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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Greater Love

Probably my favourite hymn is "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way".  The words were written, in 1873, by Horatio G.Spafford, and the tragic story behind it is well known.  However, the music was written by Philip P.Bliss, considered by many to have been the equal of Fanny J.Crosby in hymn-writing ability.  He wrote the words, and the music, for such favourites as "Man of Sorrows! Wondrous Name for the Son of Man, who came ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Saviour." - written shortly before he died.    It was at the urging of the evangelist, Dwight L.Moody, that the musician gave up a prosperous business career in order to engage in full-time Gospel singing and composing.

One of the songs that was popular in Christian circles in his day was Frederick Whitfield's "There is a Name I love to hear", to which an anonymously-written chorus had been added: "Oh, how I love Jesus; Oh, how I love Jesus; Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me."  Bliss was aware that it was a wonderful, and enthusiastic, hymn, full of testimony and personal admonition.  However, recognising his own frailty, and the chill of indifference that can steal over the hearts of even the strongest disciples of Jesus, he began to wonder if that hymn ought not to have a companion piece that would emphasise the reassuring thought of God's greater, and unchanging, love for us!

It was while he was reading in John's first letter that he came to these words: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins." (4:10).  "Ah", he said, "I have been singing too much about my own weak, wavering, devotion to Jesus, and not enough about His boundless compassion, and grace, that saves and keeps me."  He then sat down and wrote the lovely words: "I am so glad that my Father in heav'n tells of His love in the Book He has giv'n.  Wonderful things in the Bible I see - this is the dearest, that JESUS LOVES ME."  He wrote two more verses, and a jubilant chorus and then, almost as quickly, set the words to music.  That hymn is still sung in many parts of the world today!

Certainly, if we are disciples of Jesus, we should witness to the joy that we find in Him but, like Philip Bliss, let us rejoice even more in that "greater love" that never fails, and never grows cold.

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