A Little Poetry

Not long after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s death in 1882, biographer Eric S. Robertson noted, “The ‘Psalm of Life,’ great poem or not, went straight to the hearts of the people, and found an echoing shout in their midst. From the American pulpits, right and left, preachers talked to the people about it, and it came to be sung as a hymn in churches.”

In 1850, Longfellow reportedly wrote in his journal how happy he was to hear that a minister had quoted his poem in a sermon, although he was disappointed that none of the congregants could identify the author!

Let’s read again (or maybe for the first time) this classic Victorian poem. You may even recognize a few of the more famous lines that have been lifted and used elsewhere over the years.

Enjoy.

Passionate Faith

Yesterday, we talked about Psalm 51 and the expression of King David’s repentance. But there’s something else mentioned in Chapter 10 of Longing to Pray that I’d ask you to give some thought to:  the passion of our faith. It was David’s passionate faith and love of the Lord that made him pursue repentance and restoration of his relationship with God.

Dr. Kalas asserts that in modern times, “we fail at repentance because our friendship with God has no or little passion. The Scriptures say that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” (86).

“That’s the language of passion…”

Dr. Kalas mentioned a hymn as an example of the passion we should have for our Lord entitled, Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart. I’d never heard this hymn and the complete lyrics weren’t given, so I went in search of what this hymn had to say. Come to find out, the hymn also has an interesting back story:

“The words of this sung prayer are among the most passionate in the history of hymnody….  This masterpiece of Christian devotional poetry is the work of George Croly (1780-1860), an Anglican minister born in Dublin, Ireland, but whose ministry took place in London. It was there that Croly accepted the challenge to reopen in 1835 a church in one of the worst slum areas of the city, one that had been closed for over a century….

“Through personal charisma and dynamic preaching, he attracted large crowds to St. Stephen’s Church. Croly prepared a new hymnal in 1854 for his congregation and published it as Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship. [Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart] first appeared in that hymnal under the title “Holiness Desired.” It is the only hymn by Croly to have survived.” (Excerpted from UMC Discipleship Ministries – History of Hymns)

These words written by George Croly have survived over 150 years for a reason. Read them slowly, and let his desire for repentance and the passion of his faith wash over you… like baptismal waters.

Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart

Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart,
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are,
and make me love you as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.

Did you not bid us love you, God and King,
love you with all our heart and strength and mind?
I see the cross, there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek you and O let me find!

Teach me to feel that you are always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
teach me the patience of unceasing prayer.

Teach me to love you as your angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove;
my heart an altar, and your love the flame.

Second Sunday of Easter

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

Is Your All On The Altar?, a hymn by E.A. Hoffman (1900)

You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.

Refrain:
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay. [Refrain]

Oh, we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid. [Refrain]

Who can tell all the love
He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made;
Of the fellowship sweet
We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid. [Refrain]