Posted by: rcottrill | June 20, 2014

God Who Touchest Earth with Beauty

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Words: Mary Susanne Edgar (b. May 23, 1889; d. Sept. 17, 1973)
Music: Bullinger, by Ethelbert William Bullinger (b. Dec. 15, 1837; d. June 6, 1913)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Mary Edgar)

Graphic Mary Edgar (left)Note: There is a biographical note about Mary Edgar in the Wordwise Hymns link. She was a Canadian author who published poetry, hymns, and plays, but she is chiefly known for her development of a camp for girls in Ontario. Edgar was the director of Camp Glen Bernard from its beginning in 1922 until her retirement in 1956. In this 1922 photograph, Mary is on the left. On the right is Canadian Women’s Golf Champion, Ada Mackenzie. The latter instructed the campers in golf.

The author’s great love for nature is evident in her hymn, published in 1925. It was submitted to a contest by the American Camping Association the following year, and won first prize.

As to the tune’ composer, Dr. Bullinger was a Hebrew and Greek scholar, and a musician. He developed The Companion Bible, with its extensive Hebrew and Greek notes. The tune Bullinger is also used with Frances Havergal’s hymn I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus. There was also a tune called Glen Bernard. It was written for the hymn in 1925 by James Edmund Jones (1866-1939).

1) God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
With Thy Spirit recreate me,
Pure, and strong and true.

Since God created all things in the natural world, it’s not surprising that the natural world reflects something of His nature, and that it is used in His Word to teach spiritual lessons. For example, the lazy person is told to “go to the ant” and learn lessons of discipline and conservation from that little insect (Prov. 6:6-8). And those who wait on God in prayer are told they will “renew their strength,” and “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

The parables of the Lord Jesus are full of such comparisons. He used simple objects such as coins, and familiar practices such as farming, to illustrate valuable lessons. And we can envision the folly of mending an old garment with a new piece of cloth that has not been pre-shrunk (Matt. 9:16), or the impossibility of a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:24). These analogies and many more convey spiritual insights to all willing to learn by them.

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record Christ’s parable about different kinds of soil (cf. Lk. 8:4-15). It was presented as a basic story teaching foundational truths (Mk. 4:13). In the parable, the seed being sown in a field is the Word of God being proclaimed to the multitudes. Some of the seed fell on the rocks, and some on the beaten path. These pictured hearts that were unreceptive to the truth. Other seeds fell among thorns or weeds, and the plants that sprouted were choked out. But some fell in good soil and bore lasting fruit. The latter portrays those who believe and faithfully apply the Word.

It is in this way that the poet uses what she no doubt saw all around her in her camping work, to teach spiritual lessons. See how, in her hymn, Miss Edgar draws analogies from various things in the natural world.

Stanza 2. She calls us to purity of heart, like springs of crystal clear water. And like great towering rocks we ought to be strong and sure–steadfast in our spiritual lives.

Stanza 3. Like waves dancing in the sunlight, the hymn calls upon us to live our lives in gladness and freedom. And like the straightness of the pines, to be upright in character.

Stanza 4. As the heavens arch overhead, we ought to lift our thoughts to higher things, and seek to express this higher perspective in “noble action” and loving service.

Stanza 5 is an echo of the opening stanza, but where the prayer at first is “make me” one who is pleasing in Your sight (cf. II Cor. 3:18), the conclusion of the prayer calls up upon the Lord to “keep me” as I ought to be (cf. Jude 1:24-25).

Though this hymn does not tell us anything about how to be delivered from sin’s crippling bondage, through faith in Christ, or how the indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the believer to to live and grow in Christlikeness, it is not incompatible with these essential truths. If they are taught by other means, this hymn can serve a worthwhile purpose.

The song can help to sensitize us to lessons God has provided all around us. We can learn from them ourselves, and point them out to others. This is particularly valuable as a way for parents to instill godly wisdom in their children. The Lord has created a beautiful world, and it points the way to His re-creating work in each of us.

1) What illustrations from nature have been a help in your own spiritual life?

2) What other hymns do you know that provide good lessons from nature?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Mary Edgar)


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