by Al Maxey

Issue #645 ------- January 22, 2015
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Winning Hymn by Pseudonym
Septimus Winner's Whispering Hope

I have always enjoyed, and have long been encouraged by, studying the lives of noteworthy individuals throughout history, especially when these people, who have left their mark on the world around them, are little known to us today. We too quickly forget those who have come before us, and this is a true tragedy, for we can learn so much from these men and women. For those of you who may feel similarly, I would encourage a reading of the 52 biographies I have done over the years, which are collected under the heading "Biography" on my Topical Index page. In this present issue of Reflections I would like to introduce to you a man who wrote one of my favorite hymns: Whispering Hope. The thoughts expressed poetically, as well as the haunting melody, have touched the hearts of countless Christians over the years, and we have this man to thank for those moments of inner hope and joy experienced afresh each time we sing this hymn.

Septimus Winner was born on May 11, 1827 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would spend his entire life. He was the seventh child (thus the name "Septimus") born to Joseph E. Winner, an instrument maker who specialized in violins, and Mary Ann (Hawthorne) Winner, who was related to the famous New England poet and author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote such classics as "The House of Seven Gables" and "The Scarlet Letter." He attended Philadelphia Central High School. He loved music, and became quite an accomplished and established music teacher in the area, although he was largely self-taught. After high school, he and his brother, Joseph, opened a music publishing company. Septimus wrote and published more than 200 instruction books dealing with music methodology for more than 23 different instruments. He further wrote over 1500 arrangements for various instruments, and almost 2000 arrangements for violin and piano. His fame, however, came from his many ballads (published under the title "Hawthorne's Ballads") and novelty songs. These were so prolific and popular that in 1970 he was inducted into the "Songwriters Hall of Fame." Winner used a number of different pseudonyms for many of his songs, perhaps the best known being Alice Hawthorne. In 1847 he married Hannah Jane Guyer, with whom he had two children: Margaret and James.

You will most likely recognize some of these novelty songs written by Septimus Winner, for they have become classics. One of his most beloved is "Listen to the Mocking Bird," which he wrote in 1855. Oddly enough, he would later sell the rights to this piece to the publishing firm of Lee & Walker for only $5. They would later boast that by the 50th anniversary of its writing it had sold more than 20 million copies for a profit of almost $3 million. Winner had certainly underestimated the worth of his song! Abraham Lincoln, however, loved the tune, saying, "It is as sincere and sweet as the laughter of a little girl." He was also the author of the song "Ten Little Indians (Injuns)" in which, by the end of the song, the singer would have counted backward down to a single Injun boy: "ten little ... nine little ... eight little injuns, seven little ..." etc. In the year 1868 this song was adapted (by a man named Frank J. Green) for the blackface minstrel shows, and it was rewritten as "Ten Little Niggers." Needless to say, this was appalling to many, and the rendering died a much needed death. Septimus Winner also wrote "Der Deitcher's Dog," in which the singer wonders, "Where, oh where has my little dog gone? Oh where, oh where can he be?" The original last line of this song is often dropped when sung today, for it deals with the meat markets of Germany, and speculates that the "little dog" may now be little more than sausage. It reads, "Dey makes em mit dog and dey makes em mit horse; I guess dey makes em mit he."

Septimus Winner didn't write many hymns, but one of the few he wrote became a classic (and one of my personal favorites): "Whispering Hope." Some, not knowing this man's fondness for using a pseudonym, assume that this hymn was written by two different people. After all, when you look at the bottom of the page in your hymn book you will see that the music was composed by Septimus Winner, but the words were written by a woman named Alice Hawthorne. The reality is: the latter name is just a pseudonym for Septimus Winner (he used his mother's maiden name), thus the words and music are written by just one person. The words and the music both touch the hearts of those devoted disciples enduring the darkness of pain, trouble and affliction, while longing for "the sunshine tomorrow" ... "after life's tempest is done." This is certainly a comforting message of hope for suffering saints.

Septimus Winner was also not above using his songs to address what he perceived to be the ills of his society. During the time of the Civil War, for example, he was upset that President Lincoln had fired Gen. George B. McClellan from his command of the Union Army. Thus, in an effort to influence Lincoln, he wrote and published (in 1862) the song: "Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People's Pride." This song sold almost 80,000 copies in the first two days, which certainly got Lincoln's attention. Gen. McClellan was a popular figure, and many sided with Winner on this displeasure with Lincoln firing him. They wanted the General to be reinstated. However, rather than changing Lincoln's mind, Septimus Winner was arrested and jailed on a charge of treason. The charge was eventually dropped, and Winner was released, upon the condition that he destroy all remaining copies of this song. The song would surface again in a couple of years, however, when McClellan ran for President, and then in 1880 the song surfaced again (with some changes made in wording) as a campaign song for Ulysses S. Grant.

