Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Love of God is Greater Far

Frederick Martin Lehman was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four, settling in Iowa. Although he became a Nazarene minister, the majority of his life was devoted to writing sacred songs. Sometime around 1917, just before moving to California, he attended a campmeeting where he the preacher quoted what would become the third verse of his song “The Love of God.”

"Could we with ink the ocean fill
and were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill
and ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
tho' stretched from sky to sky."

The preacher said the words had been found written on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave. It was later found that the scribbled message had been adapted from a poem written sometime between 1050 and 1096 in Germany, where Lehman had been born.

Lehman was so moved by the words that he wrote them down for future use. It wasn't until after he had settled in California that his hymn would be completed. One day during a break at his job in a produce factory, he picked up a scrap piece of paper and pencil and wrote the first two stanzas and the refrain.

"The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin"

"When hoary time shall pass away
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall
When men who here refuse to pray
On rocks and hills and mountains call
God's love, so sure, shall still endure
All measureless and strong
Redeeming grace to Adam's race
The saints' and angels' song"

"Oh, love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song"

During his life, Lehman wrote many poems, published hundreds of songs, and compiled five volumes of song books with the title Songs That Are Different. “The Love of God” first appeared in Volume Two of that series in 1919, although the copyright was obtained two years earlier. The translation of the third verse was made in 1917 by Joseph H. Hertz. Lehman left his own account concerning the writing of this hymn in a 1948 pamphlet entitled “History of the Song, The Love of God.” He died in 1953. Two other well-known Lehman songs are “The Royal Telephone” and “There’s No Disappointment in Heaven.”

In the uncertain times we live in today, with all that's going on with the pandemic, the political scene and what have you, let us remember the love of God is greater far. It shall forevermore endure!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Chuck Stockton's Legacy Will Live On

Charles "Chuck" Stockton's legacy was set in stone when, along about 1976, his uncle, Wendell Stockton, bought a citizens band radio and became one of the most well-known CB enthusiasts in Clinton County.

Having growin up around Wendell, it was only natural that Chuck would choose the profession he did. Dispatching became his passion. Chuck was a people-person and his people came to depend o him as their source for everything that went on in scannerland. In 40 years he never once let us down.

It was Chuck who put in a good word for me when i was hired at emergency services, and he was one of my dispatch partners. Quite often, I would remind him of how popular he was. All he had to do was put his name on the local election ballot and he would have easily won. Chuck had a loving heart. He was as kind, caring and compassionate as anyone i have ever known.

It broke my heart to take the 911 call, but i know God was with him, just as He was with me. So long Chuck. Until we meet again, your work here is done. The legacy you leave behind isn't something you left for people. It is what you placed inside us that we will always remember.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Essence of Living for Others

How attuned are you to the idea of thinking of others during this pandemic? The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the essence of life is to serve others and do good. Charles Meigs wrote it down over 100 years ago:

"Lord, help me live from day to day
in such a self-forgetful way
that even when I kneel to pray
my prayer shall be for others

Others, Lord, yes, others
let this my motto be
Help me to live for others
that I may live like Thee"

God wants us to live this way. Caring for others is central in His intentions for us. Concern for others is the defining approach to life if you desire to live God’s way. That idea is reflected in this hymn.

Meigs was a pioneer in the Sunday School movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. He wrote his words in 1902, and allowed it to be set to music in 1916. In telling the story of how it came to pass, he recounted that Gen. William Booth of the Salvation Army wanted to send New Year’s greetings by telegram to Salvation Army posts around the world. Since cablegrams were expensive, Booth condensed his vital message to just one word, 'Others.' Meigs was moved to pen a prayer that could be on the lips of anyone desiring to pursue that way of life.

The only way for us to get through these troubled times is by thinking of others' health and well-being, and of course our own as well. Please wear a mask and try your best to social distance.

"So when my work on earth is done
and my new work in heaven’s begun
I’ll praise You for the crown I’ve won
but praise You more for others"

Click on the video to listen to a recording of this hymn by Bro. Carl Davis, accompanied by my dad on guitar and Margaret Cook on organ. Originally from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, Bro. Davis was an evangelist, pastor and singer, whose voice was known to thousands through his "Campaigns for Christ" radio broadcasts that aired on several radio and TV stations. Sadly, he was killed in an automobile accident near Nashville on May 2, 1964, not long after this recording was made.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Henry Slade Preached His Own Funeral

Although Bro. Henry C. Slade, Kentucky's famous "feud breaker," created perhaps more sensations during the course of his life than the average mountaineer of his state he broke all records the day his own voice preached a funeral sermon over his dead body, directed the music and made one last impassioned address to the rough people among whom he had lived and worked for so many years.

When this man, who in his little mountain church had won widespread fame was breathing his last in his humble cabin under the mountains, he had a talking machine drawn ⁵close to his bed and then poured into it the story of his life and a last plea to the rough mountaineers. This was the climax of his life's noble work.

