The year 1860 was a time of widely spread religious awakening in Ireland. It began in the North, and was felt in all denominations.
My father’s interest was quickly called forth. In the short extract which follows it is mentioned:
“Another very remarkable letter from William Lancey yesterday, copies of which are gone from us to London and to Birmingham. H. Bewley was here last evening, and seems to have been delighted and amazed at all he saw in the county of Antrim.”
After some time the influence began to be felt in and around Dublin. The work was deep and real, but attended with less excitement than in other places. Clergymen and others who had longed for such an awakening amongst their people found it brought into their midst, and with more or less energy set themselves to help and teach those who now, perhaps for the first time, began to care for their souls.
Various informal services were held to meet the desires of the people for instruction and prayer. To some of these services my father occasionally went, though they were not in connection with the Brethren. This was contrary to his usual habit, for he felt that having found the way which he believed to be most according to the Word and the will of God, he must cleave to that alone as to worship and discipline.
But now that he saw (to use his own words) “a fresh energy of the Spirit” working how and by what means He pleased in many souls, he delighted to own it and to share, as far as he could, in the refreshing influence.
There was a meeting for prayer and an address held by Dr. Marrable once a week at a friend’s house, which he sometimes attended, as also a service in Mr. Denham Smith’s chapel at Kingstown.
Mr. Smith sometimes asked my father to take part; but he much preferred being a listener. After the “revival,” as it was fitly called, had been the means of leading many from utter carelessness to a true Christian life, he was asked to have a special Bible reading once a week, for those young people and others in the families of the Brethren who had become anxious for more instruction in God’s Word.
I think he very much enjoyed this “class”; and it was continued until his health failed. Different parts of the Bible were studied; St. Matthew’s gospel being one, and a course of lectures was devoted to each part.
My father wrote a short pamphlet at this time, entitled, “A few words on the Present Revival” some paragraphs of which I quote here. In it he refers to the “physical effects” which in some cases attended this remarkable movement.
“That sudden or strong affections of the mind have had wonderful effects on the body must have been the observation of every age, so that we need not speak of it.
“But that Scripture both recognises and. illustrates this fact when the affection of the mind is conviction of sin, we may profitably consider for a little.”
(There is here a reference to Psalm 32. To Daniel 10, where “the prophet tells us that when the glory appeared to him his ‘comeliness was turned into corruption,’ and this was conscience, not disease. The glory, or the divine presence, let Daniel know that he was a sinner; and the sense of that was intolerable.)
“A sinner comes short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23.)
“And so it was with Saul on the road to Damascus. It was unveiled glory or the simple power of the presence of God that then applied itself as to a rebel, a child of Adam, one fighting against God; and such an one falls before it— Saul is struck to the earth.
“At times God is pleased to afford very vivid expression of these things, in order to give the generation a fresh sense of eternal realities. He would have us know more deeply than we are wont to do that sin is a reality, judgment a reality, hell a reality; and accordingly He is presenting fresh from under His own hand samples of the force and authority of these realities upon the conscience of man. And seeing also, that salvation is a reality, a present reality, together with that peace and joy in the Holy Ghost which properly wait on it, He is also presenting living, happy, thankful witnesses to this reality, with these its attendant virtues.
“For the Lord has ever had both His ordinary and His extraordinary seasons in the course of His dispensations, and extraordinary seasons may well be called ‘Revivals.’
“Such are not properly times of miracles, only of special spiritual energy. Such I believe the present to be. It may be short — and that is according to precedent — for the energies which signalized days of revival in Israel, whether still under their own kings or after their return from Babylon, were but passing.
“May every expression of His grace now in the salvation of sinners, be only a fresh reason with the hearts of His saints to wait for, and long for, the coming day of His glory.”
It was about this time that my father wrote the following hymns, and they, with the long sacred poem to be given later, are the only ones he ever wrote, with the exception of those already mentioned, and some additional verses to another short one.
The first hymn that follows seemed to suggest itself to him while listening to a simple Scotch melody, to which he afterwards sang it.
“Faith’s Morning, Noon, And Evening.”
“The breaking morn in cheerful ray
With many a promise opes the day,
Setting the sun upon his way
To tread his radiant journey.
So faith’s fair spring-time opens Heaven,
When clouds and doubts are backward driven,
Revealing Christ, to sinners given
Their morning pledge of glory.
“Then, as in robes of glittering dye
The Ruler of the mid-day sky
With fruitful ardours from on high,
Blesses the world before him—
So Christ, in risen virtues strong,
In freedom leads our souls along
To serve and to adore Him.
“And then at eve, with ‘farewell sweet,’
The day retires, so soon to greet
Regions which wait his smile to meet,
Its varied beauties blending;
So faith, in hopeful, evening hour,
Calm in the Saviour’s chasten’d power,
Anchors beside earth’s parting shore
In hope of joys unending.”
“The Believing Mind.”
“Oh, the believing mind!
