Posted by: rcottrill | May 24, 2013

Softly and Tenderly

Words: Will Lamartine Thompson (b. Nov. 7, 1847; d. Sept. 20, 1909)
Music: Will Lamartine Thompson

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Although “Will” is usually short for William, the literature I’ve seen always lists this man by the shortened name. Mr. Thompson was a well-known and very successful writer of secular and patriotic songs, until evangelist Dwight Moody challenged him to dedicate his talents to writing sacred music. This he did for the rest of his life, providing both the words and melodies, as was his custom. Jesus is All the World to Me is another of his. For more about him and his association with Moody, see the Wordwise Hymns link.

Though this 1880 gospel song is not specifically about the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-24), it has a similar spirit. In the song, we see the Lord “calling” and “pleading” with lost sinners. Like the father, in Jesus’ parable (cf. Lk. 15:2), we see Him “waiting” and watching,” ready to welcome sinners “home” into His forever family, offering them His “mercy,” and “pardon,” and “love.”

From beginning to end, in the Scriptures, we see God graciously seeking those who are lost, and calling them to Himself. And “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).

1) In Genesis, when Adam sinned, and tried to hide from the Lord, we read: “Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Gen. 3:9).

2) In the prophets, the urgent plea was extended to a sinning nation: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!” (Isa. 45:22).

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).

3) During the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, He was still issuing the summons: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28; cf. 23:37).

4) In the early church it was the same. The apostles, and those who came after them, called the unregenerate to put their faith in Christ. Their message was: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man [Christ] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

5) In the Bible’s final chapter, the Lord is still seeking for those who will turn to Him and be saved. “The Spirit and the bride [the church of Jesus Christ, representing Him] say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

CH-1) Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

There is, however, a dark side to the gospel invitation. This too is reflected in Will Thompson’s song. God’s gracious invitation will not be extended forever. Apart from the return of Christ, death is coming to each one of us. And the Bible offers no second chance to be saved after death, but only a fearful judgment to face (Heb. 9:27). “Time is now fleeting” (CH-3). That’s why there is a sober reminder from the Lord that “now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:1-2).

CH-3) Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

CH-4) O for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

1) What excuses do the unsaved sometimes offer for not trusting in Christ for salvation now?

2) What, in your view, are the best invitation hymns we have?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. We have heard this moving hymn reviled by some 5-point Calvinists, because they say it emasculates the Lord Jesus Christ in having Him plead with people (even the “non-elect”!) to come to Him. We do not agree at all; but see the mercy of our loving Saviour who is not willing that any should perish, but would have all men repent and be saved. How grateful we are for a Saviour who is long-suffering toward sinners–even us! Such hymns help us to soberly reflect on the goodness of God to ourselves, and provoke us to pray and work diligently that others may know Him too…before Christ returns or they face their Maker in death.

    • My oh my! So many passages of Scripture support the idea of a gracious calling of the Lord, that it seems to me impossible to deny (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28; 23:37; cf. Rev. 22:17, etc.). Sometimes we can get so hung up on fitting everything into a man-made formula that we miss the truth that’s right in front of us! Thanks for your good note, and I do agree with you.


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