Thursday, 26 March 2015

"The morning light is breaking" - Samuel Francis Smith, 1808-1895

This missionary hymn of optimism and of challenge to the Christian Church was written in the same year and by the same author as our national hymn, "My country, tis of thee." The author was the Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, of whom his class mate in Harvard University, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote in the Class Poem of 1829: 

And there s a fine youngster of excellent pith, - Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith. 

The year of its composition was 1832, when the author graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, entered the Baptist ministry, and became editor of the Baptist Missionary Magazine. Little wonder that he should have written a missionary hymn in a year of such missionary interest to himself ! 

The hymn was first published in a hymnal that was under preparation that same year, Hastings Spiritual Songs. In 1843 tne author included it in a collection of hymns entitled The Psalmist, which he and Baron Stow prepared for American Baptists a hymnal that achieved wide popularity. 

Though Dr. Smith two years later left the missionary editorship to enter the pastorate at Waterville, Maine, he did not lose his intense interest in missions. And so after his pastorate in Newton, Massachusetts, we find him editor of the publications of the Baptist Missionary Union. Having traveled widely among the foreign missions, Dr. Smith was enabled to write that his hymn "has been a great favorite at missionary gatherings, and I myself heard it sung "in five or six different languages in Europe and Asia." 

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