"BLEST BE THE DEAR, UNITING LOVE"
"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul…" (Acts 4.32)
INTRO.: A song which talks about the oneness of heart and soul that God wants among His people is "Blest Be The Dear Uniting Tie." The text was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It was first published with eight stanzas under the heading "At Parting" in his 1742 Hymns and Sacred Poems. Six of the original stanzas were republished and edited (with one alteration at the beginning of stanza 3, from "O let us ever" to "O may we ever") for the 1780 Collection edited by his brother, John Benjamin Wesley (1703-1791). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this song, with the first four stanzas, appeared, under the name "Salem" and the subheading "Unity and Love," in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson, and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. The only book currently in print among us that uses it is the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand.
All three of these books use a tune (Salem) composed by Ephraim Timothy Hildebrand, who was born near Greenmount in Rockingham County, VA , on Jan. 18, 1866. Reared in Rockingham Co., near the towns of Dayton and Bridgewater, he received training at the New York Vocal Institute, the Metropolitan Conservatory, and other schools, and was a member of the New York Oratorio Society, under the direction of Frank Damrousche. His parents and other members of his family belonged to the Mennonite Church but his membership was with the United Brethren Church. Much of his musical talent was exercised in the Bridgewater College, a Church of the Brethren school where he was Director of Music from 1899 to 1904, and at Shenandoah College, a United Brethren school. He also served a number of other schools in his profession.
A music teacher, composer, editor, publisher, and singer, Hildebrand produced many excellent pieces, sacred and secular, among the latter being "The Hills of Tennessee." Some of the popular books he has helped to edit are Gems of Gladness, Crowning Day, and Onward and Upward. His songs appeared in numbers of song books throughout the country and occasionally in Sunday school quarterlies. He passed to his eternal reward near Harrisonburg, VA, on March 23, 1931, at the age of 65, survived by his wife and three children. I have been able to find no further information on Hildebrand other than that he produced a song and a couple of tunes (though not this one) that are found in a Mennonite hymnal that I have in my possession. For Wesley’s hymn, the Mennonite Hymnal uses a tune (Marlow) by John Cheathem. The Methodist Hymnal of 1935 uses a tune (Tiplady) by John Porter, but the 1966 and 1989 editions both use a tune (Evan) by William Henry Havergal arranged by Lowell Mason.
The song reminds us of the fellowship that exists among God’s true people on earth.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes our love for one another
"Blest be the dear, uniting love That will not let us part;
Our bodies may far off remove, We still are one in heart."
A. God wants us to have an attitude of love which will enable us to keep the unity of the Spirit: Eph. 4.1-3
B. There may be times when our bodies are apart from one another: Gen. 31.49, 1 Cor. 5.3
C. But as Christians, we are not completely parted because we are still one in heart: 1 Thess. 2.17
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes our union with Christ
"Joined in one spirit to our Head, Where He appoints we go;
And still in Jesus’ footsteps tread, And show His praise below."
A. We have been joined to Christ our Head in one spirit as members of His body: 1 Cor. 6.17, 12.13
B. As such, we tread in Jesus’ footsteps: 1 Pet. 2.21
C. Our purpose in so doing is to show His praise below: 1 Pet. 2.9
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes our walk in Christ
"O may we ever walk in Him, And nothing know beside,
Nothing desire, nothing esteem, But Jesus crucified."
A. Christians, having received Christ, are to walk in Him: Col. 2.6
B. Therefore, our desire is to be directed only toward Him: Ps. 27.4
C. The result is that we shall seek to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified: 1 Cor. 2.2
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes our closeness to Christ
"Closer and closer let us cleave To His beloved embrace,
Expect His fullness to receive, And grace to answer grace."
A. The Lord wants us to cleave or cling to Him and draw nearer: Acts 11.23, Jas. 4.8
B. Those who do so receive of His fullness: Jn. 1.16
C. And it is by this grace extended to us in Christ that we are saved: Eph. 2.8-9
V. Stanza 5 emphasizes our fellowship in Christ
"While thus we walk with Christ in light Who shall our souls disjoin,
Souls, which Himself vouchsafes t’unite In fellowship divine!"
A. To draw nearer to Christ, we must walk in the light: 1 Jn. 1.7
B. The word "disjoin" means to separate; someday by the Lord’s decree our spirits or souls shall be separated from our bodies in death: Heb. 9.27, Jas. 2.26
C. But in all this, Christ has promised that after death we shall be vouchsafed in fellowship divine because we shall ever be with the Lord: Phil. 1.23, 1 Thess. 2.16-17
VI. Stanza 6 emphasizes the oneness that we have in Christ
"We all are one who Him receive, And each with each agree,
In Him the One, the Truth, we live; Blest point of unity."
A. Jesus wants all those who believe in Him to be one: Jn. 17.20-21
B. However, we cannot walk together unless we be agreed–with Him, and thus with each other: Amos 3.3
C. Thus, unity is dependent upon accepting Jesus as the Truth: Jn. 14.6
CONCL.: The two of Wesley’s original stanzas usually omitted today are as follows:
7. "Partakers of the Savior’s grace, The same in mind and heart,
Nor joy, nor grief, nor time, nor place, Nor life, nor death can part."
8. "But let us hasten to the day Which shall our flesh restore,
When death shall all be done away, And bodies part no more."
Several of Wesley’s hymns are still quite popular ("A Charge To Keep" and "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" come quickly to mind; Praise for the Lord includes 18. However, since he wrote over 8,000, many of them have fallen by the wayside, and some that were once well-known are not used now as much, even among the Methodists. Yet, Wesley produced a lot of really good songs, and this one helps to remind us of the unity and affection that should exist among Christians as it encourages us to think, "Blest Be The Dear, Uniting Love."