Today is the birthday of Russell Kelso Carter, born in Baltimore in 1849 into a Presbyterian family. As a young man he briefly pursued a military career. In the 1870s he began to experience various health problems, which led him to investigate faith healing and eventually to join the Methodists, which seemed to him to provide a closer relationship with God. He was active in the Methodist Holiness movement and wrote Miracles of Healing in 1880.
During this time he was also writing texts and tunes for gospel songs, either by himself or in collaboration with other writers and composers. He later co-edited two song books, Songs of Perfect Love (1886) with John R. Sweney and Hymns of the Christian Life (1891) with A. B. Simpson. He also edited a magazine called The Kingdom for a time.
Today's hymn comes from his second collection, a Carter tune with a text by Simpson.
The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood.
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shore line,
And be lost in the fullness of God.
Launch out, into the deep.
Oh let the shore line go.
Launch out, launch out in the ocean divine,
Out where the full tides flow.
But many, alas! only stand on the shore,
And gaze on the ocean so wide.
They never have ventured its depths to explore,
Or to launch on the fathomless tide.
Oh, let us launch out on this ocean so broad,
Where floods of salvation o’erflow.
Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God,
Till the depths of God's fullness we know.
A. B. Simpson, 1891; alt.
Tune: OCEAN DIVINE (22.214.171.124. with refrain)
R. Kelso Carter, 1891
In 1892 Carter moved to the West Coast, leaving his family behind. When he divorced his wife (and remarried in 1895) he was met with widespread disapproval, which may have been the reason why he left the church, and his faith healing beliefs, for a time and studied to become a physician. In later years he reached a middle point and conceded that both faith and science had a role in the healing process. He eventually returned to Baltimore and died there in 1928.
More recently, the tune for Carter's most well-known song (at the link below) has gained a new text by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, titled Blessed are the poor among you.
Five Years Ago: R. Kelso Carter