Posted by: rcottrill | April 12, 2017

I Cannot Tell

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Words: William Young Fullerton (b. Mar. 8, 1857; d. Aug. 17, 1932)
Music: Londonderry Air (an ancient folk tune from Northern Ireland)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Fullerton came to Christ through the ministry of Charles Spurgeon. He became a popular devotional speaker himself. And he wrote a hymn in 1929 that weighs things known and unknown about the Lord Jesus Christ. Before we look at the message of the words, a comment about the tune.

Fullerton, an Irishman, set his text to Londonderry Air, an old folk tune from Northern Ireland (Londonderry being a county there). The tune was first published in The Ancient Music of Ireland, in 1855. It has been described as the most perfectly crafted melody ever written. In 1910, it became the setting for Danny Boy, a popular ballad by Frederic Weatherly, but it also has become the tune for several hymns.

I Cannot Tell, by William Fullerton (1857-1932)
Above the Hills of Time, by Thomas Tiplady (1882-1967)
I Would Be True, by Howard Walter (1883-1918)–a fine alternate tune for this hymn
He Looked Beyond My Fault, by Dottie Rambo (1934-2008)

Questions are important. They are the gateways to learning and discovery. Journalists use them all the time. A poem by Rudyard Kipling lists six key words used to query and investigate.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

There are some questions, however, that either have no answer, or the answer persistently evades the seeker.

What are called rhetorical questions (such as, “Why me?”) don’t necessarily expect an answer at all. They’re used for dramatic effect.

Riddles and brain-teasers are posed for the sake of entertainment.

Other inquiries take a humorous tack. For instance, how does “nonstick” Teflon stick to a frying pan? On the other hand, why doesn’t glue stick to its container?

But, more seriously, there are things seen in nature for which science may have theories, but few answers. We know more now that we did in years past, but some things continue to challenge researchers. Why is yawning contagious? Why are there left-handed people? Why are moths drawn to the light? Why do cats purr? Why do we have fingerprints?

As to the Bible, someone has counted 3,294 questions there. Clearly God wanted us to think about what we read in His Word, as many of the queries touch on significant spiritual concerns. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” asked Cain (Gen. 4:9), and yes, we are responsible for one another (Heb. 10:24). And when Moses, as God’s spokesman, asked for the release of the enslaved Israelites, arrogant Pharaoh replied, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Exod. 5:2). He was soon to find out!

When the Lord Jesus asked His followers, “‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15-16). Later, there was dithering Pilate asking, “What then shall I do with Jesus?” He wanted the opinion of the crowd before him as to whether to execute Christ, or let Him go. But his words confront each one of us still. What has each of us done with the claims of Christ?

Questions focusing on Christ are the most important we’ll ever face, because our answers will affect our eternal destiny. When a Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, ““Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31; cf. Jn. 3:16). That is specific and certain. But there are unanswered and unanswerable questions about God’s salvation. Even if we believe God’s promise and trust in the Saviour, that is so.

Christ spoke to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, and puzzled him greatly. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (Jn. 3:3-4). The Lord’s response suggests the work of God’s Spirit is beyond our comprehension. We can see or experience the results, but still not understand it (vs. 8).

Here is some of Mr. Fullerton’s hymn about the Lord Jesus.

CH-1) I cannot tell why He whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world is come.

CH-2) I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.

1) What are some questions about God’s salvation for which you have no answers?

2) What are some things about God’s salvation about which you have strong confidence?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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