1838 - 1876 Author of "Hallelujah, 'Tis Done!" in The Joy Bells of Canaan or Burning Bush Songs No. 2 Philip P. Bliss (b. Clearfield County, PA, 1838; d. Ashtabula, OH, 1876) left home as a young boy to make a living by working on farms and in lumber camps, all while trying to continue his schooling. He was converted at a revival meeting at age twelve. Bliss became an itinerant music teacher, making house calls on horseback during the winter, and during the summer attending the Normal Academy of Music in Genesco, New York. His first song was published in 1864, and in 1868 Dwight L. Moody advised him to become a singing evangelist. For the last two years of his life Bliss traveled with Major D. W. Whittle and led the music at revival meetings in the Midwest and Southern United States. Bliss and Ira D. Sankey published a popular series of hymn collections entitled Gospel Hymns. The first book of the series, Gospel Songs, was published in 1874. Bliss's tragic death at the age of thirty-eight happened near the end of 1876. Philip P. Bliss and his wife were traveling to Chicago to sing for the evangelistic services led by Daniel W. Whittle at Dwight L. Moody's Tabernacle. But a train wreck and fire en route claimed their lives.
Bliss, Philip, b. at Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, July 9, 1838. In 1864 he went to Chicago in the employ of Dr. George F. Root, the musician, where he was engaged in conducting musical Institutes, and in composing Sunday School melodies. Originally a Methodist, he became, about 1871, a choirman of the First Congregational Church, Chicago, and the Superintendent of its Sunday Schools. In 1874 he joined D. W. Whittle in evangelical work. To this cause he gave (although a poor man) the royalty of his Gospel Songs, which was worth some thirty thousand dollars. His death was sudden. It occurred in the railway disaster at Ashtabula, Ohio, Dec. 30, 1876. ... Some of his verses have obtained wide popularity in most English-speaking countries. The more widely known, and specially those which are found in collections in use in G. Britain, are in the following American works:—
i. The Prize, 1870.
1. I should like to die. Death anticipated. This is one of his earliest compositions, and is unworthy of the position it holds.
2. Through the valley of the shadow I must go. Death anticipated.
3. Whosoever heareth, shout, shout the sound. Jesus the Way. Written during the winter of 1869-70 after hearing Mr. H. Moorhouse (from England) preach on St. John iii. 16.
ii. The Charm, 1871.
4. Almost persuaded now to believe. Procrastination. This was suggested by the following passage in a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Brundnge, Bliss being present at its delivery:—" He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, but to be almost saved is to be entirely lost."
5. Ho! my comrades! see the signal. Faithfulness.
6. O! Jerusalem, the golden city, bright, &c. Heaven.
7. On what Foundation do [did] you build? Christ the Foundation.
iii. The Song Tree, 1872.
8. Light in the darkness, sailor, day is at hand. Safety. This hymn, “The Life-Boat," has attained to great popularity. The incident upon which it is based, that of the rescue of a ship's crew by a life-boat, is given in detail by Mr. Sankey in his Sacred Songs, &c, No. 99 (large ed.). It is sometimes known by its refrain, "Pull for the shore," &c.
iv. The Joy, 1873.
9. In me ye may have peace. Peace.
10. To die is gain. Death anticipated.
v. Sunshine, 1873.
11. Down life's dark vale we wander. Death anticipated.
12. More holiness give me. For Holiness.
13. Only an armour-bearer. Soldiers of the Cross.
14. Standing by a purpose true. Faithfulness.
15. This loving Saviour stands patiently. Invitation.
vi. Gospel Songs, 1874.
16. A long time I wandered. Peace and Joy.
17. Brightly beams our Father's mercy. Mercy.
18. Come, brethren, as we march along. Praise.
19. Free from the law, O happy condition. Redemption.
20. Have you on the Lord believed? Fullness of Grace. This hymn arose out of the following circumstances :—" A vast fortune was left in the hands of a minister for one of his poor parishioners. Fearing that it might be sqmandered if suddenly bestowed upon him, the wise minister sent him a little at a time, with a note saying, “This is thine; use it wisely; there is more to follow.” Hence also the refrain ‘More to follow,’ by which the hymn is known."
21. How much owest thou? Divine Claims.
22. I know not the hour when my Lord will come. Death anticipated. Suggested by reading the book, The Gates Ajar.
23. See the gentle Shepherd standing. The Good Shepherd.
24. Though the way be sometimes dreary. Divine Leading.
25. Will you meet me at the fountain? Fountain of Living Water. The incident out of which this hymn arose is thus stated in The Christian, No. 365, "At the Industrial Exposition at Chicago it was an everyday appointment to meet at the Central Fountain. Mr. P. P. Bliss, whose mind seemed always set on things above, caught up the words, and wrote this hymn, 'Meet me at the Fountain.'"
vii. Gospel Hymns, No. 1, 1875.
26. One offer of salvation. The Name of Jesus.
27. Wandering afar from the dwellings of men. The Lepers.
viii. The International Lesson Monthly, 1875.
28. Weary gleaner, whence comest thou? Duty.
29. The whole world was lost in the darkness of Sin. Light of the world.
30. Man of sorrows! what a name. Redemption.
31. The Spirit, O sinner, in mercy doth move. Holy Spirit.
ix. Gospel Hymns, No. 2, 1876.
32. At the feet of Jesus. The good choice.
33. Come, sing the Gospel's joyful sound. Salvation.
34. Cut it down, cut it down. Justice and Mercy.
35. Do you see the Hebrew captive? Prayer.
36. Hallelujah, He is risen. Easier. Written in the spring of 1876 and first sung by Bliss on Easter afternoon, 1876, in the Court House Square, Augusta, Georgia, to 5900 people.
37. In Zion's rock abiding. Safety.
38. Repeat the story o'er and o'er. Grace and Peace.
39. Tenderly the Shepherd. The Good Shepherd.
x. Gospel Hymns, No. 3, 1878.
40. Hear ye the glad good news from heaven. Faith and Salvation.
41. I will sing of my Redeemer. Praise.
xi. Gospel Hymns, No. 4, 1881.
42. 'Tis known on earth and heaven too. More about Jesus.
43. Sing over again to me. Words of Life. This appeared in a paper entitled Words of Life, 1874, The following are undated:—
44. March to the battle-field. Duty and Victory.
45. There is sin in the camp. Hinderances.
46. 'Tis the promise of God. Praise.
47. While the silvery moon-beams, fall, New Birth.
48. God is always near me. Omnipresence.
Two hymns," I am so glad that our Father in heaven," and " Sowing the seed by the daylight [dawnlight] fair," (sometimes given as " Sowing our seed in the morning fair ") are usually attributed to Mr. Bliss. In his Gospel Songs, Cincinnati, 1874, however, he lays claim to the music only. Mr. Sankey attributes this last to "E. A. Oakey." With the exception of No. 48, these hymns are given in Mr. Sankey's Sacred Songs & Solos, Pts. i. and ii. Their popularity is far beyond their literary merits, and is mainly due to the simple melodies to which they are wedded. As a writer of hymns of this class Mr. Bliss is second only to Mrs. Van Alstyne. Many anecdotes concerning hymns of this class are given in American Evangelists; an Account of their work in England and America, by the Rev. Elias Nason, Boston, U.S., Lathrop & Co., 1877.
Mr. Bliss is usually known as "P. P. Bliss." This is found on the title-pages of his collections. On his own authority, however, we are enabled to say that his name originally stood thus : “Philipp Bliss.” Early in life he separated the final p from his Christian name, constituted it a capital P, and thus produced "P. P. Bliss." (For this article we are mainly indebted to Professor F. M. Bird, and Mr. H. P. Main.)
-John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Bliss, Philip , p. 151, i. "Sowing the seed by the daylight fair" is in the Family Treasury , Edinburgh, 1861, pt. i., p. 84. It is said to be by Miss Emily Sullivan Oakey; born at Albany, N. York, Oct. 8, 1829, died May 11, 1883. Note also that Bliss's hymn, No. 43. on p. 150, ii., should read, "Sing them over again to me."
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
Bliss, P., p. 150, i. Two works have been brought to our notice, since the issue of our first edition of this Dictionary, which concern this author, viz.:—
1. Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss. Edited by D. W. Whittle. Contributions by Rev. E. P. Goodwin, Ira D. Sankey, and Geo. F. Root. Introduction by D. L. Moody. New York, &c.: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1877.
2. My Life and Sacred Songs. By Ira D. Sankey. With an Introduction by Theodore L. Cuyler, D.D). London: Hodder & Stoughton, and Morgan & Scott, 1906.
These works have a special interest for those who use I. D. Sankey's Sacred Songs & Solos, and all of P. Bliss's publications. To Mr. Sankey's My Life, &c, we direct special attention for P. Bliss's hymns:—
“Do you see the Hebrew captive kneeling?" p. 294.
"Down life's dark vale we wander." p. 285.
"Ho! my comrades, see the signal." p. 105.
"'Tis the promise of God full salvation to give." p. 99.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
P. P. Bliss