Posted by: rcottrill | February 3, 2014

We Have an Anchor

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Words: Priscilla Jane Owens (b. July 21, 1829; d. Dec. 5, 1907)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)


Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Priscilla Owens was a member of the Union Square Methodist Episcopal Church, in Baltimore, Maryland. She taught school in that city for nearly fifty years, and was involved in her church’s Sunday School for about the same time period. She wrote most of her hymns for use by that agency. Owens was a prolific gospel song writer. The Cyber Hymnal lists 230 of her songs here. Another well known song of hers is Jesus Saves (“We have heard the joyful sound”).

Most hymnals do not include stanza four of We Have an Anchor, but here it is.

CH-4) It will firmly hold in the floods of death–
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the veil.

The writing of our hymns has often been inspired by telling incidents in the lives of the writers. These, I have tried to share with you, as I come upon them. But the link between hymns and life experiences doesn’t end there. They continue to be used of God and have a powerful effect on the hearers, many years–even centuries–after they were written. For example, I know of a man, walking down a street, who was turned from committing suicide by overhearing a friend of mine sing the hymn Jesus Loves Me, through the open window of a church.

In his book The Romance of Sacred Song (Marshall, Morgan and Scott Ltd., 1931), Plymouth Brethren author David Johnstone Beattie tells the touching story of how the present song by Priscilla Owen helped a grieving man in Scotland (pp. 218-219).

A Christian worker…lost two sons, both fine young men. One died very suddenly, and a short time afterwards the other was seriously injured in a motor accident. The young man was conveyed to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. His father stood by the bedside, watching the last struggles ere life left that young body. And when all was over he seemed to give way to bitterness of heart and rebellion against God for the great affliction which had come upon him.

Leaving the ward, he went into an adjoining room where his wife waited for him. As he entered, his wife, realizing that their son had passed away, but ignorant as to her husband’s bitter thoughts, said to him, “Mattha, there’s a young fellow doon there in the street whistling Will Your Anchor Hold?” The bereaved father broke down at the significant words of his wife, and could only say, “Weel, the storm is very high just now.”

And indeed it was. But he afterwards confessed that the strains of the hymn, whistled by a young plumber going to work in the early morning, wafted to the top storey of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, were the means of overcoming the evil of doubt, and placing faith in the sure Anchor, Christ Jesus.

CH-1) Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

CH-2) It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, through strength divine.

“Storms of life” (CH-1)–we all have them, of one kind or another. We may pass through the “straits of fear” on our journey (CH-3), and even face the “floods of death” (CH-4). But, for the Christian, Christ Himself provides an anchor that can keep us off the rocks. We are “grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love” (refrain). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” asks Paul. And he proceeds to assure us that nothing can or will (Rom. 8:35-39).

The anchor cable is “well secured by the Saviour’s hand” (CH-2), and “our hopes abide within the veil” (CH-4). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil [i.e. in heaven]” (Heb. 6:19). That gives each believer the certain assurance that “we shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore” (CH-5). With Paul, we look forward to being “absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8), because “to depart and be with Christ…is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

CH-5) When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbour bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

1) Can you think of other illustrations of our security in Christ, besides an anchor?

2) What other hymns emphasize the believer’s security in Christ?


Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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