"SAVIOR, LISTEN WHILE WE SING"
"Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. 13:11)
INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to keep on praising the Lord because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed is "Savior, Listen While We Sing." The text was written by Godfrey Thring, who was born on Mar. 25, 1823, at Alford in Somerset, England, the son of John Gale Dalton Thring, an Anglican minister. His oldest brother was Henry (1818-1907), afterwards Lord Thring, the distinguished Parliamentary counsel (1868-1886), who was made a peer in 1886. Another older brother Edward (1821-1887) was a well known English schoolmaster. Educated at Shrewsbury School, Godfrey graduated in 1845 from Balliol Collge at Oxford, England, and became an Anglican minister in 1846, serving churches at Stratfield-Turgis from 1846 to 1850, and at Strathfieldsaye from 1850 to 1853. In 1858 he moved to Alford-with-Hornblotton near Glastonbury and during his time there he produced a number of hymns. "Savior, Listen While We Sing," originally in eight stanzas, is dated 1862 and was first published in his Hymns Congregational and Others of 1866. His other collections include Hymns and Verses in 1866, Hymns and Sacred Lyrics in 1874, and Hymns and Poems for the Holy Days and the Festivals of the Church which became well known. Thring is perhaps best remembered for some of the extra stanzas which he added to "Crown Him with Many Crowns" by Matthew Bridges.
"Savior, Listen While We Sing" was included in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern with alterations by the author and the compilers. When it was used in the S. P. C. K. Church Hymns in 1871, Thring provided an additional stanza (number 2 below). Later he served at Wells Cathedral at East Harptree beginning in 1876 and edited The Church of England Hymnbook in 1880 with a revised edition in 1882. After retiring from Wells in 1893, he died at Shambley Green near Guildford in Surrey, England, on Sept. 13, 1903. Several tunes have been used or suggested with this hymn, but the one (Goethe or Lyndhurst) used in the only book of ours to have it is an anonymous melody that is taken from a compilation known as the Treasury. This may be the same as Church Praise published in 1883. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson. Other books in which I have seen the hymn include the 1926 Parish School Hymnal of the United Lutheran Church in America with a tune (Fides) by Marchel Davis, The Hymnal 1941 of the Protestant Episcopal Church with a tune (Edina) by Herbert S. Oakeley, and the 1961 Trinity Hymnal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church with a tune (Hermas) by Frances R. Havergal.
The song exhorts us to praise Christ as we move ever forward in our lives as Christians towards eternity.
I. Stanza 1 says that we should yield our all to the Savior
"Savior, blessed Savior, listen while we sing:
Hearts and voices raising Praises to our King.
All we have to offer, All we hope to be,
Body, soul, and spirit, All we yield to Thee."
A. The Savior and King to whom we raise praises with heart and voice is Jesus Christ: Lk. 2:11
B. He wants us to offer to Him our bodies as living sacrifices: Rom. 12:1
C. Therefore, we must yield to Him body, soul, and spirit: 1 Thess. 5:23
II. Stanza 2 says that we went ever farther from His wounded side in sin
"Farther, ever farther From Thy wounded side,
Heedlessly we wandered, Wandered far and wide,
Till Thou camest in mercy, Seeking young and old,
Lovingly to bear them, Savior, to Thy fold."
A. When in sin we wandered farther and farther from Him like sheep going astray: 1 Pet. 2:25
B. However, He came in mercy to seek and save the lost: Lk. 19:10
C. And if we will hear His voice and come to Him, He will lovingly bear us to His fold: Jn. 10:16, 27
III. Stanza 3 says that we should draw ever nearer to Him
"Nearer, ever nearer, Christ, we draw to Thee,
Deep in adoration, Bending low the knee.
Thou for our redemption Camest on earth to die;
Thou, that we might follow, hast gone up on high."
A. The Lord wants us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us: Jas. 4:8
B. To do so, we must bend low the knee, symbolizing our obedience to Him: Heb. 5:8-9
C. But it is His death for our redemption that makes it possible for us to draw near to God: Eph. 2:16-18
IV. Stanza 4 says that His mercies for which we give thanks are ever greater
"Great and ever greater Are Thy mercies here;
True and ever truer Are the glories there,
Where no pain nor sorrow, Toil nor care is known,
Where the angel legions Circle round Thy throne."
A. Great and ever greater are His mercies here because He gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness: 2 Pet. 1:3-4
B. One of those mercies is the hope of obtaining the glory of the Lord: 2 Thess. 2:13-14
C. Thus, we look forward to being where there will be no pain nor sorrow: Rev. 21:1-4
V. Stanza 5 says that we must journey ever onward
"Onward, ever onward, Journeying o’er the road
Worn by saints before us, Journeying on to God;
Leaving all behind us, May we hasten on,
Backward never looking Till the prize is won."
A. With this hope set before us, we journey ever onward: Heb. 6:1
B. The road we travel is the one worn by saints before us, that great cloud of witnesses: Heb. 12:1-2
C. And we must forget those things that are behind and press forward to the prize before us: Phil. 3:13-14
VI. Stanza 6 says that someday the Lord will bear us ever higher
"Higher then, and higher, Bear the ransomed soul,
Earthly toils forgotten, Savior, to its goal,
(some books have, "Bliss, all bliss excelling, When the ransomed soul,
Earthly toils forgetting, Finds its promised goal,")
Where, in joys unthought (unheard) of, Saints with angels sing,
Never weary, raising Praises to their King."
A. When He comes again, the Lord will bear our souls higher to be forever with Him: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
B. There the saints join with the angels in song: Rev. 5:11-14
C. The purpose of this eternal song will be to give praises to the King: Rev. 15:1-4
CONCL.: Here are the omitted stanzas:
5. "Dark and ever darker Was the wintry past;
Now a ray of gladness o’er our path is cast.
Every day that passeth, Every hour that flies,
Tells of love unfeigned, love that never dies."
6. "Clearer still, and clearer, Dawns the light from heaven,
In our sadness bringing News of sins forgiven;
Life has lost its shadows, Pure the light within:
Thou hast shed Thy radiance On a world of sin."
7. "Brighter still and brighter Glows the western sun,
Shedding all its gladness O’er our work that’s done.
Time will soon be over, toil ans sorrow past;
May we, blessed Savior, find a rest at last."
In trying to decide which stanzas to use for this hymn study, I chose a combination of the ones in Christian Hymns, Trinity Hymnal, Parish School Hymnal, and The Hymnal 1941, having to omit only one, beginning, "Clearer still," that was in The Hymnal 1941 (I have to cut it off somewhere, so I have limited each study to six stanzas). It would appear that the stanzas which I chose are the ones that have been in most common use. This song is not well known among us, but the challenging nature of Thring’s words and the movement of the anonymous tune make for a rousing combination as we ask, "Savior, Listen While We Sing."