In its present form this hymn was wrought out of a bitter experience in the life of Walter Shirley, who was born in 1725 in Leicestershire, England. He was a friend of Whitefield and the Wesleys, often preaching in their chapels. His brother, the Earl of Ferrars, engaged in a quarrel with one of his servants, who had long been in his employ, and in the passion of his anger he murdered the old man. Shirley journeyed to his brother’s prison and remained near him during the distressing weeks that followed. The Earl was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. After the execution Shirley, worn out by his long vigil and humiliated in spirit, returned to his church, finding comfort only in the cross of Jesus Christ. Discovering an imperfect expression of his emotions at that time in a hymn, “O How Happy Are the Moments,” by James Allen, he adapted and revised the hymn so completely that it became practically a new composition1. This hymn falls under The Lord’s Supper in my hymnal, and would be a fitting poem for the occasion.
Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross we spend,
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying friend.
Here we rest in wonder, viewing
All our sins on Jesus laid;
Here we see redemption flowing
From the sacrifice he made.
Here we find the dawn of heaven
While upon the cross we gaze,
See our trespasses forgiven,
And our songs of triumph raise.
Oh, that, near the cross abiding,
We may to the Saviour cleave,
Naught with him our hearts dividing,
All for him content to leave!
Lord, in loving contemplation
Fix our hearts and eyes on you
Till we taste your full salvation
And your unveiled glory view.