“Purer in Heart, O God”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks God to help us to be pure in heart is “Purer in Heart” (#150 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #53 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Fannie Estelle Church Davison, who was born in 1851 at Cuyahoga Falls, OH, the daughter of Philo and Sarah Ann Linsted Church. Her father was killed when she was ten years old, and her mother married Henry Christian Warner who moved the family to Carthage, MO, where he owned a hotel. Fannie married Asa Lee Davison, a court reporter, and they settled first in Chicago, IL, and later moved to Madison, WI.

     Two daughters were born to this home—Myrtle Estelle, born in 1871, who became Mrs. Samuel Morris Brogan, and Iva Belle, born in 1881, who became Mrs. Charles M. Jewett. Mrs. Davison was the author of a number of hymns, most of which appeared in collections published by the Fillmore Brothers Music House in Cincinnati, OH. The tune for this one (Gratitude or Pastor) was composed by James Henry Fillmore (1849-1936). It first appeared in 1877 in his Songs of Gratitude.

     Two other collections which contain songs by Mrs. Davison were Joy and Gladness, published in 1880, and The Voice of Joy in 1882. Also she provided the libretto for a cantata, Faith, Hope, and Love, in 1866, for which the music was composed by James Holmes Rosecrans (1845-1926).  During the latter years of her life, Mrs. Davison was in poor health and was cared for by her mother. After her death on Mar. 10, 1887, in Chicago, IL, she was buried at Carthage, MO, where her mother still lived at the time.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, “Purer in Heart” appeared in 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 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat, and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.

      The song gives us several reasons why we should strive to be pure in heart.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that we should be pure in heart so that we may devote our lives wholly to God
“Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be;
My I devote my life Wholly to Thee.
Watch Thou my wayward feet, Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart. Help me to be.”
 A. We devote our lives wholly to God by seeking first His kingdom and righteousness: Matt. 6:33
 B. In order to do this, we need His help to watch our wayward feet: Ps. 56:13
 C. And we need His counsel to guide us in life: Ps. 33:10-11

II. Stanza 2 tells us that we should be pure in heart so that we may do God’s will on this earth
“Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be;
Teach me to do Thy will Most lovingly.
Be Thou my Friend and Guide, Let me with Thee abide;
Purer in heart, Help me to be.”
 A. It is important to do the will of the Father: Matt. 7:21
 B. Therefore, we must seek the Lord as our Friend and Guide by keeping His commandments: Pa. 48:14
 C. In this way, we abide in Him as the branch abides in the vine: Jn. 15:4-7

III. Stanza 3 tells us that we should be pure in heart so that we may be with God in heaven
“Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be,
That I Thy holy face One day may see.
Keep me from secret sin, Reign Thou my soul within;
Purer in heart, Help me to be.”
 A. The desire of every child of God is to see His holy face one day: 1 Jn. 3:1-3
 B. Thus it is imperative that we ask the Lord to keep us from secret sin: Ps. 19:12-13
 C. To do this, we must allow Christ to reign in our souls by making Him Lord of our hearts: Rom. 10:9-10, 1 Pet. 3:15

     CONCL.: As Christians, we have a responsibility to “…be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). To accomplish this aim, we must “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Therefore, our desire from the Lord should be that we might be “Purer in Heart, O God.”


One thought on ““Purer in Heart, O God”

  1. Fannie Davison was my great, great grandmother. I recently visited the grave of Myrtle Estelle Brogan, my great grandmother which is located in Fayetteville, Tn.
    I was very surprised to find this information on the internet.


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