Posted by: rcottrill | March 13, 2013

Our Great Saviour

Words: John Wilbur Chapman (b. June 17, 1859; d. Dec. 25, 1918)
Music: Hyfrydol, by Rowland Huw Prichard (b. Jan. 14, 1811; d. Jan. 25, 1887)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal, and some hymn books, use the first line of this 1910 hymn as a title, but its actual title is Our Great Saviour.

Welshman Rowland Pritchard composed the great hymn tune Hyfrydol (a Welsh word meaning lovely, cheerful or melodious) eighty years before the hymn text was written. Hymn writer Robert Harkness, the pianist in Dr. Chapman’s evangelistic meetings, provided the common harmonization of the tune specifically for this hymn. As noted elsewhere in Wordwise Hymns, my father introduced me to Robert Harkness, when he was an elderly man, and I was a small boy.

It was the original title of this hymn that got me wondering how often in the Scriptures the Lord is spoken of as “great.” The answer is that it is many dozens of times. The Hebrew and Greek words translated great connote such things as: high, chief, mighty, important, splendid. Such terms are surely appropriate for One who is supremely transcendent and infinite in His perfections.

As Moses said to the people of Israel, “The LORD [Jehovah] your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deut. 10:17). “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Neh. 8:6).

As we bow before the Lord in praise and prayer, we are also humbly recognizing His matchless superiority. Here is a sampling of the things about God that are celebrated for their greatness.

He is great in glory (Ps. 138:5); great in goodness (Isa. 63:7); great in mercy (Ps. 117:2; 119:156); great in power (Na. 1:3; Jer. 32:17; Rev. 11:17). He is a great Creator (Prov. 26:10); a great King (Ps. 45:11), with a great heavenly army (Jer. 32:18); and He is a great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20); with a great name or reputation (Jer. 44:26; Ezek. 36:23); He is great in His sovereignty over all (Ps. 135:5-6); great in His faithfulness (Lam. 3:23; Dan. 9:4); and He does great deeds or works (Ps. 111:2; 126:3; Mk. 5:19; Rev. 15:3).

Two texts are particularly relevant to this hymn. Titus 2:13 closely parallels Chapman’s original title, speaking of “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And because of His greatness, He is surely deserving of great praise, thanksgiving, and worship.

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable [beyond our ability to fully comprehend]” (Ps. 145:3).

In extolling the Lord Jesus Christ, the hymn reminds us that He is our Friend, who loves us (CH-1). He provides His child with both strength and protection (CH-2), and comfort when we need it (CH-3). He is also our Guide and Keeper in the storms of life (CH-4).

CH-1) Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Saviour, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

CH-5 begins with a statement that seems to be restricted to sinners putting their faith in Christ. For that reason, some editors have changed the original, “Jesus! I do now receive Him,” to “Jesus! I do now adore Him,” which would seem more appropriate to all, reflecting as it does the tenor of the entire hymn. Forgiveness of sins, and “all in Him I find.”

CH-5) Jesus! I do now adore Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

1) What are some of the great things about the Lord that have blessed your life in recent days?

2) The repeated refrain of Psalm 107 is: “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (e.g. vs. 8). Why don’t they?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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