J. C. Fisher was a co-worker with D. S. Warner and author of both words and music to many of our oldest songs. Among them are “I’m Redeemed” (Evening Light Songs #186), and “The All-Cleansing Fountain” (Evening Light Songs #156).
Joseph C. Fisher was born in Bleadon, Somersetshire, England, on July 13, 1845. “He came to the United States at eleven years of age and located in Michigan.
When President Lincoln sent out his call for volunteers to save the union, Fisher, then only a boy of sixteen, enlisted in Company A of the Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, and on many of the bloodiest battlefields of the Civil War he earned his citizenship and proved his loyalty to his adopted country.”
At age 22 he married 13-year-old Alice (Allie) Rosetha Smith on July 6, 1868, in Chesaning, Michigan. In the early 1880s the couple met and became partners with D. S. Warner in his Gospel Trumpet publishing efforts. Joseph Fisher became his co-editor of the Trumpet. Fisher also had great musical talent and soon began setting D. S. Warner’s poetic lyrics to music. Together they composed the first songbook published by the Gospel Trumpet Company in 1885. Many of those songs are still sung today.
One of the hardest blows of D. S. Warner’s life, besides the backsliding and defection of his own wife, Sarah, was that of his close friend, associate songwriter, and co-editor, J. C. Fisher. After Fisher announced his intent to divorce his wife, D. S. Warner told Fisher he would not publish another issue of The Gospel Trumpet in partnership with him. Consequently, J. C. Fisher’s name appeared in the columns of The Gospel Trumpet as “co-editor” and “publisher” for the last time in the June 15, 1887, issue. That same month, D. S. Warner invited Enoch E. Byrum to come take his place, which invitation Enoch accepted. Barney Warren took Fisher’s place as a composer and writer of music. In the August 1, 1887, issue of The Gospel Trumpet, D. S. Warner publicly exposed Fisher’s corruption and apostasy, saying,
“You took that woman [Allie R. Smith] in her youth for your lawful wife. You solemnly covenanted before God that you would cherish her to the end of life as your wife. You lived together when sinners. And since both become saved you have lived and labored together in the vineyard of the Lord as holy man and wife. You have told more than once in the pulpit that you loved your wife as dearly as any man, and now to say that you never loved, and were led of God to put her away; thus, bringing doubts and confusion into the minds of sinners and young disciples, imperiling immortal souls, and bringing reproach on the cause of Christ. To say you were led of God in this is simply preposterous. And if not led of God, you must have been led of the devil. Therefore, you cannot have the favor of God upon your soul until you repent and retrace the steps of Satan’s leading. Even though you had not been originally joined with the proper measure of divine love, would not perfect love in your hearts enable you to live together in love and kindness and respect, and would not God require this at your hands rather than furnish the enemies of His Church an occasion of much evil speaking and reproach? If a man has a right to put away his wife because married when sinners on a low plain of love, and because his eyes have fallen upon someone else that suits him better, then all others who were joined in a similar way have the same right. And should they use it, the Church of God would become a place of trading wives, instead of a holy temple filled with the pure love of God, which ‘turns the hearts of the children to the parents and the parents to the children,’ and strengthens and intensifies the bonds of matrimony, and blesses all the relations of life. O let it not now be said you never have loved. These words from your own lips will judge you in the last day: ‘has transferred my love from her to another.’ Yea it is too plain that it was the unholy and sin created attractions of ‘another’ that killed your love for the wife of your youth.
“The Word of God says, ‘Let not the husband put away his wife.’ ‘Art thou bound unto a wife, seek not to be loosed.’ – 1 Cor. 7:11, 27. Does the Spirit of God lead a man contrary to the Word? ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.’ – 1 Pet. 3:7.
“… O may God deliver all such deceived souls out of the snare of the devil. The woman who allowed herself to receive those sinful attentions, and reciprocated the same, is no better than the man. We have personally admonished those parties, and rebuked their evil doings, and there was some penitence shown, but no confession made of the real wrongs committed, but rather a plea of self-justification. Hence it is evident that the sore of iniquity was not removed. Many have been whipped and bluffed into an endorsement of the crooked in heart. But God will not suffer sin to be covered by His saints.
“… Let all saints pray earnestly that God may completely deliver these dear ones. While God lives in us, His cause cannot and will not be sacrificed for any personal consideration.
“O let us solemnly warn all the beloved saints of God to give no place to the free-love devil. ‘HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES.’ To be more courteous and obliging to any other woman than your wife is an abomination in the sight of God. To prefer the company of another woman is sin. …”
Only two years prior to this, Fisher had written an excellent article in the March 1, 1885, issue of The Gospel Trumpet on “The Law of Christ Concerning Marriage.” In this article he had brought out, about as clearly as it could ever be expounded, the New Testament teachings about marriage, and the sin of divorce and remarriage. Now he was turning to follow a course exactly opposite of what he had taught!
Sadly, Fisher and the woman with whom he committed adultery never recovered from their error. He divorced his wife, Allie, that same year and married this other woman to whom he claimed God had transferred his love. Her name was also “Alice.” J. C. Fisher died April 6, 1917, in Lagrange, Indiana, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery there.
Just as the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, written by Solomon of old before his wives turned his heart away from the Lord, are still a blessing to us today, so the songs and writings of J. C. Fisher, written before the devil seduced him, when his heart was in harmony with God’s Spirit and truth, are still a blessing to the people of God.