“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

"For Thou hast been…a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm…" (Isa. 25.4)

     INTRO.: A hymn which calls upon Jesus to be our refuge from the storm is "Jesus, Lover Of My Soul" (#81 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #’s 258/259 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written shortly after his conversion by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). No one knows the exact circumstances under which it was penned. Unauthenticated stories about events leading to the hymn’s origin include a bird that flew into Wesley’s room for safety in a rainstorm, and an incident where Charles hid under a hedge with his brother after being attacked by an angry mob opposed to their preaching. However, it does bear the marks of three tremendous experiences in his early life–the near sinking of his ship during a great storm on the Atlantic when returning from Georgia to England in 1736; his great spiritual awakening and change on May 21, 1738; and his ministration to the felons in Negate Prison in July, 1738, which climaxed with the execution of ten of them at Tyburn Hill.

     Sometime after this, at age 31, Wesley produced what is considered the most famous of his 6,500 hymns. The official date given for its writing is 1739, although some believe that it was actually finished in 1738. It was first published in 1740 in Wesley’s hymnbook, Hymns and Sacred Poems. The most commonly used tune (Martyn) in the United States was composed by Simeon Butler Marsh, who was born at Sherburne, NY, on June 1, 1798, and reared on a farm. After attending his first singing school in 1814 at age sixteen, he became such an enthusiastic student that three years later, at age nineteen, he was a singing school teacher himself among the Presbyterian churches of the Albany, NY, Presbytery, an activity which he continued for thirty years. In addition to his singing school work, he founded a newspaper, The Intelligencer (later The Record) at Amsterdam, NY, which he edited for seven years, and later began another newspaper, The Sherburn News, in his hometown.

     In the fall of 1834, Marsh was travelling on horseback from Amsterdam to to Johnstown, NY, to conduct a singing school. This melody came to his mind, so he stopped his horse, dismounted, and sketched the music. It was first published in the 1836 Musical Miscellany, set to another hymn, "Mary, At Her Savior’s Tomb" by John Newton. It was first joined to Wesley’s words in the 1842 Sacred Songs for Family and Social Worship by Thomas Hastings (1784-1872). Marsh had earlier studied music in a school taught by Hastings at Geneva, NY, in 1818, and received much encouragement from him. Marsh also published three children’s books for which he set the type himself. Following the death of his wife in 1873, he made his home with his son, John Butler Marsh, in Albany, NY, where his death occurred on July 14, 1875. Some of our books have also included an alternate tune (Refuge) composed in 1862 by Joseph P. Holbrook.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (with both tunes) both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 (all with both tunes) all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal (with both tunes) edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise (all with both tunes) all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised (with both tunes) edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord (with both tunes) edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat

     The song emphasizes how important it is for us to look to Jesus for strength and comfort.

I. According to stanza 1, Jesus is the lover of our souls
"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, Till the storm of life is past;
Save into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!"
 A. There is no doubt that Jesus loves us: Rom. 8.35-39
 B. Because He loves us, He will hide us in the storms of life: Ps. 17.8
 C. And with His love, He will guide us safely into the eternal haven: Heb. 6.19-20

II. According to stanza 2, Jesus is the refuge to which our souls cling
"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."
 A. The Lord has promised to be a refuge or stronghold in the day of trouble for all who trust in Him: Nah. 1.7
 B. Therefore, we can be assured that He will never leave us alone: Heb. 13.5-6
 C. And we can trust that He will always be there to help us: Ps. 46.1

III. According to stanza 3, omitted in most books, Jesus is the one on whom we call for strength when we are faint
"Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall–Lo! on Thee I cast my care.
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, Dying, and behold I live!"
 A. In this stanza, we see our own situation in life’s storms compared to Peter’s attempt to walk on the water: Matt. 14:28-31
 B. Like Peter, we must look to Christ for strength: Eph. 6:10
 C. The way in which we do this is to be crucified with Christ and while dying to live for Him: Gal. 2:20

IV. According to stanza 4, Jesus is the source of supply for all we need.
"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."
 A. We can find more than all in Christ because He is all in all: Col. 3:11
 B. Therefore, those who are fallen, faint, sick, and blind, especially when they see their unrighteousness, can find shelter in the Lord: Ps. 143:9-10
 C. Even though we are false and full of sin, He is full of truth and grace: Jn. 1:14

III. According to stanza 5, Jesus is the provider of plenteous grace
"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."
 A. The grace from our Lord Jesus Christ is able to provide mercy and comfort: 2 Cor. 1.2-3
 B. As a result, the healing streams abound to make and keep us pure: Mal. 4.2
 C. And the fountain of living water is provided that will spring up within our hearts and rise to all eternity: Jn. 4.10-14

     CONCL.: This hymn has been called by someone, "The finest heart-hymn in the English language." The famous American preacher Henry Ward Beecher said that he would rather have written it "than have all the fame of all the kings that ever sat upon the earth." Its words remind me that whenever the storms of life seem to become overwhelming, I can fly for refuge to "Jesus, Lover Of My Soul."

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