Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Set of ears says generosity is there

I really love the Princeton Theological Seminary book sale. Since Amy's a student, we can go in for the Sunday night preview, and, since I'm surrounded by mostly systematic theologians and biblical scholars, I usually do very well in the music and liturgy departments. Besides a first edition Bushnell, and a couple of volumes from the series Twenty Centuries of Christian Worship, I was happy to find both an early 19th century biography of Watts and a fairly rare book I've seen once before by Charles S. Nutter, famous for his Hymn Studies. This book, Historic Hymnists: A Portrait Gallery of Great Hymn Writers, published in 1893, includes pictures and a short biography of many of the famous hymn writers from the 19th century and before.

Pressed into its pages was a typed sheet, "Prayer Meeting on Feb. 15, 1933." This I found very interesting, as a short liturgy in 7 sections involving the book in question. Section 2 interests me the most. Unfortunately I have no idea what hymnal was being used by the author of this sheet, so the hymns they sang (other than that named) will remain a mystery. But, here is this section (without the appropriate indentations—sorry, I didn't want to spend the time editing all that html):

2. Prayer Meeting hymn "MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE".
A. Show picture of the writer--Dr. Palmer
B. Interpret face
a. Head well set in the midst of a strong pair of sturdy shoulders.
b. Set of ears says generosity is there
c. Eyes well set in firm sockets--piercing eyes kindly and pleasing eyes
d. Pointed nose -- fine penetrated into new paths "I'LL FIND A WAY OR MAKE ONE"
e. Large nostrils sign of deep breather which says plenty of fresh air--lungs of capacity
f. Firm and determined jaw
g. Pleasing mouth--not a TALE BEARER--eather [sic] when he opened his mouth he said something

Following this excursus solely on Dr. Palmer's picture, the leader shared the story of his life (also handily in this book), and then read and interpreted his hymn sung above, also known as "Consecration hymn." Afterwards, all knelt to pray, while the piano played softly, and then the speaker sang the hymn "from another room." Finally they sang one more hymn, which shall remain anonymous.

I found this very quaint, but extremely interesting. The plethora of "hymn stories" books from the late 19th century have intrigued me, especially since they have continued in popularity until today (with books such as 101 Hymn Stories and the like). I always imagined devotional readings of these stories from homes—I never really pictured a whole service built around such a story. And, I imagined even less a large section of such a service based only on the picture of the writer in question. I almost expected to see a phrenological chart of Ray Palmer following!

It is, without question, a great hymn. Here's its text:

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream shall o'er me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above— a ransomed soul!

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