“My Gracious Redeemer I Love”

"MY GRACIOUS REDEEMER I LOVE"
"And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their Redeemer" (Ps. 78.35)

     INTRO.: A song which teaches and admonishes us to praise the Lord as our Redeemer is "My Gracious Redeemer I Love." The text was written by Benjamin Francis, who was born in 1734 at Newcastle Emlyn in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Baptized at the age of fifteen, he began preaching at nineteen, although he did not learn English until he was twenty, and studied at the Bristol Baptist College. Beginning his work at Sodbury, he moved in 1737 to Horsley, later known as Shortwood, in Gloucestershire, where he remained the rest of his life. In 1774 he published Hymns Pertaining to Public Worship; it contained 103 of his songs and which was revised and enlarged in 1786 to include 91 more. His hymn "My Gracious Redeemer I Love" was first published along with five others by Francis in the 1787 Selection of John Rippon (1751-1836). Later, Francis produced two large poems, Conflagration in 1779 and The Association in 1790, and died at Shortwood in 1799. I have include two additional stanzas drawn from a hymn, "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours" by John Newton (1725-1807). It uses the same tune and was first published in the Olney Hymns of 1779.
    
     The tune (DeFleury, Contrast, Greenfield, Green Fields, or Newton) is usually attributed to Lewis Edson (1748-1820). It was first published in Jocelyn and Doolittle’s work The Chorister’s Companion of c. 1782, with the secular song, "Farewell, ye Green Fields and Sweet Groves." It is sometimes labeled an early American melody arranged by Edson, and some scholars believe that before that it was actually an 18th century German song, sometimes attributed to Maria de Fleury, either composed or perhaps adapted for the Peasant Cantata, No. 212, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "My Gracious Redeemer I Love" in two stanzas appeared in the 1917 Selected Revival Songs published by F. L. Rowe; the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1966 Great Christian Hymnal edited by Tillit S. Teddlie.

     The song extols our Savior for His blessings of redemption and the hope of eternal life.

I. Stanza 1 praises Christ as our Redeemer
"My gracious Redeemer I love! His praises aloud I’ll proclaim,
And join with the armies above To shout His adorable name.
To gaze on His glories divine Shall be my eternal employ,
And feel them incessantly shine, My boundless, ineffable joy."
 A. Because Jesus is our Redeemer, though we do not see Him yet we love Him: 1 Pet. 1.7-8
 B. Therefore, His praises aloud we proclaim just as the armies above shout His adorable name: Rev. 5.11-12
 C. Furthermore, it is our hope that we shall be able to gaze on His glories divine when we see Him as He is: 1 Jn. 3.1-3

II. Stanza 2 reminds us of the blessings that Christ gives us
"He freely redeemed with His blood My soul from the confines of hell,
To love on the smiles of my God, And in His sweet presence to dwell;
To shine with the angels of light; With saints and with seraphs to sing;
To view with eternal delight My Jesus, my Savior, my King."
 A. We can dwell in His presence because He has promised never to leave or forsake us: Heb. 13:5-6
 B. We can sing with both the saints and the seraphs: Col. 3:16
 C. We can have the hope of seeing Him as He is when He returns: 1 Jn. 3:1-2

III. Stanza 3 looks forward to the eternal crown that Christ will present
"Earth’s palaces, scepters, and crowns, Their pride with disdain I survey;
Their pomps are but shadows and sounds, and pass in a moment away.
The crown that my Savior bestows Yon permanent sun shall outshine;
My joy everlastingly flows–My God, my Redeemer, is mine."
 A. The finest things that this earth has to offer are but temporary will pass in a moment away when Christ returns: 2 Pet. 3.10
 B. However, our Savior will bestow to His people a crown of everlasting life: Jas. 1.12
 C. Such hope should produce a joy that flows through our hearts: Phil. 4.4

IV. Stanza 2 of Newton’s hymn looks for the presence of Christ in our lives
"His name yields the richest perfume, And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom, And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always thus nigh, Have nothing to wish or to fear;
No mortal so happy as I. My summer would last all the year."
 A. Rich perfume and sweet music are used to symbolize the presence of Christ in our lives: Matt. 28.20
 B. Thus, while we all experience times of gloom, being reminded of this presence can bring joy to our hearts: Ps. 16.11
 C. As a result, we have nothing to fear: 2 Tim. 1.7

VI. Stanza 3 of Newton’s hymn expresses the blessings of Christ to His people
"Content with beholding His face, My all to His pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place Would make any change in my mind.
While blest with a sense of His love, A palace a toy would appear;
And prisons would palaces prove, If Jesus would dwell with me there."
 A. "Beholding His face" here means not literally seeing Him but "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith": Heb. 12.1
 B. By looking unto Him, we can be blest with a sense of His love: 1 Jn. 3.16
 C. With this sense of His love, we can learn whether in a palace or a prison to be content: Phil. 4.11-13

