Elisha Albright Hoffman (1839-1929) was a Presbyterian minister who pastored Congregational and Presbyterian churches and worked in evangelistic organizations such as the Bethel Home for Sailors and Seamen. He spent much of his time working with the poor and downtrodden. His ministry lasted more than 60 years, as did that of his father before him. He had "remarkable physical and mental vigor" until his death at age 90.
The only musical education he received was in the home and church. When Hoffman was growing up, the family sang one or two hymns morning and evening for family devotions. "At an early age, the children became familiar with these hymns and learned to love them and to feel their hallowing and refining power. Their lives were marvelously influenced by this little service of song in the home. A taste for sacred music was created and developed, and song became as natural a function of the soul as breathing was a function of the body" (WholesomeWords.org).
Hoffman's first wife, Susan, died after 10 years of marriage. They had three sons. Three years later, he married Emma Smith, who was 14 years his junior. They had a daughter.
Hoffman wrote his first hymn at age 18 and eventually published more than 2,000 gospel songs. He assisted in the publication of more than 50 sacred song books. Hoffman often wrote both the lyrics and the music.
His hymns expressed great love for Christ, for Christ's vicarious sacrifice, and called for surrender to Christ and trust in Christ.
His popular hymns included the following:
"Are You Washed in the Blood?" (words and music)
"Glory to His Name" ("Down at the Cross") (music by John Stockton)
"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" (music by Anthony Snowalter)
"I Must Tell Jesus" (words and music)
"Is Your All on the Altar?" (words and music)
"No Other Friend Like Jesus" (words and music)
"What a Wonderful Saviour" (words and music)
The following background of the hymn "I Must Tell Jesus" is from the Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers by J.H. Hall, 1914: "The story has been told that while visiting one day, he came to a home which had been experienced much sorrow and affliction. He found the mother of the home in the depths of despair. He tried to quote Bible verses that he thought would help to console her, but to no avail. Then he suggested that she could do nothing better than to take all of her sorrow to the Lord Jesus. ‘You must tell Jesus,' he told her. Upon mediating upon these words, a light broke across her face and she cried, ‘Yes, I must tell Jesus.' Mr. Hoffman left immediately with those words still ringing in his ears — ‘I must tell Jesus.' He went directly home and wrote the lyrics to the hymn."
"Wondrous It Seemeth to Me" ("Is It Not Wonderful") 1899
by Elisha Hoffman
1. Wondrous it seemeth to me,
Jesus so gracious should be,
Mercy revealing, comforting, healing,
Blessing a sinner like me.
Is it not wonderful, is it not wonderful
Jesus so gracious should be?
Yes, it is wonderful, strange and so wonderful
That He should pardon and save even me!
2. Heart of mine never could know
Jesus such peace could bestow,
Till the dear Saviour showed me His favor,
Cleansed my heart whiter than snow.
3. Once I was full of all sin,
Now thro' the blood I am clean;
Willing to save me, pardon He gave me,
And I am happy within.
4. Long I resisted his grace,
In my heart gave him no place;
But Jesus sought me till he had bro't me,
Penitent seeking His face
5. He doth my new heart control,
Cleansing and keeping me whole,
Banishing sadness, with joy and gladness
Filling and thrilling my soul.
"I Love to Serve My Jesus" 1897
Barney Warren (lyrics) Elisha Hoffman (tune)
1. I love to serve my Jesus, a priv'lege so sublime,
My life afresh with beauty bright is sparkling all the time;
'Mid scenes that are unfading, of rapture and of bliss,
Transported, I am soaring in my Savior's righteousness.
I love to serve my Jesus, He's all in all to me;
He helps me bear each burden, He is my victory.
2. I love to serve my Jesus, the world I do give up,
I'll drink with my dear Savior from that bitter, bitter cup;
I know that if I suffer with Him I, too, shall reign
In life and up in glory bright—sweet promise sure I claim.
3. I love to serve my Jesus, and lean upon His arm
In health or in affliction, in the calm or in the storm;
In darkness, clouds, or sunshine, in heat or in the cold,
In poverty or riches, I have peace and joy untold.
4. I love to serve my Jesus, for all His tender care;
Oh, joy! and what a pleasure in this life we all may share;
Oh, depth of great compassion! 'tis like a mighty flood,
He gave His pledge of love to us, and sealed it with His blood.
"On to Victory" 1894
by Elisha Hoffman
1. Christian, gird the armor on,
There's a vict'ry to be won
For the Lord, for the Lord;
Take the helmet, sword, and shield,
Forth unto the battlefield
At His Word, at His Word.
On we'll march to victory;
Jesus will our leader be,
Jesus will our leader be;
On we'll march to victory,
To a final and a glorious victory.
2. Let His banner be unfurled,
Till it waves o'er all the world,
Sea to sea, shore to shore;
Till the nations all shall own
He is King, and He alone,
3. When the battle shall be done,
And the victory be won
Conflict past, conflict past;
In our happy home above,
We'll receive a crown of love,
At the last, at the last.
4. That will be an hour of joy,
Praise shall then our tongues employ
More and more, more and more;
We shall stand before the King,
And the song of triumph sing
From Hymns — Elisha Hoffman by David Cloud. Way of Life Literature, Inc. (www.wayoflife.org), October 19, 2023.
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