Bro. Slade died on March 7, 1905 and a couple of days later the strange funeral service was held. Word had gone far and wide that the minister would preach his own funeral sermon, for the members of the congregation had spread the news till it became the wonder of the mountains. When the body was carried Into the church and placed upon the trestles in front of the altar, hundreds had gathered to hear the dead pastor presch. One of the minister's friends started the machine and a familiar voice spoke saying: "The Lord giveth and the lord taketh away."

He then invited the congregation to stand and join him in singing "Blest Be The Tie That Binds," afterwhich the dead preacher began telling his life story, his struggles, his hopes and his fears. He spoke of how the first three years of his pastorate church members met in each others homes because they had no meeting house, and how his efforts were rewarded in the fourth year when families, who for generations had bitterly fought each other, with many murders being the result, were brought into the Christian fold, and how those families had helped build a church building.

At the end of the sermon the voice admonished the people to be constant in well-doing. And then the voice asked the congregation to rise and sing "Jesus, Lover of my Soul" and the members of the church joined their dead pastor in that old hymn.

When the ceremony was over the congregation, awed and whispering, stood in groups while the body was borne out of the church to the burying ground, where it was laid to rest.

For eleven years, Bro. Slade had preached to his mountain congregation, first in the homes of the people and afterwards in the little church at Rideout. Through his efforts, the Howard-White feud, and the famous Tolliver feud were ended.

Bro. Slade had become interested in the talking machine while on a visit to Louisville, and on returning to the mountains took with a talking phonograph machine and a number of records, among which were the latest musical successes, the best in oratory and many humorous recitations. Such a luxury had never before been heard of in that remote mountain district, so when Bro. Slade turned his Wednesday evening prayer meetings into talking machine entertainments the church was crowded.

He became so impressed with the importance of the talking machine he believed he could do good after death, and hence conceived the Idea of preaching his own funeral sermon. By doing so he helped to settle the difficulties between many families who were threatening declare open war at any time.

Friday, July 31, 2020

William Armstrong Cooper

In all the years I have studied and researched the first one hundred years of my church on Clear Fork creek, I never paid close attention to the name "W.A. Cooper," or "Bro. Cooper," until just recently. Morris Gaskins' book, "A Lighthouse in the Wilderness," includes minutes from the first century, and while looking through them the other day, I realized that phrases like "preaching by WA Cooper" or "moderated by Bro. Cooper" that were written into the 1840's minutes were also written in the minutes from the 1880's. It was then that I came know more about William Armstrong Cooper.

"The Gospel Plow"

William Cooper, known as "Uncle Billy" to local folks, was born on Beaver Creek in Wayne County in 1813. He became a Christian in 1835 and was licensed to preach the same year. Three years later, in 1838, Clear Fork Baptist Church called him to act jointly with pastor Isaac Denton in helping with the church. But, his calling extended far beyond Isaac Denton. For the next seventy years he kept his hand on the gospel plow by, not only assisting Bro. Denton, but also the following two pastors, Isaac's son Joseph and Alvin Bertram, by preaching regularly or serving as moderator at business meetings. He baptized both men, Joseph in 1838 and Alvin in 1866. Although I haven't found any records saying it, more than likely he preached or assisted at Joseph Denton's funeral in 1887, and probably Isaac Denton's funeral in 1848. It has also been written that he baptized both of Clinton County's governors, Thomas Bramlette and Preston Leslie, whose brother, Ellison, was my third great-grandfather. The minutes state that more than once revivals lasting several days broke out while he was preaching.

Bro. Cooper not only served God at Clear Fork. His labors as a gospel messenger also spread to many other churches mostly within the Stockton's Valley and South Concord associations. Churches like Beaver Creek (his home church), Seventy Six,Cumberland City, New Hope, Bethel, Friendship, Mt. Pisgah, Taylor's Grove, Canada's Creek, Parnell, Mt. Pleasant, Charity and Steubenville, and his work was abundantly fruitful. It has been said he baptized more than 2,000 people during his 73-year ministry, performed marriage ceremonies for some 1,300 couples and led about that same number of funerals. He also served one year as Missionary in Texas. In his obituary, R.C. Kimble noted that for almost three quar­ters of a century William Cooper was a "champion of truth against every attack of Satan's hosts."

"The Civil War"

There was a season of revival following the Civil War. In 1866, Bro. Cooper baptized some 450 converts during the month of May alone. Clear Fork's building was burned during the war, but the church continued to meet in homes and other church houses after the conflict had ended. In 1866, during the months of April, May and June, Clear Fork held both revivals and regular services at Albany First Baptist, Beech Bottom and Locust Grove churches, where William Cooper preached at all of these services and many people were saved or rededicated their lives, and were added to the church roll.

The Civil War, with its roots deeply imbedded in the hearts of both Northerners and Southerners, affected everyone. Sides were chosen and strong sentiments were formed. Fighting would have broken out in Wayne County at the onset of the war had it not been for one man, William Armstrong Cooper. On August 30,1861, with much of the county gathered around the steps of the Wayne County courthouse, he spoke for more than two hours, pleading for residents to remain peaceful. Afterwards, a white flag, a symbol of peace, was raised above the courthouse with the inscription: "Peace is the Motto of Wayne County."

