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SPIR 655: Hymns and the Christian Spirit Bruce Hindmarsh
Regent College August 26, 2002
The hymn has also had various ditsy choruses added to it during the period of the tent meeting revivals. even after a course on hymnody: William Ralph Featherston. Part Second. however I learned through Edmund Lorenz (whose book I read – see my reading report) and 1 . “interposed” to “bought me with”. Traditional American melody. Such hymnic creativity is a testimony to the deep spiritual lives of these people. It makes me bemoan the feebleness of our current-day spiritual experience. Often their names are not familiar to us. And I know Thy hand will bring me Safely home by Thy good grace. appeared in his A Collection of Hymns used by the Church of Christ in Angel Alley. a newly converted 16-year-old (“My Jesus I Love Thee”). And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home. The text of “Come Thou Fount” has been revised and adapted by many. Robert Robinson was another such author. Before taking this class. by John Wyeth. 1813. Thou hast bro’t me to this place. I was always appalled at hymn books changing the words of classic hymns. and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which issued forth in a profundity that we rarely see anymore in people so young and new in the faith. 1759. Tune: NETTLETON. 1758. from Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music. the powerful preaching of the Word of God that was heard in their day.Hymn: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Text: Robert Robinson. Hitherto Thy love has blest me. through the preaching of George Whitefield. Some of the greatest hymns in our hymnals today come from the unlikely pens of men or women who wrote only one hymn that has stood the test of time. Hither by Thy grace I’ve come. Bishopgate. Robinson was a young Methodist preacher who had just been converted two years prior at age 20. a 29-year-old classics teacher (“For the Beauty of the Earth”). At the time he wrote “Come Thou Fount” (the better known of his two only hymns). most significantly: Here I raise my Ebenezer. who changed some of the words and imagery that might not be understood by modern biblically illiterate congregations: “praise the Mount” to “praise his name”. and. Folliott Sandford Pierpoint. including Margaret Clarkson (author of our own Regent Hymn).
in most cases. with Marva Dawn (whose book I also read) I would have to call the above sorts of changes “dumbing down” the hymn. I’m fixed upon it” to the original “.. “Wandering from the fold of God” employs the common biblical theme of wandering sheep present in Isaiah 53:6. 4:30) as well as the seal of protection in Rev 7. reflects on that promised day when the Lord will come 2 . Eph 1:13. fix me on it. etc. and the site of the Temple. keep him from straying in the future. the throne of God (Joel 3:18). 1 Pet 2:25. Ps 65:4. Nonetheless.. Rev 22). as well as significant springs of God’s blessing/provision are mentioned in conjunction with the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:10-11). The Mount of the Lord is used throughout scripture as the meeting place between God and his people. The fourth stanza. 84:2). The courts above anticipate our heavenly dwelling with God (e.” (perhaps because it emphasizes faith to balance all the uncertainty portrayed in the third stanza).Mary Oyer a bit more about the process and reasoning that goes into hymn editing.O. However. Our group came to the conclusion that the hymnist is writing this hymn as his Ebenezer. “Come Thou Fount” draws deeply from the fount of Scriptural allusions. the Israelites in the wilderness (Num 20).. and it doesn’t bother me anymore. the New Jerusalem (Ezek 47. they continue to contribute to the tradition of the church.g. so he prays for God’s continued grace to bind his heart and seal it. Witness the fact that we know and prefer “Praise the Mount. and ensure him that indeed his place in heaven is secure. and streams of mercy. “Flaming tongues above” recalls Pentecost (Acts 2). The fount/river of God. The plea to “seal [my heart]” in the last line is reminiscent of the seal of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22. which is never sung anymore. once changed verses become familiar again. Hagar (Gen 16:7). Yet he knows he is still prone to wander. “Ebenezer” (Heb: “stone of help”) comes from the memorial stone that Samuel set up after God led the Israelites in defeat of the Philistines (1 Sam 7:12). to mark a point in his life where he looks back at how God rescued him from his estrangement. and elsewhere. Jesus’ “precious blood” needs no comment.
but the one we know is a lilting melody that moves along at a sprightly pace when sung well.” “melodious sonnet”) call for a cheerful tune. and this one is appropriate to the text. which presents to us in that third line the words “Jesus sought me when a stranger. wandering from the fold of God” (verse 2) and “prone to wander. That seems to fit with the lines which bookend the hymn text with images of the heart. and holding on it the last time. I feel it. “Here’s my heart. O. reaching the highest note in the whole tune three times. Thus those third lines about wandering create tension in the framework of the rest of the hymn.” Given today’s errant theology of the Rapture. a tension which is resolved both musically and textually in the fourth lines: “he. it is wise that we no longer sing this verse as it would bring wrong associations to people’s minds. “Come Thou Fount” has been set to over 45 tunes in its history.to take his “raptured soul away. seal it for thy courts above. It has four segments. This is the musical climax of the tune and draws our attention to the third line of the text as being either somehow more significant or a source of tension. interposed his precious blood” and “here’s my heart. That works well with the text. prone to leave the God I love” (verse 3). to rescue me from danger.” “songs of loudest praise.” 3 . Lord. The words of the first verse (“sing thy grace. The first two and the last are all identical. take and seal it” also has the sense of bringing the heart back to a solid place from all its wandering. O. take and seal it. while the third one is quite different and more ornamented. The opening line “tune my heart to sing thy grace” conveys the image of an outof-tune heart that needs to be brought into tune.