"GRACIOUS SPIRIT, DWELL WITH ME"
"He…shall also give life to your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11)
INTRO.: A hymn which makes a request that God’s Spirit would dwell in us is "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me" (#116 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-1871). In 1855, while serving as a Congregationalist minister with the Mornington church in the London, England, area, he published a hymn collection entitled The Rivulet: Hymns for Heart and Voice, designed as a supplement to the Hymns of Isaac Watts. It included this song, perhaps his best known. Other hymns by Lynch which have appeared in some of our books are "Christ in His Word Draws Near" and "My Faith, It Is an Oaken Staff." Several tunes have been found with this hymn. Some books have had one (Dix) by Conrad Kocher which is most often associated with Folliot S. Pierpont’s hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth." The vast majority of books have used another one (Redhead or Ajalon) by Richard Redhead to which John Montgomery’s "Go to Dark Gethsemane" has also been set. Also one (Ratisbon) by Johann Werner has been suggested.
Still another one (Reynoldstone) that is available was composed by Timothy Richard Matthews, who was born on Nov. 4, 1826, at Colmworth, near Bedford, England, the son of a minister. After attending Bedford Grammar School and Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, from which he received the Mus. B. degree in 1853, he became a private tutor to the family of Lord Wriothesley Russell of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where he studied under the organist and hymn tune composer George Job Elvey who became a lifelong friend. Becoming a minister himself, Matthews served at St. Mary’s Church in Nottingham from 1853 to 1869, during which time he founded Nottingham’s Working Men’s Institute. In 1869, he moved to North Coates in Lincolnshire, then retired in 1907 to live with his son at Tetney. The editor of the North Coates Supplemental Tune Book and The Village Organist, Matthews provided music for morning and evening services, chants, and responses, earning the reputation for simple but effective hymn tunes and producing over 100. William Howard asked for six melodies from him to be used in a children’s hymnal, and Matthews finished them all in one day.
Also Matthews is credited with a few carols and songs, and his best known tune generally is used with Emily Elliot’s nativity hymn "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne." His sons Norton and Arthur were also known as hymn tune composers. Matthews died at his son’s home in Tetney in Lincolnshire, England, on Jan. 5, 1910. Among some of our books, it has been a custom not to include any songs addressed directly to the Holy Spirit. The reason for this may well be the general objection to addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer. However, singing and praying are two separate acts (1 Cor. 14:15). Therefore, it could be argued that one can scripturally address a song to the Holy Spirit, calling upon Him to do that which the scriptures teach that He will do, and it not be the same as praying to Him. However, for those who still feel uncomfortable singing a song to the Holy Spirit, in the opening line of each stanza, the word "Spirit" could be changed to "Savior." In fact, Great Songs Revised lists "Gracious Savior, Dwell with Me" in their index, but when that number is referenced, the song there is titled "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me."
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me" appeared with the Kocher tune in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it is found, with the Redhead tune, in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; in addition to Hymns for Worship.
This song characterizes the Holy Spirit in several ways which are applicable to us.
I. Stanza 1 calls Him a gracious Spirit
"Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be;
And with words that help and heal Would Thy life in mine reveal,
And with actions bold and meek Would for Christ my Savior speak."
A. The Spirit is called "the Spirit of Grace" because He revealed unto us in the scripture the grace of God: Zech. 12:10
B. We also should be gracious in using words that would minister God’s grace to others: Acts 20:32
C. In addition, we must be gracious in actions both bold and meek to help and heal: Gal. 6:1-2
II. Stanza 2 calls Him a truthful Spirit
"Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would truthful be;
And with wisdom kind and clear, Let Thy life in mine appear,
And with actions brotherly Speak my Lord’s sincerity."
A. The Spirit is called "the Spirit of truth" because He revealed to the apostles, and to us through their word, the truth of God: Jn. 16:13
B. We should also strive to live a life that is based upon the truth: 1 Pet. 1:22
C. And we should also be zealous in speaking the truth in love to others, both by word and deed: Eph. 4:15
III. Stanza 3 calls Him a mighty Spirit
"Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be;
Mighty so as to prevail Where unaided man must fail,
Ever by a mighty hope Pressing on and bearing up."
A. The Spirit is called "the Spirit of counsel and might" because He revealed unto us in scripture the might or power of God: Isa. 11:2
B. Therefore, we should look to His word that we might be strengthened with His might: Eph. 3:16
C. The reason that we need this might is to help us press on to the goal: Phil. 3:14
IV. Stanza 4 calls Him a tender Spirit
"Tender Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would tender be;
Shut my heart up like a flower In temptation’s darksome hour.
Open it when shines the sun, And His love by fragrance own."
A. The Spirit may be thought of as a "tender Spirit" because He cares for us and is grieved when we sin: Eph. 4:30
B. We should also be tenderhearted toward God and look to the Spirit to shut up our hearts to temptation because it leads to sin: Jas. 1:13-15
C. Instead, we should let Him open our hearts and make them tender towards the love of God and being His temple: 1 Cor. 6:19
V. Stanza 5 calls Him a holy Spirit
"Holy Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would holy be;
Separate from sin, I would Choose and cherish all thigns good,
And whatever I can be, Give to Him who gave me Thee!"
A. The Spirit is called the "Holy Spirit" because He is the Spirit of God: Eph. 1:13
B. We should seek to follow His will that we might be holy as the children of God: 1 Pet. 1:14-16
C. In this way, we give back to Him who gave us the Spirit by guarding that which is committed to us: 2 Tim. 1:14
CONCL.: Requesting that the Spirit dwell with me does not necessitate some kind of miraculous, or even direct, indwelling on His part. It can simply be a desire that the Spirit would abide in my heart through the influence of the scriptures that He inspired and gave to all mankind. And thus this Third Person of the Trinity can produce a spirit or attitude of godliness in my life, as I ask Him, "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me."