Posted by: rcottrill | July 25, 2019

My Jesus, I Love Thee

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Words: William Ralph Featherstone (b. July 23, 1846; d. May 20, 1873)
Music: Adoniram Judson Gordon (b. Apr. 13, 1836; d. Feb. 2, 1895)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Ralph Featherstone, a resident of Montreal, wrote this song as a teen-ager, after his conversion to Christ. His heartwarming expression of love for the Lord ends in triumph, in “mansions of glory and endless delight.”

Likely some readers have had the experience of being called as a witness in court, as the present writer has. So, what exactly is a witness?

The term comes from an old usage of the word “wit” which, a thousand years ago, referred to knowledge or understanding. As a noun, a witness is a person who has seen or heard some event, or can give first-hand evidence about it. As a verb, to witness is to give that evidence, or serve, personally, as the evidence.

In contrast, perjury is the willful giving of false testimony, or the act of swearing to a statement known to be false. When this is done in a court of law, it is a criminal offense and can bring a severe penalty.

In the Bible, witnesses are spoken of 170 times. The New Testament word is a translation of the Greek martus, sometimes translated “martyr” (Acts 22:20; Rev. 2:13). Surely the willingness to stake one’s life on the validity of a testimony is a strong indication that it’s true.

Just before the ascension of Christ, He commissioned His followers to bear witness to what He had done and what He’d taught (Acts 1:8). This they proceeded to do, particularly focusing on His resurrection, and the fact that they had seen the risen Christ (e.g. Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:33). The Lord’s resurrection was essential to the truth of the gospel.

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up–if in fact the dead do not rise” (I Cor. 15:14-15).

When the writer of Hebrews says “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), he’s likely speaking of the people of faith spoken of in chapter 11. Not that they’re surrounding us now, witnessing what we do. The word is used in more of a courtroom sense. The writer is pointing out that their experiences, just described, bear witness to the value of trusting in the Lord.

As to our hymns, whether they’re masterpieces or more commonplace, in the vast majority of cases, they’re a personal testimony given by the author, a sincere expression of his (or her) beliefs. Only rarely did a writer speak of things he did not personally believe. Based on many years of study, here are three that come to mind.

1) Likely in the late nineteen century, an agnostic named James Proctor wrote some lines of verse mocking the gospel.

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways
My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
But what I need, the Bible says,
Is ever, only Jesus.

But he didn’t believe that–until, some time later, he put his faith in Christ. Then, he added to the poem and turned it into In Jesus, a testimony of personal faith.

2) In 1910, D. R. Van Sickle boasted he could write a good hymn, even though he was not a believer. As evidence, he produced a fine one, All Hail the Thee, Immanuel, usually sung by a choir. Some time later, Van Sickle was sitting in church and heard a choir sing the song. As he thought about the words, God used his own hymn to convict and convert him!

3) Ray Overholt, a night club entertainer, thought it would be useful to write some kind of religious song to use on occasion. So he got a Bible and looked for a subject. He settled on the record of what happened to Jesus in Gethsemane and, in 1958, wrote Ten Thousand Angels (cf. Matt. 26:53). He was later wonderfully saved, and used music as a means of ministry.

On the other hand, there seems to be no doubt of the utter sincerity of the author of My Jesus, I Love Thee. As far as I know, it’s the only hymn he ever wrote.

CH-1) My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

CH-2) I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

CH-4) In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

1) It seems Ralph Featherstone is remembered only for writing this hymn. What would you most like to be remembered for?

2) Two crowns are mentioned in this hymn (stanzas 2 and 4). What is the difference between them? (And why?)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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