Approach, My Soul, The Mercy Seat

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat was first published in John Newton’s Olney Hymns, 1779. It came into early use in the hymnals and has attained to a foremost position as one of the most popular of Newton’s productions. In the Olney Hymns it is the second of two hymns headed, “The Effort.” The first hymn by Newton on this same subject begins:— “Cheer up, my soul, there is a mercy seat.”1

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before his feet,
For none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea;
With this I venture nigh:
Thou callest burdened souls to thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to thee for rest.

Be thou my shield and hiding place,
That, sheltered near thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him thou hast died.

O wondrous love! to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead thy gracious name!


How Firm a Foundation

Although attributed to different writers, when John Rippon published this hymn in a hymnal called “A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to be an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Pslams and Hymns (1797)”, this was included and authored by an unknown “K”. With it also carried the title “Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises”1. I remember this hymn from a Spurgeon sermon I read recently. When preaching on Hebrews 13:5, Spurgeon (who also quotes this hymn) says “I have no doubt you are aware that our translation does not convey the whole force of the original, and that it would hardly be possible in English to give the full weight of the Greek. We might render it, “He hath said, I will never, never leave thee; I will never, never, never forsake thee”…what ground there is here for faith! Let us lean upon our God with all our weight. Let us throw ourselves upon his faithfulness as we do upon our beds, bringing all our weariness to his dear rest. Now, right on our God let us cast the burdens of our bodies, and our souls, for he hath said, “I will never leave thee; I will never forsake thee.”2

How firm a foundation you saints of the lord
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word.
What more can he say than to you he has said
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

Fear not I am with you, oh be not dismayed
For I am your God and will still give you aid.
I’ll strengthen you, help you and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow.
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie
My grace all-sufficient shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt you, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to His foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

1page 136 – Leeman, D. and Leeman, B., 2022. Our Hymns, Our Heritage: A Student Guide to Songs of the Church

I Will Sing The Wondrous Story

The words of this hymn were written by F. H. Rowley and the music by Peter B. Bilhorn in 1886. Writing of the hymn, Rowley notes “I was minister of the First Baptist Church of North Adams, Massachusetts. The church and community were experiencing a period of unusual interest in religious matters, and I was assisted by a remarkable young singer by the name of Peter Bilhorn. One night after the close of the service he said, ‘Why don’t you write a hymn for me to set to music?’ During the night these verses came to me. The original poem began, ‘Can’t you sing the wondrous story?’ but when the song was first published by Sankey in 1887 the phrase was changed to “I will sing …”1. Below are two versions I hope you’ll enjoy.

I will sing the wondrous story
of the Christ who died for me;
how he left his home in glory
for the cross of Calvary:

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
of the Christ who died for me,
sing it with his saints in glory,
gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me,
found the sheep that went astray,
threw his loving arms around me,
back into the narrow way.


Faint was I, and fears possessed me,
bruised was I from many a fall;
hope was gone, and shame distressed me,
but his love has pardoned all:


Days of darkness still come o’er me,
sorrow’s path I often tread,
but his presence still is with me;
by his guiding hand I’m led.


He will keep me till the river
rolls its waters at my feet;
then He’ll bear me safely over,
where the loved ones I shall meet.


A Mighty Fortress

Written by Martin Luther in 1529, this hymn is often referred to as “the battle hymn” of the Reformation. Many stories have been relayed about it’s use. Albert Bailey writes, “It was, as Heine said, the Marseillaise of the Reformation…It was sung in the streets…It was sung by poor Protestant emigres on their way to exile, and by martyrs at their death…Gustavus Adolphus ordered it sung by his army before the battle of Leipzig in 1631…Again it was the battle hymn of his army at Lutzen in 1632…It has had a part in countless celebrations commemorating the men and events of the Reformation; and its first line is engraved on the base of Luther’s monument at Wittenberg…An imperishable hymn! Not polished and artistically wrought but rugged and strong like Luther himself, whose very words seem like deeds” (The Gospel in Hymns, 316)1. The below version was sent through as a suggestion by a subscriber of the blog… enjoy!

