Lyricist James Montgomery was born November 4th, 1771 in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs historical record recounts:
James Montgomery, 1771-1854
Mr. Montgomery had a heart for missions, assuredly from his parents, who served in the West Indies. In a day, however, things changed as James received word while in seminary that both died unexpectedly on the mission field. This news pushed Montgomery into a path of discouragement and lack of purpose for some time, leaving his studies cut short. Soon he began to write and edited a weekly newspaper. In 1825, after thirty years, he gave up the paper, focusing on promotion of missions and pursuits of generosity.
Of his writing skill, historian John Julian’s “Dictionary of Hymnology” states:
“The secrets of his power as a writer of hymns were manifold. His poetic genius was of a high order, higher than most who stand with him in the front rank of Christian poets. His ear for rhythm was exceedingly accurate and refined. His knowledge of Holy Scriptures was most extensive. His religious views were broad and charitable. His devotional spirit was of the holiest type. With the faith of a strong man he united the beauty and simplicity of a child. Richly poetic without exuberance, dogmatic without uncharitableness, tender without sentimentality, elaborate without diffusiveness, richly musical without apparent effort…”
Spencer Lane, 1843-1903
Musician Spencer Lane was born April 7th, 1843 in Tilton, New Hampshire, and served in the 8th New Hampshire Infantry during the American Civil war. Lane composed this tune one afternoon specifically for Montgomery’s lyrics after deciding he didn’t like the tune provided by his pastor to be sung that evening.