(photo of Ira B. Wilson)
MAKE ME A BLESSING
“…So will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing…” (Zech. 8:13)
INTRO.: A song which reminds us that one reason why we are saved is to be a blessing to others is “Make Me a Blessing.” The text was written by Ira Bishop Wilson, who was born on September 6, 1880, at Bedford, Iowa. Wilson’s sister taught him to play the violin and organ while he was still at home, and he began studying music theory in his youth. Around 1902, Ira began studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, with the view of training to be a musical evangelist. However, in 1905, he went to work for the Lorenz Publishing Company in Dayton, Ohio, as a composer and editor. There he wrote a large number of hymn arrangements, choral anthems, and cantatas, often using the pseudonym of Fred B. Holton. His compositions appeared in The Choir Leader and The Choir Herald; he also served as editor in chief of The Volunteer Choir. His works include The King’s Message (1910), The Beginners’ Choir (1911), Praise Ye: A Collection of Sacred Songs (1913), and His Worthy Praise (1915).
Apparently, these words were written around 1909. The tune (Schuler) was composed by George Stark Schuler (b. Apr. 18, 1882; d. Oct. 30, 1973). A native of New York City, NY, he received his training at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he went on to be a faculty member for forty years. The melody is dedicated to the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and was probably produced during a period when he was song director there. The song was first published as a leaflet with Schuler’s music in 1924 and introduced at the International Sunday School Convention in Cleveland, OH, that year. The original copyright was owned by Schuler. Later it appeared in Songs of Evangelism edited by Schuler and E. O. Excell for Glad Tidings Publishing Company of Chicago, in 1925. After retiring from Moody, Schuler served as an editor with the Rodeheaver Publishing Company for several years before his death at Sarasota, FL.
In 1930, Wilson moved to Los Angeles, CA, but continued his relationship with Lorenz. Around 1944, a friend named Phil Kerr came to visit Wilson one day. Both men were gospel musicians and, at Ira’s invitation, the other man sat down at the piano to play. He finished with “Make Me a Blessing.” Wilson listened politely, but it was evident he did not know the song. His eyes widened in astonishment when Kerr said, “You wrote that. That’s one of yours.” The song was being widely used, but its author had long forgotten it. Part of the reason is that Wilson’s main ministry was composing music for the lyrics of other people. “Make Me a Blessing” is one of the few numbers for which he wrote the words himself–about 35 years before. Wilson died on April 3, 1950, at Los Angeles, California, and his remains were buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. The song’s copyright was renewed in 1952 by Schuler. It was later owned by Alfred B. Smith and eventually assigned to The Rodeheaver Company.
The hymnals in my collection which have the song include All American Church Hymnal, American Service Hymnal, Favorite Hymns of Praise, Christian Praise, Worship in Song, Hymns of the Living Church, Broadman Hymnal, Hymns of the Spirit, Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns, Inspiring Hymns, Living Hymns, New Church Hymnal, Hymns of Praise and Service, Living Praise Hymnal, Crusader Hymns, and Praise! Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, it has not appeared in any to my knowledge except the 2014 Ceaseless Praise edited by Kevin W. Presley for Legacy Music Publishing of Dothan, AL.
The song has long challenged many believers to fuller service for Christ.
I. Stanza 1 encourages us to be a light to others
Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.
- The Lord wants His servants to go out into the highways and hedges to invite people: Lk. 14:22-23
- He invites such individuals because they are weary and heavy laden: Matt. 11:23-25
- One way in which we do this is by letting our light shine: Matt. 5:14-16
II. Stanza 2 encourages us tell others about Christ
Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love,
Tell of His power to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True every moment you live.
- We need to tell others the sweet story of Christ and His love: 1 Jn. 3:16
- We should also tell them of His power to provide forgiveness of sins: Eph. 1:7
- And we must both tell and show them the necessity of trusting Him: 1 Tim. 4:10
III. Stanza 3 encourages us to love others’ souls
Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.
- God has given us an unspeakable gift: 2 Cor.9:15
- We should then love others as the Master loved us: Jn. 13:34-35
- This is accomplished by being a helper to the helpless and teaching others also: 2 Tim. 2:2
CONCL.: The chorus continues to ask God’s help in doing good unto others.
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
From the incident described previously where Wilson had forgotten the words that he had written earlier, one might conclude that for several years, without even knowing it, he had followed his own advice and been a blessing to many people. I, too, should seek the Lord’s assistance to “Make Me a Blessing.”