Francis Scott Key

A Tribute to Christian Hymn Writer Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) was a devout and prominent Christian as well as an influential lawyer. In his youth, he almost became an Episcopal priest rather than a lawyer. Throughout his life he sprinkled biblical references in his correspondence. From 1818 until his death in 1843, Key was associated with the American Bible Society. Much to his dishonor later, he successfully opposed an abolitionist resolution presented to that group around 1838. Key also helped found two Episcopal seminaries, one in Baltimore and the other across the Potomac River in Alexandria (the Virginia Theological Seminary). Not only did he teach a Sunday school class at his church, Key also served as manager and vice president of the American Sunday School Union from its inception in 1824 until his death in 1843. The American Sunday School Union was responsible for establishing thousands of churches across America.

Francis Scott Key composed and published a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry“. In the fourth verse of the poem, Key’s published version of the poem includes the line, “And this be our motto—‘In God is our trust!’” Key’s poem would later be adopted as the national anthem of the United States under the name “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

When ‘In God We Trust‘ was under consideration to be adopted as the national motto of the United States by the US Congress, the words of the fourth verse of Key’s poem were brought up in arguments supporting adoption of the motto.

A monument to Francis Scott Key was commissioned by San Francisco businessman James Lick, who donated some $60,000 for a sculpture of Key to be raised in Golden Gate Park. The travertine monument was executed by sculptor William W. Story in 1885–87. The city of San Francisco allocated some $140,000 to renovate the Key monument, which was about to be lost to environmental degradation if repairs were not made. Repairs were finished on the monument in 2019.

Because of Key’s anti-abolitionist stand, his statue was toppled and destroyed by protesters on June 19, 2020. Sadly, our national anthem is in jeopardy today because this godly man, with all his human faults and shortcomings, did not take a position against slavery two centuries ago.

Self-denial and Contentment

Jeremiah Burroughs’ thoughts on self-denial as the path to contentment need some explanation. The Biblical concept that he called self-denial at the turn of the 17th century is the theological term we use today called co-crucifixion. This little-understood concept comes from Galatians 2:20 and the broader concept is explained in Romans chapter six. Another term used today is “complete surrender” or “completely yielded.”

To be very clear: Biblical self-denial is NOT the practice of the ancient Greek philosophers – asceticism, cynicism, or stoicism. It is not abstinence from material objects or denial of worldly pleasures in order to achieve some spiritual goal or benefit. It is not the payment of some indulgence or performance of outward penance as taught by the Roman Church. Paul taught in Romans 14:5-6, Colossians 2:20-23 and elsewhere that eating or not eating food has no spiritual value in itself. Similarly, a painful ritual or costly, elaborate religious ceremony will not gain you favor with God. Remember—man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. (I Samuel 16:7; Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 34:18, 51:17) Jesus said, “…the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23)

The Biblical principle of self-denial is surrendering ourselves completely to God and His will. Self (the flesh) and the world (Galatians 5:24; 6:14) are reckoned dead on the cross and alive unto God. (Romans 6:6-18)

With that in mind, Jeremiah Burroughs offers us these gems to consider how true self-denial brings us closer to spiritual contentment:

“Just as no one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABCs, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment. The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches those who are seeking contentment.”

“When you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise. So it is with the hearts of men who are full of themselves and hardened with self-love. A self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand and makes no noise. That is the first lesson that Christ teaches any soul—self-denial—which brings contentment; which brings down and softens a man’s heart.”

  1. A person must learn that he is nothing—“He comes to this, to be able to say, ‘Well, I see I am nothing in myself.’”
  2. I deserve nothing—“I am nothing and I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing and therefore why should we be impatient if we do not get what we desire?”
  3. I can do nothing—“Christ said, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) Do but consider of what use you are in the world and if you consider what little need God has of you, and what little use you are, you will not be much discontented.”
  4. I cannot receive any good—“I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good. I am not only an empty vessel, but a corrupt and unclean vessel that would spoil anything good that comes into it.”
  5. We are worse than nothing—“Sin makes us more vile than nothing and contrary to all good. We are not empty pitchers in respect of good, but we are like pitchers filled with poison, and is it much for such as we are to be cut short of our outward comforts?”
  6. Any good I do is nothing without God—If God cleans our vessel and puts in something good, some grace of His Spirit, we can do nothing with it without God.”
  7. If we perish, we will be no loss—If God should annihilate me, what loss would it be to His purposes? God can raise up someone else in my place to serve Him in a different way.” [See Esther 4:14 as an example of this.]

