The song “O To Be Like Thee” is dated to 1897 with Thomas O. Chisholm writing the lyrics and William J. Kilpatrick composing the music. Both of these men were prolific songwriters, and we have been the beneficiary of their talents for expressing our adoration to Jesus in song.
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960), Lyricist
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born July 29, 1866 in Franklin, Kentucky. He was educated and was quickly moved into the position of educating others at the age of 16. He was on the staff of the local newspaper, the Franklin Favorite. He was converted to Methodism by Henry Clay Morrison. He served as a preacher for one year; however, his constitution was not suited for the demands of the position so he resigned the work. He wrote some 1200 songs with an estimated 800 set to music. Some songs which we sing with which we may be familiar: “Living For Jesus”, “Be With Me Lord”, “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” and others. Chisholm married Katherine Hambright Vandervere in 1903, and they had two daughters. His wife passed away in 1954. Chisholm eventually retired and lived the remainder of his days at the Methodist Home for the Aged in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. He passed away on February 29, 1960 in Ocean Grove and was buried in Saint Thomas Episcopal Church Cemetery in Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania next to his wife.
William James Kilpatrick (1838-1921), Composer
William James Kilpatrick was born February 27, 1838 in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. His parents were Thomas Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Storey. His parents migrated to Pennsylvania in 1840. He was reared in the home of a musician and school teacher, so his source of training goes back to his parents. Still, he did receive formal training from T. Bishop Kirkpatrick. He published his first collection of hymns in 1859. He also wrote under a pseudonym of Annie F. Bourne. He married his first wife in 1861, but she passed away in 1878. He served for a time in the 91st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. He also worked for the Methodist Episcopal Church. Some of the songs Kilpatrick composed with which we are familiar include: “A Wonderful Savior”, “Blessed Be The Name”, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah”, “Lead Me To Calvary”, “Redeemed”, “Stepping in the Light”, and others. He married his second wife, Sara Kellogg Bourne Kirkpatrick, in 1893. William Kilpatrick died on September 20, 1921 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He had told his wife that he had a tune in his head he wanted to write down before coming to bed. She later found him at his desk dead. He was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
O To Be Like Thee
Jesus Christ is our example, our pattern, our role model. The term Christian literally means a follower of Christ. What are the characteristics of Christ which we need to be sure to have in our lives too? The song speaks of Jesus being “full of compassion, loving, forgiving, tender and kind, helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, seeking the wand’ring sinners to find.” We examine the life of Christ in the gospels and admire the Savior, but do we remember that we are to follow His example in these ways too? The song goes on to describe Jesus as “lowly in spirit,
holy and harmless, patient and brave; meekly enduring cruel reproaches, willing to suffer, others to save.”
Think about how attractive Jesus is to so many. If we want to be attracting people to Jesus, then we must have the same characteristics that Jesus manifested. Also, keep in mind that not everyone is going to be attractive to Christ by incorporating the characteristics of Jesus in our lives. That is not realistic as evil truly exists in our world. The question is which lord do we want to serve? We need to have the commitment to follow the Lord! To follow the Lord means we must be like the Lord—O To Be Like Thee!
John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.
“Thomas Chisholm.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Chisholm_(song_writer).
“Thomas Chisholm.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: http://nethymnal.org/bio/c/h/i/chisholm_to.htm.
“Thomas Chisholm.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: http://www.hymnary.org/person/Chisholm_Thomas.
“Thomas Chisholm.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/43600909/thomas-obadiah-chisholm#.
V. E. Howard, Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX: Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
“William James Kilpatrick.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/k/i/r/kirkpatrick_wj.htm.
“William James Kilpatrick.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Kirkpatrick.
“William James Kilpatrick.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/17300268/william-james-kirkpatrick.
“William James Kilpatrick.” No Pages. Cited 23 February 2018. Online: https://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bkirkpatrick.html.