Above: Christ Church Episcopal, Rugby, Tennessee
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-14791
Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith
THOMAS HUGHES (OCTOBER 20, 1822-MARCH 22, 1896)
British Social Reformer and Member of Parliament
Thomas Hughes was an Oxford-educated jurist, writer, and social reformer. He joined the bar in 1848, the same year he became a Christian Socialist under the influence of Charles Kingsley and Frederick Denison Maurice. Hughes became a Queen’s Counsel in 1869 and a Court Judge in 1882. And he served as a Member of Parliament (from the Liberal Party) from 1865 to 1874. His politics included pro-labor union, antislavery, and anti-opium trade stances. His abolitionism led him to support the federal side in the U.S. Civil War, given the proslavery position of the Confederacy.
Hughes also wrote books. Tom Brown’s School Days (1857), the volume by which he beame famous, was an autobiographical work of fiction about his time as a pupil at the Rugby School when Dr. Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) was the headmaster. A sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, was less successful. Other works included:
- The Scouring of the White Horse (1859), a vacation narrative;
- Alfred the Great (1869), a biography;
- Memoir of a Brother (1873);
- The Manliness of Christ (1879);
- Life of Daniel Macmillan (1882);
- James Fraser, Second Bishop of Manchester (1887); and
- David Livingstone (1890).
Hughes traveled to the United States several times. One effect of these trips was the 1879-1880 founding of Rugby, Tennessee, a utopian colony (http://www.historicrugby.org/). It was supposed to be a classless society with certain English customs, but it was over by 1887.
Hughes wrote one hymn, “O God of Truth, Whose Living Word” (1859), the text of which follows:
O God of Truth, whose living Word
Upholds whate’er hath breath,
Look down on Thy creation, Lord,
Enslaved by sin and death.
Set up Thy standard, Lord, that we
Who claim a heavenly birth
May march with Thee to smite the lies
That vex Thy groaning earth.
Ah! would we join that blest array
And follow in the might
Of Him the Faithful and the True,
In raiment clean and white.
We fight for Truth, we fight for God,
Poor slaves of lies and sin.
He who would fight for Thee on earth
Must first be true within.
Then, God of Truth, for whom we long,
Thou who wilt hear our prayer,
Do Thine own battle in our hearts,
And slay the falsehood there.
Still smite! still burn! till naught is left
But God’s own truth and love;
Then, Lord, as morning dew come down,
Rest on us from above.
Yea, come! Then, tried as in the fire,
From every lie set free,
Thy perfect truth shall dwell in us,
And we shall live in Thee.
This hymn seems to have fallen out of favor in recent hymnals. I have surveyed my collection not found it in any volume published after 1940. And rarely have I found all seven verses together, much less unaltered.
Hymns fall out of favor and utopian experiments fail, but that which compelled Thomas Hughes to work for a better, more just society persists. The love of Christ persists. May it compel us to leave our corners of the world better than we found them. And, with God’s help, may we succeed.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 19, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER, U.S. STATESMAN
THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS
THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY OF UPPSALA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFSTAN OF WORCESTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.
Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.
Help us, like your servant Thomas Hughes, to work for justice among people and nations,
to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60