Posted by: rcottrill | August 4, 2014

In the Hour of Trial

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Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Penitence, by Spencer Lane (b. Apr. 7, 1843; d. Aug. 10, 1903)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Montgomery first published this hymn in 1834. It has undergone many alterations since, in some cases by Montgomery himself.

As noted in the Wordwise Hymns link, the original first line, “Jesus, pray for me,” has been considered problematic, since many have indicated there is no Bible text suggesting that Jesus prays for us in heaven. The text that inspired the hymn refers to Christ’s prayer ministry while he was on earth.

“The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’” (Lk. 22:31-32).

But that is during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, not after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Nor is the Cyber Hymnal’s “Jesus, plead for me” necessarily better. His advocacy (I Jn. 2:1-2) may simply consist of His presence in heaven, as the glorified Conqueror of sin and death. It is inconceivable that He has to argue the Father into forgiving us! A later manuscript in Montgomery’s handwriting has “Jesus stand by me.” Other emendations have been tried: “Jesus help Thou me,” or “Saviour strengthen me.”

The fourth stanza has also received varied treatment. Some hymnals simply omit it. Others have changed it considerably. Montgomery’s original read:

When, in dust and ashes, to the grave I sink,
When heaven’s glory flashes o’er the shelving brink,
On Thy truth relying, through that mortal strife,
Lord, receive me, dying, to eternal life.

Another has tried the opening line of the last stanza as:

When my lamp low burning sinks to death’s last pain;
Earth to earth returning, dust to dust again;
On Thy truth relying, in that hour of strife,
Jesus, take me, dying, to eternal life.

Frances A. Hutton (1811-1877) changed this to what is found in the Cyber Hymnal:

CH-4) When my last hour cometh, fraught with strife and pain;
When my dust returneth to the dust again;
On that truth relying through that mortal strife,
Jesus take me, dying, to eternal life.

Likely it is because this reference to dying and turning to dust is considered rather morbid that some elect simply to drop the last stanza.

Dying is the fourth great challenge covered by this hymn. The other three stanzas deal with three basic problems every Christian faces: persecution, sinful pleasures, and pain.

CH-1 prays for aid in times of testing, when we are tempted to turn from following the Lord. That seems to relate particularly to Peter’s experience, and what the Lord mentions in the Luke passage. Peter had boasted, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matt. 26:33). Then fear caused him to deny the Lord (vs. 69-75).

CH-1) In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me,
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee.
When Thou seest me waver, with a look recall,
Nor for fear or favour suffer me to fall.

In CH-2 the author asks for God to remind him of all Christ endured in Gethsemane and at Calvary, when a desire for comfort and ease might cause him to abandon the will of God or spiritual values, adopting instead this world’s passing pleasures of sin (cf. Moses, Heb. 11:24-26).

CH-2) With forbidden pleasures would this vain world charm,
Or its sordid treasures spread to work me harm,
Bring to my remembrance sad Gethsemane,
Or, in darker semblance, cross-crowned Calvary.

CH-3 deals with the “sorrow, toil and woe,” and the “pain” that attends every life lived out on earth. Whether it’s cancer or the common cold, we are all subject to such things. What a blessing to know that God has His good purpose in it all (Rom. 8:28), and we can cast our cares upon Him (Ps. 55:22; I Pet. 5:7).

CH-3) Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil and woe,
Or should pain attend me on my path below,
Grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee.

1) What is it that you personally struggle the most with? Will you seek the Lord’s help today for this?

2) Is this a hymn used with understanding by your church? If not, could you suggest that?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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