Posted by: rcottrill | March 2, 2015

How Gentle God’s Commands

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Words: Philip Doddridge (b. June 26, 1702; d. Oct. 26, 1751)
Music: Dennis, by Hans Georg Nägeli (b. May 26, 1773; d. Dec. 26, 1836)

Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Philip Doddridge was a pastor, an educator, and a hymn writer. He packed a great deal into a short life (of 49 years). An example of his diligence: He rose at five each morning and, while he was shaving, he had one of the students of his academy read to him, so that not a moment was wasted! It’s a measure of the charity and inclusiveness of his theology that he was a friend of two of our greatest hymn writers, Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. He wrote more than four hundred hymns himself.

The words of this hymn have been amended slightly over the years, but its beauty and simple message remain. Lowell Mason (1792-1872) provided the arrangement of the hymn tune that is customarily used (also used with Blest Be the Tie That Binds).

CH-1) How gentle God’s commands,
How kind His precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord,
And trust His constant care.

CH-2) While Providence supports,
Let saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guide His children well.

When David and Bathsheba succumbed to temptation, their adulterous relationship began a trail of misery and death that cast a dark shadow over the years to come (II Sam. 11:1-24; 12:1-12). And think of the folly of Judas Iscariot, turning his back on his dearest Friend, for a bit of cash, betraying the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16). Money he returned to the scheming Jewish leaders, before he committed suicide in black despair (Matt. 27:3-5).

These and many other examples illustrate bad trades, foolish bargains that brought disaster and ruin. But what of the opposite? Surely, God’s plan of salvation involves the greatest trade in all the universe. The Word of God tells us that the Lord Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

Our sins were all laid on Christ. He died as our Substitute, paying our debt of sin to a holy God. When we trust Him as Saviour, we are credited, in heaven, with the perfect righteousness of Christ. “For He [God the Father] He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). That’s some trade!

Prayer involves a great exchange, too. We come to God’s throne of grace with our burdens, and lay them down (I Pet. 5:7; cf. Ps. 55:22). In exchange, we receive mercy and grace [God’s strength and enablement] for the asking (Heb. 5:14-16). And when we make our requests known to the Lord, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Another great trade!

Doddridge’s hymn suggests the blessings of prayer. He based it on First Peter 5:7, “casting all your care [worries] upon Him, for He cares [is concerned] for you.” Dodderidge called his song, “God’s Care a Remedy for Ours,” but we now know it by the opening line. The beautiful couplet at the end of the hymn suggests the exchange I’ve described. It’s also an example of the editing of the original mentioned earlier. Doddridge wrote:

Then drop your burdens at His feet,
And bear a song away.

That is an invitation–which certainly suits the way in which First Peter 5:7 is framed. But newer hymn books state it as a determined commitment:

I’ll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.

Both versions have merit, in my view.

CH-3) Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your heavenly Father’s throne,
And sweet refreshment find.

CH-4) His goodness stands approved,
Down to the present day;
I’ll drop my burden at His feet,
And bear a song away.

1) Have you recently had an experience like that described in the last two lines of the hymn?

2) How do you deal with our tendency to carry our burdens away with us, when we leave the place of prayer?

Wordwise Hymns (Philip Doddridge)
The Cyber Hymnal


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