Monthly Archives: December 2013

O Love that wilt not let me go


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 This is my hope for 2014. 

No matter the circumstance, the suffering, pain or any daily experience, I can make the choice to do something with my life, whether in suffering or happier times, I can surrender it.  I can turn my thoughts away from what I have lost or gained, and lift my sometimes weary soul to the far greater Love of God that will never let me go.  George Matheson, facing the loss of his sight and reeling from personal loss did just that. This hymn was an offering to God from his pain.

You can read his story below the hymn and listen to the Westminster Chorus sing this balm from Heaven.

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 followest all my way,
I yield my flickering 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 through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through 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.

 

George Matheson suffered poor eyesight from birth, and at age 15 learned that he was going blind.  Not one to be easily discouraged, he enrolled in the University of Glasgow and graduated at age 19.  He then began theological studies, and it was while pursuing those that he began totally blind.  Matheson’s three sisters rose to the occasion and tutored him through his studies –– even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother.  With their help he was able to complete his studies.   After graduation, he answered a call to serve as pastor of a church in Innellan, Argylshire, Scotland.  He had a successful ministry there, and was later called to serve as pastor of the much larger (2000 member) St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.

On the day that one of his sisters was married, Matheson wrote this hymn.  He recorded this account of that experience in his journal: “My hymn was composed in the manse of Inellan on the evening of June 6, 1882.  I was at that time alone.  It was the day of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of my family were staying overnight in Glasgow.  Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering.  The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.  It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.  I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself.  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 written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.  I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse.”

Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his “most severe mental suffering,” but people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier.  His fiancee had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life married to a blind man.  Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought to memory the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed.

At any rate, Matheson’s “severe mental suffering” inspired him to write this hymn, “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go.”  The hymn celebrates the constancy of God’s love –– “love that wilt not let me go” –– “light that follow’st all my way” –– “joy that seekest me through pain.”  It concludes by celebrating “Life that shall endless be. “When I read the various accounts of Matheson’s writing this hymn, one sentence struck me as especially important.  It was this –– Matheson said, “The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.”  There is an important lesson in that.  All of us suffer some sort of heartbreak or disappointment or disability at some point in our lives.  What makes all the difference is our response ––whether we let the hardship stop us or inspire us to greater effort.

Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan

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Battle worn and weary, but home!


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“The last drops of my sacrifice are falling; my time to go has come. I have fought in the good fight; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:6-7).

As soldiers show their scars and talk of battles when they come at last to spend their old age in the country at home, so shall we in the dear land to which we are hastening, speak of the goodness and faithfulness of God who brought us through all the trials of the way. I would not like to stand in the white-robed host and hear it said, “These are they that came out of great tribulation, all except one.”

Would you like to be there and see yourself pointed at as the one saint who never knew sorrow? Oh, no! for you would be an alien in the midst of the sacred brotherhood. We will be content to share the battle, for we shall soon wear the crown and wave the palm. — C. H. Spurgeon

“Where were you wounded?” asked the surgeon of a soldier on Lookout Mountain. “Almost at the top,” he answered. He forgot even his gaping wound — he only remembered that he had won the heights. So let us go forth to higher endeavors for Christ and never rest till we can shout from the very top, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Finish thy work, then rest, Till then rest never; The rest for thee by God Is rest forever.

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Of an old hero the minstrel sang —

With his Yemen sword for aid; Ornament it carried none, But the notches on the blade.

What nobler decoration of honor can any godly man seek after than his scars of service, his losses for the crown, his reproaches for Christ’s sake, his being worn out in his Master’s service!

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God moves in a mysterious way


William Cowper 1774

 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” .  John 3:17

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God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
the bud may have bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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