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Words: Lucy Ann Bennett (b. Jan. 8, 1850; d. Mar. 10, 1927)
Music: Passion Chorale, tune by Hans Leo Hassler (b. Oct. 25, 1654; d. June 8, 1612); adapted and harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Mar. 21, 1685; d. July 28, 1750)
Note: The author wrote this hymn in 1908. Miss Bennett produced many books of poetry, and a number of hymns. She is buried in Gloucestershire, in the churchyard of the Mount Pleasant Chapel, where her father served as music director. The six stanzas of this hymn explore the depths of the grace and love of God, in light of Bennett’s own confessed sinfulness. This is not superficial froth, but strong theological teaching, worthy of our careful meditation.
The tune given by the Cyber Hymnal is Passion Chorale. As an alternative to this, I’d suggest Aurelia, by Samuel Wesley (1810-1876)–a great tune to which we sing The Church’s One Foundation.
CH-1) O teach me what it meaneth,
That cross uplifted high,
With One, the Man of Sorrows,
Condemned to bleed and die!
O teach me what it cost Thee
To make a sinner whole;
And teach me, Saviour, teach me
The value of a soul!
The Bible makes it clear that becoming a child of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26) isn’t the end, but a new beginning. There is significant knowledge to be gained, and specific life-skills to be acquired, if believers are to please God, and go on to maturity.
One Bible book where this comes up again and again is Psalms. Many times the psalmists call upon God to teach them. “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God” (Ps. 143:10). Similar requests are found ten times in Psalm 119 (e.g. Ps. 119:12, 26, 33, etc.) This is especially appropriate since the whole psalm is about the Scriptures themselves, and it’s substantially from God’s Word that we learn what is needed.
CH-2) O teach me what it meaneth,
That sacred crimson tide,
The blood and water flowing
From Thine own wounded side.
Teach me that if none other
Had sinned, but I alone,
Yet still Thy blood, Lord Jesus,
Thine only, must atone.
For our Christian education, the whole Bible is before us. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (II Tim. 3:16). Though some things have changed on this side of the cross, “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Even in serving the Lord, we learn more about Him, and His ways (Matt. 11:29).
CH-3) O teach me what it meaneth,
Thy love beyond compare,
The love that reacheth deeper
Than depths of self-despair!
Yes, teach me, till there gloweth
In this cold heart of mine
Some feeble, pale reflection
Of that pure love of Thine.
As a follower of Christ, the Apostle Paul taught others to follow his example (Phil. 4:9), but only to the extent that he was faithful in his walk of faith and obedience to God (I Cor. 11:1). One of the things Paul gained was contentment. Whether he had much or little, he says, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11-12). And he urged young Timothy to, “continue in the things which you have learned” (II Tim. 3:14).
CH-4) O teach me what it meaneth,
For I am full of sin,
And grace alone can reach me,
And love alone can win.
O teach me, for I need Thee,
I have no hope beside–
The chief of all the sinners
For whom the Saviour died!
There is a keen understanding here, not only of the purpose and efficacy of Christ’s death, but also of human need, and the limits of human understanding. In our sinfulness, our perception is clouded (CH-4). But in the light of Calvary, we learn “the value of a soul” (CH-1).
CH-6) O infinite Redeemer!
I bring no other plea;
Because Thou dost invite me
I cast myself on Thee.
Because Thou dost accept me
I love and I adore;
Because Thy love constraineth,
I’ll praise Thee evermore!
1) What are some important truths this hymn presents?
2) Have you–or would you–use this great hymn at a Communion Service?