In addition to writing/composing and publishing his songs, Septimus Winner was also a writer of short stories and poems, and frequently contributed to "Graham's Magazine," which was edited by Edgar Allen Poe. After his death, a volume of his poetry was published with the title "Cogitations of a Crank at Three Score Years and Ten." This fascinating figure from our nation's history, who to this day comforts troubled hearts with the words and music of "Whispering Hope," died of a heart attack in Philadelphia on November 22, 1902 at the age of 75. He is buried in Philadelphia.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Minister/Author in California:

AMEN to your article "Lordship of Membership Aboard Ship" (Reflections #644). I particularly liked your following comment: "Yes, there is only One Body, but it is made up of individuals, not institutions; it is made up of saints, not sects; it is made up of people, not parties. I may choose to work and worship with others of similar traditions and perspectives, but that in no way is determinative of, or even detrimental to, my membership in that great universal One Body. I am in that Body because I accepted His gift of grace by faith. I was thus added to the Lord and numbered with ALL others worldwide who also accepted His grace by faith." Too many people look on the church as an institution that will take them to heaven. There is this little red wagon that began on Pentecost, then through the years broke down, becoming rusted and falling apart, but then some people in the early 1800s assembled this little red wagon again, put a new coat of the "right" color paint on it, and declared that if we would all just climb into this restored little red wagon it will take us to heaven. Thank you, brother, for all your exegesis of Scripture, and for your exhortations to love God.

From a College Professor in Swaziland, Africa:

I have been reading your work for about two years now, and just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate the depth of your scholarship and your honest approach. God bless you!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Your most recent Reflections ("Lordship of Membership Aboard Ship") is a powerful article, my brother! I particularly loved this thought by you: "If God is your Father, and if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then you are my brother or sister in the One Family. And, no, you don't have to be my twin in order to be my brother or sister; we are in the same Family by virtue of paternity, not by virtue of pattern." Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all just be one big happy family in Christ (just the way God intended us to be)? God bless you and your family!

From an Author in Texas:

Excellent article, Al. Keep up the good work! It is my opinion that we are free in Christ to be a member of any man-made religious organization so long as it does not violate principles set down by God (and a group claiming for itself exclusivity is not a principle set down by Him).

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Al, regarding New Testament examples of people waiting to be baptized (as per your article "Who Got Washed First?" -- Reflections #641), would Saul of Tarsus be a case in point here? He waited for 3 days, it seems. Of course, I guess it could be argued by some that he wasn't really a true believer in Jesus until Ananias came and spoke to him. However, it seems to me that if baptism is so crucial, then wouldn't the Lord have sent someone to talk to Saul immediately so he could get to the water where he would be saved?

From a Reader in Pennsylvania:

Well, fancy that! Al, you mentioned having spent some time with an A-6 "Intruder" squadron during your years in the Navy. Small world. I was an A-6 and EA-6 pilot. I flew off several different aircraft carriers. In fact, I was a flight instructor when John McCain went through Navy flight training, although he never flew with me. I continue to enjoy your writings, brother!

From a Reader in Texas:

I have been reading some of your older Reflections in your Archives, and I came upon the study you did of the life of Judas Iscariot (Reflections #260). Could it be that after he hanged himself, nobody would take him down? Could it be that perhaps his body began to rot and come apart, and his body then fell to the ground and splattered? At least this makes sense to me. Thanks so much for all you do!

From a Reader in Arizona:

Al, I just finished looking at "Lordship of Membership Aboard Ship." In your final paragraph I found your summary statement, which reflects what we believe, to be true: "Yes, there is only One Body, but it is made up of individuals, not institutions; it is made up of saints, not sects; it is made up of people, not parties."

From a Reader in Alaska:

Brother Al, your article titled "Lordship of Membership Aboard Ship" is the very essay I have been looking for, as I have been having a lengthy discussion with a dear friend here who insists that the denomination called "Church of Christ" IS the very church that Jesus prescribed and the apostles began. We have now reached the point where we respectfully agree to disagree on this. Keep up your research and writing, brother. God bless you.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, I enjoyed your article "Lordship of Membership Aboard Ship." I recently visited at another location. It is interesting to see the joy in the faces of those who worship under grace, compared with the looks of those who have no clue. There are many who are simply too suspicious to actually worship with joy, for they are too busy searching for any little thing that is different from what they have traditionally followed as "truth."

From a Reader in Missouri:

Another brother here and I read your weekly Reflections together today. I have to confess, Al -- I love your Reflections. Being a former Navy man, I loved the illustration you used from your time aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (a ship I was in a battle group with during one of my deployments). I can totally relate. You illustrated very well the silliness of anyone presuming that in the Lord's navy there is only one ship headed for heaven's port. Anyway, I just wanted, once again, to encourage you by thanking you for all you do. I remain your student in the Gospel.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Al, have you ever done a Reflections article just about arrogance: what it is, when and how it is acquired, and how repulsive it is? Such arrogance is, in fact, the only reason I don't attend the local Church of Christ, and I doubt I'm alone in that regard. It's not about doctrine; I just can't stand to be around their arrogance. It stinks! I was talking with someone recently who commented about when he was in "the denominational world," and I wondered if this person realized just how arrogant they sounded. Honestly, I don't think they had a clue!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

I recently observed a congregation installing a brother to serve as a deacon. The elders chose the brother without consulting with the congregation. They only asked if anyone knew of anything that would disqualify him from serving. I thought it very strange they would decide among themselves to appoint this brother without any input from the congregation. It sounded as though they thought themselves to be more important than the saints. The brother appointed, by the way, is a devout Christian, so the elders knew no one would have anything negative to say about him. The reason they gave for their decision: this brother was already doing the work of a deacon. I would like your thoughts on this.

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