Precious Memories

Precious Memories

Text: Psalms 119:97-104


I.         This lesson actually started out as a challenge to myself. I had read yet another article that talked about how “Precious Memories” was a poor song, lacking in scriptural foundation.

            A.        But I could think of several applicable verses, so I decided to do a lesson based on the thoughts of the song

            B.        Background:

                        1.         The song was written by John Baselton Fillmore Wright. He was born in Tennessee in February 21, 1877, the fifth of twelve children. His parents moved to Box Church in Limestone County, Texas, in 1879. He grew up here and married a local girl named Fannie Jackson. They left their home town and moved around Texas for many years.

                        2.         In 1909, his mother died. Mr. Wright later told Clint Bonner, a hymnologist, that he remembered her as one of “the sweetest singers of her generation.”

                        3.         His father died five years later in 1914.

                        4.         “We lived by the railroad, below Hamlin, Texas. Little three-year-old Everett would watch for the ‘chwains,’ as he called them, and he would stand at the front yard gate and wave his little hands to the trainmen as they passed our house. They would always wave back to him. On Sunday evening, January 22, 1922, he [Everett] was stricken with ‘Membrane’s Croup’ [diphtheria] and the next day, just as the sun went down, our little boy was dead. For many days after this, when the trains would pass the trainmen would be watching for little Everett to wave, but he was not there. Many times I watched them looking for him, and I wept and cried.”

                        5.         Over a year later, on the night of October 23, 1923, he wrote “Precious Memories.”

                        6.         He sold the song to V.O. Stamps who published it in 1925 in Harbor Bells. J. B. F. Wright was listed as the owner, but Mr. Stamps neglected to include the copyright date.

                        7.         There was a verbal agreement, according to Mr. Wright’s distant cousin, Nellie Wright, that John would be paid royalty each time the song was recorded, but he only received one $36 check. Mr. Stamps died soon afterward and his heirs would not honor the agreement. Instead, they filed a copyright in their company’s name for the song in 1938.

                        8.         J. B. F. Wright died October 13, 1959, never being paid but once for the song he was most noted for.

                        9.         Later, in 1966 Stamps-Baxter renewed their copyright having Lonnie B. Combs add an additional stanza to the song. This was a common tactic of theirs when a copyright ran out or there was questions about the ownership. They could then claim ownership of the “new” song with the additional verse.

II.        “Precious memories, unseen angels Sent from somewhere to my soul – How they linger, ever near me And the sacred past unfold”

            A.        “Angels” means “messengers.” The angels are God’s messengers. They brought God’s Word to mankind in the past - Hebrews 2:2

            B.        Here “memories” are called unseen angels, messengers sent to remind me and to stay with me.

                        1.         Consider those who have taught us

                                    a.         The things we learn in childhood tend to stay with us - II Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15

                                    b.         Memories of faithful teachers - II Timothy 2:2

                                                (1)       The Levites were the teachers of the law in the Old Testament and they were seen as messengers of God because of their duty - Malachi 2:7

                                                (2)       We serve God teaching others and living by the Word - I Timothy 4:6

            C.        But most important are the teachings of God, His records of the past - Romans 15:4

                        1.         These memories, recorded by angels (whom we have not seen), were for us - I Peter 1:10-12

                        2.         Just not the Old, but the New as well - II Peter 1:13-21

                        3.         We need reminders. We need our memories stirred up, so that the things we have learned are always fresh on our minds.

III.       “Precious father, loving mother, Fly across the lonely years, And old home scenes of my childhood In fond memory appears.”

            A.        Repeatedly in Proverbs we are told not to forget the teachings of our parents

                        1.         They make us look better - Proverbs 1:8-9

                        2.         They have given us good teachings according to God’s Law - Proverbs 4:1-2

                        3.         They teach us how to make good choices and to teach others the truth - Proverbs 5:1-2

            B.        We are to honor our parents, so that our lives are better and longer - Ephesians 6:2-3

                        1.         In part it is because our parents taught us of the Lord - Ephesians 6:4

                        2.         Solomon recalled his father’s teachings - Proverbs 4:3-9

                        3.         And so he passed them down - Proverbs 4:10-13

            C.        Parents, not only remember your childhood, but think for a moment: What memories will you leave for your children?

                        1.         Will they remember your wisdom, your prayers, your songs, your joy in being a child of God?

                        2.         When you’ve passed on, what legacy will you have left behind? - Proverbs 13:22

                        3.         We won’t always be around - Psalms 103:13-18

IV.      “In the stillness of the midnight Echoes from the past I hear; Old time singing, gladness bringing From that lovely land somewhere.”

            A.        David, at times, had trouble sleeping - Psalms 77:2-14

                        1.         The nights are a time for memories to arise and for us to contemplate what it all means.

                        2.         David considered the past - Psalms 77:5-6

                        3.         And he realized that the past taught that God works wonders - Psalms 77:11-14

            B.        Recall that David remembered songs in the night? - Psalms 77:6

                        1.         Songs are tools to teach - Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:17-20

                        2.         Melodies help keep ideas in our minds

            C.        David recalled all that God has taught him and realized the joy that he had - Psalms 16:6-11

V.        “As I travel on life's pathway, Know not what the years may hold; As I ponder, hope grows fonder, Precious memories flood my soul.”

            A.        We don’t know what the future may hold for any of us - James 4:14

            B.        One of the things that carried Paul through, was his memories of his brethren - Philippians 1:3

            C.        Yet we can travel life’s path more confidently with the memories of what we have learned - Proverbs 6:20-23

            D.        Through it all, good or bad, our hope of heaven remains - Colossians 1:3-6

            E.        Grounded in the Spirit’s teachings - Ephesians 3:14-21

VI.      “Precious memories, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul; In the stillness of the midnight, Precious, sacred scenes unfold”

            A.        “Precious Memories” is song that teaches an important spiritual concept: the importance of remembering the past – the teachings we received and the examples we’ve been shown - Psalms 78:1-8

            B.        Not all memories are pleasant. Sometimes we have to learn lessons on what not to do - I Corinthians 10:11-12

            C.        But in our memories of God’s Word there is guidance that leads us ever onward - Colossians 1:21-23

            D.        Apply those lessons to your life - James 1:21-25

            E.        Paul was thankful for his brethren’s memory - I Corinthians 11:2


          Robert J. Taylor, “Precious Memories,” A Song Is Born, Taylor Publications, 2005

          Wayne Walker, “Precious Memories,” Hymns Studies Blog, 2008