"THE CLEANSING WAVE"
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…" (2 Cor. 5.17)
INTRO.: A song which indicates that sinners can become become new creatures because Jesus has provided a crimson wave for our cleansing is "The Cleansing Wave." The text was written by Mrs. Phoebe Worrell Palmer, who was born on Dec. 18, 1807, in New York City, NY, the daughter of Henry Warrell, an immigrant from Ughill in West Riding, England, and Dorothea Blanche Wade. Raised in as devout home and married to Walter Clarke Palmer, a physician and member of the Allen St. Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1827, Phoebe produced many hymns and poems, including an ode for Independence Day in 1831 and a hymn for her Sunday school in 1833. However, her life was beset by tragedy. Two sons died in infancy, and a daughter born in 1835 was burned to death. For a period of time her faith sputtered and cooled, but in 1837 she renewed her commitment to the Lord and became involved in the Weslyan/Holiness movement of the nineteenth century, continuing to provide hymns for Holiness meetings. Another daughter named Phoebe was born in 1839.
It is known that "The Cleansing Wave" was used in camp meetings in 1872. In 1873, George Hughes reported on fourteen holiness camp meetings held between 1867 and 1872, mentioning this hymn and saying that in the latter meetings it was "sung with good effect in the forest temple, while precious souls plunged into the cleansing stream, rising renewed in all the life of God." Therefore, the song must date from before 1873, probably around 1871. Sometimes, the text is attributed to Phoebe’s amateur musician daughter, Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839-1908). However, Mrs. Knapp (the daughter) composed only the tune. In an 1871 letter, Mrs. Palmer wrote that she had been asked by her daughter to give her a hymn poem. It is thought that "The Cleansing Wave" was the result. Mrs. Knapp is perhaps best known for her melody that is sung with Fanny Crosby’s hymn "Blessed Assurance." So far as is known, "The Cleansing Wave" is the only hymn on which mother and daughter collaborated.
Another of Mrs. Palmer’s hymns, "Blessed Bible! How I Love It," which is usually set to Annie F. Harrison’s melody for Meta Orred’s secular ballad "In the Gloaming," appeared in some of our older books back in the earlier part of the last century. Phoebe W. Palmer died on Nov. 2, 1874, in New York City. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "The Cleansing Wave" appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson.
The song invites sinners to plunge in the cleansing stream that flows from Calvary.
I. Stanza 1 mentions the fountain from which the stream flows
"O now I see the crimson wave, The fountain deep and wide;
Jesus, my Lord, mighty to save, Points to His wounded side."
A. It was prophesied that a fountain would be opened for cleansing and for sin: Zech. 13.1
B. The opening of this fountain would involve Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19.10
C. This fountain symbolically flows from Jesus’s wounded side, the same one to which He directed Thomas’s attention: Jn. 20.27
II. Stanza 2 mentions the forgiveness that is found in the stream
"I see the new creation rise, Begotten by the word,
And born again to gain the prize–Forgiveness of the Lord."
(The original read: "I see the new creation rise, I hear the speaking blood;
It speaks! polluted nature dies, Sinks ‘neath the crimson flood."
I assume that this was altered, presumably by L. O. Sanderson, because it might sound to some like original sin)
A. Those who plunge in the cleansing stream are begotten by the word of God: 1 Pet. 1.22-23
B. Thus, they are born again of water and the spirit into the kingdom of God: Jn. 3.3-5
C. The prize which they gain is forgiveness of the Lord: Eph. 1.7
III. Stanza 3 mentions the continued benefits that the stream gives us
"I rise to walk in heaven’s light, Above the world and sin,
With heart made pure and garments white, And Christ enthroned within."
A. Those who are plunged in the stream then rise to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6.3-4
B. They must live with hearts made pure as symbolized by wearing white garments: Rev. 7.14
C. This kind of life is possible only by having Christ enthroned within, dwelling in one’s heart by faith: Eph. 3.17
IV. Stanza 4 mentions the joy that is experienced by whose who plunge in the stream
"Amazing grace! ’tis heaven below, To feel the blood applied,
And Jesus, only Jesus, know, My Jesus crucified."
A. We can be filled with joy when we are saved by the amazing grace of God: Eph. 2.8-9
B. We can be filled with joy to realize that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin: 1 Jn. 1.7
C. We can be filled with joy to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified: 1 Cor. 2.1-2
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the blessings that God offers to those who plunge beneath this stream.
"The stream I see from Calvary, I plunge, and O, it cleanseth me;
O praise the Lord, it cleanseth me, The precious blood it cleanseth me."
The chorus, apparently altered again by Sanderson, originally read:
"The cleansing stream I see, I see! I plunge, and O, it cleanseth me;
O praise the Lord, it cleanseth me, It cleanseth me, yes, cleanseth me."
Surely, those who are lost in sin need to be told the glad message that they can come and receive forgiveness by plunging in "The Cleansing Wave."