Posted by: rcottrill | September 2, 2011

O Jesus, I Have Promised

Words: John Ernest Bode (b. Feb. 23, 1816; d. Oct. 6, 1874)
Music: Angel’s Story, by Arthur Henry Mann (b. May 16, 1850; d. Nov. 19, 1929)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The original hymn had six stanzas (the Cyber Hymnal link gives five of them). Most hymn books now use only three or four.

A promise is a personal pledge to do, or not to do, something. In a more formal setting, it’s a vow or a covenant to act in a certain way. Often, especially in the latter case, it’s a commitment made before witnesses, and perhaps expressed in a signed document. Giving our word lays upon us a solemn responsibility. “Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecc. 5:5).

In the case of our hymn, the individual promises to serve the Lord to the end (CH-1), to serve the Lord and be His follower (obey Him) forever (CH-4). The hymn writer realizes this will involve spiritual warfare (II Tim. 2:3-4; 4:7), and that the individual will have a tendency to “wander from the pathway” (Rom. 7:15; Gal. 5:17). Yet the Lord has promised to be ever with the believer (Matt. 18:20). And this must be more than simply a doctrinal assertion. If the Christian life is to be lived consistently and effectively, it requires that He be our guide and strength.

CH-1) O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my guide.

CH-2. If we are to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11), we’ll definitely need help! The world constantly seduces us with “sights that dazzle,” and “tempting sounds.” Satan and his cohorts are “ever near.” We need the Lord to be nearer still, and we need the spiritual perception, energized by the Spirit of God, to “feel” Him near, if we’re to be kept from the paths of sin.

CH-3. Not only do the threats to our spiritual welfare come from outside. We have a sin nature that can be stirred to “storms of passion,” and “murmurs of self will.” Above the tempest and inner turmoil, we need to hear the voice of God, loud and clear. “Speak, and make me listen,” says John Bode.

CH-4. The Lord has promised His followers that not only will He be with us here and now, but we can look forward to an eternity with Him. “Where Thou art in glory, there shall Thy servant be” (Jn. 12:26; 14:2-3; cf. Heb. 6:10; Rev. 14:13).

CH-5. In a stanza reminiscent of the fifth stanza of Good King Wenceslas (CH-5), which says of the king’s page, “In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted,” John Bode prays, “Let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own.” It’s a way of saying we are determined to follow the example of holiness and love presented by the Lord Jesus while He was on earth. To accomplish this rely on “Thy strength alone.” He prays, “O give me grace to follow” (CH-4).

CH-5) O let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me, my Saviour and my Friend.

1) What do you, personally, find the most frequent stumbling block to being faithful in your life and service for Christ?

2) What have you done to guard yourself against this problem? (Or what steps can you take in the future to do so?)



  1. One of my favorites, Robert. We used all five of the stanzas that CyberHymnal has when we compiled our hymnbook. Just out of curiousity, do you have the sixth?

    If we are to use singing to teach, one of the more “teachable” lines in the hymnbook, perhaps, is one you didn’t happen to hightlight this time: “My foes are ever near me, around me and within.” I’ve always been challenged by that one, challenged to “mortify the deeds of the flesh” and to beware the world and the devil, and perhaps that line is the biggest reason this hymn is a favorite of mine.

    • Thanks for you input, and apt comments. That “around me and within” applies to the local church, as well as the individual believer (cf. Acts 20:29-30). As to that missing verse, I’ve tried a number of times to track it down. Perhaps it related so personally to Bode’s children that it was not of general use.

  2. The missing verse (Verse 6) goes like this:

    Oh! let me see Thy features,
    The look that once could make
    So many a true disciple
    Leave all things for Thy sake;
    The look that beamed on Peter
    When he Thy name denied;
    The look that draws Thy lover
    Close to Thy pierced side.


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