The frightful and mysterious “What if” lies at the doorstep of our every uprising. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to lose one of your faculties? What if tomorrow you awoke and were unable to speak, see or hear?
We are sometimes reminded by God just how fortunate we are to have the abilities that we possess; even if they are limited. For example: Yesterday as I was walking, my gait was slowed by musculature pain. As I began to think about why this was happening to me, I looked to the opposite of the street to see a woman dragging a plastic chair as she shuffled along the sidewalk. Apparently she could not afford a therapeutic device to steady her way of walking; hence, she was using a plastic chair for support. As I looked upon her struggle to overcome her limitation, my thoughts regarding my leg pain diminished…for her burden far exceeded mine.
William Orcutt Cushing was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, December 31, 1823. His parents were Unitarians, and his early training was along these lines, having been under the tutelage of the Unitarian minister in his home town. William was described as a most noble and thoughtful young man, and when he became old enough to read the Bible and think for himself, he joined the Christian Church. At eighteen he was certain the Lord was calling him to become a minister.
After completing his education he entered the ministry. His first pastorate was at Searsburg, N.Y. While there he became acquainted with Miss Hena Proper, and was married to her February 4, 1854. His wife proved to be a great help to him in the gospel work. After serving at Searsburg for several years, he was at different time’s also pastor at Auburn, Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Sparta, N.Y. During these years of faithful work in other churches, Hena’s health began to fail and they returned to Searsburg, where William again served as pastor. After a long illness, through which he cared tenderly for his wife, Hena went home to be with the Lord on July 13, 1870. Soon after her death, a creeping paralysis that inhibited his ability to speak came upon Cushing, and he was compelled to retire from the ministry. He pleaded with the Lord to allow him to continue to serve in some capacity.
His prayer was answered. Cushing went on to write over three hundred hymns that have been set to music by some of the most distinguished composers, including G. F. Root, Robert Lowry, Ira D. Sankey, H.P. Main and others. His hymns have added a rich contribution to American hymnology, and are sung wherever the gospel in song may be found. Many of them are still sung and beloved by the church.
According to those who knew him, Cushing was a most noble, sweet spirited Christian gentleman. To know him was to love him. He was ever mindful of the suffering of others, but was oblivious to his own. It was a characteristic of his life to minister to the needs of others, and trust the Lord to supply for his own. At one time he gave a thousand dollars, which was all he had, to a blind girl that she might secure an education. He was instrumental in the building of the Theological College at Starkey, N.Y., and also gave material aid to the school for the blind in Batavia, N.Y.
Cushing was poor in purse, but rich in spirit; homeless, but not friendless. The last thirteen years of his life were spent in the home of Pastor E. E. Curtis and his wife, Lisbon Center, N.Y. Cushing himself died in 1902 but his songs live on. His life was an inspiration to all who knew him, and his death was that of a righteous man.