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Come, Thou Fount


“Come, Though Fount of Every Blessing”  This hymn may be better-known in Baptist or Methodist churches than in Lutheran churches as it appeared in no LCMS hymnal until Hymnal Supplement ’98, the precursor to Lutheran Service Book. The writer of music notes never paid the tune much heed before the new hymnal came out, and now it has become one of his favourite texts and tunes.  The text was written in 1758 by Robert Robinson (1735-1790), an amateur theologian who studied with John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) and eventually served Methodist, Baptist and Independent churches in London. 

          The tune is probably of early American origin, being first published in Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music in 1813 (a volume which LoL’s organist owns, and which also has brought us several well known hymn tunes, including the tune associated with the common Advent text, “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns.”) 

          The second stanza of this hymn contains the phrase, “Here I lift my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come,” which is a reference to the stone set up by Samuel as a thanks to God for the Philistines’ defeat by the Hebrews in I Sam. 7:12.  This phrase, whilst somewhat anachronistic in modern parlance, reminds us that—just as with Samuel—God has helped us in the past and, given that assurance, we can be assured of His continuing intervention.  As the second stanza continues, “And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.”  This “hope” is not to be thought of secularly, as evidenced in one hoping something will come to pass, whilst realizing in reality it may not.   A Christian’s hope is a longing expectation of a historical certainty—the hope of heaven.  Romans 5: 4, 5 reminds us that  "…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  We hope knowing that for which we hope will actually come to pass.  God has promised salvation to those who believe on His name;  He is evidenced in history, and we are assured that this hope is not misplaced.   The last stanza tells of this hope:  “Oh, on that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;  Clothed then in blood-washed linen How I’ll sing Thy wondrous grace!”

          One of the attractive musical aspects of this hymn is that it is in the familiar AABA form. In other words, the first line repeats twice, then new musical material is presented (the B section), after which the first line (the A section) returns. This is fairly common in folk repertory, probably because of the ease with which it is learned. This form is similar to the Bar form of the Reformation chorales such as “A Mighty Fortress,” in which the first line repeats, then there is a new B section in the third line, but instead of a repeat of the first line, the hymn is simply brought to a swifter conclusion. In both cases, these hymns developed from folk singing, and the form would have been familiar and easily learned by unmusical, or even illiterate, people, whether they were in Renaissance Germany or nineteenth-century Appalachia.

Posted by Benjamin Kolodziej with