Posted by: rcottrill | March 12, 2012

Rescue the Perishing

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The story of how this song came to be written is told in the Wordwise Hymns link. The old Bowery Mission, in New York City, where it was born, has since been torn down. But for some years there was a brass plaque there that read:

Fanny Crosby occupied this seat on her many visits to this mission over a period of 50 years. It was while sitting here that she received the inspiration for the great gospel song “Rescue the Perishing.”

It is a great song. Considered by many to be the finest missionary hymn ever written in America. There is a passion and an urgency in it that are compelling, and Dr. Doane’s tune wings it into our hearts and fixes it in our memories.

CH-1) Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

“Rescue missions” are numerous, especially in our larger cities. A couple of former students of mine operate a ministry of this kind in a city south of where I now live. The “rescues” involved are personal, relational, and spiritual, as well as practical. The men and women who go there may be homeless and hungry, and may be in bondage to drugs or alcohol, as well as being estranged from their families.

But their deepest need is to come to know the Saviour, and to be taught the Word of God. It is often discouraging work. Time and again, those who make commitments, and seem to be moving forward, fall back into the old pattern of life. The challenge in Fanny’s text  to “snatch them in pity from sin and the grave” (CH-1) may come from the book of Jude:

“Have mercy on those who doubt [or waver]; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23, ESV).

Difficult work indeed, and dangerous at times. But those who serve the Lord, rescuing souls from the precipice of eternity, continue to do so because they are constrained by the love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14-15), empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and equipped with the powerful gospel of the grace of God (Rom. 1:16).

The testimonies of the ones who have been delivered, and are on a new and productive path, are inspiring to hear. Reclaimed by love, they are building a new future, by the grace of God. Sometimes the Lord also uses their witness to turn others from the destructive course they are on. A biblical example is the demon-possessed man at Gadara (also rendered Gergesa), on the south-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

It is difficult to imagine a man more pitifully and powerfully in bondage to sin and Satan than he was. Various facts about him are revealed in three of Gospels, with the longest account given by Luke (Matt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-20; Lk. 8:1-39). The latter’s interest was appropriate to his profession–Luke was a medical doctor.

The demoniac lived in his nakedness among the tombs. Day and night he cried out in torment. He was self destructive, often cutting himself with stones, and he was fierce and dangerous to passers-by. When attempts were made to chain him up, he broke the chains, and continued on his abusive downward course. But he was delivered by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. When those of the surrounding community saw him afterward, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind” (Lk. 8:35), and he wanted to serve the Lord. Christ told him:

“‘Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.’ And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him” (Lk. 8:39).

CH-4) Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labour the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Saviour has died.

1) Have you ever helped out at a rescue mission, or attended a service there? What impressed you most about the experience?

2) Does your church support anyone in rescue mission work? (If not, is this something you could suggest be included in the home missions budget?)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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