Posted by: rcottrill | September 30, 2015

Why Should He Love Me So?

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Words: Robert Harkness (b. Mar. 2, 1880; d. May 8, 1961)
Music: Robert Harkness

Wordwise Hymns (Robert Harkness)
The Cyber Hymnal (Robert Harkness) (Robert Harkness)

Note: A skilled composer, it’s Harkness’s arrangement of Rowland Pritchard’s tune Hyfrydol that is used in many hymn books. (That tune is wedded to the hymn Our Great Saviour, and sometimes to I Will Sing of My Redeemer, and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus). The present gospel song was written in 1925. I’ve told the following story on the Wordwise Hymns link, but here is a little more detail.

People were gathered in the fellowship hall of a big church. Not a large crowd. But an intensely interested one. At the front, seated at a piano, was a tall, white-haired gentleman, in his mid-seventies. His name was Robert Harkness.

This was about sixty-five years ago. I was a young boy, and my father, a church organist and choir director, had brought me to meet this man who’d served the Lord for many years as a gospel musician and hymn writer. He spoke, that night, about his long ministry career, and told us about the Saviour he loved.

He also performed a little stunt, creating on song on the spot. He asked for a Scripture verse. (I forget which one was given. I think it might have been John 3:16.) Then, he asked for a key signature. “E flat major,” called my father. “A fine key,” said Mr. Harkness, with a grin. And he proceeded to play and sing a new song based on the text, made up as we listened. After the meeting, my father introduced me to him.

Harkness was born in Australia. He was raised in a Christian home, but did not come to Christ until later. He attended a meeting of evangelist R. A. Torrey, whose music director was Charles Alexander. Alexander had heard about Harkness, a musician with great skill as a pianist, and he invited him to play for a meeting.

The young man was still not a Christian. In fact, he thought that here was an opportunity to teach these evangelicals a thing or two! To show off a bit. When he played for the singing at that first meeting, his fingers raced up and down the piano keys, throwing in incredible harmonies and modern rhythms. But we laughed that night, when he told us what happened. Charlie Alexander just grinned at him and nodded, as if to say, “Great stuff! Keep it up!”

Later, in a hotel room, Alexander had a serious talk with his pianist. He explained that, clever as he was, and talented though he was, he needed a Saviour. Even to Nicodemus, a great teacher in Israel, and an undoubtedly moral man, the Lord Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3), speaking of the new spiritual birth granted to those who put their faith in Christ (Jn. 1:12-13).

Robert Harkness rode off on his bicycle, and says that, as he rode along, he came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He later became a permanent member of the Torrey-Alexander team, and toured the world with them several times. Harkness also wrote an instruction book on how to play hymns, and penned more than 2,000 hymns and gospel songs.

In spite of the stunt mentioned earlier, he was only able to write songs of lasting worth as the Lord directed him. Asked, “How do you write your hymns?” he replied, “Why, I write them when I’ve got them, and when I haven’t got them, I don’t write.” Jotting down ideas as they came to him, he waited for more particular inspiration, . Sometimes, he’d compose many songs in a day. Other times, maybe only one in a month.

Over the years, the musician never lost sight of the wonder of God’s salvation. With Paul, he could speak in amazement of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He never solved the mystery of why that was so, but continued to marvel at it. His feelings are echoed over and over in a gospel song.

1) Love sent my Saviour to die in my stead,
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led,
Why should He love me so?

Why should He love me so?
Why should He love me so?
Why should my Saviour to Calvary go?
Why should he love me so?

3) O how He agonized there in my place,
Why should He love me so?
Nothing withholding my sin to efface,
Why should He love me so?

1) Many other hymns and gospel songs have asked the “Why?” question. Can you think of some?

2) What do you do when you come across a Bible question you can’t answer?

Wordwise Hymns (Robert Harkness)
The Cyber Hymnal (Robert Harkness) (Robert Harkness)


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