Reinventing the Wheel

9 Dec

As some of you may know I love tinkering with lyrics in the songs we sing in church. Sometimes with good effect, sometimes not.

An example of such tinkering was an addition of a ‘bridge’ to the popular How Great Is Our God (aka The Splendour of the King). The song already has a bridge (it’s that name above all names bit), but the theme of the service was Christ our King so rather simply, instead of repeating the Name Above All Names section (which is how we like to do it in we went into:

King Above All Kings,
Worthy of All praise,
My heart will sing,
How Great is our God


Now I’m also a fan of some of the older songs. For example I’ve reintroduced 3 classics in the last 6 months to our Church. My Jesus I Love Thee, Man of Sorrows and Nothing But the Blood.

A song I’ve been working on for about 6 months and been wanting to reintroduce is Come Thou Fount. The problem is some of the language is pretty archaic (which it hasnt really been in the others I’ve done) and some of the theology…a little troublesome without heavy caveats. I genuinely think that to lead a congregation in praise of God they need to understand what they are singing and unfortunately, today, this song would take as long to explain as it would to sing.

So, after a little a lot of tinkering, here’s my first re-draft. Please comment 🙂

Come thou fount of every blessing,
Teach our hearts to sing thy (of) Grace;
Floods of Mercy, never-ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise!
Teach us some melodious sonnet,
Sung by angels high above.
Praise the Cross! We’re fixed upon it,
Cross of they redeeming love.

All Your blessings Lord we treasure,
Only by thy Grace we come;
And we hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus came when we were strangers,
Wandering far away from God;
And to rescue us from danger,
Shed for us his precious blood.

Our sin Lord, we must tackle,
Mortify it day by day.
Let thy Goodness, like a shackle,
Stop our wandering hearts to stray.
Prone to wander Lord we feel it,
Prone to leave the God we love.
Take our hearts Lord, take and seal them,
Seal them for thy courts above.

On that day it will be glorious,
We will see thee face to face;
Clothed alone then in his righteousness,
How we’ll sing of Sovereign Grace.
Come our Lord, no longer delay,
Take our purchased souls away,
Send us angels now to carry,
Us to realms of endless praise!


5 Responses to “Reinventing the Wheel”

  1. Larry 09/12/2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Kauflin has this version
    1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
    Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
    Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
    Call for songs of loudest praise.
    Teach me some melodious sonnet,
    Sung by flaming tongues above.
    Praise the name! I’m fixed upon it,
    Name of Thy redeeming love.

    2. Hither to Thy love has blessed me
    Thou hast brought me to this place
    And I know Thy hand will bring me
    Safely home by thy good grace
    Jesus sought me when a stranger,
    Wandering from the fold of God;
    He, to rescue me from danger,
    Interposed His precious blood.

    3. O to grace how great a debtor
    Daily I’m constrained to be!
    Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
    Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    Prone to leave the God I love;
    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
    Seal it for Thy courts above.

    4. Oh that day when freed from sinning,
    I shall see Thy lovely face;
    Full arrayed in blood washed linen
    How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
    Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
    Bring Thy promises to pass
    For I know Thy pow’r will keep me
    Till I’m home with you at last.

  2. Gethin 09/12/2009 at 1:52 pm #

    First – as a good ex-relay worker, I shall encourage the good – for a while I wasn’t convinced by the whole modernising of hymns etc. but actually, I like the idea – especially when it’s from a desire to help people better understand what they’re singing to each other and the Lord (as opposed to – “urgh, that’s old and archaic and therefore smelly – let’s get rid of it”). So good job.
    Some suggestions:
    Second line – if you want the “of” (which I’m not sure you need) it should be before the “Thy” (which you could just change to “Your”) and I’m not convinced by the change from Tune to Teach – it looses the helpful nuances of ‘tune’. Changing streams to floods on the third line is a good change methinks.
    Re. the second half of v1, I’ve never been a fan of the “sonnet/upon it” thing – I’ve always preferred the version I was brought up on:
    “Teach me some melodious measure / Sung by flaming tongues above; / O the vast, the boundless treasure / Of my Lord’s unchanging love!”
    I can see why you’d want to change that second line of it though – flaming tongues isn’t very clear.
    Second verse: not sure the change in the first two lines captures the idea of “it’s your grace that’s brought me this far” which the original “Here I raise my Ebenezer / hither by Thy help I’m come” conveys. Is there another way of saying the second half – some way of keeping the ‘seeking’ idea rather than just saying ‘came’? Maybe the last line could be “Saved us with his precious blood” to keep the idea of ‘interposed’?