Which sets Thee, Lord, above
The failures of my heart and hand
In constancy of love.
Impart it, Lord, to me—
Each moment let it reign
In all its calm and brightness there,
My spirit’s realm within.
“Should busy mem’ry wake
The slumbers of the past,
And o’er a present cloudless day
Some gloomy shadows cast,—
Then let believing thoughts
Assert for Thee the place—
Fill the whole vision of my soul
With glories of Thy grace.
“If now my slumbering heart
Should meet Thy searching Word,
And conscience waken but to seal
Thy holy judgments, Lord,—
May faith be witness then
That I am seen of Thee
In light of everlasting love,
Unclouded, changeless, free.
“Should fear, with fruitful skill,
Image my days to come,
And bear my trembling footsteps on
Through danger, snares, and gloom,
Let faith then eye the bow
That spans the darkest cloud,
And pledges safety to the end,
Though tempests rage around.
“May faith, with clear, calm light,
Thus measure all my days;
Keep my whole soul in constant peace,
And give it thoughts of praise.
In converse, Lord, with Thee,
My Saviour, Guardian, Friend,
While onward still to glory’s home
My guided footsteps tend.”
There was a hymn, which I think he heard for the first time at Mr. D. Smith’s services, which he enjoyed, and to which he wrote two additional verses. It begins—
“Joyfully, joyfully, onward we move,
Bound to the land of bright spirits above.”
* * * * * *
“Voice of Archangel and Trumpet of God
Joyfully summon the quick and the dead;
Bright in His glory shall Jesus appear,
Upward in clouds shall we meet Him in air.
Partings all over, and sorrows all gone,
Blest in His presence, eternally one;
Like Him and with Him for ever to be,
Joyfully, joyfully, welcome the day.
“Crowns may encircle our radiant brow,
Joyful we’ll cast them before Him, and bow;
Harps of the harpers shall gladden the throne,
Joyful to tell He is worthy alone.
Angels in chorus their anthems shall raise,
Only to give Him all honour and praise,
And ev’ry creature around and above
Joyfully, joyfully, rest in His love! “
Another hymn which became first known to us at this time, beginning—
“Oh when shall I see Jesus,
And dwell with Him above,
And from that flowing fountain
Drink everlasting love?”
suggested the following verses—
“When shall I rise to Jesus,
And find myself but one
Among the countless thousands,
That shine round Him alone!
When shall I wear my raiment
Through Him made white and clean,
No darkening cloud around me,
No hateful spot within!
“When shall I hear the music,
Skill’d in this art alone,
To sound the name of Jesus
Before the Father’s throne?
When shall I see the Glory,
My Saviour’s presence sheds,
And know no other pleasure
Than what that Presence yields?”
My father also wrote the following hymn, as an answer to the well-known one—
“We talk of the land of the blest,
That country so bright and so fair,
And oft are its glories confest,
But what must it be to be there!”
* * * * * *
“‘’Tis good to be here,’ was the word
Once heard from that country so fair,
In glory beholding the Lord,
’Tis this, it is this to be there! (Matt. 17:4)
“The glories and joys of that land
The traveller could not declare,
His rapture and silence alone,
Must tell what it is to be there! (2 Cor. 12:4)
“In sight of that City on high,
Its walls decked with jewels so rare,
He fell, overwhelm’d with the joy,
This tells what it is to be there. (Rev. 22:8.)
“With Thee, Lord, for ever to be
Is the hope Thou hast left with us here,
’Tis enough, Lord, for ever with Thee,
’Tis this, it is this to be there!” (1 Thess. 4:17.)
He also added the following verses to the children’s hymn, beginning—
“Oh, they’ve reached the sunny shore,
* * * * * *
“’Tis a bright and happy place,
’Tis a bright and happy place,
There they see the Saviour’s face,
Fresh in joy they sing His praise,
“All in light and joy appear,
All in light and joy appear,
Not the half was told them here
Of the things their spirits cheer,
“Oh, they’ve reached the shore in peace,
Stormy winds and wonders cease,
He hath brought them through the seas,
For His goodness Him they praise,
My father was not specially fond of poetry, though he could at times enjoy it. He seldom read it aloud, and the hymns he most liked were remarkable rather for their simplicity than for their beauty of language. Some of Watts’ hymns he much enjoyed, such as—
“Earth has detained me prisoner long,
And I’m grown weary now;
My heart, my hand, my ear, my tongue,
There’s nothing here for you.”
The dramatic poem, “The Martyrdom of Ignatius,” by Gambold, he greatly admired, and among many favourite passages in it he frequently repeated the following:
“There has one object been disclosed on earth
That might commend the place; but now ’tis gone:
Jesus is with the Father, and demands
His members to be there.”
On reading some of his own verses, thrown off from his pen, without effort as they all were, one can understand my father so often saying that he liked “hymns about heaven.”
24 Ps. 107:24, 25, 30.