Story behind the song: "Count Your Blessings"

Gipsy Smith, a famous evangelist of yesteryear, said of this song, “Men sing it, boys whistle it and women rock their babies to sleep to it.”

Johnson Oatman, Jr., born April 21, 1856, was a citizen of Lumberton, N.J. His dad was a local merchant and just happened to be the best singer in town, with a rich, powerful voice. Young Johnson could not sing as well as his father, yet he grew up wanting to make some musical contributions of his own. However, for a time he worked in the family business, but soon gave up those opportunities and began to study for the ministry. After finishing school and ministering in the Methodist Episcopal churches for a time, Johnson continued to hope that life surely held some other plans for him.

At 36, he realized that he did, without question, have a musical talent after all. He could write songs for other Christians to sing. So, every year some 200 songs flowed from his pen. He eventually had written 5,000 songs and was happy that in his musical compositions he had found a way to “preach the Gospel.”

Of all the songs Oatman wrote. he seemed to claim as his own favorites, “No, Not One” and “Higher Ground.”

However, people everywhere seemed to adopt another of his very special songs, “Count Your Blessings,” written in 1897. Almost immediately it began its meteoric journey.

All too often, in this great land of Nigeeia , we seem to lapse into a state of ingratitude, taking for granted all of the blessings and comforts we enjoy. We revert into an attitude of self-satisfaction, expecting that peace and bliss will always follow us. During those times we should, with sincerity of heart, count our blessings!

In this story our attention is called to three things: a very special song, a delightful season of the year and a wonderful celebration observed in America. Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday that we celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November. It became an official Federal holiday in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Oatman died in Norman, Okla. in 1922. Through his songs he continues to minister to millions.

When upon life billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.

Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.


Count your blessings, name them one by one.

Count your blessings, see what God has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one.

Count your many blessings see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings was set to music by E. O. Excell, the gentleman who arranged the melody that we use when singing “Amazing Grace.”

In everything give thanks:

for this is the will of God in

Christ Jesus concerning you.

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