If you ask anyone that knows me they can probably tell you that I don't have any favorites. I don't have a favorite color, or a favorite food, and definitely don't have a favorite song/hymn. But that doesn't mean that I don't think there are some songs/hymns that are better than others. And today's hymn is definitely better than many others, for a number of reasons.
I first remember being drawn to this hymn as a worship planner/leader because it is a great hymn as a gathering song at the beginning of a service. Most of the song's melody only uses 6 notes, and only goes the full octave 3 times (and not even at the end) - so almost anyone can sing it. But the words are like the 'frog in the kettle', you easily start singing the simple words of the first verse that seem so innocent that even the rocks and trees might sing it.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise His name I'm fixed upon it-- Name of God's redeeming love.
The second verse moves into more personal reflection, but still something that even a church-once-a-year Christian would be comfortable singing.
Hitherto Thy love has blest me; Thou hast bro't me to this place;
And I know Thy hand will bring me Safely home by Thy good grace.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Bought me with His precious blood.
But it takes a bit more experience to sing the third verse.
O to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be!
Many of us sing those words and just don't even think of what we're saying. How can you be in debt to grace ... I mean ... what does that actually look like? And do we really mean that? DAILY? Not just paying the monthly (or weekly) bill of worship, but to be constrained to be in debt each day to GRACE?
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
In our country, when 'God is good to us' most people tend to not even acknowledge His role in the goodness. In fact, an act of God is almost always bad. How different to think of God's goodness as a chain or shackle that actually binds our heart to him. And that his goodness can be a preventative for us from wandering.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Wow, were on the penultimate phrase of the entire hymn, on literally the high notes of the song, and we're admitting to being prone to ignore everything we've just sung about. If we're honest about this section we really shouldn't be singing the melody written here, but some dissonant, minor, or obscure modal line that reflects just how scary this thought could be ... that we actually admit that we are prone to actually leave God! How can we even go on with the rest of the song? If David were writing this I think we would need a Selah or a silent cadenza here so we can take time to contemplate what we've just sung.
Here's my heart, O take an seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.
And, without skipping a beat, literally, we sing the only words that we really can after the previous phrase. For if God doesn't seal our hearts (seal it from being prone to wander, along with a myriad of other sins) the song would have to end after the previous phrase.
So what's this got to do with biking?
Well, it's always dangerous for us musicans to go out on a long bike ride - esp. us instrumentalists. These thoughts came to me while I was out on a bike ride (the pedaling kind of bike). The hymn came to me when I was just under a mile out into the ride. I began to sing it in my head (lest in injest bugs as I sang and rode). at about mile 6 I came to that penultimate phrase. But you really can't sing a dissonant-minor-obscure modal phrase. But very easy to do on the piano (my primary instrument). But now I'm 6+ miles away from the piano. Well, 6 miles later I was finally able to realize that treatment of the phrase.
But after a phrase in that style, the final phrase just didn't seem to reflect the joy that we should have, and express, for those that trust that our hearts ARE sealed for His courts above.
After almost an hour (handily using the metrical index of the hymnal) I found what I think is a great follow-up.
All my sins have been forgiven; God is merciful to me;
Faith has claimed the Savior's prmoise, Grace and pardon, full and free;
O my soul, be ever praising For the great Redeemer's love;
Joyous songs to Him be raising, Unto God in heav'n above.
My account is closed forever; Jesus Christ has paid it all;
Shed His blood my sin to cover, Paid the price to save my soul;
There is now no condemnation, I am fully reconciled;
What a wonderful salvation, For a sinner so defiled!
How my counless sins depressed me, Gave me sorrow, shame and tears,
How His wrath and anger crushed me, Filled my heart with doubts and fears;
But my soul cried out in anguis, CAlled for mercy and for grace,
Jesus heard my supplication, Granted pardon and release.
Now my soul shall live forever; No more can the Foe condemn;
Nothing from God's love can sever, Peace and joy are found in Him.
Thus I journey on to heaven, Cross death's portals joyfully;
All my sins have been forgiven, God is merciful to me.
I don't know if Robert Robinson ever met Phillip F. Hiller or if either one read, sung or heard the other's words, but I can't immagine a more complete set of lyrics that capture what the other person was writing.
Next time you sing the first, I challenge you to consider continuing to sing the latter also (if you can handle singing a 5-verse hymn.
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
|Robert Robinson (1758)|
|NETTLETON 8 7 8 7 D.|
|Traditional American melody (cir. 1815)|
All My Sins Have Been Forgiven
|AUTHOR:||Phillip F. Hiller (1767)|