"LORD, DISMISS US WITH THY BLESSING"
"The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace" (Ps. 29.11)
INTRO.: A song which asks the Lord to give strength to His people and bless them with peace as they depart from the worship assembly is "Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing" (#306 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text, originally published in three stanzas, has been identified as anonymous but is now is almost certainly believed to have been written by John Fawcett who was born on Jan. 6, 1740, at Lidget Green near Bradford in Yorkshire, England, of poor parents. Left an orphan at age twelve and apprenticed at thirteen to a tailor in Bradford where he worked fourteen hours a day in a sweatshop, he was converted at age sixteen by the preaching of George Whitefield and after associating with the Methodists and the Church of England, he joined the Baptist Church in 1758. Eventually, he became a Baptist minister in 1766 at age 26. With his new bride Mary, he accepted a call to work with two small and impoverished congregations at Wainsgate and nearby Hebden Bridge in northern England where his salary was meager and his family growing. After seven years there, in 1772, at age 32, Fawcett received a call to the large and influential Carters Lane Baptist Church in London to succeed John Gill, at first accepting the offer but changing his mind and declining. It is thought that it was at this time Fawcett produced his best known hymn, "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."
"Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing" first appeared anonymously in A Supplement to the Shawbury Hymnbook, published in 1773 at Shrewsbury, England. Stanza 1 was altered from "In this dry and barren place" to "Traveling through this wilderness" by R. Conyers in A Collection of Psalms and Hymns from Various Authors of 1774. Then in the John Harris Collection of Psalms and Hymns, seventh edition, published at York, England, in 1791, the song was credited to Fawcett. Fawcett went on to establish the Northern Education Society, now known as Rowdon College, and was author of a number of publications, including essays, sermons,a commentary, other religous writings, and many hymns. Declining the opportunity to be principal of the Baptist Academy at Bristol in 1793, he nevertheless was given an honorary D. D. degree by Brown University of Providence, RI, in 1811, for his work, including his 1780 "Essay on Anger" which was a favorite with King George III. Though he had many offers to move during his life, he remained in the area of Wainsgate for 51 years until a paralytic stroke caused his death on July 25, 1817, at Hebden Bridge. "Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing" was altered to its present form in 1880 by Godfrey Thring (1823-1903). Some sources list Thring as the author of the third stanza, but others simply say that he recast stanza three.
Many of our books set the hymn to a tune (Dijon) that first appeared in the 1842 Lieder-buch edited by Theodore Fliedner (1800-1864). There it was said to have been a German melody composed or arranged by J. G. Bitthauer in 1794. Using this tune requires omitting the final line of each stanza. In most other books, this tune is used with another hymn, "In the House of Ancient Story," by Miss H. M. Bolman. For Fawcett’s hymn, the majority of other books use a tune (Sicilian Mariners Hymn) which may be an air from an obscure Neapolitan opera of the eighteenth century but is now regarded as a traditional Italian folk melody. It often serves as the setting for the Latin hymn, "O Sanctissima." Reportedly discovered in Italy by the German poet Herder in 1788 or 1789, its first appearance was in the European Magazine and London Review of 1792, and its first use as a hymn tune was in the Improved Psalmody of 1794 by William D. Tattersall (late 18th c.). It was first joined to "Lord, Dismiss Us" in William Little’s Easy Instructor of 1798.
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; with the Dijon tune) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (with both tunes) both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns (with the Dijon tune) edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 (with the Dijon tune) edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church (with both tunes), the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise (both with the Dijon tune) all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns (with the Dijon tune) edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised (with the Sicilian Mariners tune) edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord (with both tunes, but only one of two of our books with all three stanzas) edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat (with all three stanzas but using only the Dijon tune).
The song is most often used as a closing hymn.
I. Stanza 1 asks the Lord to dismiss the audience with His blessings of joy and peace.
"Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing, Fill our hearts with joy and peace;
Let us each Thy love possessing, Triumph in redeeming grace.
O refresh us, O refresh us, Traveling through this wilderness."
A. Like Aaron blessing the people, we should ask the Lord to bless and keep us: Num. 6.24
B. It should be our desire to have His love that we might triumph in redeeming grace: Eph. 2.4-7
C. This love and grace will refresh us as we travel through the wilderness of this world: Ps. 63.1-2
II. Stanza 2 gives thanks and adoration for the blessings that God has given us.
"Thanks we give, and adoration, For the gospel’s joyful sound;
May the fruits of Thy salvation In our hearts and lives abound.
Ever faithful, ever faithful To the truth may we be found."
A. Whether assembled or not, our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving: Col. 3.16-17
B. It is in truly thankful hearts that the fruit of the Spirit will abound: Gal. 5.22-23
C. Also, hearts that are genuinely grateful to God will strive to be faithful: Matt. 25.21, 1 Cor. 4.2
III. Stanza 3 looks forward to the hope of praising God forever in heaven.
"So that when Thy love shall call us, Savior, from this world away,
Let no fear of death appall us, Glad Thy summons to obey:
May we ever, May we ever Reign with Thee in endless day."
A. We know that someday the Savior will call us away from this world, as God has decreed: Gen. 3.19, Eccl. 12.7
B. However, we should be glad to obey that summons without fear because we seen an eternal city in which to dwell eternally: Heb. 13.14
C. In that eternal city we can look forward to the tree of life and reigning with Him forever and ever: Rev. 22.1-5
CONCL.: The original final stanza read as follows:
"So, whene’er the signal’s given Us from earth to call away,
Borne on angel’s wings to heaven, Glad the summons to obey,
May we ever, may we ever Reign with Christ in endless day."
The song helps us to be conscious of God’s presence with us and therefore to make practical use of the gospel which we hear when we assemble for worship. The last stanza, with its mention of being called away from this world and reigning with the Lord in endless day may seem foreign to the modern thought of some, but it is Bible truth. And it is in this hope that we can sing, "Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing."