John Ellerton (b. London, England, 1826; d. Torquay, Devonshire, England, 1893) Educated at King William's College on the Isle of Man and at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1851. He served six parishes, spending the longest time in Crewe Green (1860-1872), a church of steelworkers and farmers. Ellerton wrote and translated about eighty hymns, many of which are still sung today. He helped to compile Church Hymns and wrote its handbook, Notes and Illustrations to Church Hymns (1882). Some of his other hymn texts were published in The London Mission Hymn Book (1884).
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Now the labourer's task is o'er. J. Ellerton. [Burial.] Written for and first published in the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, 1871, in 6 stanzas of 6 lines. Mr. Ellerton says:—
”The whole hymn, especially the third, fifth, and sixth verses, owes many thoughts, and some expressions, to a beautiful poem of the Rev. Gerard Moultrie's, beginning, ‘Brother, now thy toils are o'er,' which will be found in the People's Hymnal, 380" (Notes on Church Hymns, p. liii.)
From Church Hymns this hymn has passed into Hymns Ancient & Modern, Hymnal Companion, Thring's Collection, and many other collections, and sometimes, as in the last named, with the omission of stanza iii. In R. Brown-Borthwick's Select Hymns for Church and Home, 2nd edition, 1885, the original text as it appeared in the first edition of that work in 1871 is given as No. 72; and the revised and authorized text as in Church Hymns, as No. 185. The latter is also in Mr. Ellerton's Hymns, &c, 1888, and may be at once known by the refrain:—
"Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping."