Julian gives the date of Deck's birth as 1802. "Chief Men among the Brethren" and Knapp's, "Who wrote our Hymns", give the year 1807. As Deck went to India as an officer in 1824, it is more likely that he was 22 rather than 17 years of age.
These Notes are from 'Chief Men amongst the Brethren':
James George Deck was born in November 1807 (1802 Julian) at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, and was blessed like Timothy with a praying mother; one who used to retire every evening to her room for a quiet hour with God on behalf of her children, and also of her children's children, and who never punished her children without first praying with them. All of her children were early converted and consecrated to God; a blessing which has descended unto the third generation. One of her daughters, Mrs. M.J. Walker, was the authoress of "Jesus, I will trust Thee", "The wanderer no more will roam". (Believers' Hymn Book, 286) besides other well known hymns.
Having studied for the army at Paris, under one of Napoleon's generals, Mr. Deck went to India in 1824 as an officer in the East India Company's service, receiving a commission in the 14th. Madras Native Infantry. Even then there had been deep conviction of sin, under stress of which he drew up on one occasion, a code of good resolutions, signing it with his own blood, only to find himself without strength to keep them. His youthful ambition was that, having distinguished himself in his profession, he might afterwards enter Parliament for his native town.
But God had better things in store for him, for returning to England in 1826, he was brought under the power of the Gospel, and was converted through a sermon preached by a godly Church of England clergyman whom his sister Clara, herself previously converted, took him to hear. All things became new to him, his life's passion then being to follow Jesus and win souls for the kingdom. About this time he became acquainted with and married the daughter of Samuel Field, an evangelical clergyman, and in her he found a wife who, through grace, shared with himself the "like precious faith".
On returning to India, he at once took his place as a Christian amongst his brother officers, and began boldly witnessing for Christ, a number being led through his instrumentality to know and trust the same precious Saviour. Becoming exercised as to his position as a Christian in the Army, he resigned his commission with the intention of becoming a clergyman, and with this object he returned to England in 1835 with his wife and two children. Whilst visiting his father-in-law, Mr. Field, at the vicarage at Hatherleigh, Devon, his second son Dr. J. Field Deck, was born and christened. An observation made by Mr Field in connection with the subject of christening, against some Baptists who were troubling his parish, caused Mr. Deck to examine the Word of God upon the question of "baptismal regeneration" of infants as set forth in the Prayer Book. Not finding such teaching supported by the Bible he became exercised as to his forthcoming ordination as a clergyman when he would have to declare, ex animo, that he "assented and consented to all and everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer".
Approaching his loved wife he said, "I have left the Army to become a clergyman, but now see that the Church of England is contrary to the Word of God; what shall I do?" Her noble reply was, "Whatever you believe to be the will of God, do it at any cost". The Church of England and the promised 'living' had to be given up. But, what were they to join? Plainly, what they 'found written'. (Neh. 7:5) must be the test of everything. Seeking thus to be absolutely guided by the written Word they presently found themselves in touch with many other Christians similarly exercised at the time; and who since have become known as "brethren". Leaving the Church of England and the traditions of men, and looking only to the Lord to supply their temporal wants, a trust never disappointed, Mr. Deck began to witness for Christ in the villages of Colaton, Raleigh, Kingston, Devon, seeking, like Ezra, not only to be a 'ready scribe' (Ezra 7:6) in the Word of God, but likewise, "to do and to teach" the precious truths so recently apprehended in it. It was a singularly godless High Church parish, but soon many precious souls were won for God through the preaching of the Gospel, and having been baptized were gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in assembly fellowship according to Acts 2:42 as "holy brethren" (Heb. 3:1). waiting for God's Son from heaven (1 Thess 1:10).
It was during this period, between 1838 and 1844, that Mr. Deck wrote most of those hymns which have been his special ministry to the Church of God: "Abba, Father, we approach Thee", "A little while! our Lord shall come", "Lamb of God our souls adore Thee" and "Jesus we remember Thee", being written in 1838. His hymns were not evangelical, but rather hymns of worship and Christian consecration in view of our Lord's near return.
