Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it

Here are the choirs and orchestra of Brigham Young University in a beautiful and inspiring performance of an old hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

The words were written by Robert Robinson in 1759 and set to an American folk tune called NETTLETON by John Wyeth in his Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second in 1813.

I learned the song as a child and especially liked this verse:

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.

And here is a verse rarely sung nowadays or even found in print:

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

If you are the sort of person who really enjoys arguing about the relative merits of Calvinism or Arminianism, or criticizing some particular group of people for their obviously defective theology or bizarre practices, please go do it on someone else’s blog -- I recommend Scot McKnight’s or Michael Spencer’s. Or perhaps you could find a quiet spot in a library somewhere and write a 3,000-word research paper on, say, The History And Meaning Of The Phrase “Here I raise my Ebenezer” And Its Ramifications For Postmodern Society In America In The Twenty-first Century. As for the rest of us, we prefer to listen to this impressive choir and orchestra praise God with their voices and musical instruments so excellently while we ponder our eternal destiny.


  1. This prompts memories.....we often sang this hymn in the church I grew up in. And, as we sang, I did wonder what in the world an Ebenezer was! Many years later, I Googled the word as I was writing a post about this hymn for my lonely, neglected little hymn blog. Here's the post:

    Prone To Wander

    That line "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it" well-put by the hymn's writer and cuts right to the heart.

    Have a good day!

  2. Whoops.....I just reread my hymn blog post and found that I looked up "Ebenezer" in the dictionary, not on Google. I'm clueless as to why I never thought to look it up when I was young and wondering.

  3. Jeannelle, great minds run in the same channel!

  4. The folks who tweaked the Episcopal hymnal completely eliminated "Here I raise my Ebenezer" from this wonderful song (a Baptist staple.) I don't have a copy of the hymn book here at home so I can't quote what is they did to it, but when this hymn is sung in church I always mentally substitute the "right" words.

  5. Pat, I happen to have a copy of the 1940 edition of the Episcopal hymnal. I went to look up "what they did to it" and discovered that "Come, Thou Fount" wasn't even included in that hymnal. I also checked a Lutheran hymnal (Concordia House, 1941) with the same results. Only the Methodist, Baptist, and other "low church" hymnals or that era have it. So I guess it is progress of a sort (or deterioration, depending on your point of view) that your current hymnal has the song, even with some of the words changed!

    In case anyone out there is wondering, "Ebenezer" is mentioned in 1st Samuel 7:12 in the Old Testament. It means, as Jeannelle also posted, "a stone of help" in Hebrew, and Samuel erected it after a victory over the Philistines, saying, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us." (New Living Translation)

  6. Oh, guess what, rhymsie.....the newest Concordia Lutheran Hymnal (Lutheran Service Book, recently published)does include, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing". We started using the hymnal last spring, when we had a vacancy pastor who was VERY orthodox, who would bad-mouth other denominations from the pulpit. For four Sundays in a row, he had us sing "Come Thou Fount"......I felt like standing up and informing him that this hymn had been sung regularly in BAPTIST churches. Would love to have seen him squirm.

  7. I love this hymn. It often makes me cry.

  8. I'm here to try and figure out why my list of blogs states that your most recent post was "one week ago". So I was just checking the date on this current post.

  9. I love this hymn! It is in our (old) hymnal from the church I grew up in, although now they seem to only sing choruses (sigh). It has 3 verses. It says "Here I raise to Thee an altar" in place of Ebenezer. It says this was "arranged" in 1966 by Singspiration, which is the group that compiled the hymnbook. The church is First Christian Church (which was a part of the Stone/Campbell Restoration Movement).

  10. Thanks, everyone, for continuing to read and leave comments on my blog!

    Jeannelle - It's good to know that newer versions of the Lutheran hymnal include "Come, Thou Fount."

    Ruth - It is rather poignant, isn't it? I think it does a good job of combining the struggles we have now with the bliss we look forward to in eternity. Maybe the word I'm looking for is faith.

    Jeannelle - I left a comment on your blog about how that might have happened.

    Rosezilla (Tracie) - Glad to have stirred up old memories with this post!

  11. Very beautiful. I finally had time to listen to the choir. Wow! Even the orchestra was so beautiful.

  12. Bob, I looked this up at church this morning. The 1982 Episcopal Hymnal includes this hymn (#686)but the opening lines to the second stanza are now "Here I find my greatest treasure," instead of "Here I raise my Ebenezer."

  13. Rosezilla (Tracie) - I have a hymnal called Inspiring Hymns that was published by Singspiration in 1967, and *it* has "Here I raise my Ebenezer." Strange.

    Pat - An Arkansas Stamper - Thanks for doing the research! So now we are aware of three different wordings:

    1. Here I raise my Ebenezer.
    2. Here I raise to thee an altar.
    3. Here I find my greatest treasure.

    Reminds me of a friend i worked with in Florida who was raised in a historic Protestant denomination but currently attended a Unitarian church with his family. His teenaged daughter, who had never been anything but Unitarian, stayed overnight at a friend's house one Saturday and went to church with her on Sunday morning. When she returned home, she told her father how upset she was that the Methodists had changed the words to "Onward, Christian Soldiers." My friend said he had to smile because the Methodists sang the original words; his daughter was the one who knew only an altered version written by a Unitarian.

    I wonder how many other hymns "everybody knows" may have been modified.

  14. this one is "Praise! Our Songs and Hymns" copyright 1979