Music Notes, 12 June
“Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing.” John Fawcett (1740-1817) wrote the text to this hymn which is useful for singing at one time only: at the end of corporate worship or other Christian gathering. Fawcett was a Baptist, and had been converted by George Whitefield (who also converted Augustus Toplady, author of “Rock of Ages”) in London at age 16. He preached in a small village in northern England. In 1772, he was extended a “call” to be pastor at a large evangelical church in London (the equivalent of Prestonwood Baptist, perhaps) for which he subsequently announced his acceptance. However, when the carts were loaded with his furniture and when the horses were strapped with his books, the crying and tears of the townspeople imploring him to stay got the better of him, and he remained. (This technique seldom works for congregations these days. . . )
Fawcett wrote many books on “Practical Religion.” He was concerned with living the Christian faith, not just speaking of it or thinking of it. (Notice the second stanza of this hymn: Thanks we give and adoration/For your Gospel’s joyful sound./May the fruits of your salvation/In our hearts and lives abound.) This hymn is not written to “praise,” or to express “confession,” or to manifest any other ambiguous emotion. There was a need (at the time) for hymns at the closing of the service, and this hymn was written with that practicality in mind. This hymn should be sung like a prayer.
“Drawn to the Cross” Genevieve Mary Irons (1855-1928), a Roman Catholic, wrote this hymn text in 1880 and included it in the hymnal, Corpus Christi, the same year. A few of her earliest texts were contributed to the Sunday Magazine in 1876. Her hymn, "Drawn to the Cross which Thou hast blessed" (Consecration of Self to Christ) is the only one which has found currency in modern hymnals. Alluding to this hymn Miss Irons has written "I always feel that hymn is part of me ... It contains expressions and allusions which to my mind are only capable of a Catholic meaning: but I am interested and gratified in knowing that the hymn speaks to the hearts of many who would probably differ from me on most points of doctrine." The recurring litany at the end of each line almost resembles a crucifix, “Christ crucified, I come.” The third stanza, whilst innocuous enough, certainly originally referred to the cleansing pain of Purgatory in Roman Catholic doctrine, “Wash me and take away each stain; let nothing of my sin remain. For cleansing though it be through pain, Christ crucified, I come.” According to the catechism of the Catholic Church, those in Purgatory ". . .undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." This is not a biblical concept, of course, but we as Lutherans can sing this stanza knowing that its truth is not dependent upon a fallacious theological concept. Cleansing often comes through pain. The writer of music notes remembers receiving many scrapes and cuts as a child, all of which had to be cleansed with isopropyl alcohol—talk about cleansing through pain! Likewise, in the course of our daily lives, we often make mistakes for which we may be sorry, but we still must live with the pain and enduring the consequences of our sins. This is how we grow and learn, but the consequences are often painful. The forgiveness offered by Christ, though, covers all our sins so that we can “find in Thee my life, my rest, Christ crucified, I come.”