Heritage Sabbath, October 20, 2001
Story of Hymn-2
WE KNOW NOT THE HOUR
Both words and music were written by Franklin Edson Belden (1858-1945) and appear in Hymns and Tunes, 1886. The heading is a Scripture quotation selected from Matthew 24.
In both Hymns and Tunes, 1886, and Christ in Song, 1900, the tune, unnamed, is marked allegretto, which means “briskly.” This instruction is most apt, for the words recognize the imminence of the Lord’s coming.
Belden was born at Battle Creek, Michigan, on March 21, 1858. He was the eldest of five children born to Stephen Belden and Sarah Harmon Belden, the elder sister of Ellen Harmon White. He obtained most of his education at Battle Creek College. About the year 1876 he moved with his father and stepmother and James and Ellen White (his uncle and aunt) to California, where he began to compose music. Bronchial trouble caused him to move to Colorado, where, in 1881, he married a woman with musical talent. In the early 1880s Belden and his wife moved to Battle Creek. There he connected with the Seventh-day Adventist publishing work. With Edwin Barnes, he was music editor of The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book for Use in Divine Worship (known as Hymns and Tunes), 1886. With his cousin James Edson White, he produced Joyful Greetings for the Sabbath School, also in 1886. In 1895 he published Gospel Song Sheaf; in 1900, Christ in Song and books of patriotic music. For a time he served as a superintendent at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. About 1910 he began to write songs for evangelist Billy Sunday, which were included in his book Songs for the King’s Business.
Unfortunately, a misunderstanding arose between him and Adventist leaders concerning royalties for his books. The matter was never satisfactorily settled. After his death on December 2, 1945, all his papers and manuscripts were deposited at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.
Belden's genius in music and poetry was demonstrated by his frequent practice of writing a song to fit a sermon while it was being preached. He and his wife sat in the choir. He would take the Scripture text of the sermon as his theme and, using the preacher’s exposition, write the hymn text. Then he would compose the music for the newly written words. Finally, he and his wife would offer to sing the new hymn in place of the final hymn chosen to conclude the service. They would give the original manuscript of the hymn to the preacher as a souvenir. The book Christ in Song contains many of these hymns and tunes. His contributions to the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal are 12 complete hymns (text and tune) and four tunes to words written by other authors.
Adapted from Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, pp. 558, 627, 628. Used with permission.
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