The name of P. P. Bliss is inseparably associated with the early evangelism of D. L. Moody, Major Whittle and others. He was born at Rome, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, [United States], July 9th, 1838, and is therefore one of the later hymn-writers. His name stands as a sort of connecting link between the more sober hymnists of the generations before him, and those of lighter character since his day. His given name was originally spelled "Phillipp," and from this singular form he wisely altered it to Philip P. omitting the superfluous l and making the final p a middle initial; so his signature is always Philip P. Bliss, or more commonly, P. P. Bliss—not Philip Paul, as some writers have supposed.
He was converted and baptized when twelve years old, at Cherry Flats, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, "and was early familiar with camp-meetings and revival services. He regarded William B. Bradbury as his instructor and pioneer in sacred song."
In the year 1864 he removed to Chicago, where he met and labored with the well-known musical composer, George F. Root; and after this for nearly ten years he was active in the conduct of musical institutes and conventions in the West. His association with Mr. Moody and Major Whittle began in May, 1874, and ended at his death. It was he who took the leading part in the preparation of the earlier numbers of Gospel Hymns, where all his compositions, both music and words, are found.
The following is the account of his tragic end: "On December 29th, 1876, they (his wife and he) left Rome, Pennsylvania, for Chicago. During the journey Mr. Bliss was busy with his Bible, and the notes of a new song which he was writing. But at Ashtabula, Ohio, a bridge suddenly broke; the entire train was thrown into the stream below; the cars caught fire. Mr. Bliss escaped through a broken window, but lost his life finally, by returning to save his wife." [see Ashtabula Bridge Disaster]
His well-known hymn, "Free from the law, oh, happy condition," was written under the following circumstances: His wife, as a birthday present, had given him a bound copy of Things New and Old, edited by "C. H. M." From an article in this book on the believer's deliverance by the death of Christ from the curse of the law, and his own death with Christ setting him free entirely from the law's dominion, he saw the blessed truth of the Christian position in relation with God; and to give expression to the joy of his heart at this deliverance, he sat down and wrote the hymn whose chorus ends with the words,
"Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us, once for all!"
A friend who knew him and lamented his death, says, "It is a memory to be treasured when one has heard Mr. and Mrs. Bliss sing,
'Waiting and watching for me.'"
His hymns have been owned of God to the blessing of many, of which the following is an example: "A missionary of the American S. S. Union sang in a hamlet in Missouri, 'I am so glad that Jesus loves me,' and afterwards put the question: 'Are you glad, and if not, why?' A young man then rushed up to him, threw his arms around his neck, and besought his prayers. 'Oh, that song!' he cried. 'I could not get away from it, and it has saved me!'"
Now, dear reader, let me ask, Is this Saviour of whom these poets wrote, and sang, is He your Redeemer, your Lord, Shepherd, Friend? If not, receive Him now as yours; believe that He died for you; and if saved, live to His praise and glory who redeemed us by His blood. Of Him Moses and the prophets wrote, of Him our Christian poets sang, and He shall be the object of the praises of the redeemed in glory, world without end, AMEN!
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
"Man of Sorrows," what a name
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we;
"Lifted up" was He to die,
When He comes, our glorious King,
Jesus Loves Even Me
I am so glad that our Father in heaven
Though I forget Him, and wander away,
Oh, if there's only one song I can sing,
Jesus loves me, and I know I love Him,
In this assurance I find sweetest rest,
From Who Wrote Our Hymns by Christopher Knapp. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [1925?].
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