Posted by: rcottrill | March 5, 2014

Jesus, Where’er Thy People Meet

Graphic Bob and Christmas Book (2)HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.

Words: William Cowper (b. Nov. 15, 1731; d. Apr. 25, 1800)
Music: Malvern, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Cowper)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal suggests several possible tunes for this hymn. It will not be difficult to find others. What is known as Common Metre (8.8.8.8) is well represented in our hymnody. I’d suggest as other possibilities: Hesperus (often used with Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts); Federal Street (used with Jesus, and Shall It Ever Be); or Germany (commonly associated with Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness).

I t’s sad that this wonderful Prayer Meeting hymn is omitted from so many hymnals. In the village of Olney, England, over two centuries ago, lived John Newton, a hymn writer (of, most famously, Amazing Grace). Newton was also the pastor of the local church. In the same village, and next door to the pastor, lived William Cowper (pronounced Cooper), who was recognized as one of England’s greatest poets.

Together, these two men produced a historic hymnal in 1779 called Olney Hymns. John Newton wrote 280 hymns for the book, and his friend William Cowper added another 68. The latter man struggled with emotional depression, but through his work with the good pastor he was encouraged and helped. His hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way is perhaps our greatest on the subject of divine providence.

Some years prior to the publication of their hymn book, Pastor Newton decided to move their mid-week prayer meeting out of the church and into homes. That may not sound too revolutionary to us today, but it certainly was back then. Many of the hymns that were later included in Olney Hymns were written for these spiritually rich meetings.

John Newton had about a thousand people in his wider parish, and he held two or three prayer meetings a week, to minister to them from the Word of God and unite them in prayer. William Cowper attended every one of these, however his shyness held him back from praying audibly. But eventually his love for the Lord conquered his unwillingness to draw attention to himself. He frequently had trouble beginning, but once started he seemed to pray with fervency, as though he was seeing the Lord, face to face.

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

As numbers attending the meetings grew, it became clear that the small village homes couldn’t contain all the people who wanted to attend. But there was in town a house that was currently unoccupied. It was popularly called “The Great House,” because of its size. Newton looked it over, and calculated that they could fit over a hundred people in the huge parlor. When the date was set for prayer meetings to begin there, the pastor felt the need for a new hymn to be written in honour of the occasion. This is that hymn, which asks the Lord, in CH-5:

Come Thou, and fill this wider space,
And bless us with a large increase.

“Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

CH-1) Jesus, where’er Thy people meet,
There they behold Thy mercy seat;
Where’er they seek Thee Thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground.

Some, no doubt, wondered whether it was the right thing to do, to hold church meetings in another place. After all, shouldn’t God’s people meet in the house of God, set aside for that purpose? But Cowper’s hymn reassures them with these words:

CH-2) For Thou, within no walls confined,
Inhabitest the humble mind;
Such ever bring Thee, where they come,
And, going, take Thee to their home.

Notice the understanding of the hymn writer as to what can be accomplished through prayer (CH-4). The power of God unleashed by faith-filled prayers can (among other things) strengthen our faith, encouraging us to depend on the Lord for still more and more. It can “sweeten care,” meaning it can bring peace and contentment, in the midst of our trials.

It can also realign our priorities and “teach our faint desires [for spiritual and eternal things] to rise.” And it can “bring all heaven before our eyes, as we see with new joy the future of our heavenly home in the presence of Christ.

CH-4) Here may we prove the power of prayer
To strengthen faith and sweeten care;
To teach our faint desires to rise,
And bring all heav’n before our eyes.

Questions:
1) How would you assess the vitality and practical usefulness of your own mid-week prayer meeting?

2) What can be done to further grow and enhance these corporate (group) times before God’s throne?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Cowper)
The Cyber Hymnal


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