"O ‘TWAS WONDERFUL LOVE"
"For I know that my Redeemer liveth…" (Job 19.25)
INTRO.: A song which identifies Jesus as the Redeemer who came because He loved us is "O ‘Twas Wonderful Love" (#247 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The original text was written by Jessie H. Brown Pounds (1861-1921). Possibly based on an earlier hymn by Charles Wesley, it was produced in 1893 for a cantata entitled Hope’s Messenger, and was first published as a congregational hymn in The Praise Hymnal of 1896 edited by James Henry Fillmore and Gilbert Ellis, with a tune by Fillmore. Other well-known hymns by Pounds include "Anywhere With Jesus," "Are You Coming to Jesus Tonight?", "Beautiful Isle of Somewhere," "The Touch of His Hand on Mine," "The Way of the Cross Leads Home," and "We Are Going Down the Valley." The tune (Wonderful Love) had been composed and the chorus was written both by James Holmes Rosecrans, who was born at Berne, NY, on Aug. 3, 1844. The Rosecrans family were members of the church of Christ. James’s father died when his son was eight, and the boy had to work to help support the family. At age twenty, he began his musical training at Baxter University of Music in Friendship, NY, where he studied for four years and worked to support himself.
Afterwards, Rosecrans taught school for two years, then joined the Fillmore Brothers Music House of Cincinnati, OH, and contributed to their Sunday school song collections. As a publisher, he produced quite a few songs and a great deal of sheet music, beginning with Songs of Glory in 1874. In all, he compiled over twenty collections, including The Voice of Joy, The Beauty, The Children’s Hallelujahs, Gems and Jewels, Crown of Beauty, The Pearly Gates for the Sunday School, and Wide Awake Glee Book. For a time in the 1870’s and early 1880’s, he was the music director for the evangelistic campaigns of Thomas J. Shelton, for whose song "One Step at a Time" he provided a melody. Perhaps Rosecrans’s best known melody is that for "There Is A Habitation." The tune that we now use with "O ‘Twas Wonderful Love" was originally published with another hymn, "Jesus–And Thou Didst Leave the Sky" by Anna Steele, and was copyrighted in Rosecrans’s 1890 Christian Work Songs. Rosecrans conducted singing schools in many states. In addition to his music work, he was a minister of the gospel for many years.
In 1884 Rosecrans was an evangelist in the state of California and later was associated with evangelistic efforts in Texas, also serving as professor of music and Bible at Carton College in Bonham. One of his outstanding qualities was said to have been his warm personality. It is reported that many of his friends were heard to remark, "To know him is to love him." During his declining years, he returned to New York and lived in retirement with relatives at Breakabeen, where he died on Feb. 18, 1926. The arrangement of the text was made and the adaptation of the tune for it was done both by Elmer Leon Jorgenson (1886-1968). The song in its present form was first published in his 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, 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 1978/1983 (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 Sacred Selections. The tune with Steele’s hymn as originally published by Rosecrans was used in the 1938/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb and published by the Firm Foundation Publishing House.
The song reminds us of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for us because of His love.
I. Stanza 1 says that He cares for us
"I know that my Redeemer lives, And living, cares for me;
I know eternal life He gives, And gave on Calvary."
A. We know that Jesus loves us because He cares for us: 1 Pet. 5.7
B. And because He cares for us, He offers us the hope of eternal life: Jn. 10.27-28
C. The reason that He can offer us eternal life is because of what He did at Calvary: Lk. 23.33
II. Stanza 2 says that He makes a promise to us
"I know the promise cannot fail–The hour is drawing nigh;
Though cruel death my flesh assail, My soul shall never die."
A. The Lord has made many exceedingly great and precious promises to us: 2 Pet. 1.4
B. The particular promise referred to in this stanza relates to the fact the we must die: Heb. 9.27
C. The promise is that though we must die physically, we shall never die spiritually: Jn. 11.25-26
III. Stanza 3 says that He prepares a mansion for us
"I know my mansion He prepares, Beside the crystal sea,
That where He lives and loves and cares, There I may ever be."
A. Jesus Himself said that He went to prepare His followers a mansion or dwelling place in the Father’s house: Jn. 14.2-3
B. This mansion is said to be beside the crystal sea, which in the book of Revelation is pictures as being before the very throne of God: Rev. 4.6
C. His purpose in doing this is that when He comes again, we shall ever be with Him: 1 Thes. 4.16-17
CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes that all these things Jesus has done, is doing, and will do because He loves us:
"O ’twas wonderful, wonderful love That brought Him from heaven above,
As a ransom to die on the tree, To save a poor sinner like me."
There are many things about God’s plans and purposes that we do not know because they have not been revealed. However, there are some things that we can know because they are found in the scriptures. We can know that our Redeemer lives, that He cares for us, that His promises are assured, and that He is preparing a place for us in heaven. Therefore, for all of these blessings, and much more, we can thank and praise Him, saying, "O ‘Twas Wonderful Love."