“I beseech you to notice this: If a man is selfish and self-love prevails in his heart, he will be glad of those things that suit with his own ends, but a godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God’s ends. When a man is selfish, he cannot but have a great deal of trouble and vexation of spirit, for if I regard myself, my ends are so narrow that a hundred things will come and jostle me and I cannot have room in those narrow ends of my own. Those whose hearts are enlarged and make public things their ends, and can deny themselves, have room to walk and never jostle with one another as others do.”

 

The Sovereignty and Providence of God in Psalm 57:2

“[To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.] Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” Psalm 57:1-2

 

The Sovereignty and Providence of God in Psalm 57:2

from The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel, (c. 1630–1691)

“It is the duty of the saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence for them in all the states and through all the stages of their lives.” John Flavel

[David’s] “…extreme danger is expressed in both the title and the body of Psalm 57. Yet, this does not frighten him out of his faith and duty, but between the jaws of death he prays, and earnestly addresses himself to God for mercy: ‘Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me.’ In the words of this psalm I shall consider two things: the duty resolved upon, and the encouragement to that resolution.

The duty resolved upon: ‘I will cry unto God.’ Crying unto God is an expression that denotes not only prayer, but an intense and fervent prayer. To cry is to pray in a holy passion; and such are usually speeding prayers (Psalm 18:6; Hebrews 5;7)

 “The encouragement to that resolution: ‘I will cry unto God most high’”

The sovereignty of God – “In this, [David] acts his fath in extremity of danger. Saul is high, but God is the Most High, and without His permission he is assured Saul cannot touch him. He had none to help, and if he had, he knew God must first help the helpers or they cannot help him. He had no means of defense or escape before him, but the Most High is not limited by means. This is the singular proposition of faith. (Psalm 59:9)”

The experience of His Providence – “The word which we translate ‘performeth’ comes from a root that signifies both to perfect, and to desist or cease. For when a business is performed or perfected, the agent then ceases or desists from working. ‘The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.’

“Let us bring our thoughts a little closer to this Scripture, and it will give us a fair and lovely prospect of providence in its universal, effectual, beneficial, and encouraging influence upon the affairs and concerns of the saints.”

“The expression [performeth] imparts the universal interest and influence of divine Providence in and upon all the concerns and interests of the saints. It not only has its hand in this or that, but in all that concerns them. It has its eye upon everything that relates to them throughout their lives, from first to last.

“The text displays the efficacy of providential influences. Providence not only undertakes but perfects what concerns us. No difficulty so clogs it, no cross accident fall into its way, but it carries its design through it.

“And (which is sweet to consider) all its products and issues are exceedingly beneficial to the saints. It performs all things for them.

“…how cheering, supporting, and encouraging must the consideration of these things be in a day of distress and trouble! What life and hope will it inspire our hearts and prayers with when great pressures lie upon us!”

 

John Flavel (1630-1691) was born at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, Britain about 1630, and thus spent his childhood in the stormy years which led up to the Civil War in 1642. He attended University College, Oxford, and entered the ministry in the decade of spiritual reaping which preceded the restoration of Charles II.

Flavel’s life and work was carried on in the county of Devon in the thriving sea-port of Dartmouth until August 1662 when about 120 ministers in Devon and approaching 1,800 in England were thrown out of their livings for failing to comply with the terms of the Act of Uniformity.

Thereafter he took his place in the suffering ranks of the nonconformists and had a full share of the persecution which with greater or less intensity, and short intermissions, was to continue until James II fled the country in 1688. The repressive legislation which followed 1662, while it broke the evangelical ministry of England in a public sense, scattered Gospel light into new areas and led not infrequently to the use of strange pulpits. We hear of Flavel preaching at midnight in a house at South Molton; in a wood three miles from Exeter; and – the most colourful site of all (though it could not have been a comfortable one) – at Saltstone Rock, an island in the Salcombe Estuary which is submerged at high tide.