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.

Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

The author of this hymn, Joachim Neander, was born in Bremen, Germany in 1650. In his early years, he lived a lusty, immoral life. Then he and a group of friends decided to attend a service conducted by a visiting preacher, Pastor Under-Eyke, and Neander was quickly converted. In his mid-20s, Neander became director of the Latin School of Dusseldorf, where he served for several years. He experienced considerable opposition there because of his pietism, and was eventually dismissed from that position. He then suffered declining health, and died at age 30. Neander’s life was tragic in the classic sense—a life of great potential cut short by an untimely death. However, he wrote 60 hymns—most during his tenure at the Latin School. Most are hymns of joyful praise, even though they were written at a time when Neander was living under considerable stress. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is based on Psalms 103 and 150. It was inspired not only by those psalms but also by the beauty of the hills and rivers that Neander experienced on his walks through the German countryside1. As you can imagine there are lots of versions! Below are some of my favourite.

Praise to the Lord! the Almighty,
The King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord! Who o’er
All things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings,
Yea, so gently sustaineth:
Hast thou not seen,
How thy desires have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord! Who doth prosper
Thy work, and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy
Here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew,
What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee!

Praise to the Lord! Oh let all that is
In me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath,
Come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen,
Sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him!

Like A River Glorious

This hymn, written by Frances Ridley Haverga, was dated 3 Nov. 1874, written in Leamington, Warwickshire, England, where her family had a home and she was returning from visiting Switzerland. But near the end of her trip in Switzerland, she had a turn of health; her sister noted, “Somehow or somewhere she caught fever, and commenced her homeward journey with dull headache and sickness.” Home was reached, shiverings and feverish symptoms rapidly set in, and she was soon utterly prostrate with typhoid fever. In spite of her illness, Frances found an incredible peace. She later explained to her sister: “All through my long illness I was very happy;… My one wish was to glorify God and to let my doctor and nurse see it”. Her hymn “Like a river glorious / is God’s perfect peace,” although not mentioned specifically here, was therefore written in the midst of terrible sickness, probably dictated to a family member, and it expresses the peace she felt in the possibility of finding heaven1.

Like a river glorious,
Is God’s perfect peace;
Over all victorious,
in its bright increase.
Perfect, yet it floweth,
Fuller every day;
Perfect, yet it groweth,
Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest.
Finding as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest

Hidden in the hollow
Of His blessed hand;
Never foe can follow,
Never traitor stand.
Not a surge of worry,
Not a shade of care;
Not a blast of hurry
Touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial
Falleth from above;
Traced upon our dial
by the Sun of Love.
We may trust Him fully,
All for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly
Find Him wholly true.


O Father, You Are Sovereign

Throughout her life, E. Margaret Clarkson was plagued by pain; initially from migraines, accompanied by convulsive vomiting, and then arthritis—two ailments that accompanied her continually. This pain would be accompanied by other forms of suffering throughout her lifetime, especially severe feelings of loneliness and isolation. At the same time, Clarkson’s life was also marked by a love for hymns. She found comfort and strength in hymns, both in their contents and in the community of saints that wrote these hymns. As Clarkson later explained, through hymns she began to see the church “as one continuous, living stream of the grace of God” in which she had a place. “O Father, You are Sovereign,” was published late in Clarkson’s life in 1982, in the midst of a burst of writing after her early retirement from teaching. Severe spinal problems compelled her to retire in 1973, at the age of 58, and though plagued by pain, she wrote most of her books in the decade that followed.

O Father, you are sovereign
in all the worlds you made;
your mighty word was spoken,
and light and life obeyed.
Your voice commands the seasons
and bounds the ocean’s shore,
sets stars within their courses
and stills the tempest’s roar.

