Singing our way into the vision of the Beatitudes: Robert Foster’s ‘Hymn XI’

In 1818 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire Robert Foster (1789?-1835) used the presses at the Gazette office to print a pamphlet of twenty-two pages containing one dozen hymns.  Nearing 30 years of age, Foster was a young preacher among the ‘Christian’ movement.  The decade ahead would hold for him several opportunities to preach and especially publish.  Before his death in 1835 he served as secretary to the General Christian Conference, edited a major periodical among the movement, (Herald of Gospel Liberty, later The Christian Herald) and issued a major hymnal in 1824, (Hymns, Original and Selected for the Use of Christians, revised and reissued in 1828).  His singular contribution to the literature of the Christian movement is as a publisher and editor.

Though he may have been involved in publishing as early as 1812, it appears the 1818 book was the first he compiled:

[Robert Foster, compiler] Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Original and Selected. Portsmouth, N.H.: printed at the Gazette Office, 1818. [1] 22 pages.

It appears that the first half or so (remember, only a dozen texts) are ‘original’, presumably original to Foster.  They appear in many subsequent Christian Connection hymnals for forty years hence, in a few books even after the Civil War.

Hymn XI, though, is an Isaac Watts text:

1 Blest are the humble souls that see
Their emptiness and poverty;
Treasures of grace to them are given,
And crowns of joy laid up in heaven.

2 Bless’d are the men of broken heart,
Who mourn for sin with inward smart;
The blood of Christ divinely flows,
A healing balm for all their woes.

3 Bless’d are the meek, who stand afar
From rage and passion, noise and war;
God will secure their happy state,
And plead their cause against the great.

4 Bless’d are the souls that thirst for grace,
Hunger and long for righteousness!
They shall be well supplied, and fed
With living streams and living bread.

5 Blest are the men whose bowels move
And melt with sympathy and love;
From Christ the Lord shall they obtain
Like sympathy and love again.

6 Bless’d are the pure, whose hearts are clean
From the defiling pow’rs of sin;
With endless pleasure they shall see
A God of spotless purity.

7 Blest are the men of peaceful life,
Who quench the coals of growing strife;
They shall be called the heirs of bliss,
The sons of God, the God of peace.

8 Bless’d are the suff’rers who partake
Of pain and shame for Jesus’ sake;
Their souls shall triumph in the Lord,
Glory and joy are their reward.

The Watts text was most commonly used in the 18th century, still rather widely used before the Civil War, but trails off sharply by 1900.  It is little wonder, then that it will likely be completely new to most readers of this blog.  The song has been out of fashion for several generations.

In a simple and straightforward manner Watts sings his way through the Beatitudes. Befitting the genre of ‘spiritual song’, when the church gathers and sings this song, they sing to each other that they might live into the reality envisioned by the Sermon on the Mount.

In each case the first couplet affirms the blessing of God and the final couplet declares the promises of God.  The singing assembly that voices this text reaffirms the blessing of God and the promises of God though it is plainly apparent to them that humility, broken heartedness, meekness, hunger, mercy, purity, peacemaking, and suffering for righteousness are not at all valued in the larger culture.  They know they stand in opposition to such powers and principalities; further, they know in this resistance they stand blessed by God.  Christian conviction deeply values humility, broken heartedness, meekness, hunger, mercy, purity, peacemaking, and suffering for righteousness.  Christians who resist in this way should consider themselves fortunate because God honors his word and keeps his promises.

In 1818 Robert Foster thought it vital to include this text in his little songster.  Singing assemblies of the Christian movement who used this pamphlet knew this song, and employed it in their assemblies to reaffirm their faith and redouble their commitment to live into the good words of the Sermon on the Mount.

Might we sing it again?

Sources:

E. W. Humphreys, Memoirs of Deceased Christian Ministers; Or, Brief Sketches with Lives and Labors of 975 Ministers Who Died Between 1793 and 1880. Christian Publishing Association: Dayton, 1880. s.v. Robert Foster, p. 133.

J. F. Burnett, “The Convention” Herald of Gospel Liberty, June 16, 1910, pp. 758-759.

Hymnals of the Stone-Campbell Movement Timeline at Lincoln Christian University.

Blessed are the humble souls that see‘ at Hymnary.org

Robert Foster on Find-A-Grave

 

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22nd Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

Among the Churches of Christ recently (within the last 40 or so years) closed in Nashville is the 22nd Avenue Church in North Nashville.

Begun as a mission from Twelfth Avenue, North Church in the early 1920’s, Twenty-Second Avenue was always a rather small congregation and never a wealthy or affluent one.

