William Paton Mackay

William Paton MacKay

Born: March 18, 1789, Clap­ham, Sur­rey, Eng­land.
Died: Sep­tem­ber 22, 1871, Brigh­ton, East Sus­sex, Eng­land.
Buried: St. And­rew’s Church, Hove, Sus­sex, Eng­land.

Hymns by William Paton Mackay

William Paton Mackay: A Life Transformed by Grace

There are countless stories in Christian history of individuals whose lives were radically transformed by the power of God’s grace. One such story is that of William Paton Mackay, a Scottish doctor, Presbyterian minister, and hymn writer whose journey from skepticism to faith continues to inspire believers around the world.

From the Halls of Medicine to the Halls of Faith

Born on May 13, 1839, in Montrose, Angus, Scotland, William Paton Mackay seemed destined for a life in medicine. He excelled in his studies at the University of Edinburgh, earning his MA, MB, and CM degrees before going on to receive his MD in 1870 with a thesis on leprosy. For several years, Mackay worked as a physician, dedicating himself to the care of the sick and suffering.

But God had a different plan for the young doctor. In a moment of divine intervention, Mackay’s life took a dramatic turn when he discovered his own Bible in the possession of a dying patient he was attending. This Bible, a gift from his mother when he left home at the age of 17, had been sold by Mackay to help make ends meet. The realization that this precious book had brought comfort and peace to a soul in its final hours struck a chord deep within Mackay’s heart.

A Mother’s Prayers Answered

Unbeknownst to Mackay, his mother had been fervently praying for her son’s salvation. Her faithful intercession, combined with the powerful witness of the dying patient, broke through the walls of skepticism and doubt that had long surrounded Mackay’s heart. In that moment, he encountered the transformative love of Christ and surrendered his life to the Lord.

From Doctor to Minister: A New Calling

The impact of Mackay’s conversion was so profound that he felt called to dedicate his life to sharing the gospel with others. In 1868, just two years after his spiritual rebirth, Mackay became the minister of Prospect Street Presbyterian Church in Hull. It was a newly built congregation, and Mackay poured himself into shepherding his flock with the same passion and dedication he had once given to his medical practice.

A Life Marked by Love and Hymns

In the same year that he began his ministry, Mackay married Mary Loughton Livingstone. Together, they embarked on a journey of faith and service, with Mackay’s ministry and hymn writing at the center of their shared life.

As a minister, Mackay’s gifts extended beyond the pulpit. He had a talent for writing hymns that captured the essence of the Christian faith and the joy of walking with God. One of his most beloved compositions, “Revive Us Again,” continues to be sung by congregations around the world, a testament to the enduring power of his words and the depth of his devotion.

A Melodic Mystery Solved

When William Mackay wrote the words to “Revive Us Again,” he had a very specific tune in mind – his own! Though the melody is often misattributed to composer John J. Husband, Mackay’s 1863 collection Hymnal Companion clearly states that he wrote his own tunes to accompany his texts. Furthermore, Husband died long before the tune emerged in the 1860s, and it does not appear among his documented compositions from 1789-1820.

And what a perfect match he made with this particular tune. Its simple chord structure and lively, buoyant character perfectly capture the joyful spirit of Mackay’s lyrics, lifting the heart in praise. The irregular meter of the text, mixing dactylic and trochaic patterns, is further evidence that Mackay crafted this tune specifically for these words. The rising intervals seem to embody the very act of revival – a soul being refreshed and renewed by the living water of God’s grace. The marriage of Mackay’s words and music has proven a fruitful and enduring one, blessing generations of believers with its infectious gladness.

A Legacy of Faith and Inspiration

Tragically, William Paton Mackay’s earthly life was cut short on August 22, 1885, when he suffered a fatal accident in Portree, Scotland. While boarding a ferry, Mackay fell from the pier, striking his head and spending some time in the water before being rescued. Despite regaining consciousness, he passed away later that day in a local hotel.

But the legacy of this remarkable man lives on. Through his hymns, his ministry, and the story of his transformative encounter with Christ, William Paton Mackay continues to inspire generations of believers to trust in the power of God’s grace and the faithfulness of His promises.

A Lesson in the Power of Prayer and Perseverance

For those who may be praying for loved ones who seem far from God, Mackay’s story is a powerful reminder of the importance of persistent intercession. His mother’s faithful prayers, even in the face of her son’s apparent disinterest in spiritual matters, were ultimately answered in a way that exceeded her wildest dreams.

Mackay’s life also serves as a testament to the truth that God can use anyone, regardless of their background or profession, to advance His kingdom and bring glory to His name. Whether in the halls of medicine or the halls of faith, Mackay’s commitment to serving Christ remains an example for us all.

A Call to Deeper Faith and Devotion

As we reflect on the story of William Paton Mackay, may we be inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with the God who transformed his life. May we, like Mackay, be willing to surrender our plans and ambitions to the Lord, trusting that His purposes for us are far greater than anything we could imagine on our own.

And may we, in the words of Mackay’s beloved hymn, never cease to praise the One who gave His Son for our salvation:

We praise Thee, O God,
For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus who died
And is now gone above.

Through the life and legacy of William Paton Mackay, may we be reminded of the boundless grace and transformative power of the God we serve, and may we be inspired to live each day for His glory.

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.