Saturday, 28 March 2015

Story Behind Classic Hymn "From Greenland's icy mountains" Reginald Heber, 1783-1826

BISHOP REGINALD HEBER, after years of longing for the spread of the gospel in India, crowned his career with a few years of most useful service as Bishop of Calcutta. He made extensive visitations among the struggling missions nearly a century ago and ordained the first Christian native, Christian David. At last he laid down his life, a victim of fever, as a result of his labors in that benighted land. 

During the years of his life as rector of Hodnet, while longing for a career in India, he wrote many hymns, as well as other forms of literary productions, and won the respect and friendship of Milman, Southey, and other litterateurs. 

One Saturday afternoon, the day before Whit sunday, 1819, he was at Wrexham Vicarage with his father-in-law, Dr. Shipley, Dean of Saint Asaph. Dr. Shipley was planning to preach on the following morning a sermon in aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and in the evening Reginald Heber was to begin a series of lectures in the same church. As they sat together with some friends the Dean asked him to write a hymn on a missionary theme to be sung at the morning service. After Heber had retired for a while he returned and the Dean asked him: "What have you written?" Heber in reply read the first three verses of "From Greenland's icy mountains." The Dean exclaimed that they were very satisfactory. "No, no," replied Heber, "the sense is not complete." And so he added one more verse "Waft, waft, ye winds, His story" and the whole hymn was sung the next morning at the service. 


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