Hymn of the week: I heard the voice of Jesus say

I chose today’s hymn of the week because of its obvious connection with the lectionary Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30), on which the first verse is based. This morning we sang it after the sermon.

Author Horatius Bonar was a Church of Scotland minister, born in Edinburgh in 1808. In 1843 he was one of 450 ministers who broke from the established church at the ‘Great Disruption’ to form the Free Church of Scotland; forty years later he became Moderator of that denomination. He was a prolific hymn writer and published a number of collections of hymns. “When travelling or out walking he always had… [a note-book] in his pocket, and jotted down any idea or fragment of verse that occurred to him and seemed likely to be of service.” (Telford, The Methodist Hymn-Book Illustrated)

‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ was originally published in 1846 under the title ‘The Voice from Galilee’. It is closely associated with the tune VOX DILECTI written for these words by J.B. Dykes. Companion to Hymns and Psalms observes: “the dramatic change of key half way through the tune is a good example of Victorian romanticism typical of the composer”.

Here is the hymn in full:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary and worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till travelling days are done.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)


About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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