    With the third verse, I can see why you’d want to change the talk about us being constrained to be debtors – debtor’s ethic and all that. But I think all it was saying was “every day, everything is all down to grace – nothing comes from anywhere else” rather than “I must repay the debt by killing sin”. The fourth line would need to be “Stop our wandering hearts from straying” (which wouldn’t work – and I’m not sure it captures all that “bind our wandering hearts to Thee” says)
    If memory serves, I’ve not seen that fourth verse before – did you add it or is it an adaptation of an existing verse? I probably can’t comment on changes because I can’t find the original to that.

    Hope that helps – thanks for your service, bro.

  3. sammydaviesjr 09/12/2009 at 4:30 pm #

    Lazzo – Nice one. It’s often great to compare ones work (especially with someone who obviously has a lot more talent/theological prowess than I). Unfortunately that version doesn’t really deal with any of the ‘issues’ that I wanted in the original.

    Geth – Thanks for the suggestions/positive crit. If I may clarify a few points (and take a few on board!).

    In the second line it was suppose to be either thy or of. Couldn’t decide which was best, definitely didn’t think ‘thy of’ made sense!

    What nuances does ‘tune’ hold over teach? I suppose I can’t keep meaning which is entirely lost on me.

    I think the idea of interposed is kept.

    Couldn’t stray be used (poeticly? you’re a better linguist than I). I think the meaning of the second half of the verse is kept as it is due to sin that our hearts wander from God. (I have entirely, intentionally ignored the debtors part).

    What we know (and love) is a mish mash of the original. Half a verse from here and there etc. Look it up on cyberhymnal to see the version I’ve been working off.

    If there are points you’ve raised I haven’t touched on in my response…It’s because I agree with you/don’t want any clarification and take them on board as is.

  4. Gethin 09/12/2009 at 5:31 pm #

    coolios –
    on the choice of “of” vs. “thy/your” – I’d go for your – it’s his grace in particular, not the concept of grace in general we want to sing.

    tune/teach – asking God to teach my heart to sing is just asking him to teach me the song or just to give me the music sheet, asking him to tune my heart to sing it is asking him to change my heart so that I’m able to sing it – affecting the internal change which is needed. I could go to an instrument and someone could teach me to play a piece, but unless the instrument is in tune, I’m not actually playing what’s written. We need God to tune us because without it, we can’t really sing the song. Does that make sense?

    re. ‘interposed’, I guess I just meant that simply to say that he shed his blood doesn’t say that he interposed his blood – literally, placed it between us and the danger – washed us in it.

    With ‘stray’ – the main problem with the adaptation is with the preposition – i.e. it needs ‘stop from’ not ‘stop to’ and so it’d have to be ‘stop from straying’. Then it’s just that I’d say that asking positively to be bound to him, rather than negatively to be prevented from straying is a more powerful way of saying it.

    With your adaptation/overhaul of the debtor’s part (which I understand and I think I agree with it), is there a way of still capturing the general sense? Because I don’t think it’s saying that we should be trying to repay the debt, just that all we receive is because of grace and it’s using the image of being indebted to it as a more poetic way of saying ‘grace is the reason’. So I’m not sure that talking about mortifying sin captures what was originally (if unfortunately) portrayed as a debt.
    What I’m actually used to in the 3rd line is “Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter…” so it’s sort of turning the 2nd verse into a prayer. Verse 2 says the same as Amazing Grace (tis grace has brought me safe thus far / and grace will lead me home) and verse 3 is saying “It’s only grace that has brought me safe that far, so, Lord, may it bind me to you that I might not stray away as I feel so prone to doing”.

    Had a look at cyberhymnal to see the 4th verse. I think any problems are more to do with the rhythm and stress. Line 3 could be forced in but ideally you should try to see if you can lose a syllable. Out of interest – what’s the reason for losing the ‘blood washed linen’?
    Then “delay” in the 5th line has the wrong stress – you’d have to put too much stress on the first syllable which would sound weird and out of place (so maybe just keep tarry and try to introduce it back into everyday usage before introducing the hymn to the church?!) 😛
    Penultimate line – you could keep the your/thine angels.

    And I don’t think I mentioned above that I do like how you’ve adapted it for congregational usage by pluralising all the first person pronouns 🙂

    hope that made sense/was helpful/so obviously unhelpful that you don’t have to spend too long deciding whether or not to pay attention to it.

  5. Phil Whitehead 18/12/2009 at 12:52 pm #

    I like what you’ve done here. I grew up in a church where we’d occasionally sing this, though looking back now there are a couple of problems – the biggest being an almost Greek depreciation of the body and an absence of the resurrection. Which you’ve got rid of.

    There’s also the “debtor to grace” idea which might be both oxymoronic and unhelpful.

    Perhaps, instead of “O to grace how great a debtor…” we could sing:
    “To your grace in full dependence,
    Lord, I know myself to be”
    which retains the metre and what’s good about the essential idea of the original, without the problematic idea of paying back to God something for his grace.

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