In my quest for discovering old hymns, I’ve been collecting old hymn books. My sister, Nancy, who was supporting my endeavor, recently brought me an old Lutheran Hymnal that she had picked up at a garage sale. She had put a bookmark with a note on one of the pages.
It was a song our Dad used to sing to us in German when we were children. I imagine his mother sang it to him as well. Sometimes he would play the tune on his violin. Since I had never heard the English version I didn’t know how sweet the words were that he was singing to us. Below you will find the song with German and English words.
Sometimes simple is best. This is one of those times. I hope you enjoy it.
(In the first line there should be an Umlaut over the word Lasst and erlosen. I simply can’t figure out how to type it. Also, please forgive my very rusty German pronunciation.)
Gott ist Die Liebe – by August Rische (1819-1906)
Gott ist die Liebe, lasst mich erlosen, Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.
Drum sag ich noch einmal: Gott ist die Liebe! Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.
God loves me dearly, Grants me salvation, God loves me dearly, loves even me.
*Therefore I’ll say again: God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, Loves even me.
I was in slav’ry, Sin, death, and darkness; God’s love was working to make me free. *
He sent forth Jesus, My dear Redeemer, He sent forth Jesus and set me free. *
Jesus, my Savior, Himself did offer; Jesus, my Savior, Paid all I owed. *
Now I will praise You, O Love Eternal; Now I will praise You all my life long.*
P.S. This is dedicated to my six grandchildren. Ashlee, Arianna, Aidan, Emerson, Will and finally Jase who was born 7-6-2021.
William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was born in 1731. He is considered one of England’s finest poets.
His life was filled with melancholy and sometimes despair, which may have had its roots in his mother’s death when he was only six. He was hospitalized on more than one occasion for “madness”. He wrote many hymns that were full of hope instead of the despair he was so familiar with. (God Moves in a Mysterious Way; There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.)
The following hymn is especially hopeful. The encouragement that comes from singing is in the first line. The original tune is one by Hayden – Petition 76.76D. The words also fit nicely with the tune – Sally Garden. There is a modern version by Sweetwaters Music. (I am unable to find the name of the composer.) The version I recorded below is the new version.
Sometimes a light surprises the child of God who sings; the light of one who rises with gentle, healing wings.
When comforts are declining, God grants the soul again A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation with joy we shall pursue the theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow we cheerfully can say, let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing but God will bear us through. Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe the people, too.
Beneath the spreading heavens no creature but is fed: the one who feeds the ravens will give the children bread
Though vine and fig tree neither their yearly fruit should bear, though all the fields should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there,
yet God, the same abiding, through praise shall tune my voice, for while in love confiding I cannot but rejoice.
For Further Study: “And he shall be as the light or the morning, like the rising of the sun, A morning without clouds; Whenfrom the sunshine, after rain, the green grass springeth after rain.” II Samuel 23:4
Joseph Hart was a prodigal. Born of Christian parents in 1712, he learned early to fear God and follow His laws. But the world attracted him and his focus shifted to baser things. The early training seems to have been wasted and his life took a decidedly anti-Christian turn. He didn’t just leave his faith, he aggressively attacked it through the things he published.
God still pursued him and Joseph wrestled with God for years. Eventually he turned again to the God who loved him. This time the struggle was between “Earning his salvation”, and “Assuming on God’s grace”. Neither extreme was Biblically sound and eventually he came to a saving knowledge of the one who saves us not because of our merit, but because of His grace. He also bids us to follow him, by leaving our old ways behind. But here I will let him tell you in his own words.
“He hath plucked me from the lowest Hell. He hath plucked me as a brand out of the fire! He hath proved himself stronger than I, and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He gives me to know…that without Him I can do nothing…Though an enemy, He calls me his friend; though a traitor a child; though a beggared prodigal, He clothes me with the best robe; and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand,…He secretly shows me His bleeding wounds; and softly and powerfully, whispers to my soul: ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul…When my dry empty barren soul is parched with thirst, He kindly bids me come to Him, and drink my fill at the fountain head. In a word He empowers me to say with experimental evidence, ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and Amen.”
He struggled with assurance of salvation until one Easter he was confronted again by the God who loved him. After being overwhelmed by the suffering Christ he wrote the following hymn. For God uses even our wanderings to Honor Him. He became a preacher in London about 1760. Think of Joseph Hart as you read the words. They are a powerful testimony.
(The chorus was added later by an unknown author. The original tune was also replaced.)
(Joseph Hart 1712-1768)
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity love and power.
Chorus:I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance every grace that brings you nigh.
Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.
I will rise and go to Jesus! He will save me from my sin.
By the riches of his merit, there is joy and life in him.
View Him prostrate in the garden on the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him sinner will not this suffice?
Lo the incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly. Let no other trust intrude.
For further study: C. H. Spurgeon often quoted from Hart in his sermons. The above hymn being his favorite. He applied it to Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
(Above information taken from “The Story of the Hymns and Tunes” by Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth – copyright 1906 – American Tract Society. and “www.biblicalstudies.org.uk” – Joseph Hart and his hymns by Peter C. Rae Cowdenbeath. His source was “Hart’s hymns” – Palmer’s edition of 1863.)
My grandfather’s sister was an extraordinary woman. She was born in 1886, which meant she lived through two World Wars. She lived in our town and spent all her holidays, birthdays, and many Sunday dinners with us. She was like a grandmother. We called her Aunt Signe.
She often told us to sit up straight… Didn’t like that we wore slacks… Complained that my sister’s boyfriend’s hair was too long. Severe might be the best way to describe her.