His sphere of ministry was chiefly in the western counties of England, residing and labouring, after he left Kingston, at Sidmouth, Wellington and Weymouth; with mission visits to Otterton and to East Coker, near Taunton; being much used in these various places in conversions and also in instructing and establishing those who believed, in the divine truth and principles which in the Word of God had become so precious to himself. Whilst in Wellington the late Henry Dyer assisted in the school and proved a loved and valued fellow-labourer in the ministry of the Word. In 1852 he had an illness and breakdown so severe as to call for an entire cessation from ministry and the giving up of the school. The medical men recommending a sea voyage and a complete change of occupation as essential to his recovery, it was decided to emigrate to New Zealand. Arriving in 1853, Mr. Deck purchased land and settled with the family at Waiwerro near the village of Motueka in the Nelson province, where three months later his devoted wife, after a brief illness, 'fell asleep' and was laid to rest in the Motueka Cemetery. Health having been wonderfully restored, he had the joy before long of witnessing once more in the land of his adoption for his beloved Lord.
He removed in 1865 with his family to Wellington, an effectual door of service having been opened to him in that city and province, both in the Gospel and in church fellowship, a large and happy meeting being gathered at Wellington and several other assemblies in the district. During this time several more hymns were given him: "Jesus, our Life is risen", "Lord of Life this day rejoices all who know Thee strong to save", etc., He also wrote that splendid baptismal hymn, "Around Thy grave, Lord Jesus", and others "Father we seek Thy face", "Great Captain of Salvation", "In love we part as brethren", "Jesus Thy Name we love", "Lord Jesus are we one with Thee?" "Lord, we are Thine", "O happy day when first we felt", "Oft we, alas, forget the love", "The veil is rent" and many others.
He paid a visit to Invercargill, the southernmost city in the colony, where his son, Dr. J. Field Deck, was practising, and in whose house a little company of a dozen had commenced to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, whom he much helped by his ministry.
Feeling at length with advancing years unequal for carrying on the work at Wellington, he returned with his family to Motueka, where, after being a complete invalid for two years the homecall came, 14th. Aug. 1884, in his 76th. (81st.?) year; and on Sunday, 17th. Aug, "devout men" laid the earthly tabernacle to rest in the Motueka Cemetery. There was a large attendance, many his own children in the faith, his own hymn, "Thou hast stood here, Lord Jesus" being sung at the grave. His name is fragrant to many today, and through his hymns, "He being dead, yet speaketh". S.J.D.
Julian's references to Deck's hymns:
His compositions are marked by directness of aim, simplicity of language, and great earnestness. The rhythm is good, and an expressive tenderness pervades many of them. Although dealing mainly with the "Second Advent", there are several on other subjects which are of more than average merit.
"It is Thy hand, my God". This hymn of Deck's was written to comfort a bereaved mother and widow in her hour of sorrow, and the Lord made it a comfort to the soul of a young saint.
The hymn, "Jesus, Thy Name I love", or "Jesus that Name is love" is always credited to Deck. It seems odd that this composition is not included in "Hymns and Sacred Poems", by James G Deck 1876 1st. edition and 1889 edition, London.
E.E. Cornwall in his article on J.G. Deck in Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory does not refer to this hymn either. Perhaps there is a mistake in attaching Deck's name to it. It is not unusual to find confusion about the authors of hymns.
J.N. Darby's commendation of J.G. Deck. (Letters of J.N.D. Vol. 3. p. 52.)
"J.G.D. seems failing dear man; happy for him, but a real loss there. The uncommon kindness of his character was sometimes a snare to him, but he was upright and God delivered him; and his piety, grace and devotedness were beyond many—I might say, most—and God used him very much out there."
Deck's Preface to the first edition of his Hymns and Sacred Poems:
"At the request of many dear children of God who have been refreshed and edified by the perusal of my Hymns and Poems, and who thought they would be acceptable and for the edification of others, if more generally known, I have gladly consented to collect and publish them in this little volume: trusting that they may be acceptable to the saints, and for the glory of God, in helping them in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to make melody in their hearts to the Lord". It will be evident that I have sought rather to render the hymns scriptural and true in their tone and character, than to please the natural ear and taste by an attempt at poetic composition. Commending this little service of song to the Lord's blessing and to the acceptance of the saints,
Your brother and fellow servant, James G. Deck."
