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Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel
Note: The hymn was first published in 1905, and the text was credited to Charlotte G. Homer, a pen name of Charles Gabriel’s. This social convention was followed by gospel song books for the next forty years, but now books dispense with it and give Gabriel credit by name for both words and music.
Mr. Gabriel’s contribution to gospel music, near the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, was extensive. The popularity of his songs was increased by their frequent use in Billy Sunday’s evangelistic meetings. The present song was a particular favourite because it provided a testimony of the transforming power of the cross.
The Petersens’, in their book The Complete Book of Hymns (p. 615), tell of a gentleman sitting on the platform before a congregation of five hundred, overwhelmed as he heard them sing this hymn with great feeling. He said, “I saw the glow in their faces and heard the passion of their voices, and I felt, ‘Here is the true Christian apologetic.’”
CH-1) In lovingkindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Through grace He lifted me.
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me,
From shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me!
With the poetic imagery of being “lifted,” there seems to be a connection with David’s testimony:
“[The Lord] brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD” (Ps. 40:2-3).
Not every saved sinner has this sense of being dramatically rescued from a slimy pit of wickedness and corruption, but converted ball player Billy Sunday certainly did. And we get another picture of a dramatic rescue, in a physical sense, with the experience of Peter when, at the Lord’s bidding, he tried to walk on the waters of the stormy Galilee to his Master:
Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (Matt. 14:27-32).
CH-2) He called me long before I heard,
Before my sinful heart was stirred,
But when I took Him at His word,
Forgiv’n, He lifted me.
CH-2 reflects the hardness of the sinful heart, and the patient and persistent calling of the Saviour. The Lord’s pursuit of the sinner is dramatically described in The Hound of Heaven, a lengthy poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907):
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him.
CH-3 provides a picture of the substitutionary death of Christ, when He took the sinner’s place under the wrath of God (cf. I Cor. 15:3; Eph. 1:7; I Pet. 2:24).
CH-3) His brow was pierced with many a thorn,
His hands by cruel nails were torn,
When from my guilt and grief, forlorn,
In love He lifted me.
In CH-4 we have both the delight and confidence of the saved individual, and a confession that the workings of sovereign grace are beyond our capacity to fully understand.
CH-4) Now on a higher plane I dwell,
And with my soul I know ’tis well;
Yet how or why I cannot tell
He should have lifted me.
1) What was your experience of the saving power of God?
2) What differences has Christ made in your life?