"OUR BLEST REDEEMER"
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever" (Jn. 14:16)
INTRO.: A hymn about the Comforter whom Jesus prayed the Father to send that He might abide with the church forever is "Our Blest Redeemer." The text was written by Miss Harriet Auber, who was born in London, England, on Oct. 4, 1773, the daughter of James Auber, an Anglican minister. Her great-grandfather, Pierre Auber of Normandy, had come to England in 1685, a Huguenot refugee, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes which made Protestantism a crime in France. Living a quiet and retiring life for most of her years in the Hertfordshire villages of Broxbourne and Hoddesdon, she was well known for the high literary quality of her poetry. A portion of her devotional works was published in The Spirit of the Psalms of 1829 (not to be confused with an 1834 work of the same name by Henry F. Lyte), in which her metrical versifications of the Psalms were an attempt to improve the poetic character of existing versions.
Also in this collection were some of Harriet’s original hymns, such as "Our Blest Redeemer," which is perhaps her best-known work, as well as a few hymns by other authors, some named and others left anonymous. Concerning this hymn, Miss Auber was sitting in her bedroom one day, looking out the window and meditating on a sermon that she had heard that morning, when an idea for a hymn poem came to her. Having neither pen nor paper nearby, she took off her diamond ring and etched the stanzas on the window. It is reported that the hymn was there for many years afterward, but, unfortunately, the pane was cut out and stolen after her death. A great many of her productions were left unpublished at her death on Jan. 20, 1862, in Hoddesdon, at the age of 89. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist preacher of London, England, used twenty of her hymns in Our Own Hymnbook of 1866, but most of them have now fallen into disuse.
The tune (St. Cuthbert) most commonly found with "Our Blest Redeemer" was composed for this text by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). It was first published in the orignal 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. 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 1922 edition of 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 text was used with a tune (Kington) composed by F. Llewellyn Edwards in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today the song, again with the Dykes tune, is found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.
The song identifies several aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in the scriptures.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles
"Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed His tender, last farewell,
A Guide, a Comforter, bequeathed With us to dwell."
A. Jesus, of course, is our blest Redeemer because He is the one who has redeemed us to God: Rev. 5:9
B. The reference is to the time when Jesus breathed on the apostles and told them to receive the Holy Spirit: Jn. 20:21-22. There is no indication that the apostles actually received the Holy Spirit on this occasion; rather, it was simply a promise of Christ that they would
C. The Holy Spirit was to come as a Comforter: Jn. 14:26
II. Stanza 2 tells us that the Holy Spirit first came on Christ as a dove
"He came in semblance of a dove, With sheltering wings outspread,
The holy balm of peace and love On earth to shed."
A. One of the first references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament was where He came on Christ as a dove would alight following the Lord’s baptism: Matt. 3:16
B. Perhaps one purpose of this was to symbolize that Christ would also spread out His sheltering wings to save mankind: Matt. 24:37
C. Also, as the dove symbolizes peace, so the Spirit came to bring peace through the gospel which He revealed and confirmed: Rom. 10:15
III. Stanza 3 tells us that the Holy Spirit came to the apostles with tongues of fire
"He came in tongues of living flame To teach, convince, subdue,
All powerful as the wind He came, As viewless too."
A. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on Pentecost was signified by tongues divided as of fire: Acts 2:1-4
B. Through the word that He revealed to them, He would teach, convince, and subdue: Jn. 16:7-11
C. There was also a rushing, mighty wind, and Jesus indicated that the work of the Spirit is like the wind, powerful but unseen: Jn. 3:8
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the Holy Spirit came to impart a sweet influence
"He came sweet influence to impart, A gracious, willing Guest,
While He can find one humble heart Wherein to rest."
A. The influence that He came to impart is the word, His sword, which He confirmed by miraculous signs: Eph. 6:17, Heb. 2:1-4
B. Through His word, He comes as a gracious, willing Guest to let us know that we abide in the Lord and He in us: 1 Jn. 4:13
C. Therefore, it is His desire that His word dwell in us richly: Col. 3:16
V. Stanza 5 tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks to us of heaven
"And His that gentle voice we hear, Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear, And speaks of heaven."
A. Also through His word, the Holy Spirit speaks so that when we hear the word we are hearing the Spirit as He speaks: 1 Tim. 4:1
B. Thus, by means of the word the Spirit checks each fault and calms each fear to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit: Gal. 5:22-23
C. Also, it is in His word that the Spirit speaks to us of heaven: 1 Pet. 1:3-5
VI. Stanza 6 tells us that the Holy Spirit wants our hearts as His dwelling place
"O God of purity and grace, Our weakness, pitying, see;
O make our hearts Thy dwelling place, And worthier Thee."
A. The original read, "Spirit of purity and grace," but E. L. Jorgenson eliminated or changed all statements made to the Holy Spirit in Great Songs of the Church, so that in our books it reads "O God of purity and grace;" each one will have to make His own decisions about this, but it could be argued that since God exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when we address God we are in essence speaking to the Holy Spirit: Matt. 28:19 (by the way, calling upon the Spirit in song to do what He has promised to do is not necessarily the same thing as "praying to the Spirit" since singing and prayer are identified as two separate acts of worship in 1 Cor. 14:15)
B. Certainly, the Spirit knows and sees our weaknesses: Rom. 8:26
C. We need God’s help to make our hearts fit for the spiritual dwelling of the Spirit: 1 Cor. 6:19
CONCL.: There were originally seven stanzas; the omitted one (#6) is as follows:
"And every virtue we possess, And every conquest won,
And every thought of holiness, Are His alone."
Many songs have been written about the Holy Spirit, but very few of them have appeared in the majority of our books. Several years ago a couple of preacher friends of mine were telling me that in a gospel meeting, a visiting preacher was going to be presenting a lesson on the Holy Spirit, and they were trying to find songs to go along with his topic but could not. Some brethren have objected to singing songs solely about the Holy Spirit, most likely for fear that others might misunderstand and think that we are Pentecostal or Charismatic. However, the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Godhead, and as long as what we are singing is the truth of God’s word, there should not be any scriptural reason for not singing such songs. And certainly it is truth that the Holy Spirit was sent to guide the apostles and prophets in the revelation and confirmation of the inspired scriptures for the benefit of His church by "Our Blest Redeemer."