transferred by the company to Chicago, Illinois, and placed in charge of their western business as general agent. In 1860, he became a partner in the business, and having removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, he became president of the company, and has since had the complete control and management of the business. The sole manufacturing establishment of the company is now in Cincinnati.

Dr. Doane was converted in 1847, and in 1851, he was baptized by Rev. Frederic Denison, and united with the Central Baptist church in Norwich, Connecticut. In 1857, he was married to Fanny M. Treat, daughter of his father’s partner. Dr. Doane lives at Mount Auburn, a suburb of Cincinnati, and is a prominent member of the Mount Auburn Baptist church.

From his early boyhood Dr. Doane was interested in music. At the age of six years he sang frequently in public, and at the age of ten he sang in the church choir. At twelve he was considered an exceptionally fine flutist. At thirteen, he could play on the double bass viol, and at fifteen with equal skill he could play on the cabinet organ. About this time, he commenced musical composition. In thorough bass, etc., he was favored with good instructors, among them, Holbrook, B. F. Baker, A. N. Johnson, and the great German musician, Kanhoiser.

In 1852-4, he was conductor of the Norwich Harmonic Society. In 1854, he assisted B. F. Baker in a musical convention. His first Sunday-school hymn book, “Sabbath Gems,” was prepared in 1861. This was followed, in 1864, by “Little Sunbeams,” in 1867, by” Silver Spray,” and by “Songs of Devotion,” in 1868.

Since that time, in connection with Rev. Robert Lowry, D.D., he has published “Pure Gold,” “Royal Diadem,” “Temple Anthem,” “Tidal Wave,” “Brightest and Best,” “Welcome Tidings,” “Fountain of Song,” “Good as Gold,” “Glad Hosanna,” “Joyful Lays,” “Glad Refrain,” and others. He was also connected with Dr. Lowry in preparing “The Gospel Hymn and Tune Look” for the American Baptist Publication Society, and more recently he was one of the musical editors of “The Baptist Hymnal.”

In 1875, Denison University conferred upon him the honorary degree of doctor of music.

Dr. Doane has written a few hymns, among them

“No one knows but Jesus,” “Savior, like a bird to thee,”

and the following in “Good as Gold”:

Precious Savior, dearest Friend, While we bend the knee, Come and give our longing hearts Deeper love for thee. Come and consecrate us now, Seal us ever thine; May we to thy holy will Every power resign. Trusting as a little child, Help us Lord to be; While we ask in simple faith Deeper love for thee. Deeper love, yes, deeper love, This our constant plea; Deeper love, yes, deeper love, Till we’re lost in thee.

Dr. Doane has devoted himself especially to musical composition, and many of his tunes are as familiar as household words. The music to the “Old, Old Story” was composed under the following circumstances. The words were given to Dr. Doane in 1866, or 1867, at Montreal, by Maj. Gen. Russell, then the commander of the Queen’s forces in Canada. Gen. Russell had read the words at the farewell meeting of the International Convention of the Y.M.C.A. With others Dr. Doane went from Montreal to the White Mountains, and on a stage-coach, between the Glen and the Crawford House, he wrote the music to the “Old, Old Story.” That evening in the parlor at the Crawford a little company gathered around the piano, and there this sweet hymn was first sung.

“Safe in the arms of Jesus” was composed on the railway, between Philadelphia and Newark, while Dr. Doane was on his way to attend the International Sunday-school Convention in 1867.

“Rescue the perishing” was composed for the anniversary meeting of the Y.M.C.A. at Indianapolis, and was first published in “Songs of Devotion.”

“More like Jesus would I be” was composed for an anniversary of the Howard Mission in New York. The words were written by Fanny Crosby, while on her knees just after a season of prayer.

“Near the cross, a trembling soul” was written and first sung from manuscript in Baltimore, at a public meeting, at which Dr. Doane was asked to favor the audience with a song. He happened to have the manuscript in his pocket, and with it answered the invitation. It touched the hearts of those present, and at once became popular.

Among other well known hymns for which the music was composed by Dr. Doane, are the following:

“Pass me not, O gentle Savior,” “Jesus, keep me near the cross,” “More love to thee, O Christ,” “Take the name of Jesus with you.”

