Purified in Grace: “Cleanse Me”
If you’re looking for this hymn in a random search, be prepared to see a different title for your results. The hymn “Cleanse Me” is also available in another tile/name called “Search me, (O God).” This ‘title’ is the actual first two or four words in the first line. In the grand hymn names, the first line sometimes counts as the exact title. The hymn has four verses and four lines for each verse.
“Cleanse Me” is the work of James Edwin Orr (1912–1987). Orr was an Irish immigrant to the United States. He was born in Belfast to William Stewart Orr and Rose Wright. His wife was Ivy Muriel Carol Carlson, whom he married in 1937. In 1941, he became an American Baptist minister. A year later, he attended Northwestern University, in Illinois for his Master of Arts diploma and upon completion, he entered the Northern Baptist Seminary for his Doctor of Theology in 1943. When World War II broke out, he served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His assignment was in the Pacific theater.
A prolific writer of books, Orr’s “Cleanse me” is the only hymn he wrote. The hymn was published in 1986 with several themes. The four stanzas of this hymn evoke the themes of holiness, purity, repentance, commitment, and Consecration.
The hymn has two tunes. The most popular melodies are “Ellers” by Edward John Hopkins (1818–1901), and Joseph Barlowe made the arrangement. The “Ellers” tune, created in 1869, was set in G Major. Hopkins was an English composer with 23 melodies to his name. He also has a brother named John Hopkins, another composer of religious songs. He was a native of London, England and started working with religious music as a choir boy at the Chapel Royal.
The second alternative tune for this hymn is “Morecambe” by Frederick Cook Atkinson (1841-1896), Artkinson is another English composer, with this tune as his only work. Unlike Hopkins, Atkinson was a native of Norfolk, England. He was also a former chorister who trained under Zechariah Buck (organist and choir master, 1828–77).