Sunday, May 21, 2006

Count Your Blessings

When upon life's billows You are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you What the Lord hath done.

Chorus:
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your blessings See what God hath done.
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear.
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing As the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings Money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high.

So amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged God is over all.
Count your many blessings Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Words by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922

This hymn certainly ranks as one of the most familiar numbers in our hymnals. It is one of the songs that many of us first sang with gusto during our early Sunday School days, yet one that we still enjoy singing in our gospel type of services. Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., was one of the important and prolific gospel song writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born near Medford, New Jersey, on April 21, 1856. As a child he became acquainted with the hymns of the church through the singing talents of his father. At the age of nineteen Oatman joined the Methodist Church and several years later was granted a license to preach in local Methodist congregations. Though he wrote over 5,000 hymn texts, Oatman was busily engaged throughout his life in a mercantile business and later as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey. Other gospel favorites by Johnson Oatman include "Higher Ground", and "No, Not One!"

"Count Your Blessings" is generally considered to be Oatman's finest hymn. It first appeared in Songs for Young People, compiled and published by Edwin O. Excell in 1897. It has been sung all over the world. One writer has stated, "Like a beam of sunlight it has brightened up the dark places of the earth." Perhaps no American was ever received with such enthusiasm in Great Britian as this hymn. The London Daily, in giving an account of a meeting presided over by Gypsy Smith, reported, "Mr. Smith announced the hymn 'Count Your Blessings.' Said he, 'In South London the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.'" During the great revival in Wales it was one of the hymns sung at every service along with such Welsh favorites as "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" and "O That Will be Glory". The composer of the music, E. O. Excell, is a well-known name in early gospel hymnody. He was born in Stark County, Ohio, on December 13, 1851. At the age of twenty he became a singing teacher, traveling around the country establishing singing schools. For twenty years he was associated with Sam Jones, a well-known Southern revivalist. Excell was recognized as one of the finest song leaders of his day. In addition to writing and composing more than 2,000 gospel songs as well as publishing about fifty songbooks, he administered a successful music publishing business in Chicago. While assisting Gypsy Smith in an evangelistic campaign in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1921, he was suddenly stricken at the age of seventy and taken home to join the immortal heavenly chorus.

Hat Tip: Dr. Chadwick’s Hymn Backgrounds

6 comments:

Gayle said...

It's a beautiful hymn!

My daughter has a tendency to feel sorry for herself and every once in-awhile she needs a pep talk. I tell her that she should be thankful for a family who loves her, friends who love her, fantasticly good health, etc. "Always count your blessings. You have so much more than so many. Be grateful for that. Your life has been blessed." Sometimes I have to remind myself of that too! :)

Little Miss Chatterbox said...

I keep waiting for you to post a hymn I either don't know or don't like and it has yet to happen :-))). I loooove this one!! Its an awesome reminder!

ABFreedom said...

I really like the history behind it ... I'm learning a lot ... scary huh? ... LOL

Hick said...

I love your hymn posts. The history is so inspiring.

Rebekah said...

I've never heard that but what a great song! Love the backgrounds. ;)

jgf said...

Gayle, I think we all need a reminder from time to time.

Dee, I am going to have to try to find one.

AB, turn about is fair play. I learn a lot from your blog, too.

Hick and Rebekah, thank you!