(1838 – 1876)
Philip Paul Bliss, one of the greatest hymnwriters of all time, wrote the words and music for many well-loved hymns including Almost Persuaded, Hallelujah, What a Saviour!, Jesus Loves Even Me, Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, Wonderful Words of Life, The Light of the World is Jesus. He also wrote the tune for Horatio Spafford’s It is Well with My Soul. Philip was a dear friend of Dwight L Moody, an American evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute.
Philip was described as “a manly, modest, sincere and self-forgetful man; singularly hopeful and joyful in spirit, one who was never cast down. He lived in a present realization of his blessedness as a son of God, and his heirship in the Kingdom. In the words of Mr. Moody, who was deeply attached to him: ‘His face was always bright and his heart full of Christian love.’ And his songs abounded in the same spirit of heavenly joy and trust, whether like a bugle blast of encouragement, as in Hold the Fort; or an inspiration unto unquestioning faith, as in There is Life for a Look at the Crucified One; or as a voice of pitying entreaty, as in Almost Persuaded Now to Believe”
Philip died at the age of 37 with his wife in a tragic train accident. They left behind two young children aged four and one.
o Early Life
Philip Paul Bliss was born in the village of Rome, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania USA, on 9th July 1938. He was the third child in a poor family of three sisters and a brother. His parents, Isaac and Lydia – both devout Methodists – brought him up to love God, pray daily and to read His Word.
In his early years, he was educated at home by his mother who used the Bible as her textbook. From a young age, Philip loved to sing. Isaac, his father, loved music and encouraged his son’s passion for singing. As a young lad, he could easily catch a tune and whistle it or play it upon some crude musical instrument which he made himself.
In his memoirs, Philip recorded sweet memories of his father’s godly influence over him:
“He was always a poor man, but early in the morning, and after the toil of the day, in the evening, sitting in the porch of his humble home, his voice would be heard in song, and I can almost hear him now, singing upon the other side, ‘Come to that happy land, come, come away.’ He was a diligent reader of the Bible, and had the most implicit faith in its teachings, and a deep reverence for its commands. My first recollection of him is his daily family prayer. Devout, tender and child-like; repeating over and over again, year after year, about the same words, until we all knew them by heart, his prayers were very real, very holy to me in my childhood. It was very hard for father ever to punish us children, and when he did, he suffered more than we. He would talk to us with great solicitude, and when we would say we were sorry, and would do better, he would be full of joy, and would say, ‘That is right; that is right.’”
As a young boy, Philip sold vegetables from door to door to help support the family. On one of his rounds one day, something happened that marked the turning point in his life. This incident is recounted by author, Ed Reese, in his biography, The life and ministry of Philip Bliss (http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biobliss.html).
“One Saturday, with his basket of vegetables, the barefooted, gawky, ten-year old boy was to hear the sweetest music that he had ever listened to. The only things that he could play melodies on were reeds plucked from the marshes. Almost unconscious of what he was doing, he climbed the garden fence of a country estate and entered the home unobserved. Standing in the door of the parlor, he listened to a young lady playing the piano, the first he had ever seen. When she stopped, impulsively, he exclaimed, ‘O lady, please play some more!’”
Somewhat startled, the pianist “with no appreciation of the tender heart that had been so touched by her music” ordered him to leave. Unaware that he had trespassed, the ten-year-old “went away crushed, but with the memory of harmonies that seemed to him like heaven”.
In 1850, Philip was converted at a school revival meeting conducted by a Baptist minister. He was baptised soon after in a creek near his home, and became actively involved in the Baptist Church of Cherry Flats, Pennsylvania. The new convert confessed that he could not himself recall “any marked period of conversion; that he could never remember the time when he did not love the Saviour - when he was not sorry for his sins, and when he did not pray. He undoubtedly experienced regeneration in answer to the prayers of a godly father at a very early age, and all through life manifested that he was a child of God.”
(… to be continued)
(Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from Memoirs of P.P. Bliss http://www.biblebelievers.com/bliss/mem_ch1.html).