Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, 1813-1875

The information in this note is from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory", by E.E. Cornwall:

S.P. Tregelles was born in Wodehouse Place near Falmouth on January 30th. 1813, and died in Plymouth on April 24th 1875. He was buried in Plymouth Cemetery.

Dr. Tregelles is remembered as a scholar, rather than a hymnist, the making of hymns was incidental to his life work. Dr. Julian says, "His deep interest in Biblical studies led him to desire to produce the most perfect edition of the New Testament possible. Two strokes of paralysis hindered his work in 1861 and 1870. He was one of the new Testament revisers, but ill health prevented his taking an active part".

Samuel's parents were Quakers, and he was educated at Falmouth Grammar School. Losing his father at the age of 15, he was employed at the Neath Abbey iron works. His great love of languages, however, led him to devote his leisure to the study of Hebrew, Greek, Chaldee and Welsh. At the age of 25, he took up the critical study of the New Testament, and this became his life work.

Touching the hymns of Dr. Tregelles, most of his earlier ones are to be found in the three following: "Hymns for the Poor of the Flock"; "The Little Flock Hymnal" and "Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs" (J.G. Deck's 1842). These hymns set forth in simple direct and scriptural language the happy lot of those whom grace has placed in all the favour of God their Father, and all the blessed consequences that flow from Divine relationships. The scriptural doctrines of election and predestination are touched upon in his hymns, but in harmony also with "whosoever will".

The researches of Dr. Tregelles led him to visit many cities on the continent of Europe. In 1845 he spent five months in Rome, with the hope of collating Codex B in the library of the Vatican. It was said to consist of 700 leaves of the finest vellum, and we are told that the two priests told off to watch him would try to distract his attention if he seemed too intent upon a passage, and if he studied any part of it too long they would snatch away the book. In 1862 he visited Tischendorf at Leipzig to examine Codex Sinaiticus in whose keeping it was, before being deposited in St. Petersburg. He also met Lachman, the Greek scholar in Berlin. Indeed he visited nearly every city in Europe where uncial or cursive manuscripts were likely to be found. As an example of his untiring labours, he restored and deciphered at Trinity College, Dublin, the Palimpsest "Dublinensis" (Codex Z) of St. Matthew's Gospel.

Dr. Tregelles was made L.l.D and made many contributions to works of learning. The following are his chief works taken from the National Dictionary of Biography:- 1). Hebrew Reading Lessons; 2). Prophetic Visions in the Book of Daniel; 3). Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon; 4). The Original Language of St. Matthew's Gospel; 5). The Jansenists; 6). Hebrew Psalter; 7). Defence of the Book of Daniel; 8). Hebrew Grammar; 9). Collation of the Text of Griesbach and Others; 10). Fragments of St. Luke (Codex Zacynthius); 11). Hope of Christ's Second Coming. This last book lets us into a secret. "That blessed hope" was a reality to him. It comes out in his hymns: "In this hope our hearts rejoice, And His blessed Advent waiting, soon shall hear His blessed Voice". If in the matter of the interpretation of prophecy, Dr. Tregelles may have differed from those with whom he so largely sympathised; if, maybe, he could not see eye-to-eye with those brethren who helped to sound forth the midnight cry; yet the truth they held attracted, and became part and parcel of him.

After his second attack of paralysis in 1870, Dr. Tregelles lived for five years, continuing his loved work even in bed. He died in Plymouth in 1875. His portrait can be seen in the Plymouth Athenaeum. In the year 1860, Dr. Tregelles visited Spain, being greatly interested in the Protestants of that priest-ridden land, and particularly in the sufferings of Don Manuel Mutamoros, a Christian martyr of the nineteenth century.

Dr. Tregelles' hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are:

9 Father, we Thy children bless Thee

63 Son of God! With joy we praise Thee

68 Thy Name we bless, Lord Jesus

204 Tis sweet to think of those at rest

205 One Spirit with the Lord

249 O Lord in Thee believing (this hymn in the index of authors in 'Spiritual Songs' is given as S.P. Tregelles or J.G. Deck)

259 The gloomy night will soon be past (this hymn originally consisted of six verses, but was split into two hymns by Mr. Wigram, who introduced the four last verses as a separate hymn, commencing with the line "Ah yes! Lord Jesus, Thou whose heart". The six verse form has been retained in 'Spiritual Songs')

295 Holy Saviour we adore Thee

337 O God of Grace our Father, All praise we give to Thee

Those who use the 'Spiritual Songs' Hymn Book will recognise that most, if not all, are well-loved hymns worthy of a place in the hymn book.

Hymns by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles