Saturday, 28 March 2015

"God be with you till we meet again" Jeremiah Eames Rankin, 1828-1904

DR. RANKIN, a native of New Hampshire and a graduate of Middlebury College, for many years held the pastorates successively of several prominent Congregational churches in New England and Washington, D. C, until 1889, when he became president of Howard University.

While pastor of a Congregational church in Washington, D. C., he became so impressed with the etymology of the farewell greeting, "good-by," which really means "God be with you," that he determined that a hymn should be wrought out of this beautiful idea. So he came to write "God be with you till we meet again."

When he had written the first stanza he sent it to two different composers, one quite famous, the other little known, each of whom wrote a tune for it. He chose the tune of the latter, W. G. Tomer, who was then teaching school in Washington. Dr. Rankin submitted it to his organist, J. W. Bishoff, a musical editor, and Bishoff approved of it, making certain changes in it. In the words of the author: "It was sung for the first time one evening in the First Congregational Church, in Washington, of which I was then the pastor and Mr. Bishoff the organist. I attributed its popularity in no little part to the music to which it is set. It was a wedding of words and music."

God himself alone knows how many, many times this hymn has been sung on parting by friends, who have never again met upon this earth. But no happier farewell can be uttered by Christians than the simple wish, "God be with you till we meet again."

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