Dr. Doane has composed more than six hundred Sunday-school songs, at least one hundred and fifty church and prayer-meeting hymns, and two hundred and fifty other songs and ballads, beside anthems, cantatas, etc.

[Dr. Doane died in 1915.]

Copied and coded by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns by Henry S. Burrage. Portland, Maine: Brown Thurston & Co., ©1888.

  

Elisha A. Hoffman: Pastor and Gospel Hymn Writer

by Jacob Henry Hall; edited and enlarged by Stephen Ross

The subject of this sketch, Elisha A. Hoffman, was born in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania [United States], on the seventh day of May in the year of our Lord 1839. His parents, Francis A. and Rebecca A. Hoffman, were Pennsylvania Germans. His father was a minister of the Gospel in the Evangelical Association, and rendered over sixty years of service in preaching the Word.

Elisha was educated in the public schools of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, and graduated in the scientific course from the Central High School. Afterwards he took up the classics and completed a classical course in Union Seminary of the Evangelical Association. For eleven years he was connected with the Association’s publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio.

His musical education was limited. He is not a graduate of any School of Music, but he is a natural musician. All the musical knowledge he has was gained by personal application. Mr. Hoffman’s first impressions of music came from hearing the voice of sacred song in the home. His parents both had sweet voices and sang well. It was their custom, in the hour of family worship, both morning and evening, to sing one or two hymns. At an early age, the children became familiar with these hymns and learned to love them and to feel their hallowing and refining power. Their lives were marvellously influenced by this little service of song in the home. A taste for sacred music was created and developed, and song became as natural a function of the soul as breathing was a function of the body.

Under the power of such an environment, Mr. Hoffman came to consciousness of a princely possession with which God had endowed him — the ability to express his intuitions and conceptions in meter and song. His inner being thrilled with inspirations, longing for expression, and he used the power with which God had clothed him in the production of the many songs which bear his name. His first composition was given to the world when he was eighteen years of age. Since then heart, brain and pen have been very prolific in the birth of songs.

Over two thousand of his compositions are in print. He has assisted in the compilation and editing of fifty different song books, some of which have received marked favour and have been issued in large editions. All have accomplished a measure of good and have proved a blessing to the world. Many separate compositions have been translated into the languages of different countries and from these many countries have come letters expressing gratitude to the author for their helpfulness and inspiration.

In the larger number of his musical compositions Mr. Hoffman is the author of both the words and music. When a melody is born in his soul, appropriate words seem to be immediately associated with the melody; or, when a conception in his mind crystallizes into a hymn, usually there is present the suggestion of a melody that will give adequate and fitting expression to the mental conception. There are exceptions, but this is the rule which governs him in his musical writings.

Among his most popular and useful songs are: “What a Wonderful Saviour!,” “Enough for Me,” “Are You Washed in the Blood?,” “No Other Friend Like Jesus,” “I Must Tell Jesus,” “Is Your All on the Altar?,” and many others.

Like his dad before him, Mr. Hoffman has been an evangelistic minister of the Gospel for many years, and at present is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor, Michigan, where he has served for over thirteen years. While his ministry in the churches which he has served has been fruitful, his songs in the good which they have done have constituted a still larger ministry. Through his songs he preaches to many thousands who never hear his voice.

While not working in his study or writing gospel songs and hymns, he could be found ministering with the poor in their homes. The story has been told that while visiting one day, he came to a home which had been experienced much sorrow and affliction. He found the mother of the home in the depths of despair. He tried to quote Bible verses that he thought would help to console her, but to no avail. Then he suggested that she could do nothing better than to take all of her sorrow to the Lord Jesus. “You must tell Jesus,” he told her. Upon mediating upon these words, a light broke across her face and she cried, “Yes, I must tell Jesus.” Mr. Hoffman left immediately with those words still ringing in his ears — “I must tell Jesus.” He went directly home and wrote:

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.

 Refrain

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

 

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;

He is a kind, compassionate friend;

If I but ask Him, He will deliver,

Make of my troubles quickly an end.

