Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Edwin Hatch

Edwin Hatch (September 4, 1835 - November 10, 1889) was a member of the Anglican clergy and a renowned theologian and Biblical scholar.

He was ordained in 1859 after graduating from Oxford, and moved to Canada, where his first position was professor of classics at Trinity College in Toronto.  He returned to England in 1867, and worked at Oxford as vice-principal of St. Mary Hall until 1885.

Most of his writing was scholarly in nature, his most famous book being The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church (1897).  Published after his death, it was compiled from a series of lectures he delivered in 1888.

His hymns and poetry, a much smaller percentage of his writing, were collected as Toward Fields of Light (1890).  Today's hymn had appeared earlier in Hatch's privately printed book, Between Doubt and Prayer (1878), and then in The Congregational Psalmist Hymnal  (1886).  J. R. Watson, in An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (2002), describes how the hymn "moves through various stages of Christian experience and discipline towards a unity with God."

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch, 1878
Robert Jackson, 1888

The tune TRENTHAM, by Robert Jackson, often appears with this text in American hymnals, but according to Watson, several different tunes are used in the United Kingdom.

Hatch continues to appear in hymnals to the present day, many more than in his own lifetime, thanks to this particular text which remains well-known.