"PURER YET AND PURER"
"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 Jn. 3.3)
INTRO.: A hymn which asks for God’s help in purifying ourselves, even as He is pure, is "Purer Yet And Purer" (#130 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text is often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born on Aug. 28, 1749, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, of middle class stock. His father, Johann Kaspar, was a retired lawyer, and his mother, Katharine Elisabeth Textor, was the daughter of a Burgermeister of Frankfurt. In 1765, when he was sixteen, he entered the University of Leipzig as a law student and completed his studies at the University of Strasbourg where he received a doctor of laws degree in 1771. He returned to Frankfurt to practice law but turned to writing instead. His 1774 drama, The Sorrows of Werther, made him famous throughout Europe.
The following year, Goethe went to Weimar to visit the reigning duke, Charles Augustus, and remained there for the rest of his life, serving, serving first as minister of state and then later as adviser and theater director. However, after a time he resumed writing. His next major piece was Iphigenia in Tauris, published in 1787. For his poems, hymns, plays, novels, ballads, and other literary achievements, he is considered Germany’s equivalent to Shakespeare. His last and best-known work, Faust, was completed in 1831. He died at Weimar on Mar. 22, 1832. In 1851 an English translation of his Iphigenia in Tauris was made by Anne R. Bennett (1818-1909). This hymn, originally in six stanzas, and several other poems, were attached to the translation, which led many to believe that they were originally by Goethe, written about 1787, the same time as the play.
However, most scholars are now convinced that they are not the work of Goethe, although they are drawn from the story of Iphigenia. "Purer Yet and Purer" is generally considered to be of unknown authorship. Some think that it is at least likely that it may be the work of Bennett, since some of the other poems are believed to have been by her. This one was first used as a hymn with four stanzas in the American Sabbath Hymn Book of 1858. The tune that is used in all of our books (Excelsior) was composed by Silas Jones Vail (1818-1884). The date usually given in 1883. It has erroneously been called Lyndhurst, which is another tune sometimes used with the hymn and has also mistakenly been ascribed to Vail. However, Lyndhurst is an anonymous tune that has musical movement similar to Excelsior and was first published in 1883 in Church Praise. The first publication of Vail’s tune is unknown.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the hymn 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; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all 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 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 edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song suggests several things that we can do which will help us to purify ourselves.
I. Stanza 1 says that we should make every duty dearer.
"Purer yet and purer, I would be in mind;
Dearer yet and dearer, Every duty find;
Hoping still and trusting God without a fear,
Patiently believing He will make all clear."
A. It will help us to keep our minds pure if we devote ourselves wholly to God’s service and recognize that we are merely doing our duty: Lk. 17.10
B. Something that motivates us to do our duty is the hope that we have in trusting God: Rom. 8.24-25
C. This hope is the result of believing that He will make all clear because the end of a thing is always better than the beginning of it:
II. Stanza 2 says that we should bear our trials more calmly with assurance that there will be peace.
"Calmer yet and calmer, Trial bear and pain;
Surer yet and surer, Peace at last to gain;
Suffering still and doing, To His will resigned,
And to God subduing Heart and will and mind."
A. Those who serve God will be called upon to bear trial, pain, and suffering in this life: Jas. 1.2-3, 12
B. However, we can know that if we take all our troubles to the Lord in prayer, we can have a peace that passes all understanding: Phil. 4.6-7
C, Yet, to be able to take our troubles to the Lord in prayer, we must strive to keep ourselves pure by having the attitude of subduing heart and will and mind in complete submission to God’s will, as Jesus did in the garden: Lk. 22.42
III. Stanza 3 (omitted in all our books) says that we should be both swifter in our running and surer in our step as we travel through life.
"Swifter yet and swifter, Ever onward run;
Firmer yet and firmer, Step as I go on;
Light serene and holy Where my soul may rest,
Purified and lowly, Sanctified and blest."
(The original read "Quicker yet and quicker, Ever onward press;
Firmer yet and firmer, Step as I progress.")
A. We have a race set before us that we must run: Heb. 12.1
B. In running that race, we can step firmly only if we follow in the footsteps of Him who left us a perfect example: 1 Pet. 2.21
C. In order to do this, we need light serene and holy to show us the way to that place where our souls may rest, and such light can come only from God’s word which will help to keep us pure: Ps. 119.105
IV. Stanza 4 says that we should go higher so that we can rise nearer the light.
"Higher yet and higher, Out of clouds and night;
Nearer yet and nearer, Rising to the light;
Oft these earnest longings Swell within my breast;
Yet their inner meaning Ne’er can be expressed."
A. To go higher yet and higher, out of clouds and night, we must, like Paul, keep pressing on for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: Phil. 3.12-13
B. In so doing, we will come nearer yet and nearer to the Lord Himself: Jas. 4.8
C. Even though these earnest longing can never be fully expressed, by striving to develop purity in our hearts we can be walking in the light of God Himself, in whom there is no darkness: 1 Jn. 1.5-7
CONCL.: The two stanzas omitted for use as a hymn are:
3. "Brighter yet and brighter, Virtue still perceive;
Clearer yet and clearer, Know Thee and believe.
Christ’s command obeying, Pefect seek to be;
Earnestly desiring Union still with Thee."
4. "Farther yet and farther, From all evil flee;
Closer yet and closer, Ever draw to Thee.
Still in heart ascending Up to Thee above;
And Thy truth embracing, Hold it fast in love."
Jesus wants us to be pure in heart (Matt. 5.8). Servants of God must commend themselves by their purity (2 Cor. 6.4-6). Paul tells us to keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5.22). Peter says that we purify our hearts by obeying the truth (1 Pet. 1.21-22). Therefore, the earnest desire of every child of God surely is to be "Purer Yet And Purer."