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Words: Garfield Thomas Haywood (b. July 15, 1880; d. Apr. 12, 1931)
Music: Garfield Thomas Haywood
Note: This hymn is also called O Sweet Wonder, using a phrase from the chorus. I can recall singing it with a men’s choir, many years ago. For us, it was a worshipful song, sung with quiet reverence. Judging by the many renditions on YouTube, it’s a favourite of African American congregations. that’s great, but some versions are loud, frantic, and frenetic. To me, anyway, that just doesn’t seem to fit the mood of awed wonderment.
Garfield Haywood, lived most of his life in Indianapolis, Indiana, and served there as a pastor for many years. But it some point there was a split in his denomination over the doctrine of the Trinity. Haywood sided with those who took the unorthodox view that there is no such thing. That God can be the Father, the Son or the Spirit, changing Himself into one or the other, as the need requires–a view called modalism.
The modalists have a problem with the baptism of Jesus, where all three Persons of the Trinity are involved (Matt. 3:13-17). And when the Lord Jesus prays to His heavenly Father (Jn. 17:1ff) He’s not talking to Himself! All three Persons of the Triune Godhead were involved in creation (Gen. 1:1-2; Job 26:13; Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17). The Scriptures declare that there is one God (Deut. 6:4; Jas. 2:19), but He eternally exists in three co-equal Persons, each with a unique role in the Godhead (e.g. Matt. 10:32; 28:18-19; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; I Pet. 2:1; I Jn. 2:1).
They are familiar words: sweet, and wonder. Some form of one or both is common in our daily speech. Sweet is either how we like our coffee (or not), or it’s used of something dear or precious to us. A wonder, in everyday use, is something marvelous and exciting.
Both words are found many times in our hymns. There is How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds (John Newton, 1779), and Sweet Hour of Prayer (William Walford, 1845). Then we have Great God of Wonders (Samuel Davies, 1769)–not to mention other forms of that word in I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (Francis Rowley, 1886), and Wonderful Grace of Jesus (Haldor Lillenas, 1918).
But around 1914, Garfield Haywood produced a gospel song entitled Jesus, the Son of God. Ten times in the repeated refrains, it refers to Jesus Christ as a “sweet Wonder,” a striking and unusual phrase. Though the words have been used together to advertise cake, and baby care equipment, as far as I’m aware, this sacred song is the only one, in thousands of them, in which those words are put together to describe the Lord.
Before we look at Garfield’s words, consider what we have in Scripture. The word “sweet” is used over one hundred times in the Bible. When not speaking of what is sweet to the taste, it’s describing something that is pleasing, delightful or thrilling in varying degrees. Thus we have, for example, sweet meditation (Ps. 104:34); sweet sleep (Prov. 3:24); sweet friends and friendship (Prov. 27:9; Ps. 55:14); and sweet words (Prov. 16:24; Ps. 141:6), with a particular application to the Word of God (Ps. 119:103).
As to wonders, three words in the New Testament are associated with the supernatural works of God. Acts 2:22 says of the Lord Jesus that He was “approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs.” Miracles translates the Greek word dunamis, meaning powers, because they are a demonstration of the power of God. (We get our word dynamite from it.) They are also signs, in the sense that they are signposts pointing to Christ’s identity, and to the authenticity and trustworthiness of His message.
Finally, wonders is a word found in the Bible nearly one hundred times. Christ’s miracles are called wonders, as they were events beyond the full understanding of His observers, and they awakened awe and reverence toward the Lord. The word is also used of the plagues God poured out on the land of Egypt, when Pharaoh refused to let the enslaved Israelites depart (Acts 7:36), and it’s used of the supernatural works of God through Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:12).
Even though Pastor Haywood seems to have taken the erroneous modalist position, I believe he is right about Christ in his song. He continued to believe in the deity of Christ, whom the book of Titus refers to as “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Haywood’s song says:
CH-1) Do you know Jesus,
Our Lord, our Saviour,
Jesus the Son of God?
Have you ever seen Him,
Or shared of His favour?
Jesus the Son of God.
O sweet Wonder! O sweet Wonder!
Jesus the Son of God;
How I adore Thee! O how I love Thee!
Jesus the Son of God.
CH-5) Then some day from heaven,
On clouds of bright glory,
Jesus the Son of God
Will come for His jewels,
Most precious and holy,
Jesus the Son of God.
1) What can you think of, concerning the Lord Jesus, that fits the description “sweet Wonder”?
2) What other hymns do you know that exalt Christ using memorable imagery and picture language?