John T. Grape

John T. Grape

Born: May 6, 1835, Bal­ti­more, MD.
Died: No­vem­ber 2, 1915, Bal­ti­more, MD.
Buried: Green Mount Ce­me­te­ry, Bal­ti­more, MD.

Hymns by John Grape

John T. Grape may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries, but his contribution to the beloved hymn “Jesus Paid It All” has left an indelible mark on the hearts of believers for generations.

A Life of Service and Talent

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1835, John T. Grape was a man of many talents. By profession, he was a successful coal merchant, providing for his wife, Sophia F. MacCubbin, and their daughter, Agnes. But it was in his service to the church that Grape’s true passion shone through.

As a dedicated member of the Monument Street Methodist Church in Baltimore, Grape wore many hats. He lent his musical talents to the congregation as an organist and choir director, and he was also deeply involved in the church’s Sunday school program. Later in life, he would go on to direct the choir at the Hartford Avenue Methodist Church and serve as a long-time steward at the Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Birth of a Timeless Tune

But perhaps Grape’s most enduring legacy is the tune he composed that would eventually become the melody for “Jesus Paid It All.” The story of how this came to be is a testament to the power of divine inspiration and collaboration.

In Grape’s own words, “Our church was undergoing some alterations, and the cabinet organ was placed in my care. Thus afforded a pleasure not before enjoyed, I delighted myself in playing over our Sunday school hymns. I determined to give tangible shape to a theme that had been running in my mind for some time—to write, if possible, an answer to Mr. Bradbury’s beautiful piece, ‘Jesus Paid It All.’”

A Labor of Love and Prayer

With prayer and dedication, Grape crafted a melody that he felt captured the essence of the message he wanted to convey. “I made it a matter of prayer and study,” he wrote, “and gave to the public the music, now known as the tune to ‘All to Christ I Owe.’”

However, when he shared his composition with his choir and friends, they were less than enthusiastic. They pronounced it “very poor,” leaving Grape disheartened. But his wife, Sophia, saw something special in the tune. She persistently declared that it was a good piece of music and would stand the test of time. Her words of encouragement would prove prophetic.

A Divine Collaboration

When Reverend George W. Schreck visited Grape to hear any new musical offerings, Grape played his new tune for him. To his surprise and delight, Reverend Schreck expressed his pleasure with the piece and revealed that a member of his congregation, Mrs. Elvina M. Hall, had written lyrics that he believed would perfectly suit the melody.

The reverend was right. When Hall’s lyrics were set to Grape’s tune, the result was a seamless and powerful hymn that would touch the lives of countless believers. “Jesus Paid It All” was born, and though it was originally titled “All to Christ I Owe,” the message of grace and redemption remained the same.

A Legacy of Faith and Music

Grape and Hall would go on to collaborate on a handful of other hymns, some of which were published in hymnals and reached wider audiences. But none would have the same impact or staying power as “Jesus Paid It All.”

In Grape’s own words, “Soon after the Rev. Mr. Schrick called on me to select anything new in music that I had to offer. On hearing this piece he expressed his pleasure with it, and stated that Mrs. Elvina M. Hall had written some words which he thought would just suit the music. I gave him a copy of it, and it was soon sung in several churches and well received. At the suggestion of friends, I sent a copy to Professor Theodore Perkins, and it was published in ‘Sabbath Chords.’ Under the providence of God, it has been going ever since. I trust that it has not failed in the accomplishment of some good to my fellow-men, for the glory of God.”

The story of John T. Grape and “Jesus Paid It All” serves as a powerful reminder that we should stay true to what we believe, even when others may doubt or criticize us. When Grape’s choir and friends told him that his tune was “very poor,” he could have easily become discouraged and abandoned the piece altogether. But he didn’t. With the encouragement of his wife and the conviction in his heart, he persevered.

Imagine if Grape had given up on his tune when others told him it was no good. The world would be poorer for it, and countless believers would have missed out on the blessing and inspiration of “Jesus Paid It All.” Grape’s perseverance in the face of criticism is a testament to the importance of holding fast to our God-given dreams and talents, even when the road gets rough.

As we reflect on the life and legacy of John T. Grape, let us be encouraged to stand firm in our faith and our calling. Let us remember that when we offer our gifts to God, He can use them in powerful ways, even if others may not see their value at first. May we, like Grape, trust in the providence of God and persevere in using our talents for His glory, knowing that our efforts are never in vain when they are offered in service to the One who paid it all.

Don Chapman

Don Chapman

Composer/arranger Don Chapman has created HYMNDEX as a labor of love to help new generations learn about the lives, legacies and lyrics of historic hymn writers.