Sunday, June 12, 2016

"Cover my defenseless head / With the shadow of Thy wing."

As will have been obvious to anyone following this blog I have been slowly making my way through Ian Bradley's Penguin Book of Hymns (1989). Today I came to the entry about Charles Wesley's "Jesu, Lover of My Soul." One of the stories there:
Ira Sankey, who recalls that it was sung as the body of his fellow evangelist Dwight Moody was lowered into the grave, tells a moving story about an incident in the American Civil War. A Confederate soldier had aimed his rifle and was about to shoot through the heart of a Unionist sentry when he was stopped short by hearing his intended victim singing the words, 'Cover my defenceless head with the shadow of thy wing.' Nearly thirty years later the Confederate veteran recognized the voice of the man whose life he had spared singing the same hymn on an excursion steamer on the Potomac river. He went up and told him how and why his life had been spared.
The YouTube performance omits the third and fourth verses. The tune is "Aberystwyth."

Jesu, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high;
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name;
I am all unrighteousness:
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;     
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me:
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within:
Thou of life the fountain art;
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.
Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall!
Lo, on thee I cast my care!
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand,
Dying, and behold I live.