Hymn Story: O How I Love Jesus

The verse to O How I Love Jesus was written by Frederick Whitfield.

Frederick Whitfield

Frederick Whitfield

Frederick Whitfield was born in Threapwood, Shropshire, England on Jan. 7, 1829.  After attending Trinity College in Dublin, he became an Anglican Church clergyman. In 1875, he reached the pinnacle of his carrer when he was appointed to St. Mary’s Church in Hastings.

He is credited with more than 30 books of religious verse.

The text to the verse of O How I Love Jesus, is believed to come from Philippians 2:5-11.  “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  {v.10-11}

The entire hymn revolves around the name of Jesus. What a powerful name! The name of Jesus promises us great things from the Father. It promises to be with us in every circumstance. How we should love Jesus for all the great things He has done and is doing for us.

The text originally included eight stanzas. Several interesting verses not found in present hymnals include these words:

      “It tells me of a Father’s smile that beams upon His child.
It cheers me through this little while, through deserts waste and wild.

      It bids my trembling soul rejoice, and dries each rising tear.
It tells me in a still small voice, to trust and not to fear.”O How I Love Jesus

The chorus is an American melody of unknown origin, but most likely is believe to come from the camp meeting era.  Originally, it was known as a traveling refrain.   This refrain was attached and sung with a mother hymn, such as Amazing Grace and Alas! And Did My Savior Die. 

At some point the refrain of “O How I Love Jesus” was wedded with the verse that begins, “There is a voice I love to hear.”

The first printing of the hymn is recorded to be in tract form dating back to 1855.  Hymnologist William J. Reynolds traces an early appearance of the text to the 1864 edition of Goodman’s Village Hymn Book.

There is on record of when the known tune became associated with the text.  Ira Sankey uses a different tune in the Dwight Moody crusades according to the 1896 edition of Gospel Hymns.  The hymn was a favorite at Moody’s crusades.

However, Hymnologist Harry Eskew traces the tune back to the 1869 edition of The Revivalist.
Frederick Whitfield died Sep­tem­ber 13, 1904 in Croy­don, Lon­don, Eng­land.

 

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