Posted by: rcottrill | October 10, 2011

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Words: George Matheson (b. Mar. 27, 1842; d. Aug. 28, 1906)
Music: St. Margaret, by Albert Lister Peace (b. Jan. 26, 1844; d. Mar. 14, 1912)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Pastor Matheson’s lovely hymn uses a poetic device that is quite striking. He personifies three qualities and one material object, indicated by the capital letters used for Love, Light, Joy and the Cross.

First, there is Love. It’s a quality that so dominates the character of God that the Bible is able to say, “God is love” (I Jn. 4:16). And the author revels in the security of that love. It has him in a caring embrace that nothing can break. As God’s Word assures us, “[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). Surrendering to the ministrations of such an infinite love can only enrich us.

CH-1) 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.

In CH-2, George Matheson refers to God as the Light. (Henry Newman did similarly with the hymn  Lead, Kindly Light.) The Scriptures declare that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I Jn. 1:5). David reflects a similar thought with, “You are my lamp, O LORD; The LORD shall enlighten my darkness” (II Sam. 22:29). In contrast to the light of God’s truth, a “sunshine’s blaze” that shatters the darkness, our own limited awareness is only a “flickering torch.”

CH-2) 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.

Third, the author speaks of the Lord as his Joy. The psalmist echoes that with “God, my exceeding joy” (Ps. 43:4). We too “rejoice in God” (Rom. 5:11), the source and fountain of the deepest kind of spiritual joy. To say, as Nehemiah does, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10), is to say, in effect, that the Lord Himself is our joy. And in that joy there is undying hope, symbolized by “the rainbow through the rain,” in our hymn.

CH-3) 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.

With the final stanza, we have a slight departure. Not a quality but an object is so identified with the Lord that He is represented by the Cross. All the blessings of our salvation were won for us there. For that reason, the death of Christ (and His resurrection) become a pervasive theme of the writings of the apostles. “God forbid,” says Paul, that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). Through faith in the finished work of Christ, we have “life that shall endless be.”

CH-4) 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.

1) Which of the first three personifications representing the Lord  (Love, Light, Joy) is most meaningful to you? (Why?)

2) What is the meaning of the first line of stanza four: “O Cross that liftest up my head”?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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