Six year old boys are not meant to be travelers. Boys that age are still growing and learning. Packing up your home and moving to a different country was dangerous and stressful stuff in 1817. Nonetheless, William’s family left their home in Ireland and headed for a new world.
The boy learned to adjust in the new land, excelled in school and eventually found himself enrolled at the now defunct Madison College in Western Pennsylvania. From there, he began a career as an educator.
William became the Professor of Hebrew at Allegheny College. When his tenure ended, he moved to Alliance, Ohio where he took the pulpit at one of the local churches.
Why am I telling you all of this, you may ask? Well, one of the things we learn in the Bible is that we are citizens of Heaven while we are just passing through on this Earth. That makes me think of a popular hymn by William. William wrote 125 hymns, but have you ever heard of William Hunter?
I thought so. To be honest, neither had I. William’s hymns have passed by the wayside and there is only one of them still being sung today. It’s entitled, “I Feel Like Traveling On.”
You may know it. It is a fun song and I love singing it, but here is the thing: I actually live in Alliance, Ohio and I had never heard of William Hunter. Our church is in a small town less than 10 miles from William’s church. One Sunday, we sang his hymn. I loved it and did some quick research. I was shocked to find that William had lived right here!
How did we not know this? How could a man leave a legacy like that and no one in his home town knew of him? I mean, there is a very real possibility that William once visited our own church and sang that song right here!
William has traveled on, now. He died in Cleveland, Ohio in 1877. No one around here seems to know who William Hunter was or what he did while he was here among us. I think we miss something when we forget people like William, but the lesson is real and it is subtly driven home by his own hymn. The book of James says this:
“...you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
How true! William Hunter was a big deal in his day but, today, we can sing his songs and not even know that he once walked on our streets, shopped in our stores and preached to our churches.
It is a good reminder that we don’t tarry here forever. We are traveling on and our home is not here, but somewhere brighter and fairer.