Hymn of the day July 2021

Who comes to me, the Saviour said: Gordon Taylor

Who comes to me, the Saviour said
William Kitching (1837-1906)
Public Domain

Tune: MERCY STILL FOR THEE, Elbridge Holder (1840-1879)
No. 49 in Salvation Army Music, 1900, compiled by William Booth:
Public Domain[1]

[1] Salvation Army archives.

Gordon Taylor

Gordon Taylor

Who comes to me, the Saviour said,
To him I freely give
Eternal life; though he were dead
Yet henceforth shall he live.
His life shall be with gladness filled,
His treasure is on high,
Bright sunshine shall his pathway gild
And he shall never die.

CHORUS
The Saviour now will give,
The Saviour now will give,
Eternal life to all who seek,
The Saviour now will give.

Who comes to me, the Saviour said,
That soul will I supply
With portions of that living bread
Which riches cannot buy.
That soul shall never hunger more,
But filled shall ever be
With plenty from the unfailing store
He ever finds in me.

CHORUS

Who comes to me, the Saviour said,
Shall constantly partake
The stream that from the fountainhead
Alone his thirst can slake.
Who seeks in faith that fountain pure,
His freshness shall retain,
Shall peace and happiness ensure
And never thirst again.

CHORUS

Who comes to me, the Saviour said,
And follows where I lead,
Shall see my light upon him shed
And in my pastures feed.
No more shall darkness cloud his way,
My love his fear shall quell,
The gloom that once obscured his day
My presence shall dispel.

CHORUS

Reflection: Gordon Taylor

Today’s hymn is a ‘Gospel Song’ in every sense of the word. It is a classic example of its type, dating from the late 19th or early 20th century, and is based on key verses from the Gospels, particularly the ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel: ‘I am the Bread of Life’, ‘I am the Light of the World’, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’, ‘I am the Door’, and ‘I am the Good Shepherd’.

William Kitching, from a Yorkshire Quaker family, became a schoolmaster at Sidcot School, near Weston-super-Mare, and also taught at Ackworth School, in Yorkshire, 1862-1880, before opening his own school in Southport. In later years he moved to Clevedon, Somerset, where he was President of the local Free Church Council in 1904. He was a supporter of The Salvation Army, at a time when the movement was despised rather than respected, and William Booth visited him occasionally in Southport and Clevedon. His son, Theodore, became a Salvation Army officer, serving as private secretary to William and Bramwell Booth, and, in the next generation, Theodore’s four children become officers, including Wilfred, who was the 7th General of The Salvation Army, 1954-1963.

One of his songs, ‘Open wide the door’, appeared in Sankey’s Sacred Songs No. 1, 1896.[1] He published a ‘Thanksgiving Ode’ for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, poems on ‘Universal Peace’, and ‘To a Golden Eagle’, and an anthology, Verses for My Friends. He campaigned for total abstinence and lectured on ‘Peace and Goodwill’ and ‘Intercessory Prayer’.

‘Who comes to me’ was first set to music in 1913, by the author’s grandson, Wilfred, but the song did not become widely known until it was published in Salvation Army Songs, 1930, to be sung to the tune MERCY STILL FOR THEE. This tune was originally the melody of a sentimental American ballad, ‘Footsteps on the Stairs’, by Elbridge Holder, dating from 1863,[2] but its present name comes from words by Herbert H. Booth (1862-1926), which were written for the tune in 1882.

The main theme is the offer of eternal life, as the free gift of God, to all who seek. Central to the author’s understanding of the Gospel is the gracious invitation and welcome from an all-loving, all-providing, and all-sustaining God, who will not turn the seeker away.

All who accept this invitation will find rest for their souls, receive life in all its fulness, an inexhaustible supply of sustaining food, to satisfy their spiritual hunger, and an unlimited supply of living water, from the purest source, to constantly refresh them and satisfy their spiritual thirst.

All who were spiritually dead in their sins, will live in God, by grace, through faith in Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Throughout life, they will have light to guide them, so they will not stumble in the darkness, and, under the protection of the Good Shepherd, will enjoy rich pasture, and will rest in safety, free from fear.

The four verses are skilfully crafted, with several quotations from the King James version of the Bible, and with echoes of other texts which are not quoted directly. The words flow with simple eloquence from the poetic mind of the author, but when you explore more deeply, there are hidden riches beneath the surface, coming from the heart of a writer who is clearly at home with the scriptures, but wears his scholarship lightly.

There are brief quotations in verse 1 from John 11: 25-26; in verse 2, from John 6: 35; and in verse 3, from John 4: 14; while verse 4 is based on John 8: 12, with echoes from John 10: 9, and 1 John 4: 18. The line in verse 1: ‘His treasure is on high’, referring to Matthew 6: 21, and Colossians 3: 1-2, may have been borrowed from Isaac Watts, who used this phrase in his Discourses of the Love of God.[3]

A link is provided to a recording of the song from The Spiritual Cafe, Lower Island Cove, Newfoundland, Canada, with characteristic features of Salvation Army worship practice, including a steady drumbeat throughout, and hand-clapping in the refrain.

Prayer

For light upon our path, to guide us, for living bread to sustain us, for living water to refresh us, and for the hope of eternal life, through Jesus, we give you our thanks and praise. Amen.

[1] Ira D. Sankey, James McGranahan, Geo. C. Stebbins (ed.), Sacred Songs No. 1 compiled and arranged for use in gospel meetings, Sunday schools, prayer meetings and other religious services (New York: Biglow & Main, 1896).

[2] The original version of the song, ‘Footsteps on the Stairs’, by Elbridge Holder was published in 1863: Babel Hathitrust

[3] Isaac Watts, Discourses of the Love of God and its influence on all the Passions, (London: 1729), p. 146.

Who comes to me, the Saviour said

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