John Greenleaf Whittier
According to a poll carried out by a national newspaper, the Number One in the “Top Ten” of hymns is “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. The words were written by an American, John Greenleaf Whittier, whose ancestors arrived from England with the Pilgrim Fathers and settled in Massachusetts in 1638. John was born in 1807 and his father expected that his son would eventually take over the family farm at Haverhill on the Merrimack River.
However, it soon became apparent that all John was really interested in was reading books, especially poetry. Despite a very scanty schooling, he educated himself by reading anyt hing that he could lay his hands on.
At the age of 14 he bought a volume of poetry by Robert Burns and was inspired to try and write some poetry of his own. The prolific poems he turned out so impressed his sister that, unbeknownst to John, she sent some examples to the editor of a local newspaper. He immediately recognized John’s outstanding ability and paid a surprise visit to the Haverhill farm to meet the young poet. However, John’s father refused to let him leave the farm and be educated. John was never particularly strong and, after he had sustained a severe strain, his father finally accepted that he ought to look for another vocation.
He funded himself for a year’s study at the Haverhill Academy by working as a cobbler and part-time tutor, but before long his growing reputation as a writer allowed him to concentrate on his career as a journalist. In 1843 a book of his work was published and from then on John Greenleaf Whittier was acknowledged as one of the finest American poets.
A devout Quaker, John was also a fervent fighter against slavery and injustice of all kinds, becoming the Secretary of The American Anti- Slavery Society in 1836. He wrote many fine hymns in his long life (he died at age 85) including: “Immortal Love Forever Full” and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”.
More Hymn History…
During 1857-1858 revival broke out in Philadelphia, PA. A young preacher, Dudley Tyng, one day preached to 5000 men using EXODUS 10:11 as his text: “Go now ye that are men and serve the Lord.” About 1000 responded to his invitation that evening. On the following Wednesday he was out checking his corn-shelling machine when his arm accidentally got pulled into the machine and was severed off. The doctors did not believe he would live. While Tyng lay in great pain, he entreated his doctor to accept Christ. With a room filled with other preachers he asked them to “Sing, sing, Can you not sing.” His last admonition to his friends was to “Tell the people to stand up for Jesus.” George Duffield witnessed his friend’s death that day and heard his dying words. That week he wrote the words to our hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”