     CONCL.:  The other two stanzas of Newton’s hymn are as follows:
1. "How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers Have lost all their sweetness to me.
The midsummer sun shines but dim; The fields strive in vain to look gay.
But when I am happy with Him, December’s as pleasant as May."
4. "Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine, If Thou art my sun and my song,
Say, why do I languish and pine, And why are my winters so long?
Oh, drive these dark clouds from my sky; Thy soul-cheering presence restore.
Or take me unto Thee on high, Where winter and clouds are no more."
I initially envisioned a composite hymn using Newton’s hymn, or at least stanzas 2-4, between stanzas 1 and 3 of Francis’s hymn (before I found stanza 3).  However, later, I thought about simply adding a third stanza taken from stanzas 2 and 3 of Newton’s hymn that is more in line with the praise character of Francis’s text:
"His name yields the sweetest perfume, And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom, And makes all within me rejoice.
While blest with a sense of His love, A palace a toy would appear;
And prisons would palaces prove, If Jesus would dwell with me there."
Eventually, I just decided to add stanzas 2 and 3 of Netwon’s hymn as additional stanzas.  I have always liked Francis’s hymn from the days when I first saw it in Christian Hymns No. 2, one of the books that we used in the congregation where I grew up, although after I started leading singing I never could seem to get people very interested in it. While in college, I heard it sung by an a capella "fa-sol-la" or "Sacred Harp" group, and it was quite stirring. It is good to be encouraged by thinking about why and how much "My Gracious Redeemer I Love."

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4 thoughts on ““My Gracious Redeemer I Love”

  1. See: David G. Davidson's An Early American Sampler. The booklet may be obtained from All Saints' Company. Features Green Fields – "How tedious and tasteless the hours…"
    Copyright All Saints' Company, 1981
    Comment submitted July 7, 2009

    Reply
  2. See David G. Davidson's An Early American Sampler for the music to Green Fields – "How tedious and tasteless the hours…" Booklet is published by All Saints' Company for liturgical and educational use.
    Copyright All Saints' Company, 1981
    Comment submitted July 7, 2009

    Reply
  3. About the origin of the “Greenfields” tune being American — no. One can see dozens of British publications of the British theater song it comes from in collections and on broadsides via “Eighteenth Century Collections Online”. The name “Greenfields” comes directly from the standard text, which was highly popular in London theaters by no later than the mid-1750s. Newton’s hymn-text “How tedious and tasteless the hours” makes repeated reference to language from the theater song, and can even be construed as a reply to it. (One misses much of Newton’s meaning by not knowing the words to “Farewell”.) If the German tune in Bach’s cantata (1742) is truly a related tune, the relationship is not due to an American or Brit having taken the tune from there, but from the German tune’s origin in France as “Pour aller a la chasse”. A form of the tune very close to Bach’s form is also found in John Gay’s “Achilles” from 1733 (which one may see on Google Books), called there “The Clarinette”. Thus, the French apparently exported the tune to England and Germany during the early 18th c. — assuming that the melodic/structural relationship between the German tune, “The Clarinette” and “Greenfields” is genuine and not merely accidental. Folksong scholars seem to think so, but you should compare the three tunes and make up your mind for yourself. I hope this helps clarify the origin of the tune.

    Reply
  4. Here are lyrics to the song, stanzas 1 and 2 above and two others (but minus stanza 3), taken from another website:

    1. My Gracious Redeemer I Love,
    His praises aloud I’ll proclaim,
    And join with the armies above,
    To shout His adorable name;
    To gaze on His glories divine
    Shall be my eternal employ,
    And feel them incessantly shine,
    My boundless, ineffable joy.

    2. He freely redeemed with His blood
    My soul from the confines of hell,
    To live on the smiles of my God,
    And in His sweet presence to dwell;
    To shine with the angels of light,
    With saints and with seraphs to sing;
    To view with eternal delight
    My Jesus, my Savior, my King.

    3. O when shall my spirit exchange
    This cell of corruptible clay
    For mansions celestial, and range
    Through realms of ineffable day?
    Oh, when wilt thou bid me ascend,
    To join in thy praises above,
    To gaze on thee, world without end,
    And feast on thy ravishing love?

    4. Nor sorrow, nor sickness, nor pain,
    Nor sin, nor temptation, nor fear,
    Shall ever molest me again
    Perfection of glory reigns there
    This soul and this body shall shine
    In robes of salvation and praise,
    And banquet on pleasures divine,
    Where God His full beauty displays.

    http://www.hymnlyrics.org/lyricsm/my_gracious_redeemer_i_love.html

    Reply

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