Posted by: rcottrill | July 2, 2012

O for a Heart to Praise My God

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Azmon, by Carl Gotthelf Glaser (b. May 4, 1784; d. Apr. 16, 1829)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Wesley’s original version of this hymn had eight stanzas. His title for the hymn was “Make Me a Clean Heart, O God,” from Psalm 51:10. The stanzas commonly used today are: CH-1, 2, 4, and 8. Charles Wesley’s brother John changed the second line of stanza two from “My dear Redeemer’s throne” to “My great Redeemer’s throne,” and “dearest Lord” in the final stanza became “gracious Lord.” He felt it was improper for hymns to use terms of human affection with reference to God.

The Cyber Hymnal lists several possible tunes. I’m most familiar with Glaser’s Azmon (adapted by Lowell Mason after he visited Glaser on a tour of Europe). Hymn historian Robert Guy McCutchan suggests the beautiful tune Belmont as a possibility, and it works well.

This hymn is rooted in the doctrine of Wesleyan perfectionism. A contemporary of the Wesleys, Methodist clergyman John Fletcher said of the song, “Here is undoubtedly an evangelical prayer for the love which restores the soul to a state of sinless rest and scriptural perfection.” I disagree with the teaching that claims we can reach such a state in this life. We may confess every known sin–a tall order in itself!– but we have little conception of what other sins may lurk within, or how far short we fall of the perfection of Christ.

However, there is much in this hymn that we can apply to ourselves. Many years ago, an old Congregational pastor and his wife argued over whether Christian perfection could be a reality or not on this side of the grave. Finally, they came together in their agreement that both could sing the text of this hymn. Even if the things Wesley describes never become a reality until we’re ushered into the presence of Christ, they are certainly worthy aspirations.

CH-1) O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels Thy blood
So freely shed for me.

CH-2) A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My great Redeemer’s throne,
Where only Christ is heard to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone.

There is always room to grow. And the Spirit of God continues His work in each Christian, reproducing in our lives the image of Christ. That process (sometimes called progressive sanctification) is something we can pray for, in ourselves and others.

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18). “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in [i.e. settle down and be at home in] your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).

1) What practical differences does it make who controls our lives?

2) What is the last area of self-centred self control in your own life that needs to be surrendered to the Lord?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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