Posted by: rcottrill | December 10, 2014

What Wondrous Love Is This

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Words: Southern Folk Hymn (author unknown)
Music: (composer unknown)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Graphic Camp_meetingNote: This hymn is sometimes called a White Spiritual. It has its origins in the American South, in the revivalist camp meetings of the early nineteenth century (depicted in the drawing). Most agree the author is unknown, but The Hesperian Harp, printed in 1848, attributes the song to Alexander Means, a Methodist preacher in Oxford, Georgia.

As to the tune, it was printed in 1835, in The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, by William Walker (1809-1875). The modern arrangement was written by hymn historian William Reynolds (1920-2009).

The stirring hymn owes much to its hauntingly beautiful melody. Once heard, it’s hard to forget. Some have contended that it is a melody used in an old ballad about the pirate Captain Kidd. Others reject the idea, though as to the text, the structure is similar. William Kidd, a Scottish pirate, was hanged on May 23, 1701. The ballad about him says:

My name was William Kidd, as I sailed, as I sailed,
My name was William Kidd, when I sailed,
My name was William Kidd; God’s laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did, as I sailed.

The version of the present hymn given in the Cyber Hymnal is derived from the earliest form known, but as of this time, the actual third and fourth stanzas first printed in 1811 are missing. They are:

(3) Ye wingèd seraphs fly, bear the news, bear the news!
Ye wingèd seraphs fly bear the news!–
Ye wingèd seraphs fly, like comets through the sky,
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity with the news!

(4) Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, join His praise;
Ye friends of Zion’s King, with hearts and voices sing,
And strike each tuneful string in His praise, in His praise!
And strike each tuneful string in His praise!

Then follow CH-3 and CH-4. But American Hymns Old and New, published by Columbia University Press in 1980, includes a final stanza I’ve not seen elsewhere. It says:

(7?) Yes, when to that bright world we arise, we arise,
Yes, when to that bright world we arise;
When to that world we go, free from all pain and woe,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on, and sing on,
We’ll join the happy throng, and sing on.

Taken together, those stanzas provide a simple (and biblical) expression of the Christian gospel. It was love that caused the Lord to come to this earth and bear sin’s punishment for us (Jn. 3:16; Gal. 2:20). For this we can and should praise Him now (cf. Exod. 15:2; Ps. 62:7; Hab. 3:18). And our song of praise will echo and re-echo down the endless ages of eternity (Rev. 5:8-14; 19:5).

CH-1) What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

CH-3) To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

CH-4) And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Questions:
1) What are some of the wonderful blessings that are a part of God’s salvation?

2) What, in your view, are the greatest hymns on the theme of salvation?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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