“Great is thy faithfulness” Article from the “St. Augustine Times” Feb. 4, 2016
Thomas Obediah Chisholm was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866 but has a connection with New Jersey as you will see as you read the article. He received his education in a little country schoolhouse, and at age 16 began teaching at the same school. He became a Christian at age 27, and with no college or seminary training was ordained to the Methodist ministry at age 36. Chisholm served as a Methodist minister for a year, but ill health made it impossible for him to continue. He moved to Vineland, New Jersey, where he opened an insurance office.
Chisholm wrote hundreds of poems during his lifetime. In 1923, he was inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23 to write the text for the hymn, “Great is thy Faithfulness.” Those verses are as follows, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
He suffered ill health most of his adult life and therefore had a smaller than average income. Of this circumstance he said, “God has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
Chisholm sent the words to one of his poems, “Great Is thy Faithfulness” to his friend, William Runyan, and Runyan wrote a musical setting.
Runyan was born in 1870, in Marion, New York. As a youth, he served as a church organist. Runyan was ordained as a Methodist minister at age 21 and then pastored various congregations in Kansas. Runyan was a friend of Dr. Will Houghton, the president of Moody Bible Institute, and “Great is thy Faithfulness” soon became Houghton’s favorite. He invited George Beverly Shea, an unknown singer at the time, to sing hymns on the Institute’s radio station. Shea, of course, included Houghton’s favorite hymn in his repertoire.
“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee Thou changest not, thy compassions', they fail not,
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided-
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
Through those radio broadcasts Billy Graham, then a student at Wheaton College, became familiar with George Beverly Shea and the song, “Great is thy Faithfulness.” Graham asked Shea to become part of his ministry of evangelism. It was through their crusades that this hymn became internationally popular.
Even though he suffered ill health for most of his adult life, Chisholm lived to the ripe old age of 94 and wrote more than 1,200 poems. During his later years, he lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a Methodist camp meeting town, where he passed away in1960. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions' fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23