German: Herzlich Lieb Hab ich dich, O Herr
Text: Martin Schalling (1532-1608) Tune: B. Schmid 1577
1 Lord, Thee I love with all my heart; I pray Thee, ne'er from me depart, With tender mercy cheer me. Earth has no pleasure I would share, Yea, heav'n itself were void and bare If Thou, Lord, wert not near me. And should my heart for sorrow break, My trust in Thee can nothing shake. Thou art the portion I have sought; Thy precious blood my soul has bought. Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord, Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
2 Yea, Lord, 'twas Thy rich bounty gave My body, soul, and all I have In this poor life of labor. Lord, grant that I in ev'ry place May glorify Thy lavish grace And help and serve my neighbor. Let no false doctrine me beguile; And Satan not my soul defile. Give strength and patience unto me To bear my cross and follow Thee. Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord, In death Thy comfort still afford.
3 Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abram's bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing; And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end. Tr. Catherine Winkworth
MEDITATION She closed her book after singing this hymn probably for the first time and said, “I want this sung at my funeral.” Many have wanted it sung at their funerals. This is one of the great, but somewhat unknown, chorales of the Reformation period. Among its greatest features is its prayer that one might die “unfearful.” As I noted yesterday, we do die alone. By that I mean, we have to cross the river alone, knowing we will be met by Jesus, but no one can make the journey for us. So good Christians I have known say they are not afraid of being dead, they fear the process of dying.
John Bunyan in his classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, shows us Christian, the pilgrim, fearing the passage over the river toward the City of God. He titles the chapter where the pilgrims are seeing that they must go through, “Death is not welcome to nature, though by it we pass out of the world into glory.” He is frightened as he passes over by “troublesome thoughts of the sins he had committed” but keeps going forward, encouraged by Hopeful, his companion. He continues on because he has seen what is on the other side, taking comfort in the promises of Scripture, especially Isaiah 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Soon, they find ground to stand on and are greeted by Two Shining Men, the ministering spirits who point them “toward the Paradise of God.”
The ardor of this hymn in its love for the Lord is so pure and joyful it is no wonder Johann Sebastian Bach used its last stanza in his great St. John’s Passion when Jesus is being buried. It expresses for us the natural fear we have of dying, and prays that we will be comforted and accompanied by angels, or the two shining ones per Bunyan over the waters.
I really don’t care or won’t care what hymns they sing at my funeral, I hope those planning my funeral will pick hymns that comfort them. I will be beyond that. But I have made it clear to those who will be with me in those last hours that among the songs that will bring comfort will be this one. In the arrangement by Bach. I have a list of others too, but most of all I would cherish hearing them to sing it themselves, not play it on a CD.
When my father was dying, we sang several hymns for him as a family and his face was wreathed in joy. "Beautiful, beautiful," he exclaimed as best he could. And then he sang back to us the tune of a hymn he loved and which I saw he had written out in his wavering hand, memorizing it, not long before he had landed in the hospital--I think he did it wanting to be ready for this last moment-- "My Song is Love Unknown," “Here might I stay and sing—No story so divine! Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like thine. This is my friend, in whose sweet praise/I all my days could gladly spend, I all my days could gladly spend!”
It was his benediction on us, and a confession of his faith in the Lord Jesus, his friend whom he had spent his life proclaiming and praising, as Schalling has it, without end.
HYMN INFO Schalling was the son of an early follower of the Reformation in Strassbourg. He became a pastor, studying at Wittenberg University after Luther’s death. Philip Melancthon, Luther’s colleague, was his tutor. He worked with him on the Book of Concord, although later withdrew. He ran into trouble with the rulers of his day for his theological convictions. After some difficulties with Frederick III in Amberg, he left, but returned to serve as Court Preacher and Superintendent for his son, Louis VI. He ended up serving the congregation in Nürnberg for twenty years until his death.
The writer of the tune is not clear. Some attribute it to Balthazaar Schmid, others to one whose history is unknown. It usually is attributed to a source from 1577. The hymn, however, was beloved and set by Buxtehude, Schütz and Bach.
English, Concordia Publishing House
Bach’s setting BWV 340 https://youtu.be/00kZkK9gjYI
the last stanza of the hymn in Bach's St. John's Passion
Jossa Congregation Choir/not professional but it shows how people love it https://youtu.be/QbgZ7BwGUCU
Buxtehude’s Cantata on the hymn/lovely BuxWV 41 https://youtu.be/HYlu7YfFqSw
Heinrich Schütz Motet 387