Come, Thou Fount
Paul writes in that memorable verse from Romans 5, “…from suffering comes endurance, and from endurance, character, and from character, hope....”
I can’t think of a better hymn at the moment to cultivate character than “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Its mid-18th century author, Robert Robinson, had a rough start in life. His father died when he was young, and his mother tried to tame his wildness by sending him London to become a barber. Instead, he fell into a group of dissolute youth. Finally in his early 20s, Robert chanced to hear the great George Whitefield preach on Matthew 3:7: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” He was riveted when Whitefield then burst into tears: “Oh, the wrath to come! The wrath to come!”
Robert immediately straightened out his life and entered the ministry. Stanza 1 reminds us that God is merciful in all situations, and that this ever-flowing mercy calls us to praise God even in dark times. The reference to “my Ebenezer” in stanza 2 comes from 1 Samuel 7:12. After a great victory over the Philistines, Samuel “took a stone…and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.'" And the second half of stanza 3 is thought to be particularly autobiographical: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love….” Even in these hard times, let us always open our hearts to God, who hears our every cry.
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.
While the hope of endless glory
fills my heart with joy and love,
teach me ever to adore thee;
may I still thy goodness prove.
2 Here I raise my Ebenezer:
"Hither by thy help I've come";
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
3 Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be;
let that grace now like a fetter
bind my wand'ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.
I was interested to learn that Robinson wrote a fourth stanza that is not included in many hymnals. One that does is Lutheran Service Book, the relatively new hymnal of our sisters and brothers in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:
4 O 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! Come, my Lord, no longer tarry, Take my ransom’d soul away; Send thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless Day.
This made me wonder whether a more gracious musical setting might bring out the prayerful character of this true last stanza. Is there a new tune that could possibly cast the entire hymn in a new light as we reflect on Robinson's own life challenges? In this video I play the first three stanzas to the tune that we know, and stanza 4 to the new tune. Have the words on the screen if possible as you sing along. Just some food for thought.
Peace be with you,
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)