Saturday, 28 March 2015

"Christ for the world we sing" Samuel Wolcott, 1813-1886

THE influence of a motto or slogan when used as a rallying cry in a campaign can scarcely be measured. Many a political election has been determined by the popularity of some striking phrase. In many a war an army has been inspirited by a battle cry, such as, "On to Richmond!" We all know the inspiration of the "Look up! Lift up!" motto in Epworth League work, and of "The Evangelization of the World in this Generation" in missionary work.

This hymn was suggested and partly inspired by just such a motto, which had been adopted by the Young Men's Christian Association of Ohio. And at their meeting on February 7, 1869, this motto was woven into a legend of evergreen letters over the pulpit of the church where they met: "CHRIST FOR THE WORLD AND THE WORLD FOR CHRIST."

There was a clergyman in attendance upon that meeting, a native of South Windsor, Connecticut, by the name of Dr. Samuel Wolcott. He had been a missionary to Syria and also pastor of several Congregational churches in New England and elsewhere. He was nearly fifty-six years old, and though he had not done much hymn-writing up to that time, before he died seventeen years later he had written over two hundred hymns. So impressed was he on this occasion by the motto, and by all that was said and done during the meeting to re enforce it, that on his way home from the service, walking through the streets, he composed the hymn, "Christ for the world we sing."

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