Wednesday, 6 July 2016

I know thee who thou art

I know thee who thou art,
And what thy healing name;
For when my fainting heart
The burden nigh o’ercame,
I saw thy footprints on my road

Where lately passed the Son of God.
Thy name is joined with mine
By every human tie,
And my new name is thine,
A child of God am I;
And never more alone, since thou
Art on the road beside me now.
Beside thee as I walk,
I will delight in thee
In sweet communion talk
Of all thou art to me;
The beauty of thy face behold
And know thy mercies manifold.
Let nothing draw me back
Or turn my heart from thee,
But by the Calvary track
Bring me at last to see
The courts of God, that city fair,
And find my name is written there.
General Albert William Thomas Orsborn 1886-1967
This is one of the few Salvationist hymns which are known at all outside the movement. There are others that perhaps ought to be, but this one certainly deserves its place; it is one of the best hymns from the Salvation Army fold. 
The author was the sixth General of the Salvation Army, serving in the UK and for a period in New Zealand. He knew something of intense suffering, and it seems to me that this hymn probably came out of that. If anyone has further information on the circumstances, I would be glad to know! Not least, it would be interesting to know if it predates the well-known poem Footprints, which itself has disputed dating/authorship.
The language of the hymn comes from someone steeped in English hymnody, and especially Wesley. The hymn is notable for the progression of consciousness of God's presence: v1 footprints are seen, v2 the Lord is walking beside, v3 there is deep conversation and fellowship and in v4, this heavenly companion brings the writer home.

It's worth watching out for the subject of the verb "o'ercame" at the end of the fourth line of the first verse. And I would be interested in what people think Orsborn meant by "every human tie" in verse 2 line 2.

This hymn has become very precious to me recently, though it also brings back a sad memory from many years ago.

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