The earliest record I can find of it in the Nashville city directories is in 1926 when it met at 1609 22nd Ave. North.  The 1937 City Directory lists the congregation as meeting at 1626 22nd Avenue North.  On 14 October 1932 the building, presumably at 1609, burned.  In debt and poor (“our membership is composed mainly of people who have little of this world’s goods…”), they met in private homes and a former automobile repair shop on 21st Avenue until funds were raised to buy the corner lot at 1626 22nd Avenue and Osage Street.  Upon it they constructed with donated labor and supplies a small frame meetinghouse. See Gospel Advocate 1933:93.

The photo below is, I assume, of the second building at 1626 22nd Avenue, North:

in 1933 the congregation had three elders, W. T. Phillips, H. V. McCool and A. B. Sweeney, with G. A. Helton serving as Treasurer.  They supported, partially, a “Brother Jones” in Metropolis, Illinois and maintained a “small fund for foreign mission work” in addition to local benevolence ministry.

From 1933 to 1979 my trail grows cold.

By 1979 I understand that 22nd Avenue relocated north of the Cumberland River to 3903 Milford Road.  Alas! I see from Google Maps that whatever structure existed at 3903 Milford Road, it has very recently seen the business end of a wrecking ball.  Milford Road Church of Christ does not appear in the 1983 Where the Saints Meet. A Google search turns up Rose of Sharon Primitive Baptist Church using that address.  Yet if Google Maps is any indication, there is no one meeting in any building at 3903 Milford Road today.  I may have missed my chance to photograph the Milford Road building by a few months.

Who might have information from 22nd Avenue Church of Christ: bulletins, directories or photographs?  Who could fill in any information, at all, in the forty year gap from 1933-1973?  Who has a photograph of the first building at 1609 22nd Avenue? Or of the Milford Road structure?  Who preached for this congregation?  Where did the members go when they disbanded?  Are any former members still living?

Issue of Christian History Magazine on Stone-Campbell Movement forthcoming

Christian History Magazine will release in September an issue devoted to the Stone-Campbell Movement.  Doug Foster and Richard Hughes collaborated as guest editors to assemble the first issue of CHM dedicated to the Restoration Movement.  About 20 years ago Barton Stone and Cane Ridge made an appearance in issue 45 on Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders…which you can download for free as a PDF here.  Judging from past issues, this installment will be a richly illustrated and accessible overview for the average reader who has some knowledge of and a keen interest in Christian history.  If you plan to teach Restoration history, consider ordering a bundle for distribution to your class; see CHM_BulkPricing for details.  An image from this blog and a small contribution from me even made their way into the issue!

7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate: The Nashville Special

7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate “Nashville Special”

This special issue of Gospel Advocate highlights with historical sketches and photographs several dozen Churches of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, the City of David (Lipscomb).  In view of an upcoming lecture at Lipscomb University (I’m co-presenting with Christopher Cotten, John Mark Hicks and Jeremy Sweets), this will be the first of several daily posts of the photographs from that issue.  From now until the end of June I will post one photo daily.  Look for the portraits of Fall, Fanning, Sewell, McQuiddy and Harding tomorrow and the meetinghouses in alphabetical order beginning 23 May until 30 June 2013, d.v. …. You are invited to our sessions Monday July 1 and Tuesday July 2.  See the Summer Celebration schedule for time and place. Please come, I’d like to meet and talk with you.

Front Cover

Content Summary

[B. C. Goodpasture], “How Special Was Prepared”, page 1166:

In collecting the material for the special number of the Gospel Advocate we have sought a short history and a picture of the meetinghouse of every congregation in what might be called the Nashville district.  There are some congregations not within the city limits which have been so vitally related to the work in the city that it was thought proper to include them.  To this end each congregation was asked by telephone or letter to supply a sketch of its work and a good picture of its meetinghouse.  We are grateful that most of the congregations complied with our request, but regret that some did not.  Except where otherwise stated, we have used only the material that was sent in to us.  Where the type of meetinghouse and of picture permitted, the cuts are uniform in size.—EDITOR.

——-

H. Leo Boles, “General History of the Church in Nashville,” 1146-1148.  Included in this brief essay are portraits of Philip Slater Fall, Tolbert Fanning, Elisha Granville Sewell, Jephthah Clayton McQuiddy and James Alexander Harding.  David Lipscomb’s portrait graces the front cover.  The bulk of the issue are the sketches and photos of the congregations and their meetinghouses.  Boles’ task is to introduce the issue with a lead-off broad historical resume.

Rear Cover

List of Congregations, pages 1148-1167

Listed below, in the order of appearance, are the congregations featured; those without an accompanying photograph marked with an asterisk [*].  I cannot discern an organizing principle, if there was one, governing the listing of the congregations.  For their relative locations consult the map on the back cover.

