“Love Lifted Me”

"He was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, Lord save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand…." (Matt. 14.30-31)

     INTRO.: A song which is based on the familiar story of how Peter went to walk on the water, became afraid, began to sink, cried to the Lord to save him, and was lifted out of the water by Jesus is "Love Lifted Me" (#612 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #261 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Rowe (1865-1933). One of the most prolific hymn poets of the twentieth century, Rowe was born in England but came to the United States in 1890 and settled at Albany, NY, where he married. After working as a railroad employee for a time, he devoted the rest of his life to literary pursuits and became especially noted for writing song texts. By his own record, he produced more than 19,000 hymns for a number of different composers.

     For "Love Lifted Me," Rowe teamed up with the composer of the tune (Safety), Howard E. Smith, who was born, probably in the state of Connecticut, on July 16, 1863. Very little is known about Smith except that he was an active musician throughout his life and served many years as an organist in Connecticut. Although he produced a number of hymn tunes, only this one has become well known. According to Rowe’s daughter, Mrs. Louise Rowe Mayhew, Smith was a little man whose hands had become knotted with arthritis, but he could still play the piano.

     Therefore, while Rowe was writing words, Smith would play some notes on the piano and then copy them down. This is how this song was put together in Saugatuck, CT, in 1911 or 1912. Smith’s lilting melody almost gives the feeling of being tossed on the waves. The song was copyrighted in 1912 by Charlie Davis Tillman (1861-1943). However, shortly afterward, Tillman sold it to Robert H. Coleman, and its first publication was in Coleman’s Select Gospel Songs of 1916, edited by J. P. Scholfield, E. L. Wolslagel, and I. E. Reynolds. Howard Smith died two years later, at Norwalk, CT, on Aug. 13, 1918.

     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 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it is 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 edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1971/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord 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.

     Through the years, millions have sung and benefitted from this hymn of Christ’s love.

I. Stanza 1 tells what our spiritual state was before we were saved and what Jesus did to rescue us
"I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I."
 A. Like Peter was sinking in the water, so all sinners are lost in sin far from the shores of safety: Eph. 2.1-3, 11-12
 B. And like Peter was in danger of drowning, so those who are lost in sin are in danger of eternal punishment: Rom. 6.23, 2 Thes. 1.7-9
 C. However, Jesus, the Master of the sea, came and died on the cross to save us from our sins and bring us back to God: Rom. 5.8, Eph. 2.13-18

II. Stanza 2 tells us what we had to do to be saved–give Him our hearts in obedience to His will
"All my heart to Him I give, Ever to Him I cling,
In His blessed presence live, Ever His praises sing;
Love so mighty and so true Merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs."
 A. Jesus wants us to give Him our hearts: Prov. 23.26, Matt. 22.37
 B. The way in which we give Him our hearts is to yield them in submission to and obey Him who is the author of eternal salvation: Heb. 5.8-9
 C. And obeying Christ so that we might receive the salvation that He offers by God’s grace through His blood means that we must believe in Him, repent of sin, and be baptized: Mk. 16.15-16, Acts 2.36-41

III. Stanza 3 tells us what we must do now because we are saved–we must tell the good news to others and seek to save them too
"Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves;
He will lift you by His love Out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, Billows His will obey;
He your Savior wants to be–Be saved today."
 A. We must tell them about the Savior: Mt. 1.21, 1 Tim. 1.15
 B. We must teach them the gospel which is God’s power to salvation: Rom. 1.16, 2 Tim. 2.2
 C. And we must encourage them to be buried with Christ in baptism that they might rise to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6.3-4

      CONCL.: The chorus peals out in joyful praise of the love of Christ which made salvation possible.
"Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love lifted me."
Just as Peter, when he was sinking in the waves of the sea, cried out to Jesus and the Lord caught him, so when I was sinking in my sin and cried out to Jesus in obedient faith, He saved me. Thus, I can truly say that, "Love Lifted Me."


2 thoughts on ““Love Lifted Me”

  1. When playing “Love Lifted Me” last Sunday, I noticed that it was copyrighted in the same year that the Titantic went beneath the waves. Just wondering if that event could have inspired this hymn. Just a thought.

  2. This song has been the personal hope and inner peace, I was unable to find in my life. It embodies the fear and loss of control one feels as they look around them and sees death and despair. The worst of sinners can believe that repentance and surrender will bring them to the arms of God Almighty, they will never be alone again and with the Holy Spirit within them, what victory they have over sin and death. A Heavenly Father always within and present, safety and love for yourself and your neighbor. What a loving father, and friend in Christ. Elle


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