Posted by: rcottrill | July 19, 2017

Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care

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Words: Richard Baxter (b. Nov. 12, 1615; d. Dec. 8, 1691)
Music: Evan, by William Henry Havergal (b. Jan. 18, 1793; d. Apr. 19, 1870)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: In Baxter’s Poetical Fragments, this hymn is entitled “The Covenant and Confidence of Faith.” He noted, “This covenant, my dear wife, in her former sickness, subscribed with a cheerful will.” The hymn was sung to her in her last illness.

Either…or… The two words frame a choice. It may be a choice of little consequence, such as which pair of socks to wear that day, or which flavour of ice cream to have. But there are decisions that are clearly more important. Which college to attend, which job to take, which person to marry.

And there are those on our planet who face, almost every day, the effects of a choice more critical still, laying their lives on the line for the work or cause they’ve committed to. In military conflicts, in law enforcement, in fire fighting, life threatening situations are faced many times. The dedication of the men and women involved is heroic, and it needs our appreciation and support.

Something that’s less in the daily news, but just as significant, in some countries today Christians face persecution for their faith in Christ. This can take the form of shunning by family and friends, the loss of a job or refusal of community services, and beyond that, imprisonment, torture, and even death. It has been so since the beginning. Many believers, in the early church, were persecuted and killed because they were followers of Christ.

Polycarp (circa AD 69-155), is an example. Said to be a disciple of the Apostle John, he became the bishop of the church at Smyrna. But he was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense in worship of the emperor–who claimed to be a god. Before his death, Polycarp boldly bore witness to his faith in the following way.

“Eighty and six years I have served Him [the Lord], and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”

The Apostle Paul understood the opposition Christians face. From a Roman prison cell he wrote:

“[I know] according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20-21).

“Whether by life or by death”–either…or, I’m devoted to Christ. Centuries later, it was the same for English clergyman Richard Baxter. A deeply spiritual man, he was also a prolific author and a devoted pastor. He preached and wrote without compromise, speaking out with holy boldness against wrongs.

On one occasion he was brought to trial on the false charge of “libeling the church.” When the corrupt Chief Justice taunted him with, “Richard, I see the rogue in thy face,” Baxter retorted, “I had not known before that my face was a mirror!”

As a result of this trial Baxter spent eighteen months in prison. Afterward, though warned not to preach, he continued as before. But he “preached as never sure to preach again.” And he has given us a beautiful hymn, based on the words of Paul quoted above.

CH-1) Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

CH-2) If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

CH-3) Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Of the prospect of heaven Baxter’s hymn says:

CH-5) Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Saviour’s praise.

CH-6) My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

1) Why are Christians ready and willing to die when faced with the threat of death?

2) How should the possibility of opposition or persecution affect our daily lives?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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