Posted by: rcottrill | January 31, 2014

Throw Out the Lifeline

Words: Edwin Smith Ufford (b. Feb. 10, 1851; d. Dec. 8, 1929)
Music: Edwin Smith Ufford (harmony by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was written in 1886 and published a couple of years later. The original had seven stanzas, but usually only the first four are used now. In a way, this is unfortunate, since the latter three stanzas make the application of the symbolism. What is the “lifeline”? Pastor Ufford tells us.

CH-5) This is the lifeline, oh, tempest tossed men;
Baffled by waves of temptation and sin;
Wild winds of passion, your strength cannot brave,
But Jesus is mighty, and Jesus can save.

CH-6) Jesus is able! To you who are driv’n
Farther and farther from God and from heav’n;
Helpless and hopeless, o’erwhelmed by the wave;
We throw out the lifeline, ’tis “Jesus can save.”

Graphic Life Preserver-2There are all kinds of lifelines. Ones used by mountaineers, or spelunkers (those who explore caves), and so on. But the ones used in water rescue are often similar to the one pictured here–a long length of rope attached to a floatable life preserver.

In a spiritual sense, the Lord Jesus Himself is our Life-preserver (perhaps why the editor of the Cyber Hymnal chose to capitalize the term “lifeline” in the hymn each time. On one occasion, when Christ walked the earth, that life-preserving activity became a very concrete and practical thing. It happened in this way.

When He [Jesus] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matt. 14:23-32)

Even now, by His Spirit, the Lord continues to rescue lost sinners, and deliver those who are in bondage to sin and Satan. When the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, he mentions various kinds of sinful people who will not be able to inherit the kingdom of God. Then he says:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).

That is deliverance indeed!

Pastor Ufford had a great concern for the lost. He decided to put together a presentation that made use of his hymn, which was very popular at the time. He assembled various kinds of life-saving gear–including two lifelines that had actually been used to save lives. Pastor Ufford gave an illustrated talk, using these things, warning listeners of their danger, outside of Christ. In 1902, he toured the world with this presentation. In Honolulu, Hawaii, he was privileged to hear his hymn sung in the native tongue.

CH-1) Throw out the lifeline across the dark wave;
There is a brother whom someone should save;
Somebody’s brother! O who then will dare
To throw out the lifeline, his peril to share?

Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline!
Someone is drifting away;
Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline!
Someone is sinking today.

CH-4) Soon will the season of rescue be o’er,
Soon will they drift to eternity’s shore;
Haste, then, my brother, no time for delay,
But throw out the lifeline and save them today.

1) What are some parallels between water rescue and the saving work of God through the gospel?

2) What other analogies can you think of that make a good illustration of deliverance through the gospel?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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