“Jesus, I Come”

(picture of William T. Sleeper)


“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed…” (Jn. 8:36)

INTRO.: A song which expresses the desire of sinners to come to the Son that they might be free is “Jesus I Come” (#321 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #603 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by William True Sleeper, who was born at Danbury, NH, on Feb. 9, 1819, the son of Jonathan and Mary Parker Sleeper. Educated at Phillips-Exeter Academy, the University of Vermont, and Andover Theological Seminary, he became a Congregational minister following his graduation. After engaging in mission work at Worcester, MA, he was then a home missionary in Maine, where he established three churches. In 1876 he returned to Worcester where he became minister at the Summer St. Congregational Church, which had been a mission when he served there years earlier, and remained there for more than thirty years.

In 1877, Sleeper began writing hymns with composer George Coles Stebbins (1846-1945). That year, Stebbins was in Worcester assisting George F. Pentecost in an evangelistic crusade. Pentecost preached one night on Jn. 3:3 about the need to be born again. With the strong impression of this sermon on his mind, Stebbins contacted Sleeper, who apparently had already written some hymns, to ask his assistance in providing verses for a hymn on the subject. The result was likely Sleeper’s most famous gospel song, “Ye Must Be Born Again.” In 1883, Sleeper published a collection of his own poems and hymns, The Rejected King, and Hymns of Jesus. Hymnary.org lists him as the author of some 23 hymn texts.

A few years later, probably in 1886, Sleeper penned the words for a hymn beginning “Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,” and sent them to Stebbins, who produced the tune. The song first appeared in 1887 in Gospel Hymns No. 5, which Stebbins co-edited with Ira David Sankey (1840-1908). Sleeper died at Wellesley, MA, on Sept. 24, 1904. His three children distinguished themselves in various fields of service. William W. Sleeper was also a Congregational minister at Wellesley, MA, for many years. Henry Dyke Sleeper was a professor of music at Smith College. And Mary Sleeper Ruggles was a well-known contralto soloist in Boston, MA. Sleeper’s granddaughter, Helen Joy Sleeper, daughter of William, was the music librarian at Wellesley College and a widely respected research scholar.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Jesus I Come” has 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 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; 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; the 1994 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

This hymn is often used as an invitation song to encourage people to make the decision to come to Christ.

I. Stanza 1 reminds us that we come to Jesus out of bondage into freedom
Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
A. All responsible people are in bondage to sin at one time or another: Gal. 4:3
B. But coming to Jesus makes us free from the bondage of sin and death: Rom. 6:17-18
C. Thus, we can come out of sin and into Christ Himself: Gal. 3:26-27

II. Stanza 2 teaches us that we come to Jesus out of loss into the gain of His cross
Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
A. We must count all things as but loss for Christ: Phil. 3:7-8
B. This glorious gain is made possible by the cross of Christ: Gal. 6:14
C. Thus we can come out of distress to the jubilant psalm of rejoicing in the Lord: Phil. 4:4

III. Stanza 3 (not in our book) tells us that we come to Jesus out of pride into His will
Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessèd will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
A. Arrogant pride is something that will keep us out of heaven: Prov. 16:18
B. Coming to Jesus demands submitting our wills to His as He did to the will of the Father: Lk. 22:42
C. Only in this way can we proceed upward on wings like a dove to find rest: Ps. 55:6 (note: aye is pronounced like “eye” when it means yes, as in voting or sailor talk, but is pronounced as a long “a” sound when it means ever, as it does in this song)

IV. Stanza 4 (3 in our book) says that we come to Jesus out of fear of the tomb into the joy of His home
Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
A. The Bible speaks of the fear and dread of the tomb or death: Heb. 2:14-15
B. But coming to Jesus brings us into the light and joy of the hope of eternal life in His home: Tit. 1:2
C. There, we shall behold His glorious face forever and ever: 1 Jn. 3:1-2

CONCL.: The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would come to preach good tidings to the poor and proclaim liberty to the captives (Isa. 61:1). The New Testament then unfolds the plan of God in Christ to save sinful mankind by His mercy (Tit. 3:3-5). If I find myself lost in sin, my response to God’s wonderful call should be, “Jesus, I Come.”


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