Lindsley Avenue Church

Twelfth Avenue Church

Old Hickory Church

Charlotte Avenue Church

Grandview Heights Church

Riverside Drive Church

Shelby Avenue Church

Joseph Avenue Church

Grace Avenue Church

Park Avenue Church

Park Circle Church

Lawrence Avenue Church

Central Church

David Lipscomb College Church

Acklen Avenue Church

Chapel Avenue Church

Eleventh Street Church

Reid Avenue Church

Cedar Grove Church

Trinity Lane Church

Fairview Church

Russell Street Church

Donelson Church

Third and Taylor Church

Mead’s Chapel Church

Highland Avenue Church

Fifth Street Church

Seventh Avenue Church

Hillsboro Church

Madison Church

Radnor Church

Whites Creek Church

Fanning School and Church

Lischey Avenue Church

Belmont Church

Waverly-Belmont Church

New Shops Church*

Neely’s Bend Church*

——-

W. E. Brightwell, “Record Not Complete”, pages 1166-1167:

“Some congregations failed to provide a picture of their building; some prepared something, but there was a slip-up in delivery.”  Brightwell briefly recalls details about Green Street, Eighth Street [Eight Avenue, North], Jo Johnston, Twenty-Second Avenue, Otter Creek, and Reid Avenue.  Within Brightwell’s note are photographs of the Home for the Aged (overseen by the Chapel Avenue Church), Jackson Park Church and Rains Avenue Church.  He closes by asking, “What became of the sketches for Jackson Park and Rains Avenue congregations?  Gorman Avenue, Richland Creek, Edenwold, Fourth Avenue, South, Pennsylvania Avenue, Ivy Point, Dickerson Road, and possibly others within the area of Greater Nashville, failed to report, or something happened that their report did not arrive in time.”

Given Brightwell’s note, I thought it worthwhile to discern which congregations were absent.  It became readily apparent that there was no mention, at all, of any African-American congregation or preacher in the issue.  There is a list of six “Colored Churches” on the rear-cover map.

If George Philip Bowser’s 1942 directory is any indication, Nashville was as much “Jerusalem” for African-American churches of Christ as it was for whites.  In 1942 Nashville claimed six black Churches of Christ, the same as are listed on the rear cover of this ‘Nashville Special.’  No other city in America at that time, known to Bowser at least, had as many black congregations or as many members among them.  Were Bowser to describe these congregations, their establishment and growth and the great men and women who built and nurtured them, he might use Henry Leo Boles’ words which opens this ‘Nashville Special’: “Nashville, Tenn., has been called the modern Jerusalem. There are more churches of Christ in this city than in any other city of the world.  The church in Nashville, like the church in Jerusalem, had a small beginning, but it has grown to great proportions.”  If not, at least his data would support the claim nonetheless.

The rear cover, with map, lists sixty-five congregations, fifty-nine [white] and six “colored.”

——-

The congregations listed below have neither photo nor sketch in the issue proper:

Bells Bend

Dickerson Road

Edenwold

Eighth Avenue

Fourth Avenue

Gorman Avenue

Green Street

Jo Johnston

Pennsylvania Avenue

Richland Creek

Rural Hill

Twenty-Second Avenue

Watkins Chapel

Buford’s Chapel [this is an earlier name for Whites Creek church listed above]

Neely’s Bend

Pennington’s Bend

Woodson Chapel

Una

Goodlettsville

Otter Creek

Ivy Point

Fourteenth and Jackson

Twenty-Sixth and Jefferson

Sixth and Ramsey

Fairfield and Green

South Hill

Horton

——-

Neither on this map nor inside are:

South Harpeth

Philippi

Hill’s Chapel

Antioch

Burnette’s Chapel

Gilroy

Smith Springs

Pasquo

Pleasant Hill

Little Marrowbone

Chapel Hill (possibly a variant name for Little Marrowbone)

Bethel

All of these are in Davidson County, reasonably within the bounds of Goodpasture’s “Nashville district” or Brightwell’s “Greater Nashville.”

The 1939 City Directory lists a Sanctified Church of Christ at 408 16th Avenue, North and a Metropolitan Church of Christ on East Hill as a ‘Colored’ congregation.  The same directory lists Emanuel Church of Christ which I have confirmed is not a Stone-Campbell congregation.  Sanctified is entirely new to me; there is an outside chance it could be the predecessor to the Fifteenth Avenue, North congregation (est. 1955 according to the 2012 Churches of Christ in the United States).  If so then it is a black congregation…15th Ave is a plant from Jefferson or Jackson Street.  Metropolitan Church is likewise new to me.

——

Remember, check back daily for a new photograph.  Comments are welcome for memories, suggestions, etc.  Should you like to contact me privately, do so at   icekm [at] aol [dot] com.  Should you have or know someone who has photographs, directories, bulletins or other paper from any of these congregations, please contact me.