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Highs and Lows

All of us know folks that started strong as new believers in Christ, but somewhere along the way, their zeal for Christ and His Kingdom waned.  Just as the Psalms are very candid testimonies from David of the spiritual “highs and lows” of his journey, hymns are the testimonies of men put to music that the church sang every week for several centuries.

One of those was written by a man named Robert Robinson.  Robert’s father died when he was only 8 years old.  His family were simple people without great income in England in the 1730’s.  At 14, Robert’s mother sent him to become an apprentice to a barber in London hoping that her son could learn a trade for him to make a living.  Unfortunately, he fell in with a group of young ruffians and lived a life of rebellion.  When he was 17, a group of the thugs in his gang that he ran with planned to go to a George Whitefield revival meeting for the purpose of disrupting it.  But when Robert heard the man speak, God’s Holy Spirit convicted him, and he was saved.   Some years later, he was called to preach and eventually became a Baptist pastor.  He was a very capable theologian and gained some notoriety with his articles that were published.

At 23 years of age, he wrote a hymn that would become one of the best known of his lyrics.

Come thou fount of every blessing Tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet Sung by flaming tongues above.
I’ll praise the mount I’m fixed upon it Mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer Hither by thy help I come;
And I hope by thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger Wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

The last to lines were prophetic.  Later in his life, he had a tragic time of “leaving” as he returned to a life of sin, spiritual instability, and doctrines of Unitarianism.  There is a story told that he was riding on a coach one day as a fellow passenger, a lady, read the words in a newspaper.  She was enthralled by what she read. Not knowing who he was, she asked her fellow traveler to listen to those words and tell her what he thought.  As he listened, his heart broke over his state of “leaving the God I love”.  He said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give 1000 worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”

(This is taken from an article found in 101 Hymn Stories, Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Press, 1982, p. 52).