Posts Tagged ‘George Matheson’

They were heavy enough to droop a child’s outstretched hands, bound in blue fabric, their title etched in gold colored ink. But the real gold–the real treasure–lay inside, with the words–their theology instructive, their meter even, their diction poetic and broad.

It was the Trinity Hymnal, the songbook on which I was raised.

They were tucked within easy reach on shelves beneath every church pew, and many homes had one, too. On the inside covers of those personal copies was often jotted the numbers of  familiar favorites–#186, #400, #261. Familiar, too, became the names of the writers–Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, Horatio Spafford, and many others. And included with each hymn was the music, so the musical types could follow along in church, and household pianos could pound out the tunes for family worship time.

Not quite so with thy hymnbooks we used in Scotland. These came pocket-sized, bound in red. And they were lacking the music. Instead, well-known tunes that fit a hymn’s meter were played by the church pianist or organist. From time to time the same tune was used in the same service for two different hymns. I loved it, and it made me laugh.

What the two hymnbooks had in common was how their imagery spoke to your heart. How their tunes were unconsciously etched onto your mind. How their truths fed your soul.

Just days ago, our corner of the USA saw temperatures in the low 70s F (around 22 C), although they have now dropped to just above freezing. For the next several months, dryer-lint grey skies will most likely be the norm. Grey, also, are the spirits of many as both our country and the world face turbulent times. 

It’s hard to get away from, really, if you use a computer. Read the paper. Watch the news.

And I’ve felt the grey, myself. Over the past several months, as I’ve tried to make sense of the troubling events going on round about me, and as I’ve battled with everything involved with selling our little yellow house and trying to make our newest fixer upper livable (more on that soon!), words from hymns I learned as a child–and didn’t even know I knew–have found themselves playing through my mind.


And I find myself marveling, not simply that such words were written, but that so many were written under the hardest of times.

The 1882 hymn by Englishwoman Louisa M. R. Stead, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus , has been one of the sweet refrains bringing peace to my scattered, anxious thoughts. These words were penned after Louisa lost her husband in a drowning accident.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”


And what about the words of This is My Father’s World by Maltbie D. Babcock, a young New York pastor who lived around the turn of the 20th century? Though Maltbie’s life was not marked by tragedy, he was a talented musician and athlete, and could have chosen fame and fortune in one of these fields. Instead, he chose to become a minister, and touched the lives of many with the message of the good news of God’s love. He also led a fund-raising effort to assist Jewish refugees from Russia who were victims of an anti-Jewish pogrom in the 1880s. Maltbie had a great love for long walks in the countryside, and found great encouragement there.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

Yes, yes!!

And I cannot leave out  O Love that Will Not Let Me Go by George Matheson, the blind Scottish minister, who wrote the hymn under “most severe mental suffering,” most likely after having been refused by the woman he loved?

O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

Yes, yes, and yes!!!

Such tragedies, and yet the cry of their hearts was not one of pain or despair, but of hope. Such a mystery, I think, can only be explained by those who have experienced it. The mystery of how even through pain, we can find our God to be faithful. Good. True. 

Whether or not you are feeling the greyness of woolly skies, anxiety from personal stresses, or the unrest of the world roundabout, pass over those political links and take time to click on the links above. I’ve selected some of my favorite versions of those famous hymns, and I hope you’ll love them, too. Today, choose to feed your soul with truth and light.

Avonlea x


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