Posted by: rcottrill | February 25, 2019

Dearer Than All

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Words: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley

Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley)
The Cyber Hymnal (Alfred Ackley)

Note: Ackley’s brother Bentley wrote the music for many gospel songs, but Alfred often provided texts and tunes for hundreds of songs. This one was published in 1917. I can remember singing it in a men’s choir, more than fifty years ago.

Today we likely use the word “dear,” and its varying degrees dearer, dearest, as it relates to the cost of something. (“That’s dearer than the one at the other store.”) But it’s used in literature, and in personal letters, to refer to our heart’s affection for another person. It identifies one, a family member or a friend, as especially loved and cherished.

In 1978, Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of actress Joan Crawford, wrote a memoir about her mother entitled Mommie Dearest. But the title is bitterly ironic. Christina paints a stark and scathing picture of an abusive alcoholic parent, a portrayal that has been challenged since by others who knew Joan Crawford.

Turning from this sad account to our English hymnody we see something quite different. As Scottish preacher and author Oswald Chambers put it, “The dearest friend on earth is a mere shadow compared to Jesus Christ.” That conviction is echoed in many of our hymns.

In 1531, reformer Martin Luther gave us his Christmas hymn, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come. It says, in part:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

Three centuries later, Karl Spitta published his hymn about the Christian home which begins, “O happy home, where Thou art loved the dearest.”

In 1772, hymn writer William Cowper in his hymn, O for a Closer Walk with God, rejects the opposite of deep affection for the Lord, the folly of trying to replace Him with anything or anyone as the supreme object of our love:

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

A number of Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible are translated dear, loved, or beloved, meaning highly esteemed, and precious. God recognizes Abraham’s son Isaac as “your son…whom you love” (Gen. 22:2). And even when disciplining Israel for her many sins, the Lord calls her “the dearly beloved of My soul” (Jer. 12:7). And David, the psalmist, cries, “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints” (Ps. 31:23).

In the New Testament, God the Father several times addresses Christ as “My beloved Son” (e.g. Matt. 3:17). And Paul calls the Christians in Rome “beloved of God” (Rom. 1:7).

But the greatest love of all toward lost sinners sent the eternal Son of God from heaven’s glory to die on a cross to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16). In Christ, God “has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [eternal comfort] and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16). John writes:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the full satisfaction of God’s justice] for our sins….We have known and believed the love that God has for us” (I Jn. 4:10, 16).

And such infinite love deserves our love in return. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19).

Alfred Henry Ackley gave us words and music for a song about that. In Dearer Than All, he touches briefly on a mother’s love, but declares the love of the Lord to be greater still.

1) Ye who the love of a mother have known,
There is a love sweeter far you may own,
Love all sufficient for sin to atone;
Jesus is dearer than all.

Dearer than all, yes, dearer than all,
He is my King, before Him I fall;
No friend like Jesus my soul can enthrall,
Jesus is dearer, far dearer than all.

2) Jesus entreats you in Him to confide,
Make Him your constant Companion and Guide
He can do more than the whole world beside;
Jesus is dearer than all.

3) Heaven, with all of its beauty so rare,
Without my Redeemer can never compare;
He is the glory transcendent up there;
Jesus is dearer than all.

1) What are some remarkable things about the Lord’s love for us?

2) How do you show your love for the Lord Jesus, day by day?

Wordwise Hymns (Alfred Ackley) /
The Cyber Hymnal (Alfred Ackley)


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