This account is taken from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory" by E.E. Cornwall.
G.V. Wigram was born on March 29th. 1805, and died on February 1st. 1879. He was buried in Paddington Cemetery, London, by the side of Sir Edward Denny "Not a cloud above — not a spot within". Mr. Wigram was married twice: first to Fanny, daughter of Thomas Bligh (she died in 1834); secondly to Catharine, only daughter of William Parnell of Avondale. (She died on September 12th. 1867, in Canada).
As his name Vicesimus indicates, George Vicesimus Wigram was the 20th. child of his father, and the 14th of his mother who was the second wife of Sir Robert Wigram — she being the aunt to the late Charles Stewart Parnell. Mr. Wigram's brother James became a Vice-Chancellor and his brother Joseph became Bishop of Rochester.
When quite a young man, Mr. Wigram obtained a commission in the army. At the close of a day spent in exploring the field of the battle of Waterloo, he had a remarkable experience. There came to him such a revelation of the power of an unseen Presence; such light, such holiness, yet with it the overwhelming love and tenderness of Christ, so revealed as to remove all fear. This was his conversion at the age of nineteen. In writing afterwards he says, "Suddenly there came to my soul a something I had never known before. It was as if some One Infinite and Almighty, knowing everything, full of the deepest, tenderest interest in myself, though utterly and entirely abhorring everything in, and connected with me, made known to me that He pitied and loved myself". It was a remarkable conversion, probably indicating the special character of his testimony.
Mr. Wigram was "not disobedient unto the heavenly vision" and, resigning from the army in 1826, he entered Queens College, Oxford, with the intention of becoming a clergyman, but meeting earnest brethren in Christ, he abandoned his studies and commenced labouring for the Lord in London and elsewhere. It has been said that he all but joined Mr. A.N. Groves and his missionary band to Baghdad in June 1829. Two years later the plague broke up the little party, and eventually Mr. Groves became a missionary at Tinnevelly (South India). Shortly after this Mr. Wigram married Miss Fanny Bligh (known when a girl in Ireland) but she was called home in 1834.
While comparatively young, Mr. Wigram had the great satisfaction of seeing completed two works of great value to Bible students, which, with the aid of others, and by his own financial help, were published. They were: "The Englishman's Greek and English Concordance to the New Testament (1839)" and "The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance to the Old Testament (1843)". It was a little previous to this that Mr. Wigram completed his compilation of hymns entitled "Hymns for the Poor of the Flock (1837-38)". It contained hymns by Watts, Wesley, Cowper, T. Kelly and others; and an appendix was added, chiefly to include a number of hymns by Sir Edward Denny that had just been written. The four earliest of Mr. Darby's were also inserted, two of them being pasted in at the end of the book. Then some 18 years later (1856) Mr. Wigram compiled another hymn book entitled "A Few Hymns and some Spiritual Songs for the Little Flock", to replace the other collection. In his preface he tells us that he decided to "retouch as little as possible, and with as light a hand as possible, but allow to remain no false, no faulty, no defective doctrine — cost what it might." This valuable hymn book was revised by Mr. Darby in 1881, and again by Mr. T.H. Reynolds in 1903. In this first edition, many of the older hymns were omitted in order to make room for new ones by Denny, Deck, Darby and Miss Bowly.
Another labour undertaken by Mr. Wigram was to edit the magazine entitled "The Present Testimony", a periodical that superseded another called "The Christian Witness". This literary work, however, did not impair the freshness of his oral ministry. This (says a writer) "Like his conversion was of no ordinary kind. Like the precious stones of Aaron's breastplate, it sparkled with the various beauties and glories of the Person of the living, glorified Christ". His very face became radiant as he spoke (II Cor.3:18). Many of his addresses have been preserved and published in the two following volumes: "Memorials of the Ministry of G.V. Wigram" and "Gleanings from the Teaching of G.V. Wigram".
It was at the close of his fairly long married life that Mr. Wigram visited Canada in 1867. His wife Catherine, joined him there two months later. She, however, became ill, and was called home after a short illness, dying in Canada. Mr. Wigram was now 62, and in less than four years suffered another sorrowful bereavement in the departure of his daughter Fanny, child of his first wife. Doubly bereaved and lonely, he went abroad to minister to others in self-forgetfulness. Writing in November 1871, from Demerara, British Guiana, he said, "I came out in my old age, none save Himself with me". This led to further travel, visiting New Zealand in 1875 and Australia in 1877. Two years later he died at the age of 74 and was laid to rest with his daughter in Paddington Cemetery. It has been said that the large concourse of people there, sang a hymn in deference to his wish expressed in his lifetime, so that all might understand that he owed all to the sovereign mercy of God. "Not of Works that any man should boast". The hymn sung was:
"Nothing but mercy'll do for me,
Nothing but mercy — full and free,
Of sinners chief — what but the blood
Could calm my soul, before my God"
Mr. Wigram's hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are:-
72 Well may we sing, with triumph sing
91 Oh, what a debt we owe
l32 The Person of the Christ
330 What raised the wondrous thought
In the last of these hymns, the fifth and sixth verses were originally written thus:
Jesus! with great delight
Thy bride preparing see,
Upon Thy throne, in glory bright,
Thy bosom friend to be.
Father we sing Thy love,
Sealed with the Holy Ghost;
Nor fear, (Thy choice He will approve),
The Bridegroom's love to boast.
There is some doubt as to whether Mr. Wigram was the author of no. 132, "The Person of the Christ". It was attributed to Miss Wigram. The hymn was included in "Hymns for the Poor of the Flock" 1837/38. It was almost impossible that Miss Wigram could have written it as she was then 6 or 7 years old, having been born in 1831. Mr. E.E. Cornwall suggests the author might have been a sister of Mr. Wigram, or even Mrs. Wigram. Mr. W.J. Hocking who edited "Hymns Selected and Revised in 1928", attributes the hymn to Mr. G.V. Wigram.