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Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1995 -- Volume 8:14


A HYMN OF GRACE

ARTHUR L. FARSTAD
Editor

and

FRANCES A. MOSHER
Pianist, Christ Congregation
Dallas, Texas

 

LORD, WITH GLOWING HEART I’D PRAISE THEE

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pard’ning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise;
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wand’rer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away:
Praise with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him who saw thy guiltborn fear,
And, the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Praise thy Saviour God that drew thee
To that cross, new life to give,
Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to Him and live:
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease,
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.

Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express:
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign thy suppliant’s pray’r to bless:
Let Thy love, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise. Amen.

—Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)

 

I

 Two trends in contemporary North American culture that distress many conservative people, especially Christians, are "dumbing down" and "de-christianization."

"Dumbing down," as the name suggests, is the lowering of standards in speech, language, literature, education, songs, and other areas of life. Many non-Christians are also appalled at what seems like a sellout of our great cultural and linguistical heritage.

Dechristianization, with its overemphasis on "pluralism" and the glorification of all cultures that are non-Christian, is a self-explanatory term. Much of our mass media and even a great deal of the government seem bent (would "hell-bent" in its literal, not slang usage, be too strong?) on playing down, distorting, misrepresenting, ignoring, or totally dismissing the deep Christian roots and fruits of our American, British, and Canadian cultures. History is being re-written (or omitted) where it used to show the great debt we all owe to Christian—and especially Protestant and biblical—ideas and writings.

One specific attack has been an attempt to replace the American national anthem with something else. The excuse is that it is "too hard to sing." Actually, the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven," was originally a popular drinking song attributed to British composer John Stafford Smith (1750-1836).

Perhaps the "politically incorrect" fourth and last stanza is a more likely reason, with its triple mention of the Deity (emphasis supplied):

IV. O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

First printed as a handbill and then in a Baltimore newspaper, Francis Scott Key’s song became popular and was finally officially recognized as the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931.

In reading a hymn a day in my quiet time, I found that Mr. Key had written a hymn in 1817 (perhaps a poem made into a hymn) that was included in my current devotional hymnary.

Francis Scott Key is one of thousands of active Christians who brighten our history with their lives and testimonies. Key, a Maryland-born lawyer and poet, while detained aboard a British frigate during the War of 1812, witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.

At daybreak the gifted writer penned his now-famous words. As the first light dawned he saw whipping in the breeze the "star spangled banner"—"our flag was still there." This flag is now in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and the song it inspired is still in the hearts of millions of Key’s loyal countrymen.

Francis Scott Key was no nominal Christian. An Episcopalian Sunday school teacher in the days when that denomination was much more biblically oriented on the whole than today, went on to become the Secretary of the American Sunday School Union.

Key also wrote the essay, The Power of Literature and Its Connection with Religion (1834), and a book simply called Poems, published in 1857, 14 years after his death.

We thought our readers would enjoy reading another example from the pen of this great national figure.

 

II

In considering God’s grace in the salvation of sinful man, one is likely first to focus on the cross-work of Christ in paying the penalty our sin deserves, and on the fact that we become beneficiaries of that payment when we look to Christ in simple faith, apart from any work or merit of our own. This seems to be what Francis Scott Key has in mind in the first stanza’s phrase, "…the pard’ning grace that saves me," and the third stanza’s, "Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee, Bade thee look to Him and live." However, the hymn also focuses, in the second and third stanzas, on God’s gracious initiative in seeking us out and drawing us to become recipients of His grace. Romans 5:8 comes to mind: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The hymnal in which we found "Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee" sets the poem to the tune "Faben," composed by John H. Wilcox in 1849. This lovely tune fits the words quite well, but may be unfamiliar to many. Some more likely familiar tunes which would fit the poem well are "Hymn to Joy" ("Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee") by Beethoven, "Austrian Hymn" ("Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken") by Franz Joseph Haydn, "All the Way My Savior Leads Me," by Robert Lowry, "Beecher" ("Love Divine, All Loves Excelling") by Zundel, and "Hyfrydol" ("Praise the Lord! Ye Heavens, Adore Him") by Rowland Prichard.

 

ENDNOTES

1"Star-Spangled Banner," in Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, Editor-in-Chief Joseph Laffan Morse (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1973), 22:195.

2The Presbyterian Hymnal (Richmond Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1949), Hymn #315.

3The meter is 8.7.8.7. doubled.

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