“Count Your Blessings”


(picture of Johnson Oatman Jr.)


“Many, O Lord my God, are Thy wonderful works…; they are more than can be numbered” (Ps. 40:5)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to be joyful because of all the wonderful works which God has done is “Count Your Blessings (#392 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #68 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr., who was born near Medford, NJ, on Apr. 21, 1856, the son of Johnson (Sr.) and Rachel Ann Cline Oatman.  His father, a local merchant at nearby Lumberton, had a rich, powerful singing voice.  The son loved to hear his father sing and longed to become a singer like his father.  After being educated at Herberts’ Academy in Vincentown, NJ, and at the New Jersey Collegiate Institute in Bordentown, NJ, Johnson Jr. entered the Methodist Episcopal Church at the age of nineteen and later became a preacher but served without any permanent local assignment.

In addition, Oatman was associated with his father in the mercantile business and after his father’s death went into the insurance profession with an office in Mt. Holly, NJ.  Not being able to sing like his father, beginning about 1892, when he was 36, he did start writing hymns for others to sing, and his words proved highly successful as texts for gospel songs.  It was in 1896 or 1897 that he penned this song about counting our blessings, which many critics regard as his best.  The tune (Blessings) was composed by Stark County, OH, native Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921).  The hymn first appeared in Excell’s Songs for Young People, published in 1897 at Chicago, IL.

Oatman never became a famous preacher or even a famous singer, but he did produce over 5,000 hymns with such well-known gospel composers as John R. Sweney, William J. Kirkpatrick, and Charles H. Gabriel, including texts for “Higher Ground,” “No, Not One,” “Hand In Hand With Jesus,” “Sweeter Than All,” “The Last Mile Of The Way,” “What Shall It Profit?”, “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus,” and “Lift Him Up.”  After spending most of his life in and around Mt. Holly, Oatman moved west in later life and died at Norman, OK, on Sept. 25, 1922 (although some sources give the year of his death as 1926 and the place as Mt. Pleasant, NJ).

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Count Your Blessings” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

Millions of people have joyfully counted their blessings because of this song.

I. In stanza 1, we are told to count our blessing by naming them one by one, especially when we are discouraged

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

  1. Being tempest tossed is often used to symbolize the trials and tribulations of life: Jas. 1:2-3
  2. During such times we can become discouraged—even Paul did: 2 Cor. 1:8
  3. Yet, while in prison he engaged in prayer, which must have included thanksgiving: Acts 16:22-2

II. In stanza 2, the result of counting our blessings is that every doubt will fly and we can be singing

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.

  1. All of us have a cross to bear: Matt. 16:24
  2. When we count our blessings, every doubt and fear will fly because of God’s promise: Heb. 13:4-5
  3. Then our hearts will greatly rejoice and we shall be singing: Ps. 28:7

III. In stanza 3 (not in HFWR), counting our blessings will help us discover that money cannot buy God’s wealth untold

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings. Money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

  1. We often see others with their lands and gold—but what does the Bible say?: 1 Tim. 6:9-10
  2. But Christ has promised us a far greater wealth: Matt. 6:19-20
  3. Counting our blessings reminds us of God’s benefits which money cannot buy: Ps. 68:19

IV. In stanza 4, counting our blessings will remind us that God is over all whatever may come our way

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

(The original Sacred Selections inexplicably changed the last two words to “journey send,” but they were corrected in the newer large-print edition.)

  1. “The conflict” simply refers to the spiritual warfare in which we’re engaged: Eph. 6:12
  2. But God is over all: Ps. 103:19
  3. And we know that He will help us because He is the giver of every good gift: Jas. 1:17

CONCL.:  The chorus reiterates the importance of counting our blessings.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God hath done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Whenever you are tossed upon life’s billows, you too can find joy as you “Count Your Blessings.”


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