After the Indulgence given by Charles II in 1672, Flavel obtained license for a Nonconformist meeting-house in the town, and, when this was soon withdrawn, he stayed at his post until the summer of 1682 when his person was in such danger that he took ship to London.

In London, Flavel joined a congregation and narrowly escaped arrest when some members were seized in 1684. He returned to Dartmouth where that same year he was burned in effigy by a mob and, despite all hazards, maintained a ministry among his scattered flock until November 1688 when James II fled the throne. By that time, Flavel’s work was approaching its end. Speaking for his fellow-ministers he wrote, ‘We have long borne the burden and heat of the day; we are veteran soldiers almost worn out.’ He died of a stroke on June 26, 1691, in his 61st year.

Hymn: Jesus is Coming Again

Nothing brings a sense of contentment to me more than thinking about the imminent return of Jesus Christ! The apostle Paul encouraged his readers not to believe a rumor or false teaching that the Lord’s return had passed already and that they might never see their saved loved ones again. His words of comfort give us insight into what God has planned for those who belong to Him:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep [died]. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NKJV)

 

Jesus is Coming Again

by John W. Peterson *

Marvelous message we bring,

Glorious carol we sing,

Wonderful word of the King,

Jesus is coming again!

Chorus

Coming again, Coming again,

May be morning, may be noon,

May be evening and may be soon!

Coming again, Coming again;

O what a wonderful day it will be –

Jesus is coming again!

Forest and flower exclaim,

Mountain and meadow the same,

All earth and heaven proclaim,

Jesus is coming again! [Chorus]

Standing before Him at last,

Trial and trouble all past,

Crowns at His feet we will cast,

Jesus is coming again! [Chorus]

 

* John Willard Peterson (1921 –2006) was born in Lindsborg, Kansas. He served as an Army Air Force pilot flying the China Hump from Burma during World War II. He attended Moody Bible Institute and graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and shortly thereafter began his songwriting career. For over ten years he was President and Editor-in-Chief of Singspiration, a sacred music publishing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While there, he compiled and edited a popular hymnal called “Great Hymns of the Faith.” He had a major influence on evangelical Christian music in the 1950s through the 1970s. He wrote over 1,000 songs and 35 cantatas.

Some of John Peterson’s more popular song titles include “Heaven Came Down,” “So Send I You,” “Springs of Living Water,” “Jesus is Coming Again,” “Surely Goodness and Mercy,” “This is the day that the Lord hath made,” and “O Glorious Love.” His cantatas include “Down From His Glory,” “Born a King,” and “Hallelujah for the Cross.”

 

Divine Providence and Contentment

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

“The art of contentment is a right knowledge of God’s providence.”

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646), in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, points out that a correct understanding of God’s providence is needed for spiritual contentment in the face of the trials and difficulties of life as a Christian.

Here is a good theological definition of divine providence: “It is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8). This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate.” https://www.gotquestions.org/divine-providence.html

Burroughs explains three ways that a proper understanding of God’s providence can influence our contentment:

Providence is universal—“The soul must be thoroughly instructed in providence to come to the art of contentment. Not only that God by his providence rules the world and governs all things in general, but that it reaches to every detail; not only to order the great affairs of kingdoms, but it reaches to every man’s family; it reaches to every person in the family; it reaches to every condition; yea, to every happening, to everything that falls out concerning you in every particular: not one hair falls from your head, not a sparrow to the ground, without the providence of God. There is nothing that befalls you but there is a hand of God in it—this is from God and is a great help in contentment.”

Providence is efficacious [effective; successful in producing its desired or intended result]—“Suppose we are discontented and vexed and troubled, and we fret and rage, yet we need not think that we will alter the course of providence by our discontent. I may say to every discontented, impatient heart: What, shall the providence of God change its course for you? Do you think that because it does not please you it must alter its course? Whether or not you are content, the providence of God will go on. It has an efficacy of power, of virtue, to carry all things before it. Can you make one hair black or white with all the stir that you are making? When you are in a ship at sea which has all its sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship? No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can. But understand the power and efficacy of providence and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn this lesson of contentment.”

