top of page

HYMN 103 Jesus, Lord and Precious Savior

German: Jesus meine Lust und wonne

Swedish: Jesus du min fröjd och fromma

John 15:12-17

Text: Jakob Arrhenius (1642-1725). Tune: Swedish Traditional "Hela Världen fröjdes Herran"

1. Jesus, Lord and precious Savior, All my comfort and my joy, Graciously extend thy favor, Let thy word my soul employ. R/Jesus, come, abide with me, Let me ever be with thee. 2. All I do, O let me ever, Jesus, in thy Name begin; Give success to my endeavor, Final victory therein.

R/ 3. Let my words and thoughts, O Savior, To thy praise and glory tend; Help me, Lord, that I may gather Treasures that shall never end.


4. When my days on earth are over, Let me enter into rest. Bear me home, O blessèd Savior, When to thee it seemeth best.


Tr. Augustus Nelson (1863-1949)


Uppsala Cathedral, from before Arrhenius' time

This wonderful Jesus hymn, a favorite of many, with its lovely tune and warm picture of the relationship we have with Jesus, did not make it into the Lutheran Book of Worship and was thus lost to the ELCA. It is one of my greatest regrets. Its history, however, shows how eras, pieties and politics collide in the making of hymnals.

Jakob Arrhenius translated it from the German hymn “Jesus meine lust und wonne,” but we do not know the author of the German text. Arrhenius, a Swedish professor of history at Uppsala, was in his thirties, when the movement known as Pietism began in Frankfurt with the publication of a book by Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), Pious Wishes/Pia desideria, published in 1675. It launched a movement that swept Northern Europe, urging more Bible study in small groups; increased lay involvement in the church; more personal practice of the faith by members; more love in religious disputes; and more pious pastors.

Bishop Jesper Svedberg

Arrhenius in Sweden was taken with the movement, as were many in the Nordic countries. He wrote and translated hymns that would be included in the Swedish hymnal compiled by his contemporary, Jesper Svedburg (1653-1735). The hymnal was finished in 1694, but was judged to be too influenced by Pietism and was sent back for revisions, meaning many of Svedberg's hymns, all very well done, were purged from the hymnal. Some scholars regard it as the literary crime of the ages in Sweden. Since some copies of that version had been published, they were sent to the New Sweden colony in New Jersey where it was used by the Swedish churches there. An expurgated version of the Svedberg hymnal came out in 1695. It was the official Swedish hymnal for the next 124 years.

Arrhenius’ translations of German hymns which came from the hymnal of German pietism, the Freylinghausen hymnal, tended to be inspired by the work of Johan Arndt’s True Christianity, (1604), Arrhenius’ own hymn, “Jesus is my friend, most precious” (Jesus är min vän, den bäste) is also well beloved for its theme of friendship with Jesus that Swedish writers seem to be drawn to—Arrhenius to Carl Olof Rosenius--"I have a Friend so Patient, Kind and Loving" and "With God and his Friendship" down to a favorite by the Swedish American, Nils Frykman, whose “Jag har än vän som älsker meg/I have a friend who loveth me” is still a favorite.

The idea of Jesus as an intimate friend has been cherished by Christians through the ages; it becomes more intense when Jesus movements break out. Jesus in his Farewell discourses in John 15:12-17 says he will call us friends, no longer servants. A close relationship. He promised he and his father would come and abide with us, a prayer in the refrain of this hymn.

This is a good opening hymn calling for Jesus' presence in our beginnings--in Svedberg's hymnal it was designated as a hymn for January 1, the Name of Jesus Day. It is also used as a funeral hymn with its last stanza commending the singer into the arms of Jesus. Arrhenius’ hymns continued to be used in the Wallin hymnal of 1819, the next Swedish hymnal. They were brought to America by the Swedes in their songbooks and hymnals.

Erik Norelius, pastor and founder of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, had stanza 2 of this hymn sung at the dedication service of the first building there, now Old Main, October 31, 1876. A special railway car had been reserved to bring celebrants from as far as Red Wing through the Cities to St. Peter. Imagine hearing the group of some hundreds on that bright fall day as the pioneers stood by their first building on that bare hill in St. Peter. Norelius spoke of the school as being a light to the world, like the city built on a hill that Jesus proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount. The song spread to the four winds. Where is it now?

It should be known among American Lutherans again for its simple prayer to Jesus asking him to be with us throughout our lives, through all our endeavors to the end. There are few hymns that do this so simply and beautifully. "Jesus, come, abide with me, Let me ever be with thee."


Gustavus Adolphus College building dedication service October 31, 1876, now Old Main

This hymn was included in the songbook of Swedish Augustana, Hemlandssånger 1892. It also appeared in the Augustana Hymnal 1925, the Concordia Hymnal 1932 and the Service Book and Hymnal 1958, but not the Lutheran Book of Worship. Its tune in the latest Swedish hymnal, very well known, is associated with another text, “Hela Världen fröjdes Herran/The Whole World praises the Lord.” A later hymnal committee in Sweden, wanting to be scientifically accurate, proposed changing it to “Half the world is praising God,” since the world is a globe that rotates, meaning it is not always night or day around the world at the same time. This is the kind of rigid literalism that ruins poetry.

When the Swedish Augustana Lutheran Church prepared its 1925 hymnal, Augustus Nelson, a pastor in the Swedish Augustana who served parishes from Escanaba, Michigan, to New Haven Connecticut; and Manistique and Thompson, Michigan, ending up in Clear Lake and Gibbon Minnesota, proved to be an able translator of Swedish hymns. He is buried in Grove City, Minnesota.


A Swedish group singing the tune but the text “Hela Världen"

Beloved Songs from around the world/3000 singers

Swedish congregation singing it during the quarantine

Fuge and gigue on the melody

107 views0 comments


bottom of page