Tuesday January 27, 2015
Extract from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory"
THE HYMNS OF J. DENHAM SMITH (1816-1889)
BIRTH. July, 1816, at Romsey, Hants.
MARRIAGE. Date not known.
DEATH. March 5th, 1889.
BURIAL. At Hampstead, London.
“I’m weary, I’m weary, with words such as mine,
My Saviour! to tell forth Thy praises divine
I would, but I cannot, for love is so cold,
I would, but I cannot, Thy beauties unfold.”
Joseph, when a boy, sat under the ministry of Rev. John Reynolds, of Romsey, Hants, whose deep interest in him led to an early decision for Christ. At the age of 16 we find him preaching the Gospel. Thus were the prayers of a godly mother abundantly answered. After some business experience at East Cowes (Isle of Wight) he left for Dublin, in order that he might study for the ministry. At the age of 25 he became a minister at Newry (Co. Down), and eight years later a Congregational pastor at Kingstown (Co. Dublin). This was in 1849, ten years before the commencement of the Irish Revival. When that work of God swept the north of Ireland, Mr. Smith was one of those who were “meet for the Master’s use,” under whose earnest and faithful preaching of the Gospel, large numbers were converted to God: among his delighted hearers being the late Mr. J. G. Bellett, who was called home in 1864: this remarkable revival being chiefly in the years 1859-60.
About this time Mr. Smith compiled and published THE TIMES OF REFRESHING HYMN BOOK, a choice collection of hymns which has had a large circulation; and which contained a number of his own. Himself possessing a voice of great power and richness, Mr. Smith’s hymns were much sung in Ulster and else where in those memorable days. In his prefatory note to this hymn-book, Mr. Smith said,
“Looking at the varied sources from which the hymns have been drawn, we have striking evidence that, notwithstanding the barriers which divide Christians, there is yet, as to Divine Truth, a blessed unity of the Spirit.”
One of the most striking of his hymns is
“My God, I have found
The thrice blessed ground,
Where life, and where joy, and true comfort abound.
“’Tis found in the blood
Of Him who once stood
My refuge and safety, my surety with God.
“He bore on the tree
The sentence for me,
And now both the Surety and sinner are free.
“Accepted I am
In the once-offered Lamb:
It was God who Himself had devised the plan.
“And though here below,
’Mid sorrow and woe,
My place is in heaven with Jesus, I know.
“And this I shall find,
For such is His mind,
He’ll not be in glory and leave me behind.*
“For soon He will come
And take me safe home,
And make me to sit with Himself on His throne,”
“Hallelujah! Thine the glory!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory!
Revive us again”
*This line is taken from a similar hymn by John Gambold (1711-1771). The verse runs as follows—
“And when I’m to die,
Receive me, I’ll cry,
For Jesus hath lov’d me, I cannot tell why;
“But this I can find,
We two are so join’d,
He’ll not be in glory and leave me behind.”
In 1863, soon after the Irish Revival, Mr. Smith took a leading part in the erection of Merrion Hall, Dublin; centre of evangelistic influence since. He afterwards exercised a remarkable ministry at St. George’s Hall, London, and in other parts of the metropolis: and since his departure his eldest daughter, Martha Figgis, took a deep interest in the furtherance of the work both in Dublin and London (she attaining to the age of 80).
Mr. Smith was also active with his pen, his earliest literary efforts being
The Rhine and the Reformation and A voice from the Alps .
He wrote a number of Gospel booklets, besides books for believers, his book Life Truths having had a large circulation. Another of his best known, being, The Brides of Scripture.
Perhaps the best known hymn of Mr. Smith is
“Rise, my soul! Behold ’tis Jesus,
Jesus fills Thy wond’ring eyes;”
a hymn found in several collections. His hymns are sometimes quaintly expressed, as for instance in the following hymn,
“The grave! that wardrobe of the just
Where their material garments lie—
To Him will safely yield its trust
Who wipes the tear from every eye.”
If not considered of great merit, yet his hymns express the intense longings of his own soul,
“Oh! what shall I do, Lord, when first I behold,
Thyself in the glory so often foretold?”
Said one who knew him,
“Where shall I find words warm enough to describe him? He was a man of rare joy and gladness. Never have I heard anyone speak such solemn things as fell from his lips: but never have I seen anyone so habitually happy.”
And yet he wrote—
“I’m weary of even what once was so dear:
Compared with my Saviour there’s nothing to cheer:
All truth and all labours, and even the Word—
How blessed soever—they are not the Lord.”
During his last illness at Regent’s Park, London, the sick room became a hallowed place: he said on one occasion,
“I feel I cannot look beyond, even to the glory, but to the person of the blessed Lord Jesus Himself. Oh, to be gazing up into His face, to see His lovely person, to be for ever with Him.”
Mr. Smith’s departure took place in March, 1889, his last words being addressed to his eldest son, “My boy, my dear boy.” Marked by affection and sympathy, and having “a very strong grasp of Gospel truth,” his sweet persuasiveness drew very many to the Saviour. (“He that winneth souls is wise.”)
His hymns are marked by warmth, fervour and earnestness, as exemplified in this concluding hymn.
Watchman! the words repeat—
Good night, dear friends, good night:
We’re out, each one, upon our beat
Good night, dear friends, good night
We part at dead of night,
To tread each one our way
We careful watch till morning light
We meet again at day.
Some watch in crowded place,
And some in lonely way:
Some weary are to see His face,
And longing are, they say.
For lo! His word is true
Our watch-word, oh how dear,—
‘I’ll come again,’ He says, for you,—
For you at dawn appear.
We all are of the light,
And children of the day
And many are the sons of night
Who join us on the way.
We’re nearer now than when
We first His name believed
‘Surely,’ He says, ‘I come again:’
We cannot be deceived.
I charge ye, watchmen, all,
To mark the night—how dead!
And loud to one another call,
When the first shadow’s fled.
Till then—good night! good night!
Work on, and ‘watch’ and ‘pray’
We part each one at dead of night,
TO MEET AGAIN AT DAY!”
“Watchman, what of the, night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night:” (Isa. 21:11-12).