“Draw Thou My Soul, O Christ”

"Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest" (Matt. 8.19)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks Christ to draw us nearer to Him so that we might follow Him wherever He goes is "Draw Thou My Soul, O Christ" (#541 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Lucy Larcom, who was born at Beverly, MA, on Mar. 5, 1826, the ninth of ten child­ren. Her father was a New England sea captain who died when she was a child. Her mother then moved the family to Lowell, MA, where Mrs. Larcom got a job as su­per­in­ten­dent of a fe­male dor­mi­to­ry at the lo­cal tex­tile mill. After a brief grade school education, during which she began to write verses at age seven, Lucy herself worked in the mills of Lowell for eight years. Later she published an account of her experiences in the mill, entitled "Among Lowell Mill Girls," around 1881 in The Atlantic Monthly. During her last two years at the mills she also contributed regularly to the Lowell Offering, published by the female operatives of the Lowell mills and probably the first magazine to be edited entirely by women.

     Then in 1846 Miss Larcom left Lowell and gained experience as a a rural schoolteacher at Looking Glass, IL, for a time while she attended the Monticello Female Seminary in Alton, IL. Following graduation, she returned to Massachusetts where she paint­ed, studied French, taught lit­er­a­ture in advanced schools, and continued her education at Wheaton Seminary in Norton; she also founded the col­lege news­pa­per. A prolific author of verse, she attracted the attention of the famous poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892). The two became lifelong friends. Because of ill health, Lucy left teaching and decided to devote all her time to literary work, helping to ed­it the child­ren’s mag­a­zine Our Young Folks, and con­trib­ut­ing to Whit­ti­er’s an­thol­o­gies, St. Ni­cho­las, the Youth’s Com­pan­ion, and other magazines. Her published works include Wild Roses of Cape Ann in 1881, Poetical Works in 1885, As
It Is In Heaven in 1891, The Unseen Friend in 1892, and At the Beautiful Gate also in 1892, from which this hymn is taken.

     The usual tune (St. Edmund or Fatherland) used with it was composed by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900). It first appeared in The Hymnary, of which Sullivan was the music editor, published at London, England, in 1872, with Thomas R. Taylor’s "We Are But Strangers Here."  Miss Larcom, whose writings also include an autobiography and two volumes of thoughts from the world’s great religious thinkers, died at Boston, MA, on Apr. 17, 1893. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this song is not found in any books of which I am aware other than Hymns for Worship, which, for reasons that I do not profess to comprehend, uses a tune (Pendleton) that had been composed in 1870 by William Howard Doane (1832-1915). It was produced for and is most often associated with Elizabeth Payson Prentiss’s well-known hymn, "More Love to Thee, O Christ."  The 1994 edition had only the words with an indication to use Doane’s tune.  Larcom’s original words have to be altered somewhat to fit this music. I happen to prefer Sullivan’s music!

     This song expresses the desire for Christ to draw us closer to Him.

I. Stanza 1 requests that Christ help us to make His will our own
"Draw Thou my soul, O Christ, Closer to Thine;
Breathe into every wish Thy will divine.
Raise my low self above, Won by Thy deathless love;
Ever, O Christ, through mine Let Thy life shine."
 A. It should be the desire of every Christian to be drawn closer or nearer to the Lord: Jas. 4.8
 B. To do this, each of us should have the attitude that Christ did, that God’s will be done, not our own: Lk. 22.42
 C. When this happens, the life of Christ will shine through our lives: Gal. 2.20

II. Stanza 2 requests that Christ help us to follow in His footsteps
"Lead forth my soul, O Christ, One with Thine own,
Joyful to follow Thee Through paths unknown;
In Thee my strength renew; Give me Thy work to do;
Through me Thy truth be shown, Thy love made known."
 A. It should be the desire of every Christian to be one with Christ by abiding in Him: Jn. 15.1-4
 B. To do this, we must translate the desire to do God’s will into the actual act of following Christ who is our perfect example: 1 Pet. 2.21
 C. When this happens, the truth will be shown and God’s love will be "shed abroad" to others through our hearts: Rom. 5.5 (KJV)

III. Stanza 3 requests that Christ will lift the whole world closer to Him also
"Not for myself alone May my prayer be;
Lift Thou Thy world, O Christ, closer to Thee;
Cleanse it from guilt and wrong; Teach it salvation’s song
Till earth, as heaven, fulfill God’s holy will."
 A. It should be the desire of every Christian to pray for others as well: Rom. 10.1-3
 B. To help in answering this prayer, we should do what we can to draw the people of the world closer to Christ by preaching the gospel to everyone: Mk. 16.15
 C. When this happens, those who will hear and obey will be won to Christ and God’s will be done: Matt. 6.10

     CONCL.: The first time that I ever heard this song, with the Sullivan tune, was right after I began full time preaching. Between where I lived and the place where the church met, there was a denominational church which had an early worship service. Since the Bible study where I was preaching did not begin until 10:00 am, one morning I stopped in the denominational church just to see what their service was like. There was a lot of special music–organ prelude, choir numbers, and even a violin duet–but only one "congregational hymn," this one. While I did not sing because it was accompanied by the organ, I liked the tune and I was impressed with the words. Since then, I have seen it in other hymnbooks, such as the 1927 Church Hymnal (Mennonite) published by the Mennonite Publishing House, the 1930 New Hymnal for American Youth published by The Century Company, and the 1974 Hymns for the Living Church published by the Hope Publishing Company.  I wish that more of our books had the song. It should always be my aim to say to my Lord, "Draw Thou My Soul, O Christ."


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