But we loved her and she loved us. She loved us enough to be critical, to push us to be better, to always remember our birthdays. She even bought our family a piano to ensure each of us learned to play.
She had spent most of her life teaching school and was the principal at four different schools in Fargo, ND. One year she even coached the boys basketball team. When she retired, she became a World Book salesman. I still have the well worn set she gave us when I was a child.
Signe was engaged to be married in her 20s to a young man named Byron. When she heard the gospel and God’s demands on her life she made a life changing decision to follow Christ. When she told the good news to Byron, her fiancé, he made light of it. He thought having a slight knowledge of God was good enough. He thought of himself as a good person who had no need of a transformation. Signe argued that God demanded a complete commitment, a redirection, a turning away from our own way of sin to follow Him. When Byron refused to take her new path seriously Signe gave the engagement ring back. God had changed her and nothing else mattered. She went forward with fire and determination.
She raised her nephew on her own. I’m not sure of the circumstances. Families didn’t talk about such things back then.
She never married and out-lived all of her siblings by quite a few years. She would often scold us for not knowing the names of 2nd cousins, that lived on the west coast, who we had never met. Family was important to her, but God meant more…always more.
She took seriously what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-38.
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
I think often of her determination to follow hard after God, and her determination to convince us to do the same. In her view there was no other path worth taking. She lived to be 93 just as committed to her God as when she was 23. She never looked back.
And so, dear reader, like her, I beg you to be reconciled to Christ. We live in a temporary world that is full of trouble. It is full of sadness, injustice, sin and pain. There is another path that is beckoning. Shift your gaze from earthly rulers and pursuits to the God who is over it all.
Someday there will be a reckoning. Will you be like Byron or Signe? Do you think, like Byron, that you are good enough and just a passing knowledge of God is adequate? Or are you like Signe who saw her sin and her utter need of God?
For further study:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
“…and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die…” John 11:25-26
The grace of God is all around us. We have grown blind to it. We take it for granted or forget completely what God has done for us. Recently, while at a family gathering, God reminded me of His grace.
My cousin, Dennis, told me of a time when we were children. One summer his family came for a week-long visit. His dad planned to help my dad build a basement so he could expand our four room house.
Someone drove the older children in to town to swim. Dennis, being the only boy, went to the boys’ changing room alone while my sisters and his sisters went through the girl’s side. He changed quickly, raced out the door and jumped straight into the pool. Too late he realized it was over his head. He hadn’t learn to swim yet and he sank down below the surface of the water. No one saw him.
While struggling he saw the ladder that went below the water line. He grabbed it, worked his way up and dragged himself out of the pool. It was amazing he didn’t drown. He went back to the changing room, having had enough of “swimming”.
No one saw, no one helped. But I believe God was watching that day. God saw a little boy full of life jump into danger. God helped him make it over to the ladder and get out. He showed him grace.
My sister, Nancy, told us of a time she was with our Dad while he fished. There were long reeds near the shore of the lake that disguised where the water began. At one point my Dad saw that Nancy was missing. He happened to look down to see her hair floating on the water in the midst of the reeds. He grabbed her hair and pulled her out. God was watching that day too. He saw a little girl wander into water that was over her head. God caused my Dad to look around for her before it was too late. He showed her grace.
My cousin realized too late the danger he was in, but his eyes saw the ladder and he had faith enough to reach out and grab the only thing that could save him.
My sister realized too late that under the grass was water, not solid ground. She had sense enough to not fight against the strong arm of my Dad who pulled her to safety.
But there is a greater danger than drowning and physical death. We are all weighed down by the sin that will drown us. God sees and God has provided a way out of certain eternal death.
John 3:16 reminds us… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, but grace is freely offered.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” Ephesians 2:8
Physical life, though precious, is but a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. God is extending grace to each of us. Don’t fight against His good hand. Don’t close your eyes to His offer of salvation. His Son has died so we could have life. Just as it would have been certain death for my cousin to turn away from the ladder, it means certain death for us to turn away from Christ, our only hope.
How will you respond? Will you ignore the ladder? Will you fight against the strong arm?
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
I remember my father’s hands being rough, stained and scarred. There was always some new scratch or bruise from working on the car or tractor, or maybe digging in the garden. They were strong, busy working hands.
They could also pound out a song on the piano or play a tune on the violin. When we were sick one of his big rough hands would feel our forehead to make sure our fever wasn’t too high.
They were hands that picked us up when we had fallen or drew us pictures when the sermon at church got too long.
My sister, Jill, was the first to notice those same hands had become uncharacteristically soft and smooth with fingernails short and neatly trimmed. What had changed? I couldn’t like them this way. The months of cancer and paralysis had taken all the character out of them. They were no longer the hands that I remembered, and I grieved. A few weeks later he would go where I couldn’t follow.
As I look at my own hands they are not strong like his. They are more slender and not usually stained, yet they often get bruised and scraped when I am busy working on a project.
I see glimpses of my Father’s hands when I play his violin or feel my granddaughter’s hot forehead. But my hands are not his. And so I wait to see his hands again. Not the clean smooth hands, but the rough and stained ones, because those are the hands I learned to love.
There is another pair of hands I am waiting to see. These I have never seen with my eyes, but have heard about them since I was small on my Father’s knee. They are hands that were bruised and nailed. Hands that were those of a working man. Strong and rough and scarred. Hands that were given willingly to the nails so I could go free. Those hands that will never be soft and smooth again.
And so I wait to see those hands. The pierced and scarred hands that my Father taught me to love, oh so long ago.