James Allan, 1734-1804, and Hon. Walter Shirley, 1725-1786.

Both the above are connected with hymn no. 252 in 'Spiritual Songs'.

Julian's account of both:

James Allan, born at Gayle, Wensleydale, Yorkshire, 4th. June 1734, and educated with a view to being ordained, first with two clergymen at different times, and then for one year at St. John's College, Cambridge. Leaving the University in 1752 he became a follower of Benjamin Ingham, the founder of the sect of the Inghamites, but subsequently joined himself to the Sandemanians; and finally built a chapel on his estate at Gayle, and ministered therein to the time of his death; died 31st. Oct. 1804. He published a small volume, "Christian Songs", containing 17 hymns, and was the editor and a principal contributor to the Kendall Hymn Book, 1757, and Appendix to the 2nd. edition, 1761.

The Hon. Walter Shirley, M.A. was the fourth son of the Hon. Laurence Shirley (son of the 1st Earl Ferrers, and cousin of the Countess of Huntingdon) and was born in 1725. He was a friend of Whitefield and the Wesleys, and often preached in their chapels. He was for some time Rector of Loughhrea, County of Galway. He died April 7th. 1786. A selection of his sermons was published; also two poems in 1761, "Liberty, an Ode" and "The Judgement". In 1774 he assisted the Countess of Huntingdon in revising the collection of hymns used in her chapels, and therein a few of his productions are found. In the "Life of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon 1839" Vol ii, p. 291, the following note is given on Shirley's hymn-writing:

Mr Shirley was the author of several well-known hymns in Lady Huntingdon's collection... there are also some in other collections: and a few little poems scattered in various periodical publications. The lines on the departure of the Missionaries from Lady Huntingdon's College for America, in 1772, under the direction of Mr. Piercy, have been much admired; they were re-published in the "Evangelical Magazine" in 1796, on the departure of the ship Duff, for the South Sea Islands.

Allan and Shirley's hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is no. 252, "Sweet the moments, rich in blessing". It is in all the editions of the Little Flock Hymn Book, 1856-1978.

Here is Julian's history of the hymn:

"While my Jesus I'm possessing. (Good Friday)". This hymn appeared in the Kendal Hymn Book, edited by J. Allan, 1757, no. 54, in 6 stanzas of 8 lines. In its original form it has almost entirely passed out of common use. From the hymn 24 lines were re-written by W.Shirley and included in the 1770 edition of the Countess of Huntingdon's Collection of Hymns as "Sweet the moments rich in blessing" in 3 stanzas of 8 lines. The original lines are:-

O how happy are the moments
Which I here in transport spepnd!
Life deriving from His torments
Who remains the sinners' Friend.

Here I'll sit, for ever viewing
How the blood flows from each vein;
Every stream, my soul bedewing
Mortifies the carnal flame.

Really blessed is the portion
Destined me by sovereign grace;
Still to view divine compassion
In the Saviour's bruised face.

'Tis my fixed resolution,
Jesus Christ, my Lord, to love;
At His feet to fix my station
Nor from thence a hair-breadth's move.

Filled with sinner-like contrition
With my tears His feet I'll bathe;
Happy in the sweet fruition
Of my Saviour's painful death.

May I still enjoy this feeling
In all need to Jesus go;
Prove His wounds each day more healing
And from thence salvation draw.

The full original text by J. Allan of "While my Jesus I'm possessing" is in Lyra Britannica, '67. These lines by J. Allan were manipulated by W.Shirley into the following hymn:-

Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the Cross I spend;
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinners' dying Friend.

Here I'll sit for ever viewing
Mercy's streams in streams of blood;
Precious drops my soul bedewing
Plead and claim my peace with God.

Truly blessed is this station
Low before the Cross to lie;
While I see divine compassion
Floating in the languid eye;

Here it is I find my heaven
While upon the Lamb I gaze;
Love I much? I'm much forgiven,
I'm a miracle of grace.

Love and grief my heart dividing,
With my tears His feet I'll bathe;
Constant still in faith abiding,
Life deriving from His death.

May I still enjoy this feeling,
In all need to Jesus go;
Prove His wounds each day more healing,
And Himself more deeply know!

G.V.Wigram, 1856.

Sweet the moments, which in blessing,
Musing o'er the Cross we spend;
Life and health and peace possessing
From the dying sinners' Friend.

Here we rest,—in wonder viewing
All our guilt on Jesus laid!
And a full redemption flowing
From the sacrifice He made.

Truly blessed in the station,
Low before the Lord to lie;
And to own God's full salvation
To rebellious man brought nigh

Here we find the dawn of heaven,
While upon the Lamb we gaze,
See our trespasses forgiven,
And our songs of triumph raise.

Oh! that strong in faith abiding,
We may to the Saviour cleave;
Nought with Him our hearts dividing,
All for Him content to leave.

May we still God's mind discerning,
To the Lamb for wisdom go;
There new wonders daily learning
All the depths of mercy know.

(6 stanzas of 4 lines).

This is another example of a hymn's development in different hands. The hymn is sung in its present form in 'Spiritual Songs' by singers who have no idea how the hymn has changed its form from the original by J. Allan.

Hymns by James Allan