Words: Samuel Medley (b. June 23, 1738; d. July 17, 1799)
Music: Ariel, b Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. Jan. 27, 1756; d. Dec. 5, 1791)
Note: A love for lengthy book titles in those long ago times is illustrated by the publication of Pastor Medley’s hymn in 1789, in a volume entitled Hymns: The Public Worship and Private Devotions of True Christians, Assisted in some Thoughts and Verse; Principally Drawn from Select Passages of the Word of God. The hymn tune is attributed to Mozart with little evidence for that, but we know it was arranged by Lowell Mason.
Currently, on the Cyber Hymnal, this hymn uses the first line of the original first stanza as a title–which makes it harder to find. Most hymn books now use only stanzas 2, 5, 6 and 8, and the first line of stanza two O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth, as the title. John Julian states the author appropriately entitled the hymn “Praise of Jesus.” Its original first stanza, no long used, says:
Not of terrestrial mortal themes,
Not of the world’s delusive dreams
My soul attempts to sing:
But of that theme divinely true,
Ever delightful, ever new,
My Jesus and my King.
Our wonderful Saviour is infinitely worthy of our praise, and Medley sees the “matchless worth,” and “glories…which…shine” in the Lord Jesus Christ (CH-1). So precisely what is it that Medley considers worthy of his songs of thanksgiving and worship? Three things in particular come to his mind.
First, there is the blood-bought ransom Christ paid to deliver him from the “dreadful guilt” incurring God’s holy wrath (CH-2). The wonder of the work of salvation is twofold, in that something is removed and something added. Not only are we forgiven, with our debt of sin paid (Eph. 1:7), but also we are credited with the “glorious righteousness” of Christ (II Cor. 5:21).
CH-2) I’d sing the precious blood He spilt,
My ransom from the dreadful guilt
Of sin and wrath divine!
I’d sing His glorious righteousness,
In which all-perfect, heavenly dress
My soul shall ever shine.
Second, there’s the holy character of Christ to celebrate. Several times the Bible asserts that He is totally without any taint of sin (e.g. Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 2:22-23). But even more than that, Christ is said to represent on earth, in human form, all the perfections of God’s character (Jn. 1:1, 14; 14:9; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-3).
CH-3) I’d sing the characters He bears,
And all the forms of love He wears,
Exalted on His throne;
In loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
I would to everlasting days
Make all His glories known.
Finally, there’s the glorious prospect that one day believers will be ushered into the presence of Christ, and enjoy eternal fellowship with the Saviour (Lk. 23:42-43; Phil. 1:23).
Samuel Medley wrote some 230 hymns (also including Awake, My Soul, to Joyful Lays). For twenty-seven years, he served at pastor of a Baptist church in Liverpool, England. He died at the age of sixty-one, joyfully exclaiming on his deathbed:
“I am now a poor shattered bark, just about to gain the blissful harbour; and O how sweet will be the port after the storm! Dying is sweet work, sweet work. I am looking to my dear Jesus, my God, my Portion, my All in All. Glory! Glory! Home! Home!”
CH-4) Soon, the delightful day will come
When my dear Lord will bring me home,
And I shall see His face;
Then with my Saviour, Brother, Friend,
A blest eternity I’ll spend,
Triumphant in His grace.
1) If you were a poet or song writer, what are some of the glories of Christ you’d like to praise and celebrate?
2) How do you know with certainty that these things are not simply “delusive dreams” (false and fantastic notions)?