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By common consent Heber's “Missionary Hymn" is the silver trumpet among all the rallying bugles of the church.
The union of words and music in this instance is an example of spiritual affinity. “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” The story of the tune is a record of providential birth quite as interesting as that of the hymn. In 1823, a lady in Savannah, Ga., having received and admired a copy of Heber's lyric from England, desired to sing it or hear it sung, but knew no music to fit the metre. She finally thought of a young clerk in a bank close by, Lowell Mason by name, who sometimes wrote music for recreation, and sent her son to ask him if he would make a tune that would sing the lines. The boy returned in half an hour with the composition that doubled Heber's fame and made his own.
In the words of Dr. Charles Robinson, “Like the hymn it voices, it was done at a stroke, and it will last through the ages.”
"THE MORNING LIGHT IS BREAKING.”
Not far behind Dr. Heber's chef-d'ouvre in lyric merit is the still more famous missionary hymn of Dr. S. F. Smith, author of “My Country, 'Tis of Thee.” Another missionary hymn of his which is widely used is
Yes, my native land, I love thee,
Can I leave you
Drs. Nutter and Breed speak of “The Morning Light is Breaking,” and its charm as a hymn of peace and promise, and intimate that it has “gone farther and been more frequently sung than any other missionary hymn.” Besides the English, there are versions of it in four Latin nations, the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French, and oriental translations in Chinese and several East Indian tongues and dialects, as well as one in Swedish. It author had the rare felicity, while on a visit to his son, a missionary in Burmah, of hearing it sung by native Christians in their language, and of being welcomed with an ovation when they knew who he was.
The morning light is breaking!
The darkness disappears;
To penitential tears;
Brings tidings from afar,
Prepared for Zion's war.
In many a gentle shower,
Are opening every hour.
Samuel Francis Smith, D.D., was born in Boston in 1808, and educated in Harvard University (1825-1829). He prepared for the ministry, and was pastor of Baptist churches at Waterville, Me., and Newton, Mass., before entering the service of the American Baptist Missionary union as editor of its Missionary Magazine.
Ile was a scholarly and graceful writer, both in verse and prose, and besides his editorial work, he was frequently an invited participant or guest of honor on public occasions, owing to his fame as author of the national hymn. His pure and gentle character made him everywhere beloved and reverenced, and to know him intimately in his happy old age was a benediction. He died suddenly and painlessly in his seat on a railway train, November 16, 1895 in his eighty-eighth year.
Dr. Smith wrote twenty-six hymns now more or less in use in church worship, and eight for Sabbath school collections.
THE TUN E. “Millennial Dawn” is the title given it by a Boston compiler, about 1844, but since the music and hymn became “one and indivisable” it has been named “Webb,” and popularly known as “Morn
“The morning light is breaking.”
George James Webb was born near Salisbury, Wiltshire, Eng., June 24, 1803. He studied music in Salisbury and for several years played the organ at Falmouth Church. When still a young man (1830), he came to the United States, and settled in Boston where he was long the leading organist and music teacher of the city. He was associate director of the Boston Academy of Music with Lowell Mason, and joint author and editor with him of several church-music collections. Died in Orange, N. J., Nov. 7, 1887.
Dr. Webb's own account of the tune “Millennial Dawn” states that he wrote it at sea while on his way to America—and to secular words and that he had no idea who first adapted it to the hymn, nor when.
"IF I WERE A VOICE, A PERSUASIVE VOICE.”
This animating lyric was written by Charles Mackay. Sung by a good vocalist, the fine solo air composed (with its organ chords) by I. B. Woodbury, is still a feature in some missionary meetings, especially the fourth stanza
If I were a voice, an immortal voice,
I would fly the earth around:
The Gospel's joyful sound.
I would fly, I would Ay,
Charles Mackay, the poet, was born in Perth, Scotland, 1814, and educated in London and Brussels; was engaged in editorial work on the London Morning Chronicle and Glasgow Argus, and during the Corn Law agitation wrote popular songs, notably “The Voice of the Crowd” and “There's a Good Time Coming," which (like the far inferior poetry of Ebenezer Elliot) won the lasting love of the masses for a superior man who could be “The People's Singer and Friend.” He came to the United States in 1857 as a lecturer, and again in 1862, remaining three years as war correspondent of the London Times. Glasgow University made him LL.D. in 1847. His numerous songs and poems were collected in a London edition. Died Dec. 24, 1889.
Isaac Baker Woodbury was born in Beverly, Mass., 1819, and rose from the station of a blacksmith's apprentice to be a tone-teacher in the church. He educated himself in Europe, returned