"These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace" (Jn. 16.33)
INTRO.: A hymn that expresses where we can find the peace that Jesus talked about in the things that He has spoken unto us is "Sweetly Resting." The text was written by Mary Dagworthy Yard James (1810-1883). Born in Trenton, NJ, she joined the Methodist Church at age 10, married in 1834, and had a son who became a minister. Another of her hymns which has appeared in some of our books begins "All for Jesus, all for Jesus, All my being’s ransomed powers," written in 1871. The tune (Rifted Rock) for "Sweetly Resting" was composed by William Warren Bentley (19th century). I have been unable to locate any information on the composer, other than that he co-edited a hymnbook, The Armor Bearer: A Choice Collection of New and Popular Hymns and Music, with E. Payson Hammond around 1876 for William A. Pond of New York City, NY. The copyright to the song was once owned by the Evangelical Publishing Co. of Chicago, IL, but I have never been able to find a date for it, other than that it was obviously produced in the 19th century.
An interesting usage has been made of this melody. Several years ago Canadian composer Victor Davies was asked to provide a background score for a documentary film about the Mennonites in western Canada. He used music from his Piano Concerto #1, which he had subtitled "Mennonite" using several hymns from the Mennonite hymnal in producing the piece. The second movement is a theme and variations which uses the tune "Rifted Rock" for the theme. I believe that it is also used in the film score. I have several Mennonite hymnbooks and this song is in almost every one of them. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the only one in my collection where I have seen the song is the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson for the Gospel Advocate Co.
The song describes the blessings that we have by abiding in the "Rifted Rock."
I. Stanza one says that we can have safety
"In the rifted Rock I’m resting, Safely sheltered, I abide;
There no foes nor storms molest me While within the cleft I hide."
A. Jesus Christ is the Rock in which we can abide: 1 Cor. 10.4
B. When we are safely sheltered in Him, no foes nor storms can molest: Ps. 27.2, 55.8
C. The cleft refers to the place in the Rock that is hollowed out in which we can find protection: Exo. 33.22
II. Stanza two says that we can have rest
"Long pursued by sin and Satan, Weary, sad, I longed for rest;
Then I found this heavenly shelter, Opened in my Savior’s breast."
A. In this life we are pursued by sin and Satan: 1 Pet. 5.8
B. This causes us to become weary and long for rest: Ps. 6.6, 63.1
C. And we can find this rest when we come to Jesus who is the Rock that provides heavenly shelter: Matt. 11.28-30
III. Stanza three says that we can have love
"Peace, which passeth understanding, Joy, the world can never give,
Now in Jesus I am finding; In His smiles of love I live."
A. In the rock we can have God’s peace which passes all understanding: Phil. 4.6-7
B. In the rock we can also have joy that the world can never give: Phil. 4.4
C. And in the rock we have the love of God to smile upon us: Rom. 8.39
IV. Stanza four says that we can have security
"In the rifted Rock I’ll hide me, Till the storms of life are past,
All secure in this blest refuge, Heeding not the fiercest blast."
A. Because of the blessings that we can have in Christ, we should allow God to hide us in His pavilion of safety: Ps. 27.5
B. And we should remain there until the storms of life are past: Rev. 2.10
C. As long as we remain in this refuge, we can have security: Jn. 10.27-29
CONCL.: The chorus identifies Christ as the "Rifted Rock" in which we can rest:
"Now I’m resting, sweetly resting, In the cleft once made for me;
Jesus, blessed Rock of Ages, I will hide myself in Thee."
I would assume that very few brethren are familiar with this hymn. I myself do not think that I have ever sung it in a worship service or even heard it sung in one. But I have seen it from time to time in my research, read over it, sung it to myself, and remember the sweetness of the melody from listening to Davies’s Piano Concerto. I also have a CD of a Mennonite chorus singing the song acapella. This is a very beautiful song with a wonderful message of comfort and encouragement. Many religious songs from the past have not remained in popular usage because they did not have the qualities that stand the test of time. However, others have continued to be used and some that have meant much to people in years gone by deserve to rediscovered because of their universal appeal. I believe that this is one of them. Certainly, there is a place for the writing and singing of new songs. But there are still many "old songs" that are worthy of our usage. In times of stress and difficulty, we need to be reminded of the blessings that we can have if in the Rifted Rock we are "Sweetly Resting."