Sunday, August 28, 2011

William Hiley Bathurst

William Hiley Bathurst, born today in 1796, was ordained in the Church of England in 1819 following his graduation from Oxford, and served as the rector of a Yorkshire church for thirty-two years.

He was a fairly prolific hymnwriter, though not many of his texts are known today. In 1831 he published Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, which collected more than three hundred of his hymns and psalm paraphrases (only 18 texts in the book, all psalm paraphrases, are not by Bathurst).

He left the Anglican Church and retired from his parish in 1852 because he had developed doubts about the rites of the church as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer for baptism and burial.

O for that flame of living fire,
Which shone so bright in saints of old!
Which bade their souls to heav’n aspire,
Calm in distress, in danger bold.

Grant us that Spirit, God, which dwelt
In Abram’s breast, and sealed him thine,
Which made Paul’s heart with sorrow melt,
And glow with energy divine.

That Spirit which eternally,
Proclaimed thy love, and taught thy law,
Led to Christ's tomb those women three
And changed their sorrow into awe.

Is not thy grace as mighty now
As when Elijah felt its power;
When glory beamed from Moses’ brow,
Or Job endured the trying hour?

When Miriam, faithful unto death,
Led Israel's children through the wild,
Or Sarah and Elizabeth
Received a long-awaited child?

Remember, God, the ancient days;
Renew thy work; thy grace restore;
As still today our hearts we raise,
On us thy Holy Spirit pour.

William Hiley Bathurst, 1831; adapt. C.W.S. 1993
Pensum Sacrum, 1648;
harm. J.S. Bach, 18th cent.

As you probably noticed, this text is not exactly as Bathurst wrote it. Like most of the hymns we know which talk about people from the Bible, his text included only men. (There were older hymns written about the women of the Scriptures, as we have seen here and here, among others, but these texts have not survived in modern hymnals.) My revision replaced Isaiah and David in stanza three and added the new stanza five, reminding us that God's Spirit was poured on several women as well.

Two Years Ago: Ira David Sankey

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