Monday, June 15, 2009

O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go I have recently been inspired by two things to learn more hymns.  I am reading “A Chance to Die” by Elisabeth Elliot.  It is a biography of Amy Carmichael.  Amy was herself a great poet, and a lover of all things beautiful and lovely.  There is so much doctrine in the old hymns.  They are wonderful to mediate upon.


The second thing which inspired me was an interview on Revive Our Hearts in which Nancy Leigh DeMoss interviewed Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth and their family.  They use hymns as a tool to teach the youngest of children about the Gospel and doctrine. 


I have been blessed to have a great teacher (my Mom) and I think that my brothers and I know a lot of hymns – we are both familiar with many, and have a great many memorized.  I am surprised even at our Baptist Church how many hymns the people do not know.  Sometimes Ben will choose a song that we both grew up singing, and after the first stanza it is apparent that we are the only two who know it. 


So, I have determined to memorize some hymns, and I thought I would post my selections here also.  The first hymn is “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” by George Matheson (1842-1906).  I did not know this hymn until I went to Ambassador Baptist College.  One of the girls in my hymn arranging class did an arrangement on it.


I looked up the history of this hymn.  Apparently Mr. Matheson was the eldest of eight children.  He was born with bad eyesight, and by the time he was twenty he was completely blind.  He was educated at the University of Glasgow where he graduated top of his class.  He desired to go into the field of theological study.  His eyesight would not allow this. 


Since he was educated for the ministry, he accepted a pastorate.  He lived with his sister, who cared for him.  It is said that he would dictate his sermon to his sister.  She would then read it back to him twice, and

he would memorize it to preach on Sunday. 


On the night that his sister was married, Mr. Matheson penned the words to this hymn.  Some say that her wedding was a tragic reminder of his own romance in his youth.  It ended when his fiancée learned of Mr. Matheson’s failing eyesight and refused to go through life with a blind man.  Whatever the thoughts and inspiration that provoked this hymn, Mr. Matheson himself said,


“I am quite sure that the whole work was com­plet­ed in five min­utes, and equal­ly sure that it ne­ver re­ceived at my hands any re­touch­ing or cor­rect­ion. I have no na­tur­al gift of rhy­thm. All the other vers­es I have ever writ­ten are man­u­fact­ured ar­ti­cles; this came like a day­spring from on high."  (Wikipedia)


Here is the text of the hymn:


O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe,

That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.


O Light that foll’west all my way,

I yield my flick’ring torch to Thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.


O Joy that seekest me thru pain,

I cannot close my heart to Thee;

I trace the rainbow thru the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.


O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from Thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.


The music to this hymn was written by Albert L. Peace, 1844-1912

1 comment:

  1. Just had to comment on your excellent post. As a retired pastor of 40 years, and one who has preached in many churches, I share your frustration that so many are unfamiliar with the great hymns of the church.

    Many times I have requested that a particular hymn be used for the closing as it relates so well to my message. But the response is too often, "We don't know that one." How sad. Occasionally, I've said, "Okay, but let's sing it anyway. Let's learn it!"

    I have long advocated that Bible schools have a course in hymnology (required!), so that pastors and other Christian workers graduate with a better knowledge of our wonderful heritage in this area.

    Meanwhile, I'm trying to do my part. For years I've had a weekly newspaper column on hymns (have written over 600 of them now), and this spring I started a daily blog on the subject called Wordwise Hymns. I'm sure you and your husband would enjoy it, and perhaps find it useful. Each day, I tell what happened in hymn history on that day.

    And one more suggestion before I go. Occasionally I have led a Bible study built around the words of a hymn. If you take a look at "How Firm a Foundation," for example, you'll see that almost every line is a quotation or paraphrase of some Bible verse. It makes a wonderful basis for discussion. And after that, folks will sing the hymn with more appreciation for its meaning.

    God bless you and yours. Let's keep on encouraging others to mine these treasures.


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