Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7, 8)
The text for “My Redeemer,” though a joyful note of praise, was found in the wreckage of a train accident which had just claimed the life of its author, Philip P. Bliss.
Philip Bliss was influential in promoting the growth of early gospel hymnody in this country. In addition to being known as a man with a commanding stature and impressive personality for leading congregational singing, Philip Bliss was highly regarded by his fellow colleagues. George Stebbins, also a noted gospel song writer of this time, once paid Bliss this tribute: “There has been no writer of verse since his time who has shown such a grasp of the fundamental truths of the gospel, or such a gift for putting them into poetic and singable form.”
Yet, at the age of 38, at the very height of his fruitful music ministry, Bliss’ life was suddenly ended in a tragic train accident. He had visited his mother at his childhood home in Rome, Pennsylvania, during the Christmas season of 1876 and was returning by train to Chicago on December 29 with his wife Lucy when a railroad bridge near Ashtabula, Ohio, collapsed. Their train plunged into a ravine 60 feet below and caught fire. One hundred passengers perished miserably. Bliss survived the fall and escaped through a window but frantically returned to the wreckage in an attempt to rescue his wife. As a result, he perished with her in the fire. Neither body was ever recovered.
Quite miraculously, however, among Bliss’ belongings in the train wreckage was found a manuscript on which Bliss had been working. It contained these significant words:
I will sing of my Redeemer and His wondrous love to me; on the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free.
I will tell the wondrous story, how, my lost estate to save, in His boundless love and mercy, He the ransom freely gave.
I will praise my dear Redeemer, His triumphant pow’r I’ll tell, how the victory He giveth over sin and death and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer and His heav’nly love to me; He from death to life hath bro’t me, Son of God with Him to be.
Chorus: Sing, O sing of my Redeemer; with His blood He purchased me; on the cross He sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free.
For Today: Isaiah 53:4–12; 2 Corinthians 2:14, 15; Galatians 2:20
Make this musical truth your desire as you go—