Posted by: rcottrill | June 8, 2016

O Thou God of My Salvation

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Words: Thomas Olivers (b. _____, 1725; d. March ___, 1799)
Music: Hyfrydol, by Roland Huw Prichard (b. Jan. 14, 1811; d. Jan. 25, 1887)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Olivers)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Evangelist and hymn writer Thomas Olivers had a rough start in life. He lost both his parents at the age of four, and was raised by a distant relative. He was later apprenticed to a shoemaker, but because of Tom’s wicked ways he was forced to run away to avoid charges against him. Then one day, in physical wretchedness and deep despair, he heard George Whitefield preach in an open air meeting. His text was, “Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zech. 3:2).

Olivers saw himself, in his misery, as one who could be pulled by the Lord, at the last moment, from the fires of judgment. “No words,” he said, “can set forth the joy, the rapture, the awe and reverence I felt.” He became a new man in Christ, and an associate of John Wesley’s. Over twenty-five years he traveled one hundred and sixty thousand kilometres in England and Ireland, preaching the gospel.

Olivers wrote a lament on the death of John Wesley. After praising his mentor and friend, he ended with this challenge:

For this, let us like him the world disdain;
For this like him rejoice in toil and pain;
Like him be bold for God;
Like him our time redeem.
And strive, and watch, and pray;
And live and die like him.

Published in 1769, O Thou God of My Salvation is a very fine worship hymn, though the wording has changed a little over the years, as has the stanza order. But my feeling is it deserves a more exalting and triumphant tune than the one Daniel Towners wrote for it. Either Hyfrydol or Blaenwern seem to work better.

Politics has a word for it: spin–a biased and partisan view that cherry-picks facts selectively or deceptively, thus misrepresenting the truth. Meanwhile, admirers tend to believe what they want to believe. Whether it’s about a politician or a rock star, a hamburger or an automobile, fans often ignore, or try to explain away what the critics say.

Actually, absolute perfection is hard to come by. Outside of fairy tales, no one is perfectly happy, or has a truly perfect day. Nor is there a perfect computer or a perfect business deal. While we may want to be positive, it’s important to face reality too. Even when something is praiseworthy, the negative aspects are likely significant and should not be ignored.

The grand exception to all of this is God. Superlatives and absolutes are completely appropriate when speaking of Him. No exceptions need be made. “As for God, His way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30). “His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5). “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32:4).

When speaking of His goodness and holiness, there is no qualification necessary. “[His] righteousness is an everlasting righteousness” (Ps. 119:142). “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I Jn. 1:5), One “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17). “I am holy,” God says (I Pet. 1:16), completely separate from any taint of sin or moral corruption. And “I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).

Many other verses could be cited declaring the absolute perfections of our God in every way. And it seems logical to suggest that infinite perfection is deserving of infinite praise. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen” (I Tim. 1:17).

And such worship and praise will not only be quantitative (i.e. forever resounding through all of God’s creation), but qualitative, sincerely rising from the depths of our beings. What for now must only be an aspiration, limited by our unperfected humanity, will be realized fully at last. Then, we’ll be able to say in truth, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart” (Ps. 9:1). The heavens will endlessly echo with exuberant, lavish, abundant, enthusiastic, joyous praise.

In Thomas Olivers we have an ardent servant of God who gave us a song of heartfelt praise:

CH-1) O Thou God of my salvation,
My Redeemer from all sin;
Moved by Thy divine compassion,
Who hast died my heart to win;
I will praise Thee, I will praise Thee,
Where shall I Thy praise begin?
I will praise Thee, I will praise Thee,
Where shall I Thy praise begin?

CH-4) While the angel choirs are crying,
‘Glory to the great I AM,’
I with them will still be vying–
Glory, glory, to the Lamb!
Oh, how precious, oh, how precious
Is the sound of Jesus’ name!
Oh, how precious, oh, how precious
Is the sound of Jesus’ name!

Questions:
1) Can you list some of the ways in which God is absolutely perfect?

2) What would our perfect praise be like ideally?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Olivers)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. When I was in London in 2013 I visited John Wesley’s grave, located behind his chapel and his house. Thomas Olivers is also buried in that tomb, and inscribed on the large, tall grave marker, among many other inscriptions, is the following: “Rev. Thomas Olivers, born 1726, died March 1799. Corrector of the press of Mr. Wesley, author of the hymn ‘The God of Abraham Praise,’ and the tune called HELMSLEY.”
    I copied this from my picture of it. I wish I could send you the picture, but alas, due to technical difficulties, I cannot.

    • Sorry for the “technical difficulties.” If you ever get them fixed, do send the photo along and I’ll try to post it. In any event, thanks for passing on the information. Many great English hymn writers are buried in England, and some have their homes restored or turned into museums about them. I’d love to have the privilege of visiting. 🙂


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