O Father, you are sovereign
in all affairs of man;
no pow’rs of death or darkness
can thwart your perfect plan.
All chance and change transcending,
supreme in time and space,
you hold your trusting children
secure in your embrace.

OFather, you are sovereign,
the Lord of human pain,
transmuting earthly sorrows
to gold of heav’nly gain.
All evil overruling,
as none but Conqu’ror could,
your love pursues its purpose–
our souls’ eternal good.

O Father, you are sovereign!
We see you dimly now,
but soon before your triumph
earth’s ev’ry knee shall bow.
With this glad hope before us,
our faith springs up anew:
our sovereign Lord and Saviour,
we trust and worship you!

All People That on Earth Do Dwell

“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” is based on Psalm 100. In the Reformation, Calvin was concerned that hymns not clearly based on scripture might introduce false doctrine into the church, and so he advocated the singing of Psalms. He said that there were “no better songs nor more appropriate to the purpose (of congregational singing) than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and spoke through him.” In 1551, a Psalter was published in Geneva and in 1561, the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (an English-language Psalter) was published that included “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” set to a tune written earlier by Louis Bourgeois for Psalm 134. The words to “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” were written by William Kethe, a Scottish clergyman who had fled the persecutions of Queen Mary. His exile took him first to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Geneva. Kethe helped with the translation of the Geneva Bible in 1560 and contributed 25 psalms to the Anglo-Genevan Psalter.1

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
Come now before him and rejoice!

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
He formed us all without our aid.
We are the flock he comes to feed,
The sheep who by his hand were made.

O enter then his gates with joy,
Within his courts his praise proclaim.
Let thankful songs your tongues employ.
O bless and magnify his name.

Trust that the Lord our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure.
His faithfulness at all times stood
And shall from age to age endure.

Amazing Grace

One of the best loved and most often sung hymns, this hymn expresses John Newton’s personal experience of conversion from sin as an act of God’s grace. At the end of his life, Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) said, “There are two things I’ll never forget: that I was a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a greater Saviour!” This hymn was published in six stanzas with the heading “1 Chronicles 17:16-17, Faith’s review and expectation”, and is Newton’s spiritual autobiography; but the truth it affirms–that we are saved by grace alone–is one that all Christians may confess with joy and gratitude1. The below version is by Providence church in Austin.

Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

Hear, Gracious God! A Sinner’s Cry

Samuel Medley was born June 23, 1738, at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, where his father kept a school. He received a good education; but not liking the business to which he was apprenticed, he entered the Royal Navy. Having been severely wounded in a battle in 1759, he was obliged to retire from active service. A sermon by Dr. Watts, read to him about this time, led to his conversion. Having begun to preach, he received, in 1767, a call to become pastor of the Baptist church at Watford. In 1772, he moved to Byrom Street, Liverpool, where he gathered a large congregation, and for 27 years was remarkably popular and useful. After a long and painful illness he died July 17, 17991. The below hymn has been reworked by The Corner Room in the video; enjoy!.

Hear, gracious God, a sinner’s cry,
For I have nowhere else to fly;
My hope, my only hope’s in thee;
O God, be merciful to me!

To thee I come, a sinner poor,
And wait for mercy at thy door;
Indeed, I’ve nowhere else to flee;
O God, be merciful to me!

To thee I come, a sinner weak,
And scarce know how to pray or speak;
From fear and weakness set me free;
O God, be merciful to me!

To thee I come, a sinner vile;
Upon me, Lord, vouchsafe to smile;
Mercy, through blood, I make my plea;
O God, be merciful to me!

To thee I come, a sinner great,
And well thou knowest all my state;
Yet full forgiveness is with thee;
O God, be merciful to me!

To thee I come, a sinner lost,
Nor have I aught wherein to trust;
But where thou art, Lord, I would be;
O God, be merciful to me!

To glory bring me, Lord, at last,
And there, when all my fears are past,
With all thy saints I’ll then agree,
God has been merciful to me!