Upon A Sheet Of White Paper

John Bunyan (1628-1688) is the famous author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but he also wrote many poems. Below is one that caught my eye as I often stare at a blank sheet of paper, or a white screen with cursor blinking.

This is a warning for both writer and reader to have discernment. Bunyan gives us a poem, and then a comparison poem.

Upon A Sheet Of White Paper

This subject is unto the foulest pen,
Or fairest handled by the sons of men.
‘Twill also show what is upon it writ,
Be it wisely, or nonsense for want of wit,
Each blot and blur it also will expose
To thy next readers, be they friends or foes.

Comparison

Some souls are like unto this blank or sheet,
Though not in whiteness. The next man they meet,
If wise or fool, debauched or deluder,
Or what you will, the dangerous intruder
May write thereon, to cause that man to err
In doctrine or in life, with blot and blur.
Nor will that soul conceal from who observes,
But show how foul it is, wherein it swerves.
A reading man may know who was the writer,
And, by the hellish nonsense, the inditer.

A Different Banner

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Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was an attorney, author and poet most known for writing The Star-Spangled Banner. However, he also penned other noteworthy poetry and hymns that waved a different banner; the banner of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. Below is one of my favorites.

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee.

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pard’ning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise;
Thou must light the flame, or never,
Can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wand’rer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee,
From the paths of death away:
Praise with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him who saw thy guiltborn fear,
And, the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Praise thy Saviour God that drew thee,
To that cross, new life to give,
Held a blood-sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to Him and live:
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease,
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.

Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling,
Vainly would my lips express:
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign thy suppliant’s pray’r to bless:
Let Thy love, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise.

Amen.

Prayer

James Montgomery (1771–1854) was a British poet and hymnwriter perhaps best known for his Christmas carol Angels from the Realms of Glory. He also wrote an excellent hymn on prayer that I’ve shared below. Many of his works are found in his collection of Sacred Poems and Hymns for Public and Private Devotion. There is a free Google ebook version here.

I’ve included a soothing version I found on YouTube. Lord, teach us how to pray.

Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh;
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech,
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach,
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways;
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry, “Behold! he prays!”

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death:
He enters heaven with prayer.

The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word and deed and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made by man alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus, on the eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way;
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod
Lord, teach us how to pray.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

William Williams (1717-1791) is a famous Welsh hymnwriter and this is one of his more popular hymns. It was sung by the congregation at the wedding of Prince William and Kate.

There are several versions of the hymn with verses added by others over time. One of my favorite renditions is by the group Indelible Grace (Chord Chart).

Below is the most common lyric for his hymn (some will swap Redeemer for Jehovah).

May He safely guide us on the journey to the other side. Amen.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar,
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield;
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

 

Ride on, Ride on in Majesty

Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868) wrote what many consider the best Palm Sunday hymn ever. I like the up and down movement his poetry creates. As we’re riding along on the donkey we see the palms scattered on the ground, we sense the lowliness of Christ knowing what difficulty lies ahead, then we’re taken up to angels watching with great interest, while the Father observes knowing He must soon pour out His wrath on His Son. Then, in the last verse, we’re brought down to complete the ride to the cross where Jesus bows his head in death, only to rise again to reign victorious.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark, all the tribes hosanna cry,
Thy humble beast pursues his road,
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die,
O Christ thy triumph now begin,
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky,
Look down with sad and wond’ring eyes,
To see the approaching Sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on his sapphire throne,
Awaits his own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, thy power and reign.

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Of the many hymns written by John Newton (1725-1807), I think this is one of the sweetest. Listed as Hymn 57 in the Olney Hymns Collection, Newton titled it The Name of Jesus, but as with many hymns most people recognize it by the first line. It was also included at the end of his autobiography, “Out of the Depths”, but it starts with the second verse.

I like a contemporary, Nashville version, performed by Matthew Perryman Jones. He doesn’t sing the complete hymn, but I think you’ll enjoy it more than the classical versions you may find.

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,
In a believer’s ear?
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis Manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.

Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never–failing treas’ry filled,
With boundless stores of grace.

By thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled,
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought.