  Refrain

Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;

One Who can help my burdens to bear;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;

He all my cares and sorrows will share.

 Refrain

O how the world to evil allures me!

O how my heart is tempted to sin!

I must tell Jesus, and He will help me

Over the world the victory to win.

 Refrain

 Elisha Hoffman was 90 years old when he died November 25, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois.

 

 

        Charles Wesley

“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”: Charles Wesley

by Amos R. Wells

                        The three greatest hymn-writers of our English tongue are Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby. There are many who think that the hymn we are to study is the greatest hymn ever written; all men agree that it is the best of Wesley’s hymns, though he wrote no less than six thousand. Many of these six thousand, too, rise to the highest rank of religious poetry, such as those beginning: “Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,” “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,” “A charge to keep I have,” “Arise, my soul, arise,” “Love divine, all love excelling,” “Depth of mercy! Can there be,” “Soldiers of Christ, arise,” “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing,” and the noble Christmas hymn, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” That is a wonderful list of great hymns to be written by one man. Charles Wesley, next to the youngest of nineteen children, was born at Epworth, England, on December 18, [1707]. His father was Rev. Samuel Wesley, and his mother, Susannah Wesley, was a very remarkable woman. When he was a lad of fifteen, an Irish member of Parliament, Garret Wesley, a wealthy man, wanted to adopt him. His father left him to decide the matter, and he decided in the negative. The boy that was finally adopted became the father of the Duke of Wellington (Lord “Wellesley,” as he spelled “Wesley”), who conquered Napoleon at Waterloo. How history might have been changed if young Charles Wesley had not decided as he did! In 1735 Wesley became a clergyman of the Church of England, and went with his brother John on a missionary journey to Georgia, becoming secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. Within a year, broken in health and discouraged, he was compelled to return to England. Years before this, when Charles Wesley was at Oxford, he and his comrades were so strict in their religious methods that they were nicknamed “Methodists.” But both Charles and John had to learn more truly what religion really is. Charles first learned it from Peter Böhler, a Moravian of devout spirit, and from Thomas Bray, an unlearned mechanic who knew Jesus Christ. John soon after had the same experience, and from their vivified preaching sprung the great Methodist churches of today. Under the preaching of the Wesleys — especially that of John Wesley, for Charles soon withdrew from the more active work — revivals flamed all over England. There was much persecution. Charles himself was driven from his church. Many of his hymns were written in time of trial, and it is said that “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” was written just after the poet and his brother had been driven by a violent mob from the place where they had been preaching. Another story (and neither tale can be verified) says that the hymn was written just after a frightened little bird, pursued by a hawk, had flown into Wesley’s window and crept into the folds of his coat. The probable date of the hymn is 1740. After a long life of nearly eighty years, Charles Wesley died, March 29, 1788.

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Isaac Watts

Pick up almost any modern hymnal, look in the index listing the composers of the hymns, and the name “Watts, Isaac” has a long list of hymns beside it. In his long life, Watts wrote over 600 hymns, and many of them continue to be used by English-speaking Christians to worship and praise the same Saviour Watts loved and served.

Isaac was born July 27, 1674 at Southampton, England, the eldest of nine children. His father was a Dissenter from the Anglican Church and on at least one occasion was thrown in jail for not following the Church of England. Isaac followed his father’s strongly biblical faith. Isaac was a very intelligent child who loved books and learned to read early. He began learning Latin at age four and went on to learn Greek, Hebrew, and French as well. From an early age Isaac had a propensity to rhyming, and often even his conversation was in rhyme. His father became quite annoyed at this and told him to stop. When the rhyming persisted, the father started to whip the boy, and little Isaac cried out:

“O father, do some pity take And I will no more verses make.”

When he was seven, Isaac wrote an acrostic poem on his name which reflected his theological training:

I am a vile polluted lump of earth So I’ve continued ever since my birth; Although Jehovah grace does give me, As sure this monster Satan will deceive me. Come therefore, Lord, from Satan’s claws relieve me.

