Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.   James 1:17

Author—Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866–1960
Of the many gospel hymns written in recent times on the theme of God’s goodness and faithfulness, this hymn stands out like a beacon light. While many hymns are born out of a particular dramatic experience, this hymn was simply the result of the author’s “morning by morning realization of God’s personal faithfulness.”

Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born in a humble log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, on July 29, 1866. Without the benefit of high school or advanced training, he began his career as a school teacher at the age of sixteen in the same country school house where he had received his elementary training. When he was twenty-one, he became the associate editor of his home town weekly newspaper, The Franklin Favorite. Six years later he accepted Christ as personal Savior during a revival meeting conducted in Franklin by Dr. H. C. Morrison. At Dr. Morrison’s invitation Chisholm moved to Louisville to become office editor and business manager of Morrison’s publication, the Pentecostal Herald. Later Chisholm was ordained to the Methodist ministry but was forced to resign after a brief pastorate because of poor health. After 1909 he became a life insurance agent in Winona Lake and later in Vineland, New Jersey. Thomas Chisholm retired in 1953 and spent his remaining years at the Methodist Home for the Aged, Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

Mr. Chisholm wrote more than 1200 poems, many of which have appeared frequently in such religious periodicals as the Sunday School Times, Moody Monthly, Alliance Weekly and others. A number of these poems have become prominent hymn texts.

In a letter dated 1941, Mr. Chisholm writes, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

In 1923 Mr. Chisholm sent several of his poems to the Rev. W. M. Runyan, a musician associated with the Moody Bible Institute and an editor with the Hope Publishing Company until his death July 29, 1957. Mr. Runyan has written as follows:

  This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry over its message in a worthy way, and the subsequent history of its use indicates that God answered prayer. It was written in Baldwin, Kansas, in 1923, and was first published in my private song pamphlets.
This hymn was the favorite of the late Dr. Will Houghton, former beloved president of the Moody Bible Institute. It has since been an all-time favorite with students at the school and as a result its usefulness has spread to evangelical churches everywhere. Bev Shea states that this hymn was first introduced to audiences in Great Britain in 1954 by the Billy Graham Crusades and has since been a favorite there as well.

Thomas Chisholm is also the author of the hymn “Living for Jesus,” (101 More Hymn Stories, No. 56).

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