Providence has infinite variety, all working together—“There is an infinite variety of the works of God in ordinary providence, and yet they all work in an orderly way. We put these two things together: for God in his providence causes a thousand thousand things to depend on upon another. There are an infinite number of wheels, as I may say, in the works of providence. God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out in your life this day or this week. Let me therefore be quiet and content, for though I am crossed in some one particular thing, God attains his end; at least his end may be furthered in a thousand things by this one thing that I am crossed in. Therefore let a man consider that this is an act of providence. How do I know what God is about to do, and how many things the Lord may have his work go on in general, in a thousand other things?”

 

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision

“Be Thou My Vision” is a traditional Christian hymn of Irish origin. The words are based on a Middle Irish poem or prayer often attributed to a sixth-century Irish Christian, however it may have been written later than that. The text reflects aspects of life in Early Christian Ireland (c. 400-800 AD). The prayer is a prayer for protection and is best seen in a verse omitted from most modern hymnals:

Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;

Be Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;

Be Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,

O raise Thou me heav’nward, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

The symbolic use of a battle-shield and a sword to invoke the power and protection of God draws on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:16–17), which refers to “the shield of faith” and “the sword of the Spirit”. Such military symbolism was common in the poetry and hymnnology of Christian monasteries of the period due to the prevalence of clan warfare across Ireland. The poem makes reference to God as the “High King of Heaven”. This depiction of the Christian God as a chieftain or High King is a traditional representation in Irish literature; medieval Irish poetry typically used heroic imagery to portray God as a clan protector.

 

Be Thou My Vision

Translated by Mary Byrne; *

Versified by Eleanor Hull **

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night;

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word;

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father and I, Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart;

O King of glory, my treasure Thou art.

O King of glory, my victory won;

Rule and reign in me ’til Thy will be done;

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall;

Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

(Sung by the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team)

 * Mary Byrne (1880 – 1931) was born in Ireland and first translated the old Irish hymn, “Bí Thusa ‘mo Shúile,” into English as “Be Thou My Vision” in Ériu (the journal of the School of Irish Learning), in 1905. A linguist, Byrne received her education from the National University of Ireland. She contributed to the Old and Mid-Irish Dictionary and Dictionary of the Irish Language.

** Eleanor Hull (1860 – 1935) was born in England, of a County Down family. She was educated at Alexandra College, Dublin and was a student of Irish Studies. She was a co-founder of the Irish Texts Society for the publication of early manuscripts and president of the Irish Literary Society. The best-known English version of “Be Thou My Vision”, with some minor variations, was translated by her and published in 1912. Since 1919 it has been commonly sung to an Irish folk tune and is one of the most popular hymns in the United Kingdom.

 

The Determination to Serve

[Jesus] “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:6-8

The Determination to Serve

From My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers *

“Paul’s idea of service is the same as Our Lord’s: ‘I am among you as He that serveth’; ‘ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ We have an idea that a man called to the ministry is called to be a different kind of being from other men. According to Jesus Christ, he is called to be the ‘doormat’ of other men; their spiritual leader, but never their superior. ‘I know how to be abased,’ says Paul. This is Paul’s idea of service: ‘I will spend myself for the last ebb for you; you may give me praise or you  may give me blame, it will make no difference. So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.’

“The mainspring of Paul’s service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed or broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love to God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow man.

“Paul’s realization of how Jesus Christ had dealt with him is the secret of his determination to serve others. “I was before a perjurer, a blasphemer, an injurious person’—no matter how men may treat me, they will never treat me with the spite and hatred with which I treated Jesus Christ. When we realize that Jesus Christ has served us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake.”

 

* Oswald Chambers (1874—1917) was an early-twentieth-century Scottish Baptist and Holiness Movement evangelist and teacher, best known for the devotional My Utmost for His Highest.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Chambers moved with his family in 1876 to Stoke-on-Trent when his father, Clarence Chambers, became Home Missions evangelist for the North Staffordshire Baptist Association. At age sixteen, Oswald Chambers was baptized and became a member of Rye Lane Baptist Chapel. Even as a teenager, Chambers was noted for his deep spirituality and he participated in the evangelization of poor occupants of local lodging houses.

