HYMN 185 Jesus, Lover of my Soul
German: Jesus, meiner Seele Freund
2nd Corinthians 1:3; Revelation 1:3
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1787) Tune: Joseph Parry (1841-1903) Aberystwyth; Simeon Marsh (1798-1875) Martyn
1. Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high: Hide me, O my Savior, hide, 'Til the storm of life is past; Safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last! 2. Other refuge have I none, Hangs my helpless soul on thee; Leave, ah! leave me not alone, Still support and comfort me! All my trust on thee is stayed, All my help from thee I bring; Cover my defenseless head With the shadow of thy wing. 3. Thou, O Christ, art all I want; More than all in thee I find: Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, Heal the sick, and lead the blind. Just and holy is thy name; I am all unrighteousness; False and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace. 4. Plenteous grace with thee is found, Grace to cover all my sin; Let the healing streams abound; Make and keep me pure within: Thou of life the fountain art, Freely let me take of thee; Spring thou up within my heart, Rise to all eternity.
Charles Wesley wrote this favorite hymn shortly after his conversion in 1738. He titled it “In Temptation.” It is a desperate cry of woe. Temptations can feel like a stormy sea that seem to swamp us in our desires. Some people see, especially in the first stanza, Wesley’s memories of his storm swept journey to Georgia where he felt the waves would overcome the ship on which they were sailing.
It is interesting to see how the waters that threatened him in the first stanza are replaced by the fresh waters from the fountain that will spring up in his heart and save him for all eternity.
Even though Wesley does not specifically refer to the text of Jesus walking on the water, I think we can hear it in Wesley’s name for Jesus, lover. He asks Jesus, as Peter did, to reach into the waters where he is drowning and save him. The text is more personal than wanting the storm to cease so the ship doesn't go under; it seems more like a shriek, "take me up out of the water."
As we have noted several times, Jesus as lover, or bridegroom, makes some people uneasy. It is too intimate, even embarrassing. But it is there in the Bible and Christian tradition. Jesus came to court and save his bride. John Wesley, Charles’ brother, did not include this hymn in succeeding hymnals for Methodists. He thought it too much. Because of their time on the ship with the Moravians who sang hymns while the storms threatened to capsize the ship, John and Charles admired the Moravians and learned their hymns. After John had experienced the first two storms on their journey he feared he had no faith because he was afraid to die. During the third storm when the mainsail broke and water poured over the ship, the Moravians continued to sing their hymns calmly. When Wesley asked one singer if he was not afraid to die, the answer was, "I thank God, no." Nor were the women and children singing with them. This deeply bothered John because he did not have such faith. When he and Charles returned to London, they spent time with the Moravians there. It was at the Moravian church in Aldersagate 28 where they had their conversion experiences. John even went to Herrnhut to visit with Zinzendorf, the head of the Moravians, and writer of many of the hymns the Moravians were singing. Zinzendorf liked this image of the lover and also images of God like a mother bird gathering us under her wings as in stanza 2. John Wesley did not.
But the people had a different idea and the hymn survived its critics. Thousands of hymnals since the 1800s have included this hymn either to Aberystwyth or Martyn. Then, and this is kind of proof of the pudding, Chris Eaton, a contemporary musician has given it a more contemporary tune. Furthermore, a very popular hymn that begins “Jesus Lover of my Soul” by Darlene Zschech—uses the same imagery to write another text.
Something about needing rescue, and safety during the storm of life still appeals to people. Maybe we need the hymn even more than we used to. We need someone to love us who can save us from all our troubles. The hymn assures us Jesus will.
HYMN INFO This was published in 1739/1740 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems with works by many fine English religious poets, such as George Herbert, and John Wesley. While John was hardly the equal in quantity or quality of hymn texts as his brother, he was a fine poet himself and this collection includes some of his best.
It has two tunes in traditional hymnals. Parry's tune seems to be preferred now, but Martyn by Simeon Marsh (1798-1875) is a favorite as well. Marsh was an American who worked in the singing schools of early America. He became a publisher of the New York paper, The Intelligencer, and later the Sherburne News. He taught music and led choirs in the Albany NY area for his entire life. Parry was a native of Wales who had to work in a foundry. He showed musical promise and studied music when he could. He began composing music in the 1860s where he won notice.His family emigrated to America where he continued his music. As he became more well-known and famous, he traveled through America and Europe teaching. In 1868 he and family moved to England where he studied at the Royal Academy of Music. He was a favorite of Queen Victoria who requested his presence at court several times. The first Welsh man to graduate from Cambridge in music, he finally was named the first professor of music at Absterywith University. He later moved to Cardiff University to teach, continuing a stellar career of teaching, composing and conducting.
English Hymn Sing with descant and organ Aberystwyth
From a Community singing Martyn
Contemporary tune by Chris Eaton with video
Welsh Male Choir Côr OrpheusTreforys/ Morriston Orpheus Choir Aberystwyth
Francis Ortega, Aberystwyth
The Living Stones, to the tune Martyn