“I Will Remember Thee”

"I WILL REMEMBER THEE"
"…This do in remembrance of Me" (1 Cor. 11.24)

     INTRO.: A hymn which emphasizes the nature of the Lord’s supper as being a remembrance of Christ’s death is "I Will Remember Thee" (#617 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by James Montgomery, who was born at Irvine in Ayrshire, Scotland, on Nov. 4, 1771, the son of John Montgomery. For many years his father was the only Moravian missionary in Scotland. In 1783, when he was but six years old, his parents sent him to a school at Bracehill near Ballymena in County Antrim, Ireland, while they went to Barbados in the West Indies as missionaries. At the age of ten he began to write poetry. While later attending the Moravians’ Fulneck Seminary near Leeds in Yorkshire, England, young James received word of the sudden death of both parents.  Intending to become a minister, he was instead apprenticed to a baker because the school authorities were dissatisfied with his scholastic record.

     However, at age sixteen, Montgomery ran away in 1787 and clerked for a while in a London bookshop. Eventually he settled at Sheffield in 1792 and gained employment at the local newspaper, the Sheffield Register. In 1794, at the age of 23, he took over the newspaper, changed the name to the Sheffield Iris, and served as editor for 31 years. During this time he was imprisoned twice for expressing his opinions in the newspaper. Many of the poems in his 1797 book Prison Amusements were produced in his jail cell. Another book, The West Indies, dates from 1807. In 1814 he became a member of the Wesleyan Society of Sheffield.  Later in life he became a member of the Church of England at St. George’s in Sheffield, but eventually returned to the Moravians. Following his release from prison, he began writing hymns. His total output was around 400, including such favorites as "In the Hour of Trial" and "Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire."

     Montgomery’s first hymn collection was Songs of Zion, consisting of paraphrases of the Psalms published in 1822. In 1825, he gave up his paper to devote himself entirely to literary and philanthropic pursuits.  Also that year, he published The Christian Psalmist, a collection of original hymns from which "I Will Remember Thee" was taken.  The first edition of his Poetical Works was published in 1828. In 1833 he was awarded an annual pension by the government as a reward for his many contributions to English society. His final collection of hymns, Original Hymns for Public, Private, and Social Devotion, appeared in 1853, a year prior to his death at Sheffield on Apr. 30, 1854. The most often used tune (Dalehurst) for "I Will Remember Thee" was composed in 1874 by Arthur Cottman (1841-1879). It most likely first appeared in his Ten Original Tunes published that year. Cottman was both a solicitor and an amateur musician.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song did not appear in the vast majority of popular books used by brethren. Today, it may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised.  In many other books, it is often identified simply by its first line, "According to Thy Gracious Word."

     This hymn reminds us of the importance of the Lord’s supper in helping us to remember Jesus’s death.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that we need to remember the fact that Jesus died for us
"According to Thy gracious word, In meek humility,
This will I do, my dying Lord, I will remember Thee."
 A. The words of Jesus Himself command us to observe the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Him: Lk. 22.19
 B. Of course, it should always be done in deep humility, examining ourselves: 1 Cor. 11.27-28
 C. The very purpose of the supper is to remember our dying Lord: Rom. 5.8

II. Stanza 2 tells us that the bread and cup remind us specifically of Christ’s death
"Thy body, broken for my sake, My bread from heaven shall be;
Thy testamental cup I take, And thus remember Thee."
 A. Jesus gave us the unleavened bread to represent His body: Matt. 26.26
 B. This reminds us that He is the bread come down from heaven: Jn. 6.48-51
 C. He also gave us the cup to represent His blood: Matt. 26.27-28

III. Stanza 3 tells us that the Lord’s supper helps us to remember Christ’s suffering in Gethesemane
"Gethsemane can I forget? Or there Thy conflict see,
Thine agony and bloody sweat, And not remember Thee?"
 A. It was in Gethsemane that Jesus prayed to the Father, "Your will be done": Matt. 26.36-42
 B. We see His conflict as He offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears: Heb. 5.7
 C. The intensity of His agony was demonstrated by the fact that the sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground: Lk. 22.44

IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the Lord’s supper helps to remember Christ’s suffering on Calvary
"When to the cross I turn mine eyes, And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my Sacrifice, I must remember Thee."
 A. The cross was the instrument of Jesus’s death: Lk. 23.26
 B. Calvary was the place of Jesus’s death: Lk. 23.33
 C. It was on the cross of Calvary that Jesus gave His life for our sins, thus becoming the Lamb of God who was our Sacrifice: 1 Pet. 1.19-20

V. Stanza 5 tells us that the Lord’s supper was given to help us remember Christ
"Remember Thee and all Thy pains, And all Thy love to me:
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains, Will I remember Thee."
 A. Certainly, we need to remember all the pains of Christ in His suffering: 1 Pet. 3.18
 B. We also need to remember the love that He showed by laying down His life for us: 1 Jn. 3.16
 C. Indeed, God wants us always to remember Jesus Christ and everything that He did for us: 2 Tim. 2.8

VI. Stanza 6 tells us that if we remember Christ, He will remember us
"And when these failing lips grow dumb, And mind and memory flee,
When Thou shalt in Thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me."
 A. Someday, it is likely that our failing lips will grow dumb, and our mind and memory will flee as we approach death: Heb. 9.27
 B. Some might wonder why a hymn about the Lord’s supper would mention such a time, but the purpose of the supper is to proclaim the Lord’s death till He come and take us home to be with Him, thus uniting His death with His return: 1 Cor. 11.26
 C. Some might object to the use of the one thief words to Christ on the cross in this way, since they would reason that Christ’s kingdom has already been established on earth: Lk. 23.42; however, when "He comes again," we surely shall want Him to remember us by giving us an entrance into "the everlasting kingdom": 2 Pet. 1.11

     CONCL.:  In His wisdom, Christ knew that His followers would need a continual reminder through the centuries of His great sacrifice for them.  Therefore, He instituted the Lord’s supper with its symbols of His body and blood for Christians to observe on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). And when I do that, I am in essence saying to the Lord, "I Will Remember Thee."

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