One of the favorite “grace” songs that I love and think is not sung often enough is Only Through Grace. The words and music were written by J. P. Lane and copyrighted in 1909 (select HERE to see the score in shape notes). The earliest publication I have found of it (so far) is 1924, but it was probably published much earlier.[i] We sing it from Heavenly Highway Hymns in church. The theme “only through grace” runs throughout the hymn – salvation by God through the Son from beginning to end.
1. Only through grace, O wonderful story!
Only through grace, prolong the sweet sound!
Only through grace, it echoes in glory!
Only through grace, the lost has been found!
2. Only through grace our Father in heaven
Sent His dear Son to die in our place.
Life and salvation through Him are given—
Wonderful love! O wonderful grace!
3. Only through grace we press on our journey,
Kept by the power of God till the end.
Only through grace we’ll enter the portals;
Then to the Father grace will commend.
Refrain: Wonderful story! wonderful Savior!
Jesus has died and rose from the grave!
Join the glad chorus, praise Him forever—
Jesus had died, lost sinners to save!
In “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story,” David Music mentions J. P. Lane as one of the associates of Baptist evangelistic musician J. A. Brown, noting “J. P. Lane has not been identified.”[ii] Lane co-edited Soul Songs with J. A. Brown, D. P. Airhart and R. S. Coward.[iii] He also worked with Coward and H. N. Lincoln on Song Revival in 1898.[iv]
I set out on a search to learn who the composer is of this song that I like. I found evidence to identify the author/composer J. P. Lane as James Pleasant Lane of Comanche County, Texas. I first discovered that this composer was living in Comanche, Texas when he copyrighted a song called Ring the Bells.[v] I searched censuses and found a J. P. Lane in Comanche County, Texas in 1880 and 1900. I was greatly encouraged when his occupation in 1900 was listed as “Music Agt”.[vi] I was able to identify this J. P. Lane as James Pleasant “Plez” Lane, and then further corroborate this as the same person when I discovered he copyrighted the words and music of Amen, We Shall Rise as “J. Pleasant Lane” of Comanche, Texas in 1908. I believe that this identification is accurate and reliable.
James Pleasant “Plez” Lane was born September 20, 1856 in Arkansas.[vii] He was the son of Robert Russell Lane (1832–1895) and Elizabeth Williams (1835–1860). He appears in four U.S. Federal censuses – 1860 (Madison County, Arkansas), 1870 (Madison County, Arkansas), 1880 (Comanche County, Texas) and 1900 (Comanche County, Texas). Lane married Martha Ann “Mattie” Harris (1862–1904) sometime before 1880. They appear as a young couple without children in the 1880 Comanche County census. By 1900 they were parents of 9 children, 6 of whom were still living, and his occupation had changed from farming to music.[viii] Preceded in death by his wife, J. P. Lane died March 9, 1910 when only 53 years old. He and his wife are buried at the Zion Hill Cemetery, in rural Comanche County, Texas. Lane composed music for hymns that he wrote, as well composing for the hymns of others. In addition, he wrote Lane’s Analysis of Harmony and Musical Composition. A copy has been preserved at the Abilene Christian University Library, a gift from Firm Foundation editor Austin Taylor.
J. P. Lane’s church affiliation is uncertain. If he was an associate of Baptists James Andrew Brown, Daniel Patterson Airhart and Richard Stone Coward, he likely was a Baptist also. The theology of Only Through Grace well incorporates the Baptist view of salvation by grace and the eternal security of the saved. It speaks of the substitutionary atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It encourages us to live in God’s grace and praise Him for it.
