Hymn History: Count Your Blessings November 23, 2022

Count your Blessings

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:” – Psalm 103:1-2

Johnson Oatman, son of Johnson and Rachel Ann Oatman, was born near Medford, N.J., April 21, 1856. His father was an excellent singer and always loved to hear Johnson sing the songs of the church. He joined the Methodist Church at age 19. A few years later he was granted a license to preach the Gospel. For many years he would serve as a local preacher.

Beyond his preaching ministry, Oatman worked in the business world. With his father’s passing, Oatman would take over the family insurance business. He is remembered today not for his wealth but for the mighty hymns he composed. 

As one contemporary writer put it, “While Mr. Oatman does not fill any particular pulpit, yet he daily preaches to a larger congregation than the pastor of any church in the land. For through the medium of sacred song he preaches the Gospel to ‘all the world, and to every creature.’” It is estimated that Oatman wrote around 200 hymns a year throughout his ministry. In all, he penned a staggering 5,000 hymns of the faith. 

In 1897, Oatman’s most influential hymn, Count Your Blessings, was published in the hymnal Songs for Young People. It became an immediate sensation. For this hymn served as a mighty reminder to think about all God has done. The impact of this hymn cannot be overstated. 

One day, in 1902, the famous evangelist Gyspy Smith was visiting an infirmary for children. He relates his experience in his autobiography: 

At the request of…my host, I visited the infirmary. Most of the patients had been carried out on to the lawn for a sun bath. I spoke a few words to them, and then Mr. Penny said: “Before Mr. Smith goes, won’t you sing something for him?”  “Yes, sir,” said a little girl.

“What will you sing ?” said he. “Count your blessings,” was the reply.

Immediately I was deeply touched and impressed. Here was I in full enjoyment of health and of many priceless benefits of God, yet I had never counted my blessings. It had never occurred to me so to do. I felt sure that thousands of others had been guilty of the same omission.

Many of us, alas! are never so happy as when we are talking about our miseries. The sweet song fastened itself upon my heart and soul. I sing it at my meetings very frequently…Wherever one might go in the streets, in the trams, in the trains someone was humming or whistling or singing, ‘Count your Blessings.’”

Even in his lifetime, Oatman was privileged to see the great ways in which God used his hymn. No doubt, the message of this song was a lesson Mr. Oatman had learned for himself. There is great spiritual health in taking time to simply count your blessings. Rehearse all that God has done for you. As you do this, your eyes quickly move from yourself to your Savior. The truth is that none of us deserve any of the blessings God gives us. So today, stop and take time to praise the Lord for all He has done in your life. 

Count Your Blessings

1. 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.

Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. (Refrain)

3. 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. (Refrain)

4. 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. (Refrain)

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