Deck in his home. (Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory, p. 79):
"We have on several occasions when there have been special sorrows or trials amongst us as a family, humbled ourselves together in prayer and fasting, and the Lord has most manifestly heard and answered our cry. It was so on one occasion (A young lad of 14 died as a result of a trifling accident). We each went to our room apart, and humbled ourselves in secret before the Lord for our personal sin and failure ... and we all afterwards assembled together and made united confession of our sins as a family before God ... that God might be glorified in him (the young lad, Augustus Clarke), whether by life or by death.
Hymn Books which included Deck's hymns: (1) Hymns for the Poor of the Flock 1838. (2) Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1842 (J.G. Deck's) 1855. (3) Psalms and Hymns for Public and Social Worship. (Dr. Walker's). (4) The Wellington Hymn Book, 1857. (editor D.C. Fox).
His hymns in 'Spiritual Songs'. (1978), with his own headings:
|2.||'Twas Thy love O God that knew us.||Everlasting Love.|
|21.||Abba, Father, we approach Thee.||Worship.|
|22.||O Lord a few of Thine are gathered to Thy Name.||Jesus in the Midst.|
|27.||Lamb of God, our souls adore Thee.||The Lamb of God.|
|28.||Lamb of God, Thou now art seated.||The Lamb of God|
|29.||O Blessed Saviour, Son of God.||Union with Christ. (Eph. 1:20-23).|
|48.||High in the Father's house above.||That Great, that Awful Day.|
|52.||Lord, we are Thine, bought by Thy blood.|
|85.||O Lord, Thy love's unbounded.||Burial.|
|86.||O Lord, Thou now art seated.||Constraining Love. (2 Cor 5).|
|106.||O Jesus, Lord, 'tis joy to know.||The Head in Heaven.|
|107.||O Lord, 'tis joy to look above.||O Lord, 'tis joy to look above (Phil. 4:4)|
|109.||Jesus! That Name is Love|
|110.||O God, Thou now hast glorified.||Christ Glorified. (Phil. 2:9-11).|
|123.||Jesus, spotless Lamb of God.||Jesus, Spotless Lamb.|
|136.||The veil is rent: our souls draw near.||The Intercessor.|
|146.||We bless our Saviour's Name.||The Lord's Supper|
|149.||Lord Jesus, we remember the travail of thy soul.||Baptism of Believers. (Rom. 6:4).|
|151.||Lord Jesus, when we think of Thee.||Joy in the Lord.|
|173.||"A little while"—the Lord shall come.||A Little While.|
|187.||O Jesus, gracious Saviour, upon the Father's throne||Succour for the Tempted. (Heb. 2:18).|
|192.||Great Captain of Salvation, now crowned with highest glory.||Jesus the Captain of our Salvation.|
|193.||Jesus my Saviour, Thou art mine.||Jesus my Saviour.|
|208.||In hope we lift our wishful, longing eyes.||Satisfied. (Ps. 17:15).|
|211.||O Jesus Christ, the Saviour, we only look to Thee||Looking to Jesus Christ.|
|212.||Called from above, and heavenly men by birth.||A Stranger Here.|
|213.||Our sins were laid on the Saviour's head.||Mount Sinai and Calvary.|
|214.||How blessed is our portion!||When we look upward|
|215.||Oh solemn hour! That hour alone.||Jesus on the Cross and on the Throne. (Deut. 21:22-23; Gal. 3:13).|
|216.||Lord, we rejoice that Thou art gone.||Jesus seeking sympathy in His joy (John 14:28).|
|218.||Soon will the Master come: soon pass away.||Jesus approving Mary's Choice (Luke 10:42).|
|219.||Lord what is man? 'Tis He who died.||Jesus the Son of Man.(Ps.8:4)|
|230.||O Lord, when we the path retrace.||The Path of Christ. (Matt. 11:29- 30).|
|234.||We're not of the world which fadeth away.||Wilderness Song|
|278.||Saviour, we long to follow Thee.||Following Christ.|
|318.||O Lamb of God, still keep us.||Safe Keeping.|
|327.||Lord Jesus are we one with Thee?||Union with Christ.|
|357.||Thou hast stood here, Lord Jesus.||Funeral Hymn. (John 11:25).|
The headings to these hymns are from Deck's book, "Hymns and Sacred Poems". Many of them are different from the versions in 'Spiritual Songs'. Deck's hymns are very popular and are included in all the versions of The Little Flock Hymn Book from 1856 to 1978.