George Coles Stebbins: Hymn Writer

 

George Coles Stebbins (1846-1945), born near East Carleton, N.Y., was educated in public schools and an academy at Albany.

He moved to Chicago as a young man and worked for the Lyon & Healy Music Co. Then he became director of music at the First Baptist Church and was a charter member of the famous Apollo Club. During his time in Chicago he became acquainted with Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey and also with Philip Paul Bliss and Major D. W. Whittle, both of whom early joined the great evangelistic movement inaugurated by Moody.

In 1874 he went to Boston and led singing in A.J. Gordon's church. Later he served as music director of Tremont Temple. In the summer of 1876, Stebbins visited Moody and was persuaded by him to enter into evangelistic work. He agreed, and served Moody and Sankey by organizing the great choirs for many of their evangelistic meetings.

Stebbins had married Elma Miller before moving to Chicago. When he began his evangelistic work, she becameactively involved, assisting him most efficiently in his singing, besides conducting meetings and giving Bible readings for ladies.

In 1890, Stebbins, Elma, and their son accompanied George F. Pentecost to India for an outreach to the English-speaking people there. During this trip, they led music and singing in many major cities, doing the same in several cities of the Middle East and Europe during their return trip.

In addition to this work, Stebbins was frequently engaged to lead the singing at international and state conventions of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Sunday schools, Christian Endeavor, and other religious gatherings.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy is as a hymn-writer and music editor. Stebbins composed more than 1,500 hymns and gospel songs. With Ira D. Sankey and James McGranahan he co-edited many widely used hymn books including Gospel Hymns.

His many numbers include "Some Day the Silver Cord Will Break", "Saved By Grace", "Have Thine Own Way, Lord", "Take Time to Be Holy", "Jesus, I Come", "Ye Must Be Born Again", "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling", "Must I Go And Empty-handed?", "Throw out the Life Line", and "Saviour, Breathe An Evening Blessing".

His remarkable music career was "equaled by few, excelled by none, singing, leading choirs and congregations, composing, and working with most of the leading evangelistic workers of his generation over a period of nearly 50 years." He was a leading music figure "in the great evangelistic campaigns at home and abroad."

"With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation" (Ps. 91:16).

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

References:Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer, excerpts used by permission of Moody Publishers; Wikipedia "George Cole Stebbins", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_C._Stebbins.

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