’Till then I would thy love proclaim,
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of thy name,
Refresh my soul in death.

The God of Love My Shepherd Is

George Herbert (1593-1633) is well known for his collection of 167 poems published under the title of The Temple soon after his death in 1633. The popularity of his poem collection grew and by 1709 it surpassed 13 editions (Source: George Herbert).

J.R. Watson, the author of The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study, states:

Herbert’s influence upon later writers was pervasive, engaging the admiration of Puritans and High-Churchmen alike. Richard Baxter thought ‘He speaks to God like one that really believeth in God, and whose business in this world is the most with God.’  His poems were quarried again and again for material for hymns: in 1697 a volume appeared entitled Select Hymns Taken out of Mr. Herbert’s Temple & Turned into Common Metre, and in 1737 John Wesley re-versified some of his poems for his first hymn-book, A Collection of Psalms ad Hymns…”

Below is one of Herbert’s poems from Psalm 23:

The 23d Psalme

The God of love my shepherd is,
And he that doth me feed:
While he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grasse,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently passe:
In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, he doth convert
And bring my minde in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
But for his holy name.

Yea, in death’s shadie black abode
Well may I walk, not fear:
For thou art with me; and thy rod
To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine,
Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oyl, my cup with wine
Runnes over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my dayes;
And as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.

Deliverance

I recently discovered the poetry of Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), and thought I would share one of her poems that reminded me of a lament and psalm of David. From her Wikipedia page, Anne was a Puritan from Massachusetts and one of the most prominent early English poets of North America. She was also the first female writer in the British North American colonies to be published.

I like how she poignantly captures the struggle with her health and resolve to praise God in the midst of difficulty. Everyone will face sorrow, sickness, fits, and distress in this life. All of creation is groaning, but there is hope and deliverance in Christ, and the life to come. This reminds me of a Charles H. Spurgeon quote:

“Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next.”

May you be comforted and encouraged to pour out your own lament before God, and may God, in His grace, turn it into praise.

Deliverance from Another Sore Fit

In my distress I sought the Lord,
When naught on earth could comfort give,
And when my soul these things abhorred,
Then, Lord, Thou said’st unto me, “Live.”

Thou knowest the sorrows that I felt;
My plaints and groans were heard of Thee,
And how in sweat I seemed to melt,
Thou help’st and Thou regardest me.

My wasted flesh Thou didst restore,
My feeble loins didst gird with strength,
Yea, when I was most low and poor,
I said I shall praise Thee at length.

What shall I render to my God,
For all His bounty showed to me?
Even for His mercies in His rod,
Where pity most of all I see.

My heart I wholly give to Thee;
O make it fruitful, faithful Lord.
My life shall dedicated be,
To praise in thought, in deed, in word.

Thou know’st no life I did require,
Longer than still Thy name to praise,
Nor ought on earth worthy desire,
In drawing out these wretched days.

Thy name and praise to celebrate,
O Lord, for aye is my request.
O grant I do it in this state,
And then with Thee, which is the best.

 

Light of Those Whose Dreary Dwelling

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Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote many popular hymns as well as the famous Christmas carol “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” Below is one of his lesser known Christmas hymns published in the Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (1745). I think it’s mostly forgotten because it begins less than cheery, but keep reading and rejoice with God’s gift of new eyes, gospel grace, and perfect peace.

Merry Christmas!

Light of those whose dreary dwelling
Borders on the shades of death,
Come, and by Thy love’s revealing
Dissipate the clouds beneath:
The new heaven and earth’s Creator,
In our deepest darkness rise,
Scattering all the night of nature,
Pouring eyesight on our eyes.

Still we wait for Thy appearing,
Life and joy Thy beams impart,
Chasing all our fears, and cheering
Every poor benighted ‘heart:
Come and manifest the favour
God hath for our ransom’d race;
Come, Thou universal Saviour,
Come, and bring the gospel grace.

Save us in Thy great compassion,
O Thou mild pacific Prince,
Give the knowledge of salvation,
Give the pardon of our sins;
By Thine all-restoring merit
Every burden’d soul release,
Every weary, wandering spirit
Guide into Thy perfect peace.

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