Posted by: rcottrill | June 18, 2012

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Words: Robert Robinson (b. Sept. 27, 1735; d. June 8, 1790)
Music: Nettleton, by John Wyeth (b. Mar. 31, 1770; d. Jan. 23, 1858)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Three stanzas of the five given in the Cyber Hymnal are commonly used today: CH-1, and the last half of CH-2 combined with the first half of CH-3, plus CH-4.

John Riley comments on this blog (see below) that John Wyeth did not write the tune Nettleton. I’m not so certain we can absolutely reject him, but there does seem to be some question about it. Hymn historian Robert Guy McCutchan says:

It seems safe to assume Wyeth’s composition of this tune along with others known to have been written by him for the Supplement of 1813 [i.e. Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second].”

There is merit, however, in the parts of Robinson’s work that have been omitted. The same sorrowing humility that is reflected in “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it” (CH-4) is found in the rest of the hymn. Suppose we were to combine the first half of CH-2 and add the last half of CH-3, plus CH-5. Perhaps it would be seen as too negative for today’s believers, but it’s reality for many! Here’s what we’d have.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin.
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O that day, when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Interesting, to say the least! I know there are preachers who want us always to “think positive,” and who hesitate to preach on sin and suffering. But I believe we need the kind of balance that recognizes what we have in Christ, and how far we’ve come, yet is aware of our spiritual limitations, and longs to see more of the likeness of Christ reflected in our lives. We can always be abundantly satisfied with Christ, but it’s natural that we dissatisfied with our own progress.

The closer our relationship with the Lord, the more we’ll tend to grieve over our own weakness and waywardness (cf. Isa. 6:5; Lk. 5:8). And we’ll recognize how inadequate our praise of God is. Perhaps we’ll cry with John Newton (in How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds):

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

In such as state, and yet with such a glorious prospect, no wonder many Christians long for our heavenly home (cf. Phil. 1:21, 23), and the time when “we shall be like Him” (I Jn. 3:2; cf. Phil. 3:20-21). “O that day, when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face!” Meanwhile:

CH-1) Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Questions:
1) Is it possible to preach a positive gospel, and at the same time avoid talking about sin? (Why not?)

2) How does the Lord tune our hearts and teach us to praise Him?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. I was recently acquainted with verse 5 and absolutely love it. It’s a shame that it has fallen out of practice. To your point, it is good to think positively, but it is also good to have words to express the range of emotions (a la the psalms) in corporate worship.

    • Thanks for your comments. And yes, the book of Psalms provides an example of attitudes and aspirations. Not all is joy and praise. There is confession of sin, fear and grief over the oppression of the wicked, and an appeal for God’s judgment to fall upon the enemies of His people. Our hymns should be broad in their application as well.

  2. The patchy biography of Robert Robinson is frustrating to anyone studying this magnificent hymn.. John Wyeth did NOT write the tune to “Come thou source..” He was the United States Postmaster, and had developed (illegally) a publishing business ‘on the side’. “Come thou source/fount..” music was accepted from a Virginian contributor. There are five places named Nettleton in England, several of them close together!!! Robinson is believed buried ‘somewhere in Manchester” England, and accounts of his abject misery at the end of his life are heart-rending.


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