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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)
Note: With nine original stanzas (72 lines, including the refrains) this 1878 hymn is quite lengthy. It is also of interest that three stanzas (CH-5-7) are framed as a negative, strongly rejecting any thought of half-heartedness in our loyalty to Christ. Unusual too are the two stanzas (CH-8 and 9) directed especially to women (“sisters”). That is because the song was used at one time as the official Y.W.C.A. hymn (in the days when the Young Women’s Christian Association had a strong spiritual component in its program).
It’s worth reading all nine stanzas, and they can be found on the Cyber Hymnal link. However, hymnals today use only the first three stanzas of this fine hymn. CH-1 is first; CH-3 is placed second; CH-2 is last, with its first line changed to, “True-hearted, whole-hearted, Saviour all-glorious.”
In times of war and international conflict there are individuals who inhabit the shadowy world of the double agent. A double agent claims to work faithfully for one government, while actually serving traitorously to the benefit of the enemy.
During the Cold War, Kim Philby did that. Mr. Philby was a respected member of British Intelligence, and an officer of the Order of the British Empire. The latter, like our own Order of Canada, was awarded to him for loyal service to his country. But all the while Philby belonged to a spy ring feeding secret information to the Soviet Union. When he died in Moscow in 1988, he was awarded a hero’s funeral and numerous medals. The USSR even produced a postage stamp in his honour.
There were double agents in the Bible too. King David had a respected counselor named Ahithophel. His wisdom was so admired that it was said, “the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God” (II Sam. 16:23). However, when David’s son Absalom led a rebellion against the king, Ahithophel readily served the conspirators. David said, in grief, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9).
In the New Testament, the most famous traitor is Judas Iscariot. Though he pretended to be a loyal disciple of Christ, he betrayed the Saviour to the Jewish leadership on being paid thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-15). Greed for money motivated him. Appointed to be the treasurer of the twelve, he helped himself to the funds (Jn. 12:6). Judas’s pretense was so successful none of the others suspected it. When, the Lord Jesus said, in the upper room, that one of His followers would betray him, none of the others pointed the finger at Judas (Matt. 26:21-22).
In sharp contrast is the later declaration of loyalty from the Apostle Paul. When he was warned of the dangers that faced him in his service for Christ, he exclaimed, “None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). That is how he lived, and how he died. He was able to say, at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).
The year before her death, Frances Havergal published a hymn that expresses a desire for unwavering loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. It begins:
CH-1) True-hearted, whole-hearted, faithful and loyal,
King of our lives, by Thy grace we will be;
Under the standard exalted and royal,
Strong in Thy strength we will battle for Thee.
Peal out the watchword! Silence it never!
Song of our spirits, rejoicing and free;
Peal out the watchword! Loyal forever!
King of our lives, by Thy grace we will be.
But she recognizes that, to quote the Lord Jesus, so often “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). In a stanza not used today, the hymn continues:
CH-4) True-hearted! Saviour, Thou knowest our story,
Weak are the hearts that we lay at Thy feet,
Sinful and treacherous! yet, for Thy glory,
Heal them, and cleanse them from sin and deceit.
Though some hymn books only include three stanzas of this hymn, the original, as noted above, dealt specifically with the problem of having divided loyalties in our life and service for Christ. When it comes to the things of God, some try to give limited time and energy to religion, living more for the pleasures of the world that for commitment to Christ. Of these the hymn writer says:
CH-7) Half-hearted? Master, shall any who know Thee
Grudge Thee their lives, who has laid down Thine own?
Nay! we would offer the hearts that we owe Thee,
Live for Thy love and Thy glory alone.
1) In what ways can we be half-hearted, or even disloyal in our Christian lives?
2) What will be the common marks of whole-heartedness and loyalty toward Christ?