Great Hymn Writers Part 3

Great Hymn Writers Part 3


Newman was born in London on February 21st, 1801, the eldest of six children. His father, John Newman, was a banker. His mother, Jamima, was a member of the Fourdonier family. In 1808 he was enrolled at a private school in Ealing. As a boy he was a voracious reader, especially of the Bible. In 1816 he had a conversion experience. The religious background to this was of a somewhat evangelical character. This also was the year of the collapse of his father’s banking business. It was only as the result of a scholarship that he was able to enter Trinity College, Oxford, in 1817. In 1822 he was elected a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. Edward Bouverie Pusey, with whom he was to be associated closely in later years, was elected the same year.

In 1825 Newman was ordained as a priest of the Church of England and 1828 he became Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford. He retained this post until 1843. During the earlier years of his time at St. Mary’s Newman began to question his former evangelical views. In 1833 he preached his famous sermon on ‘National Apostasy’, which could be regarded as the beginning of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. The two other great figures were Keble and Froude, along with Pusey somewhat later. Newman published the first ‘Tract for the Times’ in the same year. A considerable number of tracts were written by these men, all priests of the Church of England over a number of years.

This resulted in the Oxford Movement also being known as ‘Tractarianism’. They sought to recapture the Catholic heritage of the Church of England. In 1845, having finally come to the view that the Church of England could not be a true home to his Catholic beliefs, Newman was received into the Roman Church. In 1847 he was ordained to the Roman priesthood in Rome and was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1878. He published his account of his journey of faith in the book entitled ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’ in1864. Newman founded the English Oratory in 1848. He preached his last sermon in 1888 and died in Birmingham on August 11th, 1890. The well known and frequently used hymns in Anglican hymnals which were written by Newman are, Firmly I believe and truly; Lead, kindly light and Praise to the holiest in the hight. He is also known for his translation of Come, Holy Ghost, who ever one.


J. M. Neale (1818 – 1866) was an English divine, scholar and hymn writer. He was born in London, his father being an Anglican priest, the Rev’d. Cornelius Neale. He was educated at Trinity College Cambridge where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement. He was ordained in 1841, but due to poor health was only able to take up an appointment in 1846 when he became warden of Sackville College. This was an alms-house in East Grinstead. He held this post until his relatively early death.

In 1854 Neale co-founded the Society of St. Margaret, a Church of England womens’ religious nursing order. Many Anglicans at that period though were suspicious of anything suggestive of Roman Catholicism. The Tractarians had sought to re-establish the Catholic heritage of the Church of England, and just nine years previous to this one of the leaders of the movement, John Henry Newman had been received into the Roman Church. All this suggested to many that people such as Neale with their Catholic sympathies were in reality agents of the Vatican endeavouring to subvert Anglicanism from within. This backlash sometimes became violent, the Protestants encouraging mobs to invade services and the like. Neale was threatened with violence on several occasions. He was actually attacked once when conducting the funeral service for one of the Sisters. He encountered opposition also from Church authorities for the same reason, including a fourteen years inhibition by his bishop. He received no preferment or honour in England, and his doctorate was bestowed by an American college, Trinity College, Connecticut.

However, his basic goodness eventually won the confidence of many who had previously bitterly opposed him. The Sisterhood of St. Margaret survived and prospered. Neale translated the liturgies of the Eastern Church into English and wrote a mystical and devotional commentary on the Psalms. However, he is best remembered as a hymn writer, and especially as a translator of many ancient and medieval hymns from their original Latin and Greek. More than any other single person he enriched the worship of English-speaking congregations by making them aware of the heritage of centuries of Latin, Greek, Russian and Syrian hymns on which they could draw. His translations include: All Glory, Laud and Honour, Sing My Tongue, the Glorious Battle, To Thee Before the Close of Day, and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! He is commemorated in Anglican Church Calendars on August 04 and in some Lutheran Calendars on July 01.

Sir Henry Williams BAKER, Bart.

Continuing the series on Hymn Writers of the Church: Sir H. W. Baker is a name we see frequently in our hymn books. As well as being a prolific hymn writer he was also an eminent priest of the Church of England. He was born in London in 1821, the son of Vice Admiral Sir Henry Loraine Baker. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where he graduated BA in 1844. he took holy orders in 1844, and became vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire in 1851, which benefice he held until death. He succeeded to the baronetcy also in 1851. He is best known as editor in chief of Hymns Ancient and Modern, to which he contributed a number of his hymns.

This hymnal sold 60,000,000 copies and its successors Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised and Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard (which we currently use) still enjoy considerable popularity throughout the Anglican Communion, with the exception of the Episcopal Church of the United States of American and the Church of Ireland. A critique of Baker’s work says, ‘Of his hymns four only are of the highest strain of jubilation, another four are bright and cheerful, and the remainder are very tender but exceedingly plaintive, sometimes even to sadness.’ The language of his hymns is smooth and simple, the thought is correct and sometimes very beautifully expressed. Best known of his hymns, a number of which are frequently sung here in S. Margaret’s, are O God of love, O King of peace, The King of love my Shepherd is, Praise, O praise, our God and King, Lord, thy word abideth, My Father, for another night, and O praise ye the Lord. Baker was also the translator of the version of O sacred head surrounded which we use in Holy Week.

He also wrote two well known hymn tunes, St. Timothy and Stephanos. Baker died on February 12, 1877. His last audible words were a quotation from the third verse of his own exquisite rendering of the twenty-third Psalm, The King of love my Shepherd is. Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed But yet in love he sought me, And on His shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing brought me.

Dr Simon Harding and Rev’d Canon Denis Moss