Posted by: rcottrill | May 28, 2012

More Holiness Give Me

Words: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: Philip Paul Bliss

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Philip Bliss was a great and godly man, and one of the most significant writers of gospel songs in the nineteenth century. (Something of the spirit of the man can be discerned from Sankey’s comments, quoted in the Cyber Hymnal link.) Bliss was also a marvelous singer and an evangelist, as well as being recognized for his musical talent.

For one appearance as conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society of San Francisco he was offered the incredible sum at that time of $3,000. He turned it down, preferring to trust the Lord to meet his needs in his humble service. His output would no doubt have been greater had it not been for his untimely death at the age of thirty-eight. You can read of the accident that killed him and his wife in the Wordwise Hymns link.

The original title for this wonderful (and convicting!) hymn was “My Prayer.” Most publishers now use the opening phrase as a title. As an alternative to Bliss’s own tune, you could try Longstaff, which is traditionally used with Take Time to Be Holy.

Two dozen times this prayer hymn asks the Lord for “more.” And each one identifies an important aspect of Christian living, and an area where growth and development is needed. There is no shallow “churchianity” here. No “rice Christians,” all snap, crackle and pop, without real substance. This is a summons to a deeper spiritual life, one that the author craved for himself.

CH-1) More holiness give me, more strivings within.
More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin.
More faith in my Saviour, more sense of His care.
More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer.

The inner “strivings” spoken of by the author would seem to refer to the concerted effort to root out anything in the heart that hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews speaks of “striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4; cf. Acts 24:16). The Bible also speaks of striving in prayer, and it service for Christ (Rom. 15:30; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:29). Several Greek words are translated this way in the New King James Version. One is the word agonizomai from which we get the word agonize. We are to labour strenuously and fervently in these things.

CH-2) More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord.
More zeal for His glory, more hope in His Word.
More tears for His sorrows, more pain at His grief.
More meekness in trial, more praise for relief.

Philip Bliss’s original second line in this stanza read, “More pride in His glory.” It seems as though modern editors have been uncomfortable with the word pride being used in a positive sense. “Zeal” is fine as an alternative, but “pride” is not necessarily bad. We need to consider who is proud, and why.

In the Bible we have an example of another negative word also being used in a positive sense. The Hebrew word halal means to boast, and it is used in the condemnation of the arrogance of the wicked (Ps. 5:5; 10:3). But combined with the Hebrew Yah (a shortened version of Jehovah) it means something different. The word hallelujah (or alleluia) means to boast in the Lord, or praise the Lord.

Similarly, the Hebrew word for pride (gaah) is used in the praise of God, when the Israel’s spoke of His victory at the Red Sea. “I will sing unto the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously [proudly]” (Exod. 15:1). In that case, pride was a valid thing.

CH-3) More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains, more longings for home.
More fit for the kingdom, more useful I’d be,
More blessèd and holy, more, Saviour, like Thee.

The last phrase sums up everything before it. What the song is speaking of is different aspects of Christ-likeness. To hunger after this kind of character and attitude of heart is to seek to be more like the Lord Jesus. May that be our goal, by the grace of God.

This hymn should be sung often by our congregations–and its terms explained. It is also a wonderful guide to times of personal devotions. The questions below are intended for that purpose.

1) Where can you find the qualities listed dealt with in the Scriptures?

2) What are the opposites of each quality?

3) If you were to select one or two of the qualities mentioned in the hymn to work on in your own life right now, what would they be?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Thank you for helping me understand this hymn and its meaning. It’s fun (and important) to know what the author’s original intent was for the music.

    I remember last year the women in our congregation were encouraged to use this hymn, each day, as a spiritual preparation for Christmas, focusing on one phrase for each advent day. It was to help focus our attention on spiritual things leading up to Christmas Day!

    I hope you have a wonderful and spiritual Christmas this year! God bless you! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments. What an excellent idea, to use this richly spiritual hymn as a preparation for Christmas. We “prepare” in so many other ways, putting up the tree, buying presents, organizing parties… But what about being ready to worship and praise God for the coming of the Saviour? I hope others will copy your idea. God bless.

  2. Please, how can I get a book that explains in detail the story behind the writers of most of the church hymns.

    • If you go to my Bibliography you’ll see that there are seventy or so books on hymns listed there. Many of them, however are long out of print. Your best option is to come to my blog and look in the Index for the hymn you are interested in. I try to pack as much information into the blog as possible. God bless.


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