Monday, October 19, 2009

John White Chadwick

John White Chadwick, born today in 1840, was a Unitarian theologian and author. He grew up in a seafaring family in Marblehead, Massachusetts working in a dry goods store and also learning the shoemaking trade. Money was raised for his education, and he attended the Bridgewater Normal School and the Phillips Exeter Academy. While at school, he read a sermon by Samuel Longfellow, which he later credited with inspiring him to become a minister. He was admitted to Harvard Divinity School and graduated in 1864, despite not having attended college.

This hymn was written for that graduating class of 1864. The Civil War was still in progress, and it is assumed that this text (particularly the third stanza) was influenced by the conflict.
For whatever reason it was not included in the last two Unitarian hymnals of 1964 and 1993 (nor were any of Chadwick's other hymns) but it is in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 as well as others).

Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
Of circling planets singing on their way,
Guide of thy people from the depths profound
Into the glory of the perfect day,
Rule in our hearts, that we may ever be
Guided and strengthened and upheld by thee.

We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
One in our love of all things sweet and fair;
One with the joy that breaketh into song,
One with the grief that trembleth into prayer,
One in the power that makes thy children free
To follow truth, and thus to follow thee.

O clothe us with thy heavenly armor, Lord,
Thy trusty shield, the strength of love divine;
Our inspiration be thy constant Word;
We ask no victories that are not thine;
Give or withhold, let pain or pleasure be,
Enough to know that we are serving thee.

John White Chadwick, 1864; alt.
Tune: SONG 1 (
Orlando Gibbons, 1623

Following his graduation, Chadwick was ordained into the Unitarian ministry at the Second Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, where Samuel Longfellow had recently been the pastor. He remained there until his death in 1904, becoming widely known outside his small congregation for his many published works, including collections of poetry and sermons, biographies (including those of notable Unitarians Theodore Parker and William Ellery Channing) and reviews and articles in several newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times and Harper's (some of those are available online).

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