Posted by: rcottrill | June 27, 2019

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

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Words:
Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676)
Music: St. Catherine (or Walton), by Henri Frederick Hemy (b. Nov. 12, 1818; d. June 10, 1888)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt born, died) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Paul Gerhardt was a German pastor and theologian who also gave us a number of beautiful hymns. From 1653 comes this lengthy (sixteen stanza) hymn, translated into English nearly a century later by John Wesley. For the wonderful story behind another hymn by Pastor Gerhardt, Give to the Winds Thy Fears, see here. It gives insight into the man’s character.

The expression “staying power” has been around for nearly two centuries. Originally it referred to the stamina and endurance needed to maintain speed through a race. But it has since been applied to human endeavour in other areas, and to human relationships such as friendship and marriage. The question in the latter case is: will the bond last?

The enduring partnership of George and Ira Gershwin produced many popular songs and Broadway musicals in the early part of the twentieth century. As a composer, George created a unique style of music, combining the classical genre with American jazz. His older brother Ira provided effective lyrics for George’s melodies.

In 1937, George composed his last tune–before a brain tumour took his life at the early age of thirty-eight. After his death, Ira wrote lyrics for the music as a tribute to his brother. The result was a charming, and often recorded love song entitled Love Is Here to Stay–“not for a year, but ever and a day.”

Contrasts are made in the song to things that may simply be “passing fancies,” such as “the movies that we know.” Even the seemingly unshakable Rocky Mountains, and the rock of Gibraltar may some day be gone, “they’re only made of clay,” but “our love is here to stay.” It has staying power, or so the song claims.

It’s a warmly touching sentiment. But we all know many such pledges are broken every day. The unconditional vows of the traditional wedding ceremony, “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, turn out to be “I’ll still love you if…” or “I’ll remain faithful to you if…”

This issue enters the spiritual realm when we consider the Lord’s love for us, and our love for Him. As to the former, it reaches from eternity past, into the eternal future. It was the love of God that sent His Son to Calvary to pay our debt of sin (Jn. 3:16; Gal. 2:20). Our Saviour “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). And it’s a tender love that guides us all the way to our eternal home.

Of our own love, the Lord Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). But the truth is often different. Sometimes, He noted, “people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). We need a work of the Spirit of God within to develop a deep and enduring love for the Lord (Gal. 5:22).

Gerhardt’s hymn celebrates both the Calvary love mentioned above, and the ongoing power of that glorious love in his life.

CH-1) Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare:
O knit my thankful heart to Thee
And reign without a rival there;
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.

CH-12) What in Thy love possess I not?
My star by night, my sun by day;
My spring of life when parched with drought,
My wine to cheer, my bread to stay,
My strength, my shield, my safe abode,
My robe before the throne of God!

But, in contrast, the author sees his own love for the Lord pitifully weak and inconstant. He confesses, in stanza 6:

“More hard than marble is my heart,
And foul with sins of deepest stain.”

So he prays:

CH-2) O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown.
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.

May this be true of each of us.

Questions:
1) How have you shown and shared the love of Christ with others during the past week?

2) What do you believe is still lacking in your life of the expression of the love of Christ? (For a list of some characteristics, see First Corinthians 13:4-8a.)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt born, died) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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