Posted by: rcottrill | April 7, 2017

Come, Sinner, Come

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Words: William Ellsworth Witter (b. Dec. 9, 1854; d. _____, 1931)
Music: Horatio Richmond Palmer (b. Apr. 26, 1834; d. Nov. 15, 1907)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Horatio Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Witter would go on in later years to serve as a pastor, a missionary to India, and a college professor. But at the age of twenty-three, home from college for the summer, he was helping out on the family farm. It was then he wrote this song.

In Syracuse, Sicily, around 287-212 BC lived a man named Archimedes. He’s considered a superb mathematician–perhaps the greatest of all time.

One day, he climbed into a bathtub but, before he began washing himself, he noticed something significant about the water. Up he jumped, shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” water flying in all directions. Then, it’s said, Archimedes ran out into the street, sopping wet, and still stark naked, excited to share his discovery.

Whether  the story is true, historians can’t be sure. But what Archimedes apparently saw is rather simple. It’s something we’ve likely all noticed. When you put anything in water–whether it’s your body, or something else, the water level goes up. Not that startling. But, being clever, the ancient Greek turned it into a useful principle: that the volume of the water displaced is equal to the volume of what is submerged.

Archimedes immediately realized this provided a way to measure the cubic volume of irregularly shaped objects–something that previously seemed impossible. There are mathematical formulas to measure the volume of something with six straight sides–like a box. But what about measuring a human body, or a football, or a jagged piece of rock? Simply by measuring the volume of the water displaced, it can be done.

Eureka (pronounced yoo-REE-kah) is a Greek word meaning “I have found [it]!” an exclamation celebrating a new insight, or a discovery that’s been made. A eureka moment (sometimes called an “Aha!” moment) can happen to any of us.

In the Bible, a sudden discovery changed the life of a young Pharisee named Saul. Saul (later known as Paul) was a brilliant student of the Old Testament and an ardent defender of Judaism. As such, he was convinced that Christians were members of a heretical sect that had to be stamped out. The Bible says, “He made havoc of the church [in Jerusalem], entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

Then, he determined to expand his misguided witch hunt to other cities. “Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), he got letters from the Jewish high priest, authorizing him to go to Damascus, “so that if he found any who were of the [Christian] Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (vs. 2).

But, suddenly, on the road to Damascus, he was surrounded by a heavenly light, and confronted by the risen, glorified Christ who, astonishingly, accused Saul of persecuting Him (vs. 3-5). By oppressing and imprisoning the followers of Christ, Saul was opposing the Son of God Himself, because they were part of His spiritual body, the church.

In that eureka moment Saul’s whole theology was revolutionized. He saw, in the Lord Jesus, the fulfilment of all those Old Testament Scriptures he had studied, and he became His committed follower. There, on the road, he cried, “Lord [Master], what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6, NKJV; cf. Acts 22:10).

William Ellsworth Witter had his eureka moment too. He tells of a sudden inspiration to write a gospel song–likely the only one he ever wrote.

“One Saturday afternoon, while bunching hay, the words of this little hymn seemed to sing themselves into my soul….I hastened to the house and, running upstairs, knelt beside the bed….There, upon my knees, I transcribed the words to paper.”

It sounds very much like a miniature echo of Saul’s experience–finding a moment of insight when we need to respond to the leading of God’s Spirit. That is even more urgent when the Lord calls us to put our faith in the Saviour, because “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). We have no guarantee of another.

CH-1) While Jesus whispers to you,
Come, sinner, come!
While we are praying for you,
Come, sinner, come!
Now is the time to own Him:
Come, sinner, come!
Now is the time to know Him:
Come, sinner, come!

CH-2) Are you too heavy laden?
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus will bear your burden:
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus will not deceive you:
Come, sinner, come!
Jesus can now redeem you:
Come, sinner, come!

In 1910, Helen Alexander (1877-1969) published a version of this song adding two more stanzas before the last (stanza 3, as found in the Cyber Hymnal). Helen Cadbury, heir to the Cadbury chocolate fortune, married Charlie Alexander, the song leader for evangelist R. A. Torrey’s meetings. Her added stanzas can be seen on the Hymnary.org link.

Questions:
1) Have you recently experienced the leading of the Lord to act in opportunity that would likely never come again?

2) In your view, what is the best or most effective song of invitation to trust in Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Horatio Palmer)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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