For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Not Even Spurgeon Was Perfect

Well, apparently my New Year's Resolution was to blog even less often than I had been doing.  Goal one: achieved.  Not that anyone is losing any sleep over the lack of output here.  While I once seemed to have a more passionate commitment to spout off about anything and everything, I've sort of grown a bit less prolific, maybe a bit more lazy, who knows.  Anyway, nobody's perfect, which brings me to my subject...

As we begin a new year (now a week old) I was going through various writings and poetry associated with the "new beginning" theme.  One of the places I often go to for both devotional reading and "idea" hunting is the collection of hymns Pastor Charles Spurgeon put together for his congregation at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. 

Just a little note, Spurgeon "Our Own Hymnbook" is a treasure trove of church hymnody, and the songs are all divided topically making it easy to find a verse for almost any occasion.  It even has a section for special meetings of the church, including Revivals and Missions, Prayer Meetings, Opening Places for Worship, and (soon the be the topic of a future post) Mother's Meetings.  He also has a selection of hymns for Morning, Evening, Harvest, Marriage, etc., and of course the New Year. 

Obviously I was looking at that last category when I noticed a mistake.  A glaring mistake.  A mistake right there in black and white, printed, published, recorded for all the world to see.  A mistake by C. H. Spurgeon.  I mean, I know I said nobody is perfect, but...  Spurgeon?!?

You see, he included a nice little hymn which begins "Com, Thou fount of every blessing..."  Recognize it?  Of course you do.  It's a slightly different arrangement of the words than you might be used to, but essentially the same.  But at the end, Spurgeon attributes the song to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

The Countess was a well known figure in the mid to late 1700, being associated with the beginnings of Methodism and both John Wesley and George Whitfield.  When those two later parted, with Whitefield have much more Calvinistic leanings, the Countess sided with Whitefield.  In fact, the Calvinistic bent of the Methodist movement even spawned its own "denomination" called the "Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion."  

She also has some hymn connections, being close friends with such notable hymn writers as Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, and Augustus Toplady, as well as the Wesley's themselves.  It was in a collection of Wesley's papers that included a copy of this song, attributed to the Countess.  So what's the big deal then?  How does have anything to do with Spurgeon's mistake?

Well, as you probably know, modern hymnologists (is that a term?) universally attribute the hymn "Come Thou Fount" to a man named Robert Robinson.  His is a great story, too, having also been influenced by George Whitefield.  Robinson entered ministry and eventually leaned more toward the Baptist side of things.  Sadly, his life seems to have included further drifting as he ended up associating with the Universalists.  That makes an interesting story given the line in the hymn about being "prone to wander." 

Anyway, despite his later leanings, the evidence is strong (if not quite iron clad) that Robinson is indeed the author of the hymn. You can read more about the whole thing here.  But Spurgeon seems to be wrong. Unless I want to make the case that since Spurgeon said it, the Countess is the rightful author regardless of other evidence.  Sometimes we get so fixated on our own ideas and our own heroes that we might be tempted to do such a thing.  But I'll resist.  And I'll simply say, Spurgeon made a mistake.  Granted, he was simply repeating what others had said at the time about the hymn's origin.  But it just goes to show that nobody's perfect.

What this rambling diatribe is attempting to get at is this.  As we begin a new year, many will have made all sorts of different resolutions.  Most of them, of course, will never be met.  We will continue, each of us, to be reminded of our own weaknesses.  And while we should never settle for mediocre, never quite pursuing greater holiness in Christ, greater faithfulness in service, etc.; it is good to know that our imperfections put us in pretty good company.  Not even Spurgeon was perfect.

1 comment:

Eddie Eddings said...

Used to have that book. I was blessed reading those old hymns and was surprised that Spurgeon wrote quite a few hymns himself.