HYMN 95 I Will Sing of My Redeemer
Norwegian: Jeg vil Prise min Gjenløser
I Corinthians 15:7
1. I will sing of my Redeemer, He who took the nails for me. I've been purchased, I've been pardoned Bound to Him I'm truly free.
R/ Sing, O sing of my Redeemer! With his blood he purchased me;
On the cross he sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.
2. I will sing of my Redeemer, How He sought me while a slave, Loosed me from the curse of sin and From the power of the grave.
3. I will sing of my Redeemer, Lift my voice to praise my Lord, Ransomed by His blood and mercy I am His forevermore.
4. I will sing of my Redeemer, He who bore my cross, my curse Came a servant, chose to suffer Lifted up and cast from earth
Text: Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876). Tune: Jame McGrahahan (1840-1907)
The hymns and songs of the Sunday School movement in England and America quickly traveled throughout the world, along with the music of the revivals, especially that of Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), the Billy Graham of his age. Moody was known to have said that his song leader, Ira Sankey (1840-1908), brought more people to Christ with his music than he did with his preaching. To that end, Moody courted musicians for his revivals. We have noted several of his colleagues, most famous probably, Horatio Spafford, who wrote “When Peace Like a River,” after the loss of his daughters at sea. It was Philip Bliss who wrote the tune for that much beloved hymn.
This hymn has a tragedy associated with it also involving Moody. Philip Bliss and his wife had arranged to work with Moody in January 1877 and planned to go to Chicago then. But they got a telegram from Moody asking them to come earlier. They booked passage on the train and left on December 29, 1876, for Chicago. It was a terrible night, a blinding snowstorm whipped over the tracks, leaving huge drifts in its wake. Because of the storm, the train had two engines. As they approached Ashtabula, a town on Lake Erie, they had to cross a trestle bridge. The first locomotive made it across, but when the second was on the bridge it collapsed, plunging the engine and the cars behind it down the 75 foot ravine onto the icy river beneath. A few minutes after that, fire broke out, fanned by the gale like winds.
Bliss made it out of the car he was in, extricating himself from under a seat. He saw that his wife was pinned under her seat. He returned to try to get her out, but as he was doing so the flames took their toll. Not a trace of either of them could be found the next day.
It was one of the worst rail disasters in American history. Almost 100 people perished. Investigations later found that the bridge was poorly designed, poorly built, and the icy conditions had weakened it further.
Bliss’ trunk filled with the hymns he was writing did make it to Chicago. One of the texts in it was this one. The well-known gospel song writer, James McGranahan, wrote the tune shortly thereafter. After its publication in 1877, the hymn became a standard in Gospel song collections around the world.
On December 31, 1876, they held a memorial service in Chicago. Over 8,000 mourners filled the hall, with 4,000 outside. Moody spoke. His sermon was a call to repentance. How little did the Bliss couple think of their imminent death when they boarded the train to Chicago, he asked. They were ready to die, he knew, but many others were not. What if someone would leave a meeting where he had preached and died on the way home? If he hadn't preached to prepare people for their deaths, their souls would be on his account, he lamented.
During this time we have been talking about keeping people safe from the virus, which is right to do. We don’t want people to die. But have we been speaking much about being ready to die? Moody regretted that he hadn’t. I don’t hear much about being ready to die in all our talk of avoiding death which ultimately none of us can do. Maybe people need to hear how to die in the Lord so they can live in him.
Jesus says if we re not ready to die, we aren't ready to live. (Those who seek to save their lives will lose it....) He speaks frequently of being being prepared for the end. Not even he knows when that will be, he says. To be ready we know is not to be sitting on a hill waiting the Lord’s return. It is to be busy with the daily tasks we have been called to, serving Christ and our neighbor fully, living richly in the moment, with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. As Helmut Thielecke, the German theologian during WWII argued, life is more vividly lived and the truths we live on more clear when “we are presented to the borders of death.”
This song tells us what the Lord has done to save us. He paid the debt to make us free. Prepare, and enjoy life to the full. Every minute.
The text for the hymn was found in Bliss’ trunk. Later set by McGrahahan, it swept the world.
One of the interesting side stories is how it got translated into Norwegian and is now in the 2013 hymnal. Elevine Heede (1820-1883) was a young woman with many gifts. Born into means—her father was a jeweler in Arndal—she was well educated. She studied some in Paris where she lived with an English Methodist pastor and his family. There she was converted and became a Methodist. In 1874 she was called to the Methodist seminary and publishing house in Kristiania. She taught future pastors English and Norwegian and edited the Sunday School magazine, Den lille Børnevennen, while she translated hymns and songs into Norwegian, hundreds really, from the Moody Sankey revivals and many others. Her translation of "What a Friend we have in Jesus/ Hvilken venn vi har i Jesus" and "Nearer My God to Thee/Nærmere dig, min Gud" have become classics of Norwegian hymnody.
Gaither Music TV/Guy Penrod, Larry Ford, Larnelle Harris