The Hymn was a Fruit of Sufferings
We all experience it. Suffering, I mean. It can last a short time. It can last a long time. It might be a disappointment in life. We thought that we had it all figured out, but then one of those “hard Providences” cames along, and we are in suffering on account of it. Perhaps it happened to ourselves, to a spouse, to a child, to a grown loved one, to a friend, and we are in extreme anguish as a result.
George Mattheson, the Scottish hymn writer, experienced it one day. It his case, it came to him on the day of his sister’s marriage in 1882. Everyone one of his family, including his beloved sister, was staying overnight in Glasgow, apart from him. Something happened to him which he described as “a most severe mental suffering.” No one knows exactly what it was. He said that it was known only to himself, but whatever it was, it overwhelmed his soul.
Sitting down in a room of his manse, this single pastor, who was born this day on March 27, 1842, said that the words of this poem was “the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.” Further, he acknowledged that “I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself.” He added that the whole four verse poem was completed in five minutes! Never once did he retouch or correct the words.
And if that part of the story is remarkable, three years later, Albert Peace, a renowned organist, read it. He then sat down before his organ and wrote all the notes into a hymn. The ink of the first note was hardly dry when he finished it.
When we consider that Rev. Mattheson was a famous preacher in two cities of Scotland, one of them being a 2000 member congregation in the capital city of the kingdom, we imagine that he had all things going for him. And he did, but he was also blind, beginning in his 18th year. His three sisters rose to the occasion, by tutoring him in his studies at the University of Glasgow. One even learned Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to help him, enabling him to complete his studies. It was on the occasion of this sister’s marriage that he wrote this hymn, celebrating the constancy of God’s love.
Found in the Trinity Hymnal (no. 708), read over its four stanza’s especially if you find yourself in a time of trouble. In fact, either turn to the number in the red hymnal or sing it with the familiar tune, as part of our Words to Live By section:
“O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
“O Light that follow’st all my way, I yield my flick-“ing torch to thee; my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may be brighter, fairer be.
“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
“O Cross, that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and from the ground that blossoms red life that shall endless be.”