Traditional Christian Hymns
"Count Your Blessings"
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Author: Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922
Composer: Edwin 0. Excell, 1851-1921
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
This hymn certainly ranks as one of the most familiar numbers in our hymnals. It is one of the songs that many of us first sang with gusto during our early Sunday School days, yet one that we still enjoy singing in our gospel type of services.
Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., was one of the important and prolific gospel song writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born near Medford, New Jersey, on April 21, 1856. As a child he became acquainted with the hymns of the church through the singing talents of his father.
At the age of nineteen Oatman Joined the Methodist Church and several years later was granted a license to preach in local Methodist congregations. Though he wrote over 5.000 hymn texts, Oatman was busily engaged throughout his life in a mercantile business and later as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey. Other gospel favorites by Johnson Oatman include "Higher Ground" (101 More Hymn Stones, No. 35) and "No, Not One!"
"Count Your Blessings" is generally considered to be Oatman's finest hymn. It first appeared in Songs for Young People, compiled and published by Edwin 0. Excell in 1897. It has been sung all over the world. One writer has stated, "Like a beam of sunlight it has brightened up the dark places of the earth."
Perhaps no American hymn was ever received with such enthusiasm in Great Britain as this hymn. The London Daily, in giving an account of a meeting presided over by Gypsy Smith, reported, "Mr. Smith announced the hymn 'Count Your Blessings.' Said he, 'In South London the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.'" During the great revival in Wales it was one of the hymns sung at every service along with such Welsh favorites as "Guide Me, 0 Thou Great Jehovah" (No. 26) and "0 That Wilt be Glory" (No. 70).
The composer of the music, E. 0. Excell, is a well-known name in early gospel hymnody. He was born in Stark County, Ohio, on December 13, 1851. At the age of twenty he became a singing teacher, traveling around the country establishing singing schools. For twenty years he was associated with Sam Jones, a well-known Southern revivalist. Excell was recognized as one of the finest song leaders of his day. In addition to writing and composing more than 2,000 gospel songs as well as publishing about fifty songbooks, he administered a successful music publishing business in Chicago. While assisting Gypsy Smith m an evangelistic campaign in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1921, he was suddenly stricken at the age of seventy and taken home to join the immortal heavenly chorus.
The Remorse of Nine Ungrateful Lepers Luke 17:11-19
"I meant to go back, but you may guess
I was filled with amazement I cannot express
To think that after those horrible years,
That passion of loathing and passion of fears,
By sores unendurable—eaten, defiled —
My flesh was as smooth as the flesh of a child.
I was drunken with joy; I was crazy with glee;
I scarcely could walk and I scarcely could see,
For the dazzle of sunshine where all had been black;
But I meant to go back. Oh, I meant to go back!
I had thought to return, when my people came out,
There were tears of rejoicing and laughter and shout;
My cup was so full I seemed nothing to lack —
But I meant to go back, Oh, I meant to go back!" Selected
"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues." Cicero
Taken from 101 Hymn Stories © Copyright 1982 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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