September 25: Cleland Boyd McAfee

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Near to the Heart of God

What a remarkable gift Cleland Boyd McAfee had as a pastor.  Every quarter when the people of God in the congregation in Chicago, Illinois celebrated the Lord’s Supper, Pastor McAffee would write a new hymn.  First, he would teach it to the church choir.  Then they and the congregation would sing it to the glory of God.

Cleland McAfee was born September 25, 1866 in Ashley, Missouri.  After seminary, he held pastorates in two Presbyterian churches in  Chicago, Illinois and Brooklyn, New York.  Along the way, he was the pastor at and choir director at Park College, in Parkville,  Missouri.

The tragedy struck at the turn of the new century in 1903.  Two daughters of his brother, Harold, were sickened with diphtheria and died.  The whole church and even the entire town grieved the loss of both of these precious children.

Cleland McAfee sat alone and wondered how he could minister to his own brother’s family, to say nothing of the people in the Presbyterian church in Chicago, and for that matter in the city of Chicago.  Thinking of James 4:8, which says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw night to you.” (KJV), Pastor McAfee put together the words and stanzas of the hymn, “Near to the Heart of God.”

With your knowledge of this tragedy then, listen to the familiar words:

“There is a place of quiet rest, Near to the heart of God, A place where sin cannot molest, Near to the heart of God.

“There is a place of comfort sweet, Near to the heart of God, A place where we our Savior meet.  Near to the heart of God.

“There is a place of full release, Near to the heart of God, A place where all is joy and peace, Near to the heart of God.”

Then the refrain, “O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God, Hold us, who wait before Thee, Near to the heart of God.”

God’s heart is a place of quiet rest, a place where sin cannot molest, a place of sweet comfort, a place to meet our Savior, a place of full release, and a place where all is joy and peace.  The line “near to the heart of God” is repeated seven times in the hymn.  It is a hymn of comfort for all of God’s people when “hard providences” are their lot.

Words to live by: Dear reader, you may not be suffering hard times on this day, or you may in the midst of difficult days and hours.  Or you may know of some other saint who is under the weather in difficult days.  This hymn can be the comfort which you need or they need.  Sing it softly.  Meditate upon its words.  Take comfort from it.  Reflect on James 4:8. Let the heart of God be your solace this day, and always.

Through the Scriptures:  Ezekiel 46 – 48

Through the Standards:  Limitations of Oaths

WCF 22:3 
“Whosoever takes an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuades is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to any things but what is good and just, and what he believes so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.”


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