“O For a Heart to Praise My God”

"I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart" (Ps. 9.1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which seeks to praise God with the whole heart is "O For A Heart To Praise My God." The text was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It first appeared with eight stanzas in his 1742 Hymns and Sacred Poems. Alterations were made to the original by his brother John Wesley (1703-1791). This version was published in his 1780 Collection. Most books today use no more than five of the original stanzas. The tune (Balerma or Scotch Air) commonly used in our books was composed by Francois Hippolyte Barthelemon (1741-1808). It is usually dated about 1796 and was produced for the song "Durandarte and Balerma" from "The Monk" by Matthew Gregory Lewis. The adaptation as a hymn tune was made by Robert Simpson, who was born on Nov. 4, 1790, at Glasgow, Scotland. A weaver by trade, he was always interested in music. While living in Glasgow, he led the singing at the Albion St. Congregational Church, and after moving to Greenock, Scotland, around 1823 he led the singing at the East Parish Church. During the summer of 1832, he died at Greenock during an epidemic of cholera.

     Probably done around 1832 just before Sampson’s death, this arrangement was found among his papers shortly after he died and first published in A Selection of Original Sacred Music of 1833 edited by John Turnbull, who attributed it to Simpson.   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 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the text was used with a tune (Spring) by L. C. Everett in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today the song may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the text is found with a tune (Armenia) by Sylvanus D. Pond in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.

     The song suggests the kind of heart that can offer acceptable praise unto the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 says that our hearts must be free from sin
"O for a heart to praise my God, A heart from sin set free!
A heart that always feels the blood So feely shed for me."
 A. To be right with God, our hearts need to be made free from sin: Rom. 6.17-18
 B. The means by which we have forgiveness of sin is the blood of Christ: Eph. 1.7
 C. That blood was freely shed for the remission of sin: Matt. 26.28

II. Stanza 2 says that our hearts must be meek
"A heart resigned, submissive, meek, My great Redeemer’s throne,
Where only Christ is heard to speak, Where Jesus reigns alone."
 A. In order for the heart to be set free from sin, it must be meek to obey the teaching of Christ: Jas. 1.21
 B. Only in a meek heart can Jesus establish His throne and dwell therein: Eph. 3.17
 C. A meek heart will always listen to Christ speaking through the scriptures: 2 Tim. 3.16-17

III. Stanza 3 says that our hearts must be lowly
"A humble, lowly, contrite heart, Believing, true, and clean,
Which neither life nor death can part From Him who dwells within."
 A. The meek heart will also be humbly, lowly, and contrite because God requires that kind of heart: Ps. 51.17
 B. Only a humble, lowly, contrite heart can be made clean: Ps. 51.10
 C. Such a heart will be determined that neither life nor death will ever part it from the Lord: Rom. 8.38-39

IV. Stanza 4 says that our hearts must be renewed
"A heart in every thought renewed And full of love divine,
Perfect and right and pure and good, A copy, Lord, of Thine."
 A. It is the renewing of our minds by which we are transformed: Rom. 12.2
 B. A heart that is renewed will be full of love: Eph. 5.2
 C. Such a heart will be a copy of the Lord’s heart, being transformed into the same image: 2 Cor. 3.18

V. Stanza 5 says that our hearts must be guided from above
"Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart; Come quickly from above;
Write Thy new name upon my heart, Thy new, best name of Love."
 A. When we look to the Lord above, we can become partakers of the divine nature: 2 Pet. 1.4
 B. To ask the Lord to "come quickly from above" is simply a request that He will come into our hearts and dwell within us: Jn. 14.23
 C. When He does so, He will write His new name upon our hearts: Rev. 3.12

     CONCL.: Our books have some slightly different wording in a couple of stanzas, and I have not been able to determine whether the differences are due to using the original or using the altered version, but here they are:
3. "O for a lowly, contrite heart, Confiding, true, and clean…."
5. "Thy Spirit, gracious Lord, impart; Direct me from above.
May Thy dear name be near my heart; That dear, best name is Love."
Given all that the Lord has done for me in making salvation possible through the blood of Christ, I should always be wishing, "O For A Heart To Praise My God."


One thought on ““O For a Heart to Praise My God”

  1. The omitted stanzas are as follows:

    5. Thy tender heart is still the same,
    And melts at human woe:
    Jesus, for thee distressed I am,
    I want Thy love to know.

    6. My heart, Thou knowest, can never rest
    Till Thou create my peace;
    Till of mine Eden repossest,
    From self, and sin, I cease.

    7. Fruit of Thy gracious lips, on me
    Bestow that peace unknown,
    The hidden manna, and the tree
    Of life, and the white stone.


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