Because Isaac would not follow the national Church of England, he could not attend the Universities of Cambridge or Oxford. Instead, he attended an academy sponsored by Independent Christians. After completing his formal schooling, Watts spent five years as a tutor. During those years he began to devote himself more diligently than before to the study of the Scriptures. In 1707 he published his first edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

Fever forces new direction For a few years Watts served as an assistant and then pastor to an Independent congregation in London. A violent and continual fever from which he never recovered forced him to leave the pastorate. Sir Thomas Abney received Watts into his home, and Sir Thomas’ family continued to provide a home and serve as Watts’ patrons for the next 36 years!

Though naturally quick to resentment and anger, the Lord used Watts’ sufferings to produce a gentle, modest, and charitable spirit. Out of his compassion, one-third of his small allowance was given to the poor. Watts’ tenderness to children can be seen reflected in his lovely Divine Songs for Children, published in 1715.

Beholding the “brighter discoveries” Watts’ most published book was his Psalms of David, first published in 1719. In his poetic paraphrases of the psalms, Watts adapted the psalms for use by the Church and made David speak “the language of a Christian.” Watts explained his method,

. . . Where the Psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it. Where he speaks of the pardon of sin through the mercies of God, I have added the merits of a Savior. Where he talks of sacrificing goats or bullocks, I rather choose to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the lamb of God . . Where he promises abundance of wealth, honor, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the Gospel, and promised in the New Testament. And I am fully satisfied, that more honor is done to our blessed Savior by speaking his name, his graces, his actions, in his own language, according to the brighter discoveries he hath now made, than by going back again to the Jewish forms of worship, and the language of types and figures.

Examples of Watts’ method can be seen in his paraphrases of Psalm 72 into the hymn “Jesus Shall Reign Wher’er the Sun,” Psalm 90 into “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and Psalm 98 into “Joy to the World.”

Many thanks, Ben! Benjamin Franklin first published Watts’ psalm paraphrases in America in 1729. Franklin was not the only American publisher to take an interest in Watt’s hymns. In Boston his hymns were published in 1739. They were well-loved by Americans of the Revolutionary period.

Multi-talented man Besides over 600 hymns, Watts published 52 other works, including a book of logic used in the universities, books on grammar, pedagogy, ethics, psychology, astronomy, geography, three volumes of sermons, and 29 treatises on theology. After his death on November 25, 1748, a monument to Watts was erected in Westminster Abbey. His greatest monument, however, are the hymns to his God still used by Christ’s church. Why not look in your hymnal’s index and notice how many familiar hymns were penned by the Father of English hymns?

Ugly Isaac Though he had a beautiful soul, apparently Isaac Watts was not much to look at. He was frail and often sickly. His head seemed too large for his five foot tall body; his small, piercing eyes and hooked nose did not enhance his appearance. A lady once fell in love with Isaac by reading his poetry and a correspondence ensued. When she met him face to face, however, she was very disillusioned, though he fell in love with her. He asked her to marry him, but her reply was, “Mr. Watts, I only wish I could admire the casket (jewelry box) as much as I admire the jewel.” Watts never married, though the two remained good friends for over 30 years.

Revival aids Watts’ hymns gloried in the power, wisdom, and goodness of his majestic God. During the American revivals of 1735-1739, known as the Great Awakening, George Whitefield used Watts’ hymns and songs in his meetings.

 

                                                Frances Jane Crosby

BORN: March 24, 1820 South East, New York   DIED: February 12, 1915 Bridgeport, Conn. LIFE SPAN: 94 years, 10 months, 19 days

“Mother, if I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind … for when I die; the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed Saviour.”

Blind for all of her life, Fanny Crosby, the greatest hymn writer in the history of the Christian Church, later wrote, “And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story – Saved by grace.” She saw over 8,000 poems set to music and over 100,000,000 copies of her songs printed. As many as 200 different pen names, including Grace J. Frances, were given her works by hymn book publishers so the public wouldn’t know she wrote so large a number of them. She produced as many as seven hymn-poems in one day. On several occasions, upon hearing an unfamiliar hymn. sung, she would inquire about the author, and find it to be one of her own!

Fanny gave the Christian world such songs as: Continue reading