Here are my completed Hymnals:
Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook: http://amzn.to/2zSRdpL
Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2DEOl1H
Broadman 1940 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2C1WuwK
Lutheran 1941 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2zUmYi2
Methodist 1939 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2CfJ1Wq
Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal: http://amzn.to/2DDvbJC
Here are my new projects:
Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945 http://amzn.to/2Dx97nA
Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin: http://amzn.to/2DQ6gUy
J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales http://amzn.to/2DSy5f9
Dictionary of Hymnology: http://amzn.to/2BxPabk
Yes, this was breaking news 225 years ago, but it sets the stage for the rest of James Montgomery’s life and is a tale well worth learning about.
It is often said we should study history so we will not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, which is utter non-sense. We live in different times, with different difficulties, and different set of known unknowns and even worse unknown unknowns, than our ancestors faced. Our mistakes will be uniquely ours. The study history is to better understand ourselves and our own time. As an example; it is often asked: “Why does Iran hate the USA so much?” If you look at the last 70 years of our shared histories, the answer will slap you with the most brutal answer; the USA deserves all of the vitriol Iran can mount. Sometimes, looking at the times our ancestors lived and the challenges they faced, we can better understand their actions and priorities and then better understand the legacy they left us.
So with that, let us visit for a few moments one James Montgomery of Sheffield England, circa early January 1795. Montgomery had only recently taken over as publisher of the Sheffield Register after his employer had fled to the recently formed United States of America. He had just learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest and imprisonment on various conspiracy charges based upon his work as publisher. Since it was commonly understood that once you were accused of a crime you were deemed guilty (hmmm, does this resemble our times?) it was prudent for him to simply and quickly leave on the first ship out of town.
This left a young Montgomery scrambling to revive the publication and few months later he managed to bring forth the “Sheffield Iris” in its stead. In the early days of the Iris, Montgomery had been asked by a poor local poet to print a poem about the invasion of France by the Austrian and Prussian armies in 1792. With the rise of the European terror, Napoleon, those in political power were punishing any speech they felt was in any way subversive. And this little poem seemed to meet that criterion, and for this crime, Mr. Montgomery was imprisoned for 3 months and fined 20 pounds. For printing something written by someone else about something completely unrelated to current events.
He was charged with printing a text which spoke against an ongoing war effort; only is the poem was written about a completely different and unrelated conflict which had occurred a few years before the current conflagration. But that fact didn’t interfere with the prosecution at all. Guilt was the desired outcome and guilt was declared.
Writing from his prison cell, Montgomery had this observation: “… the verdict of a jury may pronounce an innocent man ‘Guilty’; but will be remembered that a verdict does not make an innocent person ‘guilty’… Though all the world may forsake me, this consolation can never fail me, that the great Searcher of Hearts, whose eye watches over ever atom of the universe knows every intention of my soul: and when at the bar of eternal justice this cause shall again be tried, I indulge the humble hope that his approving voice shall confirm the verdict which I feel his finger has written upon my conscience. This hope shall bear me through my present misfortune; this hope shall illuminate the walls of my prison; shall cheer my silent solitude, and wing the melancholy hours with comfort…”
This will not be the last time our hero was punished for his efforts to defend those who were subjects of the aristocratic and the local abusers of power. Within this short story about an obscure publisher (and writer of some of our greatest hymns), in a minor corner of one of the world’s greatest empires, we catch a glimpse of the world and times which led the founders of our own country to make the right to speak freely the very first amendment to our constitution and the first point in our bill of rights.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The freedom to speak our mind and to call to account those in power is one which we can ill afford to lose or relinquish. It is a civic, moral, and above all a spiritual obligation to call the abusive to account for their abuse, whether they be a prince, sheriff, employer, or pastor. And as our protagonist proved, this action is not without consequences. Mr. Montgomery spent three months in the harsh prison in the cellar of the local castle. Compared to the sufferings of Christ, nothing, compared to what we are willing to endure…
Click here for my recordings of Montgomery’s hymns.