James Montgomery

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ON November 4, 1771, James Montgomery was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the author of "Forever with the Lord," and "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire." His father was a preacher with the Moravians, who were a godly people, full of missionary spirit. Young James was intended for the same work as his father, and in his sixth year was sent to a Moravian school near Leeds, England. "He remained there ten years," says a writer, "distinguished only by indolence and melancholy." For his indolence there can be no excuse, but melancholy might be caused by separation from his parents—a very great trial at such an early age.
Thinking that he would never apply himself to books, the brethren at Fulneck, where the school was, apprenticed him to a grocer.
About a year later, tired of being a grocer's boy, he ran away, and after many wanderings engaged as a shop-boy in a village of Yorkshire. Later he went to London, and having a taste for literature, he entered the employ of a publisher there. Later he became associated with editors of revolutionary and reform papers, and finally became himself an editor. He was fined several times then, and once cast into prison "for printing a ballad on 'The Fall of the Bastile' for a poor hawker." But editing reform papers and writing for the abolition of slavery was not the work to which God had called Montgomery. He had left the peaceful town of Fulneck, and plunged into the toils and struggles of the outside world—which he ever regretted afterward.
But God had His eye upon him for mercy.
“The cares of the world proved harassing, and its pleasures wholly unsatisfactory," the same writer continues; "his early religious instruction prevented him from mingling with the dissipated and the gay, and thus saved him from a course of sinful indulgence. Although his associations were morally pure, still as he had once known the love of God, he could not help contrasting the peace he then enjoyed with the feeling of unrest and gloom which now filled his mind.”
So it is with children of Christian parents. They may break away from the restraints of home and meetings, and try to find satisfaction in the world, but it will end in bitter disappointment. There is no true and lasting rest or joy apart from Christ, and if He is shut out of our lives there will be only unrest and gloom, as James Montgomery found out.
Writing to a friend concerning his feelings at this time, he says, "Such has been my education, and such has been my experience in the morning of life, that I can never reject it, or embrace a system of morality not grounded upon that revelation [the gospel]. What can I do? I am tossed to and fro on a sea of doubts and perplexities; the farther I am carried from that shore where I was once happily moored, the weaker grow my hopes of ever reaching another where I may anchor in safety, and my hopes of returning to the harbor I have left are diminished in proportion.”
Is not this a sad confession? Yet it is the experience of how many! Brought up in a Christian home, they think it irksome and dull, and to find relief, as they imagine, they break away when opportunity offers, only to reap bitterly the sowing of their unbelief and selfwill. Oh, be warned, dear reader, and learn from the example of our poet that it is an evil and bitter thing to depart from the Lord for the sake of the paltry, unsatisfying pleasures and ambitions of the world.
Happily, Montgomery was at length restored in his soul and at the age of forty-three, on his birthday, wrote to the brethren at Fulneck, asking to be received into their fellowship. This was gladly accorded, and he sought diligently to serve the Lord to the end of his days.
"Rest," at the end of this article, was written by Montgomery to describe his unhappy experience while wandering in his folly far from God. He also wrote that beautiful hymn,
In the hour of trial
Jesus, be with me,
Lest by base denial
I depart from Thee:
When Thou see'st me waver,
With a look recall,
Nor, thro' fear nor favor,
Suffer me to fall.
With forbidden pleasures
Would this vain world charm,
Or with sordid treasures,
Spread to work me harm?
Bring to my remembrance
Sad Gethsemane,
Or, in darker semblance,
Cross-crowned Calvary.
Should Thy mercy send me
Sorrow, toil and
Or should pain attend me
On my path below,
Grant that I may never
Fail Thy hand to see,—
Grant that I may ever
Cast my care on Thee.”
Montgomery's hymns and versions of the psalms number about four hundred-many of great value. Among these are:
"Forever with the Lord
Amen so let it be!”
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed.”
Toward the close of his life a friend asked him, "Which of your poems will live?" In an impressive way he answered, "None, sir; nothing except perhaps a few of my hymns." He passed away in his sleep, April, 1854, at Sheffield, England, where they erected a monument to his memory.
Rest—by James Montgomery
Oh, where shall rest be found—
Rest for the weary soul?
'Tweer vain the ocean's depths to sound,
Or pierce to either pole.
The world can never give
The bliss for which we sigh:
'Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die.
Beyond this vale of tears
There is a life above,
Unmeasured by the flight of years;
And all that life is love.
There is a death whose pang
Outlasts the fleeting breath:
Oh, what eternal horrors hang
Around the second death!
Lord God of truth and grace!
Teach us that death to shun;
Lest we be banished from Thy face,
And evermore undone.
Prayer—by James Montgomery
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered, or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.
The saints, in prayer, appear as one
In word, and deed, and mind,
While, with the Father and the Son,
Sweet fellowship they find.