Other Songs by J. P. Lane (not complete)[ix]
Adown Life’s Stream [sacred song and chorus] (words by J. S. Davis and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Eiland and Dean, Waco, Texas, 1902)
Amen, We Shall Rise (words and music by J. Pleasant Lane, Comanche, Texas, copyright 1908)
Beautiful Home of the Soul (words and music by J. P. Lane; page 60 in Songs of Promise: For Sunday Schools, Prayer, Praise, and Conference Meetings, J. H. Tenney and E. A. Hoffman, Boston, MA: Oliver Ditson & Company, 1886)
Beyond the Dark Sea (music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Emmett S. Dean and Samuel W. Hensley, 1906)
Bright and Beautiful Mansions (music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Emmett S. Dean and Samuel W. Hensley, 1906)
Calling For Thee (words by J. P. Lane and music by J. H. Tenney; page 160 in The Finest of the Wheat: Hymns New and Old, George D. Elderkin, Chicago, IL: R. R. McCabe & Company, 1894)
Cling to the Cross Alone (words by Jennie Wilson and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)[x]
Drifting Away (words by J. P. Lane and N. L. McBrayer; music by N. L. McBrayer, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
Following the Drift (words by Wm. Allen and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by J. P. Lane, 1905)
God So Loved the Word (music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
Hark, to a Sweet Voice Pleading (words by Mrs. W. J. Kennedy and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
Heaven is My Home (words arranged and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
I Am Calmly Waiting (words and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
O For a Faith that Never Wavers (words by Mrs. W. J. Kennedy and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
One By One (words and music by J. P. Lane; page 120 in Songs of Promise: For Sunday Schools, Prayer, Praise, and Conference Meetings, J. H. Tenney and E. A. Hoffman, Boston, MA: Oliver Ditson & Company, 1886)
Ring the Bells (music by J. P. Lane, Comanche, Texas, copyright 1906)
Sabbath Bells (words arranged and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Camilus Milo Barnes, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, 1903)
Sailing Home (words arranged and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Camilus Milo Barnes, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, 1903)
Saved Through the Blood of Christ (music by J. P. Lane, copyright by Emmett S. Dean, 1906)
Song of Praise (words and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1902)
The Good Shepherd (words and music by J. P. Lane; page 122 in Songs of Promise: For Sunday Schools, Prayer, Praise, and Conference Meetings, J. H. Tenney and E. A. Hoffman, Boston, MA: Oliver Ditson & Company, 1886)
The Lord Our Rock (words arranged and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by H. N. Lincoln, 1898)
The Word of His Power (words by F. L. Eiland and music by J. P. Lane; page 72 in Victory Songs, Samuel W. Beasley and James H. Ruebush, Dayton, VA: Ruebush-Kieffer Company, 1910)
This World is Not My Home (words by Bettie Holcomb and music by J. P. Lane, copyright by E. S. Dean and J. P. Lane, 1907)
[i] Blood Redemption and Christian Service Songs, L. A. Robertson, Hartford, AR: Hartford Music Co., 1924; Only Through Grace is also found in Great Joy: a Book of Gospel Songs, edited by W. O. Cooper, Albert E. Brumley, Robert S. Arnold, Hartford, AR: Hartford Music Co., 1952 and Heavenly Highway Hymns, compiled by Luther G. Presley, Stamps Baxter Music Company, 1956, and probably others.
[ii] “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”: A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America, David W. Music, Paul Akers Richardson, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008, p. 348
[iii] Soul Songs: a Book of Songs (New and Old) for Religious Work and Worship, J. P. Lane, D. P. Airhart, R. S. Coward and J. A. Brown, Waco, TX: Singing Evangelists’ Music Co., circa 1904
[iv] Song Revival: a New Song Book for Revivals, Sunday Schools and Churches, Dallas, TX: Songland Company, 1898
[vi] Apparently – Music Agent
[vii] Possibly in Madison County; The family made their home in 1860 at Prairie, in Madison County, Arkansas. The year date on his tombstone is 1858, but 1856 is probably correct. 1856 is the year he gave in the 1900 census, and agrees with his age in previous censuses. The tombstone birth dates of September 20, 1858 for James Pleasant Lane and August 4, 1858 for his sister Viola Lane Roberson indicate at least one of their birth dates is in error.
[viii] Leona, Rufus, Edna, Elma, Grace and Asie (1900 Census)
[ix] Hymnary.org lists 29 texts by J. P. Lane, but some of those are also credited to other authors. Therefore I chose to list only those I confirmed through other sources (usually the GPO Catalog of Copyright Entries). We’ll Meet Again by J. P. Lane was copyrighted by Austin Taylor in 1916. It is probably a song written by this same J. P. Lane before his death and then copyrighted for a song book called New Songs of Praise published by Taylor and Firm Foundation in 1916.