While studying art in Edinburgh, he felt called to ministry and he left for Dunoon College, a small theological training school near Glasgow. Chambers was soon teaching classes at the school and took over much of the administration. Thereafter he spoke at evangelistic meetings in Great Britain and spent a semester teaching at God’s Bible School, a Holiness institution in Cincinnati, Ohio, then spent a few months in Japan working with the Oriental Missionary Society. Sailing back to the United States in 1908, Chambers became better acquainted with Gertrude Hobbs, the daughter of friends, whom he had known casually. They married in 1910. Chambers considered ministry a partnership in which Biddy—who could take shorthand at 250 words per minute—would transcribe and type his sermons and lessons into written form.

In 1911 Chambers founded and was principal of the Bible Training College in Clapham Common, Greater London. In 1915, a year after the outbreak of World War I, Chambers suspended the operation of the school and was accepted as a YMCA chaplain. He was assigned to Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt, where he ministered to Australian and New Zealand troops, who later participated in the Battle of Gallipoli. Chambers raised the spiritual tone of a center intended by both the military and the YMCA to be simply an institution of social service providing wholesome alternatives to the brothels of Cairo. Soon his wooden-framed “hut” was packed with hundreds of soldiers listening attentively to messages such as “What Is the Good of Prayer?” Confronted by a soldier who said, “I can’t stand religious people,” Chambers replied, “Neither can I.”

Chambers was stricken with appendicitis on 17 October 1917, but resisted going to a hospital on the grounds that the beds would be needed by men wounded in the Third Battle of Gaza. On 29 October, a surgeon performed an emergency appendectomy; however, Chambers died 15 November 1917 from a pulmonary hemorrhage. He was buried in Cairo with full military honors.

For the remainder of her life—and at first under very straitened circumstances—Chambers’ widow transcribed and published books and articles edited from the notes she had taken in shorthand during the Bible College years and in Cairo, Egypt. Most successful of the thirty books was My Utmost for His Highest (1924). The work has never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages.

 

Hymn: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

 

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

by Henry W. Baker *

The King of love my Shepherd is,

Whose goodness faileth never,

I nothing lack if I am His

And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow

My ransomed soul He leadeth,

And where the verdant pastures grow,

With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,

But yet in love He sought me,

And on His shoulder gently laid,

And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill

With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;

Thy rod and staff my comfort still,

Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;

Thy unction grace bestoweth;

And O what transport of delight

From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days

Thy goodness faileth never;

Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise

Within Thy house forever.

* Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) was the eldest son of Admiral Sir Henry Loraine Baker. He was educated at Trinity College and took Holy Orders in 1844. Sir Henry’s name is intimately associated with hymnody. One of his earliest compositions was the very beautiful hymn, “Oh! what if we are Christ’s,” which he contributed to Murray’s Hymnal for the Use of the English Church, 1852. His hymns, including metrical litanies and translations, number 33 in all. The last audible words which lingered on his dying lips were the third stanza of his exquisite rendering of the 23rd Psalm, “The King of Love, my Shepherd is”:

Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,

But yet in love He sought me,

And on His Shoulder gently laid,

And home, rejoicing, brought me.

This tender sadness, brightened by a soft calm peace, epitomized his poetical life. (This hymn was sung at the fun­er­al of Di­a­na, Prin­cess of Wales, in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 6, 1997.)

 

A Believer Objects – “But I’m OK!”

 

In the 1960s, a pop psychology book titled I’m OK-You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris topped the NYT best-seller list for years. It promoted healthy human relations based on transactional negotiations between individuals of various personality types. Fifty years later, this transactional concept of human relations permeates American society. Children are taught to use self-acceptance, self-love, self-worth, and other concepts to build up their half of the transaction (“I’m OK”). The result after fifty years is an American population characterized by conceit, pride, and self-importance. In spite of this mantra of self-love, few people are truly content. We would be forced to admit to ourselves (maybe reluctantly)—“I’m not OK!” In light of our sinful nature, this has never been a popular view.

In  this short piece, Jeremiah Burroughs (he lived 1599-1646) points us to another aspect of his formula for spiritual contentment that is completely opposite from the transactional model promoted by Harris—“I’m not OK! I am the problem!” King Solomon observed what life was like “under the sun,” a term for a life apart from God. Vain, empty, worthless, pointless, hopeless describes a person (and a society) who has pushed God out of his/her thoughts.

