2012-11-02 / Other News

Stories Behind The Hymns

Count Your Blessings

By Warren Shiver By Warren Shiver Count Your Blessings Author: Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922) Composer: Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921)

Johnson Oatman, Jr. was born April 21,1856 near Medford, New Jersey. He was born to a devout Christian family and attended church regularly. He was so inspired by his father who’s name was also Johnson Oatman that he wanted to walk in his footsteps and grow up to be the man that his father was. He always set beside his father in church on Sunday. When the congregation stood to sing a song the small boy stood on the pew and looked at the same song book that his father was using. His father had a great booming voice and was very much in demand as a gospel singer,perhaps this is why Johnson Oatman Jr. had such a love for church music at such an early age.

As he grew into manhood his heart’s desire was to contribute something to the faith of his father. Johnson,Jr. was a Junior member in the firm of Johnson Oatman & Son. As he worked with his father he did not have much time for his religious ambitions. He studied for the ministry and was ordained as a Methodist ministry. But, the limits of one Methodist church gave him little time to carry out his ambitions to witness to everyone,with a missionary zeal. He went from one pulpit to another locally in different denominations still he was not content. He never was a great preacher, and although he felt the call of God to minister he felt like preaching was not his calling. He continued to pray and seek God’s will for his life.

Johnson Oatman, Jr was thirty six years old when he found his talent. He recognized that he would never be the singer that his father was.He also realized that he would never be a soul winner that he had dreamed in his heart that he wanted to be. The year was 1892 that Johnson took up his pen and began to write hymns. He finally fulfilled the call of God into the ministry that God had chosen him for. Within three years, by 1895, the world was singing hundreds of his songs and among them was his favorite “No Not One.”

In 1897, Johnson Oatman wrote what has been reguarded as his most popular gospel hymn. Oatman continued to write hymns almost daily and in 1898, wrote a real popular hymn that all Protestants are singing today,”Higher Ground.”

Johnson Oatman wrote an average of over two hundred gospel songs and hymns a year for over a period of twenty-five years.

His total output reached past the five thousand mark. When publishers insisted, for business reasons, that he set a price for each hymn,

Oatman stipulated his own terms, he would only accept one dollar per hymn. As we have already stated he was not a great singer or preacher but he found his talent in writing hymns and he made his contribution to the faith of his father. Through his sermon in song his has reached millions of people that he could never have reached from the pulpit. His messages in hymns still reach mutitudes through such gospel hymns as this one that he wrote in 1897,”Count Your Blessings.”

The composer for this hymn was Edwin Othello Excell he was born December 13,1851 in Stark County, Ohio. His father was Rev. J.J. Excell and was the minister in the German Reform Church in Ohio. His father was also a great singer. Edwin was reared in the strick confines of the church. The first twelve years of his working years was spent as a plasterer and bricklayer. In 1871 Mr. Excell began teaching country singing schools in which he was quite successful.This same year he also married Miss Jenny Bell, daughter of Hon. A.W.Bell,of East Brady,Penn.In 1881 he was called as choir director of the First United Methodist Church of Oil City, Penn.,where he stayed for two years. He then moved to Chicago where he met Rev. Sam P. Jones an evangelist ,and worked with him for twenty years in all of his revival meetings. He was with Rev. Jones in the last meeting he ever preached in Oklahama City.

Stories Behind The Hymns is written by Warren Shiver of Biscoe, NC. Shiver has been fascinated with the true stories behind the hymns since he was a 12-year old attending East Gaffney Baptist Church in Gaffney, S.C. He began studying the stories behind the hymns in 1957. If you have questions or comments, he can be reached by email at wshiver99@embarqmail.com or by mail at PO BOX 775,Biscoe, NC 27209.

Warren has written two books, the first is a 300-page soft back, 104 Of My Favorite Hymn Stories Vol. 1 costs $14.95, the second book, 340- page soft back, 104 Of My Favorite Hymn Stories Vol. 2 costs $16.95. You may buy both books for $25.00. You may pick up your copies of both books at The Gaffney Ledger office on Floyd Baker Boulevard. Warren may be reached by email at wshiver99@embarqmail.com, or by mail at PO Box 775, Biscoe, NC.27209, you may also purchase the books on his website www.myfavoritehymnstories.com. Shipping for both books is $4.00, for one book $3.00. If you would like for Warren to come speak at your church, Sunday school class or any meeting you may contract him at 910-428-9911 or 910-428-4078.

Count Your Blessings
Verse 1
When upon life’s billows you are tempest
When you are discouraged thinking all is
Count your many blessings; name them one
by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has
Count your blessings, name them one by
Count your blessings, See what God hath
Count your blessings, name them one by
Count your many blessings, See what God
hath done.
Verse 2
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to
Count your many blessings every doubt will
And you will be singing as the days go by.
Verse 3
When you look at others with their lands
and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His
wealth untold;
Count your many blessings money cannot
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on
Verse 4
So, amid the conflict, whether great or
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, Angels will
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

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