This article was found in the August 1950 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by R. A. Newman
The Scottish Church for nearly 300 years refused to have anything to do with human hymns, Te Deums and the like, but in the metrical versions of the Psalms they found a good substitute as a vehicle for the expression of their emotions, and it has been said that the Scottish Te Deum is the 100th Psalm written by W. Keith in 1560, to the tune, Old Hundredth - the first hymn in our own hymnary:
All people that one earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him, and rejoice.
Another great favourite of our friends north of the Tweed (and many of us in the South) is the 23rd Psalm: The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want.
The novelist, S. R. Crockett, declared: "There is no hymn like it. I think I must have stood by quite a hundred men and women as they lay dying, and I can assure you that these words, first learned by the Scottish child, were also the words that ushered them into the Quiet."
The Rev. D. P. Alford records that when he was Chaplain of the Scilly Isles, one of his parishioners, a Scot, found great comfort from the metrical version of this Psalm as he lay dying, and his wife remarked: "It is no wonder the Psalm comforts him, for he has said it every night before going to bed since I have known him," and they were elderly people. Go back to the days of the Covenanters, and we read the story of two girls about 20 years of age, Marion Harvey and Isabel Alison, who attended the preaching of David Corgill, and for helping his escape they were executed.
As the brave lassies were being led to the scaffold, a curate pestered them with his prayers. "Come, Isabel," said Marion, "let us sing the 23rd Psalm" - and they did - a thrilling duet on their war to the gallows.
This incident reminds us of Oliver Cromwell's Ironsides, who were never beaten in battle. Their famous battle song before fighting commenced was the 68th Psalm, and after victory they sang the 117th Psalm. No doubt the singing of Psalms in the days of religious persecution was a great incentive to courage, and we have a fine inspiring hymn in our hymn book:
Courage brother, do not stumble
Trust in God, and do the right.
It was written by Norman Macleod to conclude a lecture given by him to young men in the Exeter Hall, London, in 1858.
I have particular reason to remember this hymn, for it was a source of strength to my eldest son, Aleck, in his long and fatal illness. One Sunday evening, when lying in St. Thomas' Hospital, the Sister of the ward gave the men (about 30) a half-hour to sing their favourite hymns, and my dear boy shouted for "Courage brother, do not stumble." It was not known and she had not the music, but the following Sunday she was prepared, and it became a favourite with nurses and patients.
One of our best known hymns amongst the youth of today, especially the Boys' Brigade, is Fight the good fight, with all thy might.
It was given to us by an Irishman, J. S. B. Monsell, born in Londonderry in 1811. It became very popular during the Boer War, and also with Americans during their conflict with the Philippines. It's strange that it should be so, because it has no reference whatever to National Wars, but deals specially with Spiritual Warfare.
Dr. Monsell also wrote O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. In the last poem that he ever wrote, "Near Home at Last," he seems to have had some notion that he was in fact nearing home, for in the first four lines are these words:
Dear body, thou and I must part,
Thy busy head, thy throbbing heart,
Must cease to work, must cease to play,
For me at no far distant day.
The poem was written to raise funds for Church Restoration. Not long afterwards he was standing in the aisle of his church at Guildford, watching men engaged in the restoration work, when a large piece of masonry fell from the roof, and struck the reverend gentleman on the head, rendering him unconscious, and he died shortly afterwards.
A familiar hymn with all denominations is the
The Church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord.
It was written by Samuel John Stone, a Church of England clergyman, in 1869 and he was very fond of telling the following story. It was one of the very few cases in which he came across a parent who objected to the religious teaching in the Church day school.
When he was a curate at Windsor, and was in the Church school, an angry father asked to see him, and complained of his child being taught the Catechism, which as a Nonconformist he objected to the child learning. Stone asked the man if he had ever read the Catechism, and received a negative reply. He persuaded the man to take a copy home, read it, and come again and give his opinion about it. In a few days the man re-appeared, and on being asked what he thought about it, replied:
"Well, sir, I find it tells him his duty towards God, and his duty towards his neighbour. Teach him it, sir, and if he won't learn it, you wallop him."
The later Archbishop Frederick Temple (father of William Temple of recent times) said once that he could always count on two things when he went to open a new Church, or preside at a dedication festival: Cold chicken and The Church's One Foundation.
Another hymn familiar to nearly all, if not all, denominations is Onward Christian Soldiers. It was written by the Rev. Sabine Baring Gould in a great hurry for his mission at Horbury Bridge about the year 1865.
Here the children had to march many a long mile to take part in a school feast, and marched with colours flying, banners waving, and preceded by a cross, singing lustily this hymn prepared specially for such occasions. Rather a good story is told in connection with this hymn.
A certain Low Church Vicar, though he liked processions, particularly when he headed them, stoutly objected to the Cross being carried. The organist and choirmaster both did their best to persuade him that there was nothing wrong in carrying a Cross - but without avail - the vicar was adamant. At last, losing all patience, the choir master altered the first verse, and the procession started off, the children singing:
Onward Christian Soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the Cross of Jesus
Left behind the door.
Whether the vicar saw more clearly after this is not recorded.
The Rev. S. B. Gould died in 1924 at the age of 90. Two other hymns from his pen appear in our book:
Now the day is over.
Through the night of doubt and sorrow.
This calls to mind another famous hymn:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus
Ye soldiers of the Cross.
The Rev. Dudley Long gad been conducting a revival Mission in Philadelphia, America, and on the Sunday preceding his death preached such an inspired sermon that one thousand out of 5,000 present yielded their hearts to God. A few days later he strolled over to a barn where a mule was at work shelling corn. In patting the animal his coat sleeve caught in the cogs of the wheel, and his arm was torn out. The shock was so great he died within a few hours.
Before passing he sent a message to those engaged in revival work: Tell them to stand up for Jesus. His friend, the Rev. George Duffield, was so touched and inspired by the incident that he wrote the well-known hymn. It occurred in 1858.