“If, on a Quiet Sea”

"…O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea" (Ps. 65.5)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages those all who are sailing upon the sea of life, whether calm or troubled, to look for guidance and direction to Jesus Christ is "If, On A Quiet Sea." The text was written by Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778). It is taken from a poem of eight double stanzas which was first published in the Gospel Magazine of Feb., 1772, but it has been radically altered by others into its present form.  Toplady is best remembered as the author of "Rock of Ages." The tune (Selvin) most often used with "If, On a Quiet Sea" is said to have been arranged by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). It is dated 1850 and thought to be one of the many arrangements of German tunes made by Mason. 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) edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.

     The song expresses faith, trust, and assurance in Jesus Christ to guide and direct our lives.

I. Stanza 1 talks about times of quiet
"If on a quiet sea, Toward heaven we calmly sail,
With grateful hearts, O God, to Thee, We’ll own the favoring gale."
 A. Sailing on the sea is often used by poets to represent the journey of life that we make from this earth to eternity: Ps. 107.23-32
 B. Sometimes, the sea is quiet and we can sail calmly, referring to situations where both our souls and our physical being prosper: 3 Jn. v. 2
 C. On such occasions, we can own the favoring gale with grateful hearts to God: Ps. 100.4

II. Stanza 2 talks about times of tempest
"But should the surges rise, And rest delay to come,
Blest be the tempest, kind the storm, Which drives us nearer home."
 A. However, sometimes the sea on which we sail is filled with tempest, representing the trials and tribulations of life: Acts 14.22
 B. In such times, it seems as if rest delays to come and we must cast out our anchor to keep us from perishing: Acts 27.29, Heb. 6.19
 C. Yet the storms of life can actually serve to drive us nearer home as we recognize our utter dependence on God: Jas. 1.2-4

III. Stanza 3 talks about the time of death
"Soon shall our doubts and fears All yield to Thy control;
Thy tender mercies shall illume The midnight of the soul."
 A. As long as we remain in this life, there will always be circumstances that produce some degree of doubt and fear in our hearts, even for the most faithful Christian, but we can look forward to a time when all that will yield to Christ’s control as life draws near its end: 2 Tim. 4.6-8
 B. Then, for the child of God, Christ’s tender mercies will begin their final illumination of the soul as we can see the lights of glory shining to welcome us home: Ps. 73.24
 C. The "midnight of the soul" obviously refers to the time of death: Heb. 9.27

IV. Stanza 4 talks about the need to live by faith at all times
"Teach us, in every state, To make Thy will our own,
And when the joys of sense depart, To live by faith alone."
 A. In view of the fact that we are sailing the sea of life, whether quiet or tempestuous, toward death and eternity, we need to learn in
whatever state we find ourselves to be content and remember that we can do all things through Christ: Phil. 4.11-13
 B. Therefore, our attitude must be that of Christ who said, "Not my will, but Thine be done": Lk. 22.42
 C. Some might object to the statement, "To live by faith alone;" however, it seems to me that in the song the contrast is not between being saved by obedience or by faith alone, but living by sight and "the joys of sense" (i.e., walking by sight) or by true faith alone: Rom. 1.17, 2 Cor. 5.7

     CONCL.: The tune requires the repetition of the last two lines of each stanza. The 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2, also edited by Jorgenson, has the same tune with another hymn, "Shall Songs of Grateful Love," written in 1839 by James John Cummins (1795-1867):
1. "Shall songs of grateful love Ring through all heaven above,
And shall we not take up the strain And send it back again?"
2. "Shall saints adore their Lord And all His love record,
And shall we not take up the strain And send it back again?"
3. "Shall every ransomed tribe To Christ all power ascribe,
And shall we not take up the strain And send it back again?"
Certainly, Jesus Christ is worthy of all praise, and one reason is that He is capable of helping us sail the ship of our lives whether in troubled waters or "If, On A Quiet Sea."


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