Saturday, April 23, 2016

More About Jesus -- Eliza E. Hewitt

This Philadelphian had some lofty goals as a 36-year old, particularly interesting because she could have laid down and moped because of what befell her early in life. It was a physical challenge and the resulting handicapped condition in which Eliza Hewitt found herself that in part triggered her penmanship of “More About Jesus” one year as she lay convalescing. So when she thought of more that she wanted to do to allow God to mold her, no one would have blamed her if she had begun by saying she would submit to Him if He’d first heal her physically. But, reading what she wrote makes one think the opposite had dawned on her emotionally and devotionally, almost as if she’d already acquired something from the Great Healer, though still aggravated physically. Is her response typical or in fact providential? See what you think.

Eliza Edmunds Hewitt was a teacher, in more ways than one in 1877. She began as a public school teacher soon after graduating from school herself with her class’s highest honors, so it might have appeared her future as an educator was bright. But, what happened soon thereafter, when a spinal condition—perhaps precipitated by a student’s assault--laid her out, might have imperiled her status and prospects, at least according to conventional wisdom. Yet, it is said her invalid condition was what spurred her drawing closer to the God she wanted to serve. She eventually recovered some, and reportedly was able to do still more in active ministry. Apparently, though, she had discovered her true mission in life during the extended recuperation. Hymn-writing and poetry were the foundations of her remaining life, dedicated to teaching others through the pen that she wielded so prolifically. So, when she wrote “More About Jesus” perhaps it was the taste of this new undertaking that had Eliza seeking more of what He wanted to reveal to her. Could it have escaped the attention of those who knew her that she wasn’t grumbling, but instead glowing? She is said to have been studying all about Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s promises, a process that compelled her upbeat attitude and soothed what otherwise might have been self-pity.  That’s an outlook that likewise teaches others who observe, though the source—Eliza, in this case—was unable to stand before a blackboard with chalk in hand.  She also had family and friends—still more evidence of God’s care for the challenged, like Eliza—who no doubt cheered her on. Edgar Stites, another well-known composer at the time, was Eliza’s cousin, and Hewitt also became close friends with Fanny Crosby, perhaps the most conspicuous hymn lyrics composer of that era.

God is good! One might even conclude that He’s especially so with those who hurt but soldier on to further His cause. Eliza Hewitt was clearly one of those, one who wanted more of Him, despite her own tests. She didn’t limit what she wanted to discover, perhaps as she savored Him for the first time and realized there was more, much more. Just count how many ‘mores’ she pictured in just four verses. Book knowledge (i.e. Bible); understanding His will daily; comprehending His nature more completely; being intimately involved with His mission; and visualizing in detail eternity with Him – these were just some of what she says in this concise space. There’s more she must have suspected, but could not verbalize. She went to meet Him forever in 1920. You think she found more then?

See more information on the song story in these sources: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006; Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1990; and 101 More Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1985.

See here for the brief biography and a list of some 1,700 hymns with lyrics authored by the composer:
Also see this link, showing all four original verses: 

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