James George Deck

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James G. Deck, author of many of the most beautiful hymns of Christian worship ever written, was born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, on the 1st day of November, 1807. He was blessed, like Timothy, with a godly praying mother, whose custom it was to retire to her room every evening to spend an hour in intercession with God in behalf of her children. It is not surprising, therefore, to be told that they were all early converted to God, and their lives consecrated to His service. It was her custom to pray thus for her grand-children also, and she lived to see the reward of her faith to the third generation. One of her daughters, Jane (Mrs. M. J. Walker), became the authoress of two of our well-known hymns, "The wanderer no more will roam," and "I journey through a desert drear and wild," and others besides. Of these the one most used in the gospel is, "Jesus, I will trust Thee, trust Thee with my soul.”
But it is of her son James George that we now write. "Having studied at Paris for the Army under one of Napoleon's generals," one writes, "Mr. Deck went to India in 1824 as an officer of infantry in the East India Company's service. There had been deep convictions of sin already, under stress of which he had drawn up a code of good resolutions, signing it with his own blood, only to find himself 'without strength' to keep them." Thus the sinner learns his utter helplessness, and is made to realize that he is "sold under sin.”
Returning to England in 1826 he was taken by his sister Clara to hear the gospel from the lips of a godly Anglican clergyman. He was converted there, and at once set himself to faithfully follow the Lord and win souls for His kingdom. He was soon after married to the godly daughter of an evangelical clergyman, and returned to his former military service in India. He witnessed boldly for Christ before his fellow-officers, a number of whom he was instrumental in leading to the Savior.
He became exercised, then, as to the incompatibility of bearing arms and following Christ. He resigned his commission and returned to England in 1835. It was his purpose to become a clergyman of the Church of England; but he could not bring himself to believe some of the doctrines enjoined to be taught in this system, notably that of "baptismal regeneration." "Not finding such teaching supported by the Bible," one writes, "he became exercised as to ordination as a clergyman, when he would have to declare that he assented heartily to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer." Coming to his wife he said, "I have left the Army to become a clergyman, but I now see that the Church of England is contrary to the word of God, what shall we do?" "Whatsoever you believe to be the will of God, do it at any cost," was her noble reply.
Then what followed? Let another tell us: "The Church of England and the promised 'Living' had to be given up. But what were they to join? Plainly, just what they found in the Book to direct them—that would be the test of everything. Seeking thus to be guided by the written Word they presently found themselves in touch with other Christians similarly exercised at the time, and who have become known as 'Brethren.' Leaving the Church of England, and looking to the Lord alone for their earthly needs, Mr. Deck began to preach Christ in the villages.”
At this period (about 1838) Mr. Deck's best known hymns were written, such as "Lamb of God, our souls adore Thee;" "A little while the Lord shall come," and many others.
"Lamb of God, our souls adore Thee,
While upon Thy face we gaze!
There the Father's love and glory
Shine in all their brightest rays.
Thine almighty pow'r and wisdom
All creation's works proclaim,
Heaven and earth alike confess Thee,
As the ever-great I AM.
Son of God, Thy Father's bosom
Ever was Thy dwelling-place;
His delight, in Him rejoicing,
One with Him in pow'r and grace.
Oh what wondrous love and mercy!
Thou didst lay Thy glory by,
And for us didst come from heaven
As the Lamb of God to die.
Lamb of God, when we behold Thee
Lowly in the manger laid;
Wand'ring as a homeless stranger
In the world Thy hands had made;
When we see Thee in the garden
In Thine agony of blood,
At Thy grace we are confounded,
Holy, spotless Lamb of God!
When we see Thee as the Victim
Nailed to the accursed tree,
For our guilt and folly stricken,
All our judgment borne by Thee,
Lord, we own, with hearts adoring,
Thou hast washed us in Thy blood:
Glory, glory everlasting
Be to Thee, Thou Lamb of God!”
In 1852 his health failed, and they went to New Zealand, where he quite recovered, but where his beloved wife died and was buried. Having fully recovered, Mr. Deck was privileged to witness for Christ in the new land of his adoption for some thirty years. There, too, he wrote some more hymns; they seem, however, not to have won a place equal to the former ones so marked with the spirit of worship and the outgoings of love and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ in His various characters and work. None have found so large and well deserved places as Mr. Deck's hymns in the "Little Flock Hymn Book.
He again became a helpless invalid two years before his death, which occurred August 14, 1884, in his 76th year. "On Sunday, 17th of August, 'devout men' laid the earthly tabernacle to rest in the Motueka Cemetery," S. J. D. writes. "There was a large attendance, many of them his own children in the faith. His own hymn, 'Thou hast stood here, Lord Jesus,' was sung at the grave. His name is fragrant to many to-day and through his hymns 'he being dead yet speaketh.'”
His hymns, unlike those of Albert Midlane, his contemporary, were mostly written for believers, and breathe a deep spirit of worship, making them peculiarly suited for use in Christian assemblies.
What a rich legacy of hymns and spiritual songs he has left to the people of God, who will be blest by them till the ransomed throng is gathered home, where death and sin shall never come!
Calvary—by J. G. Deck
O solemn hour! O hour alone
In solitary might;
When God the Father's only Son,
As man, for sinners to atone,
Expires—amazing sight!
The Lord of glory crucified!
The Lord of life has bled and died!
O mystery of mysteries!
Of life and death the tree;
Center of two eternities,
Which look, with rapt, adoring eyes,
Onward and back to Thee—
O Cross of Christ, where all His pain
And death is our eternal gain.
Oh how our inmost hearts do move,
While gazing on that cross!
The death of the Incarnate Love—
What shame, what grief, what joy we prove,
That He should die for us!
Our hearts were broken by that cry,—
“Eli, lama sabachthani!”
Worthy of death, O Lord, we were;
That vengeance was our due;
In grace Thy spotless Lamb did bear
Himself our sins and guilt and shame—
Justice our Surety slew.
With Him our Surety we have died,
With Him we there were crucified.
Quickened with Him with life divine,
Raised with Him from the dead;
His own, and all His own are Thine,
Shall with Him in His glories shine,
His Church's living Head!
We, who were worthy but to die,
Now with Him "Abba, Father," cry.