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Burroughs offers this insight:

“The vanity of the creature—Whatever there is in the creature has an emptiness to it. ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,’ is the lesson that a wise man learned; the creature in itself can do us no good; it is all but as wind. There is nothing in the creature that is suitable for a gracious heart to feed upon for its good or happiness. My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of this world is not because you have not got enough of them—that is not the reason—but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable [suitable, appropriate] to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God Himself.

“You would be happy and you seek after such and such comforts in the creature. Well, have you got them? Do you find your hearts satisfied as having the happiness that is suitable to you? No, no, it is not here but you think that is because you lack such and such things. O poor deluded man! It is not because you have not got enough of it, but because it is not the thing that is proportionable to the immortal soul that God has given you. ‘Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?’ (Isaiah 55:2) You are mad people. You seek to satisfy your stomach with that which is not bread, you follow the wind; you will never have contentment.”

The glorified Jesus Christ said this to the Laodicean church: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;’ and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” Revelation 3:16-17

Hymn: Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah

This beloved hymn describes the experience of God’s people in their travel through the wilderness from their escape from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12–14), being guided by a cloud by day and a fire by night (Exodus 13:17–22) to their final arrival forty years later at the border of the Promised Land of Canaan (Joshua 3). During this time, their needs were supplied by God, including their daily supply of manna (Exodus 16).

The hymn text forms an allegory for the journey of a Christian through life on earth requiring the Redeemer’s guidance and ending at the gates of Heaven (the verge of Jordan) and the end of time (death of death and hell’s destruction).

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.

* Hymn background:

William Williams Pantycelyn is generally acknowledged as the greatest Welsh hymn writer. The lyrics for the Welsh original of this hymn were first published as Hymn 10 in the hymnal Mor o Wydr (Sea of Glass) in 1762. It comprised six verses. [See below for a literal translation from the Welsh of the original six verses.]

Peter Williams (1722–1796) translated part of the hymn into the familiar three stanzas of the English version, with the title Prayer for Strength. It was published in Hymns on Various Subjects, 1771. This translation is the only Welsh hymn to have gained widespread circulation in the English-speaking world.

John Hughes wrote the present version of the tune, which he called “Rhondda”, for the Cymanfa Ganu (hymn festival) in Pontypridd in 1905, when enthusiasm of the great 1904–1905 Welsh Revival still remained. The form was developed further and published for the inauguration of the organ at Capel Rhondda, in Hopkinstown in the Welsh Rhondda Valley, in 1907. (The hymn is usually pitched in A-flat major and has the 8.7.8.7.4.7 measure which is common in Welsh hymns.)

 The hymn was featured prominently in the soundtrack to the 1941 film How Green Was My Valley, directed by John Ford and starring a young Roddy McDowall. The soundtrack, by Alfred Newman, won that year’s Academy Award for Original Music Score. It is also featured at the beginning of The African Queen (film), with Katharine Hepburn singing and playing the organ in her part as a missionary’s daughter.  The hymn was also the informal anthem of Wales in the “Green and Pleasant Land” section of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

Translation of the lyrics for the hymn originally titled in Welsh

Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch.

(“Lord, lead me through the wilderness”)

Lord, guide me through the wilderness,

A pilgrim weak of aspect,

There is neither strength nor life in me,

As though lying in the grave,

Almighty,

It is Thou who shalt take me to that shore.

I wandered for long years,

And saw not the break of dawn;

I despaired, without Thy strength,

Ever to leave the desert land;

Do Thou grant,

The occasion to escape.

Give Thou a pillar of fire to lead me in the night,

And a pillar of mist in the day,

Hold me when I travel places

Which are rough on the way,

Give me manna,

Thus shall I not despair.

Open the sweet springs

Which gush forth from the rock,

All across the great wilderness

May a river of healing grace follow:

Give this to me

Not for me but for Thy sake.

When I go through Jordan –

Cruel death in its force –

Thou Thyself suffered this before,

Why shall I fear further?

Victory!

Let me cry out in the torrent.

I shall trust in Thy power,

Great is the work that Thou hast always done,

Thou conquered death, Thou conquered hell,

Thou hast crushed Satan beneath Thy feet,

Hill of Calvary,

This shall never escape from my memory.