"Plea For Peace"

William Cooper was a scholar, theologian, sur­veyor and orator. He was the grandson of revolutionary war veteran George Fredrick Cooper, who had allegedly been a companion of Daniel Boone. His influence reached far beyond the boundaries of Wayne County. As a powerful preacher and compassionate pastor he was unexcelled. It was written that he left a deep impression about public thinking and morality on all who listened to him. No incident reveals the powerful influence exercised over people more than his "Plea For Peace" sermon. Both sides of the conflict were ready to begin what could have led to horrible bloodshed, but they were so heavily influenced by his words that after his sermon the crowd dispersed and went home instead.

In his diary, Captain John Tuttle of Monticello described the speech as "the most interesting and best delivered speech that was ever heard." Guy Shearer wrote, "He told all those present the truth and they lis­tened. The worst did not befall local citizens during that four years of (the Civil War) conflict. The Battle of Mill Springs was brought in and there were a few minor skirmishes involving guerilla warfare, but for the most part reason ruled the minds of the people and peace ruled the day.

May the spirit of William Armstrong Cooper and the same power of God that folks felt after hearing his words in 1861 fill our hearts and be cultivated within us during these troubled times we are living in, and as we face an uncertain future.

Wanna get to Heaven I'm a tell you how
Keep that hand on the gospel plow
Just keep that hand on the plow
Hold on

Hold on, Hold on
Keep your hand on the plow and hold on
Hold on

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians

Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of London, was born in Italy but later moved to England to serve in the court of Henry VIII. Five of his sons also served as musicians there, while his daughter, Lucreece, married the french-born courtier and artist, and my ancestor,  known as Nicholas Lanier, the Elder.

Nicholas, who was born in Rouen, France in 1542, served as a court musician to Henry II. After fleeing to England to escape Catholic persecution in 1561, he began serving the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

Nicholas and Elena's grandson, also named Nicholas Lanier (see photo), became the first person to hold the title of Master of the King’s Music while serving as court musician, composer, performer and groom of the chamber to King Charles I and Charles II. He was a singer who also played the flute as well as the viola.

I am descended from Nicholas Lanier, the Elder's son, Clement, my 11th great-grandfather, who served as Gentleman of the King’s Chamber to both James I and Charles I. Clement's son, and my ancestor, John Lanier, Sr., known as The Immigrant, migrated to Virginia in the late 1600's. His great, great-grandson, George Washington Lanier, later moved to the North side of Obeds Creek in Overton County, TN, then Jackson County. George's  granddaughter, Nancy Asburn, married John Speck. They are my 4th great-grandparents. I wonder if Nancy knew she descended from aristocrats who were distinguished and educated musicians for kings and queens of France and England for three generations?

Another of Clement Lanier descendants, his third great-grandson, Lloyd Addison Lanier, came up the Cumberland River from Nashville and operated a general merchandise store near Mill Springs in Wayne County. His brother-in-law, Thompson Brown, owned a twelve hundred acre farm there, which he eventually purchased. When the Battle of Mill Springs was fought, Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer used the home as his headquarters. Today, the Brown-Lanier house and grounds, which includes the mill there, are part of Mill Springs National Park.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Let's Get Together (And Do It Right)

There is too much noise in the world right now that is producing a level of adrenalin rush never before seen in my lifetime, and most likely yours. Raised blood pressures, accelerated heart rates, stressed out to the max, hypertension overload that is increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. What are we doing?

If ever there was a moment for an awakening, it is now. It happened once before, you know, and it could happen again.

It was in the spring of 1966, when a group known as The Youngbloods signed with RCA Records. Later that year they recorded their self-titled debut album. One of the songs on it had been discovered several months earlier after singer and bass player Jesse Colin Young had gone out looking for a place to rehearse. As he entered a club in New York City, folk singer Buzzy Linhart was on stage rehearsing a song. He was filled with emotion by what he heard.

“Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die, you can make the mountains ring or make the angels cry, Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why, Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

It was in that moment that Young had an awakening. He ran backstage and asked Linhart who had written the song. The answer was Dino Valenti, whose real name was Chet Powers. He had written the song in 1963.

“Get Together” had been so tightly arranged during The Youngbloods' rehearsals that in the studio no one with RCA dared to do anything to it. It was a pure and self-contained piece of art, whose sacred nature was apparent.

But in New York the song didn't go over very well. It wasn't until the band took it's tour to San Francisco that it's popularity began to rise. It was 1967 and the "Summer of Love."

People then actually wanted to learn to love one another. Imagine, today, a world where peace and love are the counterculture to what we have become, a place where everyone gets along. We need that awakening.

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

The Love of God is Greater Far

Frederick Martin Lehman was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four, settling in Iowa. Although he becam...