Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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College History



Reverend J.E. Rankin, Commencement speaker

The Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Eames Rankin, D.D., LL.D., of Charlestown, Massachusetts spoke at Commencement.

Born in Thornton, New Hampshire on 2 January 1828, Thornton graduated from Middlebury College in 1848.  He read theology at Andover, and was pastor of the First Congregational Church of St. Albans, Vermont from 1857 to 1863, and subsequently was pastor of churches in Lowell and Charlestown (Winthrop Church), MA, Washington, D.C., and Orange, NJ.  Rankin served as chaplain of the United States House of Representatives. He was Professor of Pastoral Theology at Howard University, and served as Howard University's President from 1889 to 1903. Rankin died in 1904.

In Washington, D. C. on 22 October 1883, a vast number of citizens assembled in Lincoln hall to express to their views on the Supreme Court decision that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional. Addresses were delivered by Hon. Frederick Douglass, Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, Judge Samuel Shellabarger, and Rev. J. E. Rankin, D. D. The occasion brought together the most prominent black citizens of the district, including Frederick Douglass, Blanche Bruce, Richard T. Greener, John F. Cook, Rev. Francis Grimké, and white leaders such as Col. R. G. Ingersoll, Rev. J. E. Rankin, Judge Shellabarger, President Patton of Howard University, and others equally famous for their efforts on behalf of equal rights and justice.

In 1878, Rankin edited the Gospel Temperance Hymnal, and later Gospel Bells. His own hymns appeared there, as well as in D.E. Jones' Songs of the New Life, 1869. His best known hymn is "Labouring and heavy laden" (Seeking Christ), written [in 1855, and first printed in the Boston Recorder. It was later included in Nason's Congregational Hymn Book, 1857. Another of his hymns is "Rest, rest, rest, brother rest." For an image of Rankin, and a list of his hymns, see Hymnary.org.

Rankin published numerous sermons and pamphlets, including: A Spurious Fear of God, 1861; Consolation at the Death of Believers, 1862; The Loss of a Wife, 1862; Moses and Joshua: a Discourse on the Death of Abraham Lincoln, 1865; The Sources of New England Civilization, 1866; The Claims of the Bible to a Place in Our Schools, n.d.; and The Divinity of the Ballot, 1887.

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