Albert Midlane

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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OF the more recent hymn writers, Albert Midlane is one of the most noted, and his best known hymn is, "There's a Friend for little children Above the bright blue sky.”
He was born, January 23, 1825, in the Isle of Wight, at Newport, in Carisbrooke p where stands the celebrated Carisbrooke Castle. He enjoyed the inestimable advantage of having a deeply spiritual mother and a godly, devoted sister, and says that he owed much to them. For three years he served in the printer's trade, after which he entered the hardware business. From being an "assistant" he came to have a business of his own, which he followed for many long years; one of his clerks remaining in his employ for more than half a century—a testimony to the character of both servant and master.
He commenced to write rhymes when quite young, and his first hymn to be printed was written at Carisbrooke in 1842—when he was 17. From then on he wrote constantly till his last, printed January 23, 1909, in commemoration of his 84th birthday, His first hymn to be sung, written in 1844, was "God Bless our Sunday School," to tile tune of the National Anthem. Since that time, hymns and spiritual songs to the number of nearly a thousand came from his pen.
Among the most widely used of these are, "There's a Friend for Little Children;" "Revive Thy Work, O Lord;" "Salvation, oh Salvation, endearing, precious sound;" "Oh, what a Savior is Jesus the Lord;" "Passing onward, quickly passing;" "I am not Told to Labor to put away my Sin;" "How vast, how full, how free, the Mercy of our God;” "Hark! the Voice of Jesus calling;" and "Oh, what a Gift the Father gave.”
The London Times, with some other authorities, consider his "A Little Lamb went Straying," as of equal merit with his other, "There's a Friend for Little Children," which was composed in 1859, known as "The Great Revival Year." One who interviewed him about it writes; "After a strenuous business day, Mr. Midlane settled down in the quiet of the evening to what proved the great task of his life, and by two o'clock in the morning his best effort in hymnology was completed, with great physical fatigue and in a state of collapse. 'But the hymn was completed,' added Mr. Midlane with a radiant smile.”
It was sent as a contribution to Good News for the Young, edited by the beloved "C, H. M.," and was published in the same year, 1859. It obtained great popularity at once, and has since found its way into over 200 hymn-books, and has been translated into 50 different languages.
A writer says that "Mr. Midlane had the pleasure of hearing 3000 children, assembled in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, at the jubilee of this celebrated hymn, blending their voices in 'There's a Friend for Little Children,' as well as attending an open-air service in his native town on February 7, 1909, when his voice was heard in public for the last time, as he earnestly spoke concerning eternal things to the crowds of old and young who had assembled to honor their fellow-townsman.”
His gift as a hymn-writer brought him to the attention of many persons of eminence, among them, Lord Tennyson, England's poet-laureate, who encouraged him in his literary work. Queen Victoria graciously accepted several volumes of his compositions, and the Prince Consort purchased a number for circulation amongst his friends.
Mr. Midlane tells us how he came to give the sovereignty of God such a large place in many of his hymns. "When quite a small boy, he says, "my old teacher gave me a portion from the Book of Acts to learn. One verse fastened itself upon me: 'Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," etc. It sang itself to me, and came again and again as a refrain. I sought to know its meaning, and it has given color to all my religious thinking and teaching, making the sovereignty of God one of the ruling ideas of my faith, and giving what I suppose would he called a Calvinistic tinge to my writings.”
“Unlike most authors," a biographer says, "Mr. Midlane never took out a copyright for any of his hymns, and never derived any monetary benefit there from." This was indeed noble of him and bears witness to the disinterestedness of his motives. "Freely ye have received, freely give," Christ said when He sent His disciples out to preach. And as hymn-writing is only another form of ministry, the same rule would apply to it, we believe. But faith is not without its testings and trials, and after more than fifty years of close and honest attention to business, Mr. Midlane found himself a bankrupt to the extent of $2,500. This was through no direct fault of his, for his failure was brought about through his having become guarantor for a friend. It is the same old and oft-repeated story of a man smarting for becoming surety for another's debts. (See Prov. 6:1; 17:18; 22:261My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, (Proverbs 6:1)
18A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend. (Proverbs 17:18)
26Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts. (Proverbs 22:26)
But loyal friends quickly rallied to his relief. "His misfortune was made known to the public," his biographer writes, "and Sunday-school friends throughout the country subscribed generously, with the result that Mr. Midlane was able to pay all his creditors, and get his bankruptcy annulled, and an annuity was secured which relieved the veteran hymn-writer and his wife of further anxiety in this respect.”
The aged couple celebrated their golden wedding on March 20, 1901. He lived eight years after this; but on the morning of February 11, 1909, he was stricken with apoplexy, from which he did not rally. On the 28th of February just as the Lord's Day was breaking, while in sleep, he quietly passed away, to be with Christ, "above the bright blue sky.”
“The body was carried from Forest Villa, so long his abode, to Carisbrooke Cemetery, and laid to rest with the singing of his own hymns, 'Star of the morning, rise!' and 'One lasting, long Amen,' concluding with a number of children's voices uniting in 'There's a Friend for little children.' A pathos was put to the scene by the interment of a little child not twenty yards away whilst the last verse of the children's hymn was being sung.,
The following lines were among the last penned by his hand:
"What is the world to one whose hopes
Are fixed beyond the skies?
What can impede the charioteer
Just near to grasp the prize?
Enough! One's cup is brimming full,
All earthly struggles o'er;
Beneath the shadow of His wings,
In bliss for evermore.”